Earlier this month, Samsung launched its new line of smartwatches, including the Galaxy Watch5 and Galaxy Watch5 Pro. Last year I spent a reasonable amount of time using the previous generation Galaxy Watch4, and you can read my full review here.Many people are becoming more health conscious, and smartwatches are one of the easiest ways to track sleep, performance, blood pressure, heart rate, and more. I know many folks who used the devices to detect Covid-19 symptoms before they started to feel ill, which was incredibly valuable to people's health.
I have been an avid smartwatch user for years and enjoy taking these new designs through my real-world use case. Since there are a lot of different manufacturers and form factors, I sometimes will wear one Samsung watch and one Apple Watch on each wrist to compare data, heart rate, and calories burned and test the unique experience of each watch side by side. The devices have much utility, but it takes performant hardware and a large swath of software applications to get good performance, smooth user experience, and long battery life. Samsung sent me a Galaxy Watch5 to review and I have been using it as my primary smartwatch for the past five days; let's dig into my experience.
The Galaxy Watch5 is similar to last year's Galaxy Watch4 apart from some subtle design changes. The aluminum bezel is very sleek and premium feeling. The 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor is larger than the previous generation, but it does give you more accurate health data for your trouble. The AMOLED display is bright and responsive to the touch, even on a small display. The 20mm silicon band comes in many colors, and it was very comfortable on my wrist even while wearing it for 24+ hours at a time. The watch comes in four color options: Blue, Silver, Gray, and Gold.
In the last year, adding subtle, incremental changes from generation to generation has been a theme with Samsung Foldable phones and smartwatches. I have spent a large part of my career in product management, and it's not easy to pack next-generation devices with trail-blazing features yearly and keep the cost affordable to the consumer. Although the company may be getting some flack from reviewers, I think steady incremental design improvements will add up over time. I don’t have many design complaints about the Galaxy Watch4 and Galaxy Watch5.
As far as specs go, the Galaxy Watch5 has similar specs to the Galaxy Watch4. The Galaxy Watch5 comes with the Exynos W920 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage. The system also supports GPS, optional LTE, contactless payments, and 5ATM of water resistance. The system is always certified with IP68 and MIL-STD-810H, so I expect it to be durable, and from my testing, it seems to hold to that durability. The system supports Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and optional 4G LTE for connectivity. The Always-on AMOLED display comes in a couple of different sizes. The first is a 1.36" (450x450), 330PPI for the 44mm watch, and a 1.19" (396x396), 330PPI for the 40mm version.
If you're interested in health and wellness, you get an upgraded 3-in-1 BioActive sensor to measure heart rate, blood pressure (BP), electrocardiogram (ECG), Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA), and continuous Sp02, also known as oxygen saturation. It has acceleration, gyroscopic, barometric, ambient light, and compass sensors. Samsung Health is one of my favorite applications for monitoring my health, especially my sleep.
For the first part of my use, I connect the Galaxy Watch5 to my Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 via the Galaxy Wearables App. The system comes with Wear OS 3.5 and Samsung's One UI Watch 4.5. I used my Galaxy Watch consistently to track my activity, sleep, and notifications. I like to have my meeting notifications on my wrist, so I know what's coming up next without picking up my phone.
New to One UI Watch 4.5 is a full QWERTY keyboard for replying to messages or typing. I am not a massive fan of using a 1.36" display to respond to messages, and tend to gravitate towards speech-to-text. Google Assistant is now installed by default which is an upgrade from Bixby. I enjoy using a suite of Google applications on my watch like Google Map, Assistant, and Wallet. Google Assistant is great for asking simple questions throughout the day, and I found myself using it often.
While most of the time, I had no issues swiping and pulling down the quick settings pane, there were some instances where I had to try two or three times to get the pane to slide down. The Exynos W920 chip provides solid performance, but it makes you wonder if the watch could benefit from a more performant Qualcomm CPU in the next generation. Using Qualcomm's top-tier mobile silicon has been a good strategy in Samsung's new Galaxy Foldables, and I think it could also be a good play for wearables.
I used the Galaxy Watch App paired with an iPhone 12 Pro. Despite finding my watch quickly on the app via Bluetooth, it failed to connect on the first several tries. I did get it working after several attempts, but it's just not as smooth as the Galaxy Wearables app on Android OS. Undoubtedly, the experience is much worse on an iPhone than on Android, and I think that speaks more of the iPhone than the watch.
My Galaxy Watch5 was the 44mm variant which is the larger one compared to the 40mm. The system comes with a 410mAh battery which is considerably larger than the 284mAh that comes in the 40mm Galaxy Watch5. The Galaxy Watch5 battery has been upgraded in size compared to the 361mAh last generation Galaxy Watch4 (44mm).
Getting a consistent battery life measure for a watch is hard because I utilize the watch differently daily. On an average day, receiving notifications, tracking sleep and workouts, and using the Google assistant several times, I was getting anywhere from 26-28 hours of battery life. I always ran the system with the always-on display enabled. My experience is quite different from Samsungs 40-50 hours of battery which I'm sure was measured in a very conservative scenario. If you wanted to turn off the always-on display, mute notifications, and lower your screen brightness, I am sure you could squeeze several more hours of battery life out of the system. It would be nice not to worry about charging the watch for multiple days, but I am unwilling to dilute my experience for longer battery life.
The watch does support faster charging and wireless charging (WPC). With a 30-minute charge, you can get up to 45% battery life back into the system. In my experience, I was getting over 50% of the charge at the 30-minute mark. I was pleasantly surprised because most tech manufacturers put its best-case scenario forward with battery life and charging claims.
The Galaxy Watch5 comes in two different sizes, and the new Galaxy Watch5 Pro comes in a singular size. The prices scale up based on size and if you want LTE with your device. I listed the different models, sizes, and costs below.
- Galaxy Watch 5 (40m): $279.99 ($329.99 with LTE)
- Galaxy Watch 5 (44m): $309.99 ($359.99 with LTE)
- Galaxy Watch 5 Pro (45mm): $449.99 ($499.99 with LTE)
This price strategy has worked well for Samsung. Since the Galaxy Watch 5 entry point is just $279.99, it is much more affordable than the Apple Watch Series 7, which starts at $399.99. The average price across the stack increased by about $30.00 from last generation, which isn't a deal breaker, but you hope the trend doesn't continue. The Galaxy Watch line is hard to beat for the price if you're an Android user. I prefer to avoid pairing this device with an Apple product as the experience isn't as seamless as phones running Android OS.
After several days of using the new Galaxy Watch5, I can say that it is a welcomed addition to the Galaxy Watch lineup. Nothing about this design is leaps and bounds different, but Samsung chose to innovate in subtly. It builds on the foundation of the Galaxy Watch4 but offers new features and design changes as well. With a bigger battery, faster charging, and better health tracking, there isn't much to dislike about the new Galaxy Watch5. For me, this watch checks many boxes with good health tracking, smooth performance, and good battery life.
As the smartwatch market continues to experience more competition from Apple and other manufacturers, I think we can expect to see a faster pace of innovation and features with each generation. I believe there is still much work to be done in adding more critical applications to Wear OS, but that is easier said than done. For users looking for a great Android smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch5 is an excellent option for tracking your health, increasing your productivity, and telling time. Nice work, Samsung.