Galaxy Watch Active 2: Worthy of an Android user’s wrist

Kishore Bhargava | Updated on January 17, 2020 Published on January 17, 2020

If your daily driver is an Android phone, the best smartwatch out there for you is currently the Galaxy Watch Active 2 or GWA2. If your phone also happens to be a Samsung device then it gets even better.

The smartwatch is still a category that’s continuously evolving and every year sees a slightly improved version of the previous year’s devices, it may be a while before they mature into the perfect companions for the smart phones of today, but there is progress.

The GWA2 is a well balanced device providing both health features as a fitness device and yet covering a large variety of functions for a smartwatch, including looking good.

The watch has many flavours. There are two sizes: 44mm and 40mm, two body types: steel and aluminium, three colours: black, silver and pink, and finally two connectivity types: 4G or Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The straps are a standard 22mm and are also available in many different materials and colours. Absolutely no doubt that you can find one that suits you.

It sports a classic round watch design, which is also lightweight. One can comfortably wear the watch 24/7 and not have to worry about it. Great if you want to track your daily activities, including sleep.

When it comes to the looks of the device, a good watch-face is critical. Fortunately, Samsung opened up to third-party development of apps and watch-faces and the store is chock-a-block with some great watch-faces. From minimalist to information packed to classy designer watches, everything is available. Samsung has also added a very nice touch called MyStyle, where you can take a photo of the outfit you are wearing, and make a watch-face based on that. Add to that an always-on display and it is a great device to have on your wrist.

Battery-life of the Active 2 is pretty good. On average, I got about two-and-a-half days with a reasonably bright screen, continuous heart-rate monitor and most features turned on. Interestingly, it does have a “watch” only mode, which claims to go for about 25 days, but I was not able to try that.

Other basic watch features were all on par: a good stopwatch with a lap timer included, a regular timer with both pre-sets and custom timers possible, and, of course, multiple alarms all work well out-of-the-box.

On the health side, the watch auto detects several workouts and starts tracking them. Since I used it for walking, it tracked the walks with no issues. There were rumours of some early devices not being accurate, but I compared this with other devices and found no real disparity. All the health features I needed worked quite well, which included heart-rate, step count and sleep tracking. For hydration I used a third-party app in order to get reminders and had the information synced with the Samsung health app.

The watch I have for review also happens to be the LTE version. The only issue on getting LTE activated was that it needed to be done using a Samsung device. Once I had a Samsung phone, it was quite a breeze to activate the 4G via Airtel, which is what I use as my primary cellular provider. I must say though, my own usage of LTE, was very limited. There are very few times in a day where the phone is not in proximity to the watch. Yes, I did manage to go for a walk without the phone and continued to have full access to calls and notifications. For some people that would be critical, but for me it was just a nice-to-have feature. It’s very surprising how good these small devices have become at cramming in a good quality speaker and microphone for calls. Whenever I used the watch for a call, the person at the other end was unable to differentiate whether I was on the phone or on a watch, with excellent tonal quality for far and near end.

The two cribs that I have about the watch concern apps and notifications. Despite the fact that Samsung’s Tizen OS has been around for a while and there are apps available in the Galaxy store, apart from Samsung’s own apps, the others seem to be buggy and less functional. I could not find any apps that I would really want to install on the watch.

Notifications are still an issue, at least for me. While the watch does allow for a very fine grain control of which apps send you notifications the challenge remains with actionable notifications. I would really like to see notifications which require simple actions such as an “Approve/Deny” or a “Yes/No” to be done from the watch directly rather than having to take out the phone for such actions. The good thing is that with the option for “Smart Relay” turned on, when you pick the phone it is already in the relevant app and that is very useful. I also found that while using a Samsung phone, I get the ‘Tap to View’ option but it is still two steps to execute. I really wish this would be resolved soon. I doubt this would be very difficult to implement, specially since things like canned messages are already there for the messaging apps, which seems to be a more complex action.

Storage on a watch also seems to be becoming a standard feature. Enough to put in 300 songs or more, organised by albums and playlists. This watch has 2.5 GB, which should be good for using the watch independent of the phone. When the phone is in proximity, then the watch can be used to control whatever audio app is being used on the phone, I used it with my podcast app, Apple Music and even to control my home speakers.

One of the best features of the GWA2 is the extent to which it can be customised. Take a simple watch-face and much like the Apple Watch, change any component or complication to one that you need. Similarly, the watch can have widgets not only reordered but you can also select the ones that you really want to use. My watch was nicely trimmed down to the most important functions for me, and all the extras which I do not use frequently either pushed to the back or removed all-together.

In conclusion, for an Android user, this is a great all-round watch. For a Samsung user, it is the best that one can buy today.

Price: ₹37,990/- (4G) | ₹25,990/-

Pros: Best all-round watch for Android, packed with features and customisable

Cons: Needs Samsung phone for 4G, notifications could improve, better watch apps needed, a little pricey

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Published on January 17, 2020
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