Samsung giveth and Samsung taketh away. The latest additions to the Galaxy Watch line present a bit of both. The headline on each side of that equation is the addition of a “Pro” version to the ever-evolving smartwatch lineup and the decision to, once again, drop the Galaxy Watch’s best and most unique feature, the spinning bezel.
The Galaxy Watch 5 is the second wearable to sport the joint Wear OS/Tizen matchup that suddenly finds Google suddenly eking out significantly more market share. For Samsung, it means access to a lot more app than its Tizen-only days — though the company is about to experience some additional competition from a company not named Apple, as Google prepares the first Pixel Watch for a fall release.
Google bought itself a shortcut, with the recent Fitbit purchase, but Samsung’s experience in the space is both deep and wide. It’s been a consistent (if distant) second place in the market for a long time now. As such, the heart of the product updates revolve around a continued focus on health features — what’s long been the primary battle ground in the smartwatch category.
Here that means building on the BioActive Sensor the company introduced on the Watch 4, which jams Optical Heart Rate, Electrical Heart Signal and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis onto a single chip, for a more complex picture of the wearer’s heart health, coupled with the existing ECG monitor. The rear of the device has been tweaked slightly, to allow additional contact with the wrist for a more accurate reading.
Also new is a skin temperature sensor — a still relatively rare feature in smartwatches, beyond select Fitbit and Garmin devices (and the Oura Ring). The feature presents some interesting potential health uses, like early fever detection. Sleep sensing has been improved here, utilizing things like snore detection and blood oxygen levels for a fuller picture of a night’s rest.
The face (40 or 44mm) is Samsung’s first to be covered in more scratch resistant Sapphire Crystal. The biggest headline feature of all, however, may be the bigger battery (410 mAh or 284 mAh). This is a spot Samsung has bested Apple on by quite a bit, and this time out, it’s an additional 13% larger, with 30% faster charging. If you need an even bigger battery, there’s the new Watch 5 Pro, which delivers a 60% larger battery than the Watch 4, at 590 mAh. The outdoor-focused 45mm watch is Samsung’s first to support the GPX format for hiking.
As noted, the spinning bezel has been sacrificed here at the altar of making the devices a bit sleeker. I get it, but it’s sad to see Samsung abandon the line’s standout feature. The company rather unhelpfully notes that the Watch 4 is still for sale if you’re married to the bezel. The watches can, however, can be customized via Samsung’s Bespoke Studio program for a different paint job.
The watches go up for preorder today and hit the market August 26. The standard Watch 5 starts at $280 for Bluetooth and $330 for LTE. The Pro runs $450 and $500, respectively. There’s also a special “Golf Edition.” Per Samsung:
Galaxy Watch5 Golf Edition is the ultimate smart caddy that gives golfers direction and recommendations while they’re on the course. It comes with exclusive watch faces, a two-tone band, and an unlimited membership on the Smart Caddie app. The Watch5 series Golf Edition comes in three Bluetooth options – Watch5 Large 44mm, Watch5 Small 40mm, and Watch5 Pro, starting at $329.99.