In our second installment of “Which Gadget Should You Buy?” our consumer tech experts help a reader choose a full-fledged smartwatch that is not only capable of fitness tracking, but also productivity tasks.
Gizmodo reader Tyler works in government relations and wants a smartwatch that can improve numerous workflows. It needs to be a device that’ll let Tyler leave their phone on a desk while they adjust music controls, send emails, and read and respond to text messages. The max budget is a healthy $350, enough to buy most of the premium options on the market short of enthusiast-grade fitness trackers (which wouldn’t be the best choice anyway).
The popular choice among, well, everyone is the Apple Watch. But it’s getting thrown off the table for a few reasons: first, Tyler already has a foot in Samsung’s ecosystem with the Galaxy S21 and has indicated a preference for Google devices. And second, there is finally a capable alternative on the market.
Tyler should buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 or the Watch 4 Classic. Full stop. It’s what our resident wearables/smart home/streaming expert Florence Ion recommends, and I couldn’t agree more. In the words of Flo, “The Galaxy Watch 4 is the defacto Android-based smartwatch to get right now. Until the rumored Pixel Watch comes to fruition, if it ever will, you are taking a risk buying anything else.”
That was easy! So why the Galaxy Watch 4? In large part, because the new Wear OS is heavily influenced by Samsung, which was already selling the best non-Apple watches before making the switch from Tizen OS. The newest watches are sleek, performance is mostly excellent, and the third-party app ecosystem is finally taking shape. The Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic aren’t perfect: battery life is only OK and the lack of a Google Assistant (for now) is a bummer. On that last point, Samsung hasn’t committed to a timeline for adding Google Assistant, saying only that it would arrive in the “coming months.” Still, Samsung’s latest flagship smartwatch is the clear frontrunner.
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This brings us to what is arguably an even trickier decision: whether to purchase the Galaxy Watch 4 or the Watch 4 Classic. The 42mm Classic costs $309 (on sale from $349) while the 40mm Watch 4 is only $209. Is the classic worth the extra cash? That depends.
One of the main differences between the two is the size: the standard model comes in 40mm and 44mm while the Watch 4 Classic is available in 42mm and 46mm. If you have a beefier wrist, the Classic might be the literal better fit. The Classic also has a stainless steel build, and perhaps most importantly, a physical rotating bezel that works better than the touch-sensitive one on the Watch 4. The designs of these two are similar, though the Watch 4 is meant to be more active-y whereas the Classic looks more like a traditional timepiece. That’s about it though: the functionality of these two watches is largely equal.
Before you add the Watch 4 to your shopping cart, Flo has some sage advice: don’t get the 4G LTE option unless you really need it. It eats away at battery life, and you might be forced to turn off battery-hogging features like location services to get a full day on a charge.
And to answer a question Tyler posed to us: yes, the Watch 4 can help you be more productive. You can use Google Keep to save important notes, the Calendar app to avoid missing meetings, and keep your notifications open to read emails and texts. To conclude, the Galaxy Watch 4 is the clear-cut favorite for Tyler and anyone else in search of a full-fledged smartwatch to pair with an Android phone (at least, until the Pixel Watch arrives).
Would you recommend something else? Let us know in the comments! And if you need help deciding on which gadget to buy, then fill out our simple questionnaire.