Due to its competitors’ lack of innovation, Samsung is one of the only brands to sell a competent Android smartwatch. But unless you have a Samsung smartphone, a Galaxy Watch may not be a smart purchase. You will simply miss out on some of its core features.
The Galaxy Watch works with most Android phones
Almost all Android phones are compatible with Samsung smart watches. 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 specific).
Here are the compatibility requirements for the last three generations of Galaxy Watch:
- Galaxy Watch 5 series: Android 8.0 or later with at least 1.5 GB of RAM
- Galaxy Watch 4 Series: Android 6.0 or later with at least 1.5 GB of RAM
- Galaxy Watch 3 series: Android 6.0 or later with at least 1.5 GB of RAM
Unfortunately, Samsung dropped iOS support for the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5. Older Galaxy Watch models work with the iPhone, but to be honest, iPhone users are better off sticking with the Apple Watch.
For more Galaxy Watch compatibility details, I suggest checking the Samsung support page. Note that at the time of this writing, this support page does not mention the Galaxy Watch 5. (We got our Galaxy Watch 5 information from Samsung’s website and press releases.)
But some functions of the Galaxy Watch are exclusive to Samsung
As you may know, the Galaxy Watch requires some software made by Samsung. This software is automatically installed 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 will not be installed 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 proprietary Samsung 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 less important features like Do Not Disturb sync, Samsung Messages and Bedtime mode are also exclusive to Samsung smartphones. But the ECG and blood pressure monitor are the real tricks.
Can you force these exclusive features on a phone?
Ok, so the ECG and blood pressure monitor on the Galaxy Watch requires the Galaxy Health Monitoring app. Can’t you download this stupid app on any old phone? After all, Galaxy Health Monitoring is available for free on APK Mirror!
The answer is somewhat complicated. If you take the Galaxy Health Monitoring APK and install it on a non-Samsung phone, it won’t work. But you they can use a modified version of this app.
Powered by Dante64 from XDA Developers, the modified Galaxy Health Monitoring app works on any modern Android phone. Unlocks the ECG and blood pressure monitor on the Galaxy Watch 4, regardless of the device you use, as long as the device meets the Galaxy Watch 4 hardware requirements.
But installing this modified app is a hassle and there is no guarantee that it will work forever. Unless you’re a ridiculous nerd, this kind of solution isn’t worth it. And hell, even if you are a big nerd, you should probably buy a smartwatch that offers 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, spending hundreds on a Galaxy Watch only to miss the ECG is a bit of a bummer.
Therefore, I suggest checking out the alternatives. Both Mobvoi and Fossil sell excellent Android smartwatches. And if exercise is your thing, Samsung is far from the best option: brands like Garmin and Fitbit are simply better for athletes.
You could also look forward to the Google Pixel Watch, which is expected to launch in late 2022. It looks like a solid alternative to Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, and should run Wear OS 3 at launch.