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While you’d imagine this anonymous aesthetic was intentional a few years ago in order to help normalise the concept of a smartwatch, it feels a bit outdated now. Samsung’s recent Galaxy 21 Ultra and Flip 3 phones are a good illustration of its design team’s chops. I’d like to see them push the boat out the next time around. Combined with a limited number of watch faces and straps for you to play around with, the result is a device that feels particularly utilitarian to wear. Whether you opt for the 44mm or 40mm, both feel comfortable on the wrist and not too bulky to behold either. I wouldn’t wear either with a suit but they’re suitable for any occasion besides that.
Most of the time, you’re going to be pairing the Watch 4 Classic with some gym wear and on that front it’s particularly accomplished. There’s auto activity detection when you pop out for a run and can’t be bothered to setup the tracking yourself, you get onscreen guidance and rep counting for some activities such as weight lifting and GPS for looking back on the route you took the dog out for a walk on. The caveat? You’ll need to sign up to a bunch of Samsung apps and services to properly keep track of your health, achievements and plenty more besides.
If you’re solely interested a Samsung-made smartwatch that will bear witness to your fitness, it’s worth you opting for the standard Watch 4 (£249) instead, which is essentially the same device with a smaller screen and no rotating bezel. It looks a little cleaner on the wrist as well, albeit less ‘watchy’.
Made for Samsung phones
As much as the Watch 4 Classic represents a significant release for smartwatches in general, it’s really for people who own a Samsung phone already. It won’t work with an iPhone at all – which makes a whole bunch of sense, in all honesty – or devices that don’t support GMS (Google Mobile Services) such as those made by Huawei. Those Android phone owners who already keep tabs on their health through another app will need to sign up to Samsung’s own services additionally: an annoying turn of events but hardly a deal-breaking one. If the goal here was to make a Samsung smartwatch more appealing to people who’ve already bought into the brand, then it’s an inarguable success.
There’s certainly more work to be done to bring both Wear OS 3 and future Samsung wearables on par with what Apple does, but that feels like a much more attainable goal. Alas, if you do decide to invest in a Watch 4 you’ll have to make peace with its maker’s poor environmental track record. While many rival tech giants have set themselves lofty goals to combat the climate crisis Samsung Electronics’s greenhouse gas emissions rose 5 per cent year-on-year in 2020. Elsewhere it still relies on fossil fuels for more than 80 per cent of its electricity, according to Greenpeace. Unlike the Apple Watch, there are no recycled components used in the Watch 4 either.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic verdict
The Samsung Watch 4 is a wearable that’s no longer content to settle for second best. Rather than combat its shortcomings with some flashy but ultimately insubstantial new features, it has tackled the issue straight-on with a slew of obvious if practical changes. From the newfound charms of Wear OS 3 to its well-judged fitness tracking, the result is the best smartwatch Samsung has made by some distance. More importantly, it’s one that doesn’t feel like the pinnacle of its maker’s ambition.
From £349. samsung.com