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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: Hands-On & First Impressions

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Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is out, and we’ve got some hands-on time with it now that we’ve received our review device. We’ll be doing a full review of the watch later on once we’ve actually had the chance to use it more. But for now, we wanted to give some first impressions of Samsung’s latest wrist-worn wearable, which is also the future of Wear OS.

The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, and the more sporty Galaxy Watch 4, are both running on Wear OS 3, with a top layer of One UI Watch 3. Samsung’s in-house wearable user interface. At first glance when pulling it out of the box, the Galaxy Watch 4 looks as familiar as ever when comparing it to the designs of the Galaxy Watch 3 and older models.

But it’s once you power the watch on for the first time, that it really starts to sink in that this is running on Google’s smartwatch platform. It’s a bit of an odd feeling. Staring at what is very clearly a Samsung smartwatch, navigating a UI that is very clearly Wear OS but also intermixed with elements of Samsung’s take on watch software.

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But enough on that. Let’s dive into the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic hands-on.

Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: hands-on & first impressions

The design

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I’ve always loved the design of the Galaxy Watches. You can definitely tell they’re a smartwatch close up, but they look traditional enough to be worn with just about everything. All you might need to do is swap out the strap.

With the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic that look is still very present. Especially since you can get the watch case in multiple color options. With a varied set of official straps and bands from Samsung. Speaking of the straps and bands, the silicone ones that can come with the Galaxy Watch 4 series are very comfortable and feel soft to the touch on your skin.

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I wore it all night the first day during my sleep. And then only pulled it off for a shower the following morning. I have no irritation at all. Which can’t be said for the leather strap that came with last year’s Galaxy Watch 3. Although, I do have to say that the strap which came with the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is still more comfortable.

My only issue with the strap design is that the strap is very rigid. This results in a large amount of open space between my wrist and the band. Where the band meets the lugs on the watch case (You can see this in the image gallery above). This could be because of the lugs. But it’s definitely a little less appealing than other watches I’ve worn recently.

Aside from that, the design is top-notch. And I still think Samsung makes the best looking smartwatches.

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The software is a bit jenky

I’m not sure if everyone is having this issue. But the software on the model that I personally have is a bit jenky. Let me explain. When I stare at the watch UI for just a second, I notice that the UI will twitch just a little bit. This happens on most screens and in most menus. Regardless of the watch face.

And it almost always happens whenever you twist the rotating dial to move to a new screen. This definitely never happened on any other Wear OS watch I’ve used. So my guess is that it’s something that’s unique to the Galaxy Watch 4 series. Or perhaps just my unit.

In either case, this isn’t a major issue. Since it doesn’t really impact the functionality. But it is noticeable and for the cost of the watch, it’s probably not something that should be happening. It just makes the watch release feel a little rushed.

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Having said all that, the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic still works perfectly fine. This is just a visual thing that I noticed, and would like to see go away.

The app drawer

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Samsung definitely, totally, in no way took inspiration from the Apple Watch for this new app drawer design. Not in any way at all. Certainly not. Jokes aside, the app drawer is much more pleasing to the eye than on past Galaxy smartwatches. While I can appreciate the app ring that followed the edge of the display all the way around on older models, this new design makes it easier to see everything that’s installed.

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Plus, you no longer have to move to a new page. Twisting the rotating bezel simply scrolls up or down one single page. This might just be a personal preference. But it looks nicer and it feels more functional. And I think more users than not are going to be happy about the adjustment.

And since this is running on Wear OS 3, you actually swipe up from the bottom edge to open the drawer. As opposed to pressing one of the buttons. Overall it just seems more well thought out.

Wear OS is so much smoother on the Galaxy Watch 4

If you’ve used a Wear OS watch before, you know how temperamental the performance can be. In most cases, it’s not great. Which is why I’ve always preferred the Galaxy Watch series to anything that Google and its other partners have produced.

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But with the Galaxy Watch 4 series, that’s changing. Because I really like some of the functionality that Wear OS offers. I just wanted it to perform better. Samsung’s contribution to the software, definitely makes this happen. Though it’s not all on the software side. The improved hardware certainly helps too.

And in the end it results in a much smoother experience on Wear OS than ever before. Now if Samsung could just rush out the Google Assistant and GPay apps. Everything would be nearly perfect.

The Water Lock feature is kind of ingenious

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I wouldn’t presume to think tons of people are wearing their smartwatches in the shower. I certainly don’t. But the Galaxy Watch 4 has a cool little feature called Water Lock which is designed to help prevent accidental touches on the display from water or liquid.

You can access this from the quick start menu by swiping down from the top edge, then rotating to the second screen. Simply turn this on prior to hopping in the shower or the pool, and you’re good to go.

The Galaxy Watch 4 series is not completely waterproof. But it is highly water resistant thanks to the 5ATM + IP68 rating. So drops of water and splashes from spills, or dips in the pool, should be fine. Just turn on this feature if you want to avoid accidental touches.

This is not the first watch this has ever been on. Samsung actually offers it on its Active series. But it’s the first one that I’ve noticed it on, and I like it. It’s a nice touch should I decide I’m too lazy one morning to take the watch off before hopping in the shower to clean up.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic: the verdict so far

After my first full day of use of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, I’m convinced that Samsung partnering up with Google for the future of Wear OS was the right call. And a smart move on Samsung’s part. Wear OS no doubt has the better app experience. If you want apps on your smartwatch in the first place.

But Samsung has the better user experience and the better performance. Together, the two companies have created a great smartwatch that I think is the best that either company has ever had a hand in. So far, I love it. And I think customers are going to love it too.