For a highly fragmented ecosystem like Android, it is quite tricky to build a smartwatch that works seamlessly with smartphones of all makes. Hence, it isn’t surprising to see manufacturers like Samsung and Google building smartwatches that work best with the smartphones that bear their logos. The ones that try to please all are… well… not effective! Samsung, however, has been going all in while playing the smartwatch game for years, defining the category and even inspiring Apple to join in. I am still fond of the Tizen-based Gear and Galaxy watches with their quirky designs and features. While those watches were great, Samsung soon decided to utilise Google’s messy Wear OS platform to challenge Apple’s superiority.
The Wear OS platform is a concept that looks good on paper but is poorly executed in the real world. It was Samsung’s commitment that improved Wear OS to the matured operating system it is today. After three years of refining it with its own One UI skin, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic are Samsung’s best shot at being the definitive smartwatch and taking a dig at the marvellous Apple Watch. With a couple of standout features and competitive pricing, Samsung seems to be closer than ever before to achieving this goal.
The competition, however, hasn’t been sitting idle. The Apple Watch Series 9 has just broken cover and there’s a new Google Pixel Watch 2 sitting on the horizon. So, let’s find out whether Samsung has done enough for these smartwatches to warrant a premium and fend for itself against the tricky competition.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic’s specifications
Display: 1.5-inch AMOLED (44mm, 47mm), 1.3-inch (40mm and 43mm)
Chipset: Exynos W930
OS: One UI 5 Watch based on Wear OS 4
Battery: 425mAh (47mm, 44mm), 300mAh (40mm, 43mm)
Sensors: Samsung BioActive Sensor (Optical Heart Rate + Electrical Heart Signal + Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis), Temperature Sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Light Sensor, 3D Hall sensor (Watch 6 Classic)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi 2.4+5GHz, NFC, GPS/Glonass/Beidou/Galileo, LTE (optional)
Durability: 5ATM + IP68 / MIL-STD-810H
Compatibility: Smartphones with Android 10 or higher
- Well built
- Loaded with features
- Good battery life
- Lethargic performance
- The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is too hefty
- A tedious pairing process for non-Samsung phones
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, Watch 6 Classic review
The Galaxy Watch 6 series consists of the standard Galaxy Watch 6 available in 40mm and 44mm sizes and the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic which is available in 43mm and 47mm sizes. We have based this review on the Galaxy Watch 6 44mm LTE and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic 47mm LTE.
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A classic design
In the world of smartwatches, there’s the Apple Watch and then there’s the rest.
The Apple Watch does everything the way it wants to because Apple can afford to redefine conventional ideas. Every other brand, on the other hand, wants to make its smartwatch as close to an analogue wristwatch as possible in a bid to hit the sweet spot where technology and fashion go hand-in-hand. And while some of the best-designed smartwatches come from the Fossil group, it’s actually Samsung’s Galaxy Watch series that has always been considered more suitable for the mature crowd.
The Galaxy Watch 6 looks largely identical to its predecessors and that’s not a bad thing, considering the vanilla model has the modern lines and curves to add just enough style without being opulent. Not to mention, the 30 per cent slimmer display bezels add to the watch’s cutting-edge look. The silicon strap has also been refined and is now more comfortable to wear all day long.
The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, on the other hand, has been designed for those who are stuck in the past. Quite contrary to the Galaxy Watch 6’s sleek and elegant proportions, the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is bulky with design references to retro digital watches. The combination of a chunky frame, a thick rotating bezel with gaudy minute markings and the faux leather strap (it’s made of silicon) may appeal to those who seek a more daunting persona on their smartwatch. Unfortunately, the extra heft also makes it uncomfortable to wear all day long.
While my unusually petite wrists may have preferred the smaller 43mm Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, in terms of overall wear comfort, I would be happy to recommend the regular Galaxy Watch 6 for its sleeker proportions and lesser weight.
Quite a loaded package
Let’s talk about the display first.
Both models use a 1.5-inch circular Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 480×480 pixels. That’s a recipe the human eye loves and when paired with the colourful watch faces, the Galaxy Watch 6 series has a tendency to keep you coming back for more. Text and images are rendered in absolute sharpness as well as great colour vibrancy. The peak brightness of 2,000 nits is also a boon when wearing the watches under bright sunlight. I also had no trouble with the touchscreen response.
An OS packed with features
However, a smartwatch is only as good as its software. Both variants of the Galaxy Watch 6 come with Samsung’s One UI 5 for Watch. This is a software skin based on Google’s Wear OS 4 and, in typical Samsung fashion, there are no visual clues to suggest it’s based on Google’s OS. In fact, One UI 5 for Watch sticks to the conventional smartwatch UI design we had seen on Samsung’s Tizen-based watches.
Swiping from the watch face leads you to app tiles, which are essentially widgets for the onboard apps. You can shuffle through them to keep an eye on your fitness activity and stats, sleep data, ANC modes for your Galaxy Buds and even the weather. Quick access to notification panes is also present and you can respond to messages via the watch’s onboard QWERTY keyboard or through voice input.
Similarly, all the installed apps are just a swipe away. Thanks to the Google Play Store, you can download more third-party apps for fitness, health tracking, custom watch faces and lots more. I was able to download WhatsApp’s trickled-down WearOS app and initiate a chat with any of my contacts. Similarly, I was able to pair my Galaxy Buds 2 Pro with the watch and stream my Spotify/Amazon Music playlists from it.
Samsung’s One UI allows for a simpler Settings menu that is much easier for an average user to grasp. And this year, you can use Samsung Wallet to make payments directly from your watch via the onboard NFC chip. Sadly, due to an issue with my debit card, I was unable to test this feature.
Here’s a quick word on the watch faces. Samsung’s pre-loaded selection of watch faces is dull and the customisation options are limited. If someone from Samsung is reading this, please take a page out of Apple’s design books and offer us more diverse watch faces with granular customisation features.
Performance is a mixed bag
One of the biggest drawbacks of Wear OS watches has always been their performance. Previous generations of the Galaxy Watch models with Wear OS have been lethargic at best. With the new Exynos W930 chip on the Galaxy Watch 6 series, things have improved but not in the way we expected. These watches feel fast as long as you restrict your usage to Samsung’s apps but Wear OS’ lack of optimisation results in occasional stutters and long loading times for other apps. The lethargic attitude to general performance remains on these watches. This is unacceptable for a device that is supposed to be a wrist extension of your smartphone on the move.
For a non-Apple Watch though, these Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Watch 6 Classic models are among the fastest ones we have witnessed so far. All of Samsung’s first-party apps as well as some of the pre-loaded Google apps work with a previously unseen agility (in the Wear OS universe that is). The rotating bezel on the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic provides an alternative way to scroll with more speed, precision and a satisfactory mechanical click. However, we do wish it could also be pressed to confirm selections.
I was able to take calls on the watch via my Wi-Fi connection and even though the loudspeaker quality is not the best, it’s good enough for short calls.
Health and fitness on focus
For fitness enthusiasts, Samsung’s collection of workout modes is diverse enough to appeal to everyone. As an individual whose only preferred workout is walking after a long day at the office, the Galaxy Watch 6 overwhelms with its tracking data. I was able to keep an eye on my pace, heart rate, distance covered and stress rate after completing my sessions. The onboard GPS also tracks my walk on a map and can be seen on the Samsung Health app. Simply put, there are enough useful metrics here for those who are into serious workout modes like running, weightlifting and swimming.
Then comes the suite of health monitoring features.
The Galaxy Watch 6 series can track continuous heart rate and use the data to analyse stress levels. The onboard sensors also do a good job of tracking sleep and the data comes out to be nearly accurate (something the Apple Watch needs to master). The temperature sensor also joins in to measure your skin’s temperature when you’re sleeping (no idea why that would be relevant to an average user though) and accurately predict menstrual cycles (couldn’t test this).
Samsung’s BioActive sensor is also able to calculate the Body Composition and while I don’t have access to medical-grade equipment to verify the data, it provides a nice overview of body fat levels and skeletal bone mass. The device can also measure blood oxygen saturation and give a rough estimate of your SpO2 levels. Keep in mind that several critics have pointed out incorrect SpO2 data (we couldn’t test this due to the lack of professional equipment).
The Galaxy Watch 6 series can also do an ECG and blood pressure monitoring but sadly, these features haven’t been activated in all regions. This makes the Apple Watch Series 8 and Series 9 the only watches widely available to do so.
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Battery life has improved
Smartwatches match smartphones when it comes to battery life. The Galaxy Watch 5 struggled to make it past a full day on a single charge but this year’s Galaxy Watch 6 sees improvements.
With a daily 1-hour workout included in the usage pattern along with generic dealings with notifications and map navigation (and Always On display enabled), the Galaxy Watch 6 has been able to survive an entire day, and the entire night for sleep tracking, on a full charge. However, charging the battery to 100% takes almost 1.5 hours via an 18W charger (the charging time comes down with a Samsung charger).
The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic fared even better with its 2-day battery life with the same usage pattern. Turning off the Always On display extends the battery life by almost 10 hours on both models.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, Watch 6 Classic review: The verdict
Are the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic two of the finest smartwatches money can buy in 2023? When dealing with a highly fragmented ecosystem like Android, Samsung has done an exceptional job in ensuring that these watches work well with non-Samsung branded Android smartphones. Samsung users obviously have the benefit of ecosystem integration, enjoying a fuss-free setup process and a few extra features. The onboard sensors and the clever software do a great job at fitness and health monitoring. I have no doubts that workout enthusiasts are going to love the Galaxy Watch 6 for its wider selection of fitness tracking modes.
As far as the ‘smart’ bits are concerned, the Galaxy Watch 6 series has oodles of functionality packed in. We were left impressed with the bright display, a well-designed One UI interface and good battery life on these watches. Performance is still a sore point though and that’s where Samsung and Google need to put in more effort in optimising the OS better. Unlocking the ECG as well as blood pressure monitoring in all the regions should be a priority as well. That’s not too much to ask for considering the premium these Galaxy Watch 6 models command.
As long as the issues above aren’t bothersome, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 is an easy recommendation for someone who has an Android smartphone and wants to invest in a fitness-focused smartwatch, especially considering its starting price of HKD 2,598 in Hong Kong. The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic is an expensive affair though. You are getting a much better battery life and a fun-to-use rotating bezel but that price tag – HKD 3,398 – is also steeper.
As for whether these are the finest watches of their kind, the recently announced Apple Watch Series 9 has changed our minds. With all of Apple’s superiority in hardware and software design, Samsung’s newest watches need more fine-tuning and (some extra zing!) to give the Apple Watch Series 9 a run for its money.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– What is the price of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6?
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 starts at a price of HKD 2,598 in Hong Kong for the 40mm Bluetooth version.
– What are the specifications for the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6?
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 comes in two sizes – 40mm and 44mm – and features a Super AMOLED display, an Exynos W930 chip, Samsung’s BioActive sensor, a 300mAh battery and Samsung’s One UI 5 for Watch based on Wear OS 4.
(Hero and Featured Image Credits: Courtesy Amritanshu Mukherjee / Augustman)