Samsung’s latest iteration of the Galaxy Watch seems to improve on the previous in very meaningful ways. The design is more ergonomic, we get Google Assistant right out of the box, and the inclusion of wearOS 3 with a faster, snappier processor.
With the release of the Google Pixel Watch and Android smartwatches catching up to Apple (even beating them in some cases) with every passing year, does the Galaxy Watch 5 earn the title of the best Android smartwatch?
Well, to find that out, we purchased the 40mm variant of the Galaxy Watch 5, and I had the pleasure of testing it for an entire 2 weeks. And here are my honest thoughts and review of the watch.
- Activity / Fitness Tracking: 10
- An FDA-cleared ECG, a blood pressure monitor, a bioimpedance sensor to measure your body composition, and a skin temperature sensor is what the sensor array of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is made up of. Needless to say, it has all the bells and whistles to ensure you are able to get accurate measurements, readings, and workout detections.
- Navigation: 10
- The Galaxy Watch 5 comes built-in with Google Maps which you can view inside the Watch. So, you can set up a route and get directions while also being able to view the map in 2D at any point just as you could on your phone. With the addition of a cellular option, the Galaxy Watch 5 is excellent for navigation.
- Battery Life: 8
- Samsung claims that the 40 and 44mm versions of the watch will hit 40 and 50 hours respectively. From our testing, they lasted about 21 and 25 hours each with the Always On Display turned on. It is quite clear that Samsung’s shift to wearOS has taken a great toll on their stellar battery life which is quite apparent on previous watches like the Active 2.
- Contactless Payments: 8
- The Galaxy Watch 5 features Samsung Pay, the company’s proprietary solution to contactless payments. You now don’t need to whip out your phone at any moment to perform payments given that your vendor supports the feature in the first place.
- Phone Calls / Texts: 8
- Phone calls taken on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 sounded very clear and crisp (and we didn’t have the phone with us anyways.) So, the LTE and Bluetooth versions provide crystal clear audio and are excellent for making calls.
- Emergencies: 8
- The Apple Watch’s inclusion of crash detection directly affects the Galaxy Watch’s ability to coin itself as a watch that focuses on emergencies. However, you do get a suite of features, don’t get us wrong. The watch is able to detect irregular heart rates, can detect a fall, and can also alert emergency services while also having an SOS mode built-in.
- Media Control: 10
- The Galaxy Watch 5 has excellent media controls. You can use the rotating bezel to control the volume and the on-screen buttons help you play pause and seek music. Moreover, while it may seem like a one-off scenario, you can also use the watch’s own speakers to play music if you don’t have a Bluetooth headset connected.
- Time: 10
- What’s a watch if it can’t tell the time? Thankfully, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 delivers excellent watch faces and the ability to download and install much more using third-party applications. Unlike the Apple Watch, you are not bound to only use watch faces provided by the company.
- Instant Notifications: 8
- Android’s latest updates have certainly helped improve notification delivery on the Samsung Galaxy Watch. With Do Not Disturb and other customization options available, you can really pin-point exactly what kind of notifications you’d want to be delivered on your watch at any given moment.
- Alarm Clock: 8
- The Watch 5’s speakers are loud and the haptics are very well done. I was able to wake up from the watch’s alarm even though I didn’t have it on my wrist. A testament to a watch’s prowess is to wake up a nocturnal tech reviewer when they’re already sleep-deprived.
- Home Automation: 9
- Google’s integration with smart home devices remains as excellent as ever with your Nest devices amongst many others having applications right out of the box due to wearOS. In essence, any smart home device that you can control using your Android phone can also be controlled with the Watch 5.
What’s Inside The Box?
- 1x Galaxy Watch 5
- 1x Matching Silicone Band
- 1x 10 W USB-Type A Wireless Charging Puck
Pros & Cons
Just like every smartwatch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 comes with a host of advantages and disadvantages that you should take into account before you make your purchase decision.
- Great Performance: The Watch 5 is perhaps the first wearOS watch that actually feels snappy. It goes in and out of applications extremely quickly, is able to handle a barrage of notifications coming in at once, and provides beautiful fluid animations.
- Charging Speed: With a 10W charger instead of the previous 4.5W charger, even though the battery life isn’t that great, we gain access to a much faster charging speed that lets you get the watch to a usable level quickly even if you forgot plug it in when you slept.
- Samsung Locked Features: Perhaps the most annoying part of the Galaxy Watch 5 is the fact that features such as the ECG and blood pressure measurement is limited to a Samsung Galaxy phone only. So, either you download a modified APK of Samsung Health, or, you are stuck with not being able to use some of your watch’s features.
- Poor Battery Life: The Watch 5 clocks in at 21-23 hours. And, if you push the watch to its limits, you may end up with only half a day of battery life and won’t be able to track your sleep. With no real optimization on the way – this is quite a nuisance for those who wear their watch constantly.
Galaxy Watch 5 Features:
- Google OS: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is skinned with Samsung’s vision in mind. But, it is Google’s OS at heart. You can easily replace Bixby with the Google Assistant and can even replace Samsung Pay with Google Wallet with a loss of a few functionalities such as automatic biometric authentication.
- Calls and Text Messages: Don’t have your phone with you? No problem! The cellular version of the Galaxy Watch allows you to answer calls and respond to messages on the fly with a full-sized keyboard and a microphone built right into the watch.
- Fast Charging: The Watch 5 comes with a 10W fast magnetic charger. From what we’ve seen, it charges the watch to 100% in a single hour. The inclusion of this charger means that you’ll be able to plug in your watch quickly before you head out and still get some performance out of it.
- Always On Display: View your notifications without flicking your wrist with an Always On Display present right in the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5. It is bright enough to be viewed under direct sunlight and the information you can see in the display is dependent on your primary watch face. So, there are ample amounts of customization.
- Workout Detection: The Watch 5 comes with automatic workout detection. As the name implies, your watch will be able to quickly identify whether you are going for a run and will be able to record it even if you haven’t explicitly told it what you are doing.
- Heart Rate and Sleep Monitoring: You can conduct an ECG, check your blood pressure, view your body composition and track your sleep thanks to the nifty set of infrared and optical sensors located within the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
- Body Temperature Sensing: While not available in every region, body temperature sensing is used in your sleep and to track menstrual cycles providing you with a more accurate understanding of your bodily functions.
- Google Assistant: Bixby be gone! While you still can use Samsung’s proprietary assistant, if for some reason you wish to, for most – Google Assistant is a stellar assistant and its integration with your Google account means that you can control all your devices, even your smart home electronics with a simple dialogue.
- Music Playback: You can download and store songs on the 16 GB storage on the Watch. Moreover, you can also use the watch’s speakers to listen to music or stream them directly to your Bluetooth headsets.
Galaxy Watch 5 vs Galaxy Watch 4
|Property||Galaxy Watch 5||Galaxy Watch 4|
|Size||40 or 44 mm||40 or 44 mm|
|Display||Super AMOLED (450×450) ~328 ppi||Super AMOLED (450×450) ~328 ppi|
|Coating||Saphire Coating||Corning Gorilla Glass DX+|
|Always On Display||Yes||Yes|
|Connection Types||GPS and GPS + Cellular||GPS and GPS + Cellular|
|Processor||Exynos W920||Exynos W920|
|Input Type||Haptic Feedback||Haptic Feedback|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart Rate, Barometer, NFC (Samsung Pay), BioActive Sensor||Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Heart Rate, Barometer, NFC (Samsung Pay), BioActive Sensor|
|Safety||High and Low Heart Rate Notifiications, Irregular Rhythm Notification, Body Temperature Sensing||High and Low Heart Rate Notifiications, Irregular Rhythm Notification|
|Miscelenaeous||Body Composition, ECG, Blood Pressure||Body Composition, ECG, Blood Pressure|
|Water Resistance||50m (Swimproof)||50m (Swimproof)|
|Connectivity||LTE, WiFi, and Bluetooth 5.2||LTE, WiFi, and Bluetooth 5.0|
|Battery Life||22 hours||21 hours|
|Capacity||16 GB||16 GB|
- Saphire Display: The Galaxy Watch 5 comes with a more durable saphire coated display that is also scratch-resistant. While the Watch 4 isn’t very prone to scratches, it certainly does seem to be less durable.
- Bottom Curve: The bottom curve of the Watch 5 has been re-designed to feel more ergonomic. And, we’re happy to report that the watch feels like a much more snug fit now compared to its predecessor.
- Google Assistant: Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 comes with Google Assistant (and Bixby) on the watch. And, you have the ability to choose either as your default.
- Skin Temperature Sensor: While this feature has not completely rolled out yet, a skin temperature sensor helps note temperature variations when you sleep and is also used to track your menstrual cycle.
- Battery Life: Both the Galaxy Watch 5 40mm and 44mm see about a 10-15% increase in battery life over the Watch 4. While this isn’t extremely impressive, it still is an improvement in the grand scheme of things.
- WearOS 3: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is one of the only few smartwatches released this year that comes with wearOS 3 right out of the box.
- Fast Charging: You get a 10 W fast charger in the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 compared to the Galaxy Watch 4’s 4.5 W.
Galaxy Watch 5 vs Google Pixel Watch
|Feature||Galaxy Watch 5||Google Pixel Watch|
|OS||WearOS 3||WearOS 3|
|Battery Life||22 hours||23 hours|
|Compatibility||Android (some features only with Samsung)||Android|
|Phone Calls / Microphone||Yes||Yes|
|Fitness Features||Sleep Tracking, ECG, Body Composition Tracker, Body Temperature Sensing, Automatic Workout Detection||Sleep Tracking, ECG|
|Case Materials||Aluminum Frame||Stainless Steel Frame|
|Display||1.4 inches Super AMOLED (450×450) ~328 ppi||1.2 inches Super AMOLED (450×450) ~320 ppi|
- Screen Size: The Galaxy Watch 5 comes in a 40 and 44mm variant while the Pixel Watch only has one variant clocks in at 41mm.
- Interaction: The Pixel Watch hosts a crown much like an Apple Watch with a curved screen and one singular side button. On the other hand, the Galaxy Watch 5 has a flat-screen, two side buttons, and a touch bezel around the screen for movement.
- Water Resistance: The Galaxy Watch is rated for IP68 water and dust resistance while the Pixel 5 is only rated for 5 ATM with no dust resistance rating.
- Music Playback: The Galaxy Watch 5 lets you play back music from the speakers while the Pixel Watch does not.
- Fitbit and Samsung Health: The Fitbit application seems to be a bit more refined than the Galaxy Watch 5’s Samsung Health.
- Automatic Workout Detection: The Watch 5 has automatic workout detection while the Pixel Watch does not have this feature.
- Sensors: The Watch 5 comes with an additional body temperature and bioimpedance sensor to measure body composition.
- Device Restrictions: You’ll need a Samsung Galaxy phone to use some of the fitness features such as conducting an ECG or checking your blood pressure. The Pixel Watch lets you do this on any Android phone.
- Fitbit Premium: If you purchase a Pixel Watch, you’ll need to opt for a $10 / month subscription to get in-depth statistics and other information about your sleep. The Galaxy Watch doesn’t get that particular, but, it also doesn’t require a subscription.
- Battery Life: The Pixel Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 both charge at the same rate while the Pixel watch has a slightly better battery coming in at about 24-26 hours compared to the Watch 5’s 22-23 hours.
- File Transfer: You can transfer music directly from your phone to your Watch 5. However, you’ll need to use Spotify or Google Music to download music to your Pixel Watch.
All in all, both the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Pixel Watch are excellent contenders for the throne of the best Android smartwatch. And, while the Pixel Watch does come with its unique advantages, I feel like Samsung has the years on the Pixel.
What does that mean? The Watch 5 feels more fresh and more modern. It has slimmer bezels, has a lot more health-related features, and is snappier than the Pixel Watch. So, even while Google’s offer is very tempting, the fact that you are met with two size variations for the Watch 5 rather than one and a much sleeker-looking design leads to the Watch 5 slightly edging out the pixel.
Who Is The Galaxy Watch 5 For?
The Galaxy Watch 5 is a no-brainer for anyone who owns a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. If you don’t, you’ll have to either opt for downloading a modified APK of Samsung Health (not as hard as it seems) or will just have to not use some health features if you are on a OnePlus or Pixel, for example.
But, the watch is not for the fitness freak, neither it is for the casual consumer. It’s meant for a mix of both. If you are into health and fitness but aren’t going to be doing extreme sports, and, if you like having some health metrics on your wrist in a slim sleek chassis, then the Galaxy Watch 5 is meant for you.
Samsung has already gone through five different iterations of their smartwatch and the build quality and overall durability of the watch really prove their experience in the domain. I’d easily hand this device the title of the best Android smartwatch of 2022 simply because of its performance, durability, and the sheer amount of features and sensors baked into this tiny little package.
Should You Buy The Galaxy Watch 5?
If you have a Galaxy Watch 4 or a Watch 4 Classic, I wouldn’t be too hasty on pulling the trigger. But if you have an Android phone and you are in the market for an Android SmartWatch this is the best option I can recommend
As we’ve found out, there are not a lot of differences between Watch 4 and Watch 5. And, to be fair, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 was an excellent watch as well. So, there’s no reason for you to upgrade unless you really want to take advantage of either the fast charging or the increased front glass durability.
If you do not have a Samsung device, you are going to be missing out on a ton of health-related features. If you are okay with that, go ahead, the Watch 5 makes sense. If you aren’t, then, while the Pixel has fewer health features, at least you can use all of them on any Android phone.
All in all, the Watch 5 feels confusing to me at times. It’s aimed at a broader audience yet its gatekeeping ensures that you need to be sucked into the ecosystem to make the most out of your smartwatch every single year.
In all honesty, if Samsung changes its modus operandi when it comes to needless restrictions and improves the battery life, we may be looking at the best smartwatch ever made. But, until then, if you are okay with a few workarounds to get the smartwatch’s features to work on non-Samsung devices, it’s an excellent device.
I bought my first smartwatch in 2018 and have been wearing one ever since. It might get frustrating at times to receive 100 notifications a day. That's why we need to know how to make the best of them and how to use them to improve our daily lives, not the other way around. I write about the newest smartwatches, I create top picks, and I write helpful guides and simply explain complicated things.