Last year, Google finally gave Wear OS a boost after years of neglect, and the Galaxy Watch 4 and Samsung were instrumental in making it happen. Finally, the platform has a chance to succeed thanks to reliable hardware, and things are just getting better today. How do you follow up on a watch that in a single year tripled platform sales? With a few comparatively small upgrades, Samsung provides an answer with the Galaxy Watch 5.
Hardware | NEW COLORS WITH THE SAME FORMULAS More than virtually any other device I’ve seen in recent years, the Galaxy Watch 5 is essentially its predecessor with a new cosmetic finish. From the side rails to the buttons, the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 5 appear to be identical at first glance. The new color options—some of which look extremely nice—are the only significant update.
I’ve been wearing the Blue 44mm Galaxy Watch 5, which has a light blue tint to the metal and looks fantastic in person; in fact, I bought one for myself in that shade.
The shade is just light enough in person, especially in outdoor settings, that my only complaint is that I worry it won’t match any band other from the blue sport band that came with it. At first glance, my go-to brown leather band seems out of place. However, there are more possibilities besides blue, and both gray and silver look great in person. I would generally advise staying away from the blue hue if you intend to replace bands frequently or have a large collection already; it was out of stock on Samsungs website at the time of publishing.
In addition to blue, the 40mm model is also offered in silver, gray, and pink gold, which contrasts with the 44mm’s blue dial and looks as stunning. However, just like last year, I wish Samsung would make each of these colors available on every model. Neither the gold nor the blue should need you to give up a small size or long battery life in order to choose them.
IT IS IMMEDIATELY THICKER. The Galaxy Watch 5’s physical size on your wrist may be the only difference between it and the Watch 4 that you notice. Samsung claims that this smartwatch has the same thickness as its predecessor, however that is most definitely not the case.
Simply putting the watch on makes the wrist feel substantially thicker because it is. Samsung claims that the Watch 5 is 9.8mm thick, but when measured, it is closer to 13mm. On the Watch 5 Pro, the same issue is applied, but much more dramatically than it is on this gadget.
This does not imply, however, that the Galaxy Watch 5 is too thick. It isn’t. After a few of hours, I stopped thinking about the thickness, and the comfort is easily comparable to last year. Additionally, that thickness is there for a reason; according to Samsung, it improves the health sensors’ ability to make touch with your skin and possibly makes room for the larger battery (more on that later).
The biggest upgrade you’ll hopefully never notice is SAPPHIRE. The glass that covers the display is actually where the hardware has seen the biggest change. Samsung has abandoned Gorilla Glass in favor of sapphire, a much more durable material that should keep the watch nearly scratch-free for the duration of its existence. This is fantastic to see as there is no raised lip to protect the display and it is typical to unintentionally bump your watch against things as you go by. And if everything goes well, you won’t actually notice it.
The sapphire glass that covers the display has the same texture and appearance as regular glass. It has the same fundamental feel beneath your finger and the same coating that continuously attracts fingerprints, which I hope Samsung would solve in upcoming versions.
The rotating bezel, often known as the touch-sensitive strip outside of the display itself, feels worse this year, though that may be all I noticed in my time. It requires greater accuracy to utilize consistently and jumps through the software more quickly. Unintentional interactions with the app on the screen have happened countless times as a result of swipes on the bezel.
This can be the result of a software update from Samsung or a material change. It is irritating in both scenarios.
How long does it last? It’s difficult to judge that after just a few weeks. I can say that the display has not yet been scratched, and this is not due to me being especially careful. The Galaxy Watch 5 once engaged the side of my automobile in combat, and the Watch prevailed. Though there was no obvious damage to the automobile either, there was some paint sprayed that readily rubbed off on the Watch. However, my Galaxy Watch 4 got scratched up quite quickly last year, so I’m happy to see the Watch 5 is doing at least as well, if not better, so far.
Haptics require work. The haptic motor is one item I was disappointed to see remain unaltered. On last year’s model, it was simple to overlook a poor haptic motor, but it’s getting harder and harder to do so now. The Galaxy Watch 5’s haptics have a weak, hollow, and cheap feel to them. It’s perplexing that Samsung is ignoring the fact that Apple is very, very far ahead in this area.
Software performance: One UI 4.5 improves an already fantastic experience. The only other smartwatch running Wear OS 3 costs an outrageous $1,300, so Samsung’s version is still the only one that buyers can easily obtain.
However, that actually isn’t a negative thing. As we described in our review from last year, using One UI Watch on top of Wear OS 3 is still a wonderful experience.
And this time around, it’s just better. Earlier this year, One UI Watch 4.5 was released in beta on the Galaxy Watch 4, and it is pre-installed on the Watch 5.
What’s fresh? The addition of dual-SIM connections, QWERTY support for the stock keyboard, and new watch face functionality are just a few of the accessibility enhancements that are present. Other great additions include color correction and the ability to delay the time it takes for actions to complete before the screen goes black. This time, the system also has a slightly more polished and coherent feel.
However, the overall impression is basically the same. The underlying Wear OS 3.5 and One UI Watch 4.5 offer the same fundamental software interface and capabilities. It is primarily a quality of life update, which is perfectly acceptable. Most people will simply recognize that this is still a fantastic wristwatch, and that Samsung’s accessibility enhancements will allow more people to enjoy it.
Additionally, Samsung has updated the Galaxy Watch 5 with a number of new watchfaces. My perception of Samsung’s assortment has always been very flat, but the Watch 5 comes with a few fresh alternatives that stand out a little more. As seen throughout this analysis, Kinetic digits is my personal preference, although Info brick and Pro analog are both excellent choices that strike a nice mix between design, information density, and readability. I also love how the watch face selector now displays a list of favorites before displaying the entire list. It is much easier to use.
SAMSUNG IS STILL FIRST I would, however, advise you to stop thinking that way right once if you were hoping that a year spent in consumers’ hands would somehow help the Galaxy Watch 5 become an Android-first, paired-device independent smartwatch.
The Galaxy Watch 5 is still very much a Samsung-first wristwatch, even though it keeps introducing new options.
Want to avoid using Bixby? That’s great, Google Assistant is now available! However, Bixby is still initially turned on by default. Not interested in using Samsung’s keyboard? Fine! However, it is still by default activated and this time around has the QWERTY layout that made Gboard so appealing before. Not interested in using Samsung Wallet? No issue; Google Wallet functions perfectly; nevertheless, Samsung’s option will continue to occupy a hardware shortcut that cannot be changed. Additionally, several health tracking capabilities are still inaccessible unless you own a Samsung phone.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I shouldn’t need to download 2-4 different apps just to get my smartwatch up and running. Unlike other Wear OS 3 watches, too, there’s no faster pairing on the wider Android ecosystem, only on Samsung devices, and it still has the same pain-inducing Galaxy Wearable setup process on all devices. When setting up a new device, it is unpleasant and untidy and generally not a pleasant process. Fortunately, it only occurs a few times when the Watch is in use (hopefully, that is).
A LONGER-LASTING BATTERY Last year, the battery life of the Galaxy Watch 4 was my main complaint. Although fully doable, it was an irritation when using the watch to track sleep. Samsung increased the battery size for the Galaxy Watch 5 series by about 10%, providing a priceless few hours of endurance.
Simply put, the battery life is good. You’re still looking at a smartwatch that needs daily charging, so it’s still not fantastic. However, this battery life is a little less worrisome. After a week and a half of testing, the Galaxy Watch 5 only once alerted me to a low battery. I charged the battery every day while getting dressed or in the shower. Each morning, a 30-45 minute charge was sufficient to guarantee I had enough energy for a whole day, including sleep tracking.
The 44mm Galaxy Watch 5 usually has between 60 and 80% of its capacity when I start the day and between 20 and 30% when I finish. The majority of my daily use is notifications—hundreds of them—along with heart rate monitoring during the day, tracking of nocturnal sleep, and a few walking sessions each week. I play disc golf 2-4 times per week, which activates the walking workout on Samsung Health. This activity also includes using the Watch 5 to monitor score using the UDisc app. The overall drain I observe with those activities is between 40 and 50 percent per day, and it can reach up to 70 percent if I include any type of GPS tracking, like a workout or Google Maps. After a full day of use and sleep tracking, I discovered that the watch had reached about 35% by morning, which is fine in my book.
You will undoubtedly experience a significant increase in battery depletion if you regularly engage in running exercises and utilize the watch to track your route using GPS or to receive music and messages entirely throughout those activities. Based on my preliminary findings and those from the Watch 4, I believe you’ll still have a full day’s worth of watch time with that amount of activity on the 44mm model.
Although I am aware that many people desire their smartwatch to function for two to three days without charging, I don’t believe that is technically possible for true smartwatches. Customers can anticipate having to charge products like the Apple Watch at least once each day. In my opinion, Samsung’s endurance is more than adequate and quite good for a full smartwatch.
Unfortunately, we haven’t had a chance to test the 40mm size, however it’s likely that it significantly reduces these results. The 40mm watch couldn’t last a full 24 hours with identical usage last year, but the larger battery means it should now be able to handle sleep monitoring if your usage isn’t regarded as heavy.
SPEEDIER CHARGING However, a decent battery life depends on a reliable charging system. If you have to turn the watch off for two hours to regain your full-day endurance, it isn’t much use.
Thankfully, Samsung has accelerated charging for the Galaxy Watch 5 as well. The supplied charger now has a 10W charging rate, which is twice as fast as it was last year. With my usage, I discovered that the original 5W charger could really keep up with me for a full week, with my consumption typically beginning each day at the same level, if not a bit more. That’s probably because the watch charges more quickly, but the improvement is much greater when using the new charger that comes with the Watch 5.
Overall, the charging process takes little under two hours to complete a full charge. The difference will be most noticeable in a fast boost. You’ll see a considerably larger percentage than on the Galaxy Watch 4 if your watch is almost completely dead and you put it on the charger for 20 minutes. In our tests, we typically observe a little less than this promise, since Samsung is presuming the watch is at a very low percentage to begin with. Samsung says 45% in 30 minutes.
However, the fact that the new charger draws power from a USB-C connector is crucial information to know. The benefit of this is that it can pull more power from the outlet and into the watch. Additionally, your phone can now plug the charger into its own socket rather than relying on the inconvenient and wasteful reverse wireless charging option.
The drawback is that USB-C is less frequently used for the existing charging systems that the majority of smartwatch owners have. I couldn’t use the Watch 5’s provided charger since I use a wireless charger with a USB-A connector on my night table to charge smartwatches. Instead, I’d have to dedicate a whole outlet to a new charging brick for the Watch 5, which is also a little problematic considering the charging cable’s shorter length. Although USB-C is what should be in place here, I still appreciate Samsung for finally moving things forward. However, I can’t help but feel a little angry with the inescapable in-between I’m left with. Although USB-C is now less practical in this particular situation, the transition is for the larger good.
Better health and fitness, but not because anything has changed in reality Fitness is the main focus. Long-standing issues with Wear OS were partially resolved by the Galaxy Watch 4. With step tracking, heart rate monitoring, ECG, sleep tracking, and reliable workout tracking, Samsung Health offers a complete fitness suite. It even offers Body Composition assistance, which is something that no other smartwatch offers.
The Galaxy Watch 5 offers the same comprehensive set of capabilities as the previous model, and they continue to function flawlessly. The Galaxy Watch 5 performed similarly to the Fitbit Charge 5 that I wore on the other wrist throughout the review period, with probably a 5–10% margin of error between the two in areas like step or sleep tracking. Samsung is on par with Fitbit in terms of overall accuracy, although Fitbit still feels more precise.
If you’ve used a Samsung wristwatch in the last several years, you won’t really find anything new in the way of essential health data on the Galaxy Watch 5.
The thicker design, which Samsung believes should assist the sensor make better contact with your skin and, in turn, better results, is the sole factor that might have a greater influence on this watch. Whether or not that is true, I doubt it will be apparent right away. On-device snore detection gives sleep tracking a little boost, but it still doesn’t help if you sleep with a partner or even a pet. It occasionally caught me snoring, but the recording makes it difficult to hear.
The addition of a temperature sensor is the only significant update Samsung made to the health and fitness app on the Galaxy Watch 5. According to the speculations, Samsung was going to use this sensor to monitor body temperature, but as of right now, that hasn’t happened. The business claims that the sensor will help sleep tracking to some level, but it doesn’t really have any other uses and can’t be used to take your temperature on demand. Although I don’t personally view that as a major issue, its existence should have absolutely no bearing on how you decide to use this smartwatch.
LAST THOUGHTS The best becomes better, but upgrading is not worthwhile. Because it is an enhanced version of the watch that was previously the finest on Google’s platform, the Galaxy Watch 5 is the best Wear OS has to offer. improved health sensors, longer battery life, stronger durability, and a newer software version. How could it possibly not be better?
With its incredibly affordable $279 starting price, there is now no better wristwatch to purchase if you own an Android phone. The price is even sweetened by Samsung’s trade-in credits, which through August 26 will pay at least $75 for any smartwatch you presently own. But even without the discounts, it’s still a reasonable price for a quality watch.
The only individuals who shouldn’t be thinking about the Galaxy Watch 4 are those who already possess one. The enhancements are apparent, but not enough to warrant upgrading from a single generation unless you’re also purchasing a new Galaxy Z Fold 4 or Flip 4 , which, in certain situations, you obtain the Watch practically for free.
WOULD BUYING A GALAXY WATCH 5 PRO BE BETTER? The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, a vastly different wristwatch in comparison to the Galaxy Watch 5, is also part of Samsung’s range this year. Despite using the same operating system and basic hardware, they offer drastically distinct user experiences.
The battery life of the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro easily reaches three days, as reviewer Damien Wilde noted in his review, and my experience with the Watch 5 Pro after ending Watch 5 testing has confirmed that. After two full days of use and activity, I had only depleted 60% of the watch’s battery. Of course, that is on a very low usage.
The size of the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is by far its largest drawback over the Watch 5. In all but ordinary use, the 15mm thickness is incredibly uncomfortable to wear. Being physically active outside, exploring the city, etc., is no issue. Working from a laptop or desk causes immediate discomfort, mostly because of the band’s extremely thick clasp. For the same reason, sleep tracking is completely out of the question.
Additionally, charging with the clasp band is somewhat unpleasant.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a very different product in my opinion, not one that is superior. The incredible battery life is deserving of a lot of praise. The Watch 5 Pro is what you need if you want a proper smartwatch that can last for several days. However, I personally wouldn’t ever choose the Watch 5 Pro over the Watch 5 in any situation.
PURCHASE DIRECTIONS FOR THE GALAXY WATCH 5
Originally posted on August 24, 2022, then revised on August 28 to include new Watch 5 Pro-related background.
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