I have been a fan of Google’s WearOS and Samsung’s TizenOS for a few years now. So when I upgraded to the older Galaxy Watch 4, I was excited. But I soon realised one thing, the smartwatch has limited battery life. Fast forward a few months, and Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch 5, which sports the same design as the Watch 4. But is the Galaxy Watch 5 a worthy upgrade to consider? And is this a good enough watch for those looking to get a WearOS device on their hands? Here’s my review of the Galaxy Watch 5 for the 44mm LTE version.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 specifications: 1.4-inch SAMOLED screen | One UI 4.5 based on Android Wear 3.5 | Exynos W920 chipset | 1.5GB RAM | 16GB internal storage | Bluetooth 5.2 | 410mAh battery
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: What’s different?
The Galaxy Watch 5 sports a Sapphire Crystal display. It is available in two variants – 40mm and 44mm. While the 40mm version sports the same internals as the 44mm model, the only difference is in the battery. The smaller variant gets a 276mAh battery, and a 410mAh battery backs the 44mm version.
It also comes with an upgraded BioActive Sensor. Another change is the addition of the skin temperature sensor, which cannot be used at the moment. Some features like ECG and blood pressure are still not available in India, which is disappointing. Samsung has not revealed why it is not bringing this to India for now, which is a shame. Rival Apple’s premium watches already have the feature activated in the country.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: What’s good?
The Galaxy Watch 5 has one of the best displays you will see on a smartwatch. The 1.4-inch SAMOLED screen is crisp and has good visibility even under direct sunlight. If you are someone who uses the watch mostly indoors, setting the brightness to less than half should be more than enough.
I used the Galaxy Watch 5 during heavy rains and found the watch responsive even if I wore gloves when driving or when the screen had big water droplets on it. Swiping and navigating on the wet screen was a breeze.
The Galaxy Watch 5 has two physical buttons on the right side, with the speaker placed on the left side. The upper one acts as a home button with a long press activating voice assistant (set to Samsung Bixby by default). The lower button acts as a back button, but long pressing it does nothing.
Those new to Samsung’s take on WearOS will find the user interface is easy to understand and has a minimal learning curve. Just like Android, it has Google Play Store pre-installed, with users able to download several apps like YouTube Music, Spotify, and Google Keep.
When you launch the Play Store on the Galaxy Watch 5, it shows a list of apps installed on your phone, which can also be downloaded on the watch. The software is refined for the most part and runs without hiccups. The watch can store plenty of watchfaces, even when not connected to the phone.
Another useful feature is the ability to install apps that are not available on the Play Store. While you will have to go through a few steps to enable sideloading on the watch. But I found it worth the effort.
I used Google Maps on the Watch and found the on-screen navigation directions accurate. For instance, the watch gave me vibration feedback a few metres before I had to make a turn, which was helpful. In addition to giving directions, the watch can also show a map view, though this is not useful when you are driving.
Calling is another area where the Galaxy Watch 5 excels. While the speaker might not sound loud in public places, if you are in your room or in a quiet place, the voice is clear and audible. Microphone quality is on with other flagship devices, with the watch cancelling most background noise when at home or in the office.
I also downloaded some music and transferred it to my watch. Opening the Music app on the watch gives you two options – you can either listen to the songs using the watch speaker or connect the watch to your wireless headphone or earphone. I connected my neckband and TWS to the watch, and it worked fine.
Talking about fitness tracking, the Galaxy Watch 5 delivers well on this front. On my daily cycling route, this had readings similar to the Watch 4. Even though I don’t have any medical-grade equipment to compare, the heart rate measurement has definitely improved over the Galaxy Watch 4. The auto workout detection feature is accurate most of the time and automatically starts workouts like cycling, running and walking a few minutes after you start. Another interesting thing is that the watch auto-paused the workout whenever I stopped cycling or took a break to drink some water.
The workout screen shows data such as heart rate zones, distance travelled, calories burned, average speed and more. The Galaxy Watch 5 is also accurate on step count. Those into fitness tracking might also appreciate the body composition feature. It shows data such as skeletal muscle, fat mass, body fat, body water weight, BMR and BMI.
Sleep tracking is also accurate for the most part, with the Galaxy Watch 5 accurately determining when I fell asleep and when I woke up. The Galaxy Watch 5 now charges at up to 10W speeds and takes 90 minutes to get to 100 per cent. The previous version supported 5W charging.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: What’s not good?
While the Watch 5 was good at tracking my night sleep, it struggles when it comes to daytime naps. My Honor Band 6 could detect if I fell asleep even for 15-20 minutes, but the Galaxy Watch 5 starts counting daytime naps only if they last for over an hour.
I found the blood-oxygen level testing inaccurate, and the results are nowhere near my medical grade SpO2 monitor.
Finally, even though Samsung has bumped up the battery on the Galaxy Watch 5 (44mm version) by 50mAh, the real-world battery backup is more or less the same, and I still had to charge this by the end of the day. But keep in mind, I used many features extensively, such as GPS to track my workout or just travel someplace, the Always-On Display, and the continuous heart-rate tracking. All of these also negatively impact battery life.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Should you buy it?
Yes, the Galaxy Watch 5 is an iterative upgrade over its predecessor, so if you have the Watch 4, this might not make much of a difference. Of course, if you want the latest WearOS watch, the Galaxy Watch 5 is a good choice, and the base variant starts at Rs 27,999, which is not high for a premium watch. If you think LTE connectivity is a must, you can consider it, though that will cost Rs 35,999.
The Galaxy Watch 5 remains one of the most solid, ‘Android’ alternatives to the Apple Watch, and offers a good combination of fitness and smart features. Budget devices often struggle to deliver well on the second aspect, and that’s the advantage of WearOS. But for those with a Galaxy Watch 4, the upgrade does not make sense, and it is not surprising. With smartwatches, the upgrades will be incremental for some time.