Just like Apple, Samsung has been going easy on the innovation bit lately, not just with its smartwatches but its premium smartphones as well. Case in point are the recently launched Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23+, the Galaxy Z Flip 5 and the Galaxy Z Fold 5, all of which simply bring qualitative performance and imaging upgrades. For the Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro owners, Samsung has continued this tradition with its Galaxy Watch 6 series as well. There's a new chipset, slightly bigger displays (one of which brings back the rotating bezel) and more personalised health and fitness tracking.
On paper, there barely seems to be any reason to upgrade to the new models mainly because there's barely anything new in terms of its feature set. But these minor refinements have made the Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic better in some ways. And for upgraders who aren't too happy with their existing smartwatch or those who are simply looking for their first WearOS-powered smartwatch, it may just be enough to justify getting the new models.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic price and variants
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 series is available in two models. There's the standard model called the Galaxy Watch 6 and it's available in 40mm and 44mm case sizes, which remain the same as the previous Galaxy Watch 5. The Bluetooth variants are priced at Rs. 29,999 and Rs. 32,999 respectively, while the cellular variants are priced at Rs. 33,999 and Rs. 36,999.
Then there's the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic which is also available in 43mm and 47mm case sizes. The Bluetooth variants are priced at Rs. 36,999 and Rs. 39,999, while the cellular variants are priced at Rs. 40,999 and Rs. 43,999 respectively.
In terms of finish, Samsung's options still feel very limited compared to what Apple has on offer. The Galaxy Watch 6 has Silver and Graphite case options, while the Galaxy Watch Classic is available in Silver and Black. I received the 44mm Galaxy Watch 6 in Graphite and the 47mm Galaxy Watch 6 Classic in Silver for review.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic design and specifications
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 has an aluminium case with flat sides and it possesses the same design and button layout as the previous model. The only visible difference is its display which has grown bigger by a few millimetres as Samsung has gone with a thinner bezel this year.
To the casual customer, it's really hard to tell the difference between the Galaxy Watch 4, the Galaxy Watch 5 and the Galaxy Watch 6. This is because there's little that's evolved in terms of design over the past two generations to begin with, which does make it a bit stale in its third year.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic (right) gets refreshed design compared to standard Galaxy Watch 6 model (left)
The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic on the other hand looks a bit refreshing as it has arrived after a year-long sabbatical. Samsung decided to skip the Classic model last year and went with a new Pro model instead. The Pro and the new Classic are indeed aimed at different buyers. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro still has the biggest battery among this year's and last year's models and made for worthy competitor against Apple's Watch Ultra model. In terms of features, it did not have much else to offer over the standard Galaxy Watch 5 model, save for better battery life and its titanium case.
The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic mainly brings back the much-loved rotating bezel, which is Samsung's alternative for Apple's digital crown. During the testing period it worked as expected and is basically the deciding factor when choosing between the two models.
What's interesting to note about the Classic's design is how Samsung has managed to trim down that rotating bezel's width and accommodate a display which is bigger than the one on the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic and the recent Galaxy Watch 5 Pro as well. This skinny bezel gives its stainless steel case a cleaner and fresher appearance compared to previous models. Also noticeable is a very premium-looking dual tone finish, which is a mix of polished and brushed stainless steel.
Both smartwatches come loaded with a barrage of sensors around the back
Both models have two physical buttons which can be programmed to perform various functions. While quality and finish was not a problem with both watches, I did like the strap on the standard Galaxy Watch 6 better as it is softer and not as stiff as the one attached to the Classic model, making it more comfortable to wear. But since both models come with similar 20mm straps, I was able to conveniently swap straps between both watches with no problems. Despite the thick 47mm case on the Classic, I did not find it to be uncomfortable while sleeping.
Both the standard and the Classic models have similar specifications this year. And both are powered by the same 5nm Exynos W930 chipset but with an additional 500MB of RAM (2GB in all) over the older models. The watch comes equipped to the teeth when it comes to sensors, offering an accelerometer, gyro, compass, heart rate tracker, temperature sensor (for skin temperature), barometer, and a 3D hall sensor which is used to figure out the position of the rotating bezel.
It is possible to swap straps between the 44mm and 47mm Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic models
Thanks to the skinny bezels on both wearables, both the 44mm Galaxy Watch 6 and the 47mm Galaxy Watch 6 Classic have a similar 1.5-inch super AMOLED display with sapphire crystal for protection. The same variants of each model also have the same 425mAh battery capacity. The smaller variants from each model pack in 300mAh batteries. All models and variants offer 5ATM water resistance with an IP68 rating and are also MIL-STD-810H tested, which basically means that they are as durable as regular modern timepieces.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Galaxy Watch 6 Classic performance
The displays can reportedly hit 2,000 nits of peak brightness (same as the Apple Watch Ultra) when needed and I can confirm that these are bright enough to tackle all types of lighting conditions. The built-in speaker on both devices is sufficiently loud to hear callers and to listen to answers provided by Google Assistant. The mic also is quite clear to the caller even if there's a bit of wind blowing into it. Since the watch packs LTE connectivity, it sure makes for an ideal device to stay connected on walks or while jogging, letting you leave your smartphone behind. Both models can connect to Wi-Fi networks when the paired smartphone is unreachable.
Starting off with the companion app, you don't need any as it all comes preinstalled on a Samsung device. I also used both devices with a Pixel 7a, which was a similar experience in terms of features and capability, but saw the Camera Controller app disappear from the app menu on the watch, as these are only supported when paired with a Galaxy smartphone.
Setting up the watch with a Pixel 7a was a bit of a pain in the sense that you have to install three apps (Samsung Health, Galaxy Wearable and Samsung Smart Switch) and a plug-in for it all to work smoothly. Once setup I found both the Samsung Health and the Galaxy Wearable apps well designed, with all settings where one would expect them to be. However, I do wish that Samsung integrates its Health app into its Wearable app at some point in the future for the sake of convenience.
I liked the software experience on both the Galaxy Watch 6 and the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic. But the Classic's rotating bezel adds a nice mechanical element to it (something that is missing from most WearOS-powered smartwatches these days) and brings it a wee bit closer to traditional timepieces. The geared clicks of the rotating bezel make for a convenient way to scroll through lists instead of swiping the display repeatedly, which did get tiring when using the Galaxy Watch 6. You can use the virtual touch bezel on the Galaxy Watch 6 for scrolling, but it's still a fidgety experience and does not provide accurate control like the physical rotating bezel.
One UI 5.0 also lets one create folders in the app menu
Overall software performance has improved drastically over the previous model. There's no lag when switching between tiles, watch faces and more, something which I experienced when using the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.
Samsung has changed a few things in the One UI 5.0 Watch interface. There are new watch faces, which are very customisable, although the selection is still a far cry from what you get on an Apple Watch. There's a new battery tile which lets you check the battery levels of all your Samsung devices with a swipe. You can now create folders which is a good way to get all of those unnecessary apps out of the main menu, letting you get to what you need faster.
You can now backup, restore and even transfer your watch to another phone (even a non-Samsung Android smartphone) without the need to reset the watch and restore from a backup. Users can now also set a pin or pattern to their watch, which makes it useless if stolen.
The companion Samsung Health app offers interesting insights when showing sleep-related data
Also new with One UI 5.0 is enhanced sleep coaching, which I found very interesting given how detailed the results were and how much more information the companion app provided. While I got the usual results which includes the various sleep stages along with some accurate sleep tracking results. The sleep coaching feature actually works quite well once it has enough data (needs a seven day break-in period to start its magic). Apart from a sleep score and the badges awarded for it, the watch also tracks blood oxygen levels during sleep and Samsung has also put its temperature sensor to good use by recording skin temperature while sleeping as well.
The companion app also notices when you drift away from your regular sleep timings and follows that up with notification the next day with a browser link to read up on why it's not a good idea to do so. Even the regular stand up reminders for the times I'm glued to my work chair, have three short exercise mode recommendations that barely take a few minutes to execute.
These stretches are also counted and tracked perfectly, which convinced me to get out of my chair for a quick exercise every single time I got one, something that does not happen when I use an Apple Watch. Indeed, after a while it did feel that my watch really cares about me and this is something I've rarely felt about any smartwatch I've reviewed so far.
The Galaxy Watch 6 series has plenty of workout modes, including a customisable one
Another aspect of Samsung's personalised coaching that I liked was the ability to create your own custom exercise and get heart rate guidance during running workouts along with personalised heart rate zones while running. This basically helps users get more out of their workout or exercise.
Coming to the tracking bits, step tracking was on point and accurately counted 500 steps when walking. SpO2 tracking was both accurate and consistent compared to a standalone pulse oximeter, but I needed to sit down and hold my hand up towards my chest with the watch near my heart to record it. Heart rate readings were spot on as well. Blood pressure monitoring and the ECG feature are still not available or functional in India.
However, there are few hiccups that I did notice when using the watch. Samsung's flick-to-view gesture is nowhere as sensitive as the Apple Watch Series 8's and will need you to literally perform that gesture at times in order to switch from AOD to the watch face. Software interactions when using the rotating bezel can get clunky as it's better optimised for Samsung's own watch apps and OS, and does not work fluidly when in the Play Store or some Google and third-party apps. The usual swipe gestures on the display surely worked better in such scenarios.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 series comes with the same charger as last year's model
My experience with battery life on the Galaxy Watch 6 series was the same because they both happen to have the same display sizes and battery capacities. With that said, a 1km GPS-connected walk or run will drain about 3 percent of battery life, which came to about 21 percent for my 7km brisk walks.
With the AOD On, brightness set to auto (on a sunny day), continuous heart-rate monitoring, stress monitoring and sleep tracking (with SpO2 and Skin temperature tracking), the watch lasted 1 day 7 hours and 20 minutes (or 31 hours and 20 minutes). With AOD switched off, standby increased by about nine hours, giving me 1 day 17 hours and 2 minutes (or 41 hours and 2 minutes), which is similar to a 45mm Apple Watch Series 8. Charging the device was as quick as last year's models with a 50 percent charge in 30 minutes and a full charge in 1 hour and 27 minutes.
While there have been a few upgrades over the previous model, there's very little reason to upgrade from a Galaxy Watch 5 (Review) to the new Galaxy Watch 6, unless you crave better software performance or slightly better battery life.
Then there's also the fact that most of the software and hardware-related features mentioned above will also arrive on last year's models via the One UI 5.0 update, which Samsung has already begun seeding in some countries. In the case of the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, things are a bit different as there's a new design, which is refreshing compared to the recycled one on the standard model.
If I had to choose between the two, I would indeed pick the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic as it brings back the rotating bezel, which in my opinion is the best way to use a Galaxy smartwatch. And this automatically makes this wearable my go-to recommendation for those looking for a premium Wear-OS powered device in India, even if you don't own a Samsung smartphone.
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