Thursday, February 6, 2020


1. It's Stylish and Comfortable

The Galaxy Watch Active2 is the best-looking smartwatch I’ve ever worn. Compared to the Apple Watch’s rectangular display, this one’s round look evokes a traditional timepiece. The Apple Watch’s overall design is a tad too modern for my tastes, although I do wish the Galaxy Watch Active2 had a wider band selection to pick from. Fortunately, it supports most standard 20-millimeter straps.

The metal finish looks premium compared to other smartwatches and you can dress up or down with it. I tested the aluminum variant, which comes in black, silver, or pink gold, but there’s also a more durable stainless-steel model to choose from. The watch comes in two sizes (40 or 44 millimeters). I wore the larger size, which sports a spacious 1.4-inch display. I have the daintiest wrists known to man, but I didn’t find it to be too large or awkward looking. The Active2 display is bright and easy to read — even outdoors.

It's also packed with a wide range of well-designed watch faces. Fashion-challenged? Don't sweat it — you can snap a photo of your shirt with your phone and match your watch face to its colors. The watch’s synthetic rubber strap is fashionable, too, and is available in cloud silver, aqua black, and pink gold. I found the band to offer a comfortable fit both for casual use and for when you wear it on runs and at the gym.

2. Its Operating System Blows Google’s WearOS Out of the Water

Previous smartwatches I’ve tested have seemed sluggish when loading apps, but not the Galaxy Watch Active2. Its widgets give you useful information like weather, your calendar, contacts, music controls, and more. I appreciated how easy it was to swap back and forth between apps on your watch and phone.

This wearable achieves that hard-to-achieve balance between being a smartwatch that alerts you of every update on your calendar, while also being able to help you reach fitness and wellness goals.

I was surprised to see that the device lets you take calls, both on Android and iOS. My friends and family didn’t even know I was calling from a watch. If you don’t want to rely on your smartphone’s data connection, Samsung sells a version of the watch with LTE connectivity.

3. It Supports a Wide Variety of Apps

Although its app catalog isn't as vast as the Apple Watch's, Samsung's Tizen OS app store includes several prominent apps that you'll definitely make use of. Spotify supports offline music storage — a feature the Apple Watch currently lacks. There's a slew of fitness apps including Strava, MyFitnessPal, MapMyRun, and plenty of other apps to put your watch to work. But YouTube Music, Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, and Apple Music are currently unsupported. The watch does offer 4GB of storage for storing MP3 files, however.

Some apps like YouTube and Twitter were unnecessary to me, but the little things — like being able to control a PowerPoint presentation from your watch — seem really cool and are incredibly useful.

4. Its Touch Bezel Sets It Apart from the Competition

The Galaxy Watch Active2's bezel lets you run your finger over the edge of your smartwatch's touch screen to quickly navigate menus, swipe, and scroll without getting fingerprints all over the middle of the display. The Apple Watch uses a tiny crown for scrolling, in combination with its touch screen. The touch bezel on this model is so fast that it’s easy to occasionally overshoot how far you were actually trying to scroll or swipe.

Speaking of the screen, it’s made from Gorilla Glass DX Plus instead of Gorilla Glass 3, which was featured on the watch's predecessor. This means the newer watch should better withstand bumps, scuffs, and scratches. The watch is rated IP68 or 5ATM for water resistance, meaning it withstands pressure at depths up to 50 meters, so you’re able to swim and shower with it, too!

5. It Has Killer Battery Life

I was able to get 2 days’ worth of battery life before needing to recharge my smartwatch. CNET does report that battery life on the smaller 40-millimeter version does take a beating during workouts — however, I had no issues with battery life while testing the larger variant. I enabled GPS, the automatic workout-tracking setting, sleep tracking, and frequent heart-rate monitoring, and the battery held steady for 2 days, no problem.

If you enable the always-on display mode, I'd say you can expect closer to a day and a half of use. Disable some of the above settings and you may be able to get closer to 3 days of use.

6. It Has Excellent Health- and Fitness-Tracking Capabilities

Given the name “Active2,” you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this smartwatch lets you track about 40 different workouts. It’ll autodetect which activity you’re doing for seven different exercises. For instance, if you hop on a bike, swim laps, or start running, it’ll automatically start tracking them. It's so much better and more convenient than having to delay your workout as you frustratingly scroll on a tiny screen to find your workout before you begin. The Fitbit app has a slight edge to Samsung's Health app, since it makes it easier to interpret your data over time, but the Active2 packs a more robust selection of health- and smart features compared to the Versa 2.

For example, the watch is equipped with a free running coach that gives you audio and visual cues throughout your runs. I was relieved to learn you can still use the watch’s Bluetooth connection to listen to music while your coach guides you along runs. The coach tries to motivate you by asking how you’re feeling, which was kind of strange but I appreciated it informing me of my average pace and heart rate after each mile. The smartwatch uses twice as many LEDs in its heart-rate sensor compared to its predecessor, making it much faster at reading your pulse.

7. There’s Still a Lot to Look Forward To

While we’re on the subject of heart-rate monitoring, Samsung says the watch has a built-in electrocardiogram (EKG) and AFib detection, the same feature that the more expensive Apple Watch offers, which have been reported to save hundreds of people’s lives.

Unfortunately, the features aren’t available just yet because Samsung is waiting for FDA approval. SamMobile reports that the feature — along with fall detection — will roll out in February 2020. For now, you can take readings of your blood pressure levels and track your sleep — two features you cannot yet do on an Apple Watch.

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