Good battery life
In-depth fitness tracking
Limited third-party apps
Setup is tricky
This is an attractive smartwatch that’s very comfortable to wear. The fitness features are top-notch, you can check messages, take calls, and pay from your wrist, and in-depth customization helps you make it your own. It’s a great device to live with, despite weaknesses in the setup and a limited choice of third-party apps. While the Apple Watch is the right choice for iPhone owners, if you have an Android phone in your pocket, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the watch you want.
About the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
There are a few different models to choose from when buying a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. It comes in 40mm or 44mm sizes, with an aluminum or stainless steel case, and with a wide choice of bands.
The 40mm size starts at $279.99, while the 44mm starts at $299.99. That’s for the Bluetooth model with an aluminum case, which comes in silver, black, or pink gold. The Bluetooth models are WiFi-only and must be close to the paired smartphone to connect to the internet when there’s no WiFi nearby.
You also have the option of going for the Bluetooth and LTE model, which features the stainless steel case in silver, black, or gold. The Bluetooth and LTE models can connect directly to the internet, allowing you to leave the phone at home when you go for a workout. However, this adds $150 to the price, and you will also need a carrier plan for any LTE model of the Active 2, which will likely cost around $10 per month. A cellular connection will also be more demanding on battery life.
While there are a few options for the exterior of your Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, the core is essentially the same in every model:
- Display: Circular Super AMOLED Full Color Always On Display (1.2 inches for the 40mm, 1.4 inches for the 44mm, both are 360 x 360 pixels)
- Processor: Exynos 9110 Dual-core 1.15GHz processor
- Navigation: A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Ambient light sensor
- Water resistance: Up to 50 meters (5ATM and IP68)
- Audio: Microphone and speaker
- Battery: 340mAh (44mm) and 247mAh (40mm)
- Storage: 4GB of storage
- Extras: Samsung Pay
What We Like
Always-on display and touch bezel
Samsung’s Super AMOLED display technology has led the field for years and helped propel its smartphones and wearables to success. Quite simply, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 has one of the best screens you’ll find on any device. It’s sharp, always bright enough, and very responsive. It’s easy to read in direct sunlight or in the dark, with an ambient light sensor that makes automatic adjustments.
You have the option of setting the display to always-on, which goes a long way toward giving smartwatches the look of a real watch. If you prefer to squeeze more life from the battery, you can turn this feature off, in which case the screen will only come to life when you lift your arm to look at it.
While the touchscreen is responsive to taps and swipes, with physical buttons for back and apps, the best feature for navigation is the touch-sensitive bezel. Simply slide your finger around the outside edge of the screen and you get accurate, fine control for navigating through home screens and menus. This partly works so well because the haptic feedback is perfect.
Fitness tracking and coaching
There’s a reason that Active is in the name of this smartwatch. It boasts excellent fitness tracking capabilities, coaches you through runs and some exercises, and prods you to stay active throughout the day. You set goals for daily activity, and there’s a heart system that challenges you to hit targets for burning calories, completing exercises, and moving around. Achieve all three, and you close the sides to make up a heart and get your badge for the day.
Progress is tracked in detail in the Samsung Health app on your phone. It tracks your steps, flights of stairs climbed, active time, workouts, sleep, heart rate, and stress level automatically. You can choose to track your food, water, or caffeine intake. You can also track your weight, blood glucose level, blood pressure, and menstrual cycle. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 also has built-in GPS to track your run and cycle routes.
With support for 39 different types of workouts, there’s a good chance you can track all your exercise with the Galaxy Watch Active 2. Walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, elliptical workouts, and dynamic workouts are tracked automatically, while other things like crunches or arm curls must be started manually.
The coaching element of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is fun and useful. If you do arm curls, for example, it will count off the reps and give you a rest period between sets. The running coach goes further to monitor steps per minute and pace, giving you information from time to time and pausing when you pause. Encouragement extends beyond exercise to gentle vibrations that remind you to move when you’ve been sedentary for too long or suggest a breathing exercise when you’re getting stressed out. The overall effect is genuinely motivating but stops short of being annoying or obtrusive.
Samsung has promised ECG (electrocardiogram) functionality, which would allow the watch to detect atrial fibrillation like the Apple Watch can, but it has not cleared the FDA yet.
In short, this is a great smartwatch for tracking your activity and helping you be healthier. You can also pair Bluetooth headphones and use it to play music while you work out, though the limited 4GB capacity is a little disappointing since much of it is accounted for out of the box.
Good battery life
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 can easily go two days between charges, even with the display set to always-on. Depending on how you use it, you could conceivably squeeze even longer out of a full battery. For a full-featured smartwatch like this, that’s impressive stamina. If you use GPS and play music frequently, you’ll likely need to charge it every night. But battery life is one area where it outshines even the Apple Watch Series 5.
While it supports wireless charging, the Active 2 didn’t charge with many of the third-party wireless charging pads or stands I tested. You’ll need to stick with the magnetic charger included or buy a specific charger that supports it. Unfortunately, it is quite slow to charge up, with 30 minutes on the charger taking the 44mm model up to just 25 percent from zero.
Design and customization
With an understated design and a circular face, Samsung's Active 2 blends in far better than most of the smartwatches we've tested. It looks at home in the gym, the office, or at a bar. The two case sizes also cater to different wrists and tastes. The sports band is very comfortable and sweatproof, but you can always change up the look with leather or opt for a metal link band.
Samsung has also included a great range of professional looking watch faces from traditional fare to animated wallpapers to information-packed faces. There’s even an option to create your own watch face with the exact look and all the complications you want. The depth here is very pleasing. You can use your own photo as a background, but I particularly like the My Style face, which allows you to take a photo of your outfit and then matches the colors exactly. It sounds gimmicky, but it actually works very well and adds real versatility to the look of your watch.
What We Don’t Like
Setup and Samsung apps
The setup experience with the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 leaves something to be desired. Using the smartwatch with a Pixel 4, I had to install the Galaxy Wear app, which then prompted me to install a couple of other Samsung apps, tried to update the watch software, and finally failed to connect. I had to wipe it and start again. Once complete, I found I also had to install the Samsung Health app to delve into the fitness and sleep tracking. This whole experience should be a lot smoother.
Limited third-party apps
Tizen OS feels slick and it’s more pleasant to use than Wear OS, but I really missed some Google services, especially Google Assistant and Maps. Samsung’s Bixby can handle some basic queries, but it failed to do as I asked far too often. While you’ll find Spotify and the fitness tracker Strava, there’s also a lack of third-party apps for Tizen. It has far fewer than Wear OS or Watch OS and many of the apps that are available aren’t very good.
If you have an iPhone, you should buy an Apple Watch. There are too many limitations and potential difficulties with the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 and iOS.
Should You Buy It?
If you own an Android phone, yes
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the best smartwatch currently available for Android phone owners. It combines all the best features of a comprehensive fitness tracker with all the essentials you expect from a smartwatch.
While the usual prices start from $279.99 for the 40mm model and $299.99 for the 44mm model, you will find frequent deep discounts that make the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 even more compelling. The extra $150 for the LTE model seems tough to justify.
If you already own the original Galaxy Watch Active or the Galaxy Watch, you may want to wait for future models, as the Watch Active 2 only offers incremental improvements. The touch-sensitive bezel and some other features have also rolled out to older models via software updates.
For athletes and real fitness fanatics, this should be enough to satisfy, but you may want to look at the best fitness trackers or dedicated running watches too. Anyone with an iPhone should buy the Apple Watch Series 5 instead. For Android phone owners with less interest in fitness, there are some good Wear OS watches worth considering, particularly the Skagen Falster 3.
Ultimately, only the Apple Watch bests the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. This is a thoughtfully designed smartwatch that will genuinely help to boost your fitness and a few minor issues aren’t enough to spoil an overall great experience wearing this watch.
Meet the tester
Simon Hill is a freelance technology journalist with a decade of writing experience covering everything from smartphones to smart home gadgets. For the last few years, he served as Associate Editor at Digital Trends where he wrote features, reviews, analysis, how-tos, and more.
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