I've never been shy about my love for gadgets and other tech-related things. For better or worse, one of my favorite bits of technology that I like to check out is smartwatches. I keep trying new ones to hopefully find the one that finally gets as much possible right, and it's why I was so excited about the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 — until I wasn't. But the nerd in me felt like I was missing out, so here I am with the watch again.
A shot at redemption
Quick backstory: I bought the regular Galaxy Watch 4 when it first became available in 2021. However, it only took two weeks of using it to realize that I had been very let down — so I returned it. Now, if we fast forward until about a month ago, I felt as though perhaps I got so hyped up at what the watch could be that there was no way it could deliver on that excitement. After some deliberation, I decided to purchase a Galaxy Watch 4 Classic to give it another go.
Part of my disappointment in the Galaxy Watch 4 was in the hardware. Not the overall product, but in the capacitive rotating bezel. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 was the first wearable device from Samsung to use a touch-sensitive bezel as a navigation option instead of the physical variety on previous watches. Unfortunately, I found the implementation on the new smartwatch to be just as useless as it was on the Active 2 — this was one of the factors in buying the Classic model my second time around.
Even when Samsung was putting its in-house OS Tizen on its smartwatches, it was making some of the best Android smartwatches on the market. This was one of the primary reasons I wanted to give its Wear OS watch another try. Samsung's hardware and software chops are too good in its smartphones for the Galaxy Watch 4 to fail so hard — I felt it needed another shot.
Right away, when I held the Watch 4 Classic, its impressive hardware struck me. There's no rattling or sense of it being hollow; it feels substantial. Oh, and the physical rotating bezel is so damn satisfying to feel the clicking as it spins, much like clicking the S Pen in the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. The joy of using the rotating bezel continued in navigating the software.
Unfortunately, as for Wear OS 3, it still feels the same as before. Everything about the UI is complete Tizen, that hasn't changed, and I didn't necessarily think it would have. But the watch is still missing out on some key Wear OS features that other watches, like my favorite TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra, have. It seems Google still has too many of its wearable eggs in Samsung's basket.
Since I sent back my first Galaxy Watch 4, some features have made it to the device through software updates. But perhaps the most glaring feature still not on the smartwatch is Google Assistant. There have been multiple updates stating that Google Assistant is coming. However, we are eight months in since the smartwatches launched, and a key feature that nearly all other Wear OS devices have is still not on the watch that is supposed to reinvigorate the platform.
For those who either loved Tizen-based Samsung smartwatches or hadn't used a Wear OS watch in the past couple of years, the Galaxy Watch 4 series likely seems wonderful — and in many ways, it is. However, just because it has been a commercial success doesn't mean it hasn't also flopped.
I am enjoying my second stint with the Galaxy Watch 4, in part due to picking up the Classic variant. Much of the experience is the same as before: battery life is still not great, the quirks of Tizen's UI that permeate the flavor of Wear OS 3 on the watch still annoy me, and the watch's lack of Google Assistant still frustrates me. But maybe I'm enjoying it this time around because I have more realistic expectations than before, not because the wearable is super exciting. Still, I don't plan on getting rid of the watch this time.
Satisfactory, but not as impactful as I'd hoped
Though I knew it wouldn't happen, I really wanted the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 to spark a new revolution in Wear OS devices. Of course, I should have known better, but the nerd in me took over and made me buy it then — and again now. Perhaps my desire to get a watch that really satisfies that itch will have to come from Google itself in a Pixel Watch. Maybe it will be from a different brand like a TicWatch Pro 4? Either way, as it stands now with the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic on my wrist — it isn't getting it done.
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