When I went to take the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 out of its box last week, I was already nervous. On paper, the Active2 had a lot in its favor. It is a beautiful watch with a good range of applications and a battery that lasts several days. It is reasonably priced and now comes with LTE connectivity. There was only one thing that could play against him: his health functions.
The original Active was lousy in this section. The heart rate sensors failed a lot and was unable to obtain consistent data on several of its functions. The step counter also failed a lot: when compared to a control pedometer, almost 20% of the steps were missing. With Active2, Samsung said it had solved these problems thanks to eight heart rate sensors and a better accelerometer. Although many people buy smart watches as if they were a kind of miniature smartphone, health and wellness functions are also one of its great attractions. Samsung has had some good ideas about it, but it has always been hampered by precision.
After trying it for a week, I think what Samsung says has solved its problems with health functions is almost true. The new heart rate sensors work consistently and reliably. With regard to accuracy, heart rate monitoring is on par with other smart watches and physical activity wristbands I've tried. The step counter and GPS tracking, however, leave much to be desired.
I wore both Active2 and Apple Watch Series 5 for a long day walking through New York. I used both watches the same amount of time, from when I woke up until my head hit the pillow again. The Apple Watch recorded 18,322 steps, 10.78 km and 636 active calories burned. Active2 showed 29,934 steps, 21 km and 1032 calories burned. That difference of more than 11,000 steps and almost 10 km is simply terrible, and given the trend of smart watches to greater precision, I was surprised. To check it one more time, I reviewed my path on Google Maps. As much as I wish I could boast of walking 21 km in one day, the truth is that I was much closer to having walked 8. In case it was a coincidence, I used both watches during the same period of time the next day. Series 5 recorded 12,996 steps, 8.8 km and 559 active calories. Active2 recorded 21,222 steps, 15.85 km and 779 calories. It was still wrong.
Hopefully there will be discrepancies between the different smartwatches, since all companies use their own software to interpret the sensor data. These very pronounced differences used to be more common, but today anything that goes beyond 1,000 steps or a kilometer could be a sign that arm movements are not being filtered accurately. As a reference, I usually use an Apple Watch and the Fitbit Versa simultaneously just to compare statistics. On a recent walk through Berlin, the Apple Watch Series 4 recorded 21,520 steps and 14.5 kilometers. He Fitbit Versa 2 recorded 22,687 steps and 14.96 kilometers. This is the kind of difference you can expect between two precise devices but that use different algorithms. The difference between the Series 5 and Active2 was a sign that something is not quite right.
I spoke with others who were testing Active2, and it seems that I am not the only one who experienced some incongruous results, although none was as notorious as mine. This could be because I gesture a lot, or simply because I made longer distances. As I mentioned before, small inaccuracies over short distances tend to become giants at a greater distance. I contacted Samsung and it doesn't seem like my device was broken.
I find this really disappointing because once again, I love everything else in Active2. Navigating through its touch bezel is a pleasure, and it seems a natural evolution of the rotating bezel of its older watches. The 1.4-inch AMOLED display is bright and easy to read. Tizen OS is more agile than Wear OS. I think the interface is more intuitive than the scattered design of WatchOS apps. The dial is round, for all those who hate square smart watches, and you can download many more third-party designs than with the Apple watch.
Every time I review a new Samsung watch, I discover that there are also more applications than before. With Active2, you can now watch YouTube videos from your wrist. I don't know why you would want to do it, but you can. You can also tweet. You have Samsung Pay to make NFC payments, and Bixby as a voice assistant. (Bixby isn't decent at all, but it's really not much worst that Siri for simple tasks like setting timers).
The MyStyle watch faces are also a good addition. At this time they are limited only to Android users. Within the Samsung Wearable application, you can turn on your phone's camera, take a picture of your outfit and it will generate some custom designs based on the colors you use. Personally I prefer a somewhat more complex sphere, but it is fun for certain occasions, such as a wedding or a date.
The battery life in Active2 is also quite decent. With moderate use, I got it to last up to three days on a single charge. It is not as good as that of a Fitbit, but it is much better than that of the Series 5. It lasts long enough to make a reliable study of your dream without having to worry about your watch going to die. Obviously, this will depend on the individual use that each one makes and if you opt for the LTE version.
All these things are certainly good. If Samsung had fixed their health software, they would have been great. Even the other health functions of the watch would have been fabulous if I could trust its accuracy. The automatic recognition of Samsung activity is quite reliable and will save you the trouble of manually registering if you go for a walk or run, but what you cannot trust is the statistics that are recorded. With Active2, Samsung introduced a new feature called Running Coach that was also desperately wishing it was great. Keeping a steady pace is one of the hardest things to run outdoors, and the idea of having a coach from my wrist to tell me when to slow down and when to accelerate to maintain a good pace is really great. In practice, I found it frustrating, since the Running Coach seemed to think I was running faster than I really did. He spent a lot of time buzzing, telling me to slow down. If I had started to run slower, I would have been walking.
You can try to solve more or less the inaccuracies of the clock by rounding the data of your workouts and eliminating a few thousand steps from your daily count. If you are training in the gym, I recommend you follow up through an app on your phone or if you are going outside, you can check the distances on Google Maps. But hey, these devices are supposed to make your life easier, not to give you more work.
To be fair, not everyone sees the health section as a priority when buying a smart watch. For those people, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 surely meets all the requirements. In fact, despite my complaints about its accuracy, I think for Android users, the Galaxy Watch Active2 and the Galaxy Watch Samsung's are two of its best options. It can even also work for iPhone users who do not want an Apple Watch for whatever reason. (The only drawback is that iPhone users do not get the MyStyle option). For € 299, you can get hold of the 40 mm Bluetooth version, An affordable price to be a smart watch.
Personally, I would have been able to do without using YouTube, Twitter, MyStyle options or Running Coach for a more accurate Active2. These are not the kind of things a watch needs to be really cool. Now, I only have to cross my fingers so that the next update can solve the problems of Active Watch 2.
- This beautiful smartwatch is almost perfect.
- The main problem is that Samsung has not yet solved the problems of its health software. Heart rate monitoring is somewhat better, but the steps and GPS distance are still terrible.
- Some of the novelties it brings are new customizable spheres (Android only), YouTube and Twitter, a Running trainer, LTE capability, eight heart rate sensors and a better accelerometer.
- The battery life has been approximately three days during the trial period.
- The basic 40 mm model costs € 299, and € 319 the 44 mm. The 4G and 40 mm stainless steel model goes to € 449 and the 44 mm to € 469.