Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active 2 adds a digital bezel, LTE and an ECG feature

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Mon August 5, 2019

Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch Active alongside the Galaxy S10 family in March, but it has more in store for the wearable space. Introducing the Galaxy Watch Active 2, which will be a new premium offering between the original Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Watch.

The Watch Active 2 features a new design and two sizes — your choice of 40 millimeters or 44 millimeters — in an aluminum or stainless steel build. And yes, this is similar to the Apple Watch offerings. Once you've chosen your style, you will pick from a Bluetooth only or LTE and Bluetooth model. Samsung has said that the always-connected version will ship later this year.

Bluetooth variants of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 will start at $279.99 for 40 millimeters and $299.99 for 44 millimeters, a $79 or $99 increase over the original Galaxy Watch. Samsung will start preorders Sept. 6, and the wearable will launch Sept. 27. If you preorder, you'll also score a free wireless charger portable battery.

A rotating bezel in a new form

In terms of design, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 feels slightly more like the original Galaxy Watch. Both models feature a digital rotating bezel. This is the digital equivalent to the physical one on the Galaxy Watch. A simple touch or slide will allow you to easily cycle between apps. With the larger space on the watch face, this is a neat feature that will likely please a lot of people, especially those with an original Galaxy Watch who are looking for an upgrade.

And yes, as expected, the 40-millimeter or 44-millimeter display is a Samsung made curved Super AMOLED. It's also a bit bigger — the 44-millimeter has a 1.4-inch 360x360 display and the 40-millimeter has a 1.2-inch 360x360 display. So yes, there are bezels here. The aluminum models will come in Cloud Silver, Aqua Black or Pink Gold — it's paired with a Fluoroelastomer band. Silver, black or gold will be the options for stainless steel with a leather band.

It will still run the Tizen OS, Samsung's proprietary operating system for wearables. Powering the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a 1.15GHz Exynos processor with 768 MB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. On the LTE models, this is boosted to 1.5 GB of RAM and 4 GB of storage. Bluetooth 5.0, NFC or near field communications and Wi-Fi round out the connectivity features. When it comes to battery life, both of these still get juice via wireless charging. A 247mAh battery is in the 40-millimeter and a 340mAh cell is in the 44-millimeter.

A stronger focus on health

Wellness and fitness are still a core part of Watch Active 2. It can track over 39 types of workouts and will automatically start tracking ones like walking, running and even swimming. This watch is, of course, is IP68 certified. If it doesn't auto-detect it, you can easily start tracking from the device itself.

Samsung is also stepping up the sensor game and will be on par with the Apple Watch Series 4, as the Watch Active 2 can take an Electrocardiogram or ECG, though this feature's still awaiting respective clearances like the FDA. Plus, it uses 8 Photodiodes for heart rate monitoring. All in all, Samsung is stepping up the health features and pushing that as even more of a digital health wearable. I'm eager to put these new features to the test.

While the Galaxy Watch Active 2 will work with non-Samsung Android devices, and even iPhones, it fits best with a Galaxy smartphone. It can integrate more easily with messaging, notifications, data sharing and the overall experience. You can even use a new MySyle feature in the companion app to make a custom watch face based on your outfit.

We'll need to fully test the Galaxy Watch Active 2, but there seem to be big changes with this second-generation wearable. The new digital rotating bezels seem useful and will likely be more usable with the larger screen. Plus, with upgrade sensors and the ability for an ECG, it will likely be more of a competitor for the Apple Watch and is a bit cheaper. Those who want a wearable that works for productivity and has a heavy focus on health and wellness will likely be happy with the Galaxy Watch Active 2.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.