The Samsung Galaxy Watch has just been revealed, alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note9, the latest smartphone from the world’s biggest phone maker. After so many leaks, both have been announced in a glitzy event at Barclays Center in New York City.
Update: Well, obviously I didn’t quite get everything into this post as the headline promised. So, it’s now updated with more details of battery life, pricing and so on, plus some hands-on photos.
Nobody, really nobody, puts on a show like Samsung. I’ve seen high-kicking chorus lines in a specially-conceived musical at Radio City Music Hall and eye-popping light shows in specially created auditoria in London, Barcelona and Berlin.
Today’s event stuck to the rules: massive stage, even bigger back wall screen dwarfing whoever was on stage, video effects that covered wall and floor together and a dollop of cheese in the delivery. The floor was a video screen so it could add to the effect. Curiously, it was often used to display the small print (“Bixby services may vary by country”, that kind of thing).
Samsung Galaxy Watch
Yes, it’s not a Gear, it’s the first smartwatch with the word Galaxy in it since the company’s first timepiece, which for good measure had both words in the name, the Samsung Galaxy Gear Watch.
It’s the new flagship
If you were waiting for the Gear S4, this is what you’re getting instead. So it’s not a fitness tracker, it’s a full-on all-round smartwatch. It looks like an evolution of the Gear S3.
Size is everything
Well, sizes, in fact. It comes in two versions, one with a 42mm case, one a little bigger, 46mm. For comparison, Apple Watch sizes are 38mm and 42mm. The screen measures 1.2 inches or 1.3 inches on the larger model. When you see the Watch for real, the screens are just terrific – super-bright and vivid, especially when Samsung is putting the sharpest colors onscreen. Weights are 49g and 63g respectively. For comparison, the lightest 38mm Apple Watch Series 3 with an aluminum case is 26.7g and the heaviest 42mm ceramic model is 46.4g.
I’ve tried them both on my wrist and although they are both noticeably bigger than Apple’s Watch, they don’t feel overly heavy or oppressive. The smaller, 42mm, size is the one I preferred, though both looked attractive and the rotating bezel is one of the highlights as far as I’m concerned: delicate but effective and as neat a way to interact as the Digital Crown on the Apple Watch.
Choose from Midnight Black and Rose Gold, a selection of watch faces and straps. Some of the watch faces, such as the one above, are just tremendous. For a flat screen, Samsung’s animation makes the hands look as though they’re sitting above the rest of the face. Clever design.
4G or Bluetooth
The Galaxy Watch will come in two versions, one with Bluetooth, one with 4G LTE connectivity as well. The Bluetooth one is available next week in the US, with pre-orders starting tomorrow The cellular version will come later though no date is confirmed except that it’ll be this year. Networks are being announced, beginning with EE in the UK, for instance, which means it’s the network which got Apple Watch and now Samsung Galaxy Watch first.
Wellness, Including Swimming
We know that fitness and health are important considerations for any smartwatch, so it’s no surprise that these are key elements here. Samsung says that the watch can detect high stress levels automatically and offer breathing exercises to relax the wearer. This sounds very like the brilliant Breathe app on Apple Watch which really does have an effect, though Apple doesn’t yet offer this automatically if it spots high heart rates.
As for fitness, there will be 39 workouts on the new watch including 21 new indoor exercises.
Sleep tracking is important (and my guess is that Apple Watch will have significantly improved sleep monitoring soon) and the sleep tracker claims to be able to measure four levels of sleep including REM sleep, that especially restorative kind we mostly don’t get enough of in a night.
You’ll be able to swim with the watch because it’s water-resistant to 5 ATMs, that’s 164 feet or 50 metres.
The Watch will integrate with SmartThings, Samsung’s smart home platform, so you can turn on lights or the TV, control the heating and more. The new partnership with Spotify may enhance the music service on the Watch, though offline playback is already possible.
I thought this was going to be Samsung’s first Wear OS gadget but it turns out it’s Tizen, the existing OS. This may be the reason Samsung boasted today that the watch will have 60,000 watch faces to choose from. It seems the addition of the word Galaxy is to make it a closer part of the Galaxy world of phones and tablets.
In the keynote, Samsung only said that it would last several days between charges, but I now understand it’s up to a full seven days, even with the always-on display employed on the 46mm model, a little less, around five days, for the 42mm edition. Again, that figure includes the always-on display turned on, but is described as “average use”. That means you don’t have GPS on permanently. You can opt to turn this on all the time, but then battery time drops sharply: a full day for the larger model and 17.7 hours for the smaller one.
In the States, the Galaxy Watch Bluetooth (42mm) is priced at $329.99, or $349.99 for the 46mm version. It’ll be sold by Amazon, Best Buy and samsung.com. The LTE version will be available through AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and samsung.com later this year and the cost of that will be revealed later. Both sizes of watch are available in Bluetooth and will both be available with LTE connectivity in due course.
It goes on sale on August 24 in the United States after pre-orders start
n August 10, a week later in South Korea and several other countries in September.
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