It has been over seven years now, since I used my first ever smartwatch. Since then, while the watches themselves have evolved a fair bit — what hasn’t is my outlook towards these devices. I don’t doubt the utility of a smartwatch, but what I do question is its longevity.
You see, when you spend around ₹50,000 for a watch, for the longest time, the idea was that you were buying heirloom material. Purist horologists aside, such a price-tag would at least get you watches from the likes of Baume & Mercier and Tissot.
You may argue that all of these are luxury, lifestyle purchases. But, over the past seven-odd years, I’ve seen only a select few who have purchased a wearable for a purpose of sheer fitness or sport. Sure, the pandemic accelerated the number of individuals buying (and even gifting) wearables — but most bought themselves something affordable. Premium watches, on the other hand, have largely remained a lifestyle gadget.
This year, Samsung (and subsequently Apple) appear to have set out to create watches that justify their utility for a niche bunch of people — athletes, and frequent outdoor enthusiasts.
In face of all this, here’s Samsung’s biggest smartwatch till date — the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. It promises a rugged case, a more outdoorsy feature set (thus the ‘Pro’ tag in the name), and a pretty lofty price tag that makes it one of the more premium options among smartwatches for the Android ecosystem.
If you’ve used any smartwatch before, one key point of contention has been the lack of fluidness in the smartwatch interfaces. The same also applied to Samsung’s older generation watches — the Galaxy Watch 3, for instance. For now, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro appears to have addressed this major shortcoming.
As far as the Watch 5 Pro’s lifestyle quotient is concerned, this added fluidity to the interface makes the experience of using the smartwatch decidedly better than the ‘premium’ Android watches — including those by Samsung itself — that have come before. The Samsung-Google partnership-based Wear OS 3 (Wear OS is the Android operating system designed for smartwatches) appears to have had a big role to play in this smoothness, and the end-experience as a result of this is pleasant, at least.
The menus still look the same as before, thanks to Samsung applying its own skin on top of Wear OS 3. I’m not overly fond of this interface, but if you’ve used a Samsung wearable before, you’ll be pleased to know that the Galaxy Watch 5 series does not take time to get used to. What does stand out, however, is the lack of the physical rotating bezel.
The bezel, to be sure, was a standout part of the Watch, and definitely added to the convenience of using it. On the latest generation, you’re left to contend with a touch bezel along the sides of the display. This should be easier to trace on the standard Watch 5, but on the Pro, feels almost the same as browsing on the display.
Thankfully, the Watch 5 Pro working much smoother than before also makes the same-looking menus more usable than before. This means that for the average user, the Galaxy Watch 5 series is a rather pleasant smartwatch to use, even without the physical bezel.
The point, however, is that if you are content using the watch for standard purposes, which in this case includes measuring your body fat, tracking your sleep and snoring patterns, and your daily workout routine, the Watch 5 series is as good as any other premium Android smartwatch.
As a ‘Pro’ device, you’re pushed to feel that the Watch 5 Pro is restricted by the trappings of being a first-gen attempt. The smartwatch is definitely more rugged than the typical smartwatch, and while it did face a few bumps over the past few days, there are no physical blemishes or scratches to be seen on its body. It also has significantly better battery life than before — while an older Galaxy Watch 3 runs out of power by the end of the day, the Watch 5 Pro lasts me for five days without breaking a sweat.
This comes at a compromise, too — the Watch 5 Pro is really bulky, and will definitely feel too large for most users. You sometimes do not mind the heft of a good watch, but this one takes that heft to another level. That’s not necessarily good — for instance, wearing it to bed to track your sleep could feel very uncomfortable.
But, talking of truly ‘Pro’ features, there really isn’t a whole bunch. You get a few extra modes, such as ‘trail running’ and ‘hiking’. You also get a route planning mode with a ‘track back’ feature — which can remember your starting point of a hiking trail, and guide you back to it if you’re lost, mid-trail.
I can see ‘track back’ to be a nifty feature even if you lose your way while on a drive, and there’s no reason why this feature shouldn’t trickle down to the standard version of the Samsung watch next year. Like any good durable gadget, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro comes with an IP68 rating—pretty much the highest standard among consumer devices. So you can swim at a depth of around 5ft for 30 minutes and your Watch 5 Pro should be fine. In fact, the standard Watch 5 has it too.
It also has a post-workout hydration mode, which is nifty as it guides you through a cooldown process after a workout session. This can be crucial for athletes — but yet again, I can’t see why it shouldn’t be super helpful for general users, too.
For now, none of Samsung’s features really scream ‘Pro’ per se, and you’re tempted to feel that as far as ‘Pro’ smartwatches are concerned, Apple may have packed in more truly niche features for the extreme adventurer. This doesn’t take away from the Watch 5 Pro’s excellent accuracy at GPS tracking, or the smoothness and accuracy of the compass as well.
But, in the end, you feel that the Watch 5 Pro feels more like a sturdier version of the standard Watch 5 — and not a ‘Pro’ version as such. Add to that the Galaxy Watch 5 series failed to pair with iOS devices (the Galaxy Wearable app on iPhones does not recognize beyond the Watch 3), and the ‘Pro’ tag sounds a bit stretched to be justified.
You get three sizes — 40mm and 44mm for the standard Galaxy Watch 5, and a 45mm one for the Pro. Prices start at ₹27,999 for the basic Watch 5, which according to me makes the most amount of sense — if you were to buy this. At ₹49,999, the Watch 5 Pro may not be the most prudent purchase.