Samsung's Galaxy Watch 5 Is a Nice Little Update to the Best Android Smartwatch So Far

Samsung's Galaxy Watch 5 Is a Nice Little Update to the Best Android Smartwatch So Far

But don't throw out your Galaxy Watch 4. The improvements are minimal.

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A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Life happens, and it’ll be a while before I have a full assessment of Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5. But so far, I’m pleased with what I’ve been wearing. As I’ve been working on the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4 reviews—the former of which is ready to read if you are—I’ve been testing the Galaxy Watch 5 to figure out what Samsung has and hasn’t improved. I agree with some reviewers that it’s still the best and only Android smartwatch worth buying.

I’m also still assessing whether this particular smartwatch is worth the upgrade to its identical-looking predecessor. I’ve been wearing the Galaxy Watch 4 since it launched last year. Despite some of the issues I’ve had with the LTE-enabled model, it’s a great smartwatch, and I’m in no rush to replace it with something else. Anyway, the one new feature I desperately want access to that’s available in the Galaxy Watch 5 hasn’t even been activated.

Until I can give you the full review of life with the Galaxy Watch 5, here are a few things I like about it and a few things I currently don’t.

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2 / 10

What I like: Not much has changed with the look

What I like: Not much has changed with the look

A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I liked the look of the Galaxy Watch 4. I thought it was simple, modern, and approachable for most people. The chassis isn’t too bulky, and the screen is vibrant and easy to navigate day or night. The Galaxy Watch 5 has essentially the same style and dimensions, save for its slightly more reinforced sapphire crystal display. Another thing to note is that the Watch 5 has an all-screen digital bezel instead of a physical one. But I hardly notice it between the two.

The watches come in 40mm and 44mm flavors, so there’s something for small and big wrists alike. The color offerings are slightly different this time, however: the 40mm comes in Graphite, Pink Gold, and Silver, while the 44mm comes in Graphite, Sapphire, and Silver. Samsung sent me the 40mm Pink Gold variant, which looks nearly identical to last year’s Pink Gold variant, except for the band, which was more khaki last year.

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3 / 10

What I don’t like: The Price has gone up

What I don’t like: The Price has gone up

A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

This year’s Galaxy Watch 5 starts at $280, which is about $30 more than what the 40mm Galaxy Watch 4 started at when it debuted. The Watch 5 is $330 for the LTE model, while the Watch 4 started at $300.

If you’re trying to save cash on the newest smartwatch, consider trading in an old Samsung smartwatch or pair of earbuds for a discount.

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4 / 10

What I like: Samsung Health

What I like: Samsung Health

A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Please don’t “@ me.” I know Samsung Health isn’t Apple Health, Google Fit, or even Strava, which I pay for though I’m hardly athletic. But I’ve been using Samsung Health since I bought into the company’s wearable ecosystem with the Galaxy Watch Active. I still enjoy using the app to aggregate all my health data.

Samsung Health’s new GPX import feature works best with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, since it can offer turn-by-turn directions depending on the hiking or biking route you want to take. But everything else about Samsung Health is still as helpful as it was on the Galaxy Watch 4. There are periodic movement reminders, plus immediate confetti when you get your ass up out of your chair and walk to get yourself a glass of water. Workouts are still automatically tracked—even if that workout is chasing after your kid to wrangle her into the bath—and so are naps.

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5 / 10

What I don’t like: The strap

What I don’t like: The strap

A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I was not a fan of the strap on the Galaxy Watch 4, and since it hasn’t changed, I’m certainly not a fan of the strap on the Galaxy Watch 5. It feels like the strap squeezes me like a brace or something. My wrist feels puffy by the end of the day wearing the watch.

Granted, I’ve had to wear the Watch 5 on my right hand because my Watch 4 is on my left. But I was immediately reminded of why I swapped out the default band for something third-party off Amazon.

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6 / 10

What I really don’t like: The skin temperature sensor doesn’t work yet

What I really don’t like: The skin temperature sensor doesn’t work yet

A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The number one reason I’d suggest you chuck the Galaxy Watch 4 in favor of the Watch 5 is to get access to that built-in skin temperature sensor. But unfortunately, it’s currently dormant. Samsung Health does not make use of it yet.

I have a condition that raises my internal body temperature slightly every month. I hate having to locate my kid’s in-ear thermometer to check it. I would love for nothing more than to flip my wrist up and check in to see if my body is doing the thing I expect it to do. Anyway, I wear a smartwatch even when I’m not moving much because I want aggregated data on my internals.

Now that the Watch 5 is available to buy, I’m hoping Samsung Health finally gets support for this feature.

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7 / 10

What I’m still figuring out: Sleep coaching

What I’m still figuring out: Sleep coaching

A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

We knew that sleep coaching was coming to Samsung watches. The company introduced it earlier this year through a software update that also introduced Google Assistant support, but now I have to wear the watch to figure out what these abilities are like. I currently track my sleep in Samsung Health based on when I put my phone down for the night and when I first interact with it in the morning. I have a hard time falling asleep with accessories on my wrists.

Considering I don’t like how the strap feels on my wrist, I think I might have to swap out for a third-party one to get the Watch 5 to sleep with me at night. But I’m finally ready to try these sleep coaching features, nearly six months later.

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8 / 10

What I’m still figuring out: Battery life

What I’m still figuring out: Battery life

A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

The Galaxy Watch 5 has a 13% larger battery than its predecessor— 284 mAh compared to 247 mAh on the 40mm smartwatch, and 410 mAh compared to 361 mAh on the 44mm.

So far, the battery on the Watch 5 has been comparable to the Watch 4's, though I also turn off location tracking, and I don’t use the Google Assistant on standby. The real test will be to see how much juice I get out of one charge after tracking a long hike and constantly pinging Google for smart home controls.

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9 / 10

What I remain neutral about: Wear OS

What I remain neutral about: Wear OS

A photo of the Galaxy Watch 5
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

For its part, Wear OS is still pretty simplistic. Much of its core usage hasn’t changed over the years: You can still load up a playlist on Spotify for listening to music on the go and grab just a pair of earbuds for the road instead of bothering with your phone. You can quickly reply to messages using voice dictation or the swipe-and-tap method, which is surprisingly accurate considering how small the screen is when you’re typing.

I do wish there were more widgets besides Samsung’s built-in ones. As much as I love to have a spot for the timer and Samsung Health, it’d be great to have something for apps like Google Keep and Google Chat, which I still use to interface with my family. I’d also love more fan-servicey watch faces, which seem impossible to find in the Play Store. I’ve settled on simply making my own with Samsung’s built-in watch face maker to get my desired result—but it’s not the same!

I wonder if there will be any software differentiation between the Pixel Watch and the Galaxy smartwatches, much in the way that Google’s Pixel smartphones have the Pixel Launcher and Samsung’s smartphones run its version of Android called One UI. Like Android smartphones, the only way Wear OS-based smartwatches will compete will be in their hardware offerings. So far, Samsung is still the clear standout when it comes to Android watches.

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10 / 10