Ever since the Apple Watch was launched, the wearables market was blown wide open. Like its iPhones and iPads, the Cupertino-based smartphone giant has enjoyed a monopoly in the smartwatch segment. While brands have continued to announce its Apple Watch rivals, very few brands have managed to walk the fine line between price and features.
Samsung has not had a great time in the wearables space and they continue to be trounced by Apple with every passing edition. This year, Samsung has doubled-down on its smartwatch and have launched the Galaxy Watch Active that is positioned as a fitness device yet boasting features that not just compete but also surpass every other brand when it comes to pricing, design and functionality.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active has finally been launched in India after debuting in various markets the world over. This product is uniquely positioned as it sits below the Samsung Galaxy Watch, the brand’s premium wearable that’s arguably one of the best smartwatches in the world right now. The Active is a ‘lite’ variant of this flagship smartwatch that packs fewer features, an affordable price tag of just Rs 19,990 and a smaller overall design.
Is this a worthy alternative to the Apple Watch 3 and does it have enough of scope to disrupt the wearables segment? Read on to find out more.
Apple has stuck with the square design on its Watch series and Samsung in a bid, not to ape it's arch-rival has continued to launch its smartwatches with a circular design. This rounded display is a common trait for Android wearables and Samsung have continued to use it on the Galaxy Watch Active. To add a bit of sporty appeal to it, the Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t come with a rotating bezel which according to me is a bit of a miss as it would have elevated its position quite drastically. However, being a budget device, we can ignore this feature as it is by no means a make or break addition.
By eliminating the rotating bezel, Samsung has managed to keep the weight down to quite a large extent and this has worked it their favour as it feels extremely comfortable to use for large periods of time without any wrist fatigue. Also, without this feature, the Galaxy Watch Active appears thinner, stylish and without compromising on its premium appearance.
As stated earlier, the rotating bezel is a miss as it allowed me, as a power-user to access content a lot quicker. As there isn’t any bezel here, you are forced to swipe across the display. This takes a bit getting used to if you come from a previous Samsung smartwatch; however, in time, I found that the swipes are quite intuitive and scrolling through the various options becomes second nature.
Though the Galaxy Watch Active comes with a budget-friendly price tag, it is by no means a cheaply constructed device. It is built of premium materials such as metal and looks and feels extremely high-end. I appreciated the fact that it comes with a completely simple design and the only notable attributes are the two buttons that are located on the right at the two and four positions. While the buttons take a bit of getting acquainted with to locate due to its almost flush nature; I found that it takes just a matter of days to completely get adjusted to them.
The pride and glory of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is the 1.1-inch (2.81cm) 360 x 360 resolution Super AMOLED display that features a colour depth of 16 million colours. If you have used wearables from other brands in the past, say for example the Samsung Galaxy Watch or Apple Watch, you will find the size of this display to be a bit limited as it is rather small. It looks especially tiny on a male’s wrist but suits most female’s wrists perfectly.
With that being said, if this is your first smartwatch, you won’t find any issues here and getting used to it takes just a matter of time. Also, the display is completely usable and though it’s tinier than most smartwatches I have used before, I found that navigating through the different menus completely doable. The screen is bright, crisp and text is legible on this full-coloured Tizen smartwatch. This is mainly in part due to the excellent Samsung display used here. Even in direct sunlight content on the screen is discernible and using it is an absolute pleasure.
Being classified as a fitness smartwatch, the Active is also water-proof to an extent and it boasts the ingress protection certification of IP68 which allows you to submerge it in water to a depth of 5-metres —which is pretty impressive. This allows you to take it for a swim and record some laps as it also comes with a swim tracking feature.
Lastly, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is available in four hues — Black, Green, Gold and Silver. The Gold variant is more of a pinkish colour which in my opinion looks pretty attractive. Samsung has added straps that feature the same colour as the dial and you can purchase additional straps from the brand or from third-party manufacturers.
Like the Apple Watch, the Galaxy Watch comes with silicone straps which is extremely comfortable to wear even when you’re in the middle of some hard-core workouts. Due to the extremely lightweight nature of the watch, you don’t even realize it’s on your wrist. But it keeps on powering through; all while outputting every task it's undertaking.
Overall, while the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is a bit small for my liking, I found the design and build quite appealing that would make me recommend this smartwatch over the Apple option; if you have an Android smartphone.
Google Wear OS is rapidly gaining popularity the world over; however, Samsung chose to use its own homebrewed Tizen OS with the Galaxy Watch Active. This is the latest version here and unlike a few years ago, this Samsung OS has a lot going for it in terms of functionality. While it isn’t as expansive as Apple’s WatchOS, it’s still pretty intuitive and makes the Active’s experience quite immersive.
The Galaxy Watch with the Tizen OS is simple to use and easy to understand. The widgets are customizable and you can even adjust the order they are displayed in. Due to the amazing quality of the screen and the super-intuitive Tizen OS, just simple taps or swipes will allow you to navigate through each and every option. Past notifications can be accessed by moving left from the home screen while the different watch widgets can be accessed while scrolling right. That’s it! Everything is this simple and I appreciate Samsung for making it this easy to operate and not giving the Galaxy Watch Active a steep learning curve.
I used the Galaxy Watch Active with an iPhone due to the lack of a Samsung device and I found that every notification that came through the phone was shown on the smartwatch ahead of it appearing on the iPhone. While it’s great that the watch displays every single notification, it can’t do much more than reading it out. There isn’t any way for you to interact with it.
To quickly access all your apps, all you need to do is tap the lower button and you’re greeted with the quick menu that displays all your apps you’ve installed. While it is functional, if the watch had a rotating bezel, it would have worked a lot better. Because of the lack of a rotating bezel, you’ll have to tap on individual apps to gain access to it; which isn’t a problem and quite easy to do.
Some of the notable apps that come preinstalled include a heart rate monitor, breathing exercises, workouts, weather, reminders, workout challenges, sleep tacker, world clock and more. This is a full-fledged smartwatch that doesn’t come with a hefty price tag.
Apart from this, Samsung also has wide access to third-party apps that can be downloaded through the Galaxy Watch app on your smartphone. The Galaxy Store has a few apps that have become a necessity of a smartwatch such as Spotify or Run with Map my Run. As of now, the number of apps available for Tizen OS isn’t that vast; but it’s a consolation knowing that the marketplace is expanding and different essential apps are constantly being added.
The Galaxy Watch Active is fitted with an Exynos 9110 chipset which is a home-grown Samsung SoC that’s of the high-end variety. It comes with a dual-core processor that’s clocked at 1.15GHz which is pretty impressive for a wearable. This processor is paired with 750MB of ARM and 4GB of storage. After the software installation, you get 1.5GB of available storage for adding apps and music; which isn’t quite a lot if you have a huge collection of music.
The configuration of the RAM and processor allow for a speedy device and I have noticed it be on par with the Apple Watch 4 and the Galaxy Watch; two smartwatches that cost quite a bit more than the Galaxy Watch Active.
Pulling up apps load extremely fast and they are as fast as rival smartwatches. I never noticed any lag or stutter at all during my entire testing period and the Active worked as advertised.
Additionally, the music stored on the watch can be played by pairing Bluetooth earphones which negates the need for a smartphone. This allows you to just wear your Active and your favourite pair of Bluetooth earphones and go for a run or any workout all while leaving your smartphone at home — which is pretty convenient if you ask me.
The only downside here is that it doesn’t come with an LTE version and this is where it loses out to the Apple Watch as you can’t receive calls or stream music through an internet connection when you leave your phone at home. However, with the Galaxy Watch Active priced this aggressively, I don’t miss the LTE connection a single bit.
Being a smartwatch in 2019, it has to come with an impressive list of fitness features. While it isn’t packed to the brim like the Apple Watch Series 4 with its ECG monitor and fall detection, the Galaxy Watch Active is no pushover. It has a heart rate monitor which is a standard for every wearable these days as well as having the ability to calculate your stress levels. The Active can easily detect spikes in heart rate and provide you with ways to ease your stress levels by calming yourself with breathing exercises. I used a number of breathing exercises after getting prompted by the Active and found it to be quite beneficial for my health and state of mind. I found them to be quite relaxing and I would urge anyone who purchases this watch to indulge in this feature a few times a day. This is highly beneficial in keeping your stress levels down especially in this rat race called life.
There are a bunch of exercises available in the workout widget that I found quite useful. While the common ones such as running, cycling, hiking, etc. are included, it also has specific weight training workouts that use the various sensors to measure your activities. These were more or less accurate and it was usually off by one or two reps which aren’t a deal-breaker. After completing your workout, the statistics are available in your iOS or Android app after your device has been synced. This is quite useful as it helps you with your overall fitness goals.
A neat addition here is the sleep tracker that provides metrics for REM, as well as record your sleep cycle. It’s a great app and kudos to Samsung for including it straight out of the box. Also, with two-day battery life, you can easily wear this watch and let it do the needful every night without needing to place it on the charger every single night to top up the battery.
As mentioned earlier, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active comes with impressive two-day battery life. The 230mAh battery is rated at 45 hours and during my extensive testing period, I noticed it to last just short of two whole days. With that being said, battery life is a subjective feature and it will depend on person-to-person usage. While I would say that it offered an approximate 48-hours on a single charge, I feel `with limited usage and little to no fiddling around, you could stretch it to about three days; which by the way is pretty excellent for a smartwatch.
Additionally, there’s a low battery mode that kicks in when your battery is nearing empty which is around the 20 per cent mark. If this mode is turned on, you can milk the battery for quite a considerable amount of time till you place it back on its charger.
Speaking of charger, the Galaxy Watch Active comes with a charging pad that’s slightly larger than the Apple Watch option and to top up the 230mAh battery, it took about 1 hour 50 minutes.
Also, the Galaxy Watch Active works with other Qi wireless chargers such as the Samsung Wireless Battery Pack or smartphones with bilateral wireless charging capabilities such as the Galaxy S10.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is priced at Rs 19,990 in India and it is by far one of the best smartwatches in the world at this cost. If you own an Android smartphone and don’t want to break the bank by purchasing the Galaxy Watch which costs Rs 10,000 more, then the Active is an amazing choice for you. Additionally, Samsung has added a ton of features here which make it not just rival but beat the Apple Watch Series 3 hands-down; thereby making it a must-buy smartwatch not just in the Rs 20K price bracket but also in the sub Rs 28K price bracket.
With that being said, Samsung is preparing to launch a new smartwatch which is the successor to the Galaxy Watch Active —the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2. This upcoming watch will come with interesting features that will give each and every smartwatch out there a run for its money as it will boast features that will rival the Apple Watch 4 such as ECG reading and fall detection. While the launch date of this option is just around the corner, it is unknown when it will debut in India. This helps in providing the original Galaxy Watch with some breathing space and a chance to make its mark in a segment that’s nascent and waiting to get disrupted.