Introducing Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
According to website Jbq, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 was the culmination of years of dreams, desperate pleas, and corporate collaboration, as Google and Samsung finally came together to give us the amazing Android smartwatch that Android owners deserve. The Exynos chipset was running in a circle around the old Qualcomm chipsets of its competitors.
It gave us the refined Samsung hardware and software experience with Google services and apps that we’d been missing from previous Tizen-based Galaxy smartwatch models.
It wasn’t a perfect smartwatch by any means: battery issues were common, and since it was the first watch to use Wear OS 3, watches and third-party apps had trouble interacting with Samsung’s health sensors for a while.
We waited most of the year for Google Assistant to finally arrive on the Watch 4, and there were weeks when Google Pay just wouldn’t work.
Now that the services are ready and the initial bugs have been ironed out, the new Galaxy Watch 5 didn’t need to do much to retain its crown, just refine an already improved experience.
However, when introducing the Galaxy Watch 5, Samsung was very quick to significantly increase battery life, as it was one of only three things that actually changed in the new model.
Samsung claims you can get up to 50 hours of battery life with the Galaxy Watch 5 on a single charge.
While this whets my appetite, the watch itself leaves me feeling unsatisfied despite being better than the 4 in several areas.
With the Galaxy Watch 5, Samsung made the best Android watch even better, but it still managed to disappoint everyone by expecting too much and not delivering on its most important promise.
When I say the Galaxy Watch 5 is a carbon copy of the Galaxy Watch 4, I mean it quite literally.
For all but the new 44mm sapphire, the only physical difference between the 4 and 5 that you can see with the naked eye is the lower curve of the watch, which houses the BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis) sensor.
The Watch 4’s sensor was essentially flat, meaning that whenever someone with a particularly wide or narrow wrist bent it, you could lose full contact with the sensor, leading to inaccurate or incomplete tracking.
With the Galaxy Watch 5, this curve provides more contact, resulting in more reliable data, whether your wrist is thin or thick, lean or muscular.
This is good news for me and my wrist bony fence, for reasons we’ll get to later.
Whereas with my bony wrist, if you have a small wrist, you’ll probably need to get a quality third-party band before your watch shows up.
The adhesive inside the case is a little loose on my 13.5 cm or 5.4-inch wrist, even at its smallest, causing the watch to wobble when I shake my wrist.
If your wrist is anywhere near mine, consider the standard 20mm straps to match the case of the 5 watch instead of the ones with curved edges. They don’t roll well and can lead to unsightly splits.
The only two other physical changes are invisible to the eye: the battery inside the Watch 5 is 15 percent larger for each model, and the touchscreen is now sapphire crystal instead of Corning Gorilla Glass.
The bezels are the same, the edges of the glass match, and the AMOLED panel underneath reaches the same brightness level, so everything is as good as the Watch 4, except hopefully the glass here doesn’t scratch as easily.
Galaxy Watch 5: Touchscreen display
According to Jbq, while the glass cover is new, the AMOLED screen and digital touchscreen underneath are the same: 396 x 396 pixels for the 40mm model and 450 x 450 pixels for the 44mm model. The maximum and minimum brightness are the same, allowing you to easily read the clock in full sunlight or look when your insomnia starts without blinding yourself.
Touch accuracy is just as good as last year, and the new watch faces on the Watch 5 look just as great as our favorites from the Watch 4. Auto-brightness is still a hair slow, but better than most Android smartwatches.
While Galaxy Watch 5 Pro owners will bemoan the loss of a physical rotating bezel, the Galaxy Watch 4 never had one. That being said, while I found the digital bezel somewhat stiff on the Watch 4, it feels much smoother and more accommodating on the Watch 5. Obviously your mileage will vary here, but I’ve actually found myself using the digital bezel on the watch. 5 semi-regularly.
Always On Display is as much a software feature as it is hardware, but I’m not a fan of its brightness. This may come down to personal preference, but it can sometimes be distracting considering the AOD’s brightness is identical to the cues of whatever your previous screen was passing through. It also kills performance by having too many active pixels that use up more battery for gaussian blue that we don’t need.
Galaxy Watch 5: Health sensors and tracking
Pedometers, heart rate tracking, and sleep analysis are the primary health metrics I track, and despite Samsung’s claims, nothing has changed on that front. Step and heart rate tracking work flawlessly, and automatic exercise detection after 10 minutes of walking moves like clockwork. Sleep tracking in particular needs to be improved. However, with the infrared temperature sensor not yet enabled, the only new benefit of sleep tracking is monitoring snoring detection with the watch’s microphone instead of your phone.
The Samsung Health app doesn’t see any significant changes to the Galaxy Watch 5’s user interface or feature set.
Everything is accessible in one place, relatively easy to find, and syncs quickly when you open the app on your phone.
Automatic GPS mapping appears to be limited to the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, but even then, the feature is only available for walking and cycling, not regular running or walking.
Galaxy Watch 5: Battery life and charging
According to Jbq, each long-term fitness activity consumes about a quarter of the battery, but that’s to be expected when you’re constantly pushing yourself for hours.
What is less expected is to lose this type of battery on days when you are not physically active.
Whether I’m at my desk, couch, or actually out and about, my battery consistently only lasts 1-1.5 days.
This is while always-on display is off, music is not playing on the watch, and auto-brightness is on.
Charging the Watch 5 with a fast charger connected to the new USB Type-C cable gives it a faster charge.
However, this fast charger won’t really help unless your watch is dead or close to it.
Like Samsung phones, the Galaxy Watch 5 only sees the highest charging speed when the battery is low, charging at 4 hours when you’re over 50%.
That way, if you forget to charge, this extra speed is a savior of your watch and you want to go out for a run.
Galaxy Watch 5: Software and performance
Given that Samsung has had One UI Watch 4.5 in beta for the past two months, the Watch OS 5 shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
In fact, aside from the new watch faces, I can’t tell the difference.
Performance on the Watch 5 feels a little faster, but there’s still that momentary lag when opening apps or switching between them.
Apps install faster, which is nice, but chances are you won’t be downloading new apps every week or so the way you would on a phone.
We didn’t have to wait for Google Assistant like we did on the Watch 4, but do yourself a favor and turn off the “Okay Google” detection.
It’s not worth the battery drain, especially when you can set it as a shortcut for the home button. I had no issues with any of the apps I tried on my Galaxy Watch 5.
Assistant works well, adding cards to the watch from Google Wallet was easy, and even the golf pad works much better than it did on the eight-month-old Watch 4.