Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic Review: An Unrivaled Experience
Prior to Samsung’s announcement of the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic back in August, I had high hopes for the new wearable. And after using it for the last few weeks now, I can confidently say that Samsung didn’t disappoint. At least, not entirely. For the most part, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic delivers a seamless experience with the merging of Samsung’s smartwatch features and Google’s Wear OS 3 software.
But despite all the excellence that the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic offers, there are still faults. Faults that, quite honestly make it feel a little surprising they exist with Samsung’s experience in wearables. This is compared to previous experiences with Samsung’s other Galaxy watches. Like the Galaxy Watch Active 2. Where at least one of these issues wasn’t present.
Having said all that, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is still the best. The best smartwatch experience for Android users. The best Samsung has put out so far. And for now, the best Wear OS smartwatch on the planet because it’s the only one with Wear OS 3.
The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is Samsung’s best yet
Samsung’s newest smartwatches are the best the company has ever delivered. Both the standard model and the Classic model are shining examples of how to make a smartwatch experience that’s compelling.
As mentioned above, this is the best smartwatch experience for Android users. “This” referring to Samsung’s smartwatch experience. Which has typically been the best smartwatch experience in past years too. Only now it’s been made better with bits and pieces of Wear OS 3.
There is a lot to love jampacked into this stylish accessory that Samsung is selling. Not the least of which is Samsung’s generally better user interface design. That gets coupled with better health management tools, as well as functional features like the rotating bezel. Which even Samsung itself struggles to top (the touch bezel is nice, but it just isn’t the same).
Unwrapping the box, opening it up, and putting it on for the first time, the watch felt comfortable to wear. Getting it set up for the first time is generally easy too thanks to Samsung’s Galaxy Wearables app.
From the act of slipping the watch onto your wrist and fastening the buckle to the software interactions, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic has been a hit. But it doesn’t always hit the mark.
Google Assistant is absent, and there’s a weird UI flicker
Samsung and Google were forthcoming with the information that Google Assistant wouldn’t be on the watch at launch. Even still, I was hoping for a quicker turnaround on the feature’s arrival. There is Bixby here. So the experience is not entirely devoid of a voice-guided AI. But as useful as Bixby can be, Google Assistant is no doubt more capable.
It offers more contextual follow-up responses and it’s compatible with more things. Unfortunately, users don’t have access to the virtual assistant yet. Samsung and Google are working together to quickly get it onto the new watches as soon as they can. But neither company has offered up a confirmed release date.
Google Pay wasn’t working initially but the app was installable. And within the last couple of weeks the app has come online. As I was able to set up my card on the watch the morning of September 13. Something which didn’t work before then.
Aside from the lack of Google Assistant, the other issue is with the display. From the moment I set it up, the graphics on the screen will flicker a tiny bit. This happens on quite a few screens, including in the app drawer, but you can avoid it on the homescreen with at least one of watch faces.
When the flicker is visible, it only happens for a second. With the graphics sort of jumping before going back to normal. While this issue isn’t a deal breaker for me personally, it might bother some. Having said all of that, this wasn’t a problem on the Galaxy Watch Active 2. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with Wear OS 3’s implementation. But also worth noting is that this can probably be patched out with a software update.
You will probably have to charge the Galaxy Watch 4 at least every other day
If you use the watch heavily and to its potential, you will likely be tossing this down on the charger before you go to sleep on the second day. For more light users, you can maybe get away with leaving it off the charger for a few days.
So yes, the battery life is definitely better than other Wear OS smartwatches. Although, it feels like Samsung’s past watches may have lasted just a little bit longer. And it’s still shy from hitting that sweet spot of lasting throughout the work week. If you don’t need your watch to last for 5+ days without a charge, the battery life in the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic won’t be disappointing.
I was able to routinely use it for things like walks, music controls through Spotify, and some light sleep tracking and only throw it back on the charger every three days or so. All-in-all not too bad. Plus, if you do need to juice the watch back up at any point, it charges fast. Samsung claims around 30 minutes for a 10-hour block.
Which was, mostly accurate for me. And if you want a full battery, you’re looking at under two hours. You won’t simultaneously leave home for two weeks and not bring a power source to charge the watch. But it should last long enough for most people.
The classic style of the design was the right approach
Samsung’s approach to the design here is appreciated. It’s no different than the looks of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 and the Galaxy Watch 3. The former of which is the model for the design on the Galaxy Watch 4. While the look of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is more or less the look of the latter.
Samsung understandably wants to keep the same look. The design on both those watches is nice. Which makes them uniquely Samsung and pleasing to look at. This continuity shows that Samsung feels “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The watch case comes draped in three different colors (for each variant) of brushed metals with a matte finish. You also have your choice of four different watch bands, which come in even more color options. But, you can just as easily use a watch band that doesn’t come from Samsung. Since the lugs support aftermarket bands as long as they’re 20mm.
And at least on the Classic model, the rotating bezel feels just as good as it ever has. The watch isn’t particularly weighty either. Making it easy for me to wear it both all night during sleep, and most of the day without having to take it off.
Far and away, the best design feature is the rotating bezel. Though you do still have to touch the screen sometimes, you can mostly navigate the UI and menus by simply twisting the bezel one way or the other. And that’s a hugely satisfying experience that never gets old.
The one main difference I did notice from past watch designs is the lugs protrude a little further outward and curve down. So there’s a small gap between your wrist and the sides of the band where it meets and locks into the lugs.
Don’t forget to customize the buttons
While you won’t have limitless choices, you can tweak the home and back button functions to better serve your purposes. Specifically you can change the double tap function of the home button, and whether or a long press on it opens up Bixby or powers off the watch.
Similarly, you can change the light press on the back button to swap between going back a screen or back to a recently used app. To make sure that using the watch is even easier, be sure to bind the double tap of the home key to something you will use often. In my case, this was Google Pay.
Fit for duty
When it comes to fitness features, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is packed with them. From the ECG and blood pressure monitoring to the more standard step tracking and GPS.
Across the board, fitness is one of the strengths of this watch. And getting to many of the fitness-related features is relatively easy because most of them are just a quick turn of the rotating bezel away. The first screen over from the homescreen you have your step counter, active minute tracker, and activity goal tracker. Followed by a screen for different exercise trackers, then body composition, sleep tracking, and further in the ECG, bpm, and stress measurement tools.
These are all the default positions of these tiles. But you can also reorder them anyway you like. So you can put the most important features at the front and the ones you’ll use less often at the end of the list.
I found that prioritizing things this way made using them much more simple. Not to mention that I was more likely to use them in the first place if there were less screens between the homescreen and that of the feature I was trying to access.
While most of these features are usable with any device, a couple of them, like the ECG and the blood pressure monitoring, are only going to work when you connect the watch to a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. If you want those features but aren’t going to use a Samsung phone, then you unfortunately would need a different watch entirely.
Aside from that, step tracking, GPS, heart rate tracking, sleep tracking and more seemed to be fairly accurate during my experience. And overall the fitness side of Samsung’s watch experience is still good, if not better than before.
Performance so good you’ll forget it’s Wear OS
There was a time where if you wanted a good performing smartwatch, you would avoid Wear OS. While not every Wear OS smartwatch had terrible performance, many were noticeably sluggish.
With the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic (and the Galaxy Watch 4), the performance is so good that you almost forget it’s running on Wear OS. And that’s a really good thing. Both for owners of the Galaxy Watch 4 series and for future Wear OS smartwatches.
While the UI does have the flickering issue I mentioned earlier, navigation throughout the menus is very smooth and fluid. I’ve yet to have any problems with any apps or features taking too long to load or not functioning properly.
The watch feels snappy at every turn, even after a lengthy time away from the charger with heavy use. If there’s anything users would find disappointing about this watch, the performance isn’t it.
Should you buy the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic?
Buying this smartwatch over any other is a no-brainer if you’re a Galaxy Smartphone user. Because Samsung promises the best experience when the watch is connected to its own phones.
However, it’s still the best option for non-Galaxy smartphone users too. If you don’t need or want the ECG and blood pressure monitoring. If you can forfeit those, then you’ll love the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic and the Galaxy Watch 4, as well as Samsung’s take on Wear OS.
In short, yes, I highly recommend that anyone looking for their first smartwatch or an upgrade buy the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic or the Galaxy Watch 4. And it’ll only get better once it has support for Google Assistant.