Due to a lack of innovation from its competitors, Samsung is one of the only brands selling a competent Android smartwatch. But unless you own a Samsung smartphone, a Galaxy Watch might not be a smart buy. You will simply miss some of its flagship features.
The Galaxy Watch works with most Android phones
Almost all Android phones are compatible with Samsung smartwatches. All you need is a relatively new version of Android, a modest amount of RAM, and the Google Play Store (or Google Mobile Services, to be precise).
Here are the compatibility requirements for the last three generations of Galaxy Watch:
- Galaxy Watch Series 5: Android 8.0 or newer with at least 1.5 GB of RAM
- Galaxy Watch Series 4: Android 6.0 or newer with at least 1.5 GB of RAM
- Galaxy Watch Series 3: Android 6.0 or newer with at least 1.5 GB of RAM
Unfortunately, Samsung dropped iOS compatibility with the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5. Older Galaxy Watch models work with iPhone, but to be fair, iPhone users better stick with it. ‘Apple Watch.
For more details on Galaxy Watch compatibility, I suggest you check Samsung’s support page. Note that at the time of this writing, this support page does not mention the Galaxy Watch 5. (We pulled our Galaxy Watch 5 information from Samsung’s website and press releases.)
But some Galaxy Watch features are exclusive to Samsung
As you may know, the Galaxy Watch requires certain software made by Samsung. This software automatically installs on your non-Samsung phone when you set up a Galaxy Watch, and it’s all thanks to Samsung’s excellent Galaxy Wearable app.
But some Samsung software won’t install on your device. And without this software, the Galaxy Watch cannot perform some of its basic functions.
Here are some Galaxy Watch features that require a Samsung phone:
- Blood pressure monitoring
- Samsung AR Emoji Watch Faces
- Smartphone camera remote control
Again, these features require Samsung-exclusive software, such as the Galaxy Health Monitoring app. It’s an arbitrary limitation that Samsung refuses to explain, and frankly, it makes the Galaxy Watch a tough buy for anyone who wants to use flagship features like ECG.
Other lesser features, including Do Not Disturb syncing, Samsung Messages, and Bedtime mode, are also exclusive to Samsung smartphones. But the ECG and the blood pressure monitor are the real assets.
Can you force these exclusive features on a phone?
Alright, so the Galaxy Watch ECG and blood pressure monitor require the Galaxy Health Monitoring app. Can’t you just sideload this stupid app on any old phone? After all, Galaxy Health Monitoring is available for free on APK Mirror!
The answer is a bit complicated. If you take the Galaxy Health Monitoring APK and install it on a non-Samsung phone, it will not work. But you box use a modified version of this application.
Developed by Dante64 from XDA Developers, the modded Galaxy Health Monitoring app works on any modern Android phone. It unlocks the Galaxy Watch 4 ECG and blood pressure monitor no matter what device you are using, as long as that device meets the Galaxy Watch 4 hardware requirements.
But installing this modded app is a pain in the ass, and there’s no guarantee it’ll work forever. Unless you’re a silly nerd, this kind of workaround isn’t worth it. And heck, even if you are big nerd, you should probably just buy a smartwatch that has all the features you want right out of the box!
Should you buy a Galaxy Watch?
If you don’t mind missing out on a few features, the Galaxy Watch is a great companion for non-Samsung phones. That said, dropping hundreds on a Galaxy Watch just to miss the ECG is a bit disappointing.
So, I suggest checking out the alternatives. Mobvoi and Fossil sell excellent Android smartwatches. And if fitness is your thing, Samsung is far from the best option – brands like Garmin and Fitbit are simply better for athletes.
You can also expect the Google Pixel Watch, which is expected to launch in late 2022. It looks like a solid alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, and it should run Wear OS 3 at launch.