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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 hands-on review – Digital Trends

Barely six months have passed since Samsung debuted the Galaxy Watch Active, its smartwatch with a more fitness-focused design over the 2018 Galaxy Watch, but there’s already a new entry: The Galaxy Watch Active 2. It’s an iterative upgrade, but there are worthwhile additions that enrich the wearable experience, like two size options for more comfort, a digital rotating bezel for easier navigation, and LTE connectivity so you can leave your phone behind.

But the biggest changes are more subtle. The Watch Active 2 has a host of more sensors for more accurate fitness-tracking data, not to mention an ECG sensor like on the Apple Watch Series 4. It’s shaping up to be a strong contender, all while maintaining a sleek aesthetic and enticing price point at $279.

Small, sleek, powerful

Samsung wants the Galaxy Watch Active 2 to be three things: “Small, sleek, and powerful.” The Watch Active is certainly small and sleek, but the latest model is adding a 44mm size option along with the original 40mm. Both sizes are light and feel comfortable on the wrist, and neither looked too small or too big on my medium-sized wrists. The original 40mm Galaxy Watch Active didn’t look out of place on large wrists, as we found in our review, but it’s nice to have more options to choose from.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Still sporting an aluminum casing, this smartwatch is stylish. The smooth, rounded design differs little from its predecessor, but the bezels are smaller, and it’s delightfully minimal and elegant. On the right side are two buttons to go home or back which create little protrusion but are easy to click. The watch straps on both models are easily-removable 20mm bands, which can be interchanged with any of that size.

The Super AMOLED screens are beautiful in either size. The 40mm model sports a 1.2-inch display, which is 0.1-inch larger than the 40mm Galaxy Watch Active; the 44mm measures at 1.4 inches. Both have 360 x 360 resolutions and are protected by Gorilla Glass DX+, Corning’s wearable-specific formula engineered for clarity and scratch resistance. The screens are vibrant and sharp, appearing easy to read in almost any lighting conditions, though I’ll need to use it longer to say for sure.

Lastly, the watch retains its 5-ATM water resistance, which means that you can track swims in water as deep as 50 meters. Even if you’re not a swimmer, this feature is always appreciated for its wear-it-and-forget-it usability.

ECG is coming

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 has an ECG or electrocardiogram sensor, which means it can measure the electrical signals from your heart. It allows the watch to detect irregular heartbeats, as well as atrial fibrillation. The first FDA-cleared smartwatch with this feature was last year’s Apple Watch, but that doesn’t mean it replaces medical-grade ECG sensors and should not be used for diagnosis — it’s merely meant to help collect more data for your physician.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

On Samsung’s wearable, this feature is still in research, working through clinical trials with the FDA, so you won’t be able to use it at launch. I’d love to see this feature arrive on the Active 2 sooner than later but I’m not holding my breath. Samsung announced a blood pressure feature for the original Watch Active at launch, but it’s not entirely available yet as a feature and is still undergoing research. That’s a bummer because it’s likely you’ll have to wait several months if not longer for the ECG feature to be ready.

Samsung didn’t bother to even show me what it’s like to use the ECG on the Watch Active 2, so the final version really must be a long way off.

The rotating bezel is back…sort of

Samsung’s Tizen is an excellent example of a simple, useful wearable operating system; it’s not as robust as Apple’s WatchOS, but it’s more capable than Google’s Wear OS. There is a collection of customizable widgets to the right of the watch face, and on the left are notifications from your smartphone. Scrolling through all of these widgets can be tiring, which is why Samsung’s smartwatches are known for the rotating bezel, which lets you physically rotate the bezel to scroll through the interface. It’s always been an effective, and satisfying way to navigate a tiny circular screen.

It was taken out in the Galaxy Watch Active, much to the dismay of Samsung fans, but it’s finally back. Sort of. It’s no longer a mechanical rotating bezel — there’s no physical piece that moves — rather it’s a digital one. Essentially, it’s an edge-based gesture that now moves you through the smartwatch’s menus and lists just as the physical rotating bezel does.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

I’m happy to report this works well. Introducing haptic feedback as you drag your finger along the edges still delivers the satisfying feeling of moving the bezel physically, and it’s just as responsive.  While I like the implementation and the fact this feature is finally back, I’m worried I’ll miss the physical rotating bezel when it’s raining or when I’m sweating during a hard workout; I’m hoping this won’t affect the digital rotating bezel’s responsiveness too much.

It’s generally nicer to have physical inputs when you’re running, cycling, or bouncing around a lot during any exercise too, as touch controls are much more sensitive to your movements.

I still have to give kudos to Samsung for bringing back a beloved feature while maintaining a sleek, minimalist look on the Watch Active 2.

More sensors mean better tracking, and 4G LTE

Going along with its “active” theme, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 bolsters it’s activity tracking prowess with twice the LED sensors in the heart rate monitor for a total of eight, and twice the capacity for g-force measurement on the accelerometer, up to 32G’s from the original 16G sensitivity.

While this doesn’t yet add any new workout detection or features, Samsung said the additional sensors can enable development for more automatic tracking features down the line. That’s nice to hear, but the main advantage here is simply better, more accurate tracking — be it sleep or exercise. It’s unfortunate there aren’t any specific exercise additions or upgrades at launch.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

You’ll still find features like the built-in running coach, which you can tell your goal (run one mile in seven minutes, for instance) and have it coach you along the way with stats. There are also wellness tips, sedentary reminders, and other insights that come throughout the day.

Topping the feature list off is the addition of 4G LTE connectivity. This boosts the watch’s capabilities, making it more competitive with the Apple Watch and its own connected Galaxy Watch siblings. It enables you to receive smartphone notifications no matter where you are without the need for a phone nearby, and you can respond to alerts as well (including making and sending calls and texts). Keep in mind, the LTE version of the watch will cost more, and you’ll need to pay your carrier a monthly fee for LTE connectivity.

Google Translate, YouTube, and Twitter

While there haven’t been many other changes to the interface, Samsung is building out more app integrations so you don’t have to pull out your phone so much. That’s music to my ears. Among the new features is the ability to browse YouTube and Twitter directly from the watch. The former allows you to only browse trending videos while the latter can show your whole Twitter feed; you can send Tweets, like, and retweet.

Among the new features is the ability to browse YouTube and Twitter directly from the watch.

I can’t see anyone watching a video on a watch, but being able to interact with Twitter is pretty cool. Just like any scrollable list, you can rotate the bezel or swipe to browse your feed and interact with Tweets easily. It’s a surprisingly comfortable experience, and though I don’t see this becoming my primary mode of using Twitter, it works well for those moments you just have a minute or two to kill and don’t want to pull out your phone.

A more useful utility Samsung added is Google Translate. This does require an internet connection, either Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity, but it works just as well as the app on your phone. Sentences are translated relatively quickly, and you can even flip the translation on-screen so you can easily show someone your watch to display a translated message.

Battery

Battery capacity on the two watches has been upped slightly over the original Watch Active. With the original 40mm watch packing a 230mAh battery, the Active 2’s 40mm variant gets in a 247mAh battery and the 44mm model packs on another 100mAh at 340mAh.

In reviewing the original, we found the battery life on the Watch Active to last for about a full day of tracking with the always-on display enabled, and close to one and a half to two days with this feature disabled. That’s better than most of Google’s Wear OS watches, but trails behind the Apple Watch and its bigger brother, the Galaxy Watch. I’m hoping that the bump in battery on the new models translates to meaningful real-life improvements.

My Style

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 does have another cool trick.  A “My Style” feature is built into the Galaxy Watch companion app, enabling wearers to take a selfie and receive five unique, app-generated watch faces that match their clothing. This feature creates patterns and colors based on your outfit (you can choose which part of your clothing to pull from), and it’s different every time you use it.

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

It’s a pretty neat feature and the results are a pleasing mixture of Samsung’s stock watch face art and your clothing.  It’s something we’ve seen before on designer Wear OS smartwatches from the likes of Kate Spade or Michael Kors, but it’s welcome here.

Price and Availability

With the 40mm Galaxy Watch Active 2 costing $280 and $300 for the 44mm, it’s increasingly hard to justify spending more than this for a smartwatch. The LTE variant’s pricing will be announced at a later date by the carriers offering the device. It comes in black, silver, and a pink color called lily gold, and will be available on September 27. Pre-orders kick off September 6.

If you’re an Android phone owner and are feeling burned by the lackluster Wear OS experience on Google-powered smartwatches, Samsung’s Galaxy Active 2 may be your next best option — especially if you’re looking for LTE functionality (though Mobvoi’s 4G LTE TicWatch Pro should still be considered). Apple owners will find the most app support and integrations with the Apple Watch Series 4 — one place Samsung may always lag behind — and its ECG functionality is already live in the U.S.

Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch still lacks the line’s best feature – TechCrunch

I didn’t hide my disappointment very well when I saw that Samsung had killed the mechanical spinning bezel for the original Watch Active. Samsung’s watches have been pretty solid in recent years, providing one of the stronger Apple Watch alternatives, especially in the days before Fitbit launched the Versa.

And while I’ve preferred their more minimalist designs (the Gear S2 was a particular high-water mark from that standpoint), the spinning bezel as a navigation device has long been the Tizen watch’s best feature, outshining Apple’s crown.

Announced this morning, the Active 2 addresses the issue — somewhat. The mechanical spinning is still gone, but the company has incorporated haptic feedback into the edges, given a kind of approximation turning the piece. I tried it. It feels okay, assuming it’s a cost-cutting measure. But there’s a certain satisfaction in twisting the older bezel that’s lacking.

Here’s hoping it’s not a design the company plans to implement across the board. Though the company referring to the new version as a “brand new upgrade” doesn’t give me a lot of hope for the poor bezel’s future.

Interestingly, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 isn’t designed to replace either the standard Galaxy Watch or the original Watch Active, which was introduced less than six months back. Rather, it’s a mid-tier device that slots between the two.

I do appreciate the relative minimalism of design. It’s better looking and more comfortable than the bulkier Galaxy Watch. And with 40 and 44 millimeter options, it should fit on a fairly broad range of different wrists.

Among the more interesting additions on the software side is My Style, an addition to the app that takes a photo of what you’re wearing and adjusts the color of the face to match accordingly, coupled with one of five different patterns.

Health is, as ever, an important piece. Heck, it’s right there in the name. Of the 39 different workouts, seven are auto-activated, while a new Running Coach feature offers motivation. There’s also guided meditation and stress level tracking. Interestingly, the handset has the hardware for tracking ECG/EKG, but the functionality won’t be available at launch. Samsung wants to do some opt-in data tracking first, but I suspect a lack of FDA approval also played a role there.

The Active 2 will be available September 27 at $280 for the 40mm version and $300 for the 40mm. Pre-orders start Tuesday. There’s also an LTE version coming in September, with pricing still TBD.

New Minimalist Bikepacking Bags From Evoc are Secured by a BOA Fit System – Singletracks.com

The innovative engineers at Evoc have designed a durable new set of bags for light touring and adventure racing. The 4-bag set consists of a handlebar and saddlebag, both affixed to the bike with their hyper secure Boa Fit System, a multi-position frame pack that can squeeze in any open space, and a top tube bag for headlight batteries or snacks.

For riders who enjoy 2-3 day long tentless tours, lightweight adventure racing, or credit card touring, this set of satchels provides just enough space for the essentials — as long as the espresso machine is left behind.

Handlebar Pack Boa®

Medium 2.5L size pictured.

The carrying capacity of the size medium, Boa-secured, Evoc handlebar pack is roughly 1.5 loaves of sliced sandwich bread, if you cut off the crust or squeeze them in tightly. The roll-in access holes on either side can be adjusted between a more compact single-loaf size, and the full length, one and a half bread loaf cargo bay. The main cabin offers ample storage to fold in a change of dry clothing, some spare parts, and a backcountry camp stove, or other lightweight gear. This handlebar bag is spacious enough to stow the essentials, while not large enough to be overfilled and affect the bike’s steering — unless you stuff it with jars of peanut butter.

  • Medium 2.5L, $130; Large 5L, $150
  • Waterproof
  • Two-sided access with roll closures for adjustability
  • Designed to easily clear cables
  • Colors: Carbon Grey or Loam (gold)
  • Size medium actual weight: 229g
  • Available this fall

The Boa Fit System snugs the bag securely onto the bar while allowing it to be removed in a matter of seconds. I have ridden with it mounted on two different mountain bikes, and had zero issues with the bag shifting around or coming loose from the bar. The Boa strap makes it a snap to swap the pack between bikes if you want to bring it along on every ride.

I stowed a dry t-shirt inside the handlebar bag and seat bag and proceeded to drench them both with a garden hose to check their waterproof effectiveness. I was happily surprised that the shirts remained desert dry.

Seat Pack Boa®

Medium 2L size pictured.

The size medium seat pack is a decidedly tighter squeeze, crunching the storage bay to a single bread loaf. Surely it’s no accident that the cargo space in the size medium is the perfect size for a bivy sack. The size large, with an extra liter of storage, could likely hold a flyweight hammock, a first aid kit, and some food alongside a svelt bivy.

  • Small (1L) $110, Medium (2L) $130, Large (3L) $150
  • Abrasion-resistant seatpost attachment with Boa®
  • Fixable to standard, dropper, and aero seat posts
  • Waterproof
  • Carbon Grey or Loam (gold)
  • Size medium actual weight: 197g
  • Available this fall

Like the handlebar pack, this saddle bag is wicked simple to mount and remove. The rubberized Boa strap grabs tightly around your seat post and appears well padded to prevent it from damaging the dropper coating. Two velcro straps wrap around the saddle rails and latch securely to themselves, much like a traditional saddlebag.

The Boa strap will limit the amount of dropper post that’s available to drop, and the pack itself might contact the rear tire when the shock is fully compressed and the saddle is down. Taller riders who have far more seatpost showing won’t need to worry about tire clearance, but for everyone else, this is something to consider when purchasing a saddlebag for a squishy bike.

This photo shows the bag fully open. The closure rolls shut and the bag’s contents are held in place with a nylon quick-release strap.

Multi Frame Pack

Size small 0.7L pictured

Evoc’s new Multi Frame Pack is by far the most versatile of the four. There are velcro strap anchors all around the shell that allow it to be adapted to nearly any open space on or in the frame. An internal mesh pocket is the perfect place to stash a spare derailleur hanger, and possibly a set of keys.

  • Small (0.7L) $45m, Medium (1L) $50
  • Water-repellent
  • Multiple velcro placements for adjustable frame location
  • Internal mesh pocket
  • Includes frame protection stickers
  • Carbon Grey or Loam (gold)
  • Size small actual weight: 84g
  • Available now

I have been using the Multi Frame Pack to store all of the things that I would otherwise strap to my frame, and it has worked out splendidly. My hanger, CO2 inflator, tube, tire lever, multitool, and Presta valve wrench all fit nicely inside, with space to spare for a snack. I wrapped a rubber band around all of the metal cargo to keep it from making noise on rough descents and haven’t heard a peep since. This bag will not come off my daily-driver any time soon.

Top Tube Pack

Finally, we present the Evoc lunchroom. Well, that’s what I would have called it. The Top Tube Pack offers a wonderfully convenient location for trail snacks and energy chews. Like the Multi Frame Pack, the “lunchroom” grants riders another way to leave their backpacks at home, while still carrying essential gear. There is room for a halved PB&J, or a flask and a few candy bars inside the water repellent shell. The bag has a port to run the cable between an external battery pack and a handlebar-mounted light system.

  • Single size (0.5L) $40
  • Water-repellent with a top access zipper
  • Internal mesh pocket
  • Cable inlet for GPS or headlight power from a small-medium battery
  • Carbon Grey or Loam (gold)
  • Actual weight: 80g
  • Available now

Depending on the steerer tube length and stem placement, the Top Tube Pack may not fit all bikes exactly as shown. In this case, it can easily be mounted at the seat tube end of the TT instead.


These packs are not your regular touring setup, with decidedly minimal weight and secure fastening features throughout. They are designed for folks who aim to venture further with less. The shell materials feel sturdy, and I expect them to hold up through several seasons of riding. Be sure to store your paperbacks in the handlebar or seat bag when it rains.

We would like to thank Evoc for sending these four packs our way. 

Living on borrowed time: We need to make choices now to slow resource consumption – CBC.ca

Since July 29 of this year, the people of the world have lived on borrowed time — or more accurately, on borrowed resources.

Each year, the international non-profit Global Footprint Network calculates the day when people begin to use more resources than the Earth can produce in a year — essentially, the point when we begin to take from the principal rather than the interest. In 2019, Earth Overshoot Day came earlier than ever before, falling on July 29.

Unless something changes radically in the next few months, we as humans would need 1.75 times the Earth’s current resources just to keep up with what we use, the Global Footprint Network says. It also notes that in the last 20 years, Earth Overshoot Day has moved up two months earlier, due to increasing resource use around the world.

The 2019 Earth Overshoot Day comes less than a year after many of the world’s leading scientists warned that the planet might have only 12 years left before climate change causes irreparable harm to the environment. 

If those two warnings fail to prompt us to action, something is badly wrong with either our understanding of the environment or the will to act. Maybe we misunderstand the vast scope of the issue.

For years, many people have tried to do their part to help the planet, whether by consuming less or by reusing their belongings. Still, it is becoming evident that reducing, reusing, and recycling are putting only a small dent in the problem. As individuals, families, communities, and as a country, we need to take real action.

We need a new way of thinking and of living, not just as individuals, but as communities that can support and encourage each other. Two ideas that might be worth exploring are minimalism and voluntary simplicity.

The writers Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who call themselves “the Minimalists,” say they had to come close to the breaking point before they found the inner freedom to give up their lucrative careers to live a simpler life.

The basic idea behind minimalism, as practised by the two authors, is to dispose of anything that is not either useful or personally meaningful. Once extraneous belongings are gone, minimalists aim to simplify their needs and desires so that they buy and consume less. 

Minimalist living can reduce the amount of resources we consume. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

Living as a minimalist could mean moving to a cabin in the woods and growing as much food as is feasible, using public transportation instead of private cars, or otherwise stepping away from the endless pursuit of possessions. 

Although preserving  the environment is not necessarily the aim of the minimalist lifestyle, that comes as a side benefit. When people live as simply as possible, they use fewer resources and learn to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of their actions, rather than practising endless consumption. 

For people who find minimalism too daunting, voluntary simplicity can be easier to accept and implement. The Simplicity Collective’s mandate is to encourage a lifestyle that tries to use resources wisely, always choosing to leave resources for future generations rather than using them now.

The idea is not as much to eliminate all unnecessary belongings, but rather to choose smaller homes, fewer possessions and a generally simpler existence.  

Making such a far-reaching change alone is difficult, but collective action can help. Governments, for example, can put money and effort into affordable and reliable public transit systems to encourage people to take the bus rather than driving cars, and they can limit urban sprawl with wise policies and tax systems.  

Still, governments are only part of the solution. Individuals and families can choose to travel less often, to live in small homes close to the centre of town rather than occupying sprawling suburban mansions, and to walk or ride a bicycle to the grocery store or to work when possible, even if that involves additional time and effort. 

Earth Overshoot Day is a difficult concept to grasp fully, but its implications are huge. If we wish to pass on a viable planet to the next generation, we need to take drastic action now.


This column is part of CBC’s Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor’s blog and our FAQ.