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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review: The first Wear OS smartwatch worth your money

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4’s sharp design, smart software and standout health sensor make for a promising upgrade that somehow costs less than last year’s version.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4’s sharp design, smart software and standout health sensor make for a promising upgrade that somehow costs less than last year’s version. Plus the Classic model still offers everyone’s favorite rotating bezel.

For

  • Slimmer design and new watch faces
  • New Wear OS feels like Tizen, but with more apps
  • First major smartwatch with body composition analysis
  • More affordable than Galaxy Watch 3

Against

  • Concerns with BIA sensor
  • Battery life can be inconsistent
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Specs

Processor: Exynos W920
Software: Wear OS + One UI Wach
Sensors: Samsung BioActive Sensor (PPG+ECG+BIA)
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE (optional), NFC
Memory: 1.5GB RAM + 16GB
Durability:  5ATM + IP68 / MIL-STD-810G
Smartphone compatibility: Android 6.0 or higher
Battery life: 40 hours

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 feels familiar, yet different, and I mean that in the best way possible. It looks like a Galaxy Watch, but this iteration is sharper and more sophisticated. The software works like Tizen, but the new Google Wear OS platform is pragmatic and precise. 

Samsung ditched the ‘Active’ branding for its latest lineup, instead pitching a sporty-looking Galaxy Watch 4 as the company’s flagship and a ‘Classic’ version that carries on the luxurious characteristics of last year’s Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.

The Galaxy Watch 4 packs a 3-in-1 health sensor for measuring heart rate, taking ECGs and reading body composition — it's the first major smartwatch to offer bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). Do I sense the Apple Watch 7 getting nervous?

There's no question the Galaxy Watch 4 is best smartwatch yet for people with Samsung smartphones. Read this Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review to find out why.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 price and availability

Both the standard Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic are available for purchase as of August 27, 2021.

The Galaxy Watch 4 starts at $249.99 for the 40mm Bluetooth model and $299.99 for the 40mm LTE model. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic starts at $349.99 for the 42mm Bluetooth model and $399.99 for the 42mm LTE model.

Be sure to check our guide on how to set up your Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 once you get yours.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs. Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: What’s different?

Galaxy Watch 4Galaxy Watch 4 Classic
Starting price$249.99$349.99
Size options40mm/44mm42mm/46mm
Dimensions40mm:40.4 x 39.3 x 9.8 mm; 44mm: 44.4 x 43.3 x 9.8 mm42mm: 41.5 x 41.5 x 11.2 mm; 46mm: 45.5 x 45.5 x 11.0 mm
Weight40mm: 0.91 ounces 44mm: 1.06 ounces42mm: 1.64 ounces 46mm: 1.83 ounces
Battery capacity40mm: 247mAh; 44mm: 361mAh42mm: 247mAh; 46mm: 361mAh
Color optionsBlack, Silver, Pink Gold, GreenBlack, Silver

Our dedicated guide to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs. Galaxy Watch 4 Classic covers all the differences (and similarities) between the two smartwatch versions.

Let’s get this out of the way — the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic are identical on the inside. From the new Wear OS software and Samsung’s One UI skin to the 3-in-1 health sensor and expansive watch face collection, you’ll get the same software experience. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic features fancier materials such as stainless steel case, leather straps and the physical rotating bezel. Think of it like the Apple Watch’s ‘Edition’ line. Except the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is far more affordable than the Apple Watch Edition models, which are typically made from high-end materials like ceramic and titanium. Though it costs $100 more than the standard Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, it’s starting price is still less expensive than the entry-level Apple Watch 6.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Design

Both versions of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 feature a redesigned frame that allows for gapless transition from the smartwatch chassis to the straps. The uniform set of crown buttons also sport an oblong shape, rather than one protruding round crown accompanied by a flush side button.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

Despite these subtle changes, the Galaxy Watch 4 pays homage to the Galaxy Watch models of the past. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic gets the rotating bezel, which is both a handy navigation tool and excellent fidget spinner. Since the original Samsung Galaxy Watch debuted the bezel, it’s become as iconic to the product as the S Pen is — err, was? — to the Galaxy Note smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

So as someone who’s used the Galaxy Watch 3 more recently than the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, adjusting to a capacitive version of the bezel on the baseline Galaxy Watch 4 took time. But minus the mechanism, the smartwatch is a lot slimmer, making for a modern gadget that won’t be mistaken for a traditional timepiece.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

I’d still wear it from the gym to dinner, though, especially in the Silver or Pink Gold options. That’s just my taste. I also appreciate the Green version that’s color-matched to the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, but it only comes in the 44mm size. I prefer the 40mm model for my wrist size, though my male colleague tried on the 46mm Galaxy Watch 4 Classic and enjoyed the look of the larger display. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Wear OS pros and cons

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4’s software provides the best experience I’ve ever had using Wear OS, period. Although smartwatches with the old Wear OS have fooled me before — working fine at first until glitches start oozing out — the Galaxy Watch 4 doesn't falter. I will say the software still feels very Tizen-esque, but it’s a good thing. Finding my rhythm took no time, letting me switch between apps and menus and setting pages seamlessly. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

The rotating tiles are obvious remnants of Tizen, plus Samsung Pay and Samsung Health still take priority. Beyond that, Google’s new app cloud (which looks a lot like watchOS, but it’s convenient so who cares?) is loaded with Google’s programs. That said, the selection is a bit limited right now. There's no Google Assistant yet, for example.

You do get Google Maps, though. Having it on my wrist helps me get around easily, whether I'm walking in the city or driving in the suburbs. Check out more of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Wear OS features I'm enjoying so far.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

Complementing Wear OS, One UI Watch makes the Galaxy Watch 4 a more active member of the Samsung device ecosystem. The software skin transition settings and tools from a Galaxy smartphone to a Galaxy smartwatch, and vice versa, automatically. One UI Watch also leverages an expansive watch face library, complete with a proprietary editing suite for developers. Bubbly numbers, animal animations and color-coordinated complications that remind me of Android 12 are some of my frequent face choices.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Body composition analysis

Samsung developed a new health sensor for the Galaxy Watch 4. It combines heart rate monitoring (PPG), an electrocardiogram reader (ECG) and bioelectric impedance analysis (BIA) for a 3-in-1 sensor that sits closer to the skin than the individual health sensors in the previous Galaxy Watch.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 body composition

(Image credit: Future)

Of those, BIA is the big news. Similar to what you’ll find on the best smart scales, BIA sends a weak electric current through your body to analyze body fat percentage, body mass index (BMI), muscle mass, bone mass, body water percentage and more. Taking a BIA reading is quick, but you’ll need to hold your fingers against the crown buttons for about 15 seconds without those fingers resting on the skin next to your smartwatch. It’s a little awkward, so we made a guide on how to use Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 to measure body composition.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

When used properly, body composition analysis can help you understand how changes you make to your diet or activity impacts your internal makeup — not just your weight. But there are caveats. For one, it's generally not recommended that people with pacemakers or people who are pregnant use BIA. While many smart scales have a mode that disables BIA. Samsung simply says those who shouldn't use it, shouldn't use it. 

Then there's concerns about the metrics gathered from BIA possibly perpetuating body dysmorphia. Samsung simply says the measurements might not be accurate for those under 20 years old, but doesn't appear to put a true age restriction on the feature.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

I don't feel it appropriate to share the intimate details of my body makeup with the internet, but I will note the discrepancies with measurements. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4's readings did not match my Wyze Scale's. The measurements were as much as 5% off for metics like body fat perfect. It's hard to say which device is more accurate without seeing a doctor, but I probably wouldn't use either as my north star for wellness goals. And again, if you're pregnant, have a pacemaker or battle body dysmorphia, I'd encourage you to seek out professional medical advice before buying this smartwatch.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review: Activity tracking

Over the course of one week, I used the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 to track a variety of workouts indoors and outdoors. I started with weightlifting, and while the watch lets you track individual types of movement (ie. arm curls, bench press, lateral raises, pull-ups) I stuck with the catch-all circuit training option. The Apple Watch has a few more options when it comes to tracking different sports, but the Galaxy Watch 4 has more niche selections. You'll likely need to add workout types from the Samsung Health app on your smartphone, though — the preset list isn't extensive.

Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

When it came to yoga, I sensed my calorie count ran high, but I recognized my heart rate updated more quickly than it did on the Galaxy Watch 3. For a workout where your heart rate stays in a shorter range than, say, cardio, the frequent refresh is helpful for seeing how certain poses impact my body.

I couldn't monitor my wrist as closely while cycling as I could in downward dog. Luckily, the Galaxy Watch 4 provides audible and vibration updates on mileage, plus a brief activity summary every 30 minutes. Again, I think the watch's calorie count is too generous, but the GPS mapped my reliable 10-mile route well.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy Watch 4's automatic workout tracking is similarly successful. Juggling my 90-pound dog, phone, keys and sometimes a coffee, I often forget to launch a walk workout. A buzz on wrist let me know when the Galaxy Watch 4 detects my walk and picks up tracking from when I left my apartment. It also has a useful auto-pause function, so my dog's need to say hi to every passerby doesn't result in me recording a 35-minute mile.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Sleep and stress tracking

Samsung improved sleep tracking metrics for its latest smartwatch. Blood oxygen is measured once a minute overnight on the Galaxy Watch 4, compared to once every 30 minutes on the Galaxy Watch 3. More SpO2 readings could mean more insight on rest quality, especially for those with conditions like sleep apnea. When you sleep next to a compatible smartphone, the sounds of your snores get tracked, too. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

I'm a quiet sleeper, but I do often wake up for an hour at a time in the early morning. In these instances, the Galaxy Watch 4 would record two separate sleeps, but show me the total time asleep in the morning recap. 

Another recovery tool, the Galaxy Watch 4’s stress app shows your stress levels. I stayed in the green, which means not too stressed, but the smartwatch still gave me the option to launch a breathing session. The Fitbit Sense takes a more convincing approach to stress monitoring and management, though it’s encouraging to see Samsung’s watch catching up.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Battery life

As much as I’d like to call the battery life a let down (some rumors hinted at a week-long battery life,) it’s a far cry from a dealbreaker. Samsung estimates the Galaxy Watch 4 can last 40 hours with regular use. It said something similar last year, but as I cover in my guide to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs. Galaxy Watch 3, with GPS, activity tracking and the always-on display enabled, I needed to charge every 24 hours.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review

(Image credit: Future)

Daily charging is just the norm for most mobile devices we use every day. Sure, many great smartwatches and many of the best fitness trackers last several days without a charge. But as long as you’re not disappearing into the woods for a week, I wouldn’t get caught up on the difference between 40 hours and a day. 

I wish the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 battery life was more consistent, though. I found some days the watch needed to be charged more often than 24 hours. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Verdict

With design updates, refreshed software and a breakout BIA system, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is by no means an incremental upgrade. And all at a lower price, I might add.

But sometimes, when you make many changes at once, there's more chances for individual changes to fall short. The battery life could be more consistent, and Wear OS is missing some key features at launch. I'm also hesitant to celebrate the benefits of wrist-based body composition analysis for the number of people the feature might be unsafe for. 

Instead, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4's success comes down to integrating as obnoxiously well with Galaxy devices as the Apple Watch does with the greater Apple ecosystem. If masters a convenience that's been absent for Samsung's users, letting all the other chips fall in place.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.


  • Keltypack
    I am sure hopeful that the battery life on the smaller 4 will allow for a full day hike with the GPS tracking. I have the Watch 3 and can barely make it through a 15-hour hike, but my wife's Watch 3 (smaller version) can only track with GPS for about 10-12 hours. Other than that specific use-case, I love my Watch 3. I wish there were more apps, so I am very hopeful that the Wear OS will fix that issue. Hopefully the improved processor and Wear OS will fix the battery life issue when tracking with GPS for a long day hike.
    Reply
  • WarEagleKev
    I plan on buying one of these but I do wonder if they're going to have a metal band version like they did of the Galaxy Watch 3 I like? Everything I've seen has only showed rubber/leather bands.
    Reply
  • Pwtech
    It was worth upgrading but not if you have a non Samsung Android phone, most reviewers either don't know this or not telling us consumers, but the ECG & Blood pressure will Only work if you have a Samsung phone , I was hopping this would have changed now they run WearOS not tizan want to use with my Pixel 5. Unfortunately a sale lost.
    Reply
  • FFRob
    So currently I'm in the process of returning a galaxy watch 3. Saying I'm disappointed in the performance of the 3 series would be an understatement! I have had constant issues with the heart rate lagging behing my actual heart rate as well as it just freezing for 20+ minutes at a time. With the heart rate off this bad there is no way the estimated calories burned is accurate. It also would lag pretty far behind, meaning when I was working out I would complete a set and sit down and I wound notice my heart rate spike up then return to normal. It's almost like it has a 1-2 minute delay. I returned the watch and they "fixed" this issue. I still had the issue with the heart rate but not as bad as before, however when I got the watch back it was not accurately tracking floors. I thought it was having trouble with this before I sent the watch back for the heart rate issue but when I got it back I had to go to the second floor of 30 different apartment buildings all within an hour or so. By the end the watch was way off it only had 9 floors. I kept looking at it through the hour and it would get one building then maybe the next then not track the following few. I am having a big issue trusting any Samsung watchs again after all the issues with my Galaxy watch 3. I use the Samsung S20 ultra phone and love it, I also had previous Samsung phones and loved them. I'm just not sold on their watch performance yet. I will say that the tech support and customer service on Samsung's part has been very good and as I said earlier they are currently processing a full refund for my "unrepairable* watch.

    This is a bummer for me because I really like the new watch features but I am so wary of going back with a Samsung watch. Anyone else have these issues with the galaxy watch 3?
    Reply
  • Viking79
    Keltypack said:
    I am sure hopeful that the battery life on the smaller 4 will allow for a full day hike with the GPS tracking. I have the Watch 3 and can barely make it through a 15-hour hike, but my wife's Watch 3 (smaller version) can only track with GPS for about 10-12 hours. Other than that specific use-case, I love my Watch 3. I wish there were more apps, so I am very hopeful that the Wear OS will fix that issue. Hopefully the improved processor and Wear OS will fix the battery life issue when tracking with GPS for a long day hike.
    That is interesting use case I hadn't thought of, what app do you generally use to initiate GPS(GNSS)? My suspicion is it will be very close.
    Reply
  • wayno-san
    Watch has been out for a few days, surprised there are no thorough reviews of it yet. I'm REALLY interested in battery life, specifically how long can it track GPS with and without music. If it's close to the Venu2 I just purchased (22/8 hours) I might consider switching. The quoted "up to 40 hours" number tells me nothing useful.

    This is a much proper way to specify battery life; https://support.garmin.com/en-US/?faq=A1gzB6SLZF6e9nnyZOfFM6
    Reply
  • Faterson
    FFRob said:
    So currently I'm in the process of returning a galaxy watch 3. Saying I'm disappointed in the performance of the 3 series would be an understatement! I have had constant issues with the heart rate lagging behing my actual heart rate as well as it just freezing for 20+ minutes at a time. With the heart rate off this bad there is no way the estimated calories burned is accurate.

    when I got the watch back it was not accurately tracking floors.
    I am having a big issue trusting any Samsung watchs again after all the issues with my Galaxy watch 3. I use the Samsung S20 ultra phone and love it, I also had previous Samsung phones and loved them. I'm just not sold on their watch performance yet.
    This is a bummer for me because I really like the new watch features but I am so wary of going back with a Samsung watch. Anyone else have these issues with the galaxy watch 3?

    I've just created an account in this forum to be able to reply!

    Yes, I'm having pretty much the same issues as you, except that it's on Galaxy Watch Classic Gen 1 (46 mm). Plus, atrocious battery life.

    I will give Samsung another chance this Friday with purchasing Classic Gen 4 (46 mm), but I'm extremely disappointed by the nightmare experience Gen 1 has been giving me.

    It's not just that it randomly used to stop tracking heart-rate, floors, sleep, etc. etc. at any time of the day. But after 2 years and 5 months after purchase, all bodily sensors stopped working completely, and they've been dead ever since.

    I reset to factory settings multiple times – no help. All bodily sensors are simply dead. An awful thing to experience in a $400 watch.

    So after this happened, I purchased the dirt-cheap Xiaomi MiBand 6 to be able to track my "bodily functions" again, and the band is superb! There are no outages – 24 hours of heart-rate tracking truly is 24 hours of uninterrupted heart-rate tracking, etc. The band even offers some innovative metrics not dreamed of by Samsung.

    It's embarrassing for Samsung when a Chinese product 10 times less expensive than Samsung's flagship watch offers a better and more reliable user experience...

    FFRob said:
    I will say that the tech support and customer service on Samsung's part has been very good and as I said earlier they are currently processing a full refund for my "unrepairable* watch.

    No such luck for me. Here in the EU, the mandatory warranty is 2 years, but because my watch broke down after 2 years and 5 months from purchase, nothing could be done about it. They told me, at Samsung's authorized repair shop, that I might as well purchase a new watch, because repairing the old one might cost nearly as much.

    I, too, have been using Samsung's flagship phones for years (currently on Note 10+), I own three flagship Samsung tablets, etc., so you can imagine how shocked I was by how bad and unreliable the watch turned out to be, although initially, it was great. But then those intermittent outages of bodily sensors began throughout the day... (Not even "raise wrist to wake the screen" used to work reliably – it does on the Xiaomi band.)

    I'll make sure to prolong my warranty to 5 (!) years when I purchase Gen 4 this Friday. It's going to cost me €80 more, but I need that security after what I went through.

    After the nightmare experienced with Gen 1, I swore I'd never buy another Samsung watch in my life, but the switch to Wear OS – the availability of Google Pay (Samsung Pay not available where I live), Google Keep, Google Maps, Easy Voice Recorder and other Android apps – made me reconsider, so I'm gonna give Samsung another chance this upcoming Friday.
    Reply
  • JSD_RN
    Underwhelmed. Just received the 4 Classic, after waiting years...literally. Upgraded from the Gear S3 Classic. It didn't start well. When I opened up the box they sent me the wrong color, black instead of silver.

    What I like about my gear S3 is there are tons of classy watch faces. With the Watch 4 the Wear OS faces are not compatible yet. All the faces available are cartoonish, I had some very classy faces that looked like top end watches...nuttin now. Not compatible.

    Then the calendar app. On the Gear S3, it is my second used app. I swipe over one to see the month at a glance. Now only 5 days are showing. I have to make 3 swipes to get to the whole calendar.

    EKG. You have to clear the disclaimer every time before using. When you're dealing with arrhythmias, timing is everything. If you need to swipe the disclaimer, do it at the end to get you back to the watch.

    It doesn't look like many compatible apps either. I found American Airlines, but Delta or others are absent... and I travel a lot. Disappointing. After waiting all this time, I'd expect some major upgrades. Still waiting.


    UPDATE: At the end of the first day wearing. Battery low warning. The use of this watch this day is no different than my Gear S3 Classic. So, if they have 'improved the battery', my guess is that the OS is more demanding. The Body Composition monitor doesn't appear to be reading correctly. Its very flattering. I'm by no means Adonis, but quite fit for 51. It says my body fat is 8.1%. I wish. The EKG monitor is also missing some PVCs that I have. Might wind up sending this back as its not much of an improvement from the Gear S3
    Reply
  • Faterson
    Well, at least I paid via Google Pay on my watch for the first time today, launched Google Maps for the first time, etc. And Easy Voice Recorder is a life-saver for me!

    That said, you're correct that finding the right watchfaces is the biggest hurdle when transferring from Tizen. I had my favorite watchfaces on Tizen, and they're all gone now. I installed Facer and tried to find something, wasted hours on it, and came up empty-handed. Most of the watchfaces offered there struck me as cartoonish, or they looked good on the phone, but not good on the watch when previewing them. Perhaps it takes time to find quality watchfaces for Wear OS.

    Battery life is awful, as could be feared and expected.

    Overall, I'm happy with the purchase so far. (Unless bodily sensors start acting up the way they did on Gen 1 for me. And, I'm so happy with the Xiaomi band I continue wearing both devices. Samsung's watch on my left hand, the Xiaomi band on the right.)
    Reply
  • Ballogie
    Stick with the active 2. Very few play apps work. Samsung not interested. Not even an Internet radio app that works. My e-sim is going back into my active 2 and there will be a 4 on ebay soon.
    Reply