Sun. Jul 21st, 2024

Last month, Samsung announced a cheaper, entry-level Galaxy Watch FE. And today, it announced a refreshed $299.99 Galaxy Watch 7 and the all-new $649.99 Galaxy Watch Ultra. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Samsung’s taking a page from Apple’s smartwatch playbook — and nowhere is that more obvious than with the new Ultra.

The Galaxy Watch Ultra replaces the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro as the premium smartwatch in Samsung’s lineup. Like that watch, this one caters to the outdoor athlete. But whereas the Pro had its own distinct vibe, the Ultra isn’t exactly hiding where it got its inspiration from.

I’m not exaggerating or being a hater, either. It’s in the name! Apple Watch Ultra, Galaxy Watch Ultra. Everything about this watch is reminiscent of Apple’s. Samsung says this is its most durable watch yet, with 10ATM of water resistance, an IP68 rating, a titanium case, and a sapphire crystal lens. There’s a new orange Quick Button that launches shortcuts to the workout app, flashlight, water lock, and a few other options. (There is a lot of orange styling.) It’s got a new lug system for attaching straps that looks an awful lot like Apple’s, too.

Speaking of new straps, there are now options that cater to runners, hikers, and swimmers. The screen is brighter, going up to 3,000 nits. It’s got dual-frequency GPS, you can take it diving, and there’s a new multisport activity profile. There’s a Night Mode for your watchface that turns everything red so it’s easier to read at night. There are new power-saving modes that get you up to 100 hours of battery overall and up to 48 hours of exercise. There’s a new Functional Threshold Power metric for cyclists. Runners get a new Race feature that lets you compare current and past performance. Did I mention there’s an 85dB emergency siren, too? (I heard it — it does get quite loud.)

It’s spiritually similar to Apple’s Ultra but has some distinct Samsung flavor.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

Look, it’s that Apple Watch Ultra but in an Android-friendly font.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing! There hasn’t really been a 1-to-1 equivalent for the Apple Watch Ultra in the Android space. Garmins are great, but they’re lacking in the smart features and third-party app department. Samsung is just filling a niche. Also, it’s $150 cheaper. Can’t argue with that.

It’s also not totally fair to call this an Apple Watch Ultra knockoff. Samsung does bring its own flavor. The 47mm titanium case is a squircle shape. Next to the Apple Watch Ultra 2, the squircle shape was chonkier overall. I had mixed feelings as to the style — I miss the rotating bezel! Yet it does look distinct and is wearable even on my smaller wrist. Furthermore, while there’s no physical rotating bezel, Samsung did include its signature digital touch bezel. That’s a good thing, as while the Quick Button looks and rotates like a digital crown, it doesn’t actually scroll. That threw me for a loop, but I imagine it’s simply something to get used to.

As for the Galaxy Watch 7… well, it’s here. I’m only half kidding. Design-wise, nothing’s changed besides some new strap colors. The sizes are the same, as are the battery sizes and price. But aside from form factor and durability, the Galaxy Watch 7 and Ultra share most of the same internal hardware and software updates, too.

The Galaxy Watch 7 mostly gets a spec bump.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

For instance, they both get the upgrade to Wear OS 5 and One UI 6 Watch. Both sport a new 3nm Exynos W1000 chip with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. They both have LTE, fast charging, and dual-frequency GPS. On top of the usual sensors, the Galaxy Watch 7 and Ultra also have an upgraded Samsung BioActive Sensor for improved heart rate, EKG, and body composition analysis. The gist is the new BioActive Sensor adds more LEDs and more colors of LEDS — blue, yellow, violet, and ultraviolet, to be specific. That mostly adds a new experimental Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) Index metric, which Samsung says takes a look at your “diet and lifestyle” to reflect your overall biological aging process. (Aside from confirming that this does not refer to blood glucose, that’s about as clear as Samsung got.)

As with the Galaxy Ring, both watches also get Galaxy AI-powered features like Energy Score and Wellness Tips. The former is similar to readiness metrics found on other health trackers, while the latter offers personalized insights based on your health tracking data.

Aside from form factor and the Ultra’s extra durability, the watches share many of the same specs, features, and software.
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

The biggest thing is, this year, Samsung announced the two watches have FDA De Novo clearance for sleep apnea detection. That’s a big deal, as this is an industrywide first. Basically, it uses your sleep tracking data to monitor sleep disruptions indicative of moderate to severe sleep apnea. Just because this feature is FDA-cleared doesn’t mean it’s intended as a diagnostic tool. It just means the FDA has classified it as a low-to-moderate risk device that doesn’t have a precedent and is safe for its intended use. Rather, you’re meant to take that information and consult your healthcare provider.

At the end of my hands-on, neither the Galaxy Watch 7 nor the Ultra blew me away. In each case, I hadn’t really seen anything truly new. But, that’s also my reviewer privilege speaking. Of course I wish the Galaxy Watch Ultra felt a bit more unique — at least in terms of design — but it’s like I said: there wasn’t really an Apple Watch Ultra equivalent for Android. Now there is. So long as Samsung’s Ultra holds up in testing, that’s ultimately a good thing.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 7 and Ultra are available for preorder starting today and will be generally available from July 24th.

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#Samsung #Galaxy #Watch #Ultra #handson #ultra #déjà

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