It’s not every day that you reach peak Android smartwatch perfection. Samsung did it first with the foldable smartphones - Galaxy Z Flip 5 and Galaxy Z Fold 5 - and has now done it with the Galaxy Watch6 series. The Galaxy Watch series has always been an easy recommendation for those seeking an alternative to the Apple Watch.
Even in 2023, the Galaxy Watch6 is the best Android smartwatch of them all. That being said, I’m not sure for how long this will stand. The competition is fast catching up and how.
At the moment, most of the tech industry is in the iterative phase. Samsung and Motorola are trying to change the game with one of the biggest changes to the Flip phones we have seen in years with a larger cover display. Sadly, that hasn’t been passed on to smartwatches yet.
One of the biggest changes to the Galaxy Watch6, which is available for ₹29,999, isn’t something that is immediately visible. The Galaxy Watch6 Classic may have brought back the rotating bezel (which is a consumer favourite), but the Galaxy Watch6 has something up its sleeve that will make competitors sit up and take notice. It is a win-win for consumers.
The bane of all smartwatches has been their inability to be clearly read in the outdoor sunlight. I’ve been powering through the Delhi heat (and a little downpour here and there) with several walks and many metro rides. The Samsung Galaxy Watch6 is easily legible outdoors. The jump from 1,000 nits of brightness on the Galaxy Watch5 to 2,000 nits on the Galaxy Watch6 has to be the standout feature. Twice as bright as last year’s model. Furthermore, Samsung has managed to shrink the bezels and increase the size of the screen, which is a plus.
Yes, when switched off, you won’t be able to notice any difference vis-a-vis the Galaxy Watch5 (which, for those keeping count, also looked similar to the Galaxy Watch4). Samsung has settled into a design that works for them. The consumer gets a finish that is comfortable through and through. The Galaxy Watch6 has two sizes - 40mm or 44mm - and is available in three colours. Graphite is common among both sizes. The 40mm gets a gold colour while the 44m has silver as an option.
The Galaxy Watch 6 is neither heavy nor bulky. It’s been wonderful to wear the watch during the review period. Samsung has a new “one-click” design this year that makes it far easier to swap out watch bands.
You get the same design, two-button setup (on the right-hand side), curved sensor array, and sensor contacts for ECG and BMI measurements. Still, overall, the Galaxy Watch6 feels nice and light and doesn’t tug when I’m sleeping.
The Galaxy Watch6 gets a Super AMOLED panel, which in my opinion, is an A-grade smartwatch display. The 40mm model gets a 1.3-inch (432x432) screen while the 44m model gets a 1.5-inch (480x480) screen. Both of these are 0.1-inch increases compared to the Galaxy Watch5.
The haptic touch bezel around the screen is smooth and easy to use. Thanks to One UI Watch being scroll-heavy, the touch bezel is a blessing to have as you can use just a fingertip to scroll through the UI. Samsung has clearly put some thought into it. The Galaxy Watch6 is IP68 rated for dust and water resistance.
With the Galaxy Watch6, Samsung chose software refinements over any newer hardware. There are the familiar three rings - steps, active time and active calories - that are easy to follow and understand.
There have been software improvements to the infrared skin temperature sensor. This can track women's monthly period, fertility window and ovulation cycle. What it also does is deliver more detailed sleep tracking. There’s now awake, REM sleep, light and deep sleep, and an overall rating. Samsung even has pointers to guide you toward better sleep. One thing Samsung does is turn the smartphone black and white once sleep mode has been enabled.
One thing that does return this year is the Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) sensor that measures your skeletal muscle, body water, fat mass, body fat, BMI and BMR. It’s not as accurate as a smart scale according to a few people I’ve talked to, but it’s far more accurate than before.
The Advanced Sleep Coaching and Personalized Heart Rate Zones features are new to the Galaxy Watch6. The rest of the health suite (including the 90-plus exercise modes) is as expected.
One thing that Samsung needs to improve is its Samsung Health App. All your data is neatly arranged for you to see, but the app doesn’t do a good job of telling you what these numbers mean. A fellow reviewer was confused about how to read the sleep data. I have begun to truly understand all the sleep data, but am still confused about all the various body composition numbers.
The Galaxy Watch6 is being powered by the Exynos W930 (1.4Ghz clock speed) paired with 2GB of RAM. That’s a step up from the Galaxy Watch5 and Galaxy Watch4. It’s smooth (though not as smooth as the Apple Watch Series 8), and lag-free.
I’m not going to go into a lot of detail because Wear OS 4 and One UI 5 feel a lot similar to their predecessors. Samsung is focusing on minor updates, or adding things already seen on its main competitor. Nonetheless, it’s a good update and all my quips are minor.
What you don’t see - battery efficiency improvements, the extra RAM allowing for easier switching, and the seamless Galaxy smartphone integration - is where the Galaxy Watch6 excels the most.
If you thought the Galaxy Watch5 had bad battery life then you’d be pleased to know that this has been fixed in the Galaxy Watch6. If you’ve switched on the always-on-display (AOD) then you wouldn’t make it to bed on day two without having to top up. Nonetheless, the Galaxy Watch6 has very good battery life. It easily lasted a day and a half, and if I turned off AOD, I could have two nights of sleep tracking before having to strap this watch to its charger.
The charger is exactly the same as last year. It’s the all-too-familiar 10-watt charger. To fully charge the Galaxy Watch6, it takes just under 90 minutes. It’s a WPC-based fast charger. Therefore, wireless chargers won’t work here.
Unless you’re craving the rotating bezels, and the battery battery life, the Galaxy Watch 6 is the Android smartwatch to get (and slightly cheaper).
The Pixel Watch 2, which is due to be launched in a few weeks, will be its main competitor. I’m not even going to talk about the Apple Watch Series 8 because that’s on an entirely different platform. Once you’re team Android, the Apple Watch will hardly matter.
Nonetheless, as boring and iterative as it may seem, the screen (and a bump up to 2,000 nits) will definitely be a game changer. Add to that a robust suite of health and fitness features, and the Galaxy Watch6 can do it all.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He posts at @IMSahilBhalla.