Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch7 hands-on

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Samsung’s July Unpacked event dedicated almost as much time to smart wearables as it did to the company’s Galaxy Z Fold6 and Galaxy Z Flip6 foldable. Granted, the Galaxy Ring got a lot of that attention, but it’s still clear that Samsung is making a strong effort to push into fitness and health trackers.

But despite the addition of two new products to the Galaxy Watch lineup, you’ll be forgiven for feeling slightly underwhelmed. We covered the Galaxy Ring, which somewhat inexplicably costs more than the 40mm Galaxy Watch7. The Galaxy Watch Ultra is quite similar to the Apple Watch Ultra, and we agree that it lacks Samsung’s distinct qualities – like a rotating bezel.

Weirder still, the new Quick Button, essentially a crown, does rotate but it’s disconnected from the UI and basically does nothing.

But let’s give the Galaxy Watch Ultra a chance to redeem itself. On the surface, this is an impressive smartwatch. Its case is made with titanium and it features sapphire glass on top of its screen. The new watch case looks interesting. Samsung calls it a “cushion” design and it’s a square on the outside with an integrated circle inside – the phrase “squircle” is used to describe it.

It’s undeniably an interesting design and does go a long way to making the Galaxy Watch Ultra stand out among its Galaxy Watch peers and Android watches in general. Apple Watch faithful would call this a clone of the Apple Watch Ultra, but that unit has a rectangular display to the Galaxy’s circle one.

A word on the buttons. The Galaxy Watch Ultra has the usual home and back buttons on the top and bottom on the right. But it also has the new Quick Button in the middle. You can program a single press to open an app or a workout and set what a double press does. A 5-second press triggers the emergency siren.

We’ll reiterate that having this Quick Button rotate and not move the UI around is a travesty. Instead, you can drag your finger at the edge of the circular screen to move the UI screens around, like on the bezel-less Galaxy Watch7.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch7 hands-on

It’s also a bit of a shame that the display on the Galaxy Watch Ultra isn’t bigger. It’s the same 1.5-inch 480x480px unit as the Galaxy Watch7. Phone logic dictates that having Ultra in the name means having a bigger screen. In this case, it mostly means having a tougher case and a bigger battery.

That last point is key – the Galaxy Watch Ultra ties the two-year-old Galaxy Watch5 Pro for the largest battery inside a company watch at 590mAh. Samsung says you can expect 60 hours of typical use, 48 hours in Exercise Power Saving, and up to 100 hours in regular Power Saving mode.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch7 hands-on

It seems the Galaxy Watch Ultra took the place of the Galaxy Watch Classic in this year’s lineup, leaving us with a successor to the regular Galaxy Watch6 – the Galaxy Watch7.

On the surface, the 7 looks identical to the 6 – you have an Armor Aluminum case and a flat-top sapphire crystal display cover. There’s an upgraded BioActive sensor on the underside of the Galaxy Watch7, as well as a more advanced 3nm Exynos W1000 chipset inside.

Samsung boldly claims the new chip has three times the performance and we’re eager to test that. Samsung also says to expect 30% better efficiency, which should mean the Galaxy Watch7 will be able to eke out some extra battery life from the same battery pack.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch7 hands-on

Another improvement over last year’s Galaxy Watch6 is the addition of dual-band GPS, something other Wear OS watches like the Xiaomi Watch 2 Pro have. It makes the GPS faster to lock and more accurate.

Both the Galaxy Watch7 and Galaxy Watch Ultra pioneer a new “double pinch”, which works when you pinch together the thumb and index finger on your watch hand. This didn’t work during our time at the hands-on, but should by the time we have the new watches in for review. It works the same way as Apple’s Double Tap on its latest smartwatches.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch7 hands-on

Thanks to the power of AI and the new second-gen BioActive sensor, the new Galaxy Watch7 and Watch Ultra can spot potential signs of sleep apnea – something you’d usually need expensive equipment to monitor.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch7 hands-on

The new watches also bring a few new watch faces and bands. You can choose between a fabric band, a metal band, and the usual silicone bands in a variety of colors and color combinations. Samsung is including a fabric band to go along your default silicone band for free during the pre-order period.


The various straps for
The various straps for

The various straps for

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