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Galaxy Watch 6 and 6 Classic Review: Small Updates, Big Screens

Jun 15, 2023

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It's more like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.5, but screen size and that bezel make all the difference.

The Galaxy Watch 6 and 6 Classic.

The Galaxy Watch 6 proves that what's old can become new again. Samsung brought back the fan-favorite bezel on the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, while the regular Galaxy Watch 6 is an incremental update to last year's model. These Android smartwatches are not exciting, but they can do almost everything you need.

I've been wearing both versions for a week to track everything from workouts to sleep. Inside, they're practically the same watch with the same internal specs, sensors and sizing options. I tested the small version of both: the 40mm Watch 6 and the 43mm Classic. (My wrist measures 152mm.) You can see how they fit in the video on this page.

The main differences between the Galaxy Watch 6 versions?

All the sensors on both are the same as the ones found on the Galaxy Watch 5: heart rate, body composition and skin temperature. Both the Watch 6 and 6 Classic have LTE options to stay connected when you're away from your phone. They cost $50 more than the base price and you may need to pay an additional fee to your wireless provider to get service on your watch.

So, what's different from last year? It's as simple as software, screens and a slightly longer-lasting battery.

Galaxy Watch 4 Classic (left) vs. 6 Classic (right) in the smaller sizes of both.

It seems like a small upgrade on paper, but the larger 1.3-inch and 1.5-inch displays make a significant difference to the overall experience. When I compare the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic directly with the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic (the last Samsung watch to have the bezel) the difference in usable display is night and day.

The screens are also twice as bright as the Galaxy Watch 5 and Pro, reaching a maximum 2,000 nits. I found them so much easier to see in sunlight. The always-on display is brighter too.

I love that Samsung listened to feedback and brought back the rotating bezel. Not only does it make navigation more fun, it's a practical way to control the watch if you wear gloves, or have sweaty or wet fingers.

The bezel is also slimmer than the version we last saw on the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. But it doesn't do anything new and it should never have left. The regular Galaxy Watch 6 has a touch bezel around the edge of the screen. Move your finger around to get the same effect as the physical bezel.

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic's bezel.

I wonder what Samsung will do about the next Pro watch. I speculated the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro could have had a slimmer rotating bezel around the raised edge of the watch. Now Samsung makes a slimmer version, I hope we'll see it on the Galaxy Watch 6 Pro.

One design perk I wasn't expecting is the new one-click watch band design. No more fiddling with spring pin toggles! The new bands are also backwards and forwards-compatible and I appreciate that they sit closer to the watch frame. The hybrid leather band on the Classic is particularly comfortable for all-day wear.

Samsung is more conservative with its battery life estimates this year, claiming the Galaxy Watch 6 can last up to 30 hours with the always-on display, or 40 hours with it turned off. That's for both sizes of both watches, even though the larger case sizes have a higher-capacity battery at 425 mAh compared to 300 mAh on the smaller version.

I wasn't quite able to reach those numbers. With the always-on, getting a handful of phone notifications, one 30-minute workout using GPS and sleep tracking, I hit 27 hours on the 43mm Galaxy Watch 6 Classic before it went flat.

With slightly heavier use, like streaming music over Bluetooth headphones and a longer outdoor workout using GPS, that runtime is closer to 24 hours. I suspect LTE use will drain the battery even faster and will update this review once I've been able to test. It takes over an hour to charge the watch from flat to full using the provided USB-C charger, or you can use reverse wireless charging on a Galaxy phone for a top-up.

If you want the longest-lasting battery, that's still the $450 Galaxy Watch 5 Pro that lasts two-and-a-half to three days with similar use.

Galaxy Watch 6 reverse wireless charging.

These are the first watches to run Wear OS 4. Some of the key updates promise better battery life and cloud backups. Apps like Gmail and Google Calendar will also come to the watch, but at the time of writing they aren't available yet. Other Google apps like the Assistant and YouTube Music are there and WhatsApp now has a native Wear OS app.

They also run Samsung's One UI 5 Watch on top of Wear OS 4 that brings Galaxy Watch-exclusive features including:

Pairing your watch to a new phone is so easy now you don't need to reset and wipe it anymore.

Know that the Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 will get the One UI 5 update later in the year. Other interface tweaks include a bigger keyboard, so typing is a little easier than the Galaxy Watch 5. Voice to text dictation works as well as it did before. But my favorite feature so far is that you don't need to reset your watch when you switch to a new phone.

If you have a Flip 5 or Fold 5, you can control the camera in Flex mode from your wrist, but I found it was a bit laggy. Don't feel left out if you have an older Galaxy phone: The camera controller still works. I tested it with the Galaxy S22 Ultra and got camera controls like zooming with the bezel, without the lag.

Universal gestures is a lesser-known accessibility feature that should get more attention because it works really well. Just like the Assistive Touch on the Apple Watch, you can control the Galaxy Watch 6 with gestures if you can't touch the screen or press buttons.

Universal Gestures on Galaxy Watch 6

The Galaxy Watch 6 has a few new fitness tools like a new track run workout type and the option to create custom workouts. Samsung quietly added back automatic cycling detection after it disappeared from the Galaxy Watch 4 and 5. The Galaxy Watch 6 still auto-detects activities like walks, runs, rowing machine and elliptical after about 10 minutes.

New to Samsung watches are personalized heart rate zones. They can help you train more effectively by helping you stay within a range based on your aerobic capabilities. To calculate custom heart rate zones, do a minimum 10-minute outdoor run at 4 kilometers per hour or faster. Then go into Settings > HR Zone Guide > Target HR zone. This feature also exists on the Apple Watch and Fitbit.

Sleep tracking features bring the watch up to speed with what other watches on the market offer, specifically the Pixel Watch and Fitbit. You can now see your sleep score on the watch and the corresponding sleep animals are cute. But they've been available on the Galaxy Watch 4 since early 2022. It will take more time to see if the Galaxy Watch 6 sleep coaching tips are helpful in the long term and if they're any different from previous watches. I'll update this review after several weeks with the final verdict.

Like other wearables, the Galaxy Watch 6 can check your blood oxygen readings while you sleep, but it's the only smartwatch I've worn for sleep tracking that gives me very low blood oxygen readings overnight, sometimes as low as 87%. Low blood oxygen readings can indicate medical conditions like sleep apnea. Activating sleep mode is also supposed to turn on an invisible infrared sensor instead of using the green LED for heart rate, though I noticed when I woke up during the night, the green light was visible. I've reached out to Samsung for clarification on this feature.

The Galaxy Watch 6 has an ECG and now supports irregular heart rhythm notifications, like the Apple Watch and Fitbit, but only if you have a Galaxy phone. You can sideload the Samsung Health Monitor app on other Android phones by installing an APK, but technically it's not supported.

I tested the heart rate monitor against a chest strap for accuracy and found that my resting heart rate matched up. During a cardio workout, the sensor was within a few bpm of the strap. Like last year's watch, the GPS locked on to a signal within seconds of starting an outdoor workout and route accuracy is good.

Finally, the skin temperature sensor tracks during overnight sleep and can also be used to predict upcoming menstrual cycles.

That depends. If you have a Galaxy Watch 4 or 5 it doesn't make much sense unless you get a fantastic trade-in deal, or you really want that bigger screen. You get all the main software updates with One UI 5 Watch later in the year anyway.

If you have an earlier Galaxy or Gear watch that runs Tizen, the upgrade is more tempting as you're getting access to Wear OS and the option to keep the beloved bezel.

But the Galaxy Watch 6 has a lot more competition than last year, thanks to the likes of the Pixel Watch and Mobvoi's TicWatch 5 Pro. The Galaxy Watch 6 is one of the most refined Android smartwatches, but it could be a lot more exciting, especially when it comes to battery life.

Material:Rotating bezel: Price:Watch this:Samsung Galaxy Watch 6Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic