Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: Value for money
The smartwatch market is expanding fast. Today, smartwatches have become as big a part of the mainstream tech market as smartphones once were. Don’t get me wrong here, smartphones are still a part of the booming market, but now they share their spotlight with the smartwatch -- a device that is also witnessing a steady growth trajectory.
A Counterpoint report says that smartwatch shipments increased by a whopping 6% in the third quarter of 2020 compared to the same period back in 2019 -- despite the pandemic. The same report also talked about the market share of top smartwatch manufacturers including Samsung, which grabbed 10% of the total smartwatch market in Q3 2020 compared to 8% in Q3 2019.
Talking about Samsung, the company has a wide portfolio of fitness trackers in its kitty to meet user demands. It has the Galaxy Fit series for those who want a fitness tracker under the ₹10K limit, something on the lines of Mi Smart Band or Fitbit Inspire series, Galaxy Watch Series who are looking for creme-da-la-creme of smartwatches and have got big bucks to spare, and the Galaxy Watch Active series for those who want the best of what smartwatches have to offer without splurging too much.
Today, we’re going to talk about the Galaxy Watch Active 2, which is the best of what Samsung has to offer as far as budget smartwatches are concerned.
So, what’s so special about the Galaxy Watch Active 2? Well, it’s got the looks, it’s got the features, it has its own unique style and it’s easy on the pockets, which in my opinion is a fairly rare combination, especially in the Android world.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 measures 44x44x10.9 mm and it weighs 30g. It has a circular dial that is made of aluminium along with a glass display. There are two buttons on the right side of the dial. While the top button on the top can be used as the home screen button, the one on the bottom can be used for turning the smartwatch on or off. At the back, you will find sensors for measuring your heartbeat.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is available in three sizes -- 42mm, 44mm and 46mm -- and three colour variants, which includes Silver, Pink and Black. The overall design is similar to what we have seen in case of the original Galaxy Watch Active that was launched back in February 2019.
I got to use the 44mm size variant of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 in the rather boring Black colour. While I am not a fan of the colour, the strap, which comes in the faux-leather finish is quite comfortable to wear, even for long durations. I have used the Galaxy Watch Active 2 during a regular day, during runs and while sleeping, and I must say, it doesn’t get sweaty or uncomfortable or heavy.
That said, I do find that the size of the watch is a tad bit big for me. The dial takes over all of the space on my wrist and it sits on top like a clunky piece. If you are a fan of big dials, the 44mm, or even the 46mm, variant may work for you, but if you have smaller hands or if you prefer smaller dials, the 42mm variant is a better pick for you.
Coming to the display, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 comes with a 1.4-inch sAMOLED touch-sensitive display -- which is a standard in premium Samsung smartphones. It comes with a resolution of 360x360 pixels and it is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass DX+ protection. It has thin rounded bezels that are barely visible especially when you have turned on the dark mode.
Talking about the functionality, you can swipe right to go through all your notifications. You can read your WhatsApp or Telegram messages, or check your email or updates to any other app that you have synced in the Samsung Galaxy Watch app. Swiping top to bottom gives you access to all the controls, such as the display brightness, settings, DND (Do Not Disturb) mode, good night mode (which turns off AoD and notifications), AoD (Always on Display), flight mode, torch, battery, GPS, swim mode (yes, it has dedicated swim mode that protects the watch as you go for a...well...swim) and Bluetooth option to control your connected Bluetooth devices. Swiping left, on the other hand, gives you access to all the other features of this smartwatch such as the app, the heart rate monitor, apps, and various exercise modes among others.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2’s display is by far one of the most and well-lit displays in a smartwatch that I have ever used. It’s bright, not in a way that will hurt your eyes, but in a way that is adequately lit be it the night light or under bright sunlight. You can comfortably go through all the details without straining your eyes. It’s also extremely efficient as far as the touch-sensitivity is concerned. And it obeys your commands promptly every time.
Another thing that I like about this smartwatch is that it comes with customisable watch faces. You can change the display of watch looks and feels by picking a watch face from the Galaxy Watch app. And if the available ones aren’t to your liking, you can pick more from the Galaxy Store. What’s more? You can also use an image that you clicked as a watch face, which in my humble opinion is as good and as personal as it can get.
Now, looks and display are all fine, but what’s a smartwatch that doesn’t work well? Well, I am happy to inform you that the Galaxy Watch Active 2 doesn’t disappoint in that department. It runs on Samsung’s Tizen OS, which, in my opinion, feels slightly cleaner than Google’s Wear OS.
What acts as a cherry on top of the cake is the presence of an LTE variant, which means you can activate the eSIM in the device and forget about keeping your phone around all the time. Now, LTE-connectivity is a privilege reserved only for premium budget smartwatches. This means that anything on the lower end of the smartwatch spectrum has to manage with GPS connectivity. This makes it imperative that you keep your smartphone around.
Not in the case of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 as you can answer calls, respond to messages and go on a gruelling workout session without pulling your phone a bit closer, that is if you get the LTE variant. But if you get the GPS variant or for some reason decide not to activate the eSIM, you can answer calls, check messages and workout comfortably, but you will have to keep your phone handy.
Coming to exercises, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a bit sluggish at times, a bit wonky at others but mostly fine. You should think of it as a smartwatch first and then a fitness tracker. For starters, it can be a bit slow in detecting your exercise mode when you suddenly break into a sprint. It’s step-count can be a bit wonky, especially when compared to Samsung’s native health app or iPhone’s Health app, which show somewhat similar results.
While the heart-rate measurements and sleep measurements are mostly accurate, the altimeter can be a bit off at times. In one case, it showed that I had climbed one flight of stairs when I had climbed three. At another instance, it reported the details correctly. I had climbed two floors at that time. Other than that, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 works fine.
Last but not the least, the battery. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 comes with a magnetic charger. You need to place the dial of the watch on the charger to charge it, which is fairly simple to do. One qualm that I have with the charger is that it doesn’t come with an adapter, which means that you will have to borrow your phone’s adapter to juice this one up. As far as battery life is concerned, it strictly depends on the way you use it. With features like AoD and LTE off, you can easily make the Galaxy Watch Active to run for a day-and-a-half without having to charge it. But if you turn any or both of these features on, the battery lasts just for a single day.
Now, the most important question: should you buy the Galaxy Watch Active 2 or not?
Well, the answer to this question is - yes, you can.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 looks good and it has a spectacular display that you can customise to a great extent. What adds to the overall allure of this device is the LTE connectivity, decent battery life and a fair price tag. Sure, it can get a bit wonky at times while reporting your data accurately, but if you can look past this teeny-tiny detail, this smartwatch is a keeper. Like we said, think of it as a smartwatch first, a fitness tracker later.