- Sleek and stylish
- Wear OS has never been better
- Tons of useful health-tracking features
- Battery life is a big let down
- Some features reserved for Galaxy phones
Three generations into its Google partnership and use of Wear OS, Samsung hits a new stride with the Galaxy Watch 6.
If 2021’s Galaxy Watch 4 represented a new start not just for Samsung but also for Google’s then-stagnant Wear OS platform, then the Galaxy Watch 6 feels like a deliverance of what both parties originally set out to do two years ago.
Not only has Samsung’s hardware been refined to present what is arguably the most confident-looking Galaxy Watch to date, but the much-needed refresh that was Wear OS 3 has now been refined into the even more impressive Wear OS 4.
It’s not a perfect pairing mind, and while there are plenty of things that can be improved going forward, the Galaxy Watch 6 is easily Samsung’s best smartwatch since the Galaxy Watch 4. Here’s our verdict.
Price and competition
As is to be expected in the current economic climate, the Galaxy Watch 6 has been subject to a slight price increase over its predecessor:
Galaxy Watch 6 40mm: From $299/£289
Galaxy Watch 6 44mm: From $429/£319
Even with that $30/£20 increase from the Galaxy Watch 5, the Watch 6 is still cheaper than both the Pixel Watch and the TicWatch Pro 5 which are the main contenders here if you’re dead-set on picking up a recent Wear OS watch.
Of course, there is the pricier Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic if you’d prefer to have a more traditional-looking timepiece that makes use of Samsung’s excellent physical rotating bezel.
If you're struggling to make decisions, make sure you read these essential guides:
Design and screen
If people struggled to pinpoint exactly what was new about the Galaxy Watch 5, the same cannot be said for the Galaxy Watch 6 as you’ll notice its biggest change the moment you turn it on.
Gone are the bulky bezels of old, reduced by 30% alongside a 20% increase in screen size to fill the space. It’s a tad difficult to gauge the full impact of this change unless you hold the Galaxy Watch 6 in your hands, but the larger screen just makes the watch feel more complete, just like the Apple Watch 7 did when it made greater use of its own available space.
It’s the same thing here, and everything benefits from the change. Watch faces look better, it’s now easier to read the information on the watch, and there are fewer chances of accidentally touching something you didn’t mean to on the screen. Plus, the display itself is as bright as ever, which makes it incredibly easy to read outdoors.
While the screen has had a notable change over last year, the same cannot be said for the Watch 6’s design, but that’s no bad thing. The most recent Galaxy Watches have been some of the best-looking smartwatches around, and that continues here with smooth surfaces all-round and two low-key push buttons on the right-hand side that strictly adhere to the minimalist philosophy.
Features, OS, and ecosystem
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and the Watch 6 Classic are the first smartwatches anywhere to pack Wear OS 4 out of the box, and while the full extent of this upgrade will reveal itself over the coming year, it is great to see just how far Wear OS has come.
As previously mentioned, Wear OS 3 finally gave Google’s operating system the overhaul it needed if it ever intended to genuinely stack up against Apple’s far superior watchOS, and to Google’s credit, the company now plays a more active role in improving Wear OS than it ever did before.
For instance, Wear OS 4 starts on solid ground with the introduction of a dedicated WhatsApp app for smartwatches (which isn’t currently available on the Apple Watch), new Tiles for Spotify, and an overhaul to the Google Calendar Wear OS app. Compare this to a few years back and the future is looking a lot brighter for Wear OS and the Galaxy Watch 6 as a result.
Of course, with this being a Samsung device, the Watch 6 has been optimized to work best with a Samsung phone in tow. You can use the Galaxy Watch 6 with any phone running Android 10 or higher, but you can only see the results for certain health metrics (more on that later) on a Samsung phone. It’s not a gigantic problem but worth bearing in mind, and don’t even think about pairing this with an iPhone (it just won’t work).
However, having some features be inaccessible to a handful of users speaks to a wider issue about the obtuse nature of Samsung’s overarching ecosystem. For instance, when we tried switching on the watch’s ‘Theatre Mode’ during a film, we were then prompted to run through a bunch of steps to set the whole thing up on our connected phone. It’s hardly ideal and nowhere near as seamless as what Apple can offer.
One thing that can’t be leveled against the Galaxy Watch 6 though is any complaints about speed. Thanks to the new Exynos W930 chipset, everything from scrolling through menus to jumping into apps runs smoothly, and it helps to show off Wear OS in its best light, particularly with the digital rotating bezel.
Samsung wearables have rarely left us longing in the realm of sports and fitness tracking, and this remains largely the same for the Galaxy Watch 6.
Unless you partake in a sport so niche that even Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for it, you should be fine with the vast array of workouts available to be tracked via the Galaxy Watch 6. It also means that the Watch 6 casts a wider net in terms of which users it's best suited for.
For instance, the simple breakdown of daily stats into a heart-shaped diagram (similar to Apple’s Rings) is easy to understand from the jump, and makes it easier for people at the start of their fitness journey to make some meaningful gains, while the more detailed running data and heart rate zones are better suited for more established athletes.
Heart rate accuracy
Speaking of which, the Galaxy Watch 6 can pump out some pretty accurate heart rate data under the right circumstances – during an indoor cycle, the watch hit the same 173BPM peak and 139BPM average as an accompanying Myzone MZ-Switch heart rate monitor.
On an elliptical machine, we recorded a 169bpm peak and 133bpm average while the MZ-Switch counted a lower 167bpm peak and 132bpm average. The differences between the two here aren't statistically significant and mean we're perfectly happy to recommend based on heart rate accuracy.
There’s also an untethered GPS connection for all you runners out there, and the Galaxy Watch 6 does a decent job of connecting quickly.
Like the rest of our testing, heart rate accuracy was solid
Just like the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, we saw runs coming up around 100m short over 10km – and this is generally because of significant GPS wandering, that ends up cutting corners when you run in built-up areas. So while heart rate tracking is right up there with the best, passionate runners will need to look everywhere.
That's a shame because there are some brilliant features on offer here.
We tested the new heart rate zone training features and loved the implementation. You can select a zone to run in by hitting the settings cog option before you start a run. There's a great graphic to show your current zone, and subtle prompts if you stray too high or low.
There are also a ton of metrics on running form tracked within running workouts in the Samsung Health app. It will rate your form for asymmetry, contact time, flight time, regularity, vertical, and stiffness. There are good explanations in Samsung Health about what these mean, and some drills are hidden away as well to help you improve.
The minor GPS accuracy is a slight mark against a strong fitness showing for the Galaxy Watch 6. There are also Wear OS 3 apps for Strava and other third-party services, so the Galaxy Watch 6 can be recommended to those who love to work out.
WareableWhen it comes to health tracking, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 is one of the most competent wearables in this arena, so much so that we’d argue it beats out the Apple Watch 8 in a few areas.
For starters, last year’s Body Measure feature makes a return which uses Samsung’s BioActive sensor to analyse a whole range of health factors including your skeletal muscle, body water, and BMI. We tested these results against the Withings Body Cardio scale and were surprised to find a fair amount of accuracy from Samsung’s watch, although we still recommend opting for a scale for the most stable results possible.
As well as an expected ECG sensor, the Galaxy Watch 6 can also monitor your blood pressure which is still very novel for a smartwatch and a key metric worth analysing about daily stress levels. As great as it is to see these features here, however, they are unfortunately locked behind the Samsung Health Monitor app which is inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have a Samsung Galaxy phone.
This means that if you have a Google Pixel, a OnePlus phone, or any other mainstream Android handset, you’ll be out of luck unless you decide to take the plunge and shift completely to Samsung’s ecosystem.
I can understand Samsung wanting to retain a degree of efficiency between its devices so that people might naturally be tempted to swap over, but to lock such big features away just feels like a misstep that we’d like to see corrected with a software update.
It’s a shame too because the Samsung Health app, on both the watch and your accompanying phone, looks great – everything is signposted which again makes it great for beginners who don’t want to get lost in a neverending set of stats.
One of the new benefits of Wear OS 4 is that the Galaxy Watch 6 can now track your sleep stages to give you a more in-depth look at how well you’re managing to settle down throughout the night. At least, that’s what it attempts to do on paper.
When compared to the Whoop Strap 4.0, the Galaxy Watch 6 had no issues in tracking the total amount of time spent in bed and was spot on for tracking any instances of waking up.
While we don't tend to evaluate wearables on the accuracy of light/deep/REM cycles, as this can only be truly verified in a sleep lab, these were all generally in line with our Whoop 4.0, which is reassuring.
It's one of the strongest sleep-tracking performances of general-interest smartwatches out there.
After several days, the Galaxy Watch bestows you with a ‘Sleep Animal’ that reflects what type of sleeper you are and offers up either praise or some helpful written guidance. It prevents sleep tracking from feeling like an abundance of impenetrable stats, that might otherwise put off anyone in the early stages of trying to make meaningful changes to their routine.
If there’s one area where Samsung needs to make some significant tweaks to stay ahead of the competition, it’s battery life. Wear OS is finally on an upward trajectory, and there’s no shortage of health and workout features here but it’s all let down by lackluster battery life.
This isn’t to say that the Galaxy Watch 6 is unusable in the way that the Pixel Watch can be if you’re not mindful of how much is left in the tank. But if you intend to use the sleep-tracking features, you will run into serious battery anxiety.
We'd recommend keeping the always-on display switched off if you want to make it to the end of the day without worry.
With the always-on display toggled on, we were able to get through 16 hours of use with a workout tracked, plenty of notifications, and some app use, before it got to 47%.
This wasn’t too bad but that percentage dropped significantly throughout the night to the point where we weren’t comfortable getting in a morning workout without topping up the Galaxy Watch 6 beforehand. We saw around 30% drop off overnight, with SpO2 tracking turned on.
When we didn’t have the always-on display running, we took the Watch off its charging dock at 8:30 am and got through a more intensive 15 hours of use which included an NFC payment and a tracked hour-long walk, with 65% left in the tank.
Even after sleep tracking and a workout the following morning, the Galaxy Watch 6 still had 38% left by nearly 11 a.m. the next day. Both instances require daily charge but for peace of mind, it’s best to embark without the always-on display.
Speaking of charging, you won’t have to wait around too long for a full battery. We managed to get from 0 to 53% in just 30 minutes which, oddly enough, beats Samsung’s claim of a 45% top-up over the same amount of time. It took a total of one hour and 13 minutes to reach a full charge.
So you need to remember to put the Galaxy Watch 6 on charge as soon as you wake up if you don't charge it overnight.
Should you buy it?
Despite its faults, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 is a great smartwatch. It’s right up there with the Pixel Watch in terms of being one of the most fashionable wearables you can buy right now, and the speedier chipset allows Wear OS 4 to perform brilliantly.
For the tons of health data available and absolutely no shortage of workouts to be tracked, the Galaxy Watch 6 is easy to recommend for both casual gym goers and enthusiasts alike who want a solid all-rounder.
Unfortunately, only users who have a Samsung Galaxy phone will get the full unencumbered experience here, and if battery life is your key concern then you’ll get on much better with the recent TicWatch Pro 5 which can outlast the Galaxy Watch almost five times over.
Still, if you’re an Android user who wants an Apple Watch-like experience without making the full switch to iOS, the Galaxy Watch 6 is one of the best options out there.
Galaxy Watch 6 specs
|Wear OS 4
|Up to 40-hours
|Gyro, accelerometer, heart rate, compass, barometer, thermometer
|GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, BDS
How we test