All previous Galaxy Watches worked with the iPhone. Does that hold true for the Galaxy Watch 4? Unfortunately, things are different now.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is the best-looking Galaxy Watch yet, but for iPhone users hoping to pick it up, there’s a big catch to talk about. While it might seem silly for an iPhone user to have a Samsung smartwatch, Samsung has supported this for years. Thanks to the Samsung Galaxy Watch companion app, iPhone owners can use a Galaxy Watch 3, Galaxy Watch Active 2, and other Samsung watches with their Apple-branded handset. As a cheaper alternative to the Apple Watch, Galaxy Watches have been surprisingly solid accessories for the iPhone.
On August 11, 2021, Samsung unveiled its entries in the Galaxy Watch family — the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. The former has a distinctly minimalistic design, the latter is much more ‘classy,’ and both are equipped with powerful internals. Samsung’s using its first-ever 5nm processor for improved performance/efficiency, there’s more RAM and storage than ever before, an IP68 rating, and optional LTE connectivity. Simply put, the Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic are the most capable smartwatches Samsung has ever launched.
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Along with all of its hardware prowess, the Galaxy Watch 4 is also the first smartwatch to ship with ‘Wear OS Powered by Samsung.’ It’s a new version of Wear OS that Samsung and Google jointly developed, and it’s set to be the new default operating system on smartwatches from Samsung, Fitbit, Google, and other brands going forward. While this upgraded version of Wear OS has numerous benefits compared to the Tizen OS of older Galaxy Watches, it also means that the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic are not compatible with the iPhone.
Why The Galaxy Watch 4 Doesn’t Work With IPhone
Why this change? Looking at the specifications page for the Galaxy Watch 4, there’s no mention of iOS support at all. Furthermore, Samsung says, “Device activation is only available after connecting to a smartphone that supports Google Mobile Services (GMS).” Google Mobile Services is the underpinning of every Android smartphone Google certifies — and it’s not something that’s used on iOS. This is also something Samsung confirmed during a briefing for the Watch 4, making it clear that iPhone owners have to look at the Galaxy Watch 4 from the sidelines.
For anyone with an older Galaxy Watch, the good news is that it’ll keep working with the iPhone just like it always has. Samsung isn’t converting any of its previous models to its version of Wear OS, meaning they’ll keep running Tizen and keep supporting iOS just like they always have. So long as it isn’t the Galaxy Watch 4, all other Galaxy Watches still work with the iPhone. The bad news, however, is that Samsung is committed to using Wear OS for all of its smartwatches going forward. Losing competition for the iPhone smartwatch market isn’t ideal, but this deeper integration with GMS gives the Watch 4 benefits not offered by its predecessors. It has access to additional applications, Google services like Google Maps, and more.
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Ultimately, this isn’t a huge loss for iPhone owners. Using a Galaxy Watch with an iPhone was always considerably more limited than having an Apple Watch. Today, folks can buy the Apple Watch SE for as little as $279, or splurge for the $399 Apple Watch Series 7. Combine that with the fact that Android users benefit from the switch from Tizen to Wear OS, and it’s a net positive change overall.
IPhone Connectivity Is A Samsung Problem
The Galaxy Watch 4 Series smartwatches were the first (and until recently, the only) ones to ship with Wear OS 3, but that’s now changed. The upcoming Pixel Watch will run Google’s smartwatch operating system, but before that, there’s also the recently-launched Montblanc Summit 3. The interesting thing about Montblanc’s smartwatch is that it is compatible with iOS despite running Wear OS 3. So far, it was asssumed that the lack of iPhone support was a Wear OS problem, but it appears to be a limitation put in place by Samsung.
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The Pixel Watch doesn’t mention iPhone compatibility at the moment, with support being restricted to phones running Android 8 and above. That could change closer to launch, and ultimately, the decision would benefit Google, even if the number of iPhone users are on the lower side. It’s unclear why Samsung has chosen not to support the feature on the Galaxy Watch 4, but if there aren’t any hardware and software limitations, iPhone compatibility could make its way to the upcoming Galaxy Watch 5 models.