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Why I preordered a Galaxy Watch 4 despite these 4 compromises

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Hands On
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Hands On (Image credit: Android Central)

Samsung Unpacked has come and gone, dropping the next generation of foldable phones on us, but like most of you, $1,000 to $1,800 is still too rich for my blood — no matter how awesome and pocket-friendly the Galaxy Z Flip might be.

No, what I was waiting for with bated breath and an open wallet was the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, because it combined the two halves of my ideal smartwatch experience: stupendous hardware with a slim, easy-to-sleep-in design, plus the convenience of my Google apps and all my notifications on my wrist.

Since last Wednesday, as more information gets sought out and more people start spending actual time with these watches, the news has been lukewarm at best. Apps are missing, and compatibility issues are hidden in the fine print. Still, I couldn't snap up my preorder fast enough, and I'm not alone in my Galaxy Watch 4 excitement.

Here are the big drawbacks around the Galaxy Watch 4 series, and why I'm still sure it will be the best Android smartwatch of 2021 and possibly 2022.

No Google Assistant — yet

Fossil Gen 5E

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Google Assistant is the second-biggest thing I wanted on my next Galaxy Watch. The first is my Google Keep shopping lists and I instantly groaned when there wasn't a peep about Google Assistant in any of the Galaxy Watch 4 launch events or the accompanying announcements from both Samsung and Google. We've since gotten confirmation from Samsung that Google Assistant is still coming "at a later date."

At first glance, this seems like a huge bummer, especially since the AI assistant on your watch isn't just about asking what the weather's like and opening the Spotify app. The voice assistants — or more accurately the speech recognition software they use — also tie into other features like dictating a reply to a text message, entering a new item on a shopping list, or using voice to search for apps.

On a screen this small, voice-to-text is vital.

After two years with the Galaxy Watch Active, I think I've used it enough to definitely state that Samsung/Bixby's voice recognition is miles behind Google, especially when dealing with background noise or accents of any kind. I don't have the kind of accent that interferes with Assistant or Alexa very often, but sometimes, I tend to start saying the wrong word and then correct to what I really meant to say.

Google Recorder Transcript

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central This level of speech recognition is essential, and Google does it best. (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

With Google/Assistant's speech-to-text engine, most of my "ah-ums" get left out of my replies or commands compared to Samsung/Bixby's engine, where they almost always get left in, or a phrase is misheard altogether. At least I can get Google's text-to-speech engine on the Galaxy Watch 4 at launch.

Don't get me wrong, I will turn on Google Assistant the moment it arrives and I will disable Bixby so it can't go off accidentally and enrage me with its continued existence. But at least I'll be able to reply to that Slack message from my wrist while I'm power-walking from the parking lot to the Magic Kingdom.

No Fitbit support — yet

Wear Os Fitbit Integration

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

Let's get one thing out of the way very quickly: I have no problems with Samsung Health. I've used a Galaxy Watch Active more than any other watch over the last two years with the possible exception of TicWatch Pro (but those were two different models), and if you use a Tizen watch, you use Samsung Health. While some one-off apps like Strava and UnderArmor's MapMyRun were available, no serious challengers to Samsung Health were available.

Source: Android Central

This means the Galaxy Watch 4 will be the first Galaxy Watch model to give you a real choice in health-tracking suites. After all, the fitness APIs built for Wear OS 3 are named for and strongly associated with Fitbit, which is building a suite of Wear OS apps, and Google Fit has been part of Wear OS since it was called Android Wear.

Fitbit is a no-show, but good ol' Google Fit is here.

However, Fitbit's apps either aren't ready, or Samsung is holding them back for a later release (like Google Assistant). This is a bummer, but not a dealbreaker for anyone that's been a Wear OS user in the last five years: Google Fit is downloadable (like Google Pay), and you can use that instead for some, but not all of the watch's health tracking.

Google Fit already has several Wear OS tiles that look excellent and are more glanceable than Samsung Health's tiles. While Samsung Health is more proactive about detecting and starting workouts when it detects movement, Google Fit is a more laid-back fitness app that won't get as in-your-face as Samsung Health.

Google Fit Journal Ticwatch Pro

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Both Google Fit and Samsung Health can connect to a wide array of fitness apps and connected health devices, but Google Fit has wider compatibility — and will likely work with Fitbit before too long. Samsung, on the other hand, focuses more on sharing data with your doctors than with other health suites, including other health apps on the Galaxy Watch 4.

No advanced health tracking without a Galaxy phone

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic BIA Sensor reading

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Yeah, Samsung buried the lede a little during that Galaxy Watch 4 presentation: most of that fancy new BIA sensor's functions only work when connected with the Samsung Health Monitor app, which is only available through the Samsung Galaxy Store, which is only available on Samsung Galaxy smartphones. That means ECG monitoring to detect abnormal heart rates, blood oxygen monitoring to improve sleep tracking or help detect respiratory issues, and body mass index scores might not work once you unbox your new watch if you're using a OnePlus 9 or one of the last LG Wings, or that snazzy new Pixel 6 Pro coming this fall.

Houston, we have a problem.

And I'll admit, depending on how this shakes out, I'm not entirely sure if I'll be able to recommend this watch to readers, friends, or my dad, who was interested in the Galaxy Watch 4 right up until I said the BIA sensor data only worked with Galaxy phones. While Samsung may have a monopoly on Wear OS 3 watches at this moment, we don't know how long that will last.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Hands On

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Fitbit's next watch will run Wear OS 3, and they haven't put out much in the way of products yet this year. Fossil and Mobvoi are also working on Wear OS 3 watches, which Fossil is already teasing for a launch in the distant (or maybe not-so-distant) future.

We also know that this companion app works with non-Samsung phones. A months-long project by XDA user Dante63 has gotten the Samsung Health Monitor app running on non-Samsung phones (and no, you don't need root for it). The app works in connection with the Galaxy Wearable app and the Samsung Health app — both of which are on Google Play and can run on the vast majority of current Android phones — and I'd really love to see Samsung come up with a non-walled gardening answer for why the Monitor app isn't on Google Play, too.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Source: Samsung (Image credit: Source: Samsung)

The whole point of Google and Samsung coming together on Wear OS 3 was to build watches that could be seriously competitive against the Apple Watch supremacy we've seen for the last five years. However, can we really call the Galaxy Watch a competitive smartwatch — at least from a fitness perspective — if it doesn't fully work with all current Android phones?

Hopefully, Samsung can evolve on this issue over the coming months, but in the meantime, I'll at least be able to use those features when I swap back to my Galaxy S21 between reviews. For normal people who usually only have one phone who rock a Pixel or a OnePlus phone, though this could be a compromise that keeps you from buying a Galaxy Watch 4 right now,

Actually, that's okay, too. Even if you do have a Samsung, the first few months with the Galaxy Watch 4 are bound to be bumpy.

It's a beta product, no matter how polished it looks

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Hands On

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Part of the allure for the Galaxy Watch 4 is that it's a big first. It's the first Wear OS 3 watch and the first Galaxy Watch with access to Google Play apps. It's the first Wear OS smartwatch with a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) sensor and Samsung's new Exynos W920 chipset. And as any tech enthusiast knows, the first version will always be a bit buggy, at least in the first few months (and sometimes forever).

Buggy or not, I am trying the new Wear OS.

This means that the Galaxy Watch 4 is where the first batch of system bugs will be ironed out and any problems with the newly upgraded Tiles or apps that have been tweaked to suit the new Wear UI and look. Unfortunately, this is also the first Wear OS watch with an Exynos processor. While that technically shouldn't matter to apps, there are always at least a few apps that won't work properly until the developer can get a Galaxy Watch and test the app on the watch themselves.

We also lack apps and services that were part of the Wear OS presentation back at Google I/O, including Google Assistant and Fitbit, listed above, so the Galaxy Watch 4 will feel like an incomplete experience for many.

For some, being first on a product is exciting because you can show off something new and cool and flashy. However, you also need to be ready to deal with apps crashing or battery life not living up to expectations because some of the battery optimizations didn't quite work. That's a tradeoff I'm more than willing to make so that I can see how Wear OS is evolving and whether the Watch 4 is truly the watch of my dreams.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Watch 4 Classic

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

If these four pain points aren't excruciating to you, the Galaxy Watch 4's pre-order deal is likely the only discount it'll see between now and Black Friday. That means you should either hop on the bandwagon now or wait until the holiday shopping season for the bugs to be quashed and all the missing apps to arrive. Just do yourself a favor is your preorder from Samsung: don't pick a secondary band — it comes with a band in the box) on the initial pre-order page; wait until the second page and then pick a band, so it comes out of your $50 promotional credit rather than paying full price.

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

28 Comments
  • While I'm not thrilled to be living with Bixby for a few more months, I agree that other apps (Google pay in my case) are actually more important. The health features are such a misguided and idiotic move... They could make people choose this watch over others, but they are nowhere near compelling enough to get people to also buy a galaxy phone to use them. They'll just buy a different watch. From what I've seen though, anyone buying this to try out wear OS 3 is going to be sorely disappointed. From a user facing standpoint it appears to be 90% Tizen (in the form of OneUI watch).
  • This is going to sound sacrilegious, 90% Tizen with Google apps/services was all most Galaxy Watch users needed out of the Watch 4.
  • I'm one of them. There are good reasons my Galaxy watch 3 is on my wrist every day while my Fossil Gen 5 is... Somewhere in my bedroom. And it's not just the horrible battery life.
  • Google really needs to do a Pixel watch. If they are serious about hardware, a watch is a must. Samsung is looking to sell Samsung phones not Pixels. So of course the best watch features work with Samsung phones.
  • If Google were serious they'd sell the Pixel mobiles in more than just 5-6 countries. Great phones, but they can't compete with Samsung, OnePlus, Apple and not even with LG and Huawei.
  • Having recently had an apple watch/iPhone, I am used to this sort of thing. I am kind of surprised that Samsung thinks they have that kind of stroke to kneecap their new watch right out of the box unless you have a Samsung device. That being said, I ordered one for myself and my wife on release day. We both use Samsung devices, so no big deal...and neither is Bixby, because I didn't use siri, I don't use google assistant, and I wont be using Bixby, either. But if Samsung can pull off the close integration with the watch 4 and and my A52 5g that I had with my apple watch and 12 Pro Max, or hell, even get close, they will have accomplished something indeed.
  • Samsung will get close but I personally think only Google can rival Apple in that seamless integration with their devices due to the simple fact that like Apple now, with the Pixel 6 they'll be controlling everything now thanks to their Tensor chip with them making the software and now the hardware all all of their devices unlike Samsung.
  • Yea. My original galaxy watch has a longer battery life that the new classic. Samsung always ships devices before the software is done/fixed. It is just more of a bummmer now that they try for Apple prices. Started off my Note phones with the 4. It still works. I sent bach the 20 when it would not link up to the watches that came out at the same time.
    I have an 1+ t8 pro now. Charges 4 times as fast as a Samsung. Gonna wait and see on the watch. Loosing Tizen is also a bummer.
  • Why do you think losing Tizen is a bummer?
  • It is the most optimized smartwatch operating system on any ecosystem. Period. The reason it's being rebranded/dropped is spelled antitrust. I can't believe there are so many people cheering Google on for this. Ecosystem monopolies stifles innovation in the long run. Smartwatches wouldn't have come anywhere near this far hadn't it been for Samsung's persistence in miniaturizing everything from the software to all the hardware bits inside. Google have been sitting on their fat ass for half a decade doing absolutely f### all but choking the competition by ensuring third party apps wouldn't start trickling over to the Galaxy Store.
    The anti Samsung narrative in influencer blogging is also sickening. So much (deliberate?) misinformation and hate for things they aren't responsible for, like the FitBit app being blocked until Fitbit gets their own watch ready. How the f### does that fall on Samsung's responsibility? That whole paragraph about this being a "beta product" just underlines how influencers are caught up in the negative echo chamber of Samsung hate. The first Tizen/Android watch Samsung made was in 2013. They've made watches based on this particular design for generations now. A new processor is not a beta thing, unless we start calling everything beta.
  • That was very rambly. What makes you think Tizen is better optimised? I don't think you know what an influencer is... When she referred to it as being a beta product, she wasn't talking about the hardware. We all know that's solid. It's the fact it's running entirely new software.
  • It was supposed to be pissed off, because we, the consumers, are the ones losing big when these trillion dollar corporations corners every f###cking inch of the market with abuse, the way Google and Apple does. It's not entirely new software. It's a reskinned Tizen with the proprietary Google apps preinstalled. It is, like I clearly wrote, the most refined smartwatch software out there and it literally saved Google's a## on smartwatches as Google themselves have spent the last half decade undermining the competition instead of doing anything productive.
    Lastly, you seem to be extremely naive if you think influencers do this purely as a free service.
  • It's definitely not a skinned Tizen, it's wear OS with a Tizen inspired skin. I asked why you thought Tizen would perform better than wear OS, "because I said so"isn't an answer. This product is good for consumers, that's why I ordered one. I am a consumer, and this is a good product. Where are these influencers you complain about? There aren't any here lol. You seem to be very passionate about this, and I'm not sure why.
  • The proof has been on my wrist for years. I’ve used wear, and I’ve used tizen. I’d rather have a responsive watch with few apps than a dog with every app but 5 to 10 seconds of lag with every tap. Ymmv but for me it was never even close.
  • I want Google Assistant and Fitbit support and for the same reason why the Pixel will be my next Android phone is the same reason why I'm holding out for a Pixel Watch over a Galaxy Watch 4 and probably an Apple Watch (through gritted teeth) which I'm actually impressed with but it's not what I truly want though. I want no compromise on what I want, as OnePlus used to say, never settle.
  • Never compromising is part of why the world is so divided today. Compromise is an important part of living in a society, and why there are some things you should never compromise, my watch is definitely one I've got wiggle room on.
  • Seems like Samsung was more interested in making their watches more appealing within their own ecosystem, than actually helping the WearOS platform as a whole.
  • I know what it's like to want something despite the drawbacks, so I feel you on that! I don't really need a slim watch, so size is not as much of an issue. Battery life is, and I'm happy with charging once a week, and love that I can flip to essential mode for a month without charging, but I'm still eager to hear how the Watch 4 does in that department.
  • I'm very hopeful battery for the smaller Watch 4 will be similar to my OG Watch Active, but so long as it can go 24-30 hours between charges and recharge from 30% to full in less than a hour, I'll be happy. If we get three day battery, that's just icing on the cake, but no way will it last a week without Essential mode or whatever they call it.
  • Pre-ordered a silver Watch Classic with brown leather band, was able to trade in my original Galaxy Watch... Will be delivered on August the 27th... :-)
  • Is Nike Run available on Wear OS now? I've seen conflicting reports.
  • It shows as downloadable on my Fossil Gen 5e, TicWatch Pro 3, and Oppo Watch. But downloadable and actually usable are two different things and I'm not a Nike Run user that can test the latter.
  • Forget preorder.. does Android Central have the actual product yet like many other tech sites do? There are many reviews out there already or at least hands on videos. It'd be nice to confirm if the O2 level sensor works with Non-Galaxy phones. The website doesn't indicate that a Galaxy phone is required for that feature, same as the body fat sensor. Only the ECG and BP (non-U.S) indicate that requirement.
    I definitely am not giving up my Pixel 4 for this watch. It's like I have to choose between monitoring my health better or start receiving 10 robo calls a day and ads in all parts of the OS with a Galaxy phone. Not cool Samsung. Not cool!!
  • The biggest negative to me is the things that will not work without a Galaxy Phone. Yes, the brilliant folks at XDA will probably fix that problem but I won't pre-order hoping for a fix. I just want to buy a watch. The second negative is battery life. I know it's great relative to other smartwatches but my Huawei Watch Fit gives me 5-7 days. I'm more on the fitness tracking side than the app side of users. Charging another device doesn't fill me with joy. But if it comes through and has blood pressure someday I will happily purchase one. I have to credit Samsung for finally putting some thought into the hardware for WearOS.
  • To get the most out of any samsung watch or buds, you need a Samsung phone. At least both will work with other brands but will be limited on some features.
  • I actually cancelled my preorder once I learned that this watch is useless on non Samsung phones. This would have been my first Samsung smart device ever, too. Since Samsung likes to pull this crap, making features unavailable and exclusive to their phones, I will never consider a Samsung smart device, phone or otherwise. I will not support this kind of B.S. Bring on other offerings from other manufacturers that do not alienate potential customers and sales!
  • The exclusive perks for Samsung only phones does suck but it isn't anything Apple doesn't do. Don't get me wrong, I think its a crap move and they shouldn't do it (neither should Apple) but whatever. I use Samsung phones so it doesn't bother me (I also don't use the watch for fitness; I use it primarily for communication). I hope the battery life is excellent (like the previous watches) and that GA does come sooner rather than later because my smart home is easier to control with GA than it is with Bixby. Either way, I pre-ordered the Watch 4 44mm green version and can't wait to get it.
  • I'd argue it's worse than Apple because Samsung uses Android and it seems like they'd have to go out of their way to keep all their features from working on other Android phones. That said, I'd still love it if Apple made the Apple Watch work on Android.