Android Central Verdict
Samsung decided to play it safe with the Galaxy Watch 5 this year, bringing more changes to the Watch 5 Pro instead. But even with claims of longer battery life and improved health tracking, the best Android smartwatch doesn't do much to raise the bar. It's a fantastic all-around smartwatch, but there's now an opportunity for others to compete where that wasn't previously the case.
Redesigned health sensor makes for a better fit
Improved sleep tracking, complete with insights
Charging speeds are vastly improved
Wear OS 3 really shines, complete with onboard Google Assistant
Sapphire Glass seems to hold up, so far
Battery life doesn't come as advertised
Key features are limited to Samsung Galaxy phones
Essentially the same as the Galaxy Watch 4 with a new name
Touch bezel is practically useless
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For the past year, Samsung has enjoyed an increased market share in the smartwatch game thanks to the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic being the only Wear OS 3 options available. Google even felt good enough about this closed-door agreement to make mention of increased market share for the platform on the whole during the Google I/O '22 Keynote.
And while this may sound a bit tongue in cheek, the truth is that this is the combination that we've wanted: Samsung's sleek hardware, paired with Google's software, and access to the Play Store instead of the Galaxy Store.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Price and availability
Samsung announced the Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro in August 2022. Both smartwatches were made available for preorder on the same day as the announcement, and was released on August 26, 2022.
The Galaxy Watch 5 comes in two sizes, 40mm and 44mm, while being available with either Wi-Fi or 4G LTE configurations. Pricing starts at $279.99 for the smaller 40mm Wi-Fi-only version, and goes up to $309.99 for the 44mm version. The LTE variants can be had for an additional $50, regardless of which size you choose.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: What's good
In the time that I've spent with the Galaxy Watch 5, both Samsung and Google have definitely delivered where it counts. The Galaxy Watch 5 may look just like its predecessor — even using the same Exynos W920 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of storage — but there's one major difference if you look a bit closer.
The bottom of the Watch 5 has been slightly flattened out in an effort to make for a more comfortable wearable. But this also improves the contact between the health sensors and your skin, providing more reliable readings compared to the Watch 4, while retaining the same size and weight.
Google Assistant is pre-installed, and despite odd requests to "wait for 15 minutes" before installing the necessary update, it's better than having to deal with Bixby for any length of time. All of your favorite apps from the Play Store can be installed in a jiffy, while you can also swap out Samsung Pay for Google Wallet, provided that you're still okay with using a PIN or pattern on your smartwatch.
You can even go so far as to replace the Bixby and Samsung Pay shortcuts in favor of Google's apps. It's really just a comfort knowing that even with Samsung's One UI Watch skin on top, having access to the Play Store and my favorite apps is actually possible.
As for the design, I'm still not exactly sure what Samsung is thinking when it comes to the bands that it includes with the Watch 4, and now the Watch 5. I tried wearing the included silicone band for a day or two, but really wasn't a fan of how much space there was between the band and my wrist. Thankfully, since the Watch 4 and Watch 5 are both compatible with 20mm quick-release watchbands, this wasn't an "issue" for very long.
Something else that kind of stopped me from using the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic for an extended period of time was the durability. I'm not usually one for using screen protectors, and after seeing my wife's regular Watch 4 after a week of working in a restaurant, it really deterred me.
Granted, I sit in front of a computer all day long, but I do have a tendency of knocking my wrist into things like the door frame of the truck accidentally. To be honest, it's not like I went out of my way to test the durability and reliability, but the Watch 5's Sapphire Glass definitely seems to hold up quite well. Of course, we won't be able to render a final verdict on this change for a few months, but things are looking good so far.
There's one key area that I haven't mentioned yet, and that's battery life. As you'll read in a bit, it's not as wonderful or grand as Samsung claimed it would be. But there is something that got like three seconds of screen time that truly got me excited on more than one occasion. Many of the best smartwatches charge slower than a snail, and it's really annoying when you put your watch on its charger, jump in the shower, and come back to see that it's only added a couple of percentage points.
That's not the case with the Galaxy Watch 5, as Samsung has finally, and I mean finally, brought fast charging to its latest wearables. In one particular test, here's what the charging speeds looked like:
- 11 a.m. - 15% remaining and put on the charger.
- 11:17 a.m. - 50% remaining with the Watch stating "50 minutes until full."
- 11:28 a.m. - 68% remaining with the Watch stating "40 minutes until full."
- 12:07 p.m. - 100%
In under an hour, I was able to go from 15% battery life to a full battery. There were times when I couldn't wait for the battery to drain, just so I could continue to enjoy how fast it would actually get juiced back up. This is arguably the biggest upgrade of them all, even with the improvements to health and fitness tracking.
Speaking of which, one of the newest and most unique features of the Galaxy Watch 5, still isn't available yet, and that's the body temperature sensor. It should be arriving in a future update, and we'll be sure to update this review when it's made available.
Samsung also had a lot to say when it comes to sleep tracking, as there's a new "Sleep Coaching" feature that will provide "sleep programs" to help you get more, you guessed it, sleep. This isn't something that's available after wearing the watch for just a day, as the Samsung Health app states that it needs seven days of data before it will provide a sleep profile.
As you can see, I'm turning into an old man, with tendencies of waking up multiple times in the middle of the night. And according to Samsung, my sleep symbol is a "Sensitive Hedgehog." While adorable, it doesn't make much sense to me, as I'm usually in bed by around midnight and wake up between 7 and 8 am. But this is something else that I'm going to come back to in a future article, as I am really interested to see if the Galaxy Watch 5 (or Watch 5 Pro) and the Samsung Health app can actually help improve my sleeping habits.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: An aside about gate-keeping features
There's something that I need to get out before touching on the other issues that I had with the Galaxy Watch 5. It's incredibly frustrating that Samsung talks about all of the various health and fitness-tracking features during its presentations, only to limit their functionality. And by limit, I mean that it's impossible to monitor your ECG or blood pressure on the Galaxy Watch 5 if you're using any of the best Android phones not made by Samsung.
The same problems were around with last year's Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic, however, a modified Samsung Health APK provided a workaround. The point is, this isn't something that the average person is going to be able to find. So if they have a Pixel 6a, OnePlus 10T, or any other non-Samsung phone, you won't be able to take advantage of those features. It just doesn't make any sense, and there's really no viable explanation as to why this is the case.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: What's not so good
There's a lot to like about the Galaxy Watch 5, and it's easily the best Android smartwatch on the market right now. That should come as no surprise, and there's a good chance that it will retain that title until we see what Mobvoi's next TicWatch brings, along with the Pixel Watch slated to arrive later this year. And while the overall experience of the Galaxy Watch 5 is what you would expect, there are a few sticking points that left me a bit disappointed.
When Samsung went on stage and touted battery life that can last up to 50 hours, I was understandably excited. I didn't use the Galaxy Watch 4, but after spending the last year with the Apple Watch Series 7 as my daily driver, I was hoping to see a battery that could easily last for two days.
Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, and I never even came close to reaching that. The closest I got was about 24 hours when the Watch 5 ended up running out of battery while I was sleeping.
And there were even pains on that front, as I expected that a 15% charge would last through the night, even with sleep tracking enabled. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be. There's also some tinkering that you'll need to do in order to make the most out of the battery.
Do you want to take advantage of the Always-on Display? Think again. What about always listening Google Assistant? Fuhgeddaboudit. Just those two things enabled, and I couldn't even make it through a full day without needing to throw it on the charger. Maybe you could reach 50 hours of battery life if you turned everything off and tried to use it just as a watch, but at that point, you're better off picking up something like the Garmin Forerunner 55 instead.
Battery life and gate-keeping features are really my two biggest gripes with the Galaxy Watch 5, but one other "feature" that I don't understand is the touch-sensitive bezel. Frankly, it feels like it's pointless, and something that Samsung only includes because it needs something else to fill out the spec sheet.
It's incredibly unreliable, as I found myself just giving up on trying to scroll with the bezel in favor of just using the touchscreen. If it works for some, then that's fantastic and more power to you, but for me, it's just something I rarely even remember is "there."
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: The competition
It's rather difficult to find a direct competition that can offer what the Galaxy Watch 5 has to offer at the same price point. The most obvious competitor overall would be the Apple Watch Series 7, but that starts at $399, and the Watch SE is using outdated hardware and is still more expensive than the Watch 5. Plus, of course, it's limited to only being used with an iPhone, similar to how the Galaxy Watch 5 is limited to being used with Android phones.
From there, it's a lot of "wait and see." Qualcomm already announced its next wearable platform, with Mobvoi expected to use this chip along with Wear OS 3 for an upcoming TicWatch. The only other Wear OS 3 smartwatch on the market, aside from last year's Galaxy Watch 4, is the Montblanc Summit 3, which costs ten times as much as the Galaxy Watch 5.
Essentially, there's not much competition in the traditional smartwatch space, without looking into the Garmin's and Polar's of the world. The true competition for Samsung's latest wearable is expected to arrive later this year with the aforementioned TicWatch and the Google Pixel Watch.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if...
- You want the latest and greatest Wear OS 3 smartwatch.
- You want improved durability thanks to the Sapphire Glass.
- You own one of the latest Samsung phones.
- You want the improved and sleep tracking features.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You own a non-Samsung smartphone.
- You just upgraded to the Galaxy Watch 4.
- You are interested in the Pixel Watch or next TicWatch.
- You don't want to charge your smartwatch every day.
To put it plainly, if you already own a Galaxy Watch 4, don't worry about the feeling of FOMO for the Watch 5. Sure, the body temperature sensor is a neat touch, and I'm in love with the faster-charging speeds. But outside of the improved sleep tracking features, it's practically the same smartwatch with a new number slapped on the end of the label. The same sentiment rings true for owners of non-Samsung phones, as you can't even measure your ECG or heart rate.
That being said, if you're someone who is looking to upgrade to a smartwatch with a new battery, or really want the Sapphire Glass screen, then this is it for now. The Galaxy Watch 5 is the best Android smartwatch available today, and it's really not even close. Hopefully, things will look a bit different over the next couple of months, but even if Mobvoi and Google fall a bit short, Samsung will still be there.
An incremental upgrade
There aren't any "mind blowing" new features onboard with the Galaxy Watch 5. It's a great companion for your Samsung phone, but you'll miss out on some features if you use any other Android phone. Still, until the competition heats up, this is the smartwatch to get.
Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.
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