After weeks of leaks and rumors, Samsung finally announced the $279.99 Galaxy Watch 5 and $449.99 Galaxy Watch 5 Pro today at the Unpacked event. And while there weren’t too many surprises, the company seems to take criticisms of the Galaxy Watch 4’s poor battery life to heart. Both the Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro have larger batteries, faster charging and longer life.
With the Galaxy Watch 5 series, Samsung is once again shaking up its smartwatch lineup. While the Galaxy Watch 4 series rebranded key Galaxy Watch and Watch Active lines from the Tizen era, this year’s event introduces an all-new model: the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. While the vanilla Galaxy Watch 5 is the entry-level flagship, the Pro is intended as a premium version for outdoor enthusiasts. Neither has Samsung’s iconic physical rotating bezel, though they both have the more subtle touch bezel. For fans of physical bezels, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic remains a mid-tier option between the Watch 5 and the Pro.
The Galaxy Watch 5 comes in 40mm and 44mm, while the Pro comes in a single size of 45mm. All watches are powered by the same 1.18GHz Exynos W920 processor, with 1.5GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The Galaxy Watch 5 series also has an improved version of the 3-in-1 BioActive sensor first introduced on the Watch 4, which can analyze EKGs, heart rate and body composition. Samsung says the improved sensor will add more advanced sleep tracking features to the Watch 5, including personalized sleep coaching. You also get built-in GPS, contactless payments, optional LTE, Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi. Both watches also have 5ATM and IP68 dust and water resistance.
New this time around is a body temperature sensor. Doug Wegener, head of wearables and accessories at Samsung Electronics America, said: The edge that the temperature sensor will add another data point for sleep tracking, but that’s it for now. According to Wegener, adding the sensor was intended to give developers more options when designing new health and wellness features.
The big hardware gain this time has to do with battery life. The Watch 5 has a 13 percent larger battery – 284mAh battery in the 40mm Watch 5 and a 410mAh battery in the 44mm. That should translate to about 40 hours on a single charge. The Pro has an even larger 590 mAh battery that is capable of 80 hours, or 20 hours of continuous GPS use on a single charge.
In addition to adding larger batteries, Samsung also improved the charging speed. It claims you can go from zero to 45 percent battery in just 30 minutes. For people interested in sleep tracking, the company says you can get eight hours of battery in just eight minutes.
We’ll have to see in testing how many miles these bigger batteries actually get, especially with power-hungry features like the always-on display and Google Assistant enabled. After all, Samsung promised a battery life of 40 hours last year, but both the Galaxy Watch 4 and the Watch 4 Classic fell far short of that estimate. But if all Samsung does is battery life, it will go a long way toward fixing the issues we had with the Galaxy Watch 4.
Otherwise, the Galaxy Watch 5 is an incremental update. The main design changes include a more durable sapphire crystal screen and a rounder back so that the 3-in-1 sensor makes better skin contact with the wrist. The more meaningful updates will come from software. The Watch 5 series comes with One UI Watch 4.5, which adds a host of new accessibility features, a better typing interface, and dual SIM support. Apps like SoundCloud and Deezer are also coming to Wear OS 3, as is the ability to use voice navigation on Google Maps right from the wrist. And after months of waiting, Samsung Galaxy Watch owners can finally use Google Assistant on their watches. (Don’t panic, Bixby lovers. Samsung promises all five of you that Bixby is still available on the Watch 5 and Pro.)
The flashier updates are reserved for the Pro as this is the new model and it is aimed at a completely different audience (aka the Garmin and Polar audience). It’s more durable, with a titanium case and a tougher 29GPa sapphire crystal screen compared to the Watch 5’s 24GPa screen. It also has a snazzy new magnetic clasp.
But outdoor enthusiasts will probably be most excited about the Pro’s map features. You can now download GPX walking and cycling routes, complete with turn-by-turn navigation. It also has a track-back feature so you can return the way you came. While this is a staple on multi-sport GPS watches, it’s not something you’ll generally find on a high-end flagship smartwatch. Still, Samsung’s ability to lure Garmin enthusiasts away will really come down to whether the Pro can actually deliver on a multi-day battery.
The Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro are available for pre-order starting today and will ship from August 26. The Watch 5 starts at $279.99 while the Pro starts at $449.99. LTE versions cost an additional $50. Both watches also have a Bluetooth-only Golf Edition that starts at $329.99.