Due to a lack of innovation by its competitors, Samsung is one of the only brands that sells a competent Android smartwatch. But unless you own a Samsung smartphone, a Galaxy Watch may not be a smart purchase. You’ll simply miss out on some of its flagship features.
The Galaxy Watch Works With Most Android Phones
Nearly all Android phones are compatible with Samsung’s smartwatches. All you need is a relatively new Android release, 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 newer with at least 1.5GB of RAM
- Galaxy Watch 4 Series: Android 6.0 or newer with at least 1.5GB of RAM
- Galaxy Watch 3 Series: Android 6.0 or newer with at least 1.5GB of RAM
Unfortunately, Samsung abandoned iOS compatibility with the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 5. Older models of Galaxy Watch 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 Samsung’s support page. Note that at the time of 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 Samsung-Exclusive
As you may know, the Galaxy Watch requires some Samsung-made software. 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 of Samsung software won’t install on your device. And without this software, the Galaxy Watch cannot perform some of its basic functionality.
Here are some Galaxy Watch features that require a Samsung phone:
- Blood pressure monitoring
- Samsung’s AR Emoji watch faces
- Remote smartphone camera 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 hard purchase for anyone who wants to use flagship features like the ECG.
Other less-important features, including Do Not Disturb syncing, Samsung messages, and Bedtime mode, are also exclusive to Samsung smartphones. But the ECG and blood pressure monitor are the real kickers.
Can You Force These Exclusive Features Onto a Phone?
Okay, so the Galaxy Watch’s ECG and blood pressure monitor require the Galaxy Health Monitoring app. Can’t you just sideload this stupid app onto any old phone? After all, Galaxy Health Monitoring is available for free on APK Mirror!
The answer is kind of complicated. If you take the Galaxy Health Monitoring APK and install it on a non-Samsung phone, it won’t work. But you can use a modified version of this app.
Developed by Dante64 of XDA Developers, the modified Galaxy Health Monitoring app works on any modern Android phone. It unlocks the Galaxy Watch 4’s ECG and blood pressure monitor regardless of which device you use, so long as that device fits the Galaxy Watch 4’s hardware requirements.
But installing this modified app is a pain in the butt, and there’s no guarantee that it’ll work forever. Unless you’re a ridiculous nerd, this kind of workaround isn’t worth the trouble. And heck, even if you are a big nerd, you should probably just buy a smartwatch that offers all the features you want right out the box!
Should You Buy a Galaxy Watch?
If you don’t mind missing out on a few features, the Galaxy Watch is an excellent companion for non-Samsung phones. That said, dropping hundreds on a Galaxy Watch just to miss out on the ECG is a bit of a bummer.
So, I suggest checking out the alternatives. Both 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 could also hold out for 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.