The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is a powerful smartwatch and attractive smartphone accessory, but with GPS and heart rate monitor, it is also designed for use as a fitness tracker, among other things. But how does it compare to the best fitness trackers out there?
Although Samsung’s latest line of smartwatches runs on the new Google Wear OS, Samsung Health is the device’s native activity tracking platform. As with most of the best smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch 4 supports a constant list of preset workout types and tracks your elapsed time, calories burned and distance traveled, if necessary.
Over the course of a week, I used the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 to track a variety of workouts both indoors and outdoors. I wore it to a traditional gym, cycled on the beach in a quiet town, and took a dozen walks in not-so-quiet New York City. I even found the time to kick-start my namaste with some yoga, a new addition to my recovery routine.
Read on for my lessons learned from exercising with the Galaxy Watch 4. Note that my experience with the standard, sporty-looking Galaxy Watch 4 reflects in 40mm, although users should get similar results when looking at different sizes or the Galaxy Watch 4 Use Classic. And check out my guide to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs. Galaxy Watch 4 Classic to learn more about which version is right for you.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: cycling
In contrast to my Apple Watch 6, which offers both indoor and outdoor cycling, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 has a single cycling workout type. Even though I own one of the best indoor exercise bikes, I decided to take an outdoor ride on a particularly beautiful weekend morning.
(Photo credit: future)
I started my cycling manually at the beginning of the ride and activated the always-on display so that I could see the readings I wanted without twisting my wrist off the handlebars. But when I’m not looking, the Galaxy Watch 4 offers audible updates. Not only did it count the miles aloud, but it also provided a quick workout summary every 30 minutes. My drive was a little over an hour so I heard summaries twice.
According to the Galaxy Watch 4, I burned 514 calories and averaged 15 mph during my 10-mile drive. The odometer on my bike showed an almost identical distance. My Apple Watch said I had traveled a full tenths of a mile further, but I failed to pause my outdoor cycle on the Apple Watch when I stopped halfway through the drive to snap some pictures of the ocean . I walked around in circles a few times to find good lighting I think.
The Galaxy Watch 4’s auto-pause function also detected that I wasn’t driving during the photo op, which resulted in a more accurate replay of my bike ride. I’ll talk more about the auto-pause feature in a moment.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Weightlifting
I put the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 to the test in the gym again. There are two ways to follow traditional strength training, either through individual exercises or with a catch-all circuit training. When you’re doing 100 reps of the same movement in a row, the Galaxy Watch offers niche choices like arm curls, bench press, lateral raises, pull-ups, and more. It even shows on-screen instructions for sculpting and counting reps – a feature that makes Fitbit watches like the Fitbit Versa 3 such powerful workout companions.
While not many smartwatches offer this level of specificity, I stayed with the circuit training option. I alternated between upper body, lower body and trunk exercises with dumbbells and got a 30-minute update like when I was cycling. I think it overestimated my calorie consumption, but I took this opportunity to adjust the information I see on the screen during my workout. I selected elapsed time, calorie consumption, current heart rate, and maximum heart rate, although there are few other metrics to choose from.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Go
Of all of the exercises I have collected with the Galaxy Watch 4, most of them came from walking. After taking my dog to the park twice a day and choosing to walk somewhere in New York City within an hour, I’ve had plenty of chances to see how well the Galaxy Watch 4’s automatic exercise tracking works.
(Photo credit: future)
When I juggle my 90 pound dog, Steve, phone, keys, and sometimes a coffee, I often forget to start my run. A buzz on my wrist let me know when the Galaxy Watch 4 detected my path and started tracking me from the moment I left my apartment, which started me in 5 to 10 minutes depending on how long I moved.
The auto-pause function was also useful during my walk. The haptics let me know when my walk is paused and resumed to meet my dog’s need to say hello to every passerby and to stiffen every tree. His mannerisms made me cover an average of nearly 30 minutes on my Apple Watch, while on the Galaxy Watch 4 I recorded a 22-minute mile most of the times I walked Steve.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Yoga
I don’t always follow my yoga workouts, especially when I use the time to disconnect devices. But as I improve my yoga practice, I am learning that technology can help me understand my body better. Even though I felt my calorie count back up, I found that my heart rate was updating faster than on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.
If you have a workout that keeps your heart rate in a shorter range than, say, cardio, it is helpful to do frequent refresher courses to see the immediate effect certain poses have on my exertion. And if you want to monitor your heart rate zones in general, you can see them during each workout by scrolling to the bottom of the fitness tracking interface.
Is the Galaxy Watch 4 my new everyday fitness tracker?
The Galaxy Watch 4 is an impressive training partner. But after my week of training, I have mixed feelings about using it as my daily activity tracker. While I appreciate the sharp heart rate readings and would like to see the auto-pause / auto-play feature on more smartwatches, there’s a main reason I would go for one of the best Fitbits or best sports watches instead: battery life.
The battery life of the Galaxy Watch 4 is not keeping up with my activity level and my use of GPS on my daily walks (I average 11 miles per day). I could last 24 hours at most, but found the endurance inconsistent. The last thing I want is to prepare for a workout only to see that my smartwatch is in dire need of juice. And it happened one time too many times in my experience with the Galaxy Watch 4.