Smartwatches can serve many purposes in your day to day life, activity tracking like fitness and sleep, and notifications or music control can happen on your wrist to keep your phone in your pocket. How each of us wants to use a smartwatch will be specific to our needs. I’m going to take you through a few different ways I used the Gear active and what my battery life looked like throughout the day. Hopefully, you’ll get a sense of what it’s like to live with this smartwatch and if it’s the right device for you need.
The Gear Active comes in only one size and will cost you $199 on Amazon, and is much cheaper than an Apple watch series 4 or the $350 Galaxy watch.
Samsung Galaxy Gear Active – Conference Day!
At Mobile World Congress I needed full connectivity. Every email, what’s app, messenger group chat, LinkedIn and Instagram direct message showed up on my wrist. It was impossible to count how many times my wrist asked me to pay attention to it. If you’ve ever had a Tamagotchi, imagine it’s in its most needy phase, times two. If I had to guess, I’d say I had over 300 messages (facebook group chats are vicious during conferences, I ended up muting a few in the middle of the day).
I set my watch face to include my calendar, so it let me know what meeting was up next. This was the most convenient feature, if I’m honest, it was nice to have messages on my wrist, but at conference volume, it was often derailing. It’s just as rude to look at your wrist during a conversation as it is to look at your phone. The problem with the notifications on your wrist is that you look at it involuntarily, you can turn your phone over or have it away during an important meeting. You can’t take your watch off.
7 am 100% – Watch comes off the charger!
10 am 91% – Several emails and chats have come in, but mostly I’ve been in transit and starting my day, so my phone has been in my hand actively messaging.
12 pm – 78% I checked the time a lot. I did not have always on display active, so when I turned my wrist to check the time the whole screen would turn on. I also had this watch face which lets me know what is coming up next on my calendar.
2 pm 64% – I’ve read a few emails on my wrist and realized I should grab my phone.
6 pm 44% -Today was all about notifications. I didn’t stream music or track a run. I also didn’t use the stress app to take a moment and calm down. There is no being calm at MWC. Fact.
1115pm back at the Airbnb at a reasonable hour. Power save mode kicks in at 15%, I’m at 16%. I made it through a whole day of intense messaging!
1130pm – Power Save mode kicks in (or I notice that the watch is asking me to turn it on). I take it off and pop it on the charger.
In this scenario, I have to charge the watch overnight, it takes about 2 hours to charge the watch from under 15%. This means I can’t track my sleep. In this scenario, I have to give up sleep tracking if I want to use the watch tomorrow.
You’re going to notice that the 2 hour charge time becomes a problem. It is a constant factor. When do you charge it if you want to track all your activities? If the watch is a phone replacement then you have to give up sleep tracking.
I understand that you can charge the watch on the back of your S10, which I have done. If you get an S10E you’ll be annoyed it’s eating your battery because you need it to get through the day. If you get an S10, you’ll still be wary that this is an activity that you have to do with your phones precious power. The S10 Plus is the only one of the three that I feel has the battery chops to accept this as a regular activity.
Let’s take a step back at when this activity is happening. Are you taking your watch off at your desk and charging it? Sure, you might have a wireless charger at your desk so you don’t need to drain your phone battery. This to me now isn’t the problem. Why do I have to think about charging my watch in the middle of the day?!
Personally, I would take a physical connection that would fast charge the watch to 80% in 20min and get me through the day. I could easily pop it on the charger when I shower and get ready in the morning or for bed. If there was a 20 or 30 min charge time I could easily incorporate this into my day. However, putting the watch on the back of your phone while you on the go makes this gadget too high maintenance.
Let’s move on to another use case where I turn the notifications off and use the watch as an activity tracker. This is where Samsung comes close to delivering on its claim that the Gear Active has 45 hours of battery life.
Samsung Gear Active – An average Day
530am – Watch comes off the charger.
1030am – 80% battery life. Has looked at the time maybe 6 times.
10 pm 46% – Throughout the day I checked my steps and watch I think a normal amount of times.
When I hopped into bed at an amazing 10 pm (hey, don’t judge I got up at 530am!) I had 46% left.
8:15am 20% battery. Goes on the charger and it will take 2hr1min to charge to 100%.
The long charge time becomes a problem when you want to use your smartwatch to track your sleep. 2 hours is a long time top up
Samsung Gear Active: Workout with Activity Tracking
730am 24% – Wake up and put my watch on the charger, I had 24% left and it needed about 1:50 to charge to full.
930am – 100 %: Watch comes off the charger.
When I went out to take a morning walk I put the watch on. I didn’t stream music from the watch, I had my phone with me. Always on Display is active since I use it as a watch to tell the time.
3:45 pm 63% – I started to get ready in my apartment to go for a run, I began streaming Spotify from my watch to my Galaxy buds.
5% battery drain for 15 min of streaming music directly from downloaded music to the watch is normal.
4:00 pm 58% – Run tracking, which means the GPS is active and I was streaming music.
4:40 pm – 23%– 5km run done! Streaming stopped working 25min into the run. On another 5km run (32min, the battery drop was less only 23%, the fitness tracking seems to vary on consumption anywhere between 20-40%). The running track is always the same.
It’s worth noting that not all tracking is as intense on your battery life, 35min of tracking my yoga only cost me 5% battery life.
During this run, I used Runtastic for tracking as well to compare. The results were quite different, Here are a few runs of the same location. You can see that the Active is not accurate when it comes to location tracking.
Runtastic is more accurate and provides better tracking data. We can see where we hit each km and it’s in the same spots each time. It also tracked the run time more accurately, the Gear Active tracked 6.82km and Runtastic 8.07km. Over 1km is a pretty big difference in terms of tracking.
The activity tracking is not great, we’re hoping that this is one of the updates that Samsung rolls out, they have to fix it. After all, it is called the Gear Active and activity tracking is at the core of it’s name.
It is also worth noting that at every kilometre you get a voice notification of your speed and how many kilometres you’ve done. This is great. I totally love it. However, it stops Spotify to do it and it doesn’t turn it back on after it’s interrupted it. So after every kilometre, I have to go to my watch and press play on Spotify. This completely defeats the purpose of having the audio cue. Please Samsung, restart Spotify after you let me know how awesome I am at running! ,
Since my schedule allows for flexibility I haven’t had trouble with charge time, I’m also not OCD about having every night of sleep tracked. Or rather, I’m learning to let go and am accepting having holes in my tracked data. If you too can let go, Samsung is offering a pleasing level of personalisation and customisation when it comes to the Active’s hardware, with its 40mm (39.5 x 39.5 x 10.5mm) casing available in one of four finishes: black, silver, rose gold and (sea) green.