Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review
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Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

The first generation Galaxy Watch Active was a solid fitness tracker. It did everything well, but the $349 price tag meant that it was out of reach for most people. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 looks to have fixed all of the problems with the first version. It has a lower price point and a better battery life, while still being a fully functional fitness tracker. Is it worth the price? Let’s take a look.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 vs. Galaxy Watch 3

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 is being positioned as a versatile smartwatch for those with a variety of needs. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 may find itself among the best fitness trackers as time goes on.

In our Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 comparison, we answer several important questions about whether this year’s pricier lifestyle smartwatch or last year’s workout-focused one is right for you.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: Specs

  Galaxy Watch Active 2
Battery Life 24-60 hours, depending on workouts and display
Size 40mm, 44mm
Colors Cloud Silver, Aqua Black, and Pink Gold
OS Tizen OS (One UI)
Music Storage 4GB (with offline Spotify playback)
Water Resistance Up to 5 ATM (swimproof)
GPS Yes
LTE Optional
Heart Rate Monitor Yes
Mobile Payments Samsung Pay
Special Features ECG sensor, which will be activated sometime after launch

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: Design

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review

I found the Galaxy Watch Active 2 to be the best-looking smartwatch I’ve ever seen. It comes in two sizes, a 40-millimeter case, and a 44-millimeter case, just like the Apple Watch Series 5. Nevertheless, Samsung’s round display (as opposed to Apple’s square) evokes a traditional timepiece.

If the Galaxy Watch Active 2 had a leather band, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to wear it to a wedding or a fancy dinner. However, I always leave my Apple Watch at home for special occasions.

The 40-mm pink gold Bluetooth Galaxy Watch Active 2 with a light pink sport band was excellent in every way. Wearing the band to bed is comfortable and doesn’t irritate my skin or slide off my wrist while running.

With the Watch Active 2, users can now design their own watch faces. It is easy to customize your Galaxy Watch with the Galaxy Watch app by taking a picture of your outfit (or a part of it), and then selecting patterned watch faces in complementary colors. My favorite watch faces are those with complications, such as the Digital Neon face. Samsung, however, appears to be taking a page from Fossil-owned Kate Spade’s smartwatches, which offer similar fun customization features.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: Display

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review

Samsung’s Series 5 features an always-on display, but Apple’s is old news. Depending on your preference, you can keep the display off until you raise your wrist to extend the battery life of your Galaxy Watch Active 2.

There is a digital rotating bezel on the new watch’s display, which is by far the biggest change. In previous Samsung smartwatches, you could turn the bezels to navigate, but Samsung ditched that feature in the Galaxy Watch Active. This second-generation model offers a digital equivalent. You can navigate the widgets on the right of the watch face using your fingertip by sliding around the edges of the display. It’s faster than using swipes or scrolls, but it can also be a bit too sensitive and you may overshoot how far you wanted to go.

Overall, the rotating digital bezel is neither a plus nor a downside. It can be used or ignored as you wish.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: ECG app

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 includes an electrocardiogram sensor, directly competing with Apple’s ECG app.

Despite not working for more than a year on the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, the ECG monitor now works. Make sure you update your watch’s software so you can start taking ECG readings.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: Fitness features

fitness tracter

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 now offers run-coaching programs that improve endurance and speed. I chose speed. It offers both vocal and tactile cues, via the watch’s speaker or through a pair of Bluetooth headphones if they’re paired directly with the watch. For example, the watch vibrates when you need to speed up or slow down.

As for the guided program to increase speed, I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t just about running faster. The workout lasted 40 minutes and included a 5-minute warm-up and cool-down. When I increased my speed too quickly at first, the watch would tell me to slow down. To determine how useful these programs are over time, I plan to spend more time with them.

Although Samsung’s automatic workout-tracking isn’t as comprehensive as Apple’s, it’s still useful if you forgot to log a 15-minute walk outside or hop on the bike before the workout was launched. In an outdoor run, the watch will automatically start tracking after 10 minutes, but it will only display the time elapsed, mileage, calories burned, and total steps. Additionally, there is no option to pause or stop the workout; you must wait until it concludes.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: Sleep tracking

Unlike the original Galaxy Watch Active, the Active 2 tracks your sleep, so it won’t drain your battery completely. As with Fitbit’s sleep-tracking dashboard, I found the breakdown of light, REM, and deep sleep to be as interesting as it is in the watch’s display.

Sleep tracking on the watch wasn’t as accurate as I had hoped. The watch told me that I fell asleep after 3 a.m. even though I was in bed closer to midnight. I tend to fall asleep instantly and stay asleep, so I’m not sure why the watch pegged my bedtime so late. One evening, I put the watch in Goodnight mode to turn off the always-on display and then went to bed. My watch’s sleep widget accurately reported my sleep the next morning, but the data wouldn’t sync to Samsung Health.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2’s sleep tracking could be made more useful with a little fine-tuning. In terms of sleep tracking, it currently lags behind Fitbit Versa 2 and Fitbit Charge 3, but ahead of Apple Watch (which has no sleep tracking) and watches based on Google’s Wear OS, which can pull data from third-party apps but can’t track your sleep themselves.

Battery life

During my testing of the Bluetooth model, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 could run for two and a half days. If you keep the always-on display on, that drops to about 24 hours with workouts. That’s a little longer than the Apple Watch Series 5, which has an always-on display and lasts about 18 hours. The LTE version lasts about 24 to 36 hours on a charge, depending on the size you buy, but I wasn’t able to test one.)

My runs are tracked with high-precision location accuracy enabled, too, which dramatically impacts battery life. I went from 40% to 15% battery life in 40 minutes.

The good news is that you can control these factors if battery life is what’s most important to you. It is obvious that the always-on display and some of the workout features drain the battery, but they don’t have to be.

It would be nice if the watch charged more quickly. It took an hour and a half to fully recharge the watch from a 30-minute charge. If you wish to charge it overnight, that’s fine, but it’s not ideal if you need to charge it before a workout.

Apps

fitness watch

The Samsung Tizen OS app store does not offer as many options as the Apple Watch, but Samsung is working on making apps more useful. Using the Galaxy Watch Active 2, you can tweet, like, and retweet directly from your wrist. It also allows you to watch YouTube videos.

However, neither of these are ideal use cases for a smartwatch. I don’t consider watching YouTube on a small watch screen to be worthwhile, and I am not the type of person who tweets while wearing a smartwatch (or scrolls through Twitter while wearing one). Samsung opted for two apps that aren’t perfect for smartwatches – maps and messaging.

However, Tizen OS does have some big names that are useful, including Spotify, which offers offline music storage for Premium subscribers (this is exclusive to Samsung; Wear OS and Apple Watch do not have offline Spotify). Also included are Strava and Under Armour’s suite of health and fitness apps (MapMyRun, MyFitnessPal, Endomondo).

Pros Cons
Works with iOS and Android Limited apps
Offline Spotify storage Sleep-tracking needs some work
Gorgeous design ECG features not available at launch
Automatic workout-tracking
Good battery life

Verdict

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 blows away Wear OS watches and demonstrates the company’s determination to catch up with Apple. Galaxy Watch lineup offers longer battery life, functional health features, more big-name apps, and sleep tracking on par with Fitbit.

Despite Samsung’s efforts, the company still lags behind. When it comes to Android smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the one to buy.