I think Samsung should not let the physical smartwatch bezel die

Opinion
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Last updated: October 18th, 2019 at 16:49 UTC+02:00

It’s been more than a year since Samsung abandoned the physical smartwatch bezel design, and the company launched two smartwatch models in the meantime, neither of which count as direct Galaxy Watch successors. Likewise, many months have passed since I last touched the 2018 Galaxy Watch, but I got to play with it again for a few minutes over the weekend. The experience reminded me of just how satisfying it is to use the physical rotating bezel, and the feeling was further accentuated by a side-by-side comparison with the touch-based solution employed by the Galaxy Watch Active 2.

A thought has been growing in my mind ever since, prompting me to recall this recent experience, wondering if the Galaxy Watch series and indeed the physical bezel will ever make a comeback.

The physical smartwatch bezel feels fitting for sportier designs

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 user experience is quite satisfying on its own, and the touchscreen bezel works well for what it is. I don’t have complaints about the Galaxy Watch Active 2 formula, per se. I think it’s a stylish smartwatch, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. However, the virtual bezel feels more like a sidegrade or reinterpretation of the same concept rather than an upgrade over the physical bezel design. You can achieve the same operations with either input method, but the virtual solution doesn’t deliver the same tactile feedback, for obvious reasons.

This difference in design makes little or no difference for most users from a purely practical point of view. But I can’t shake the feeling that the physical rotating bezel is better optimized for sportier wearables, and it shouldn’t be completely forgotten. I think Samsung was onto something when it came up with the physical smartwatch bezel concept. The company should not let this idea die, in my opinion, regardless of whether the Galaxy Watch Active formula will or won’t go through drastic design changes in the coming years.

Virtual or physical rotating bezel? Why not both?

I don’t have the answer as to what Samsung will do next for the wearable segment or whether the Galaxy Watch series will live on, but I wouldn’t want the company to abandon the current Watch Active touch bezel implementation. Switching back and forth between designs isn’t the best way to progress, and it’s probably better if Samsung keeps perfecting the current formula. The virtual bezel fits the Galaxy Watch Active 2’s sleek design like a glove. As yet, there’s no real reason for Samsung to steer it in a completely different direction.

Nevertheless, I think the physical and virtual input methods shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, either. I wish they could coexist through separate smartwatch models and satisfy different audiences. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is already more stylish than it is sporty, and some people do prefer the more prominent case and bezel design of the Galaxy Watch.

Can the smartwatch market support a second Galaxy series?

2019 may have not been the right year for Samsung to release more than one smartwatch series, but the wearable market segment is in an upward trajectory and should experience significant growth over the next few years, according to experts. I’m hoping there will come a time when Samsung will consider a multi-smartwatch lineup profitable again.

The company already expanded upon its multi-flagship phone strategy when it launched three Galaxy S10 and two Galaxy Note 10 variants this year. The smartwatch market could grow enough to accommodate a similar business model in the future. It may become the perfect environment for a second smartwatch series to be introduced, and for the physical bezel to make a comeback along with it.

If a multi-smartwatch strategy will become viable, I hope Samsung considers this possibility. The company might not want to be perceived like it’s backtracking on one of its design choices, but then again, if there’s one smartwatch feature that deserves another chance, the physical bezel is probably it. Especially if it could coexist with the Watch Active solution instead of replacing it.


What are your thoughts on the physical smartwatch bezel? Do you miss it, or have you forgotten all about it? Would you like this feature to eventually be reintroduced along with a new Galaxy Watch model or a new smartwatch series? Or do you think the current, bezel-less Watch Active design language is the only way to go, regardless of how the segment grows? Join us in the comment section below.

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