Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Review: The Wear OS smartwatch we’ve been waiting for

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Review: The Wear OS smartwatch we’ve been waiting for

While there are a lot of choices when it comes to good smartphones, the choices are far slimmer when it comes to wearables, and even slimmer when you consider compatibility with your smartphone of choice.

XDA Best Award
The nascent industry arguably existed before Apple launched the Apple Watch, but Apple brought the idea of a “smart” watch firmly into the mainstream consumer’s mind. In fact, the company sold more Apple Watch in one day than Android Wear watches had been sold in the year that came before.

That was back in 2015, and the world has changed since then. Last year, Google and Samsung launched the latest reboot of Wear OS, bringing with it a lot of promise. The first generation – the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic – was lacking in a few key areas but showed all the promise of being a future contender for the smartwatch throne. Fast forward a year, and we have the Galaxy Watch 5, which might finally cement its place as the smartwatch of choice for Android and Samsung users.

XDA VIDEO OF THE DAY
    The Galaxy Watch 5 is the best Android smartwatch I've ever used. A year of refinements has given us a smartwatch that's incredibly capable, has excellent health monitoring, and offers fantastic battery life. This is the best Android smartwatch right now, and pre-order now to save big!

The Galaxy Watch 5 is the best Android smartwatch I’ve ever used

Galaxy Watch 5 in Sapphire colorway laying on a flat surface

Throughout the past five years, I’ve dabbled with a lot of smartwatches powered by Android, Tizen, HarmonyOS, and a thousand other platforms or iterations. Throughout all of this, the Apple Watch has remained attached to my wrist as none of these challenges came close.

The Galaxy Watch 5 is the best Android smartwatch I’ve ever used

For most people, these aren’t direct competitors in the wearable market. The Galaxy Watch 5 is technically compatible with the iPhone, but for the most part, it’s appealing to Android phone users. The key benefit of an Apple Watch has always been its tight integration into the ecosystem, and the Galaxy Watch 5 takes the same approach, except with Samsung, and to an extent, Android as a whole. That Samsung and Google have worked together on it means this latest wearable is a prime example of what happens when you can closely integrate both the hardware and the software.

The Galaxy Watch 5 is effectively the Apple Watch of Android. Samsung Health is incredibly capable and, in some cases, presents information in a superior way to Apple Health which I consider the best health app. Battery life is incredible, even when you turn on the continuous heart rate monitoring, while it is also the most comfortable watch I’ve worn. Simply put, the Galaxy Watch 5 is the best Wear OS smartwatch I’ve ever used.

Galaxy Watch 5: Size, Colors, Price & Availability

The Galaxy Watch 5 comes in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm. I’ve been using the 44mm version and it’s the perfect size for me, but you may want the smaller size. Both are compatible with standard 20mm watch straps offering a plethora of third-party watch bands to choose from, and Samsung also has a new magnetic D Buckle strap that I briefly played with when we first went hands-on with the Watch 5.

The Blue Galaxy Watch 5 is the best color

The 40mm version comes in gray, silver, and exclusive gold color, while the 44mm comes in silver, gray, or the gorgeous blue version I’ve been using. There are a host of watch bands available through Samsung’s website and you can create your own styles as well.

The Galaxy Watch 5 is available in both sizes with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, or with the addition of 4G LTE at a small premium. Like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4, there are a bunch of pre-order offers that we’d recommend you take advantage of, as you can get instant credit, enhanced trade-in values, and great bundle deals if you order before August 26.

Galaxy Watch 5: Pricing

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is available at the following prices:

  • 40mm Bluetooth: $279.99
  • 40mm LTE: $329.99
  • 44mm Bluetooth: $309.99
  • 44mm LTE: $359.99

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Specifications

Specification Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Material & Sizes
  • 40mm & 44mm
  • 20mm Sports Band
  • Armor Aluminum Case
Dimensions & Weight
  • 40mm:
    • 40.4 x 39.3 x 9.8mm
    • 28.7g
  • 44mm:
    • 44.4 x 43.3 x 9.8mm
    • 33.5g
Display
  • 40mm:
    • 1.2-inch AMOLED display
    • 396 x 396p resolution, 330PPI
    • Sapphire Crystal Glass (1.6x stronger than Galaxy Watch 4 series)
  • 44mm:
    • 1.4-inch AMOLED display
    • 450 x 450p resolution, 330PPI
    • Sapphire Crystal Glass (1.6x stronger than Galaxy Watch 4 series)
Processor Exynos W920 Dual-Core 1.18GHz
Memory
  • 1.5GB RAM
  • 16GB internal storage
Battery & Charging
  • 40mm:
    • 284mAh
  • 44mm:
    • 410mAh
  • WPC-based wireless charging
Sensors
  • Accelerometer
  • Gyroscope
  • Barometer
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • Compass
  • Optical Heart Rate Sensor
  • Electrical Heart Sensor (ECG)
  • BIA (Body Composition Analysis)
  • Continuous SpO2
  • Skin Temperature Sensor
Connectivity
  • Bluetooth 5.2
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4GHz & 5GHz)
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • LTE
Durability
  • IP68 rating for dust and water resistance
  • Waterproof up to 5ATM
  • MIL-STD-810H certification
OS One UI Watch 4.5 based on Wear OS 3.5
Colors
  • 40mm:
    • Case
      • Silver
      • Graphite
      • Pink Gold
    • Band
      • Bora Purple
      • Graphite
      • Pink Gold
  • 44mm:
    • Case
      • Sapphire
      • Silver
      • Graphite
    • Band
      • Sapphire
      • White
      • Graphite

About this review: Samsung US sent us the Galaxy Watch 5 (44mm) for review. However, the company had no input into the contents of this review.


The Galaxy Watch 5 has an almost perfect display

Galaxy Watch5 Pro

The Galaxy Watch 5 display is perfect in so many ways, but it also brings with it the touch bezels which I really don’t like. As a user of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, I loved the tactile feedback provided when you slide the bezel around, but the Galaxy Watch 5 lacks this. Not only that, but it also lacks the precision and accuracy that a physical touch bezel offers you and it barely works for me. Out of 30 or so attempts where I kept count, my accuracy was just 5 attempts.

Besides the presence of this touch bezel, I love the display. Whether you prefer round watches or square will largely depend upon whether your primary focus is to track notifications or to use the main watch features. The circular display and design feel more natural, and while Wear OS is great at knowing when to crop notifications, I find that I use them far less, compared to my Apple Watch’s square display.

At 1,000 nits’ peak brightness, it can get as bright as the latest Apple Watches, as well as many smartphones and this shows through in everyday usage. The 1.40-inch Super AMOLED display is sharp and vibrant even under direct sunlight, and it’s a joy to use. The Galaxy Watch 5 is light at 33.5 grams and is lighter than a traditional watch which averages 50-70 grams, and feels supremely comfortable to wear for long periods of time.


Galaxy Watch 5: All the hardware you need

Samsung followed the approach of its smartphones by packing its wearables full of all the technology and features you need in a smartwatch.

It’s MIL-STD-810H and IP68 rated giving it an inherent ruggedness that will ensure it can handle the bangs and accidental knocks that come with everyday usage. The Sapphire crystal glass and aluminum frame also mean it should be more resistant to scratches, and after nearly two weeks, I’m yet to get a single scratch on this review unit.

It uses the same flat charging cable from previous generations of the Galaxy Watch series and can be charged wirelessly using your Galaxy Z or Galaxy S smartphone enabled with Wireless Powershare (Samsung’s fancy marketing speak for reverse wireless charging).


The Galaxy Watch 5 has great battery life

The Galaxy Watch 5 has fantastic battery life if you are coming from an Apple Watch. Anyone who has used an Apple Watch is used to charging their smartwatch every day. Most of my experience with Wear OS watches has yielded similar experiences when it comes to battery life, and the Galaxy Watch 5 surprised me with its fantastic battery life.

Galaxy Watch 5 battery life is compelling compared to most other smartwatches

Before turning on continuous heart rate monitoring, I was achieving close to three days of battery life. This led me to expect it would at least halve when I switched from intermittent to continuous heart rate monitoring, but even at fully continuous HRM, the battery consistently lasted at least 2 hours and 5 days.

That’s fantastic battery life for everything that the Galaxy Watch 5 offers. Granted, it’s not as good as say the Huawei Watch 3 which offers a full week of use on the company’s own Harmony OS, but the battery life on the Watch 5 is very compelling compared to every other Wear OS smartwatch.

Improved this year is the charging speed, as it now supports 10W charging vs a maximum of 5W on the Galaxy Watch 4. Samsung claims this allows it to charge from zero to 45% in 30 minutes, and in my testing, it hit this mark. A full charge took about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or about 10 minutes less if the Watch was powered off. This represents a 40–50-minute improvement over the Galaxy Watch 4, and it’s a welcome improvement that ultimately allows you to track your health and fitness for longer.


The Galaxy Watch 5 shines in health and fitness tracking

I’ve been using Apple Health ever since some major cardiovascular issues in 2020, and it’s become an integral part of my health management and monitoring. I use the heart rate feature to review my heart rate over time – usually at the end of each day – whereas the steps and exercise features ensure I’m on track with my health goals.

Samsung Health gives you a holistic overview of your health while letting you dig deeper if you want

Moving to Samsung Health was an interesting experience. I started with the expectation that it wouldn’t be good enough and was pleasantly surprised. I’m not a runner so didn’t test out the impact of things like run tracking, but for my everyday general health monitoring, the Galaxy Watch 5 is fantastic.

The Galaxy Watch 5 follows its predecessor with the use of Samsung’s “BioActive” sensors for monitoring heart rate, electrical heart signal, and body composition. It’s certified for ECG use but trying to do so is where I ran into the first problem; it requires the Samsung Health Monitor app, which isn’t compatible with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 right now. I was unable to test the ECG, but the app should be updated by the time the phone and wearable are released on Friday.

To make the most of the Galaxy Watch 5, you need to use a Samsung phone. The ECG is only available when paired with a Samsung phone as it requires the Galaxy-only Samsung Health Monitor app. The Galaxy Watch 5 also offers bloody pressure monitoring, unless you live in the US. For international users, Samsung has the necessary clearances so you can calibrate your blood pressure in the Health Monitor app and then monitor it using your Galaxy Watch 5. For US users, this feature is unavailable, likely due to needing approval from the FDA. There are some workarounds for using these features, but I haven’t tested them on the Galaxy Watch 5 yet.

The heart rate monitoring is what has sold me on the Galaxy Watch 5. The Apple Watch has done a fantastic job for me, but as it is limited to just offering intermittent heart rate tracking, Samsung Health really appealed to me. Within Samsung Health, it’s possible to see heart rate entries for a single hour so I can pinpoint exactly when my heart rate is spiking and figure out the root cause for it. The app displays a reading every three minutes and offers an immense amount of detail.

This sums up Samsung’s entire approach to Health on the Galaxy Watch 5: giving you a holistic overview of your health and allowing you to dig deep as you desire. From one app and with one wearable, I can track everything from heart rate, blood pressure (outside the US), and exercise to deeper health metrics like stress levels, sleep, and blood oxygen.

I really like the stress information and gathering in the Samsung Health app. Stress is one of the biggest silent killers today, and it’s super interesting to see how my stress levels change during the day. Displaying stress levels on a color-graded scale vs giving it a numerical number provides more context and allows you to see how it is changing over the course of the day. Like heart rate monitoring, you can display stress over a single hour period if you want to dig deep into a specific moment of time.

The sleep information is particularly useful as it gives you the amount of time you spent in the various sleep stages, how much you’ve snored, as well as your blood oxygen while you were sleeping. Samsung is also utilizing AI to provide sleep coaching tips, and this requires seven recorded periods of sleep – five of which must be weekday and two should be weekend – but despite wearing my Galaxy Watch 5 for over a week, my Watch is still unable to provide any coaching tips.

A few weeks ago, I sat down with Samsung to discuss the company’s Health objectives. Clearly, Apple Health is the benchmark by which all companies will be judged, and Samsung was very clear that it believed Samsung Health and its wearable suite were able to compete. After two weeks of using the Galaxy Watch 5 and Samsung Health, I have to agree with them – Samsung Health is fantastic for average users and contains just enough for me to track my various health metrics. The Galaxy Watch 5 also supports third-party tracking apps if you do need to go deeper. It’s designed to be an app that gives you the right amount of information that you’re looking for and it does an excellent job at this.


Verdict: The Galaxy Watch 5 is my new favorite smartwatch

I really like the Galaxy Watch 5 for many reasons. Wear OS has evolved into a more polished wearable platform that’s able to offer everything you could want from a smartwatch. The battery life is fantastic in the 44mm thanks to the 397mAh battery, but there might be a significant drop-off in the smaller 40mm version which has a 276mAh battery. There are a lot of great watch faces available to download, and it supports third-party apps if Samsung Health isn’t the right aggregating app for you.

However, the real star of the Galaxy Watch 5 lineup is likely to be the new Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. Although I haven’t been reviewing that model, it’s designed for users who want to hike and run. Designed to offer the very best of Samsung in wearables, it sports a few exclusive exercise-tracking features, a much larger battery, and a more rugged design. You can find out more about that here.

Last year, Samsung launched two new wearables, but all the talk was around Samsung’s new partnership with Google. This ushered in a new future for the two companies and Android-powered smartwatches, but the real question was how future products would evolve and be improved. With the Galaxy Watch 5, it’s clear that Google and Samsung have a partnership that can continue to evolve and create great health-focused wearable devices.

    The Galaxy Watch 5 is the best Android smartwatch I've ever used. A year of refinements has given us a smartwatch that's incredibly capable, has excellent health monitoring, and offers fantastic battery life. This is the best Android smartwatch right now, and pre-order now to save big!

About author

Nirave Gondhia
Nirave Gondhia

Born and raised in the UK, Nirave has been in the mobile industry since the mid-2000s in a career that has spanned from working in retail to training staff and finally, tech publishing. Previously the Managing Editor of Android Authority, and the Editorial Director at Mobile Nations, he joined the XDA team as Chief Content Officer in early 2020. He loves mobile tech, smart home, and 5G, and alongside shaping the long-term strategy of XDA, he'll be helping the writing team with reviews and other content. You can follow him on Twitter here: https://www.twitter.com/nirave

We are reader supported. External links may earn us a commission.