Samsung has been a dependable name in the industry when it comes to offering a smart, connected family of products. Smartphones aside, the company has given equal importance to creating good-looking and convenient smart products like tablets and smartwatches. I recently reviewed the mid-range Galaxy Tab S5e, so it was time to shift my attention to the Galaxy Watch Active smartwatch. The Galaxy Watch Active was launched in India late last month and I have been using it for a few weeks now.
The Galaxy Watch Active is priced at Rs 19,990 and is currently being sold on Amazon India and the Samsung India website. The Galaxy Watch Active was launched alongside the Galaxy Fit and Galaxy Fit e activity trackers. While the Galaxy Fit is a fitness band, the Galaxy Watch Active is a full-fledged smartwatch that touts a circular AMOLED display, a lot of health tracking features as well as exercise and sleep tracking, among other things. I review the Galaxy Watch Active to find out whether it is worth its price and how it compares to the Apple Watch Series 3, which is available for around Rs 30,000 in India.
Galaxy Watch Active Design
The Galaxy Watch Active looks quite minimal in its design compared to the Galaxy Watch. There’s no rotating bezel here that allows you to easily navigate the UI. You simply get a small circular body that feels much lighter on the wrist than the Galaxy Watch. It’s great if you’re looking for a sporty smartwatch that doesn’t look chunky and big, although some people do prefer that. Personally, I felt the Galaxy Watch Active was a bit too petite for my wrists as I’m used to wearing slightly bigger watches that can cover the surface area of my wrist, so the Active did feel weirdly small at first, but I got used to it. The silicone straps are extremely soft and makes the watch easy to wear continuously, even while sleeping.
If you’ve been used to seeing Samsung offering rotating bezel on its smartwatch, you will miss it here. While you do get used to navigating by swiping the screen with your finger soon enough, the rotating bezel offered a convenient way to scroll through the UI and read messages or emails without covering the screen. And with a display as compact as this, you will find your finger covering a good portion of the display when scrolling.
The Galaxy Watch Active comes in Black, Deep Green, Rose Gold and Silver colours. The unit I received was in Black, which is a pretty safe choice to go with. Black goes well with pretty much anything you wear, if you’re worried about the fashion aspect of it all, Not only is the metal body of the Galaxy Watch Active completely black, but so is the strap and the buttons on the side.
Speaking about the buttons, you get two of them on the right side of the frame. The top button is kind of like the back/ home button which takes you to the previous page of an app or all the way back to the home screen. The bottom button brings up the app carousel that will show you all the preloaded and downloaded apps. The buttons themselves are quite flush with the frame which means they lack that clicky feel. It would have been nice if the buttons were a little more out there and pronounced, but it’s a minor gripe.
Galaxy Watch Active Display
The Galaxy Watch Active sports a 1.1-inch circular Super AMOLED (360×360) screen with Gorilla Glass protection on top. The bezel around the screen is quite thick and that can make the display look even smaller than it already is. In comparison, the Galaxy Watch gets a 1.3-inch display while the Apple Watch Series 3 offers a bigger 1.65-inch screen. If you’re looking for a smartwatch to act as a proper alternative to your smartphone for texting and viewing notifications, the Galaxy Watch Active may feel inadequate.
Once you get over the screen size, though, you’ll be satisfied with the display of the Galaxy Watch Active. It is a stunning display with colours that look rich and vibrant. The Active delivers good sharpness brightness levels so you won’t have any trouble reading the screen if you’re going for a run outdoors in daylight. The display is complimented with a colourful UI as well.
Galaxy Watch Active Performance, Software and Fitness Tracking
What makes navigating the UI a bit of task is that the Galaxy Watch Active runs on Tizen OS 4.0, which is actually designed for Samsung watches that come with a rotating bezel. The app drawer sees tiny apps arranged in a ring-like shape. This is perfectly designed for the rotating bezel as you would be able to select the app you want or rotate the bezel clockwise or anti-clockwise to move to the next page without needing to touch the display. On the Active, you will need to touch the screen and cover a portion of the display.
You get the usual set of Sansung apps on the Galaxy Watch Active like Calendar, Alarm, Weather, Bixby, Samsung Health and so on. The problem here is that you won’t be able to download more apps, and that’s quite limiting compared to competition like the Apple Watch. The Galaxy Store will only offer a handful of apps, which includes Spotify, but they aren’t a lot and not all of them work well in India.
Tizen OS 4.0 feels extremely smooth and fluid and touch response is great. Swiping through the UI is easy and I didn’t encounter any lag or slow down at any point. I’m not a big fan of most of the watchfaces that come preloaded, but you do get the option to choose from over a thousand more via the Samsung Store. In this regard, I prefer the watchfaces on the Apple Watch as they look more attractive and offer more complications, allowing you to see more data on screen.
Ultimately, the Galaxy Watch Active is about offering a simple, no-frills software experience for those who simply want a fitness-centric smartwatch. To that end, the Active offers a bunch of activity modes like Walking, Running, Swimming, Treadmill, Cycling, Hiking, Circuit Training, among others.
I couldn’t try out all the activity modes, but I did use the Treadmill, Cycling, Running and Swimming (it is rated 5ATM for water resistance) modes on my workout days. I found that the smartwatch is often close to being accurate. A 3 km run on the treadmill would show up as 2.8 km on the watch, while a 15-lap swim session would be on point. You can also customise some of the activities such as setting a target distance for running or the length of the pool to get a more accurate reading.
The Active will automatically detect a workout and will also pause a session if it feels you’re taking a break, but this doesn’t always work so well. The smartwatch also comes with sleep tracking and constant heart rate monitoring as well. It also comes with 4GB of internal storage with about half that’s usable to store some music for offline listening while you’re out for a run.
The Galaxy Watch Active is compatible with both Android and iOS devices. I paired the Active with the iPhone XR and was able to see notifications. However, you won’t be able to reply to the notifications when paired with an iPhone. For a full notification experience that includes replying via text and emoticons, you will need to pair the Active with an Android device. For an even better experience, the Active should be paired with a Samsung smartphone as the watch offers the company’s own suit of apps like email and messaging.
Bixby is present on the Galaxy Watch Active, but I’ve rarely got it to understand my commands on the first attempt. Even simple ones like “Text Mom” or “Start a workout” would often be misheard, causing me to go manual instead. Similar commands work better using Siri on the Apple Watch Series 3.
Galaxy Watch Active Battery
The Galaxy Watch Active isn’t big on battery life. It will last you around two days and maybe a few more hours depending on your usage. It’s almost at par with the Apple Watch Series 3, maybe just a touch better. The Active comes with an Always On display, which will constantly display the time, but will significantly eat up battery life and will get you only a full day on a single changer.
A wireless charge comes with the box that can be attached to an adapter. A 15W output will take around 2 hours to charge up the Active from zero to 100 per cent. The Watch Active will not work with any other Qi wireless charger, but you can charge it on the back of a Galaxy S10 phone, if you have one, or…
Works with Samsung Wireless Power Bank
While testing the Galaxy Watch Active, I also thought it would be a good time to check out the 10,000mAh Samsung Wireless Power Bank, which the company launched only recently in India priced at Rs 3,699. The power bank can charge a device either through wired Adaptive Fast Charging method or by placing a device that supports Qi wireless charging standard on the surface of the power bank.
I placed the Galaxy Watch Active on the power bank, which took around 3 hours to charge to 100 per cent. Wireless charging via the power bank is slow and it takes much longer to charge a smartphone like the iPhone XR. But the convenience of having a power bank that can be used as a wireless charging pad is worth it. Do note that the Samsung Wireless Power Bank will not charge the Apple Watch.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active?
The Galaxy Watch Active is a great option for Android users who aren’t looking for too much from a smartwatch. The Active comes with a few limitations such as the lack of third-party app support, smaller display and an unreliable Bixby. It also misses the rotating bezel that we have loved on previouos Samsung watches. But if you accept these limits, then there’s a lot to love about the Galaxy Watch Active.
The lightweight design and soft silicone strap makes the Galaxy Watch Active one of the most comfortable smartwatches I have worn so far. You also get an attractive display, a number of workout routines and continuous heart rate monitoring, all at a pretty affordable price point.
The Galaxy Watch Active is unlikely to be the first choice for iPhone users, but it should be for Android users looking for a good option under Rs 20,000. The Galaxy Watch Active is one of the better affordable smartwatches you can find. You do have options like Fitbit Versa, Fossil Sport and Huawei Watch GT that are priced lower, but the Active offers a nice mix of style, comfort and usability.