The Galaxy Watch Active 2 smartwatch from Samsung wants to be everything: chic lifestyle accessory, reliable training partner, attentive meditation coach, portable music box and, and, and … Can that work? We've made the test.
Galaxy Watch Active vs. Active 2: what's new?
Only about six months after the Galaxy Watch Active, Samsung launched the Active 2. The new model is a bit larger and a little clunkier at 10.9 instead of 10.5 millimeters in height, but still lighter. Depending on the variant, the new edition weighs 26 (small aluminum variant) up to a maximum of 44 grams (large stainless steel model), the predecessor weighs 46 grams. For the test, we use the 40-millimeter stainless steel version in black.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 from Samsung is higher, but also lighter than its predecessor.
There are three major innovations in the features:
- The LTE model of the Active 2 is eSIM-compatible and can therefore be used without a smartphone. In the test, however, I only use the watch in combination with my smartphone.
- The new model has a digital bezel based on the classic mechanical ring around the dial.
- The interactive "running coach" provides training recommendations in real time.
The EKG function, which my colleague Annika was hoping for in hands-on , was not yet available at the time of the test. Another new feature, according to Samsung, is to add fall detection in the first quarter of 2020.
Samsung presents freedom of design
For Samsung, the design of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 was apparently just as important as the functionality: the new model has increased in combination options, the watch should fit just as well for dinner with friends as for training in the gym. The watch is therefore available in different versions depending on the connectivity (LTE or Bluetooth):
- with 40 and 44 millimeter cases
- in stainless steel and aluminum
- in black, silver and gold (stainless steel) or aqua black, cloud silver and pink gold (aluminum model)
- with different colored bracelets made of real leather and fluororubber
The bracelets can be exchanged depending on the occasion. The leather strap of our test model shouldn't get wet, but that didn't bother me in the test. If you want to take the watch with you for swimming, you can attach a rubber strap and switch back to the leather strap before visiting the restaurant or in the office. The watch has a high quality finish and can be worn comfortably despite the relatively high case.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 offers a variety of dials that display details such as heart rate or pedometer in addition to the time. My personal design highlight : based on a photo of the clothes, the watch creates an individual dial that fits perfectly with the outfit.
I simply take a picture of my clothes with my cell phone. In the Wear app, I select the "Background image" or "My photo +" option under the "Dials" menu item. The memory is sufficient for up to 20 photos. I can change the font color and font of the dials slightly so that they match my self-created background.
Operating convenience of the Active 2
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is easy to use, the touch display responds reliably. On the right side of the housing there are two buttons (back and on / off). This is practical in principle, but for a left-handed woman like me the buttons are a bit complicated to use. I wear the watch on my right wrist and have to reach around the case with my left hand to reach the buttons. But I'm getting used to it.
Counter-intuitive: Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active 2 is more complicated to use for left-handers.
Samsung has also digitized the bezel (the border of the dial). The slightly raised display edge is said to improve scrolling through apps and messages. By swiping over the border, I navigate through menus, for example. This works well, the digital bezel gives a pleasant haptic feedback and scrolls reliably. However, I quickly find out that this function is not necessary: swiping is also quick and is more intuitive for me.
The digital bezel is designed to simplify scrolling through apps and messages.
I find it a bit awkward that I need two different apps to use the watch optimally. If I want to see my workouts, I need the Health app. I need Samsung's Wear app to configure the watch and change settings. For notifications, I also have to install the Watch Active 2 plug-in in the Wear app. An app for everything would be more practical.
Lifestyle functions: exercise, sleep, meditation
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is not an all-rounder in everyday life, but a multi-talent. Like a classic wristwatch, it continuously shows the time when needed. It automatically detects everyday movements such as walking and cycling. After about ten minutes of continuous operation, this counts as a workout for the watch, is evaluated and saved accordingly.
The clock counts steps continuously. My default goal is 6,000 steps a day. The watch reminds me of this regularly. She also encourages me to stay active. If the 6,000 steps are reached, I receive a small award.
If I sit too long, the watch reminds me to move. I can take a few steps, squat, or follow the stretching exercises on the display. The only practical thing for me in the office is the stretching exercises that I do while sitting at my desk. Finally, the watch praises me – and I actually feel a little more relaxed physically.
The heart indicates activity, training and hourly movement.
At night the watch tracks sleep, I hardly feel it on my wrist. Night mode also prevents incoming notifications from interfering. In the morning I get a detailed analysis of the total sleep duration on the display, broken down into light sleep, REM sleep, deep sleep and waking phases. I get suspicious when the watch tracks over an hour of sleep in one afternoon, even though I'm awake all the time. According to Samsung, the watch recognizes sleep phases based on pulse rate and lack of movement. On that afternoon, I just seemed to be moving a little and had a low pulse. But I didn't sleep.
I find the integrated alarm clock practical. The watch reliably wakes me at the desired time with the set tone. Exceptionally, the first glance does not go to the cell phone, which I find pleasant.
The integrated alarm clock worked perfectly in the test.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 also evaluates the stress level via pulse measurement (using eight photodiodes on the back of the watch). If necessary, I can do a breathing exercise. According to the instructions on the display, I should breathe deeply in and out six times. The exercise is supported by short vibrations, which dictate the breathing rhythm. If I want, I can close my eyes.
In cooperation with the Calm app, Samsung's health app offers additional exercises for mindfulness . A gentle voice guides me to meditate on the twittering of birds, and I can also listen to bedtime stories and playlists. I pause the session via the clock if necessary. The Active 2 measures the pulse during meditation. After the session, she shows me my previous and current stress levels. However, only a few sessions are freely accessible. To listen to all titles and programs, I would have to activate the premium version of Calm for a fee.
Sport: training with tracking
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 automatically recognizes exercise sessions on the treadmill in the gym, also after about ten minutes. The watch tracks how long and at what speed I run, how many calories I burn and what distance I cover. The watch also recognizes training on the rowing machine after about ten minutes.
The watch recognizes the rowing workout in the gym without any problems.
According to Samsung, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 automatically registers seven sports: walking, running, cycling, rowing, elliptical training, swimming (the watch is waterproof to a depth of 50 meters) and dynamic workouts. For precise results and recommendations, I create a personal profile with gender, age, height and weight. I can see my workouts from the past 30 days in the Health app and in the log directly in the watch.
By the way, I don't have to wait for the watch to automatically register a workout. I can also start each workout manually. Then, in addition to the seven sports mentioned, other disciplines such as hiking, circuit training, bench press and sit-ups are available.
The interactive "Running Coach" is new in Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active 2. I choose "light jogging", the workout lasts 30 minutes. The somewhat tinny computer voice gives me instructions in real time as I run, I should warm up, speed up or keep up the pace. If I become too slow, the watch asks: "Do you feel good enough to exercise today?" Recommends "Get faster" or "Try a little more." If I follow all the instructions, the voice praises: "Looks good" or "Great speed". I find the "running coach" motivating. At the end of the round, I receive a detailed protocol that informs me, among other things, of the duration, distance, pulse ranges and average speed.
Other functions: WhatsApp, phone calls, music
Upon request, the watch will notify you of incoming WhatsApp messages. I can react to the messages directly via the clock, for example, emojis and pre-made text modules are available. Finding a suitable reaction is a bit fiddly on the small display, but the function is still practical. On the way to the subway, I answer messages while waiting at the traffic lights without having to take my cell phone out of my pocket.
Find a cell phone with the Active 2
Mobile phone misplaced? The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 also offers the "Find phone" function. If I activate the feature, my phone actually rings – even though I silently switched it off.
I can also search for the watch using my mobile phone and the Wear app. The watch starts to beep and vibrate at the touch of a finger on the smartphone. However, both searches only work if the watch and cell phone are connected via Bluetooth .
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a microphone and a speaker. I can make calls over the clock without having to use my smartphone. The sound of the microphone is not crystal clear, but I can make a phone call in peace. Practical when I want to take a call quickly and I don't have my cell phone at hand. If I want to switch to a smartphone, I can switch the call from the watch to my cell phone with just a tap.
Music can also be heard with the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. The integrated loudspeaker provides acceptable services for the pre-installed track. I can also connect Bluetooth headphones to the watch, import tracks from my phone and download the Spotify app from the Galaxy Store.
Technical equipment: battery and display
The technical equipment of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 varies depending on the model. An inductive charging station with USB cable is always included. A suitable power plug unfortunately never. I connect the charging station to my laptop via USB. Charging takes about two hours with a 15 percent battery level, and I use the adapter on my smartphone as the power plug.
The battery life of the Active 2 varies depending on the intensity of use. If I use the watch a lot, I have to charge it every day. With little use after about two days. The fact that I have to charge the watch comparatively often reduces my enthusiasm for the many reliable functions.
Important: Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active 2 is available in two different sizes, the batteries of the models differ greatly from each other. As with our test model, the smaller watches have a battery with 240 mAh – the larger case contains a 340 mAh battery.
Like its predecessor, the Active 2 has a Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 360 x 360 pixels. The display of the smaller model measures 1.2 inches, the larger version is 1.4 inches. The screen is made of robust Gorilla Glass DX +, the glass of our test model showed no signs of wear even after two weeks.
The quality of the display is outstanding: colors shine and symbols are sharp.
The display of the Active 2 also convinces with high resolution and brilliant colors. A high-contrast live background with semi-transparent soap bubbles runs smoothly. The display is easy to read even in daylight.
As with the predecessor, the RAM of the standard model is 768 megabytes, the LTE version is 1.5 gigabytes. The internal memory available for both models is approximately 1.4 gigabytes. The processor and operating system also do not differ from the previous model: Exynos9110 and Tizen OS remain.
Conclusion: all-rounder with small weaknesses
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 looks nice and is an all-rounder with a variety of functions, which all worked well in the test. The automatic tracking of running and cycling motivated me to move more. The smartwatch also served me well in the gym and reliably recognized the workouts. WhatsApp, alarm clock, customizable dial and stress monitoring complete the range of features. Only the limited battery life and the unnecessarily complex operation via two apps leave room for improvement.