At Charged Up, we like to take time out from our usual wearable musings to get the vapours about something within the industry. It’s a quiet, safe place where we get to vent our opinions, and you, reader, have to try and deal with that. Can you?
Well, if you’re a Samsung fan, probably not, because I’ve got the hot-take cannon at the ready and I'm primed to fire some Big Thoughts about the Galaxy Watch your way.
Read this: Which Samsung smartwatch should you buy?
So, what's my deal? Okay, so after an industry whisper here, a leaked logo there and the company itself listing the upcoming smartwatch early on its website(!), it feels like we pretty much know everything there is to know about the smartwatch. And, you know what, I’m not sure I’m pumped for it.
From everything we’ve heard over the past few months, with talk particularly ramping up over the last few weeks, this just doesn’t have the feel of something that can truly replace the space’s undisputed champion - the Apple Watch. And while it’s unfair to compare the two in some respects, what Samsung has done to challenge Apple in the smartphone space should also serve as an example that the monopoly won't automatically last forever, as long as an option is out there that can challenge it.
Galax-seen it all before
Does the Galaxy Watch do that, based on what we know? In terms of features, the device should be fairly in line with what’s offered by current rival smartwatches. Bixby is finally set to make an appearance on a Samsung smartwatch, which is, you know, great, but also not that inspiring an addition when voice assistants have become a staple on other devices over the past year.
Another rumoured feature, sleep tracking, would also be welcome, but it’s something that Garmin and Fitbit have both been providing wearers with for years. If Samsung can pip the latter for the sleep tracking crown on its first attempt, the wait may have been worth it, but it’s also a significant ask to get it right.
The wider point to this, ultimately, is that there just doesn’t feel like we’re going to get anything truly new. Going back to smartphones, the reason Samsung has been able to realistically challenge Apple’s business is by staying one step ahead, whether through waterproofing, innovative, edge screen design or camera technology. It hasn’t been able to follow the same blueprint through its smartwatches — at least not yet, anyway.
There have also been multiple reports that blood pressure monitoring is set to debut on the Galaxy Watch, and while not necessarily a mass-appeal feature, it’s something that would give it a boost over what’s on offer through Google’s smartwatch clan and others. Still, we’d say it’s unlikely it’ll actually come through the Galaxy Watch, with this kind of tech still potentially a couple of generations away from a mass market device.
So, from the looks of it, we could be in line for some serious déjà vu when it comes to the feature set of the Galaxy Watch. This will be a device that aims to do it all, while probably only really doing some of it really well, and, for the most part, that’s something we've just come to accept.
Obviously, it’s not just about what’s packed inside or what software it’s running on, either. For the record, whether the Galaxy Watch comes running Tizen 4 (the more likely) or Wear OS, I don’t really think it makes too great a difference to its Apple Watch challenge.
What could have helped make this an Apple Watch killer, though, was a more radical design. We’ve seen the company blaze its own trail in televisions and smartphones, as mentioned, and from the one leaked image (above) we have of the Galaxy Watch, it just looks… I don’t know — alright? Blending the strong aspects of the Gear S2 and Gear S3 (that great rotating bezel, coupled with a classic watch design) is something we absolutely wanted to see, but it does also feel like we’re overdue for one of the big hitters delivering an ultra-slim smartwatch that doesn’t compromise on GPS or LTE, or a device that has smart straps — something, anything.
And seeing Samsung stick with the status quo is even more frustrating, since this is a company that has shown it can take design risks, and is experimental, with C-Labs collaborations and endless talk of incorporating flexible tech into its devices.
I'm not saying the Galaxy Watch will fail, of course. Let's be real, it'll almost definitely be the company's best smartwatch yet. I just don't believe, from everything we've seen through the tsunami of leaks, that it has the ability to scare the folks in Cupertino. And when you’re not at the top of the pile, you have to do something a little different to try and force your way in. I hope I'm eating my words on 9 August, when the company is expected to officially unveil the Galaxy Watch, but the signs all seem to be pointing in one direction.