When Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch 4 last year, it was a significant upgrade from its previous iteration, given the transition to Google’s Wear OS. Until its third version, Samsung was intent on pushing the native Tizen OS, which came with its own set of problems as regards app availability and compatibility. The Watch 5, from that perspective, is an incremental change from Watch 4 but moves the Korean smartphone maker closer to competing with the best. Within the Android category, it may be one of the best wearables.
The design of Samsung’s watches has remained standard since inception, and the new iteration keeps to the tried and tested design. There are two buttons on the right and a bezel-less design. The strap has the same plasticky feel—durability is higher—with a slight gap on each side between the watch and the strap—the strap buckles underneath itself, eliminating the need for separate loops. The Watch 5 Pro, however, has a design refresh. The first pro watch has a 45mm bezel, compared to 40mm and 44mm for the regular version and comes with a raised metallic rim around the display. While the raised rim is supposed to protect the screen, it obstructs touch controls and makes it difficult to operate. The titanium construction and the better strap quality with a bracelet mechanism gave it a more premium look than the standard edition. Then straps are not easily replaceable. The design is clunky—thicker than most smartwatches.
Performance and battery life
The move away from Tizen OS should have made the smartwatches less buggy, but problems persist with the series. The always-on feature does not always work. It is also difficult to switch off from the swipe-down interface. The touch screen struggles underwater, and the user interface is sometimes not user-friendly.
There are a lot of clicks, taps and swipes one has to make to find one’s way to switch apps. The app store is still limited, which accentuates troubles. The design elements were also limited. The app interface was designed well, and the tracking was to the point. But, adding a new activity was a problem, which should have been easier. The maps app worked well, and there were hardly any complaints about battery life. With the GPS on, the device could easily go over 30 hours; without GPS, it can give you over two days of battery life.
Another problem is the lag in swipe-down gesture to access quick settings, which works beautifully on Android phones but does not do so on the watch. Samsung would do better to find another user experience for panel representation, which is more user-friendly.
The Watch 5 Pro, on the other hand, had a longer battery life and supported fast charging. The differentiating feature was the route workout mode, which helps in navigation and has a track-back feature to find your way back. But, syncing the route list was cumbersome and required serious effort.
One arena where Samsung has been able to outdo the competition is the screen, and both iterations of the Watch 5 series do not disappoint in that regard. The screen was bright, and the colour displayed were accurate. There is auto-brightness feature to adjust the brightness based on ambient light conditions, but it kicked in late at times during the testing. Nevertheless, the screen was bright enough for easy outdoor use.
Although the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro are among the best Android watches, there is a long way to go to compete with the rest. If you are looking for a watch to support your Android universe, Samsung does offer the perfect fit. Moreover, the functionality is even better if you are a Samsung user. However, there is a cost to the ecosystem. The Watch5 starts at Rs 27,999 for the 40 mm model, and the Watch 5 Pro begins at Rs 44,999.