The Galaxy Watch Active could be one of 2019's best smartwatches
This past Wednesday, February 20, will be one of the most memorable days in the tech space for a while to come. It was the day that Samsung unveiled its foldable smartphone to the world — paving the way for what's shaping up to be the future of smartphones as we know it.
The Galaxy Fold is immensely exciting and is the device that has most people talking from Samsung's Unpacked event, but it was far from the only new gadget to be unveiled. No, I'm not talking about any of the Galaxy S10 phones. What I want to focus on today is the Galaxy Watch Active and why I think it has potential to be one of the best smartwatches in the Android space by a long shot.
First, let's take a brief look at the market's current offerings.
With Wear OS, things are — fine. The Fossil Sport is the best option currently available (at least if you ask Mr. Mobile) thanks to a solid design and a wealth of features. Aside from that, you have budget picks like the TicWatch S2 and E2. And, well, that's about it.
Fitbit's still offering its Ionic and Versa smartwatches, and for someone that's already invested in the Fitbit ecosystem or wants a smartwatch with a heavy focus on health/fitness-tracking, they continue to be pretty compelling options.
Then, you've got Samsung. We named the company's Galaxy Watch the best smartwatch/fitness tracker of 2018, and to kick off 2019, we have the Galaxy Watch Active — a smaller, more affordable variant of the Galaxy Watch that could be even more appealing for a lot more potential customers.
Compared to its older brother, it's pretty impressive just how many features the Galaxy Watch Active retains. There's an AMOLED display, heart-rate monitor that can detect irregular heartbeat patterns, NFC chip that enables Samsung Pay, up to 50 meters of water resistance, built-in GPS, and a multi-day battery that can be easily refueled using Qi wireless charging.
The display's smaller at 1.1-inches compared to 1.2 or 1.3-inches and the iconic rotating bezel is gone, but aside from those few omissions, the Galaxy Watch Active is basically the same device.
Oh, and it costs $150 less at just $200.
What else can you get for $200 in the current smartwatch market? The Fitbit Versa has the exact same price tag, but it also has a worse display, no NFC (unless you spend another $30 for the Special Edition), a weaker app/watch face library, and a proprietary charging system. Then again, you get access to Fitbit's excellent heath platform and 4-5 days of battery per charge.
The TicWatch S2 delivers a lot of goods for $180, including up to 2 days of battery, up to 50 meters water resistance, and even built-in GPS. Unfortunately, it's powered by the outdated Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor with performance to match and lacks the ever-convenient NFC chip.
Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active certainly isn't perfect, but if you ask me, it offers the best and most complete package for its price. The design is accessible, the software experience is a joy to use and better than ever thanks to new, easier-to-understand fitness tracking goals, and Samsung Pay is readily available for all models.
Even if the experience is just remotely similar to what the Galaxy Watch offers, the difference in price will make the Active worth it.
With that said, the smartwatch landscape could change a lot in the coming months. There are rumors of a Fitbit Versa 2 in the near future, and towards the end of the year, we're expecting Google to finally release its Pixel Watch.
Even when those devices do get released, however, the Galaxy Watch Active could still stand as a gadget worth competing with. It may not have every single feature out there, but it absolutely nails the value proposition. $200 for a smartwatch with a great design, robust fitness tracking, Samsung Pay, a native Spotify app, and Qi wireless charging? It doesn't get much batter than that.
We'll have more to say about the Galaxy Watch Active when our full review is ready, but based solely on first impressions from what Samsung's showed us so far, I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
There may be better, more powerful smartwatches, but as a complete package, I think Samsung may have a knocked this one out of the park.
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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.