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Galaxy Watch 4 Classic test: all the soul of Tizen in a Wear OS 3 smartwatch

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 © EMBARGO © Samsung
© Samsung

The rumors were not wrong: Google and Samsung are now making common causes for the development of connected watches. The Galaxy Watch 4 adopts Wear OS 3 while keeping the rotating ring system so dear to the South Korean brand. Is this mixture of the two worlds beneficial? Does the abandonment of Tizen do any good? That’s what we propose to see in this test of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic

  • The clever mix between Wear OS and OneUI
  • The rotating ring, as practical as ever
  • The arrival of ECG and blood pressure functions
  • Overall, a very complete watch
  • The autonomy is limited to a big day
  • ECG compatible only with Samsung smartphones
  • The shape of the bracelet, not very ergonomic
  • GPS accuracy is not perfect

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The era of Tizen is now over. The Asian giant has joined forces with the Mountain View company to develop its new high-end smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic.

While the design is definitely that of a Galaxy Watch, the whole software part has been revised for a smooth transition to Wear OS 3. Samsung takes the opportunity to add an ECG function to challenge the Apple Watch Series 7.

In order to make a strong impact, the Korean manufacturer is offering several versions of its Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, at different prices:

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  • 42 mm case, Bluetooth: €339
  • 46 mm case, Bluetooth: 399€
  • 42 mm, 4G version: 389€
  • 46 mm, 4G version: 449€

There is also a Galaxy Watch 4 without a rotating ring. It is similar to the Classic model but is more affordable with a starting price of 269€ for a 40mm case. We lose the comfort of the rotating ring but the budget is more attractive.

Now that the presentations are done, let’s have a look at this famous Galaxy Watch 4 Classic and its brand new Wear OS 3 system!

Design and finishing

For this test, we had the pleasure to use the 46mm version of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. This model is the largest of the new Galaxy Watch lineup. However, apart from the size, there is no aesthetic change compared to the 42mm version.

We have a very nice watch with a stainless steel case. Visually, we remain very close to the Galaxy Watch 3 with a sober look. We would have liked a more rounded case edge, but this assessment of the design is subjective.

Galaxy Watch 4 - Bracelet © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

In our opinion, the biggest drawback of Samsung’s new connected watch is its strap. The latter is designed to fit the case as well as possible, which is very pleasant visually. On the other hand, it does not bend enough to follow the curve of the wrist. As a result, we end up with a watch that serves the top and bottom of the wrist but not its sides. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic therefore tends to “float” unless you hold it tightly…

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Fortunately, you can easily change the bracelet and opt for a universal model. You lose the aesthetic side but you gain in wearing comfort.

Galaxy Watch 4 - Dos © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

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Let’s continue our exploration of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. The South Korean watch now adopts rectangular metal buttons. They are used to measure ECG and body metrics. Coupled with the BioActive sensor placed on the back of the smartwatch, they diffuse a light electric current in the body, the principle being similar to that of the connected scales.

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Galaxy Watch 4 - Bague © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

Finally, we find on the top of the smartwatch the famous rotating ring so representative of the Galaxy Watch family. Samsung seems to put aside the touch ring of the Active2 to return to a physical ring more pleasant to use in everyday life.

Screen

The biggest strength of Samsung’s connected watches has always been the screen. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is no exception to the rule.

Galaxy Watch 4 - Écran © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

The 1.4″ Super AMOLED panel of the South Korean tocante works wonders in everyday life, no matter the place or the time of day. Are you in direct sunlight? No problem, the screen is perfectly readable. Nightfall? You won’t blow out your retina with a too-bright screen. The Watch 4 adapts to all circumstances for optimal reading. A real treat for the eyes!

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Galaxy Watch 4 - Écran jour © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

The definition of 450 x 450 px coupled with the magnificent contrasts of the AMOLED brings an undeniable visual comfort. It is a pleasure to admire the screen of the Wear OS smartwatch.

Of course, the Always On mode is also part of the game, adapting to each watch face. And thanks to Wear OS, you’ll have endless possibilities to decorate your connected watch according to your taste. Samsung hits the nail on the head, it’s flawless!

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Operating system

After years of good and loyal service, it’s time for Tizen to bow out. But rather than being crushed by the giant Google, Samsung is joining forces with it. Although Wear OS 3 is the basis for Samsung, it is the OneUI interface of Tizen that we find on the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. And we have to admit that the mix works pretty well!

Galaxy Watch 4 - Applications © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

We thus find the navigation as we knew it on Tizen. You can read more about it in our test of the Galaxy Watch 3. The only major change is in the application menu. Gone is the circular display of Tizen, we now have a kind of cloud of applications that scrolls vertically. We can organize the icons in the order we want. Of course, the rotating ring makes scrolling easier.

Wear OS obliges, we have full access to the Google Play Store. Samsung thus erases the main flaw of Tizen, whose application store was quite poor. Now we can freely install Spotify, Komoot, Strava, Facer and thousands of other apps!

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Galaxy Watch 4 - Bixby © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

Although Samsung uses a Wear OS base, the South Korean brand uses few Google tools. For example, the voice assistant used is Bixby and not Google Assistant. The same goes for contactless payment, which is managed by Samsung Pay, although it is possible to install Google Pay. The Korean giant also uses Outlook as an email application, taking advantage of its long-standing partnership with Microsoft. However, there is no need to use pre-installed applications, the Play Store is able to provide for all needs.

So the marriage between Google and Samsung is a good one. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic retains the visual aspect of its ancestors under Tizen while taking advantage of the many utility capabilities of Wear OS. A real winning duo!

Sports functions

Samsung’s connected watches and bracelets have always been oriented towards health monitoring. The Galaxy Watch 4 follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, supported in this task by the Samsung Health application.

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Galaxy Watch 4 - Entraînement © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

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The watch supports about 20 sports profiles, including the classics of the genre: walking, running, cycling, swimming in the pool … It also embeds a “running coach” which is reminiscent of the one on board Huawei watches. It is a very nice system when you start because it offers various programs of low to high intensity, focused on walking and running.

Galaxy Watch 4 - Masse corporelle © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

All this remains classic, however. The novelty is rather in the sensors. This year, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic comes with an ECG module, a first for Samsung. Just like on the Apple Watch 7 or the Withings Scanwatch, this feature allows you to keep an eye on your cardiovascular health by detecting symptoms of atrial fibrillation, for example.

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To use the ECG, simply place your fingers on the two buttons on the watch for a few seconds. The results are then transmitted to the Health Monitor application. The same goes for the blood pressure calculation. You will just need to calibrate the watch by relying for the first readings on an arm blood pressure monitor. The same system allows you to calculate your body mass.

Samsung Health - ECG © Johan Gautreau

Samsung Health - Masse corporelle © Johan Gautreau

While not a substitute for a full medical check-up, these features can nevertheless help you establish some trends in your heart rate. Unfortunately, you’ll need a Samsung smartphone to take advantage of them: the Health Monitor application is only available on the Galaxy Store at the time of writing. This is a difficult limitation to swallow for a device that presents itself as the queen of Android-based connected watches…

It’s a shame because the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic does not do too badly in terms of sports tracking. The optical heart rate sensor is of good quality, closely matching the readings of the Polar Grit X Pro with which we compared it. You just have to be careful to tighten the strap to ensure accurate results.

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As for the GPS, it disappoints quite a bit. Without being as catastrophic as on the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS, it remains below what we can expect from a high-end watch. We can clearly see on the end-of-activity readings significant deviations from the path taken. Maybe that’s why there are no GPS tracks on the wrist during activities? It is clear that the Galaxy Watch is not designed for hiking and other trails…

Galaxy Watch 4 - Suivi coeur © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

We recommend the Samsung watch for sports that do not require great accuracy of tracking. For a jog in the neighborhood, it is largely sufficient. Moreover, the beautiful watch uses the system of calculating the stride seen on the Watch 3 with many data such as asymmetry, contact time on the ground …

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Utility functions

For the moment, Wear OS 3 does not seem to bring much to our test subject. Rest assured, the best is coming now. The fusion between OneUI and Wear OS has undeniably good.

The biggest strength of Wear OS is the Play Store. Where we criticized Samsung’s previous Tizen watches for having a very poor application store, the opposite is true with Google’s OS. You’ll have no trouble finding your favorite applications to use the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic to the fullest.

Galaxy Watch 4 - Musique © Johan Gautreau©Johan Gautreau for Clubic

By default, the beauty knows how to do quite a few things. The NFC allows contactless payment with Samsung Pay. The microphone and speaker allow you to use the voice assistant Bixby and get a sound feedback. Outlook gives access to emails. Music can be played locally from the watch’s memory or via applications such as Spotify or YouTube Music. For navigation, Google Maps is there. In short, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic can do just about everything and does it really well!

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However, we can deplore the impossibility of using Google Assistant instead of Bixby. That and the disappointing autonomy, but we’ll talk about that in more detail in the next paragraph…

Autonomy

The Galaxy Watch 3 and Active2 showed us a reduced autonomy compared to the first Galaxy Watch. As expected, the arrival of Wear OS does not help matters…

Although Google promised us improved autonomy for Wear OS 3, we can only be disappointed with the final result on the Watch 4. It’s not the use of an Exynos SoC that changes things: you’ll have trouble enjoying the Asian watch for more than 36 hours at a time.

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All options activated, it is impossible to expect more than 24 hours of use. Admittedly, this is still better than the Apple Watch, which is limited to only 18 hours. But in a market where even connected watches under 200€ offer an autonomy ranging from five days to two full weeks, it hurts!

And it’s not the wireless charging that will help. The beauty is indeed only compatible with Samsung wireless chargers and will not charge with third-party models. In case of breakage, you’ll have to turn to the Korean brand’s equipment as a replacement. Add to that a recharge time that comes to about 1 hour 40 minutes …

Once again, the Galaxy Watch range loses autonomy in favor of more and more features. When will a smartwatch with Wear OS be able to last a week?

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: TechMarkup’s verdict

By merging OneUI with Wear OS 3, Samsung has taken a risky but successful gamble in our opinion. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic combines the best of both worlds: the perfectly crafted Tizen interface and the numerous utility functions of Wear OS.

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So we find ourselves with a very practical watch, easy to use with its rotating ring and its hyper-fluid interface. It is very simple to download dials and applications from the Play Store. The sport/health part is also of good quality despite a GPS that is a little behind.

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In the end, we have only two major complaints about the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic test: its very limited battery life and the fact that you need a Samsung smartphone to take advantage of all its capabilities. If you have a Samsung phone and don’t mind recharging your smartwatch every day, you can go for it with your eyes closed. For the others, turn instead to the competition like the Fossil Gen 6 for example, or even the Huawei Watch 3.

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