To properly review the Galaxy Watch 4, first I have to tell you about my ice maker.
Bear with me.
As a New Yorker for the better part of a decade, I’ve never had a fridge with an ice machine, even though I love ice. My two hands have been my ice machine all this time. But filling ice trays sucks, and I’ve done it more than most because I drink an inhuman amount of homemade iced coffee and I love a good cocktail.
A few weeks back, I finally put in an hour of research and spent around $200 on a top-loading ice maker. There were cheaper options but, crucially, this model churned out the Good Ice — you know, the square, crunchable variety you’d find in Starbucks or restaurants. Now as I type, I’m sipping on a tall iced coffee, crunching cubes as I go. The ice maker whirls on.
What I’m saying is: I spent $200 to make my life appreciably better. I see obvious value added.
I just didn’t have any concrete value added from inserting the Galaxy Watch 4 into my life. That’s not to say it isn’t a good product. It is. And I could see others loving it, but that doesn’t mean I’d make it a permanent fixture in my life. To stick with the Good Ice metaphor, some people might really love the biometric fitness data from the Galaxy Watch 4. They might enjoy having their full body composition tracked in all its minutiae and their blood oxygen levels up to the instant. They might need to have every text jump onto their wrist. That could be Good Ice, it just isn’t for me.
Let me break it down.
Before we get into everything else, here are the bare minimum details about the Galaxy Watch 4.
- Costs $249. For comparison’s sake, Apple Watch Series 7 starts at $399.
- Battery life of 40 hours, which I found to hold true.
- Runs Wear OS
- Comes in black, silver, pink gold, and green with multiple different band options.
Fitness and health
I do a fair bit of fitness coverage here at Mashable, so I was interested in test driving the Galaxy Watch’s fitness features. It has the bells and whistles you’d expect. It tracks steps, active minutes, and calorie output. If you’ve long wanted the experience of “closing your rings” — the daily badge of honor you earn by completing the basic Apple Watch fitness goals — but wanted an Android option, then you’ve got what you need.
Like any good smart tracker, it registers workouts automatically, which is ideal for someone like me. I run every day and I can hardly remember to fire up the Nike Run Club app, let alone start a workout on my watch. After going for a bit, it would give me the option to track the workout manually but, typically speaking, I think the watch did well at keeping tabs on my workouts without my input. It even did a nice job auto-registering particularly brisk, long walks or cycling trips.
You can use the watch for a whole host of other health-related initiatives, including sleep tracking, body composition, and stress levels, which, sorry, feels kind of stressful. Looking down at my wrist to see how stressed I was felt kind of dystopian, but if you want to track all your vitals, all the time, well, you’re able to do that. You’re also able to measure your body composition, track your heart rate, and, outside the U.S., measure your blood pressure.
I did not sleep with the watch on, mostly because I struggle mightily with sleeping already and a wholeass watch isn’t exactly comfy. The watch is pretty slick and not super cumbersome to wear, but it feels like…a relatively heavy watch. There’s a reason watches aren’t traditionally sleepwear. Until recently, watches have never been pitched as 24-hour wearables. They serve a purpose, but aren’t a constant companion.
In truth, that fact hints at why I prefer my super basic Fitbit Inspire 2. It gives me only what I need. While workout trackers, and smartwatches, are getting more and more accurate, they’re far from gospel. So I prefer to use any fitness tracker, or smartwatch, data as a baseline. I compare that data only to itself, instead of thinking it’s 100 percent accurate. I think it’s nice to have a logbook of your workouts, but I find it detrimental to have a minute-by-minute digital tome to obsess over. I don’t want, or frankly need, a constant read on everything my body is doing. I don’t want to see my heart rate elevate then stress about an elevated heart rate then see my stress levels boost on the watch and then…
Samsung’s watch can give you a ton of data and that’s really cool. It might make someone super happy, but similar to why I didn’t love the Whoop Fitness Tracker, the Watch 4 can feel like too much. And I don’t think I’d want to pay the extra cash for a top of the line product in order to feel inundated.
One of the obvious selling points of any smartwatch is having an extension of your phone and computer on your wrist.
In that sense, the Galaxy Watch 4 succeeds. It’s effectively the first watch that merges Samsung and Google after the two company’s merged their respective smartwatch operating systems. I paired the watch with an Android phone and, frankly could use it for most tasks. I sent texts, checked work messages, peeked at emails. The whole deal.
I appreciated the Galaxy Watch 4 has a full keyboard to tap out easy texts and a relatively effective dictation option for longer messages. However, if you’re an iPhone user who wants a Galaxy Watch 4, then you’re out of luck. The device will not pair with an iPhone.
The apps on the Galaxy Watch are relatively easy to use and navigate to. Just swipe up and you’re taken to a page of apps that you can rearrange however you prefer. If you use your watch often for directions, you’ll want to put Google Maps in an easy-to-find spot. If you love working out, place your running app prominently. Working the watch is a simple process that’ll feel familiar for Android users and wasn’t too tough to navigate for a longtime iPhone user like your’s truly.
If you’re an Android diehard who’s long wanted a smartwatch but has held off, this makes the Galaxy Watch4 a good purchase. It works well and does pretty much everything most people actually use the Apple Watch for.
In short: It’s a good smartwatch. There’s nothing I found to be downright bad.
I think I would’ve liked the watch more in like 2019, when the world was more normal. But I work from home now, I am no longer commuting via the subway, I don’t go out much, my life isn’t all that busy. I do not have much of a need to quickly check texts or emails on my wrist. I have all the time in the world, let alone enough time to glance at my phone.
The tool I used the most? Samsung Pay, which is not new but still, it works great. It really was incredibly simple. Just hold down a button on the side of the watch and, bang, you’re paying. I found myself using it at most of my usual haunts instead of laboring into my pocket for a debit card or a phone checkout.
Looks and feel
The Watch 4 is sharp. Note: I tested the Watch 4, not the Watch 4 Classic, which has nearly identical features but is made of stainless steel and not aluminum. The Watch 4 has a relatively thin, round face with just two physical buttons. I tested an all black model, but it comes in black, silver, pink gold, and green. The Apple Watch might be a tiny bit cleaner looking — and it has some interesting colors — but that’s splitting hairs about matters of taste. At a glance, the Watch 4 looks like a normal watch, and the Apple Watch looks like, well, an Apple Watch.
The Watch 4 strap is comfortable enough — the standard strap offering from Samsung was fine. It’s not too heavy to wear and the watch fit alright on my wrist. At times it felt a tad loose and clunky but I’ve never been a regular watch wearer — so I’d chalk it up to dealing with a new sensation.
You can choose any number of displays on the watch face. I opted for one that focused on fitness stats, since I have a long-running appreciation for my Fitbit.
Still, if I were choosing something solely for looks and telling time, I’d have a hard time saying it looks better than old fashioned watches.
The Galaxy Watch4 is a good smartwatch. I can’t think of anything that, during my weeks-long test period, made me think it was a bad product. It delivered on most of what it promised.
But I was left wondering what it added to my life. A great piece of tech — or any great purchase like, say, an ice maker — should markedly improve your daily existence. The fitness tracking was good, but I prefer my Fitbit. It made my messages accessible on my wrist, but I don’t need that. It looks fine, but I could find a better looking regular watch. I liked Samsung Pay on my wrist, but not enough to cough up a few hundred bucks. When I make an iced coffee, I look down at my drink and feel so happy I have limitless Good Ice. When I checked a text on the Galaxy Watch 4, I’d think it was neat, then probably pull out my phone anyway.