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Samsung was one of the first major smartphone makers to jump on the smartwatch ship, and, unsurprisingly, its first smartwatch didn’t use Google’s nascent Android Wear back then. It struck off on its own with a customized version of Android running inside the Samsung Galaxy Gear. It has come full circle and has returned to Android again, this time with Wear OS running on the upcoming Galaxy Watch 4 series. Surprisingly, there might still be some owners of the Galaxy Gear around, and Samsung is now urging them to switch to its Tizen OS if they want access to some smartwatch apps.
The Galaxy Gear launched way back in 2013 and was the only one of its kind, so it’s rather surprising to hear that Samsung still has the smartwatch and its users in mind eight years after. Even more surprising is that Samsung was actually still running a version of its app store specifically for that Android-based OS after all this time. Samsung is shutting that down next month, however, but it hasn’t abandoned owners of the smartwatch just yet (another surprise).
Samsung actually gave Galaxy Gear owners a way forward back in 2014 when it was clear that it wasn’t going to stick to its own Android smartwatch OS. Back then, it offered an update to its new Tizen-based wearable platform, the very same OS that would take Samsung’s smartwatches to relative success for a couple of years. Apparently, not everyone took the opportunity back then, but Samsung is now pretty much forcing their hand.
An update to the Samsung Galaxy Store notifies owners of the smartwatch that it will be shutting down the Galaxy Store for Galaxy Gear devices on August 5, 2021. While the smartwatch will continue to function, users won’t be able to install or reinstall apps after that date. They can upgrade to Tizen moving forward if they want access to apps, but it’s a one-way street and there’s no turning back. Moreover, not all Galaxy Gear apps will be available on Tizen, but there might be similar ones by now.
It is rather impressive that Samsung has apparently managed to support a relatively obscure 2013 smartwatch for this long. Unfortunately, the same story can’t be said for more recent Tizen-based smartwatches that may be blocked from upgrading to the new Samsung-branded Wear OS. Whether that’s because of hardware requirements or some arbitrary policy from Google remains a mystery.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is one of the best smartwatches for all Android phones. It’s got great compatibility, design, battery life, and is very light. Depending on your point of view, one of the best things about it is it’s not running Google’s Wear OS. The Galaxy Watch Active is running Tizen 4, and after the latest update, it has One UI 1.2 as well. Let’s take a look at some of the changes.
The Galaxy Watch Active’s new update tweaks some things to improve the experience without the rotating bezel. The app drawer is now slightly more optimized for swiping. Before, there were little icons at the top that would allow you to switch between pages. Now, all you can do is swipe instead of pressing the icon. It should be noted that you could also swipe before this update, but Samsung cleaned up the animation and made it work better. This is a small change, but it always felt like Samsung just threw the same software onto the watch with different hardware. No more next page button
The next major change is actually with Bixby. I know most people just ignore Bixby’s existence, but it can actually be useful on a watch. Before the new update, Bixby felt like S Voice with a new icon. The original Bixby on the watch and S Voice didn’t even sound different. After the update, Bixby actually sounds and feels like Bixby from Samsung phones. It even has a similar settings panel and app support to Bixby 2.0 on phones with One UI. (Then again, you could just use Google Assistant…)
Goodnight mode is another pretty cool change. It tries to limit your use of the watch and keep you away from checking your notifications. It makes it harder to check your apps and notifications. To continue to do so, you need to either turn off goodnight mode or hit the home button. It’s not making it impossible, but it just adds a little barrier to make the process more difficult and hopefully keep you away.
Another very minor change I noticed after playing with this update is with icons. The theater mode icon in the watch’s quick settings has been redesigned. Before, it had a confusing-looking curved display. It was hard to tell what it was unless you knew ahead of time. Now, the new icon is much easier to see and actually know what it means.
Along with these new features and minor changes, we do have some actually useful updates. The Galaxy Watch Active can now automatically track swimming and input it into Samsung Health. There is also a new warning for minimum and maximum heart rates. These will warn you if your heart rate is above or below a certain point without doing exercise. This feature will likely be tied to ECG support in the Watch Active 2.
All of these updates are really nice and just reinforces my perception of the Galaxy Watch Active being the best smartwatch for Android. These changes will also pave the way for the Galaxy Watch Active 2 when it’s announced next month. Wear OS as a platform doesn’t see much movement these days, but Samsung is charging ahead with their smartwatches and software.
Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch Active alongside the S10 earlier this year, positively surprising us with a great all-round wearable product. Its the first Tizen watch to introduce Samsung's new OneUI, which has since made its way to the other smartwatches in the company's lineup. Now, the Active is first in line to receive another software update and with a slew of new capabilities such as a night mode, automatic swimming recognition, a new low heart rate alert, improved Bixby actions, and some general UX improvements.
Let's get Samsung's voice assistant everyone loves to hate out of the way first. It now lets you start customized exercise routines with specific goals and gives you the long-awaited ability to ask for the time differences between cities. The update should also make it easier to control SmartThings devices and change system settings such as brightness.
Proceeding to UI improvements, Tizen gets a new Goodnight Mode, which turns off the display at night and shows you a dedicated watch face with the press of a button. You can turn off notifications altogether while in this mode, or you can customize which notifications you'd still like to receive.
The App Tray has been updated to remove the dial-inspired interface, offering you horizontal swipes through pages of apps instead. With the Watch Active not having a rotating bezel, this makes sense.
On the fitness front, the watch adds automatic swimming recognition to the existing six activities it could detect before. Additionally, you can now set up custom low heart rate alerts alongside the existing high warnings. If your pulse is abnormal for more than 10 minutes, you'll receive a notification. The breathing guide also received some minor UX updates and should help you calm down more efficiently.
You can take a look at the full changelog for this update below:
Build Number : R500XXU1CSG6
Tizen version : Tizen 22.214.171.124
Release Date : 2019-07-23
- New Bixby
. New Bixby helps you get tasks done more easily. Start an exercise with specific goals or ask time difference between your city and the one you will be traveling.
- Samsung Health
. Swimming is new addition to auto detecting exercise types.
. HR Low Alert is added for a heart health.
. Breath Guide graphics are improved.
- App Tray UI
. App Tray UI has been improved for an easier, more intuitive and faster searching and activation.
- Goodnight Mode UI
. A dedicated view will be offered while Goodnight mode is on.
- Disabled automated sync of Alarm from paired Smartphone to Watch
Tizen version 126.96.36.199 is currently rolling out to the Galaxy Watch Active, but as always, it might be a little while before your device receives it.