If there’s one Apple product I’m feeling increasingly underwhelmed by, it’s the Apple Watch.
Don’t get me wrong – despite regular flirtations with my awesome Casio G-Shock, I have Apple’s wearable on my wrist more often than not. I just don’t really use it for anything more than tracking workouts and timing my rest periods during weight training.
I no longer pay any attention to my activity rings, and notifications have become more of an annoyance than a convenience. I’m just a bit bored of the Apple Watch and watchOS. Sorry, Tim.
This is why I’m so excited by rumours of a ‘pro’ Apple Watch hitting wrists later this year. How apt, therefore, that Samsung gets in before Apple with their take on a Garmin competitor!
I’ve pre-ordered my Galaxy Watch5 Pro and will provide my first impressions once it arrives, but in the meantime, here are some initial thoughts.
Enter the Galaxy Watch5 Pro
The new Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro is available to preorder today and it starts at £429 in the UK.
The regular Watch5 is a fairly moderate update over the previous version, but the Watch5 Pro is an entirely new category for Samsung’s wearable line.
It’s clearly being pitched squarely against dedicated sports watches from the likes of Garmin. Built-in GPS, a rugged titanium body and a sapphire crystal display are, we’re told, built to “stand up to nature”. Whatever that means.
The Watch5 Pro runs a bastardised version of Google’s Wear OS known as – you guessed it – One UI. Designed specifically for the circular (yay) display on the Watch5, it looks… well, it looks rather lovely. Far more lovely (in press shots, at least) than the Apple Watch.
There really is a lot to like about the Watch5 Pro – although I do have a few concerns.
What I like about the Galaxy Watch5 Pro
Let’s start with the good stuff.
I’ve always admired Samsung’s smartwatches from afar, mainly because they’re circular – you know, like most traditional watches. The Watch5 Pro builds on this, literally, by beefing up everything from the physical size of the device (it’s only available in a frankly comical 45mm casing) to the battery, which is an impressive 590mAh unit.
While I’m gushing about the design, it’s definitely worth pointing out how awesome the Bespoke Studio configuration tool is on Samsung’s website. You can try out colour combinations for bands and casing colours, and even see them in context with different Watch5 faces. The interface is simple, responsive, and encourages exploration – it is country miles ahead of the Apple Watch alternative.
What I’m really looking forward to, though, is the experience the Watch5 Pro might offer someone who runs and works out regularly. I’m utterly bored of the Apple Watch in that regard, and I can’t wait to get something else on my wrist while running, lifting, or cycling.
I’m a fairly unadventurous runner, which is why the ‘Track Back’ feature piqued my interest during yesterday’s presentation. The ability to work your way back to the starting point of your run sounds perfect for someone who, when faced with an unfamiliar running location, will simply retrace his route to achieve the desired mileage (and usually get lost).
I don’t do a huge amount of hiking these days, but I do have an annual trip to the Lake District each February, which is why I’m also looking forward to seeing how the Watch5 Pro performs when it comes to really braving the elements. Providing Apple has thrown its own ‘Pro’ wearable into the ring by that time, I’ll be pitching both squarely against one another.
Special mention must be made of the price, too. I think the entire Watch5 lineup is very keenly priced. The base model ‘normal’ Watch5 starts at just £289, and I think the £429 entry point for the Pro will be some way south of whatever Apple launches in the autumn. In fact, it already feels like very good value.
But there might be a few issues with the Watch5 Pro.
My reservations about the Galaxy Watch5 Pro
There are a few areas in which I need convincing if the Watch5 Pro is to become my daily smartwatch for the foreseeable future.
Firstly, we have no idea how well it will play with non-Samsung phones; historically, the best Galaxy Watch experience has always been achieved, unsurprisingly, when paired with a Samsung phone.
Although I have a Galaxy Z Flip4 on the way, I will continue to switch Android phones as regularly as the wind direction changes. It is part and parcel of my job, which means the Watch5 Pro needs to play nicely with a broad range of Android devices. Even outside of my unusual use case, I think there are plenty of non-Samsung Android users who will have their eye on this new wearable – what a shame it would be if they’re unable to access its best features because of their phone choice.
The Watch5 Pro is also powered by Samsung’s Exynos platform. For anyone who isn’t aware, this is based around an absolutely dreadful chip which is thrown haphazardly into most Samsung smartphones that are sold in the UK and certain other regions. It turns the S22 Ultra into a dog of a phone, which is why I’m marginally concerned about the performance of the Watch5 Pro.
Let’s hope that’s unfounded.
Lastly, what if the Watch5 Pro isn’t quite as tough as we’re being led to believe?
There’s a reason the likes of Garmin and Casio are trusted to make genuinely tough watches – they’ve been doing it for decades, and they aren’t shy when it comes to using the right materials at the expense of design finesse. I remain unconvinced that Apple and Samsung are capable of this; the latter’s claim that the Watch5 Pro is “designed for adventurers” might come unstuck if it’s incapable of dealing with a mud run or one too many knocks against a rocky wall during a scramble.
Bring it on, Samsung. I’m ready.
What does this mean for the Apple Watch?
Although I will of course reserve judgement of the Watch5 Pro until it has spent some time on my wrist, it’s clear that the competition for Apple is ramping up – fast.
The Apple Watch has enjoyed an almost unchallenged time at the top of the wearable charts for a while now, but Samsung’s latest lineup of smartwatches – and the forthcoming Pixel Watch – look like genuinely tempting alternatives.
For someone like me, who has used the Apple Watch nearly every day since 2015, the emergence of a new ‘Pro’ category from Samsung is seriously exciting. I cannot wait to get that thing on my wrist and put it through its paces.
What have you got for us, Apple? Time is no longer on your side (pun absolutely intended).
My Galaxy Watch5 Pro will be placed on my wrist at the end of the month and I won’t remove it until Apple has something comparable in the other corner of the ring.
The Apple Watch needs to evolve and give long-term users something to get excited about once again.
I’m waiting, Tim.