First Look at the Samsung Galaxy Active

Samsung Galaxy Active
Samsung Galaxy Active

Yesterday I got my hands on the brand new Samsung Galaxy Active. This is Samsung’s newest smartwatch, presumably replacing the Gear Sport. This is a lightweight, comfortable, practically sized smartwatch. That last feature is what I so far like the most about it but more on that in a bit.

So let’s answer that question right off the bat that is burning on everyone’s mind. Does the Galaxy Active have a mic and a speaker? It has a mic but no speaker. If that’s a dealbreaker for you I guess you can stop reading now and opt for the Galaxy Watch (see on Amazon) instead.

The Galaxy Active appears to be aimed at those that care most about fitness – hence the Active part in its name.

It also has a minimalistic design that reminds me more of a classic watch. As you can see I chose the silver version. View different options available on Amazon. The watch is also available in black, rose gold, and a nice looking green – yes green!

Weighing only 25 grams, with a diameter of 39.5 x 39.5 mm and 10.5 mm thick, it looks nice on my wrist. Btw my wrist is about 6 1/4″ for reference.

The actual display is only 1.1 inches as there’s a quite sizeable bezel around the screen. Of course, missing from the Galaxy Active is Samsung’s rotating bezel found on the Gear Sport and Galaxy Watch.

I hope future versions of the Galaxy Active has a touchscreen sensitive rotating “dial” in that bezel. It just makes sense that there should be one there.

Two physical buttons are on the right side of the case. The top button is the home, back or select button and the bottom button brings up the main app menu.

The display is very pleasing to view as colors and text resolution look terrific. Although the display is smallish compared to some other smartwatches, it doesn’t seem so as I use the watch.

While I haven’t tested the watch on the trails yet, the built-in GPS has been quite snappy in connecting, even indoors, which is a good sign. Third party apps link Endomondo, MapMyRun, and Strava load quickly as well – another good sign.

Spotify comes pre-installed and music storage is supported. For Android users, it will be much easier to transfer music to the watch through the mobile app. For iOS users, like me, (yeah I know) I’ll have to transfer music from my computer.

So, yes you can use the Galaxy Active with an iPhone but you won’t be able to respond to text messages by voice or with the keyboard. Also, app selection in the Galaxy Store seems to be more limited for iOS users than Android users. You’ll get the best smartwatch experience when pairing the Galaxy Active with an Android smartphone but again this is a watch that is mostly about fitness.

Honestly, even though I have it paired with an iPhone I’m still enjoying the watch.

The Galaxy Active is certainly fitness oriented. In fact, the Galaxy Active can learn to detect activities that you’re doing automatically. There are other fitness trackers that have automatic detection but it’s been my experience that Samsung does it better than the others I’ve tried, including Fitbit.

I find that automatic activity detection often motivates me to be active a little bit longer. For example, when I’m out and about walking for longer than 10 minutes and the watch notifies me of my progress I’m motivated to walk a little farther and/or I’m encouraged to get my heart rate up a little bit more. Automatic detection also works when I’m gardening or mowing the lawn. It’s nice to get credit for those physical activities that aren’t in a gym but are part of daily life.

It also gives you a better picture of how active, or not active, you are during your day.

Of course, the Galaxy Active has a heart rate sensor and can track your heart rate second-by-second, 24/7 if you choose. If you want to extend the battery life you can have it measure every 10 minutes or turn the feature off entirely.

I will be testing the heart rate sensor like crazy to see how accurate it is. I’ll be doing the same for the GPS.

UPDATE: After a few tests of the heart rate sensor on the treadmill for walking and running, on a rowing machine, and an elliptical the heart rate sensor has tested very well. It actually did very good on the rowing machine and a lot of optical heart rate sensors don’t. It struggled a little more on the elliptical but wasn’t terribly off. For the treadmill it did great against the Polar H10 chest heart rate strap.

So far, I’m impressed!

Workouts Supported on the Galaxy Active (There’s Quite a Few!) :

  • running
  • walking
  • cycling
  • hiking
  • swimming (pool)
  • swimming (open water)
  • treadmill
  • exercise bike
  • circuit training
  • weight machine
  • arm curls
  • arm extensions
  • back extensions
  • bench press
  • burpee test
  • crunches
  • deadlifts
  • front raises
  • jumping jacks
  • lateral pulldown
  • lateral raises
  • leg curls
  • leg extensions
  • leg press
  • leg raises
  • lunges
  • mountain climbers
  • pilates
  • plank
  • pull-ups
  • push-ups
  • rowing machine
  • shoulder presses
  • sit-ups
  • squats
  • step machine
  • stretching
  • yoga
  • and a general workout setting that doesn’t fit into any of the above

The Galaxy Active counts your reps too which is great when you’re doing sit-ups, lunges, etc.

As far as sensors on the Galaxy Active, you can use an altitude and barometric pressure app to determine elevation and receive storm warnings. In fact, it’s a stormy day as I’m writing this and the watch notified me that the pressure had dropped quickly and that a storm was likely on it’s way and one was.

Elevation seems to be fairly accurate but I’ll need to do more testing.

Two physical buttons on the Samsung Galaxy Active and the thickness of the watch.

Battery life so far seems to be living up to the claim of about 2 days. A lot of that will depend upon how you use the watch. The Galaxy Active does have a battery saver feature which will use a grayscale home screen, turn off location, tilt-to-wake, and wifi to extend battery life.

Your steps and heart rate will continue to be detected which is nice. This might get you 3-4 days of battery life and I think it’s a useful feature and one that I’ll use. I don’t need to look at a pretty colorful watch face all day long when I’m busy working. Might as well use battery saver and well, save some battery life, if I find battery life to be an issue. We’ll see.

Blood pressure detection is also supposed to be available for the Galaxy Active in the future and hopefully we’ll learn more about that soon.

So far, the only negative thing I’ve noticed is that when the watch is out of Bluetooth range of my iPhone, when I come back in range it usually doesn’t reconnect automatically. Hopefully that will be fixed by a future software update and Android users won’t be affected by it.

The watch already received its first software update from Samsung today and Samsung is good about pushing out new updates to their smartwatches.

I will be testing the Galaxy Active versus the Gear Sport. I’ve had a few people ask me if the Gear Sport is still worth buying in 2019 and I will try to answer that for you. I can just say right now that Samsung is still pushing updates to the watch and I assume they will for a few more years.

My first impressions of the Galaxy Active are positive due to its feature set, style, and comfort. I like that it can look sporty but also like a regular watch. It doesn’t scream fitness tracker or smartwatch on my wrist. I think it’s a design that will appeal to women or men that just don’t want a big chunky watch on their wrist. The Galaxy Active would look appropriate with professional attire, especially with an upgraded strap.

Oh, and the silicone strap is quite comfortable and very secure on my wrist. It holds the watch in place very well which is important for heart rate accuracy during workouts. I had problems finding the right strap to keep the Gear Sport from sliding on my wrist due to the weight of the watch and its undersized strap. I don’t think that will be an issue with the Galaxy Active.

Check back soon for the full review. I’ll be getting out on some hiking and biking trails and in the gym to see how accurate it is for fitness tracking. I’ll have a lot more to say about its other features too.

Check out the current price and availability of the Samsung Galaxy Active on Amazon.