Android & iOS App & Software Review

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 series review: refined, but not revolutionary

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For the longest time, Samsung reigned supreme when it got here to flagship Android smartwatches. 12 months after 12 months, it was the simple suggestion for folks on the lookout for an Android analog to the Apple Watch. That’s nonetheless true with the Galaxy Watch 6 collection, however I’m uncertain how safe Samsung’s standing is heading into the autumn product season and past.

It’s not as a result of they’re dangerous units. Each the Galaxy Watch 6 (begins at $299.99) and the Galaxy Watch 6 Traditional (begins at $399.99) are nice Android smartwatches. However issues have shifted lots previously two years. Fitbit has been more and more absorbed by Google, and the Pixel Watch not solely exists, however a second one is anticipated this fall. Mobvoi simply put out Put on OS watch that includes Qualcomm’s Snapdragon W5 Plus chip, and it’s probably Fossil will do the identical. And but, the previous 10 days or so with the Galaxy Watch 6 collection have felt like I used to be frozen in time.

In virtually each approach, these are watches you’ve seen earlier than. Relying in your perspective, that may very well be or dangerous factor. On the one hand, what you’re getting. On the opposite, not a lot has modified.

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What’s new… and what isn’t

The updates this time round jogged my memory of Vincent Adultman from Bojack Horseman. You’re getting a bunch of tiny updates that add as much as one huge one, besides one thing doesn’t really feel proper. Type of like three youngsters stacked up beneath a trenchcoat, pretending to be an grownup. I do know this isn’t the identical precise watch as final 12 months or the 12 months earlier than. And but… we’ve the identical 40mm and 44mm sizes for the essential Galaxy Watch 6 in acquainted colours like black, silver, and gold. The Traditional is barely larger at 43 and 47mm, however not noticeably so, and it nonetheless is available in silver and black. So far as supplies go, the bottom mannequin continues to be aluminum, whereas the Traditional stays stainless-steel.

Visually, essentially the most noticeable factor is the thinner bezels. Whenever you simply have a look at the common Galaxy Watch 6, nevertheless, it’s onerous to see the distinction. It was solely after I fired up my Watch 5 and checked out them facet by facet that I actually appreciated them. As a result of the bezels are 30 % slimmer and the show is bigger, you get this neat optical phantasm that the Watch 6 is considerably larger than the Watch 5 — though they each have the identical 40mm and 44mm instances.

The 40mm Galaxy Watch 6 (left) appears larger than the 40mm Galaxy Watch 5 though the instances are the identical dimension.
Picture by Victoria Tune / The Verge

On the Traditional, the rotating bezel itself is 15 % thinner, and it provides the Traditional a sleeker really feel regardless of the larger dimension. The impact is extra pronounced on the 47mm model, which helps mitigate the truth that that is the largest smartwatch Samsung’s ever made. I used to be a bit cautious of that in the first place, however to my shock, it wears a lot smaller. (Samsung has pulled this off earlier than: final 12 months’s Watch 5 Professional was additionally comfortable for an enormous watch.) It didn’t catch on my garments, the burden wasn’t distracting on runs, and I had no points sporting it to sleep. Nonetheless, it’s noticeably heavier than the usual Galaxy Watch 6 as a result of its use of stainless-steel over aluminum.

As an apart, I’m completely happy to see that Samsung managed to get an even bigger show and battery into these watches with out turning these into hockey puck-sized behemoths. It typically seems like I’ve to decide on between readability on an even bigger show or consolation — and I didn’t have to try this right here.

The bezels are 30 % thinner on the Galaxy Watch 6 (prime) and 15 % thinner on the Watch 6 Traditional. The 47mm Traditional (backside) doesn’t look too ridiculous, both.

The inner {hardware} hasn’t modified from final 12 months, apart from the marginally bigger batteries and the brand new Exynos W930 chipset. Samsung says it’s 18 % quicker, however functionally, you’re not going to note an enormous distinction. You continue to have the 3-in-1 Biosensor that permits coronary heart charge, EKGs, and physique composition evaluation. There’s built-in GPS — although multiband isn’t an possibility but. There’s an even bigger distinction coming from the fourth-gen watches (or older). For instance, all watches now characteristic sapphire crystal for additional sturdiness and temperature sensors. The battery dimension on the smaller watches jumps from 241mAh to 300mAh and from 361mAh to 425mAh on the bigger sizes.

Talking of the temperature sensor, Samsung lastly does issues with it now. Just like the Apple Watch and Oura Ring, temperature knowledge now feeds into superior cycle monitoring. This isn’t unique to the Galaxy Watch 6 collection; it was really introduced some time again for the Galaxy Watch 5. Pores and skin temperature knowledge can be a metric you’ll be able to allow throughout sleep. Maybe essentially the most novel use case is the third-party Thermo Examine app, which lets you use the sensor to examine how sizzling or chilly objects are in your atmosphere. I wrote about what it’s like to make use of it in additional element right here, however the wanting it’s it’s enjoyable, foolish, and never very sensible.

For software program, the Watch 6 collection runs Google’s Put on OS 4 and Samsung’s One UI 5 Watch on prime of that. After I first booted up the watches, there have been some minor variations I observed. The Sleep widget, for instance, holds extra on-wrist knowledge than it used to. There are new watchfaces. After I paired the watches for the primary time, I observed a brand new immediate for transferring your watch’s knowledge to a brand new telephone. After which, a number of days later, I promptly forgot this was new. The underside line is that up to now, Put on OS 4 and One UI 5 Watch really feel lots like Put on OS 3 and One UI Watch 4.5.

This can be a operating theme with all of Samsung’s software program updates this 12 months. Both it’s minor enhancements to issues that have been already there, or Samsung’s catching up by including options have already got. For instance, the primary new sports activities profile is a Observe Run, the place you get extra correct GPS knowledge when at a normal 400m monitor. For those who menstruate, you’ll be able to choose into temperature-based Cycle Monitoring. After a 10-minute run, now you can view and customise coronary heart charge zones. It’s also possible to create customized exercises.

These are all issues Apple added final 12 months with watchOS 9. Garmin’s had monitor runs and coronary heart charge zones for ages, too. The Pixel Watch additionally already helps coronary heart charge zones, although the first-gen gadget is a bit behind so far as monitor runs, customized exercises, and temperature knowledge. Fitbit, which powers the Pixel Watch’s well being options, does have temperature monitoring on its Versa and Sense smartwatches — so it’s doable we might even see these on a next-gen Pixel Watch.

I’d’ve appreciated to see improved accuracy on the health monitoring entrance, nevertheless it’s nonetheless roughly the identical as final 12 months: principally nice so far as steps and coronary heart charge go, with the occasional wonkiness with regard to GPS distance. I extremely advocate disabling the auto countdown in exercise settings. A handbook begin allows you to make sure the watch will get a safe GPS lock earlier than you run, which vastly decreased inaccuracies for me. For sleep monitoring, I observed that in a single day SpO2 readings have been a bit higher than final 12 months, however I nonetheless acquired the occasional studying of 72 %… which, once more, is trigger to go to the hospital.

Samsung Pay is now Samsung Pockets.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Samsung Pay is now Samsung Pockets. Emergency SOS has been barely improved, so now your contacts might be alerted to your precise location. The Galaxy Watch 6 collection can now passively monitor for irregular coronary heart rhythm notifications within the background — a characteristic that was lately cleared by the FDA. Apple and Fitbit even have this characteristic already.

Catching as much as your rivals is objectively good. It ensures these watches stay a aggressive possibility out there. They’re simply not that thrilling. In a race, it’s eye-catching to see somebody in the back of the pack creep up on the frontrunner. However folks don’t get out of their seats till it appears just like the frontrunner may get overtaken. With these updates, Samsung’s leveling the taking part in area, nevertheless it’s not making anybody nervous.

Let’s discuss battery life

Final 12 months, I wasn’t too proud of Samsung on this entrance. Battery life was crap with the Galaxy Watch 4 collection, and within the lead-up to the Watch 5 collection, Samsung touted larger batteries and 40 hours of battery life. For the Watch 5 Professional, it promised 80 hours of battery life. After I reviewed these, I acquired nowhere close to 40 hours on the Watch 5 and maxed out at round 50-60 hours on the Professional.

The sensors are all the identical, however I dig the brand new one-click strap mechanism. It’s simpler to make use of and is backward-compatible with older Samsung Galaxy Watches. Your normal straps may even work with the Galaxy Watch 6 collection.

This 12 months, the smaller Watch 6 and Traditional have been bumped as much as a 300mAh battery. The bigger fashions now have a 425mAh battery. That is barely bigger than final 12 months, however Samsung’s battery estimates are modest — all 4 watches have an estimated 30 hours with the always-on show, 40 hours with out, and eight minutes of quick charging delivers eight hours of battery. Put on OS 4 continues to be a brand new factor, however the one factor we all know for certain is it brings cloud backups and supposedly extends battery life.

The result’s an total slight enchancment in battery life.

I used to be bowled over when, on day considered one of a full cost, the 40mm nonetheless had 78 % battery by 5PM. I had an identical end result with the Traditional. This time final 12 months, beneath the identical state of affairs, the Watch 5 couldn’t final the entire day. It sparked hope that Samsung had lastly mounted its battery problem.

The factor about Samsung smartwatches is your mileage with battery life goes to differ based mostly on the settings you select. For those who disable the always-on show, allow bedtime mode, restrict notifications to the necessities, and sparingly use LTE, GPS, or steady well being monitoring? I maxed out at round 32 on each watches. However that’s type of like not utilizing the watch to do rather more than inform time. With AOD on, I topped out round 25 hours.

Put on OS 4 and One UI 5 Watch really feel, look, and performance lots like Put on OS 3 and One UI Watch 4.5.

When you activate extra power-intensive settings, the battery life takes a success, significantly with steady SpO2, snore detection, and pores and skin temperature readings throughout sleep. Fortunately, the brand new bedtime mode, which dims the show and switches to the invisible infrared sensors, helps mitigate that. I went from 25–30 % battery drain in a single day to 10-15 %, just like the Apple Watch’s battery loss when in a single day sleep monitoring. As for GPS — one other battery-intensive characteristic — each watches drained about 3–4 % per mile with AOD throughout three runs starting from 30–45 minutes on every watch. That’s a big enchancment over final 12 months, particularly for the reason that display screen is now a brighter 2,000 nits.

You’re gonna get a bit additional from the bigger watches simply because they’ve the larger batteries. On a typical utilization day, the 47mm had 88 % battery after I awakened. I went for a 30-minute run, ran a number of assessments, had a number of notifications, and by 5PM, I nonetheless had 59 % battery. I went out for dinner and a present and had 40 % by bedtime. After enabling bedtime mode, I awakened round 7AM the subsequent day with 28 % battery left. Not too shabby.

The well being and health updates are very minor this time round. It’s principally taking part in catchup — although I appreciated additional battery life whereas being energetic.
Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

As a result of I used to be consistently experimenting with settings, I by no means acquired the identical battery life day in and time out. However having tried so many situations, the underside line is you’re nonetheless going to be charging each day or, at the least, each different day. For true multiday battery life, you’re gonna must get the Watch 5 Professional (or a Garmin).

What’s extra necessary to me is I really feel assured these watches can final a complete workday. I haven’t felt that since Samsung switched to Put on OS two years in the past — and that’s adequate for me.

Nonetheless Samsung’s backyard

Like Apple, Samsung merchandise work finest inside its personal ecosystem. This isn’t something new. Up to now, I’ve all the time paired Galaxy Watches with Samsung telephones as a result of most Android customers within the US have Samsung telephones and since that’s how Samsung intends you to make use of them. However contemplating how the Android wearable panorama is altering, I made a decision to pair the Galaxy Watch 6 collection with the Pixel 7 Professional for almost all of my testing. (I additionally borrowed a colleague’s Samsung Galaxy S9 for a extra direct comparability.)

For those who use the 47mm Traditional with a non-Samsung telephone, you’ll get principally the identical expertise. However you do miss out on a handful of options.

For essentially the most half, the expertise is similar, however there’s little question that is nonetheless Samsung’s backyard. Take setup. On the S9, all of the Samsung apps have been already put in, and it virtually instantaneously detected the Galaxy Watch 6 was close by for pairing. On my Pixel 7 Professional, I needed to go obtain, at minimal, the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app, Samsung Well being, and Samsung Pay / Pockets — and all associated plugins. That saves chunk of time, particularly since if you have already got a Samsung telephone, you probably don’t must make a Samsung account. I attempted the setup course of a number of occasions, and it was all the time quicker on the Samsung telephone — although it didn’t take that for much longer on the Pixel.

There are additionally some apps which might be unique to Samsung telephones — just like the Samsung Well being Monitor app and the Digital camera Controller app. The Well being Monitor app is what you utilize to take EKG readings, and it’s additionally needed for the brand new passive irregular coronary heart rhythm notifications. For those who’re gadget savvy, there are methods to sideload it onto a non-Samsung telephone, however that’s an additional problem that’s simply not required with a Pixel Watch.

The sensor array doesn’t protrude as a lot this 12 months.

With the Digital camera Controller app, it routinely seems in your watch’s app menu when you pair it with a Samsung telephone. It’s lacking when you pair it with a non-Samsung telephone like I did. That’s a disgrace since I actually loved utilizing the Digital camera Controller app throughout my hands-on to zoom out and in, in addition to swap between picture / video modes.

(Fast word: initially, Samsung advised us the Digital camera Controller updates have been restricted to foldables however has since clarified that zoom capabilities can be found on any Samsung telephone operating One UI 5.1, and switching modes might be accessible on any Galaxy S9 or later telephone supplied it’s operating One UI 5.1.1.)

My different pet peeve is that urgent and holding the underside button continues to be hard-coded to Samsung Pockets. (You might have to replace your model of One UI when you’re nonetheless seeing Samsung Pay.) Whereas now you can reprogram the highest button to launch Google Assistant as a substitute of Bixby, there’s no approach to try this with Samsung Pockets if Google Pockets is your desire. You possibly can program a shortcut with the highest button to launch Google Pockets, nevertheless it’d be a lot simpler when you might simply swap out Samsung Pockets.

In the end, these are minor bugaboos. Setup is usually a one-time factor, and with cloud backups, it’s much less painful to change to a brand new telephone. For those who don’t care about EKGs or aFib monitoring, you received’t miss the Well being Monitor app. There are even third-party digital camera controller apps within the Play Retailer, so that you don’t essentially want Samsung’s.

Must you improve?

The Galaxy Watch 6 collection isn’t essentially the most thrilling replace, however these are among the many finest smartwatches you should purchase. For those who’ve been holding on to a Tizen OS smartwatch, now is an efficient time to improve, as help for the Galaxy Watch 3 is barely assured by this month. The identical is true when you’ve been holding out for a smoother total Put on OS expertise or higher battery life.

The smaller 40mm Galaxy Watch 6 continues to be the higher selection for smaller wrists.

What I don’t love is that the worth of those watches has gone up. (Thanks inflation!) The bottom Galaxy Watch 6 begins at $299.99, in comparison with $279.99 for the Watch 5. The Watch 6 Traditional now begins at $399.99 for the 43mm, up from $349.99 for the Watch 4 Traditional. Add $30 if you would like the 44mm Watch 6 or the 47mm Traditional, and one other $50 for LTE. Technically, this makes these smartwatches extra on par with the Apple Watch and Google Pixel Watch — however who on Earth likes to pay extra for a similar factor?

That mentioned, when you’ve acquired a Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Traditional, I feel you’ll be very proud of the present Traditional’s additional display screen property, sleeker look, and longer battery life. Particularly because it looks as if Samsung is updating the Traditional on a two-year cycle, it could be a few years earlier than we get one other one. For those who’re on an everyday Watch 4 or Watch 5… eh. You could possibly with the Watch 4 when you discover a good trade-in deal, however I don’t assume it’s value it for the 5. All you’re actually getting is the larger display screen dimension. The whole lot else is successfully the identical, and you need to see additional battery-setting enhancements as soon as One UI 5 Watch formally trickles all the way down to older fashions.

These are glorious Android smartwatches, even when not a complete lot has modified. However I don’t assume Samsung can proceed to coast for much longer.

Taking a step again, iteration was really the theme of this summer season’s Unpacked bulletins. And whereas I’m so, so, so completely happy the rotating bezel is again, there’s solely so many occasions you’ll be able to take what’s previous and make it appear new. Simply as there at the moment are extra gamers within the foldables area, there are extra Put on OS watches now, too. On the finish of the day, it’s not the top of the world that Samsung selected to stay to what’s tried and true this 12 months. However this time subsequent 12 months? I’m undecided Samsung can afford to coast.

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