A recent report from Strategy Analytics revealed a 42 percent year-on-year growth in global smartwatch shipments. It reached a total of 14.2 million units in Q3 2019. And why not, brands like Amazfit, Huawei, Honor, Fitbit and more are launching their affordable smartwatches in India. We recently reviewed the Galaxy Watch LTE, which brings standalone connectivity along with fitness features. Now, we have yet another Samsung wearable for review, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 with 4G connectivity.
Roughly seven months ago, we reviewed the Galaxy Watch Active, and we liked its design and performance. Samsung was quick enough to refresh it with some key features. The highlight is the ECG and fall detection feature which directly makes it a competitor to Apple Watch Series 5. Sadly, these features haven’t been activated yet. With that in mind, and a price point of Rs 35,990, is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 4G worth your money? Let’s find out.
Under the hood, there is a dual-core Exynos SoC clocked at 1.15GHz. You get 1.5GB of RAM and 4GB onboard storage. The OS however takes up a good amount of space, and you are left with just 1.4GB to install apps, and store offline music.
The smartwatch runs Tizen OS, and it is compatible with both Android and iOS phones. And while the setup process is pretty straightforward, you need to download the Galaxy Wearable app and a few plugins on Android. There is Bixby voice assistant too. You can simply say Hi Bixby, Start a workout, ask for weather updates, add reminders and more. While it’s good to have the assistant, I found it inconsistent, and didn’t end up using at all.
Galaxy Watch Active 2 4G: Design
The Galaxy Watch Active saw a design departure where Samsung ditched the physical rotating bezel for a full touch display. And as it didn’t go quite well with the users, Samsung has added a touch-based, capacitive ring on the Galaxy Watch Active 2. It mimics the rotating bezel and you also get a nice haptic feedback as you scroll through the menu. Although, I would have preferred the haptics to be a bit stronger.
There aren’t many changes in the look and feel as compared to the Galaxy Watch Active. You get a circular 1.4-inch AMOLED screen with 360×360 pixels resolution. It is pretty crisp and offers punchy color reproduction. It is also bright, and legibility under direct sunlight isn’t a problem either. The touch response of the screen is also very good, and I did not face any issues navigating through the UI.
The notable changes come in the form of buttons. On the right, you have the back button, and it is slightly elongated compared to the predecessor, for enabling ECG reading. Just below it, you have the menu button, and there is a nice red ring, indicating LTE model. There are two microphones – one on the right between two buttons and one on the top. The speaker is on the left.
Another notable change comes at the back. The Watch Active 2 now comes with a total of eight LEDs, compared to four on the Galaxy Watch Active. These help in measuring your pulse more accurately, especially during workouts (more on that later). And then, there is the ECG sensor too. But there is time till it gets activated by Samsung, as it is waiting for the required FDA approvals.
The name “Active” is for a reason. The smartwatch is heavily focused on fitness enthusiasts. It can track a total of 39 workouts. Out of these, activities like running, cycling and swimming can be tracked automatically. For the rest of them, you need to manually select from the list. These include, squats, crunches, lunges, burpee test, deadlifts, circuit training, plank, pull-ups, push-ups and more.
I’m not a totally fit person, but often, I do some squats, lunges and star jumps. And while doing the sets, I noticed the readings to be quite accurate. I also go on a 4-5km walk every alternate day, and the pedometer logging along with distance and GPS location is also quite accurate with minimal error.
Now talking about the eight LEDs at the back, I found the readings on the Watch Active 2 to be more accurate. At times, on the Galaxy Watch and previous Gear smartwatches, the watch would skip heart rate readings. This mostly happens when you’re working out and hands are sweaty. But that isn’t the case with Watch Active 2, which definitely is an improvement.
The smartwatch also improves on heart-rate monitoring and sleep tracking. I’m not a good sleeper, and often tend to wake up a number of times as I face sinus issues. All that data is accurately tracked, and the watch tells me about light sleep, deep sleep and how much REM I get every night. In terms of heart-rate monitoring, you can set it to measure in every 10 mins or manually.
Continuous heart-rate monitoring option is also there, but it does increase the battery consumption. All this data is logged onto the Samsung Health app. You can access this anytime and also compare it with previous day, week, and month.
After Apple Watch and Galaxy Watch LTE, the Watch Active 2 4G is the only always connected smartwatch that you can buy in India. It uses eSIM, and only Airtel and Jio support this for now. The setup process is easy, can be done in a couple of minutes from the Galaxy Wearable app.
On board 4G connectivity means you can go on a run while keeping your phone at home. You can reply to messages and WhatsApp notifications, make and receive calls. There is also Spotify app, where you can stream music online without needing your phone. And if you are a premium subscriber, you can download music on the in-built memory for offline playback.
When I go out on a walk, I usually connect the smartwatch with Galaxy Buds TWS headphones, and stream music on Spotify. I absolutely had no issues with the connectivity. Even phone calls were clear, both via the headphones and the watch, and the recipient could hear my voice clearly.
The Galaxy Watch (46mm) with 472mAh battery lasts about 4-5 days. The Watch Active 2 4G, on the other hand, features a 340mAh battery, and it easily lasts two days. And if you turn on the always-on display, and standalone 4G connectivity all the time, it will still last you one complete day.
I would start my day with 100 percent battery, and I get a lot of notifications on social media, Slack, WhatsApp and more. By the time I reach home, the watch would have around 60 percent battery left. Then, I would go on a walk for an hour with GPS on, and music streaming on 4G (Spotify), and listening on Bluetooth. By the time I come back home, the watch would still have 18 percent battery, good enough till the next day.
If we skip the music streaming part, same usage gives two full days-worth battery life, which is more than Apple Watch Series 5. And full charging takes about an hour and 30 minutes, which is pretty fast compared to previous generation models that I have used. It supports wireless charging too, which means you can use your Galaxy Note 10 or S10 reverse wireless charging feature to charge the watch.
Verdict: Is the Galaxy Watch Active 2 4G worth your money?
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 4G just falls short from being a complete smartwatch for Android users. It brings in key upgrades over the predecessor. 4G connectivity, better heart rate monitoring and fitness tracking, and improved battery life are some of the pros. Performance is absolutely no issue.
It is the only smartwatch for Android users to have ECG and fall detection features. Sadly, these aren’t available at launch, which is a major miss. Also, at Rs 35,990, I would have expected a slightly bigger battery. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a sleek, 4G-enabled smartwatch, the Watch Active 2 4G could be a good choice. If you want a better battery life and 4G, the Galaxy Watch LTE at Rs 30,990 isn’t bad either. It’s just a tad bulkier.
For those who don’t want to spend a lot, there are other, less expensive Samsung smartwatches available too. Then there is also Huawei Watch GT, Honor Magic Watch 2, Amazfit smartwatches, and Fitbit ones to choose from based on your budget and needs.