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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: ‘good’ is as good as it gets

I’ve been utilizing the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 for a few week now, and it has completed one thing outstanding: it’s made me resolve to cease saying there are not any good smartwatch choices for Android customers.

Released simply six months after its predecessor, the Active 2 is a fairly good possibility. Some software program points maintain it from being nice, although. And in case your cellphone isn’t made by Samsung, plan on some software program annoyances.

The apparent and clear success of the Apple Watch for iPhone homeowners has made the dearth of high quality choices for Android telephones really feel that rather more acute. But Samsung has been quietly plugging away at bettering the Galaxy Watch and the software program that runs it. The result’s a watch that checks off many of the bins smartwatch patrons ought to care about.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a spherical smartwatch that begins at $279, although you possibly can pay larger costs relying on the scale and LTE. It is available in 40 and 44mm sizes, has just a few totally different finishes, and the watch bands could be simply swapped out. (The unique Active remains to be accessible and barely cheaper. The unique Galaxy Watch with a bodily rotating bezel can also be sticking round for a better worth.)

I like how unassuming the Active 2 appears to be like. I’ve the essential black mannequin, and its matte end and barely curved glass give it easy, clear traces. In a world the place most Android smartwatches both look explicitly like health bands (the Fitbit) or emulate huge, costly watches (hiding how huge they should be), the Active 2 simply appears to be like like a easy watch.

It isn’t a watch I anticipated to exist as a result of its predecessor is barely six months outdated. The important downside with the final one is that Samsung whiffed on supporting the easiest characteristic of the Galaxy Watch lineup: a rotating bezel for scrolling by way of the software program.

The Active 2 doesn’t absolutely convey that again, however it now has a touch-sensitive capacitive ring across the display. Dragging your finger round it to scroll by way of numerous screens feels rather more intuitive than simply swiping as a result of the Active 2’s interface is usually constructed on circles.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: ‘good’ is as good as it gets

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: ‘good’ is as good as it gets

More particularly, the software program works by presenting you with loads of screens you possibly can rapidly scroll by way of. In one route, you could have notifications. In the opposite, there are a bunch of widgets with discrete items of knowledge. I take pleasure in jamming by way of these screens extra with a bodily bezel, however the touch-sensitive one isn’t horrible and significantly better than not having this sort of management in any respect.

One of the explanations this interface works is that it’s quick. Especially for those who go along with a easy watchface that doesn’t have a bunch of knowledge in issues, it’s handy to simply rotate by way of your climate, calendar, and health. (It’s such a good suggestion that Google lifted it wholesale for Wear OS.) That would by no means work if the watch had been sluggish. You could have some delays when launching full apps, however the widget system means you don’t need to that usually.

I additionally like that it has Spotify on it, and it’s comparatively straightforward to obtain Spotify playlists on to the watch. But the standard of third-party apps drops off steeply from there. There’s no built-in mapping or instructions app, and the app retailer doesn’t have something good to fill the hole. The third-party app scenario isn’t superb in any respect, however then once more, it’s not nice on any platform.

Some reviewers have identified that there are YouTube and Twitter apps, however the YouTube one by no means labored for me, and the Twitter consumer concerned an insecure signup course of. Avoid them. Besides, there’s an entire rattling internet browser constructed into the watch for those who actually wish to entry these websites. And sure, making an attempt to navigate the online on a watch is as hilariously unhealthy as you suppose.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: ‘good’ is as good as it gets

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: ‘good’ is as good as it gets

There is a big choice of third-party watchfaces to again up the numerous preinstalled faces from Samsung. I like having these choices, however I really feel like a bit extra curation might go a good distance. I needed to wade by way of loads of gaudy watchfaces to search out one thing I preferred.

The Active 2 additionally does some issues that different smartwatches (just like the Apple Watch) can’t pull off, like a built-in sleep tracker and a really intelligent “goodnight” mode that turns off the always-on display and notifications.

Oh, proper: it has an always-on display possibility, as all watches ought to. The display appears to be like nice to me, even when viewing it outdoor in shiny daylight. I left it on and usually received two full days of battery life, typically a bit extra if I didn’t train.

Speaking of train, you need to consider this as a smartwatch first and a health tracker second. Samsung does have loads of monitoring choices and Samsung Health is definitely higher than you may count on, however overall accuracy in terms of steps and distance has been problematic.

The different trouble with the Active 2 is, nicely, Samsung. If you’re utilizing an iPhone, simply transfer on and purchase an Apple Watch. If you’re utilizing a Samsung cellphone, you seemingly have every little thing it is advisable pair up with this watch. If you’re not, you will have to put in a number of items of helper software program, and it will get actually onerous.

Agree to Continue: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Every good system now requires you to conform to a sequence of phrases and circumstances earlier than you need to use it — contracts that nobody truly reads. It’s not possible for us to learn and analyze each single one in all these agreements. But we’re going to start out counting precisely what number of instances you must hit “agree” to make use of gadgets once we overview them since these are agreements most individuals don’t learn and positively can’t negotiate.

Although what it is advisable conform to might range relying on what sort of cellphone you’re setting it up with, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 requires you to conform to:

  • The Samsung Privacy coverage
  • A Samsung End User License settlement

These agreements aren’t negotiable, and you can not use the watch in any respect for those who don’t conform to them.

There are many different non-obligatory agreements. Some of them — just like the agreements for well being monitoring and voice providers — are non-obligatory, however they’ll maintain the watch from doing the core stuff you purchased it for, like monitoring steps or voice search.

  • Samsung Voice providers Privacy Policy 
  • Find My Watch and Find My Phone location providers acknowledgement
  • HERE mapping Terms of Service
  • HERE mapping Privacy Policy
  • Report Diagnostic Info consent
  • Marketing Information consent
  • Samsung Health Terms and Conditions
  • Samsung Health Privacy Policy

Final tally: two necessary agreements, eight non-obligatory agreements. Full disclosure: there could also be extra, however as a Samsung consumer, I already had a Samsung account and no matter agreements had been essential to set that up.

If you will get previous all that, it is advisable cope with the voice assistant on the watch: Bixby.

Bixby is best than it will get credit score for, however it doesn’t get a lot credit score from anyone. Using it to transcribe brief bits of texts works. But anytime you goal for one thing extra bold, you’re in for a delay at greatest or a tragic message that it will probably’t do it at worst. Since the third-party app scenario on the Active 2 is so poor, you find yourself having to go to Bixby to do issues like management good residence devices.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review: ‘good’ is as good as it gets

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is one of the best* smartwatch for Android customers. (The * isn’t a typo; it’s the indicator that there are some huge caveats.) The Active 2 will get the fundamentals proper: it appears to be like good, lasts not less than a few days on a cost, has an always-on display, and runs software program that’s quick and straightforward to make use of.

That is greater than I can say for some other Android-compatible smartwatch. But the skinny third-party app assist, iffy health monitoring accuracy, and typically onerous Samsung software program maintain it from being nice. Still, I feel it’s a great smartwatch.

For Android customers, “good” is pretty much as good because it will get. I’ll take it.

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