If you have an Apple iPhone and are looking for a smartwatch, you’re best served by the tight integration offered by one of the three Apple Watch models. Simple. On an Android, it’s, well, complicated, with options from Fitbit, Garmin, Huawei and Samsung, the latter originally offering Tizen OS smartwatches before going all in with Google’s Wear OS for its Galaxy Watch lineup.
The newest Galaxy Watch6 Classic ( ₹39,999) is back with the physical rotating bezel that skipped the Watch5 generation, but does it go the distance to claim the “default Android smartwatch” crown?
Straight up, the Watch6 Classic is hands-down the most gorgeous smart wearable I’ve seen in recent times. From the chamfered edges on the mirror-finish silver rotating bezel that contrasts beautifully with the brushed finish stainless steel casing to the stitch line on the strap, this is a stunning piece of kit.
Unlike many smartwatches which go back into their box after I’m done with the review, the 47mm Watch6 Classic (there’s a 43mm variant for smaller wrists, Rs. 36,999) stayed on my wrist for far longer for two reasons. First, it’s really comfortable to wear all through the day and night, both due to its 59g weight and the hybrid nature of the strap, rubberized and sweat resistant on the inside and a smart-looking faux leather on the outside. Crucially, Samsung has nailed the “watch look”, particularly in the silver variant, somewhat less so on the generic looking black variant.
This is a watch you’ll readily pair with your fanciest outfits on the evening out yet be comfortable enough to wear and track your activity levels, all day long.
Surrounding the large 3.73cm, 480 x 480-pixel Super AMOLED display and its sapphire crystal protective layer is the star of the show and the main differentiator from the standard Galaxy Watch 6 ( ₹29,999 onwards) – the rotating bezel. It isn’t just an aesthetic touch – rotating or twisting the bezel around lets you quickly scroll through menus, apps, text or practically any scrollable screen. It’s a delight to use, easy to rotate in either direction with perfectly dampened motion and precise stopping points to quickly scroll through something yet stop precisely where you meant to. Not to mention, it felt more natural and intuitive to use and more accessible than the rotating crown on the Apple Watch.
Combine it with the Home and Back buttons on the side, and you’re left having to paw at the touchscreen much less often as compared to other smartwatches. The screen by itself is sharp and plenty bright to be used in direct sunlight (with a peak brightness of 2000 nits) and is big enough to view large blocks of texts or snippets of websites. Standard caveats about a circular display apply: it’s not meant to read long emails, although everyday messages and fitness notifications do just fine.
Elsewhere, the Samsung Galaxy Watch6 Classic runs Wear OS 4.0 with a liberal splattering of One UI 5.0 Watch interface, which is to say that while it navigates like a Wear OS watch, Samsung’s pastel colors and large app icons are equal parts simple and yet in need of some finessing.
Performance on the new Exynos chip was initially laggy, but an update mid-review seems to have fixed these issues, and watch is as responsive and fluid as they get. Notifications arrive quickly, announced by a strong vibration on your wrist, and you even have the option of running the full WhatsApp app on the watch if you want.
With over 100 activity profiles, automatic workout detection and the ability to define custom workouts, fitness and health features check all the boxes for a device that isn’t solely designed for fitness – the best on-wrist tracking is still Garmin’s match to lose. New in this series are overnight skin temperature measurements, better heart-rate tracking (including arrhythmia notifications) and improvements to sleep insights, the latter giving you a useful Sleep Score. Over time, the watch will collect sleep data and assign you a “sleep animal” based on your sleep patterns, and even help you start a sleep coaching program to target the areas where you need improvement. Samsung’s sleep tracking is leagues above the rest, that’s for sure.
The watch reliably tracked my daily walks accurately, as compared the Apple Watch and a Garmin Forerunner 245 I had on hand, both in terms of step counts, heart rate data and calorie burn estimations. All the data collected is shown on a tile on the watch and in the Samsung Health app. In particular, the ‘body composition’ feature was useful, tracking things like skeletal muscle, body water and fat percentages and providing you a snapshot to set personalized goals.
It has all the other regular features you’d expect, including fall detection, swimming modes, but what I did miss was having the blood pressure and ECG apps available at launch for the Watch6 Classic, but it should only be a matter of time.
Inside the 47mm Watch6 Classic is a 425mAh battery which, on days with the always-on display, sleep tracking and constant heart rate monitoring turned on, lasted a little over a day and a half of use. Bear in mind, the big, bright screen chews through the battery at full brightness, but dropping it down to 1000 nits helps immensely without severely impacting legibility. While it takes a little over an hour to charge to full, about 10 minutes of charging should deliver enough battery life for eight hours of sleep tracking if you’re ending a day on really low battery and are loathe to skip the excellent sleep tracking. You could also consider last year’s Watch5 Pro (590mAh) if battery life is a concern, since this generation hasn’t added any new health sensors.
It could be argued that some of its features are tied into using the Watch6 Classic with a Samsung smartphone – camera control with support for controlling zoom with the bezel, for instance – or services like Samsung Wallet. I’m not surprised – like Apple, you cannot fault Samsung for making its product work best within its ecosystem. Even so, the Watch6 Classic is the best Android smartwatch you can buy, besting its peers with exceptional design, good health, fitness and sleep features, a bright screen and great performance.
Tushar Kanwar, a tech columnist and commentator, posts @2shar.