Samsung and Apple have been fiercely competing against each other in the smartwatch space. Both companies have long offered similar features on their smartwatches such as the ability to track steps and calories burned, and provide notifications on the go.
But Apple has edged Samsung when it comes to putting emphasis on health-related features on the Apple Watch Series 4. However, Samsung has finally decided to counter Apple with the Galaxy Watch Active 2, a new smartwatch which offers many heath features currently offered by the Apple Watch Series 4, including fall detection, Afib notifications, and an ECG monitor.
I briefly tested the new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 in New York, and here are my initial thoughts.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 hands-on: Familiar looks, digital rotating bezel
I somehow found the Active 2 Identical to original Active which only launched in February this year. That’s fine, no one was expecting Samsung to drastically redesign the second-generation Galaxy Watch. But there are some design changes that differentiate the Galaxy Watch Active 2 from its predecessor. For example, Samsung’s signature rotating bezel control is back but with a difference. Just by placing your fingers on the edge of the circular display and turn it clockwise and you will notice a virtual rotating bezel. I kind of missed this feature on the Galaxy Watch Active and I am so happy that Samsung is bringing back a rotating bezel (even though it is not physical anymore) on the new watch. The touch-based digital rotating bezel around the screen works fine, though I found it to be a bit sensitive.
The Galaxy Watch Active was introduced in just one size with a 40mm case. The second-generation Watch Active 2 still offers a 40mm case, but also has a larger 44mm version for those with larger wrists. I still prefer a 40mm option. Both models come in two finishes (aluminium and stainless steel). The bands are interchangeable and easy to swap out. The LTE version of the watch is also available, though it will be available only in stainless steel model.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 hands-on: Stunning display
The 40mm has a 1.2-inch screen, while the 44mm has a 1.4-inch display. Both come with 360 x 360 pixel resolution. The round AMOLED display on the Watch Active 2 is sharp, bright and colourful. I am not against Apple Watch’s squarish design but personally I like the round display on the smartwatch. It gives the smartwatch a feel of a traditional timepiece.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 hands-on: TizenOS, apps
Like previous-generation Samsung smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 runs TizenOS, a custom operating system that works across Samsung’s smart TVs and smartwatches. Tizen OS is fast, buttery smooth, and works well with the digital rotating bezel.
Apps support continue to be a bit of a problem on TizenOS and Samsung understands this well. But I am happy to see Samsung is working with Twitter and YouTube to enhance the better app experience on the Watch Active 2. For instance, Twitter on the Watch Active 2 will let you like and retweet directly from the watch, plus you can also compose tweets and send them. The Watch Active 2 has gained official YouTube support, so you can now watch short video clips on the watch itself. Then there is Google Translate, an app that allows you to translate one language to another when you say something
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 hands-on: Fitness features, ECG monitor
The Apple Watch Series 4 offers the best health and fitness features on the smartwatch and the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is just getting there. Last year, the Apple Watch Series 4 gained the ability to detect irregular-heart-rhythm notification, thanks to a built-in an electrocardiogram sensor approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for detecting atrial fibrillation. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 too has an ECG sensor. Samsung said the ECG function won’t be available when the watch hits retail shelves on September 27, because that feature is yet to get FDA approval.
Other than the ECG sensor, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 has an eight-LED heart rate sensor for sampling heart rate more accurately. The watch can also natively track sleep, a feature missing from the Apple Watch.
And unlike the Apple Watch, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a native coaching feature. The feature uses the watch’s GPS and much-improved accelerometer to accurately track your running speed.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 hands-on: Specifications, battery
From the hardware point of view, there won’t be much of a change from the original Galaxy Watch Active. You get a dual-core 1.15GHz Exynos 9110, 4GB storage options in both models, 768MB RAM in the 40mm and 1.5GB of RAM in the 44mm model, Bluetooth 5.0, built-in GPS and improved sensors. The watch is also water-resistant up to 164 feet of water for up to 10 minutes.
An LTE option is coming to the Galaxy Watch Active 2 lineup, matching the likes of Apple Watch Series 4. Expect two days of the battery from the 40mm model and slightly better battery life from the 44mm variant. For more comprehensive tests, watch out for our review of the Galaxy Watch Active 2.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 hands-on: Early outlook
If there is a competitor to Apple in the wearable segment, it is Samsung. Sure, Apple leads the smartwatch segment but the company’s closed ecosystem cuts off millions of Android smartphone users owning the Apple Watch. Samsung knows the existence of a potential market that needs a smartwatch that is as good as the Apple Watch Series 4 and if it can build on that momentum, it will help solidify its position in the growing wearables market.
After spending the Galaxy Watch Active 2, I realised one thing: Samsung is serious about the wearables market. And the Watch Active 2 is its best smartwatch till date. It’s faster, has better health tracking abilities including electrocardiogram function, sleep tracking, and the digital rotating bezel is fun to use. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 works on both Samsung or Android smartphones. Plus, the watch is cheaper in price ( $279 for the 40mm version and $299 for the 44mm model) compared to the Apple Watch Series 4 which starts $399.
Disclaimer: The author was in New York on the invite of Samsung India.