Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

Samsung splits wearables with Watch 7, Watch Ultra, and the Ring to come

Two new Samsung premium smartwatches are on the way, one of feels like it’s taking some fairly obvious inspiration from a competitor.

The middle of the year may bring about the last of the year’s new phones, but that’s not all you can expect. Wearables have been announced alongside Samsung’s foldable phones, and the plural definitely makes sense here.

This week at Samsung’s Unpacked in Paris, the maker of the year’s new Galaxy foldable phones also showed off the gadgets you can expect to wear on your body, as wearables grew in a few new ways.

An updated Galaxy Watch 7

Several generations in, Samsung’s latest Galaxy Watch reminds us of last year’s Watch 6, largely because the exterior hasn’t changed.

Slim and circular, the Watch 7 sees a new chip in the form of Samsung’s Exynos W100, 2GB RAM, and 32GB storage, as well as Google’s latest wearable OS, WearOS 5.0, though skinned with Samsung’s One UI 6.

The health sensor continues on from Samsung’s previous bioelectrical impedance sensor, measuring heart rate, ECG, blood pressure, and sleep monitoring, but it also features a dual-frequency GPS to track location more precisely, as well as all the regular smarts you might expect.

Two sizes will be made for the Watch 7, including 40mm and 44mm, with WiFi and WiFi/5G options available.

The all new Galaxy Watch Ultra seems familiar

Next up is a gadget that reminds us of something else, and may remind you, too.

Samsung’s play for the premium smartwatch space moves beyond the Galaxy Watch Pro, and instead makes its way to a theme set out by Apple a few years ago.

Back when Apple launched the titanium Apple Watch Ultra, the high-end sports-focused smartwatch category didn’t have a lot in it.

Fast forward to now, and it still doesn’t admittedly have much in it. Garmin makes high-end models, as does Finland’s Suunto, but the screen and smarts experience is less of a thing compared with what Apple offers, with the other models focused on fitness and tracking primarily.

Apple’s Watch Ultra 2 launched last year, and we largely expect a version 3 in September. So it makes sense that Samsung is ready with its own now.

The problem, however, is that while we’re always keen to see new devices, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra feels so inspired by the Apple Watch Ultra, it’s almost difficult to not see Apple’s device in Samsung’s.

Let’s start with what it is: the Galaxy Watch Ultra brings a 1.5 inch circular screen to a 47mm softened square body, making it look a little like what would happen if you attached the standard Galaxy Watch screen to an Apple Watch body. Kinda sorta.

The same chip, memory, and storage combo from the Watch 7 is here — Exynos W100, 2GB RAM, 32GB storage — and paired with Google’s WearOS for good measure, while the battery is almost twice as large as the 40mm Watch 7, coming in at 590mAh. The sensor tech is much the same with the improved bioelectrical activity sensor, too, and the Watch Ultra only comes in a 5G/WiFi model. So far so good.

Where things differ is the design, with a switch from aluminium to titanium, improved water resistance supporting 10 metres, and ocean swimming support, alongside IP68 and MIL-STD-810H certification, also known as “military standard”.

All of this sounds great: an Android-compatible variant of the Apple Watch Ultra.

The problem is that when you see the Watch Ultra, it’s hard not to feel like Samsung has basically been too inspired.

Hands-on with the Galaxy Watch Ultra

In person, it’s the same feeling, and it’s a design that you’ll either love or hate.

We’re fans of the circular design Samsung has been using in its smartwatches for ages. The Gear S3 still remains one of our favourite smartwatches, and Samsung has seen clever improvements over time.

But it’s difficult to get that same vibe from the Galaxy Watch Ultra, which not only looks like the Apple model, but even manages to draw inspiration rather directly with the straps, as well.

Bright orange and navy blue with similar styles to what we’ve seen on the Apple variant are part of what you can expect to find, as is the mechanism for replacing bands, which is different from the pin being used on the Galaxy Watch 7.

Samsung has created easily replaceable watch straps in the past — we recall older models using something similar — but the whole thing comes off a little too easily copied.

That’s a shame, because Samsung has some great designs in its gear. We wonder what the internal designers have managed to produce that could have made a more extreme wearable looked like that stood out in a more Samsung way.

We’ll obviously need to spend much more time with the Galaxy Watch Ultra, but right now it looks like an Android-friendly take on Apple equivalent, which is fine, sure. But we’d love to have seen something different all the same.

Samsung’s Ring rounds the wearables out

The one gadget that does at least look different is the Samsung Galaxy Ring, the company’s first take on a smart ring, and designed to compete with the handful (or fingerful) of devices made to track fitness from your finger.

The Galaxy Ring is largely what its name suggests: a Samsung-friendly ring with smart sensors inside, though not to the same extent as the Watch range. You can only throw so much tech inside of a small size, it seems.

Like the Watch Ultra, Samsung has chosen titanium for the material, and the Galaxy Ring weighs between 2.3 and 3 grams, making it positively tiny in the grand scheme of things, and IP68 water resistant, at that. It even comes in nine size options, because fingers aren’t the same size for everyone.

Expect health tracking, sleep tracking, and even the ability to take photos on a Samsung phone from the Ring itself, while a double pinch gesture will be supported to let you switch off an alarm on a supported phone. There’s no screen here, but it will offer as much as seven days of battery life before needing a recharge, it seems.

Australian pricing and availability

However, don’t expect the Galaxy Ring to arrive in Australia alongside either the Galaxy Watch 7 or Galaxy Watch Ultra in July. An Australian release is on the cards, but it could come just a bit later.

Meanwhile, the other two major wearables will see an Aussie release, with the Watch 7 priced from $549, while the Watch Ultra will cost $1299.

Samsung also has a couple of other gadgets you can wear coming, but they’re made for your ears, with the noise cancelling Galaxy Buds 3 and Galaxy Buds 3 Pro also coming, priced at $299 and $399 respectively.

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