Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 was an exciting development in Android smartwatches because it brought Samsung and Google together to make Google’s watch software platform better. But, weirdly, the best Android watch lacked a major Android feature: Google Assistant. Samsung today said that’s about to change.
The last time Samsung offered direct access to Google on your wrist was the Samsung Gear Live in 2014, which ran on Google’s Android Wear platform and featured a rectangle watch face. After that, Samsung switched to its proprietary Tizen software for its watches, and thereby its own Bixby assistant. But last year, Samsung announced it was returning to Android Wear, now known as Wear OS 3. But Google Assistant was nowhere to be found—watch owners have had to rely on Bixby for months now. Annoyingly, Samsung still hasn’t committed to a timeline for adding Google Assistant, saying only that it would arrive in the “coming months.”
The Google Assistant will live alongside the Bixby digital assistant, and you’ll likely be able to switch between the two, similar to how you can change between the Samsung keyboard app and the Gboard keyboard app.
The Galaxy Watch 4 will also support Android app installs directly from the smartphone. Currently, you have to download Wear OS apps through the watch interface. There is no backup system for those apps on the Samsung watches either, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to back those up with the Wear app on my smartphone.
While it may be awhile still before Google Assistant lands on the Galaxy Watch 4 or Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, watch owners can look forward to getting a software update this week packed with new features, including new body composition features, advanced interval training, and a new sleep coaching program, plus new watch faces and straps.
The body composition update includes more insight into your overall progress powered by Chris Hemsworth’s Centr—yes, I’m talking about muscle-man Thor from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Galaxy Watch 4 users will get a 30-day free trial of the app, which offers self-guided workouts for all fitness levels.
If you’re a devoted runner or cyclist, now you can use the Galaxy Watch 4 to set interval targets during training. You can select the duration, distance, and the number of sets. The Galaxy Watch 4 can also guide you through a custom intensity training session, which Samsung says will make “for an impactful and targeted workout every time.”
If you’re like me and you have trouble sleeping, maybe you’ll benefit from the Galaxy Watch 4’s new sleep coaching program. It makes suggestions based on your actual sleep data. All you have to do is wear the smartwatch to bed every night for a week, then fill out a sleep survey—presumably through the Samsung Health app—and then Samsung will handle the rest. You can even sync up with your SmartThings-connected smart bulbs to turn them off when it’s time for slumber.
The sleep program will also assign you one of eight “sleep symbol animals” to categorize your sleeping habits. It ranges anywhere from an “unconcerned lion” (must be nice) to an “exhausted shark.” (That’s probably me.) There’s also a “sun averse mole” designation, which I’m assuming refers to folks with night-time itineraries.
I haven’t tried any third-party watch straps on my Galaxy Watch 4 because I haven’t found anything I liked. Samsung is offering new strap colors, including burgundy and cream, both of which I think would pair nicely with the rose gold variant of the watch that I wear daily. Samsung is also launching a fabric band for active users and a link bracelet for classy types. There will be new watch faces to accompany all those looks. The new watch straps will be available later this month.
Lastly, if you’ve managed to find your way to YouTube Music after Google shut down Google Play Music, you’ll be able to stream music over wifi or LTE to your Galaxy Watch 4 without your smartphone. That ability is coming soon through an additional update.
The software update will be available through the Galaxy Wearable app on Feb. 9—the same day we’ll learn about Samsung’s new flagship phones.