An outstretched arm showing off a Samsung Galaxy Fit2 activity armband. The armband is small with a bright display showing the current time, heart rate, and step count. 🅭

Review: Samsung Galaxy Fit2 – a passive health and activity tracker

The Samsung Galaxy Fit2 (not to be confused with the Gear Fit2) packs an impressive set of features like a sleep and heart rate monitor, in a small and budget-friendly package. However, it doesn’t help that it has a continuous activity, sleep, and heart rate/stress monitor when it doesn’t remind you to keep it charged.

As is often the case with cheap electronics, the Galaxy Fit2’s app software is worse than the hardware (except the touch screen). I’ll begin the review by sharing my experiences with the activity band’s shortcomings, before moving on to discuss its activity and health tracking capabilities.

I’ve used the Galaxy Fit2 for six months, or rather, I’ve worn it for six months. It doesn’t see much use because it keeps running out of battery and its touch screen is awful.

Samsung advertises the battery as “lasting up to 15 days” or “21 days with low usage”. I get about 12 days after disabling every feature on the watch, so the marketing is slightly exaggerated. I get roughly a week on a full charge with the continuous heart-rate monitor and sleep tracking enabled. It’s a tiny device with lots of sensors, so that’s all fine.

However, you don’t get any prompts or reminders to charge it before or after the battery runs out. Neither the Galaxy Fit2’s companion app nor the Samsung Heath app seems to care that the band has stopped transmitting data. I analyzed my Samsung Health data and discovered that it has been off roughly 18 % of the time I’ve worn it.

Well, about that battery notification. I had to send in my Samsung Galaxy S10e phone for service. I used another Samsung device for a week, and then switched back to the Galaxy S10e. I had to set it up as a new phone from scratch, and reset and re-pair the Galaxy Fit2 to it.

However, once I moved back into the Galaxy S10e, it did start receiving charging notifications! I had to factory reset it before sending it in for service. That may have changed something? The Galaxy Fit2 ran out of battery while I used the replacement phone, and it didn’t receive any notifications either. Now, both the Galaxy Fit2 and the Galaxy Watch companion app on my phone remind me to charge it.

Now that I had a working battery charge notification, I could investigate the issue a bit more thoroughly. The charge reminder is sent from the companion app to the Galaxy Fit2. The activity tracker seems to be so underpowered that it can’t even trigger a charging notification without being instructed to by an app on the phone. I wear a medical sensor that requires me to have my phone within Bluetooth range at all time. It’s not like the phone has been out of range or that I ever turn Bluetooth off. I consider the charging reminders on the Galaxy Fit2 to be faulty by design; even though they’ve suddenly started working now.

The touch screen is unresponsive and frustrating to use. You’re supposed to interact with the Galaxy Fit2 through touch gestures on its 2,8 cm display. In my experience, the first left-to-right swipe gesture is usually correctly recognized. Repeated swipes often fail, and I need to repeat them several times to get it to do anything. Up-and-down swipes work maybe one in four times. Even tapping is frustratingly unresponsive.

Luckily, you don’t need to interact with the Galaxy Fit2 often. I wanted to use its media playback controls when I first got it to pause/start and set the volume on my podcasts. However, it’s too frustrating to repeatedly swipe and tap at it to get it to do anything. The ever-so-slight delay introduced by Bluetooth doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

You can choose a better watch face to alleviate the charging notification issue and reduce how often you need to interact with the touch screen. The Galaxy Watch app comes with a few different watch faces. This includes some complications that show your step count, heart rate, and the current battery level. With all its core features right on the watch face, you don’t need to bother with the touch screen.

The Galaxy Fit2 is not the ideal activity band for the privacy-conscious consumer. The Galaxy Wear companion app needs access to your contacts, phone, calendars, device identifiers, messages and logs, and more. It can legitimate these permissions because the Galaxy Fit2 technically uses these permissions for optional features. However, Samsung should let me opt out of individual features instead of demanding access to everything. For example, I don’t want notifications on my wrist, so it doesn’t need access to my calls, texts, calendar, and other personal data.

The only point where you can assert some vague notion of privacy control is whether or not you want to opt-in to a data-sharing agreement with Samsung to use its Customization Service app. Samsung gates some features on the Galaxy Fit2 behind you agreeing to share data with the company. I’ve written about my dislike for SCS and how you can limit its data collection if you’re forced to enable it.

In the case of the Galaxy Fit2, the requirement to opt-in to SCS is particularly outrageous. The device is a sleep monitor, and it (or at least the companion app) is perfectly capable of figuring out when you’ve fallen asleep. Yet, the device doesn’t turn off the display when you sleep. So, it constantly interrupts or delays me from falling asleep by turning on the screen. The light is either shone directly into my face or distractingly light up the room.

There’s an option called “Good night mode” in the Galaxy Watch app. It lets the device “learn your sleep habits” and turns off the display at night. Yet, you must opt-in to SCS and let some Samsung server somewhere out on the internet decide whether you can have a good night’s sleep or not! There’s no option to schedule when the screen should be off or let the device decide for itself.

The heart rate sensor is a standard low-cost photoplethysmography (PPG), as found in most similar monitoring devices. I’ve been to a cardiology exam while wearing the Galaxy Fit2. I was happy to observe that its measurements were within one heartbeat of their medical-grade equipment.

I bought the Galaxy Fit2 to get an inexpensive device to keep an eye on my heart rate. It’s not a medical device, but in my opinion, it’s good enough to keep an eye on my trends. It can provide me with minute-by-minute graphs, plus weekly and monthly trends for analysis. The data is probably not medical grade, but it’s better than nothing.

The Galaxy Fit2 has a somewhat unusual approach to step counting. It doesn’t count those 16 steps you take back and forth between your desk and fridge. Instead, it tracks it as time you are active. It won’t increment the step counter before you’ve walked two dozen steps. This has led some reviewers to complain about the Galaxy Fit2 not counting steps accurately.

The step counting is accurate when you’re actually out walking, however. It just doesn’t count very short walks. I can argue that it encourages you to actually walk more and be more active than just walking back and forth between your desk and fridge all day. The Samsung Health app does count steps for short walks, so I’m leaning towards the Galaxy Fit2’s behavior being either a technical limitation or a bug rather than a deliberate design decision.

The Galaxy Fit2 runs a version of FreeRTOS, an open-source operating system for microcontrollers. Not that there’s anything open about the device. It’s a completely closed ecosystem, and you can’t run third-party apps on it or even extract data from it without relying on a Samsung app.

The sleep, heart rate, steps, and activity data all get slurped up into the Samsung Health app. Like Google Fit or Apple Health, the Samsung app is a data silo designed more for data capture than thoughtful self-analysis and medical use. The app does feature better visualizations and trends than Google Fit. However, that’s a low bar to cross, and I’d appreciate more options for analyzing my health data.

Samsung made the Galaxy Fit2 from cheap materials and didn’t build it to last. The display remains scratch-free after six months. However, the chassis is full of dents and scratches. The rubber strap doesn’t protect the areas of the armband that are most at risk for scratches.

The band is replaceable, but it has held up better than other bands I’ve used in the same price range. Probably because the Galaxy Fit2 absorbs the brunt of any impact damage directly. The band’s clasp is a simple plastic pin, and I don’t expect it to last more than a year.

So, should you buy a Samsung Galaxy Fit2? If you don’t intend to interact with it but just wear it as a passive sensor, then yes. It’s high value for your money. You get more sensors than with the current entry-level trackers from FitBit for roughly 20 % of the price. However, I wouldn’t expect the Galaxy Fit2 to last more than maybe a year or two.

If you’re hoping for something more “fun” or more capable like a smartwatch, then keep looking. The Galaxy Fit2 isn’t an ultra-lite version of the Apple Watch or one of Samsung’s smartwatches. It’s just an activity tracker, but it does that job well.