Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic Review: High on features, low on battery

We have been reviewing a lot of fitness watches over the past several months. Now it’s time to get up close with a full-fledged smartwatch. Samsung’s latest Galaxy Watch 4 Classic makes a shift from Tizen to Google Wear OS and offers some exciting smart as well as fitness features. But is it worth the premium? Let’s find out.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: Design, build, display

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic has a rugged exterior thanks to its stainless-steel body. The 46 mm dial has a rotating bezel that acts as a scroll wheel, and there is something uber cool about it. The silver variant we received for review has a touch of class, especially the brushed metal body. The light grey silicone straps make it look sporty, though. Probably leather or faux leather would have looked better here, but that’s a matter of individual taste. Also, the bundled strap is quite large, and the fit may be too loose for those with slim wrists.

The watch straps have a standard 20 mm width and an easy-to-connect mechanism. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

The good news is the watch straps have a standard 20 mm width and an easy-to-connect mechanism. So, in case you have an issue with the fit or aesthetics, you can always replace the default straps with any third-party straps of the same width. There are two physical buttons on the right that can be used to navigate the UI and also help in measuring body composition, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The Samsung BioActive sensor that combines the heart rate sensor, SpO2 sensor and a few others, is located at the back of the watch.

You get a 1.4-inch circular Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 450 x 450 pixels. It is protected against scratches by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass DX. The screen is sharp and extremely responsive. It is bright enough and easily legible under bright sunlight. It supports the always-on feature too, but given its feeble battery backup, I would advise you to not enable it and flick your wrist to turn the screen on instead. It works perfectly fine.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: Key features

This watch has a barrage of sensors ranging from accelerometer, barometer, gyroscope, geomagnetic sensor, light sensor, heart rate sensor and more. The watch also claims to measure blood pressure and ECG; however, those features are either not enabled in India or are limited to Samsung phones for now. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is capable of BIA measurements, which is basically your body composition (skeletal mass, body fat, body water, BMI etc.).

You need to place two fingers on the watch buttons and stay still while the watch passes a very mild current through your body to gauge those parameters. That’s the first time I have come across this feature on a watch. Other than that, you have detailed fitness and sleep tracking. There are various workout modes, and it auto-detects a few workouts, too. The watch is 5ATM water resistant and can be worn for a swim. Other useful health features include stress monitoring, sleep tracking and your blood oxygen level, which can be tracked every minute while you are asleep.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is a proper smartwatch and strives to be an extension of your phone. Since it runs Google Wear OS, it lets you install a variety of apps on the watch and lets you do more than a handful of things from the watch screen itself. You can answer calls, reply to messages, navigate using Google Maps and a lot more. One thing that is missing here is Google Assistant. There is a voice assistant, but it’s Bixby.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: Software and UI

Since we are discussing software, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 series is probably the first in India to run Google Wear OS 3.0. While the core is intact, there is a heavy Tizen influence to it. So much so that you cannot even use the Wear OS app to sync this watch with. In fact, if you aren’t using this watch with a Samsung smartphone, you need two apps to get this watch up and running – Galaxy Wearable and Samsung Health.

The former is used to sync the watch with the phone and configure it, while the latter is used to track your fitness progress. It is beyond me why a single app couldn’t handle both. Also, there is no support for iOS yet. On the bright side, the Samsung Health app is simple and clean, and even someone new to the platform won’t have trouble finding his/her way around it. All the fitness data is neatly displayed there along with finer details of your workouts.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 series is probably the first in India to run Google Wear OS 3.0. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

The phone UI is equally easy to use and the Tizen elements here are actually a good thing in addition to what Wear OS offers. Swiping down on the home screen gives you access to the quick settings menu, while swiping up opens the app drawer. All the installed apps are neatly arranged with circular icons. Swiping right on the home screen opens notifications centre, and swiping left lets you cycle through certain widgets like daily activity progress, weather, stress level etc.

The rotating bezel can be used to cycle through the widgets along with scrolling through menus and options. While the same can be achieved through touch, there’s something nice about turning the physical dial and getting tactile feedback. Since the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is based on Wear OS, you get access to certain Google services and more importantly, Play Store. You can install compatible apps on this watch and access stuff from the watch screen without the need to reach for the phone.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is powered by an Exynos W920 dual core processor and accompanied by 1.5 GB RAM and 16 GB of internal storage, of which more than half is taken up by the OS and preinstalled apps and services. The remaining can be used for more apps, data and music. In terms of connectivity, you have Bluetooth 5.0 and dual band Wi-Fi. You also get an LTE model that makes it even more ‘Atmanirbhar’, but we received the regular variant for review.

I have already spoken about the multitude of sensors available here, and most of them do their job as expected. The heart rate monitor seems accurate and the SpO2 readings are at par with over-the-counter oximeters. There was no way of confirming if the body composition readings were perfect, but they can serve as a good frame of reference from time to time. Sleep tracking is handled very well, with a proper breakdown of different sleep stages. It can also track blood oxygen levels while you are asleep to ensure it doesn’t drop below 90 percent.

The watch is powered by an Exynos W920 dual-core processor and accompanied by 1.5 GB RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

Having said that, I would like to add that given its size and weight (52 grams without straps), this isn’t the most comfortable watch to wear to bed. The steps counter is reasonably accurate and so is the GPS tracking. The auto-pause and auto-resume workout features generally work well, but at times it takes longer than it should to resume, thus reporting lesser distance than you actually cover. The watch can track around 90 workouts and covers most of the popular ones from walking, running, swimming to freestyle workout, strength training and a handful of sports.

The watch can track around 90 workouts and covers most of the popular ones from walking, running, swimming to freestyle workouts and more. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

Beyond fitness, the smart features work well, too. In fact, this is arguably the most well-rounded smartwatch I have come across, especially for the Android platform. The watch has a built-in microphone as well as a speaker and you can receive calls on the watch itself. The speaker quality is better than I expected, but don’t get carried away. You can store music on this watch but refrain from using the watch speaker to play it. Firstly, the speaker isn’t good enough for music and secondly, it takes a toll on the already limited battery reserves, which brings me to my next point.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: Battery backup

The battery backup is probably the biggest drawback of this watch, and of all smartwatches in general. I was hoping the battery life would have improved by now, but it’s still where it was a year or two ago – barely over a day. To make matters worse, fitness watches (non-smart) have spoilt us with battery life upwards of a week, and in some cases, even over two weeks. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic lasts about 26 to 29 hours, and quite frankly, I find that unacceptable. It doesn’t go beyond 30 hours even on days when you don’t use GPS.

I hadn’t even switched on too many notifications or the always-on display during testing, nor did I take multiple oxygen and other biometric measurements daily. The standby time isn’t great either, with the watch struggling to last the night with 15 percent battery remaining, and that too without wearing it to bed to track my sleep. The company bundles a wireless charger that takes close to two hours to charge the watch’s 361 mAh battery fully; that’s not too fast either.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: Price and Verdict

The Samsung Watch 4 Classic is priced at Rs 34,999 with a one-year warranty. While it may be the most loaded smartwatch I have come across till date, it is not a product for everyone. It is certainly not a product for someone like me who values battery life as much as the accuracy of fitness tracking. I certainly do not want another gadget that I need to charge daily; one that gives me battery anxiety.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is arguably the best option available in India currently. Image: Tech2/Ameya Dalvi

I would much rather prefer a good fitness watch like the Amazfit GTR 2 that gives me most of the fitness tracking features available here, barring a couple, and ten times the battery backup for almost a third of the cost. Reaching out for the phone to respond to messages on a much larger screen is an activity I wouldn’t mind indulging in. This watch is also not for those who have a slim wrist, but you do get a 42 mm variant of the same for a few thousand rupees less.

However, if these shortcomings do not matter and if you are looking for the most evolved smartwatch available for the Android platform, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is arguably the best option available in India currently.

Price: Rs 34,999

Rating: 3.5/5

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