For now, the best wristwatch for Android users is still the Galaxy Watch 4. Almost all Android users benefit from Wear OS, whether they use a Samsung Galaxy phone, a Pixel, or another model. But the smartwatch is still very much a Samsung product, with Samsung’s priorities dominating. One of the most annoying features of the Galaxy Watch 4 is that, even a year later, its second button is still essentially useless.
The Galaxy Watch 4 comes in two different versions, each with two buttons. A single push on the top button always takes you back to the watch face, serving as the home button. The watch can be awoken from sleep using this. If you have an app or settings page open, pressing the bottom button will take you back one screen in the UI.
However, each of these buttons also serve other purposes. By default, the top button may be used to access Bixby with a long press and health tracking apps with a double push. Long presses of the bottom key launch Samsung Pay, and single presses can also be remapped to open the recent apps screen rather than the back button.
However, the top button can do something that the bottom one cannot. It is remappable to perform a lot more. I went into the settings, just like many other Galaxy Watch 4 owners this week, to change the long-press gesture of the top button to reach Google Assistant rather than Bixby. It just feels so fantastic to know that’s now feasible. You can also remap the top button to open Google Pay with a double-tap gesture.
I was quickly reminded, though, that the bottom button on the Galaxy Watch 4 is still virtually worthless after almost a year of use as I was changing those shortcuts. Samsung limits the use of this bottom button to only two purposes, unlike rival Wear OS watches that let you personalize any button’s functionality. It serves as a shortcut to Samsung Pay or as back/recents. Keeping things simple on this key makes sense because going back is a significant function. The required shortcut for Samsung Pay, though, seems odd given how much freedom Samsung offers the home button. No other app, including Google Pay, can be used to replace that feature.
The second button’s options are noticeably lacking. The ability to accept MST payments on any card reader gave Samsung Pay a decisive advantage over Google Pay and Apple Pay in the past, but those times are long gone. As a result, Samsung Pay is only an additional choice with no clear advantages over Google Pay, which many Wear OS users will already have set up with their credit cards. There is no harm in having both services installed on the watch, but even after all this time, it is impossible to ignore Samsung Pay. And the fact that a long-press gesture is significantly more natural to use than a double-press is what makes this situation so aggravating.
Furthermore, there are good reasons why users might prefer Google Pay to Samsung Pay on their handsets. Some users on Reddit pointed out that Samsung Pay doesn’t function as well as Google Pay in some countries, echoing my own annoyance. For instance, Google Pay accepts debit cards in Canada whereas Samsung Pay does not.
Although it is possible that Samsung will eventually change this functionality, it appears, to put it mildly, doubtful.
Samsung Pay still has an obtrusive presence on Galaxy handsets and isn’t going anywhere. Samsung has no problem leaving the Galaxy Watch 4’s bottom button as a hardcoded shortcut to the service that requires sophisticated third-party apps to navigate if it won’t update Samsung Pay on phones so it doesn’t conflict with Android’s gesture navigation.
On Tizen, it was the same way. However, that was before Samsung’s smartwatches offered real choice and a sizable selection of apps. A change is necessary, in my opinion.
Here too, Wear OS became the standard. Smartwatches with several buttons can remap both of them using Wear OS. For instance, the Skagen Falster Gen 6 features three input options: two buttons and a spinning crown. The Galaxy Watch 4 essentially has two buttons, a rotating bezel, and this configuration. Users can program an app to launch on the Skagen watch when either of those buttons is pressed.