Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic review: A great Android wearable, not so much for non-Samsung users

Despite the classy design, solid specs and health tracking, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch4 Classic is rather ecosystem-driven, so you feel caged in for the most part if you do not have a Samsung phone

October 11, 2021 02:49 pm | Updated 02:50 pm IST

The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic in Silver and Black variants

The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic in Silver and Black variants

I had an amusing moment using Samsung’s latest smartwatch, Galaxy Watch4 Classic, which led to a profound moment. I was jogging in Thoppampatti, a quiet suburb in Coimbatore, assisted by the watch’s running coach feature. A robotic female voice occasionally yelled out instructions — ‘Too fast, slow down.’ — and words of encouragement — ‘You are already stronger and fitter. Good job.’ An old lady, passing by, briefly stared at me. More specifically, she was bemused by the watch that talks. I smiled at this.

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But it also made me wonder. This tiny device on my wrist (alright, it is not that tiny — we shall get to that later) claims to know if I am running too fast (or too slow), my sleeping patterns, heart rate, body fat percentage and other things that I, or the closest people in my life, do not know about me.

These smart devices get smarter with each update. They will get to know us more accurately. The implications are far-reaching. But let us not go down that rabbit hole.

Intimate health tracking

Galaxy Watch4 Classic has all the regular features that you would expect of a smartwatch. You can pick calls, read texts, go through emails, see time (it is a watch, after all), etc. But you need not buy a ₹37,999 smartwatch to do these; your smartphone does them more efficiently.

But your phone, most likely, cannot tell you your body fat percentage. Galaxy Watch4 Classic does. By touching its two buttons for about 15 seconds, you get measurements of your skeletal muscle, fat mass, body water, body fat, body mass index, and basal metabolic rate.

How does it work?

The watch has a bioelectric impedance sensor, which sends an electrical signal through your body. This signal moves freely through parts with a higher percentage of water. Since fat has a lower water content than muscle, it impedes the signal. And, the watch can estimate your body fat percentage. But this method has its limitations. The readings, for instance, can fluctuate after you exercise or have a cup of water.

Samsung's sensors can also track your ECG, blood pressure, sleep and stress. But, as with other wearables, this one, too, cannot be used as a diagnostic tool. Also, Samsung, as its health privacy policy suggests, can obtain your body-related data.

‘The watch that knows you best.’ As remarkable as the Galaxy Watch4 Classic’s tagline sounds, it is also a bit disconcerting.

Of course, you can say no to sharing some of your data after reading the user agreements. But then, you might not be able to use the health trackers entirely (and how many people read user agreements anyway?). It is a tricky tradeoff.

Hassle for non-Samsung users

The 46-millimetre dial (there is a 42-millimetre alternative too), especially on a slim wrist, will not just look big; it will also feel heavy. The watch, with its fluoroelastomer sweat-resistant band, weighs 77 grams. If you are a first-time smartwatch user, it might take some time to get used to it, particularly while sleeping. But wonder how many grams Samsung could have shaved off with the need for a big enough display to read emails without strain and space for all the health-tracking sensors.

The dial, however, looks stylish. Especially the rotating bezel, which is not just fashionable but also functional. It is much smoother to scroll using the bezel than the touchscreen. There are quite a few skins to choose from too. Meanwhile, Galaxy Watch4 —which is smaller and less expensive than Watch 4 Classic — lacks the rotating bezel.

With Google’s Wear OS, you kind of escape the Samsung stronghold on your watch — you can use a bunch of other third-party apps like Spotify. But you feel caged for the most part if you do not have a Samsung phone. For instance, you need to install the Galaxy Watch4 plugin and the Galaxy Wearable app. Some of the details, like your sleeping pattern, can be accessed only if you have Samsung Health, which does not sync with Google Fit without the help of third-party apps. Instead of Google Assistant, you get Bixby. Instead of Google Pay, you get Samsung Pay.

There is, thankfully, Google Maps. But Bixby, for some reason, is unaware of this. When I asked for the directions to a nearby hospital, it replied, ‘There aren't any navigation capsules available.’

I then asked it a more serious question with minimal expectation of an honest answer.

‘How much do you know me, Bixby?’

‘I know you’re more awesome than a shark high-fiving a gorilla.’

Okay, then.

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