With its new Galaxy Watch4, Samsung is joining forces with Google to boost its smartwatches and compete with Apple’s. High-end components, application richness and well-designed design are there to convince. Successful bet ?
Test carried out by Alix Denoyers
After the Galaxy Watch Active 2 in 2019 and a more classic Galaxy Watch3 in 2020, Samsung renews its famous range of connected watches this year. The manufacturer unveiled its new series, the Galaxy Watch4 in mid-summer. Tizen takes this opportunity to bow out to make way for Wear OS 3. As we discovered last May at Google I / O 2021, Samsung has chosen to give up its in-house system for watches (which is nevertheless among the most effective), to ally itself with the Mountain View giant. The goal is clear: to finally be able to compete with the star of the market, the Apple Watch.
Can the collaboration between Samsung, which brings its know-how in the field of connected objects, and Google, recognized for the richness of its ecosystem, be enough to counter their best enemy? To answer this question, we tested thea new Galaxy Watch4 which therefore works with a Wear OS 3 mixed with One UI 3.0 – Samsung’s smartphone environment is also available on watches – and which is available in stores since Friday, August 27.
Pricing and availability
August 11, Samsung unveiled its Z Fold3 and Z Flip3 smartphones as well as the Watch4, the new version of its connected watch, offered in 8 versions. The most expensive, called Watch4 Classic, with its physical rotary dial, is the perfect successor to the 2020 Watch3. The most affordable, simply called Watch4, with its digital rotary dial, is more like the Galaxy Watch Active2 of 2019.
The two watches are offered in two formats and two different types of connectivity: 4G and bluetooth. While the Watch4 Classic is marketed from 369 euros to 449 euros (depending on whether you opt for the 42 or 46 mm format or whether you choose the Bluetooth or 4G edition), the Watch4 is offered at a much more affordable price, from 269 to 349 euros (depending on the 40/44 mm format or connectivity).
Moreover, it is the most affordable model – and also the most compact and light -, which we have evaluated: the Watch4 40 mm Bluetooth, sold for 269 euros. Available in black, silver or rose gold, this Watch4 comes with a matching silicone sport strap, but Samsung also offers a whole set of compatible straps in various colors (standard size 20mm on all models).
The pre-order period with its batch of discounts is now over, but promotional offers continue since for any purchase of a Watch4 (all models included), 50 euros of Google Play credit will be offered as well as 50 euros of trade-in bonus (100 euros for a Galaxy Watch). The opportunity to trade in your old watch for a brand new model.
Galaxy Watch4 40mm Bluetooth Spec Sheet
The Watch4 40 and 44mm offer strictly the same functions and specifications except for their dimensions and battery capacity. The 44 mm version thus incorporates a 1.4 inch screen with a 361 mAh battery. The Classic is distinguished just by a more elegant design, in stainless steel, but also a little less compact with its rotating dial. The results of this test therefore apply to all Watch4 models with regard to the functions and software ergonomics offered by Samsung.
|Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 40mm Bluetooth|
|Dimensions||40.4 x 39.3 x 9.8 mm|
|Weight||25.9 grams (excluding bracelet)|
|Screen||1.2 inch Super AMOLED with “Always-On” function|
|Definition||396 x 396 pixels|
|System||Wear OS 3 + One UI Watch 3.0|
|Connectivity||2.4 Ghz Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, barometer, compass, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, BioActive Sensor (optical heart rate monitor, ECG, Bio-impedance analysis, SpO2 and VO2Max measurements)|
|Compatibility||Android 6.0, iOS 9.0 or later|
|Audio||Microphone and speaker|
|Autonomy announced||48 h|
|Materials||Aluminum case, silicone strap|
Galaxy Watch4: screen and design hit the mark
Our test watch is adorned with a 1.2 inch Super Amoled slab, worthy of Samsung’s know-how in this area. With its high definition of 396 x 396 dots, the circular screen of this 40mm Galaxy Watch4 offers the highest resolution ever achieved on a watch from the Korean manufacturer. The colors are vivid and the texts perfectly legible, even outdoors.
The brightness is sufficient and automatically adapts to the surrounding environment thanks to an integrated sensor. With its Gorilla Glass DX +, the panel benefits from a drop and scratch protection latest generation as well as an anti-reflective coating. Like the previous model, the display occupies a good part of the front, which allows to have a compact case, which gains more finesse (9.8 mm against 10.9 mm thick on the Watch Active2).
With its wise and elegant design, its very reasonable dimensions and its featherweight of just 26 grams (48 g bracelet included), the Galaxy Watch4 is completely forgotten on the wristeven at night. The “small” size of the aluminum case is also ideal for small wrists.
The silicone strap benefits from a classic attachment that is both practical and discreet. An additional hole would however have been desirable to tighten it on the smallest wrists.
Fans of customization will appreciate the many versions available, valid for all Watch4 models (sold as an option) to adapt their watch to their taste. In the same vein, the many dials that Samsung is making available to users to provide the finishing touches, especially since some of them are customizable. We can thus modify the color of the backgrounds, the hands, the activities to be highlighted and even opt for a personalized signature.
Mini format, maxi equipment
Despite its discreet measurements, the WATCH 4 40 MM benefits from the same level of equipment as its big sisters in 44 mm and in the Classic version (excluding battery). Above all, no function (or almost) is missing. First of all, it should be noted that Samsung has equipped its watches with its latest processor, the Exynos W920, finely engraved in 5 nm. Extremely powerful, it brings to the Watch4 remarkable responsiveness and speed of processing, in addition to a perfectly optimized OS, which we will discuss later. We have never had to wait while opening an app while navigation has always been smooth.
In addition to its superb screen and a latest generation chip, the Watch4 sees its storage capacity doubled (16 GB) for storing apps. Within its waterproof and dust-resistant case (IP68 + 5ATM), there is full connectivity (Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC and even 4G for those who will opt for this version), a Integrated gps and a comprehensive series of sensors, useful for the health functions offered.
The most common ones such as the accelerometer or the gyroscope are supplemented by a new module ” bioactive sensor », Which includes the optical heart rate monitor, the electrodes necessary for carrying out an ECG and for blood pressure (the function has been available at Samsung in France since the beginning of the year) and also – for the first time on a watch , a bio-impedance sensor to measure body composition. Apart from its new OS, this is without the most innovative function of this Watch4, which is not only catching up with the Apple Watch, but also offers an exclusive function for those who care about their health.
As offered by the most sophisticated connected scales, this new sensor delivers in seconds (subject to indicating its weight) Body Mass Index of the user, their average fat percentage, but also data relating to water mass, body fat or, for example, skeletal muscle. All you have to do is start the measurement and place your middle finger and little finger on each of the two side buttons of the watch, under which the electrodes are placed. Without fully understanding what these data represent (Samsung of course provides some explanations), the interest is to see the figures evolve and therefore to gain motivation to move in the right direction. This sensor should not be seen as a real medical device, but as a function of health monitoring and fitness support. In fact, the Watch4 will remember you fondly when you stand still for too long.
WearOS and One UI: the winning combo?
The other big novelty of this new Galaxy Watch, therefore, is its new operating system designed jointly with Google. A surprising change insofar as Tizen, present on the manufacturer’s previous watches, had proven its worth, even though watches under Wear OS are still struggling to convince.
Rest assured Galaxy Watch fans, the new version of Wear OS, to be discovered exclusively on Samsung watches, will not confuse them. The manufacturer has taken care by affixing its One UI Watch 3 overlay on the Google OS to offer users an interface close to what existed before. Moreover, if Google makes a large part of its ecosystem available to the Galaxy Watch, and in particular a larger store to better compete with the Apple Watch, some apps are deleted to make way for Samsung’s.
No need to try to get answers from your watch with an “OK Google”. She will only respond with a “Hi Bixby”! To pay with the watch, it will be Samsung Pay and for the vocal notes it is also the Samsung recorder which is in the process! It is true that in the latter case, nothing will prevent you from going to download another one in the Play Store installed on the watch. On the other hand, and this is rather good news, Samsung offers users of its watch the best of Google, like his store or flagship apps like Maps.
The duo are extremely convincing. The interactions between the watch and the smartphone are fluid, navigation in the menus of the intuitive watch, the connected functions sufficiently complete and well done to want to do without your mobile most of the time. Even without having the 4G version (and provided you have your smartphone nearby), you can take calls directly from the watch (the built-in speaker and microphone ensure very good quality with sufficient power in most cases) and send SMS very easily or even reply to emails.
A predictive keyboard is offered, as well as suggestions for pre-formulated answers, but the simplest will be to voice dictate a message that will be automatically converted to text. A recorder is thus systematically offered in addition to the keyboard – including, for example, for searches in the Play Store and it transposes your words in writing quickly and efficiently. It was only stuck on one expression, but the point was perfectly clear.
Support for emojis is of course also part of the game. Everything is made available to the user so that they can manage their messages easily and quickly. You can even handwrite your response on the watch screen.
Suddenly, one can wonder what will be Wear OS without Samsung. The Assistant will certainly take its place against Bixby, but will browsing without One UI be as pleasant? You will have to wait a bit before discovering watches running Wear OS 3 to find out.
Waiting for, this first draft of Samsung watches under Wear OS is showing great promise, with however a shadow on the board. To take full advantage of all Watch4 functions, better to have a Galaxy smartphone. A simple Android smartphone will not, for example, allow you to take advantage of the ECG and blood pressure functions.
Convincing ergonomics… That deserves to be earned
Like Tizen before him, One UI for Watch (overlaying Wear OS) brings fairly flawless ergonomics within a most pleasant graphic design. With a swipe of a finger, you can quickly access all of the watch’s key menus. Towards the bottom, the shortcuts are displayed, towards the top, all the icons of the installed applications appear. To the right, we read its notifications, to the left we display its favorite functions in the form of Cards, kinds Widgets that you can organize from your watch or smartphone to personalize your Watch and save time). What is also very appreciable is thatyou can adjust most parameters directly from the watch, including nocturnal hours when you do not want to be disturbed. Samsung even pushes the Comfort to automatically lower the brightness of the screen so as not to be dazzled at night, if the screen is accidentally turned on.
You can swipe your Cards with a swipe of your finger to scroll through them or use the rotary dial dear to Watch aficionados. On this model, unlike the Watch4 Classic which has a physical ring around the screen, it is a digital version. You quickly get a taste for it thanks to a system of vibrations when passing each card, supposed to reproduce the notches of the physical version.
Two buttons, partly customizable on the right side of the dial, also help the user in his navigation. The top button turns on / back to the main dial (with time display). By pressing it continuously, he launches Bixby to which it is then possible to ask a question or to request the launch of a task (stopwatch, timer, alarm clock, etc.). The lower button allows for its part to go back and with a long press also gives access to Samsung Pay.
We also appreciate the ease with which we switch from the watch to the smartphone and vice versawhether as part of communications functions or when using Maps. A route defined and started from the watch can be continued on the smartphone and vice versa. An application searched for on the watch and then installed, will automatically launch the search on the smartphone’s Play Store so that the two versions can synchronize. The watch becomes a real extension of his smartphone that we hardly ever go out except to surf or watch videos.
If Samsung has taken care of the ergonomics of its watch, however, we regret the need to install several applications to use the Watch4 : Galaxy Wearable to start and configure your watch, Samsung Health for monitoring sports and health functions, Samsung Health Monitor (available in the Galaxy Store on the mobile) to take advantage of ECG and blood pressure measurements… That’s a lot , even if the user is relatively well guided for a successful installation.
Health, sport, communication … Full of functions
Apart from the body measurement function which is the great novelty of the Watch4, the latter ultimately evolves relatively little compared to the models of 2019 and 2020. It must be said that the previous models already ticked more or less all the boxes whatsoever. at the level of sports, health or communication functions. Samsung offers the monitoring of dozens of sports activities – including swimming since the watch is waterproof – the most common ones benefiting from automatic detection of the start of activity. For running tracking, the data collected by the watch is very comprehensive and benefits from a very precise GPS track. Sure, do not expect the Watch4 to have as extensive sports monitoring as with specialists in the genre like Garmin watches, but the service provided is still very comprehensive.
Likewise, the watch monitors the quality of your sleep with two new features this year: the level of oxygen in the blood and the detection of snoring (which requires keeping your smartphone near the bed for their recording), measurements likely to be to detect a possible concern of sleep apnea. Whether it is health or sport, the user will be able to find complete activity reports on the smartphone in the Samsung Health application, including his ECGs and other blood pressure measurements.
Among the other functions integrated into the watch, we find everything that makes the success of connected watches from the barometer, to the calculator and the alarm. It is also possible to ring your smartphone if you have “misplaced” it at home or to trigger the mobile’s camera from the watch (for Galaxy users). There are also the usual communication functions (notifications, taking a call, receiving / writing SMS), already present in Tizen.
The Watch4 however has a new string to its bow, Google services such as the Play Store (much better stocked than the Galaxy Store) or Maps who don’t have to be ashamed of an actor like Apple. The Watch4 is, from this point of view, rich in promise. Downloading functions like Spotify or Adidas running will only take a few seconds, ask Google to enrich its app store!
WITHOUT GREAT SURPRISE, DISAPPOINTING AUTONOMY
When it comes to battery life, Samsung watches running Tizen fared better than Apple’s or even those with Google’s OS. By opting for Wear OS, without much surprise, the manufacturer loses its advantage among the suppliers of ultra-connected and therefore resource-intensive watches.
With the Watch4 40 mm and its small 247 mAh battery, do not expect to exceed 30 hours of battery life. And again, by limiting the very resource-intensive functions, such as tracking activities with activated GPS (walking, running, etc.) which could make you fall below 25 hours. If this autonomy bothers you, it is probably better to opt for one of the Watch models equipped with a 362 mAh battery, such as the Watch 4 44 mm or the Watch4 Classic 46 mm.
Despite the slightly larger screen, they should approach 48 hours of use. We are far from the comfort offered by manufacturers like Huawei, Fitbit or even Withings, but this is the price to pay to benefit from an ecosystem as complete as those of Apple or Google. To extend the autonomy of the watch if necessary, Do not hesitate to suspend certain functions such as the Always On screen or reduce the brightness of the panel. When only 15% battery life is left, you can also switch to power saving mode (which suspends non-core power-hungry functions) to extend battery life.
To erase this drawback a little, Samsung has also reworked its copy in terms of recharge which goes from 2h30 to around 1h45 (according to our measurements). Nothing exceptional compared to an Oppo Watch running Wear OS, but you can hope to recover a few hours of battery life by leaving your watch plugged into the mains for a few minutes.
Supplied with a wired charging station, the Watch4 is also compatible with wireless charging. If by chance your smartphone benefits from energy sharing, like the Galaxy S21, you will be able to put your watch on your mobile to give it a little battery. Practical to avoid running out of fuel at the end of the day! For others, you will have to buy a Samsung wireless charging station.