The Galaxy Watch 4 is Samsung and Google’s attempt to combine efforts and compete with Apple’s smartwatch – and it gets about 80% of the way there.
The Android smartwatch comes in two designs and four sizes, starting at £249 ($250) for the Watch 4 and £349 ($350) – as tested – for the Watch 4 Classic. They succeed the £269 Watch Active 2 and £399 Watch 3 respectively.
The two designs have the same chips, features and screen sizes, but the stainless steel Classic has Samsung’s jog-dial-like rotating bezel controller, while the standard aluminium Watch 4 has a touch-sensitive ring instead.
The watches are slimmer and have slightly more flare than their predecessors. The 42mm Classic is extremely comfortable and not sweaty to wear with its traditional silicone strap.
The AMOLED screen is excellent: bright, pin-sharp and on all the time if you want it to be. The display is covered in scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass DX+ and the watch is water resistant to 50-metre depths so should prove durable.
Screen: 1.2in or 1.4in AMOLED (~467/455 ppi)
Case size: 40/44mm or 42/46mm depending on version
The battery of the 42mm Classic lasts for just under 25 hours with the screen on all of the time and sleep tracking overnight. The watch typically ends the day with just under 40% battery remaining, falling short of the 36 hours of the Watch 3’s battery. Larger Watch 4 sizes have bigger batteries and may last longer.
A power-saving mode can extend the battery by a few hours, while a “watch only” setting turns everything off except the watch face to last more than nine days. It takes 82 minutes to fully charge using the provided magnetic puck and a standard 2.4A USB power adaptor, reaching 70% in 50 minutes. A power adaptor is not included.
Samsung does not give an expected lifespan for the battery in the Watch 4 but provides a one-year warranty. Batteries in similar devices typically maintain at least 80% of their original capacity for at least 500 full charge cycles.
The big change for Samsung is the switch from its own Tizen operating system to One UI 3, which is a customised version of Google’s Wear OS 3 that the two companies have co-developed to relaunch the Android-maker’s smartwatch efforts.
On the surface the software looks and behaves almost exactly the same as that on Samsung’s previous watches, which is no bad thing providing a smooth and refined experience.
From the watch face, notifications are shown in panes to the left and customisable “tiles” with at-a-glance information for various apps and functions are to the right. You can swipe between them or turn the bezel. Tapping a tile or notification expands it to access the app or read text, including quick replies to messages via canned responses, voice dictation, keyboard, drawing letters or emojis with your fingers.
Press the top button once to go back to the watch face, twice to switch to your last-used app or press and hold it to speak to Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby, which is quicker than before but still not as slick or capable as competitors. Press the bottom button once to go back one step in an app or press and hold to bring up Samsung Pay.
Samsung plus a little Google
Despite being a Google Wear OS watch, most of the apps and services are from Samsung. Google Maps and Google Pay are significant additions, but Google Assistant is not yet available.
Access to the Google Play Store adds a larger library of third-party apps, including Spotify and YouTube Music, both with offline playback support and health and fitness apps, including Strava, Citymapper, Accuweather and lots of third-party watch faces. The 40-strong selection of customisable built-in watch faces is excellent too.
Unlike other Wear OS watches, the Watch 4 cannot be used with an iPhone and many of the more advanced features, such as the ECG function, require it to be connected to a Samsung phone. It also uses the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app to pair, connect and manage settings, not the Wear OS app other smartwatches from Fossil et al use.
Health and fitness tracking is handled by the comprehensive Samsung Health. It can automatically track walks, runs, swims and a few others, with similar accuracy as high-end running watches. The watch will track 95 different activities covering all the basics and more exotic activities such as skiing, hang-gliding and kitesurfing.
The watch records your heart rate and rhythm (ECG), blood oxygen levels, stress, steps and calorie burn, while prompting you to do some guided stretches if you’ve been sedentary for too long. New for the Watch 4 is advanced sleep tracking, including snore detection that links up to a nearby phone on a bedside table, and body composition analysis. It uses bioelectrical impedance, similar to some smart scales, to estimate the percentage of fat, muscle and water in your body as a better way to monitor health than BMI.
The data it produced matched that from a set of smart scales. Similar to weight measurements, both can vary wildly influenced by how much water I had drunk or how long since my last workout, meaning consistency was the key to useful results.
You can answer or dismiss calls and notifications with shakes of the wrist, which were a bit hit and miss.
The watch has a small impact on the battery life of the phone it is connected to, consuming roughly 5% battery during a day.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 starts at £249 ($249.99) for the 40mm version and £269 ($279.99) for the 44mm version. The Galaxy Watch 4 Classic costs £349 ($349.99) for the 42mm version and £369 ($379.99) for the 46mm version.
Models with 4G cost an additional £40 ($50) plus a data contract.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is the best smartwatch you can buy for Android, but it’s not a giant leap ahead of its predecessors nor a tremendous relaunch of Google’s Wear OS efforts.
The switch to Wear OS 3 hasn’t hurt functionality and will probably pay dividends later on, opening up greater third-party app support. But for now you have the best of Samsung’s services and experience with the addition of Google Maps, Pay and the Play Store plus slightly better integration with Android smartphones.
It’s faster and smoother than other Android-compatible smartwatches, has comprehensive health tracking, looks good and the bezel controller on the Watch 4 Classic is great. But while the battery life is at least a full 24 hours, it is a little short of best in class, Bixby, is still slower and less capable, you can’t use the Watch 4 with an iPhone and some features don’t work if you use it with an Android device not made by Samsung.
Pros: the best of Samsung plus a little of Google, fast and smooth, excellent display, attractive traditional watch design, bezel control, 50-metre water resistance, comprehensive health and fitness tracking, body composition measurement, Play Store, Google Maps and Pay.
Cons: no Google Assistant yet, leaving the less capable Bixby the only option for voice, some top functions limited to Samsung phones, not compatible with the iPhone, only 25-hours battery with screen on during day.
Facebook’s semi-independent oversight board says it will review the company’s “XCheck” system, an internal program that has exempted high-profile users from some or all of its rules.
The decision follows an investigation by the Wall Street Journal that revealed that reviews of posts by well-known users such as celebrities, politicians and journalists are steered into the separate system.
Under the program, some users are “whitelisted”, or not subject to enforcement action, while others are allowed to post material that violates Facebook rules pending content reviews that often do not take place. The Xcheck system, for example, allowed Brazilian footballer Neymar to post nude pictures of a woman who had accused him of rape, according to the report.
Users were identified for additional scrutiny based on criteria such as being “newsworthy”, “influential or popular” or “PR risky”, the Wall Street Journal found. By 2020 there were 5.8 million users on the XCheck list, according to the newspaper.
The oversight board said Tuesday that it expects to have a briefing with Facebook on the system and “will be reporting what we hear from this” as part of a report it will publish in October.
The board may also make other recommendations, although Facebook is not bound to follow these.
The Journal’s report, the board said, has drawn “renewed attention to the seemingly inconsistent way that the company makes decisions, and why greater transparency and independent oversight of Facebook matters so much for users”.
Facebook told the Journal in response to its investigation that the system “was designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding”. The company added that criticism of it was “fair” and that it was working to fix it.
A representative for Facebook declined to comment to the Associated Press on the oversight board’s decision.
The Philippines has become the latest nation to impose a digital services tax.
Such taxes require the likes of Netflix and Spotify to pay local sales taxes even though their services are delivered – legally, notionally, and physically – from beyond local jurisdiction.
The Philippines has chosen a rate of 12 per cent, mirroring local value added taxes.
“We have now clarified that digital services and the goods and services traded through digital service providers should generally be subject to VAT. This is just a matter of common tax sense,” said Joey Salceda, a member of the Philippines’ House of Representatives and a backer of the change to the nation’s tax code.
Salceda tied the change to post-pandemic economic recovery.
“If brick and mortar establishments, which are the hardest-hit by the pandemic, have to pay VAT, the giants of e-commerce shouldn’t be exempt,” he said.
However, local companies that are already exempt from VAT by virtue of low turnover won’t be caught by the extension of the tax into the virtual realm.
Salceda’s amendments are designed to catch content streamers, but also online software sales – including mobile apps – plus SaaS and hosted software. The Philippines’ News Agency’s report on the amendment’s passage into law even mentions firewalls as subject to VAT.
But the taxes are controversial because they are seen as a unilateral response to the wider issue of multinational companies picking the jurisdictions in which they’ll pay tax – a practice that erodes national tax bases. The G7 group of nations, and the OECD, think that collaborations that shift tax liabilities to nations where goods and services are acquired and consumed are the most appropriate response, and that harmonising global tax laws to make big tech pay up wherever they do business is a better plan than digital services taxes.
While returning to the office is now possible for many, some workers might still want the option of flexible working some of the time. Here’s how to broach the subject.
This week marked the beginning of a phased and staggered return to workplaces for many employees in Ireland.
It essentially marked the first official green light for employers to ready their offices and start putting plans in place for their staff’s return.
However, HR body CIPD Ireland urged employers to be mindful of anxious workers as they face “another round of upheaval” with the return to offices.
So, while employers are finalising plans about how, where and when their teams will work, some employees may be wondering how to go about expressing their preference, worried that it’s not in line with what the company wants.
While there have been plenty of discussions and remote work advocates calling for leaders to be more flexible and recognise that the future of work will be hybrid, the reality for individual employees can feel very different.
While big-picture debates around the right to request remote work are happening, how do you ask for what you want in the here and now, when your boss is determined to have a full return to the office?
Explain your reasons
If remote or flexible working isn’t something your boss is already willing to give you, then you must treat it like a pay rise request.
Explain clearly and concisely the reasons why you want more flexibility, how it will benefit you and make you a more engaged, happier worker.
While family commitments might be an important factor, so too is work-life balance and getting rid of long commutes. And, while there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Covid-19 is still a very real concern, so don’t be afraid to express your reservations about this too.
Make a business case
When you ask for a pay increase, you provide proof of the value you have added to the company. Take the same approach here and explain to your boss how flexible working will actually be beneficial to them.
Some managers who resist remote working might still have an office-based mentality where presenteeism is key. But there are numerous studies that show that knowledge workers are more productive when working remotely.
And, when done as a purposeful business strategy, remote working can help teams prioritise work more clearly as well as allowing for more downtime and work-life balance.
Depending on your manager, your team and the work you do, it may not be feasible to ask to work from home five days a week.
It’s important that you are realistic about asking for what you want and also realistic about what you can deliver in return. Remote workers can be more productive but they can also be in danger of burning out so be thoughtful about what strategy will work best for both you and your manager.
Listen to their perspective
While conversations around remote working appear to be mostly positive, it can be a different situation behind the office doors.
Many managers and leaders are still hesitant about moving to a fully flexible working strategy and this can lead to workers feeling like they are not being listened to.
However, one of the best ways to combat that hesitancy from managers is to listen to their concerns and address them in a problem-solving manner.
Being able to alleviate some of your manager’s worries might make them more amenable to allowing for more flexibility.
Make expectations clear
If you do convince your boss to allow for a more flexible working plan than what they had originally considered, it’s important that both sides understand what is expected.
Without clearly defining the outcomes of the new set-up, misunderstandings can lead to disappointments and feelings of mistrust in the idea of flexible working.