Samsung adds health-focused smartwatch, fitness tracker to its Galaxy lineup

Both the Galaxy Watch Active and Galaxy Fit automatically detect and begin tracking a user's activity, with the former boasting a blood pressure monitoring feature courtesy of a UCSF research partnership.
By Dave Muoio
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Today’s Samsung Unpack 2019 event was headlined by a number of new reveals, including its latest smartphones, the Galaxy S10 and the flexible Galaxy Fold; its new in-ear, Bluetooth Galaxy Buds; and the company’s first 5G smartphone, the S10 5G.

However, the latter half of the show also hosted news of the electronics maker’s new fitness-focused wearables: the Galaxy Watch Active, a sportier take on the company’s existing smartwatch with additional health tracking features like blood pressure monitoring; and the Galaxy Fit, a slimmer activity and sleep tracker that integrates with third-party apps and the rest of the Samsung Health ecosystem.

“The Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Fit track your exercise, your sleep and everything in between,” Elina Vives, head of marketing for computing, smartwatches, audio and VR at Samsung Electronics America, said today at the reveal event. “They include heart rate monitors and offer continuous stress tracking to keep you calm when life gets overwhelming. Your body is a delicate ecosystem; that’s why our ecosystem helps you take care of it. This entire line of new wearables has been designed to work seamlessly together, and with all of your Samsung products.”

With smartwatch features comprising “the full smartwatch experience,” the Galaxy Watch Active auto-detects when the wearer begins certain common workouts like running or biking, and can manually track dozens of others with daily goals and progress monitoring. And, in addition to the heart rate and stress tracking, the smart watch will be updated on March 15 in five countries with a blood pressure monitoring feature thanks to a research app developed jointly with the University of California, San Francisco, according to a release from the company.

“The Galaxy Watch Active is slim and lightweight, so you’ll always be comfortable wearing it,” Vives said. “We rebuilt the watch’s body with a sleek new aluminum that’s super light. We also redesigned the strap using a soft durable material that’s comfortable when you’re hitting the gym, or hitting the hay. Galaxy Watch Active is also five ATM water resistant, so you can wear it while you’re swimming. It has an intuitive user interface, so it’s easier than ever to check your stats in a single glance or a swipe.”

The Galaxy Fit includes many of the same automatic and manual activity tracking features as the smartwatch, but with a smaller body and simplified user interface. The device connects to a Samsung Health app on a paired smartphone to display the user’s activity stats on a full-touch color display, and syncs to display the time, alerts, messages, weather reports and other updates.

“At 23 grams, the Galaxy Fit is about as light as a single strawberry, and just like the Galaxy Watch Active is water resistant,” Vives said. “The Galaxy Fit is a powerful fitness companion that gives you essential information about your health at a single glance, and with a long-lasting battery, you can keep it going for about a week on a single charge.”

The Galaxy Watch Active releases on March 8, and will be priced at $199.99. Samsung's press materials didn't include a price or release date for the Galaxy Fit outside of Q2 2019, although some news outlets are reporting a $99.99 pricepoint and May 31 launch.

Why it matters

Samsung boasts a hefty share of the mobile market with millions of consumers already owning a Galaxy smartphone, wearable or personal device manufactured and sold by the company. As such, the company’s new line of fitness-focused watches would already has a clear a foot in the door and automatic connectivity with users’ Samsung Health app and the wider Galaxy ecosystem.

The new products are also a threat to Apple and Fitbit, which both have sold a considerable number of wearables to health-minded consumers. And although the new Samsung devices might lack the ECG functionality or personal health record features that Apple has recently brought to the table, the blood pressure monitor project with UCSF suggests that Samsung is at least somewhat interested in pursuing more health management features.

What’s the trend

Samsung’s inroads into healthcare have taken numerous forms over the years, but lately its biggest news has been the tech-focused partnerships it’s made with novel health products. Last week at HIMSS, the company highlighted a number of health assessment tools and provider workflow products supported by its hardware and software platforms, while November saw news that its Galaxy smartphones and Knox mobile security platform would power Insulet’s tubeless insulin pump. Dr. David Rhew, the company chief medical officer, has also used the past few major tech conferences as an opportunity to talk up the Samsung’s long-term plans to collect and analyze everyday consumer data to generate new health insights.

On the record

“Consumers are increasingly putting their overall wellbeing at the center of their lifestyle decisions, and they’re looking for wearables that make it easier to get active and stay balanced every day,” DJ Koh, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics’ IT and mobile communications division, said in a statement. “Everyone has their own way of pursuing their goals. We’re thrilled to introduce our new line of wearables to fit seamlessly into your life and complement your own personal wellness journey.”