Fitness trackers and smartwatches started as a simple rudimentary way to track steps and hit daily goals but have exploded into a multibillion-dollar industry. Fueled by the appetite of fitness-minded people looking to lead a more healthy, active lifestyle, it’s become standard to expect smartwatches to include health-related metrics such as heart rate and sleep quality paired with smartphone connectivity and user-friendly app compatibility. Since there are plenty of brands and models at our fingertips, it’s more important than ever to offer the latest and greatest in an industry where updates and new designs are being released on an almost-monthly basis.
Samsung is no stranger to this, and has been on the forefront of pushing this wearable technology to the next level. Though the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 watch was released in September 2019, Samsung debuted a special edition just a month later — this time in partnership with Under Armour. Appropriately named the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 – Under Armour Edition, this latest offering packs even more features and increased connectivity for the fitness-minded.
While I’ve tested fitness trackers and smartwatches from a number of brands throughout my career, I’m always excited to see what’s new and get my hands on the latest tech. Having also tested Under Armour’s HOVR Infinite shoes and explored the benefits of its HOVR technology and MapMyRun app, I was looking forward to seeing this technology applied to a new medium for real-time, actionable results.
After filtering through the features, I try to take a step back and keep things simple by asking myself one important question: Do I want to wear this?
Spoiler alert — yes, and you will, too. Let’s take a closer look at this running-coach-turned-smartwatch.
First, let’s start with the basics: The physical watch is stunning. The “Aqua Black” color is immediately eye-catching with its deep, glossy finish, and Samsung’s Super AMOLED touchscreen display is crisp and vibrant, even in direct sunlight. While obviously designed for the wear and tear of hard workouts, this sporty watch looks just as at home on a run as it does under a cuff at the office.
The watch is available in 40mm and 44mm sizes, and I was sent the larger version to test. Despite being 6-foot-3 tall, I only have 6.25-inch wrists (my fiancée likes to call them dainty — I am a writer after all), so I likely would’ve picked the 40mm if I had purchased one myself. The watch wears smaller than expected due to the short lugs and almost non-existent bezel, and the 44mm size actually fit perfectly without protruding past the edges of my wrist as I had first feared. Pair the lightweight ergonomic case with the supple, breathable 20mm rubber strap, and you have a wear-all-day combination you’ll forget is on your wrist.
Sensor-wise, the Active2 watch is dressed to the nines. It’s built with eight LED photo plethysmography (PPG) sensors, an electrocardiogram (ECG), accelero (32g), gyro, barometer and ambient light sensor. Wrist-based heart rate sensors can be finicky, but when compared to my chest strap heart rate monitor, the Active2 heart rate data was spot-on.
As expected, the Galaxy Watch Active2 works with both Android and iOS compatible devices. For those of you who haven’t yet made the jump to the latest smartphones on the market, I personally used my iPhone 6 (what can I say, I’m too cheap to upgrade) with no issues. Setup was easy — simply download the Galaxy Watch app, pair to watch, choose your preferred settings, and you’re ready to go.
The watch faces are customizable, although I enjoyed the special UA edition eclipse face that changes colors throughout the day. I appreciated the push notifications and highly responsive touch screen, and I organized the apps based on my usage. The flow is intuitive, and after a few minutes of playing around with the buttons and apps, finding my way around the device was second nature.
With such a vibrant, bright screen, I was impressed with the battery life. I was able to wear the watch the entire day (and track workouts, listen to Spotify, pair to devices, etc.) with no issues — stopping only to charge once every 48-hour period. Since I was interested in the sleep data, I would take the watch off for a couple hours in the evening to charge on the wireless charging pad while I was reading or catching up on emails, then I would put it back on before bed.
REAL-TIME FORM COACHING
Now for the defining feature of the Galaxy Watch Active2: the real-time form coaching.
While the built-in fitness tracker runs in the background and automatically keeps tabs on your activity, tracking individual workouts is where the Galaxy Watch Active2 Under Armour Edition shines. The watch comes preloaded with UA’s MapMyRun app (and includes a free six-month MVP membership), and you can see stats like distance, pace, heart rate, calories burned and more.
To take this one step further, the watch gives you real-time form coaching to help optimize your cadence during your run. This means you can expect personalized feedback to help you reach your ideal form to make running feel easier and help reduce the risk of injury. What’s even more: If you pair UA connected shoes to the watch, you can unlock additional benefits such as stride length, indoor distance tracking (treadmill workouts, anyone?) and more reliable distance data — especially with a weak GPS signal. Since I had previously reviewed the HOVR Infinite shoes and had a pair laying around, all of my workouts were completed with this additional functionality.
But why is real-time form coaching important? Why should you care?
To start, your running cadence is essentially how many steps you take per minute. Everyone has their own optimal cadence range, and when you’re running in that sweet spot you’re not only more efficient and running feels more effortless, but you’re also less prone to running-related injuries (if you’d like to nerd out on this more, check out this article that goes even deeper on the subject).
This live gait feedback is the first of its kind, and over the course of my testing, I started to rely on it pretty heavily. It really is personalized — as someone who has struggled with shin splints, I make a conscious effort to run with a shorter stride and quicker turnover. I was able to confirm this with the app over time, and the real-time alerts let me know if I’m performing appropriately. These alerts are both visual and auditory, so if you connect a Bluetooth wireless headset, you’ll be able to hear this feedback without looking down at your watch.
If you’re in the market for a smartwatch, the new Galaxy Watch Active2 – Under Armour Edition is a worthy candidate. Not only is it intuitive, easy to use and chalk-full of all the expected features, but the attractive, under-the-radar aesthetic (available in a variety of colors and strap options) is versatile and appropriate for both everyday situations and long runs on the trail or track. It’s easily the most gorgeous smartwatch on the market today.
At $309 for the 40mm watch and $329 for the 44mm, it’s not the cheapest nor the most expensive option out there, but you’re getting an all-in-one package with reliable top-shelf components and increased connectivity. This quick update from the first Galaxy Active watch proves Samsung and Under Armour are serious about competing with the biggest smartwatch manufacturers on the market today.
The form coaching feedback elevates the entire experience with real-time audio and visual gait coaching that isn’t just a gimmicky feature — it leads to real, trackable results that can help improve your run performance and reduce your risk of injury. If you’re a runner who already uses MapMyRun or owns a pair of UA connected running shoes (if not, you should), this watch is a no-brainer. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 – Under Armour Edition is the first device to pair to UA connected running shoes other than the MapMyRun smartphone app, and besides the additional functionality listed above, I’ve been told there’s more run stats that will be released soon (shhh, let’s keep this between us). Naturally, I’m looking forward to what’s next in the evolution of this technology.
As the watch states once you boot it up for the first time: “Let’s go!”