Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review

Is the successor to the Watch Active worth its price hike? The short answer is probably not for most.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review 2020 | watch active 2 product
Overall Rating 3.5 out of 5
Expanded watch sizes and colourways
Digital haptic dial provides better navigation
LTE connectivity unavailable on iPhones

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 offers a cellular and refreshed bluetooth version of its popular Watch Active in a larger size and with additional colourways, and not much else.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 superseded the Watch Active after just 6 months, launching the same month as the Apple Watch Series 5. But is it worth the extra $200 to $400 bucks for this newer model?

We’ll give you the lowdown in our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review below.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review

How much does the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 cost?

At the time of writing, a Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 will cost you around $749 for the cellular, stainless steel 40mm version while the bluetooth-only, aluminium 44mm version will cost about $549 (based on prices from the official Samsung AU Store).

As well as through the official Samsung AU store, you can get the Watch Active 2 from most major retailers including Amazon Australia, JB Hi-Fi, Bing Lee and Harvey Norman and via the three major telcos, Optus, Telstra and Vodafone’s, e-SIM wearable-specific number share plan. 

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 was launched in September 2019, superseding the Galaxy Watch Active released in March last year. You can find out how the Watch Active 2 lives up to its predecessor with our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Review

First impression

While Samsung has tried extremely hard to promote the launch of the Watch 2, which closely coincided with the Galaxy Note 10+ and Galaxy Fold releases last year, the specs speak for themselves. Don’t believe me? You can count the number of new features on the Watch Active 2 on one hand.

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Here are all the features new to the Galaxy Watch Active 2:

– LTE connectivity
– Digital haptic dial
– Larger 44mm size
– Additional 4 colourways
– Real-time pace coaching

How does the Watch Active 2 compare with the Watch Active?

I tested out the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 at the same time as the Watch Active, so how do the two watches stack up against each other?

The most obvious differences are with the Active 2’s appearance (as mentioned, the larger watch size and colourways) and navigation. Instead of having to scroll through every widget face via touchscreen only, as was the case with the Watch Active, the digital haptic dial imitates the popular rotating bezel feature of the Samsung Galaxy Watch and Gear S3 only this time, rather than turning a physical dial, you can control this directly from the touch-sensitive bezel around the screen display.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review 2020 | watch active2 colourways

If you’re interested in the Watch Active 2, its most exciting new feature is definitely LTE connectivity. But LTE comes at a steep price an extra $200 compared to the watch’s predecessor. And while Samsung avoids spelling this out, let’s be clear: LTE connectivity is not currently available with iPhones. Find out more in our section about which phones are LTE compatible and what you can do with LTE connectivity.

The Watch Active 2 also comes with a new in-built speaker so you can take calls directly from your watch, as well as play your favourite tunes, listen to the radio or even, god forbid, watch a YouTube video on your smartwatch. I don’t know why you’d want to listen to music from your watch’s speaker though, unless you’re a desperate who’s forgotten your earphones and without a phone. 

What we loved about the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

  • Offline Spotify listening
  • Larger watch size
  • Longer battery life

Offline Spotify listening  

A real highlight of the Watch Active 2 is that Spotify already comes pre-installed on the smartwatch and you can choose to stream or download your favourite tunes for offline listening. This was a dealbreaker for me since the Apple Watch, of course, utilises Apple Music as its default music streaming service and it doesn’t let you listen to downloaded songs from Spotify offline. In fact, only certain Garmin and Samsung watches currently offer offline Spotify listening.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review 2020 | spotify streaming offline on watch active2

Larger watch size

For those that found the 40mm Watch Active a tad too small for your wrists, the Active 2 44mm version should solve this problem. Some will love the larger display for better readability, while bigger hands won’t have to struggle with as tiny a keyboard. Personally, as a petite gal, I actually prefer the 40mm size, which sits on my small wrists perfectly, but I have no hesitation saying that the 44mm size will suit most guys (and their masculine egos) better.

The Active 2's expanded range of stainless steel and aluminium colourways. Credits: Samsung

Battery life

With the larger watch size comes a longer battery life for the 44mm Active 2. Whether you opt for the bluetooth or cellular version, you could enjoy around an extra 17 hours using the 44mm version (Samsung estimates a battery life of approximately 60 hours compared to the 43 hours you’ll get with the 40mm Active 2 or the Watch Active). 

I can say that these battery life estimates weren’t far off from my own experience with the watch under light usage conditions (tracking workouts, checking health metrics, viewing several messages and playing downloaded music for an hour or so). 

The Active 2 was able to get me through two entire days of moderate use without needing a charge, whereas the Watch Active definitely couldn’t make it to the end of the second day. If you’re using cellular or on your watch for a good portion of the day though, the battery definitely won’t last longer than a day and a bit tops. For those who have long battery life as their number one concern, consider the Fitbit Versa 2, which can get you through a solid 5 days without charging.

A caveat: battery charging time does take awhile. If you sap your watch completely dry, it’ll take around 2 hours to get back to full charge. This can be quite annoying if you don’t want to miss out on tracking your steps and heart rate throughout the day or sleep patterns overnight, but then again, the Apple Watch will take as long while lasting about only half the time anyway so this isn’t a big deal. 

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What can my smartwatch do with LTE connection?

– Make and receive calls
– Send text messages
– Stream music
– Watch YouTube videos
– Browse the internet using cellular data

Drawbacks of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

  • LTE connection is not worth $200 more
  • Still limited functionality with iPhones
  • ECG and fall detection unavailable in AU

LTE connection: probably not worth $200 more

The Active 2 introduced its stainless steel, LTE version, which costs $749 for the 40mm version, and $799 for the 44mm version I’m testing. In comparison, the Active 2’s Bluetooth version, which comes in an aluminium make and 44mm size only, is a solid $200 less (link to price section).

So, is LTE connectivity really worth the price premium? For iPhone users, the short answer is a firm NO. While Optus, Telstra and Vodafone all offer 4G e-SIM connectivity, it’s only compatible with Android phones. 

For Android users, before opting for the cellular version, you should still ask yourselves whether you will actually make use of e-SIM connectivity. That is, how important is it for you to go phone-free while still being able to make/receive calls, text and access data when WiFi is unavailable? If you’re realistically not that fussed about bringing along your phone on a hike or jog, or you can live without 24/7 WiFi or cellular data connection, then you probably don’t need LTE connectivity on your Watch Active 2.

Still limited functionality with iPhones

When I first heard about the camera control function, it got me pretty excited. As an iPhone user, I was quickly disappointed when I found out the Camera Control function is only available with the following 2019 Samsung Galaxy models: Samsung Galaxy S10, S10+, s10e, s10 5G, Galaxy Note 10, Note10+, Note10 5G, Note10+ 5G, Fold and Fold 5G. 

So, unless you already own a compatible Samsung phone or just bought your new phone and Active 2 smartwatch from one of Samsung’s 10th anniversary bundle deals, this feature isn’t going to be a dealbreaker for you.  

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review 2020 | galaxy-watch-active2-my-style-feature

Another wacky feature Samsung has been promoting is its My Style feature the ability to “snap your outfit and grab your look”. I was lucky to test this out on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and I loved it. So much so that I almost want to switch to a Samsung Galaxy phone now just so I can nab my matching watch face and outfit every day (don’t worry, I know how lame this sounds). While this function definitely has that futuristic, cool factor I’m a sucker for, unfortunately once again it’s only available on Samsung’s own latest phone models. 

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Galaxy Watch Active 2 features that iPhone users can't access:

– LTE connectivity
– Samsung Pay
– Replying texts and messages (e.g. iMessages as well a sFacebook Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp notifications)
– Browsing Twitter
– Google Translate

ECG and fall detection unavailable in Australia

When the Active 2 launched in September last year, it boasted its ability to detect atrial fibrillation and fall detection. However, since the FDA still haven’t cleared the Active2’s ECG feature yet, you won’t be able to use this feature till at least February this year (when it’s expected to receive clearance in the US) or much later the feature’s approval in all other countries, including Australia, will depend on country-specific regulations. 

In other words, it’s unlikely you’ll see ECG features coming to Aus for the foreseeable future. While in the US, Apple Watch Series 4 and 5 come with ECG functionality, Australia’s tighter regulations (specifically, inclusion on the ARTG) means even Apple has had to hit pause on releasing its ECG monitoring tech here. So, good luck to Samsung too. 

Fall detection, meanwhile, is set for a much wider international release together with an Active 2 software update early this year. Hopefully, we’ll see fall detection and ECG features in Aus one day, but for now, there’s no guarantee.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Review 2020 | samsung galaxy watch active 2 ecg heart rate features

Galaxy Watch Active 2 vs Apple Watch Series 5

We all want to know how the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 fares up against the Apple Watch Series 5. If your main concern is price, both are about a whopping $799 for their respective 44mm cellular version. So if not deciding based on budget, what are the main differences between the two?

The obvious deal breaker for some is that Apple Watches are only compatible with iPhones, so if you’re an Android user looking for the best smartwatch option, it’s likely the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is on your radar. Androiders won’t have any problems utilising all but the super exclusive Samsung-only features with the Watch Active 2.

For iPhone users, the decision is not as clear cut. Samsung Galaxy Watches are compatible with iPhones, although there are a range of functions that won’t work. So why on earth would an Apple user opt for a Samsung smartwatch that only gives you limited functionality?

Put simply, the answer comes down to whether you:

a) prefer a longer battery life (Apple’s 18-hour battery life can barely get through one day and is less than a third of the Watch Active 2’s 60 hour capacity),

b) are sick of Apple’s square face design (or just don’t want to buy yet another Apple product),

c) want offline Spotify streaming.

If you can’t make up your mind yet, here’s a quick snapshot of how the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 compares to the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Fitbit Versa 2:

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Apple Watch Series 5Fitbit Versa 2
Price799799287
Battery Life60 hours18 hours5+ days
CompatibiliityAndroid and iPhone (limited)iPhoneAndroid and iPhone
MicrophoneYesYesYes
SpeakerYesYesNo
Offline Spotify streamingYesNoNo
Tap and PayYesYesYes
Voice AssistantBixbySiriAlexa
Sleep trackingYesNoYes
Swim trackingYesYesYes
Heart rate monitoringYesYesYes
eSIMYes (cellular model)Yes (cellular model)No
Third-party appsLotsLotsFew

The verdict

Overall, the Active 2 is still a great option for Androiders looking for a decent smartwatch with cellular connectivity. If you like the look and feel of the Watch Active 2 but you don’t have cash to burn and don’t care about LTE connectivity, you might as well opt for the older Samsung Galaxy Watch Active that offers most of what the Active 2 does minus LTE. 

This is not the case for iPhone users. Unless you’re a diehard Samsung Galaxy Watch fan who can’t resist flaunting the latest Watch Active 2 on your wrist (we don’t see this being the case if you use an iPhone anyway), Apple users should either go with the Watch Active or stick with a more iOS-friendly smartwatch all together.

iPhone users wanting cellular capability on your smartwatch would be best off simply opting for the Apple Watch Series 5. While it’s a similar price to the Watch Active 2 (you can snag a 40mm GPS Apple Watch Series 5 for $649 or the 44mm cellular version for $799), iPhoners will be able to make use of LTE plus all the other functions the Watch Active 2 had that weren’t compatible with iPhones.

Troubleshooting FAQs

What features are exclusive to Samsung Galaxy 10+, Note 10+ and more selective Samsung phones?

  • Galaxy S10 Wireless PowerShare
  • Camera Controller
  • “My style” QR Code
  • Wirelessly stream music directly from Galaxy Buds

Is my device compatible with the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2?

Here’s a checklist of all the compatible devices:

  • All Samsung smartphones
  • Non-Samsung Android smartphones running Android OS 5.0 and above with at least RAM 1.5GB
  • iPhones running at least iOS 9.0 and iPhone 5 or above

You won’t be able to access the exclusive features mentioned above unless you have one of the following, Samsung-only compatible models: 

  • Samsung Galaxy S10, S10+, S10e and S10 5G
  • Samsung Note 10, Note10+, Note10 5G and Note10+ 5G
  • Samsung Fold and Fold 5G

How to connect the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 to your phone

First, you’ll need to download the Samsung Galaxy App from Google Play or the App Store for iPhone users on your phone. Make sure your watch is charged up and bluetooth is enabled on your device. Select “connect new device” and follow the steps on the app to pair and set up your watch. 

Can I connect my Active 2 to multiple phones simultaneously?

Yes, you can connect your Active 2 watch to more than one device, but you’ll have to disconnect from your current phone before doing so. 

Is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Watch compatible with my iPhone?

Yes, but some of the watch’s features will be unavailable when used with an iPhone. One of the biggest omissions is that LTE connection, via 4G e-SIM cards available on Optus, Telstra and Vodafone, will only work with Android phones. 

How does e-SIM connectivity work with my Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2?

Only Optus, Telstra and Vodafone currently offer e-SIM connectivity for wearable devices. After adding an e-SIM plan to your current mobile plan, you’ll be able to share your mobile number and plan data between your phone and smartwatch. Typically, these three telcos are offering this e-SIM plan add-on for about an extra $5 per month. 

Does the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active also offer cellular function?

No, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is only available in a bluetooth + WiFi model.

Now that you know, here are your next steps.

Still looking? Find out more about the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active.

GALAXY WATCH ACTIVE REVIEW

Not into Samsung? Learn more about the Fitbit Versa 2

FITBIT VERSA 2 REVIEW