Samsung recently announced its next generation of Galaxy Z Fold devices and its newest Galaxy Watch6 and Galaxy Watch6 Classic. For more context, you can read my coverage of Samsung Unpacked 2023 here.
Samsung was one of the earliest OEMs to offer a wearable smartwatch to compete with the Apple Watch. I have been fortunate enough to use every Galaxy Watch since before Samsung switched to Wear OS on the Galaxy Watch4. (Before Samsung teamed up with Google to go all in on Wear OS, it had used its own Tizen OS.) Samsung is one of the few brands championing smartwatch platforms for Android, and it has always delivered Galaxy Watch designs that present a serious alternative to the Apple Watch.
However, even as a long-time Android power user, I always find choosing the Galaxy Watch over the Apple Watch difficult because I also have an iPhone—and iMessage—for family matters. If not for that, I would exclusively use the Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphone with a Galaxy Watch6. For the best sleep tracker up this point, I have used the Oura Ring. We’ll see if I will need this anymore with the advent of the Watch6. You can read a detailed analysis by Moor Insights & Strategy Junior Analyst Jacob Freyman on the future of wearables for health and wellness here.
The Galaxy Watch6 Classic has many appealing improvements over the Galaxy Watch4 Classic, including a bigger display, a new band mechanism, improved battery life and health and wellness functionality. Although there was no Galaxy Watch5 Classic, I will compare the Galaxy Watch5 and Watch5 Pro since they have a similar experience within the Galaxy ecosystem. Let’s dive into the review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch6 Classic.
The rotating bezel was gone, but was it really gone?
The rotating bezel of the Galaxy Watch6 Classic is an iconic feature of Samsung’s watches. In fact, the bezel was on one of Samsung’s earliest smartwatches, the Gear S2, and gives the Classic name a twofold meaning.Besides giving a nod to the rotating bezel, it highlights the overall classic look of the watch. While Samsung did not include a rotating bezel on the Galaxy Watch5 series, it never said that the bezel was gone forever.
Looking back on the choice to skip a year for the Classic edition, this design decision makes sense. The Galaxy Watch5 Pro was positioned as a watch for professional athletes and power users, similar to the target audience for Garmin’s Fenix and Epix smartwatches and the Apple Watch Ultra. The Watch5 Pro has GPS route tracking, is made of titanium and has a larger 590mAh battery—all features that power users can appreciate. The Galaxy Watch6 Classic, by contrast, targets everyday use cases, highlighting style and user experience over performance. So why did we not get a Galaxy Watch6 Pro? It’s because, other than the larger display, the sixth generation has no new sensors or hardware features to justify a new Galaxy Watch Pro model. I am okay with that.
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I think the year off taken by the Galaxy Watch Classic surprised Galaxy Watch enthusiasts because the rotating bezel is one of the most-loved features of the lineup, and I agree. Not only does the clicky rotation of the bezel make it a delight to use, it is also useful for navigating the device. The Apple Watch and the Google Pixel Watch use rotating crowns which are more similar to a classic wristwatch, and I do understand that aesthetic, but I find the rotating bezel on the Samsung more accessible than the rotating crown on my Apple Watch.
The design aesthetic of the Galaxy Watch6 Classic is premium all the way. The watch has a 20% larger display and a 15% thinner rotating bezel, making the display feel huge while still keeping a thinner and smaller footprint. I also appreciate the button placement on the Watch6 Classic: it works well to have two buttons on one side with a protruding edge to protect the buttons without compromising their tactile feel. The stainless-steel chassis and sapphire crystal display also contribute to the device’s premium aesthetic. Another important aspect of the design is that it rarely, if ever, slides or moves on my wrist. The silicon band is comfortable to wear and does a great job of keeping a snug fit.
Specs and performance
Samsung offers 47mm and 43mm sizes, with or without LTE connectivity, in either black or silver. My model was the 47mm black model without LTE connectivity.
The Galaxy Watch6 and Watch6 Classic are built on a Samsung Exynos W930 processor, a generation up from the series W920 used in the Galaxy Watch5. The W920 was built in partnership with Google to create a smooth and seamless experience between Wear OS and Exynos. Where the W920 introduced a potent low-power processor built on “5nm” chip-making technology, the W930 offers a 15% jump in processing speed in an even smaller package. The battery in the Galaxy Watch6 Classic is also larger than the Galaxy Watch4 Classic, coming in at 425mAh for the 47mm and 300mAh for the 43mm.
I have gotten noticeably better battery performance with the Galaxy Watch6 Classic compared to the Galaxy Watch4 Classic, with more than a day and two nights of use with the always-on display when the watch wasn’t in Bedtime mode.
I have never had any issues with the snappiness and performance of the Galaxy Watch6 Classic. Although the BioActive sensor of the watch has not changed from past generations, the faster processor should allow for better processing of the data and improved accuracy for the BioActive sensor. Although I have not professionally measured the accuracy of the health data from the Galaxy Watch6 Classic, it was reliable enough to use for tracking healthy habits. With that in mind, there is always room for improving measurement accuracy, not only for Samsung’s smartwatch sensors but for most smartwatch sensors.
Samsung emphasized sleep tracking and sleep coaching in the Galaxy Watch6 series, and as someone who values sleep when I can get it, I appreciate the new features. Although there was no particular improvement for the measurement of sleep, Samsung did introduce new sleep-coaching and analytics tools in the Galaxy Health app.
As someone who travels forty weeks out of the year, getting consistent sleep and overcoming jet lag can be difficult. I like how Samsung offers new sleep profiles, giving a list of key habits to work towards for better sleep. The sleep profile is helpful for people who don’t know what makes good quality sleep. Like Fitbit, Samsung introduced new sleep profiles attributed to animals. For example, Lions “have healthy sleep patterns, sleeping at consistent times, getting enough sleep and sleeping deeply.” I was impressed by the habits it suggests, like ensuring you eat breakfast, avoiding caffeine after a specific time and waking up at a particular time. These insights and patterns are included in a three-week program for improving sleep, and I appreciate how Samsung gives me clear goals rather than merely information.
One of the great things about the Galaxy Watch6 Classic (or any Galaxy Watch, really) is that while it is tied to the Samsung ecosystem, it can perform very well with any Android smartphone. However, when paired with a Samsung device, its utility is unlocked at the highest level. For example, Samsung has different modes available in its settings depending on which part of the day you’re in—Work mode, Bedtime mode, etc. For each of these modes, I can change the settings to have a different watch face displayed. For example, I use Samsung’s new Sleep watch face for when it gets close to bedtime and for my morning routine to see what I should be doing to get optimal sleep. Then I use an informative watch face during the workday (for example one with multiple time zones when I’m traveling) and a watch face with a picture of my family on the weekends.
While Samsung has a longer history than Apple when it comes to wearables, it is often placed in its shadows when it comes to popularity and performance. However, I believe Samsung is closing the gap between its Galaxy Watch series and the Apple Watch thanks to improved sleep analytics and coaching, a larger display and a slimmer bezel.
Will I continue to use my Apple Watch? Yes. In the past couple of years, Samsung and Google have done a great job of coming together and unifying the Wear OS platform, but there is still much work to do to improve the user experience. Samsung and Google must continue refining and adding more features and functionality to Wear OS, including more support for Tiles. I have many useful apps on the Galaxy Watch6 Classic. It is much easier to see my tasks on a tile for Todoist than to take the extra steps and open the app. Improving small user experience details like tiles could greatly improve Wear OS.
My overall experience with the Galaxy Watch6 Classic has been great, and I love the bigger display and more intentional sleep tracking and coaching experience. I don’t think Samsung should ever get rid of the rotating bezel, and I think the BioActive sensor is one of its stronger features. With the faster processor and improved battery life, I hope Samsung continues improving its sensors’ algorithms. It has the hardware; it is just a matter of improving the software.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy co-op Jacob Freyman contributed to this article.