With its rotating edge, the Classic is a superior smartwatch, but WearOS 3 hasn't come far.
Way back last autumn I reviewed the original Galaxy Watch 4. At the time, there were serious nerves, because this wasn't just the natural evolution of Samsung's already successful Galaxy Watch line, this was the first time that Google showcased WearOS 3, a platform that was then supposed to lead the way for other Android-based watchmakers.
But here we are, over eight months later, and not a single smartwatch has been released with WearOS 3. Google itself has been tight-lipped about the development, to say the least, and all indications are that there's been some sort of secret exclusivity deal in place that means Samsung remains the only place in town if you want Google's latest software platform.
I've been playing around with the Watch 4's big brother, the Watch 4 Classic, which adds the somewhat iconic rotating edge, or "bezel", that Samsung is typically known for. You can now get the full-size 46 millimetre for about £369, which is about the same as a base edition of the Apple Watch Series 7.
It's worth stating that there's not a finger to put wrong on the hardware itself. The rotating bezel is a great way to navigate Samsung's OS, and while other reviewers have complained about the included strap, I actually like that it places the dial in the middle of the wrist.
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It's a lot bigger than the equivalent Watch 4, but unfortunately there's no lengthier battery life for that reason. I managed to get about two days of use out of a single charge, and that's on days when I used the new BioActive sensor to get a lot of data out of a simple walk. It should be said, though, that the strap is 20 millimetres instead of 22 millimetres, so all of the straps you may already have from previous watches of the same size won't fit - it's annoying, to say the least.
WearOS 3 has only become more stable since I last tested it, and via Google Play it's now possible to download a host of solid apps that work quite brilliantly on the Watch 4 Classic. There's even now Google Assistant instead of Bixby, and Google Pay instead of Samsung Pay, which hasn't launched in Denmark yet. Pretty much all of the apps I've tried have solid notification support.
Frankly, it's still a shame that Samsung has pushed so hard for Tizen to be the only aesthetic language the watch can use. It's a pretty central complaint I also talked about earlier, but since then Samsung hasn't exactly opened up the possibility of using a "cleaner" version of WearOS 3. It's funny, by the way, because even though these two models have exclusive rights to WearOS 3, there's no notice of a Google-based design to be found. This is more about Samsung allowing Google to offer apps than actually cooperatively developing a platform for the future.
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That shouldn't stop the Watch 4 Classic from being a tremendously solid smartwatch, one that can really easily be recommended to anyone who doesn't have a huge selection of 22 millimetre straps lying around ready to use. Eh, it's a good watch, no doubt about it.