How Samsung is addressing its biggest smartwatch concern
Smartwatches oftentimes feel like the frequently overlooked cousin of the smartphone. There are far fewer of them on the market and the major companies that do produce them only make a handful of lines when compared to the plethora of new phone series that are introduced and iterated on every few months.
Innovation has certainly taken place in smartwatches since their introduction to the scene, but due to the lack of industrywide support, progress has felt relatively slow. One complaint with the technology that’s been echoed for quite some time is that battery life for smartwatches across the board just isn’t where it needs to be yet.
M any users aren’t satisfied with that 24-hour battery life for a piece of technology so crucial to the lives of those who wear them.
In general, most devices will hold a charge for around 24-hours or so depending on how frequently they’re being used and how demanding the applications are. Unfortunately, many users aren’t satisfied with that 24-hour battery life for a piece of technology so crucial to the lives of those who wear them.
Calls for better battery life in smartwatches have been made since their debut, but there hasn’t been much tangible change made by manufacturers on that front. That is, until now. Samsung seems to be working on a new Galaxy Watch, not a new iteration of its current offerings, but a new device to add to its lineup. One of the first noticeable differences in the rumored “Galaxy Watch Pro” as it’s being called is a massively increased battery size when compared to Samsung’s other models.
Samsung’s newfound battery efforts
The new watch is rumored to have a 572mAh battery according to an exclusive report by SamMobile. For reference, the 40mm Galaxy Watch 4 has a 247mAh battery and the 44mm variant is equipped with a 361mAh battery. The Watch Pro’s battery cell is significantly larger than both iterations, which suggests that Samsung is looking to shake up the way smartwatches have been treating battery life with its future releases.
This isn’t the only change that the company is rumored to be making when it comes to smartwatch batteries, however. A piece spotted in Korean production reports seems to indicate that the Galaxy Watch 5 will be made with a battery bigger than that featured in the Watch 4. The Watch 5 piece is a 276mAh-capacity unit. which doesn’t outshine the Watch 4’s 247mAh cell by much, but it could indicate that better battery life is coming for all of Samsung’s new smartwatch offerings, not just with the rumored Watch Pro.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better
It’s important to note that if a device hosts a big battery, that doesn’t necessarily mean that its battery life will be improved due to its size alone. For example, the difference between the Watch 5’s 276mAh battery and the Watch 4’s 247mAh cell likely isn’t significant enough for users to experience a notable difference in battery life if the cell’s capacity is all that Samsung plans on changing. When it comes to batteries, it’s not always about the size but how they’re used.
Despite the relatively small battery capacity difference between the Watch 4 and 5, Samsung could rework other internal processes to reduce strain and better optimize its devices, resulting in improved battery life. There’s no confirmation if that’s what’s going on behind the scenes at the company, but the change in battery seems to suggest that some sort of rework is happening.
Although fans are hopeful that battery life improves with the new part, there are many other reasons why Samsung could have switched things around. But the difference between the rumored Galaxy Watch Pro and the Watch 4 and 5’s batteries is significant enough to convince many that the Watch Pro will have a greatly improved battery life.
The battery is not great
The battery life on the watch is, to put it politely, suboptimal. As I noted, I’ve been wearing the Pixel watch for two weeks, and I never got 24 hours out of the watch. Chris Burns, our reviewer noted that he never got 24 hours out of it either. We both agree on a number of points, but I find the lack of 24-hour durability to be a major sticking point.
The battery concerns don’t stop at longevity. The Pixel Watch also doesn’t work with any other charger aside from the charger that comes in the box. Qi charging pads and even reverse wireless charging from the pixel watch will not allow you to top up the watch when you need it. When you place the Pixel Watch on a charger, it gets the same animation that it shows when it charges, but then the watch just doesn’t accept the charge for no immediately apparent reason.
It’s this kind of oversight that is maddening for a watch we have waited almost half a decade for. This is supposed to be the premier Wear OS experience, direct from the source. But let’s circle back to that battery life.
What Google says it can do
According to Google, the Pixel Watch should last for 24 hours, and that 24 hours can include the following:
Always-on display turned off, 240 notifications, 280 time checks, 50 minutes of tethered navigation with Google Maps, 45 min LTE / GPS workout with downloaded YouTube Music tracks, and a 5 min LTE phone call.
For now, let’s call this battery test case acceptable. It’s not, and we’ll talk about why it’s not a little later, but for now, that’s how we’re going to label it.
I tested the Pixel Watch connected to a Pixel 7 that I always had on me. The Pixel 7 was connected to ATT’s cellular network and the watch, while it is LTE capable, is not signed up with an LTE plan. The always-on display was turned off, and brightness was set to 67%.
On my other wrist, I wore a first-generation Apple Watch SE that I have owned for the past year. Its battery health is at 97% capacity, so it’s not too worn in, but it is an older device. Apple is very hush-hush about battery size, preferring to discuss longevity, but it’s fair to guess that the battery is similar to that of the Pixel Watch. That Apple Watch was connected to my iPhone 14 Pro.
Testing the watches
It would be hard to test both watches side-by-side under the exact same circumstances because you’re working with two fundamentally different operating systems. As it happened, I wanted to stack the deck in Google’s favor, so during my time with the watch, I mostly used the Apple Watch for things like turn-by-turn directions, checking the time, and using apps. The Pixel Watch was just along for the ride.
As a matter of fact, the Pixel 7, by design only had one of my mail accounts installed and just a few apps so it intentionally got fewer notifications than the Apple Watch. I never used either watch to stream media, but I occasionally used the Apple Watch to receive a call. Both watches tracked my sleep, and both watches tracked the few workouts I actually did.
All this is to say, I never came close to meeting the same conditions under which Google claims the watch can last for 24 hours. Put simply, under these conditions, the Pixel Watch should have trounced the Apple Watch handily. This is especially true considering the Apple Watch is only advertised as having an all-day battery life which Apple interprets as 18 hours. This should have been a simple test. It was not.
For the two weeks, I wore both watches, I kept a spreadsheet of battery life when I happened to notice it. Every time I checked, the Pixel Watch came up short. There was never a day when the Pixel Watch lasted longer than the first-generation Apple Watch SE. Most of the time when I checked the charge level of both watches, the Apple Watch was at least 20% higher. You can see the results in the chart below.
The chart (both parts one and two) should be relatively self-explanatory and includes timestamps, the amount of time that passed between time stamps, and the charge of each respective watch. The final three columns show how quickly each watch was discharging per hour of wear. The last column is the difference between charges on each watch.
In every case, the Pixel watch discharged more quickly power hour, ranging from 3.1% all the way up to 5.67% per hour with an average of 4.48% per hour. The Apple Watch in the meantime discharged anywhere from 1.9% to 4.5% per hour with an average of 3.17% per hour.
In all fairness, I need to point out that when the Apple Watch SE came out, Apple already had six generations of watches under its belt, so it had been working on the longevity problem for a while by the time this watch existed. But all the same, this is not a good result for the Pixel Watch. So why is this important?
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review: design
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is somewhat of a new design for Samsung. It doesn’t get the rotating bezel like the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic did last year (controversial, I know) but it does keep on with presenting a more premium alternative to the flagship Galaxy Watch.
Looking at the two watches side-by-side, the biggest visual differences are the size and the titanium chassis. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro comes in a singular and very formidable 45mm size, with a case that’s uniquely elevated around the display. I’m guessing this is to protect the sapphire crystal display from scratches, but it does make the smartwatch very thick.
I didn’t realize just how bulky the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro would feel. But having tested the regular Galaxy Watch 5 first, it felt like I doubled the size of the device on my wrist. Personally, it’s just too large for me. I had a hard time wearing it to sleep every night.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro comes in 2 colors: Black Titanium and Gray Titanium. This version of the watch also ships with what Samsung is calling the D-Buckle Sport Band. It’s a sophisticated-looking, yet sporty strap that I was able to adjust to fit my wrist perfectly. It ended up being my favorite thing about the design. I would consider buying the 79 D-Buckle separately for the regular Galaxy Watch 5.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro review: Outdoor sports tracking
For the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, I sought some adventurous workouts as I do when I test the best Garmin watches. I took the Watch 5 Pro hiking and outdoor biking during the week I wore it for this review.
My hiking trail was rather easy to navigate, but the watch helped me track my metrics and effort, namely time elapsed, distance, altitude and heart rate. I didn’t feel worried about roughing up the watch in the wooded parts of the hike, either. That’s where the concave bezel offers some peace of mind for durability.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro supports GPX files, which basically lets you share geographic information with others and keep a reliable track of your routes. You’ll need to import GPX data from a third-party app like Strava, though. If I had my route loaded, I could get turn-by-turn directions for my hike. Again, I didn’t need help finding my bearings, but the Track Back feature also worked well when I tried to get back to where I parked my car.
I could better appreciate the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s large display on my bike rides. With the always-on display enabled, glancing down to check my speed and distance was a breeze. The watch also called out my mileage at certain milestones, and kept my pace accurate with auto-pause.
Auto-pause actually works for most Galaxy Watch 5 Pro workouts. It’s a feature I wish the Apple Watch offered for more than just running and biking.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: Other health and fitness tracking features
Another fitness tracking feature I’ve found Samsung does very well is automatic workout tracking. As soon as I’ve been walking or moving for 10 minutes, the watch prompts me to launch a workout.
Of course, it can do basic activity tracking like counting steps and giving you a nudge to get moving when you’ve been sitting for a while.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has both Samsung’s 3-in-1 BioActive sensor (heart rate, SpO2 and body composition via BIA) and the new temperature analysis sensor. Looking at the rear of the watch, you can see the skin-temperature reader sits slightly off-center on the bottom of the Galaxy Watch’s case. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work at the time of this review, but I’ll issue an update when the feature goes live. In the meantime, here’s what I know about the Galaxy Watch 5 skin temperature reader.
Dual Display 2.0
Mobvoi’s Dual Display technology layers a low power consuming screen over a brilliant Retina AMOLED display, enabling battery conservation through the toggling between Smart Mode and Essential Mode.
1.4 Brilliant RetinaAMOLED Display
Large 454454 resolutionAutomatic brightness adjustmentUp to 72 hours of battery life in Smart Mode
Low PowerConsuming Screen
Always-on displayRefresh per second with backlightUp to 45 days of battery life in Essential Mode