In this weekly column, Android Central Fitness Editor Michael Hicks talks about the world of wearables, apps, and fitness tech related to running and health, in his quest to get faster and more fit.
Samsung's 2024 lineup of devices is shaping up to revamp its Health app and fitness tools, catering to sporty users in a way we haven't seen from Samsung since its last Galaxy Active watch. The question is, will Samsung's major AI push — and devices like the Galaxy Ring — do enough to make Samsung competitive for fitness again, or does it need to go even further?
I criticized Samsung's fitness efforts last year, mainly due to some wonky health and GPS data when reviewing the Galaxy Watch 6. While Apple and Google pushed hard in 2023 to improve Apple Fitness Plus and Fitbit Premium on their watches, Samsung's efforts felt more perfunctory and outdated.
Now, my attitude towards Samsung has (tentatively) flipped. My coworkers think the Galaxy AI will be a "glorious mess," and they're probably right. But I've seen how brands like Garmin, Amazfit, and Fitbit have used algorithms behind the scenes to guide athletes' training, and I've been waiting eagerly for one of the bigger brands with more machine-learning know-how to step into the fray.
If Samsung plays its cards right, it could make athletes a lot more excited about its wearables.
Samsung's 2024 fitness hardware plans
We know that the Galaxy Ring will arrive sometime in 2024; I already spent last week's column gushing about the Ring's potential, so I won't retread old ground here except to say that Samsung has the chance to make smart rings explode as a stylish, casual alternative to smartwatches for sleep and fitness tracking.
You might not know that Samsung looks set to launch another fitness tracker in the first half of 2024: the Galaxy Fit 3. Arriving nearly four years after the Fit 2, the Fit 3 may have a wider AMOLED display and better battery life than the Fit 2. More importantly, it shows that Samsung is paying attention to fitness-focused users again, and the Fit 3 should offer a more polished software experience than your usual budget fitness tracker.
Then, obviously, we'll get the Galaxy Watch 7 this summer — and it's sure to receive the "My Vitality Score" metric revealed at Galaxy Unpacked. Similar to Fitbit's Daily Readiness or Garmin's Body Battery, it'll use health and sleep data to judge your ability to work out (or generally function) that day, with "Booster Card" warnings if you're overly stressed or why the AI algorithm believes that you slept badly.
We also assume that Samsung will alternate back to the Galaxy Watch 7 Pro after the Watch 6 Classic last year. Like the Watch 5 Pro, it should have several days of battery life, counterbalancing one of the main complaints that athletes have with regular smartwatches: they're liable to die on you in the middle of a workout.
Finally, we're due to receive Samsung's unnamed mixed-reality headset sometime in 2024. Possibly called "Samsung Glasses," the headset is meant to challenge the Apple Vision Pro for serious VR fans.
Why bring it up here? Because fitness apps are the killer function that helped the Oculus Quest 2 and Quest 3 sell tens of millions of units. People love losing themselves in VR worlds to burn calories, so if Samsung can appeal to those same at-home exercise fans, it would really help the headset's chances of success. We've even seen patent evidence of Samsung using a smart ring as a VR controller, and the Galaxy Ring could also track your burned calories or hand movements during a workout or active game.
The Galaxy AI could be a training game-changer
Aside from my hype surrounding the Galaxy Ring, I know that Samsung probably won't have too much groundbreaking fitness tech in a budget tracker like the Galaxy Fit 3. And I suspect it'll try to market the Samsung XR headset as a "serious" device, so I don't know if fun fitness apps will enter the equation.
Samsung will save its best fitness tricks for the Galaxy Watch 7 and 7 Pro. So far, we know they'll probably run Wear OS 5 and use a 3nm Exynos W940 chip, but there are no specific rumors about fitness this far out. We may know that Samsung is working on non-invasive glucose monitoring, but that may not arrive for years.
So, what do I want from Samsung Health and its wearables this year? I'll start with the big one: a Galaxy Coach "AI" to guide workouts.
The Galaxy Watch 6 added tools like personalized heart rate zones and VO2 Max data that other watches already offered, but the Galaxy Watch 7 could go much further. Fitbit uses its equivalent of the "My Vitality score" metric, along with your VO2 Max, to recommend how many Active Zone Minutes to work out that day. Why couldn't Samsung do the same?
Right now, the "Running Coach" on the Galaxy Watch 6 isn't worth the name. It's just a guided workout tool with a few paced runs to follow, most of them on the slow side. It also has couch-to-5K or 10K running programs that recommend three runs a week for two months that increase in difficulty over time — but they can't adjust the pace based on your personal progress or abilities as Garmin Coach can.
What if, instead, the Galaxy AI could analyze your past runs and generate a specific, customized pace and length to match your current abilities and Vitality Score? That would be the kind of tool to make Galaxy AI intriguing — and offer something that the rival Apple Watch can't (yet).
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro supported offline GPX route downloads, an exclusive feature that didn't come to the Watch 6 series. Aside from this tool coming back for the Watch 7 Pro, my hope is that Samsung will have more "pro" fitness tools for this model in the summer.
I'm also hoping Samsung can improve its algorithms for registering your health data. For context, the Fitbit Charge 6 has a Google-backed algorithm for getting better readings during "vigorous" workouts where the sensors may not be flush with your wrist, and the results were pretty reliable in my testing. The Galaxy Watch 6 struggled with its data collection, but that's something the Galaxy AI can rectify behind the scenes — if Samsung puts in the effort.
Of course, I'm focusing on running tools because I'm a runner. My coworkers have told me how they use Galaxy Watches to log specific gym reps, and Samsung also has fitness programs for indoor workouts. They're just not as in-depth or accurate as they could be, often targeting beginners.
Just as I asked Garmin to improve its indoor workouts by recommending a list of exercises based on your muscle map and past activity level, my hope is that Samsung could use the Galaxy AI to offer something similar. It will have to be careful with it since the AI could recommend someone lift more than they're capable of and hurt themselves, but in theory, it could be a useful motivational tool.
Samsung currently has a "Mirror View" tool where that uses your smartphone camera to show your current form on your Samsung TV during a workout to help you check if you're doing it properly. The next logical step would be to use the Galaxy AI to analyze your form in real-time and score you so you know if you need to get better at squats or Downward Dog.
Samsung is putting much more effort into turning its TVs into cloud gaming hubs these days. But if it can leverage its TVs and partnerships with fitness apps in coordination with its Galaxy AI to recommend workouts, that might make Samsung Health much more tempting than before.
My guess is that Samsung's Galaxy AI efforts will be focused on the Galaxy S24 series for the foreseeable future. Even though the Galaxy Watch 7 and 7 Pro should be the best Android smartwatches on the market, we don't have any proof yet that a small wearable chipset is capable of on-device AI tricks.
Still, I suspect that Samsung Health's "My Vitality Plus" is just the start of its fitness-focused AI tricks. And for good reason!
Samsung has watched Apple Fitness+ gain 750 million subscribers as of 2022 (per CNET) and get on track to earn billions by 2025 (per Apple Insider). The sync between Apple TV boxes, Apple Watch health data, and Apple Music playlists for your workouts makes Fitness+ compelling.
That's what Samsung needs to do: create a fitness ecosystem that works in tandem to help you get more fit. It won't matter if you're using a Galaxy Ring or Fit or Watch, or even a Samsung TV, so long as the Galaxy AI algorithm is behind all of them at once, helping you figure out how to become more active every day.
We know that Samsung is considering whether to charge people for its Galaxy AI services. If Samsung does go down that route, it needs to start making the Galaxy AI worth paying for. Most of the early Galaxy AI tricks, like organizing your S Pen notes or live-translating a phone call, are cool but niche. But workouts? Everybody works out, and most people are willing to pay to get healthier.
You have a real fitness opportunity here, Samsung. Don't let us down!
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Michael is Android Central's resident expert on fitness tech and wearables, with an enthusiast's love of VR tech on the side. After years freelancing for Techradar, Wareable, Windows Central, Digital Trends, and other sites on a variety of tech topics, AC has given him the chance to really dive into the topics he's passionate about. He's also a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves D&D, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.
For wearables, Michael has tested dozens of smartwatches from Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple, COROS, Polar, Amazfit, and other brands, and will always focus on recommending the best product over the best brand. He's also completed marathons like NYC, SF, Marine Corps, Big Sur, and California International — though he's still trying to break that 4-hour barrier.