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Samsung, please don’t go big for your next smartwatch

Samsung, please don’t go big for your next smartwatch


You can’t keep solving poor battery life with bigger watches

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Galaxy Watch 4 Classic (top left) and Galaxy Watch 4 (bottom right)
The Galaxy Watch 4 lineup is already big enough.
Photo by Dieter Bohn / The Verge

While all gadgets have their design challenges, there’s one that continues to plague smartwatches — battery life. There are a few ways to mitigate that, but unfortunately, many smartwatch makers choose the absolute worst solution: making the smartwatch bigger.

The latest example might be Samsung. According to a SamMobile report, the company is mulling a “Pro” version of the next-generation Galaxy Watch. Details were scant, except for one thing: this “Pro” model could potentially pack a much larger 572mAh battery.

If true, that would be a meaningful upgrade. Poor battery life is one of the biggest complaints users have reported with Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 lineup. It’s also common for “Pro” models to act as the premium option with longer battery life, better materials, and, unfortunately, the biggest honking display possible.

The screen is 20 percent larger on the Apple Watch Series 7
The Series 7 also bumped up the sizes of the Apple Watch
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

It’s possible that Samsung could figure out a way to include a bigger battery without increasing the size of the watch. However, recent smartwatch trends hint otherwise. Take the Apple Watch. The Series 7 bumped up the size of the watches from 40mm to 41mm, and from 44mm to 45mm. An iFixit teardown revealed that the Series 7’s batteries were 1.6 percent larger for the 41mm and 6.8 percent larger for the 45mm. It’s likely that the larger always-on displays needed beefier batteries to maintain that same 18-hour battery life.

Samsung is also guilty of this. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 came in 41mm and 45mm variants. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic comes in 42mm and 46mm. What would a proposed “Pro” version be? 43mm and 47mm? You might think a 1mm increase in size isn’t much to complain about, but it adds up over time.

As someone with petite wrists, I can say that watches beyond 42mm start to become uncomfortable. (Not to mention, they look absolutely ridiculous.) To get the same performance — especially during workouts — I have to make certain adjustments for fit. And while people of all genders come in all shapes and sizes, excluding smaller options ends up excluding a large number of women. The result is you end up treating smaller people as an afterthought.

The Garmin Fenix 7S on a wrist.
This 42mm Garmin Fenix 7S Sapphire Solar watch is as large as I can go before it gets uncomfortable
Photo by Victoria Song / The Verge

Take Garmin’s Fenix 6 and Fenix 7 lineups. The Fenix 6X Pro was the first to get solar charging. People with smaller wrists who might have wanted that feature had to wait. And now, two years later, the 51mm Fenix 7X is the first and only model to get an LED flashlight. It’ll likely trickle down to smaller sizes in the future, but only Garmin can say when. As a woman who occasionally runs at night, I would’ve loved to have that feature on the smaller Fenix 7S I tested. But getting that feature meant I’d have to sacrifice my comfort. And what is the point of a wearable you don’t want to wear?

At a certain point, this becomes unsustainable. There’s a limit to how big we can make these devices before the battery gains are offset by discomfort. It’s bad business to exclude potential customers who happen to reside in smaller bodies. Some of this is just the current limitations of wearable tech. Also, nothing is set in stone yet. Samsung could just scrap the whole idea of a “Pro” watch. But even so, I would hope that these companies are using their resources to create new solutions to that problem instead of always opting for the easy way out.