It’s been relatively quiet on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 rumor front, but we finally have some idea of what to expect. Today, Samsung announced that the watch will launch with One UI 5 Watch, a new version of the skin it runs over Google’s Wear OS 3 platform. The update will include several refinements to existing features like sleep tracking and emergency SOS while also introducing personalized heart rate zones.
It’s been a little over a year since Samsung first rehauled its sleep tracking features, which have generally lagged behind the competition. In the forthcoming update, Samsung says users will now see a more prominent sleep score, and that it’ll be viewable on the wrist. Those who participate in its chronotype-based Sleep Coaching feature will also be able to view insights directly from the wrist.
Samsung is building on its Sleep Mode as well. Right now, this mode mostly dims the always-on display and mutes notifications, calls, and alerts. In a small tweak, the watch will use the infrared sensor instead of the green LED to help minimize the chances the light will accidentally wake you up. With One UI 5 Watch, the watch will also be able to detect when you’re sleeping and then turn off your connected devices via SmartThings, Samsung’s smart home platform.
Adding personalized heart rate zones is another important update, especially now that Samsung and Apple are competing to attract the Garmin crowd with their premium smartwatches. After about 10 minutes of running, the watch will calculate five heart rate zones based on your VO2 Max and aerobic / anoxic thresholds.
Samsung is playing a bit of catch-up here. While the current Galaxy Watches already have heart rate zones, the zones are based on a standard age-based formula, and you can’t edit them — which has proven frustrating for active users in Samsung’s forums. Much like BMI, the standard formula is helpful for a ballpark estimate, but it doesn’t necessarily give you a truly accurate picture. Hopefully, the personalized zone calculation will be more accurate, though it’s still unclear whether users will be able to manually edit it if need be.
Outdoorsy Galaxy Watch 5 Pro users might be happy to learn that Samsung is also expanding its Route Workout feature to include running and walking. When the Watch 5 Pro launched, it could only give turn-by-turn directions for cyclists and hikers. Users will also be able to search a GPX file database within the Samsung Health app for route recommendations instead of having to import them from another app.
As for safety, Samsung says the emergency SOS feature will now allow users to directly communicate with and send location data to emergency services. Local responders will also be able to view your medical information if provided. Currently, Samsung’s Emergency SOS feature can only call and notify your pre-selected emergency contacts. In addition, fall detection will be enabled by default for users over 55 years old. (This will be based on the age provided when a user sets up a Samsung Account.)
You can find all of these features on other smartwatches and fitness trackers, but that’s not exactly the point here. Samsung has always had nice hardware that was sometimes let down by its software, both before and after the switch to Wear OS 3. These health and fitness updates could help put Samsung on more even footing with the Pixel Watch. Meanwhile, the improved safety features could help close the gap with Apple. And frankly, Samsung could use the boost. Its wearable sales have been trailing behind the Pixel Watch to the point where Google has usurped its spot as No. 2 in the market.
One UI 5 Watch won’t be available until later this year, though Samsung did say it plans to announce further updates soon. That said, intrepid Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 owners in the US and Korea will be able to register for a beta program in the Samsung Members app later this month.