Monday, 30th October 2017

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The Galaxy Watch Active smartwatch has stamina written all over it

Hypochondriacs, beware! A smartwatch with blood pressure monitoring

  • Published 3.07.19, 8:53 PM
  • Updated 3.07.19, 8:53 PM
  • 3 mins read
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Picture: Samsung Electronics

The smartwatch can be a bundle of contradictions. We want it to look simple but at the same time be a treasure trove of features. We want them to wrap around our wrists all the time but at the same time have enough battery life to last more than a day. Then it must take calls, send messages, keep pace of the number of steps walked or run but at the same time track health conditions. We want it to be a style statement as well as come at a reasonable price tag. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active addresses all of this. Here’s how we spent the weekend with the device.

The design

Getting its design chops in place, the company has delivered a smartwatch that’s as light as a madeleine jam-packed with flavours. No, this is not a hyperbole. Weighing only 25g, you really won’t feel the device weighing down on the wrist. To understand the design philosophy, one has to understand its target audience — people who want to be active and don’t look at smartwatches as something that complements an evening gown.

This brings us to the dilemma surrounding the missing physical rotary bezel. The fresh design could well have divided the house but Samsung wins naysayers over with a screen that’s brighter — there’s zero problem reading the screen during morning walks and jogs while avoiding the remains of a dog’s dinner in the park! — and sleeker. At just 1.1 inch, the full-colour AMOLED touchscreen is simply as glorious as the panels on the company’s smartphones. There are only two physical buttons to work with — one acts as a back button and the other takes you to the apps. Adding to the beauty of the small screen is the way the software uses the real estate. Everything is perfectly legible and go ahead, tap where you need and you will be taken to the correct option. If nitpick we must, I miss the clicks that came with a rotating bezel, taking the user from one option to another.

Besides the design, we like the fact that the company has included two sizes of its silicone sport strap in the box.

Performance

Loaded on the watch are just about any physical activity you can think of… there are 39 of them. It tracks walking, outdoor running, treadmill running, hiking, cycling, swimming, weight training, stretching… wow! Sadly, I am Mr Garfield who likes punctuating his walks with enough tea breaks. Having said that, the watch considers all kinds of walking as walking and records the same. When the body comes to rest even for a few seconds, the tracker pauses, so the final reading is perfect. The device also comes with a barometer that can register altitude.

You can easily leave your phone behind during walks, runs, hikes or gymming. The device records everything and once it connects with the Samsung Health app, all the details will be before you. That’s not all, the watch offers a breakdown of one’s heart rate while exercising into maximum, vigorous and moderate.

Another area the watch addresses is sleep. Since the device is very light, one can wear it to sleep and not get disturbed. What about the screen coming on each time the hand is raised? No, that can be turned off. In the morning, get a breakdown of your sleep, like light REM or deep.

And we have kept the best for the last — blood pressure monitoring. Hypochondriacs, beware! Download My BP Lab — a research app jointly developed with the University of California, San Francisco — directly to Galaxy Watch Active to monitor blood pressure. The app is currently collecting and analysing the data for more accurate tracking. So we can’t say the results are precise. I got 109/69 and 112/76. And it takes a few minutes to set up the app.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the software is customisation. You can determine what stats you want to see on the many screens.

All this brings us down to battery life. A full charge lasts more than two days, which is fair enough for the 230 mAh battery. In case you use something like a Galaxy S10+, there is always the option of wirelessly charging the device on the back of the phone.

Verdict

Traditional watchmakers can always say that smartwatch technology will always come with an expiration date. But then, what is the purpose of a watch in general in 2019? It should tell who you are and what you take seriously. The most important thing this watch says about its user is that the person wants to be fit. Yes, the Galaxy Watch Active has stamina written all over it.