Galaxy Watch 4 after six months long-tern review
I bought a Galaxy Watch Classic model in October 2021 with my own money. After being a four-year good time with my previous smartwatch, Gear S3 Frontier, I decided to use a watch trade-in program from Samsung to replace my old one. This review is based on my own experiences with the Watch 4 Classic. It may or maybe not to face the same issues as me. It depends on the device you pair, the environment around you, and the network infrastructures. However, I think I can share my story with those currently considering getting one.
- Galaxy Watch 4 Classic 46mm LTE model
- 4G LTE plan enabled
- Pair with a Galaxy Android phone running Android 12
If you consider getting one, choose the non-LTE model. Otherwise, wait for the new model or the Pixel Watch.
It is finally getting Google apps on Samsung watches. The most useful to me is Google Keep and Google Maps. I remembered my first Android wear device back in 2014. It is an early era of smartwatches, and everyone wants to put apps on the wrist. Many first-party apps from Google have a wear version. I can view my notes directly or navigate to some places on my watch without opening my phone or computer with these apps.
After Samsung released Gear S series, it moved from Android Wear to its own Tizen operating system. As a result, there are few apps on the Galaxy Store and no Google apps. I only use out-of-box apps when using a Tizen-based smartwatch most of the time. However, there is no good option for navigation or a note viewing app on Tizen.
Samsung is finally cooperating with Google to bring a Wear OS-powered watch in 2021. So I can install all my favorite Google apps again.
Health tracking features
Samsung has opened the body composition analysis in Taiwan recently. As a workout beginner, it is helpful to track the body composition for a period of time to make sure whether there is an improvement.
The Galaxy Watch can also read ECG and blood pressure. In addition, the sports tracking feature automatically starts when I exercise, which is convenient.
Physical rotating bezel
I am a huge fan of physical bezels on Samsung smartwatches. That’s the reason why I get the classic model. Navigating a long list using a physical mechanism is more pleasant than touching the screen to me. I can focus on the content when I scroll without worrying about my finger blocking it.
The tactile feeling gives me stress relief, and I can rotate it all day.
Good build quality
The Galaxy Watch 4 feels robust on the hands.
Overheating and unusable LTE functions
I always listen to podcasts when I go jogging. As I mentioned, I have an LTE plan enabled on my Galaxy Watch 4, which lets me have Spotify streaming. However, It often overheated and turned on airplane mode. It took about 4–5 minutes to turn back to normal.
When this happens, podcasts stop. After it recovers from overheating, I tried to play Spotify, and suddenly…… it overheated again.
After returning home, I usually have no sounds playing on my Bluetooth earphones from my entire exercise.
My solution for this issue is to download podcasts from Spotify before going outside, which means I’ve lost the ability to stream music on my watch. However, It is the primary purpose I got the LTE version.
Summer days in southern Taiwan always have above 30°C (86°F) temperature outside. Maybe Samsung’s QA team forgets to test in a tropics environment.
An okay battery life
The 46mm Galaxy Watch has a 361mAh battery. It usually remains 40–50 percent after my day of work. However, I’ve found the battery level drops quicker in the standby time after removing it from my wrist compared to Gear S3.
Lost pair with my phone with no reason
I’ve lost my pair with my phone twice for no reason. I have to do the setup again and reconnect with my Galaxy phones. In the Bluetooth menu, The name of my watch has gone, and it has changed to the default name. I have no idea why it lost the pair and can not determine what caused it.
I have a cellular plan enabled on my watch. U̵n̵f̵o̵r̵t̵u̵n̵a̵t̵e̵l̵y̵,̵ ̵w̵h̵e̵n̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵s̵e̵c̵o̵n̵d̵ ̵t̵i̵m̵e̵ ̵I̵ ̵l̵o̵s̵t̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵p̵a̵i̵r̵ ̵w̵i̵t̵h̵ ̵m̵y̵ ̵p̵h̵o̵n̵e̵,̵ ̵I̵ ̵h̵a̵d̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵a̵s̵k̵ ̵t̵h̵e̵ ̵s̵e̵r̵v̵i̵c̵e̵ ̵p̵r̵o̵v̵i̵d̵e̵r̵ ̵t̵o̵ ̵r̵e̵-̵e̵n̵a̵b̵l̵e̵ ̵i̵t̵ ̵a̵g̵a̵i̵n̵.̵ (2022/05/29 Update: No need, restoring a backup might help.)
Is it a watch software update or Samsung’s Galaxy wearable app update to break the pair? I have no idea. But it never happened when I was using my previous Gear S3 watch.
UI is jittering out-of-box
One UI for the watch is not running smoothly compared to the five-year-old Gear S3. I notice jittering during the setup process. After a few days of normal usage, jittering is still there when switching Tiles on my watch.
Software updates didn’t fix this issue.
Questionable “privacy” screen, a downgrade always-on display
I remember the early Android Wear 1.5 to 1.6 era. Apps will show a monochrome UI interface on the always-on display. For example, the Google Map navigation feature on my old Android Wear watch will show a black and white map when the watch enters the always-on display.
On the other hand, Galaxy Watch 4 will display a blurred background and shows time with a huge text on the screen. So what’s the point of this? This blurry UI makes the always-on display lose its function.
Maybe it is aimed to protect privacy? However, I would think this blurry screen feature should let the developer choose whether to enable it.
Where can I find all my wear apps?
After a randomly lost pair, I re-run the setup process. I need to bring all my apps and watch faces back. It is so hard to find the apps I have installed on my Wear OS device before.
Google Play store has a section to show all the apps you have installed. Unfortunately, it is not easy to filter out by the type of device.
The setup process comes with bloatware recommended by Google
During the setup process, it is hard to believe Google will recommend apps you probably never use (okay, maybe KakaoTalk and Shazam are exceptions). However, If you finished the setup progress and see apps just like malware, It is because we have checked the option to install apps Google suggested.
Conclusion: a slight bit disappointment
As a previous Tizen-based Samsung Galaxy Watch user, the Galaxy Watch 4 does not reach the user experience level as its predecessor. Android smartwatches fans, including me, got very excited when Google and Samsung announced they’d collaborate with a unified platform on the 2021 Google I/O. However, the Galaxy Watch 4 seemed to have more issues than all my previous smartwatches after I started using it. Although software updates might fix some problems, they never got fixed after six months.
If there is a chance to let me rethink, I would probably keep Gear S3 for another year rather than doing a trade-in program for the Watch 4.