A worthy competitor
Perfect iPhone companion
Samsung announced the Galaxy Watch 3 at its Galaxy Unpacked event in early August, and it is shaping up to be a great rival to the Apple Watch. However, as more of a smartwatch than a fitness tracker like the Watch Active 2 that came before it, it's designed more for those who are looking for a smartwatch with some fitness features versus the other way around. That said, as a perfect rival for Android owners, the Galaxy Watch 3 definitely measures up to the Apple Watch Series 5.
To see how evenly matched they are specs-wise, here's a look at the key specs.
|Apple Watch Series 5||Samsung Galaxy Watch 3|
|Operating System||watchOS||Tizen OS 5.5|
|Battery Life||Up to 18 hours||Up to 1 day for 41 mm, up to 2 days for the 45 mm|
|Mobile Payments||Apple Pay||Samsung Pay|
|Dimensions||44 x 38 x 10.74 mm||41 x 42.5 x 11.3 mm (41 mm), 45 x 46.2 x 11.1 mm (45 mm)|
|Display||1.78" Always-on 368 x 448 Retina OLED||1.2" AMOLED (41 mm), 1.4" AMOLED (45 mm)|
|Water-Resistant||Up to 50 m||Up to 50 m|
|Charging||Proprietary||Proprietary, Wireless Powershare|
|Music Storage||32GB||8 GB|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, LTE (optional)||Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi, LTE (optional)|
|Built-in Sleep Tracking||No||Yes|
|Heart Rate Monitor||Yes||Yes|
|Sizes||40, 44 mm||41 mm, 45 mm|
As you can see, there are really only very minor differences between the two devices when it comes down to the most important specs. But each has a small advantage in different areas. So, while the Galaxy Watch 3 is the only option between the two for Android owners, iPhone owners can still use the Galaxy Watch 3 if they prefer. And there might be some features that make it worth it.
While some of us opt for smartwatches primarily for notifications, others look to their design for fitness as well, to help track exercise and sports, sleep, heart rate, and other wellness stats while looking like a standard watch on their wrist instead of a boring band.
In terms of fitness tracking, both of these devices will fit the bill. With the Apple Watch Series 5, progress is monitored through Activity Rings that slowly move towards closing the more you walk or get active minutes each day. Seeing how close you are to "closing your rings" is a real motivator to get you to work harder. The Apple Watch Series 5 can track specific workouts, from cycling to swimming, some automatically, and provide real-time feedback.
The Galaxy Watch 3 offers more than 120 fitness programs in the app and can track 40 different activities in total, from running to swimming, with automatic activity detection for seven activities. It also provides real-time running analysis and feedback including nitty-gritty data like asymmetry, contact time, flight time, and even how balanced you are. For serious runners, this feature might make it worth opting for the Galaxy Watch 3 over the iPhone.
Additionally, the Watch 3 has a pulse oximeter. The Apple Watch Series 5 has ECG measurements, which the Watch 3 technically does have as well, but only in South Korea. That feature, however, along with blood pressure monitoring, is reportedly coming to the U.S. sometime later this year. But they won't be available at launch.
Both also have on-board GPS so you can leave your phone at home and keep track of your running route and distance, a useful feature for those who really want to monitor progress over time.
Both offer coaching, activity goals, and other features to help motivate you. But the Galaxy Watch 3 takes things a step further with the ability to pair the Watch with a compatible television to show the workout on a big screen. You can follow along and control the playback from your watch, which becomes a remote. Neat! For anyone who does home-based workouts, this could be a game-changer.
Anyone who works out knows how important music is to the experience. It helps get you going and can encourage you to keep up the pace with pumping tunes in a workout playlist. Meanwhile, some people just like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks to help the time pass while doing a leisurely cardio workout on the treadmill.
Both the Apple Watch Series 5 and Galaxy Watch 3 have on-board storage for saving music and other audio. But the Series 5 is a clear winner with four times as much storage as the Watch 3. While this might not seem like a big deal, if you like to have different playlists for different types of workout and exercises, or maybe even just a calming one while walking the dogs or relaxing on the deck, the more space to store them, the better. The Apple Watch also works seamlessly with Apple Music, so, with a subscription, you can download the playlists directly to the Watch and listen while offline, without your phone present. With the Watch 3, Spotify will reportedly come pre-installed. (You can also download the Spotify app, or other compatible music streaming apps, to the Apple Watch.)
Since both devices have LTE options, you can also stream music to the watch without needing your phone as well as get phone notifications.
One thing the Apple Watch has had over competitors for some time is the thoughtful features that look at health and wellness, not just fitness, making it ideal for the disabled, the elderly, or those with mobility issues. One such feature is fall detection, with the Series 5 model adding the ability for the wearer to make international emergency calls if necessary.
The Apple Watch also adds a neat feature that will detect if surrounding noise has exceeded a safe level and could potentially damage your hearing. It also offers female menstrual cycle tracking. And let's not forget ECG which, as noted, will be available with the Watch 3 eventually, but for now, is only in South Korea. But it's already available with the Apple Watch, allowing you to get a reading at any time and log it to watch for irregularities that might prompt you to see a doctor for proactive care. Both watches include heart rate tracking.
But the biggest leg up the Watch 3 has over the Series 5 in this department is when it comes to sleep tracking. The feature will finally be available with watchOS 7, which launches this Fall, detecting micro-movements from the accelerometer in the watch to determine how much sleep you get each night, including periods of wakefulness. But the Watch 3 offers robust sleep tracking through a partnership with the National Sleep Foundation that measures your sleep cycles, including light, deep, and REM sleep, calculates your Sleep Score to advise on the quality of your sleep, and will even provide personalized recommendations.
When it comes to style, the Galaxy Watch 3 has the Apple Watch Series 5 beat as well. Like all previous generation models, the Series 5 employs a rectangular design that screams smartwatch. Meanwhile, the Watch 3 has a round face that makes it look more like a stylish wristwatch with a digital face. This might all come down to personal preference.
The Apple Watch comes in the option of a stainless steel, aluminum, ceramic, or titanium case and two sizes with the signature Digital Crown that offers haptic feedback. It also has an always-on display, which can come in handy while working out so you can easily glance over to check on your stats, like heart rate, to know if you need to ramp up or slow down to stay within your target zone.
The Watch 3 comes in two sizes as well, and in stainless steel only, though a titanium version is supposed to launch later this year in just the 45 mm size. Said to be 14% thinner, 8% smaller, and 15% lighter than the original Galaxy Watch, which launched in 2017, it also has a physical rotating bezel unlike the Galaxy Watch Active, introduced in 2019, that only has touch operation.
Both watches let you customize the look with different clock faces. But the Galaxy Watch 3 adds a really unique feature that points, again, to its focus on fashion: take a photo of your clothing and it will generate a background that matches the outfit in color and pattern so the Watch becomes a part of your whole look.
The Apple Watch comes in a number of color options, including gold, space grey, silver aluminum, stainless steel, and space black with an infinite number of interchangeable bands in all styles, colors, and materials. It's presumed that there will be interchangeable bands for the Watch 3 from both Samsung and third-party companies. The watch itself comes in new finishes called mystic black and mystic silver for the 45mm version (the titanium option will only come in black) and mystic bronze or mystic silver for the 41mm.
There are also interesting new watch faces, like weather reports with live animation and the ability to cycle through different watch faces throughout the day. Samsung says it has the largest selection of watch faces through its open platform, citing 80,000+ choices. The Apple Watch has tons of cool watch face options as well, of course, from Disney themed ones to funky digital looks.
Both offer access to apps for on-device access to things like streaming music, weather, navigation, shopping, and more, but Apple Watch has always been the clear leader when it comes to app integration. So, if apps are your thing, the Apple Watch is tops in this department.
Where both of these smartwatches fall short is in battery life: the Apple Watch is only rated for about 18 hours per charge, not even a full day! Meanwhile, the Watch 3 is one day for the 41mm version and up to two days for the 45mm which is better, but still not impressive.
However, the Galaxy Watch 3 does include Wireless PowerShare, a neat feature that lets you leverage a compatible smartphone to recharge the Watch by simply placing it on top. Given this, it's easy to boost the watch's battery while you're seated on the commute home, for example, or at your desk for an hour, by using your phone.
Both can also work seamlessly in water, whether you're going for a swim, washing dishes, having a shower, or skiing on the mountains. They offer the same water-resistant rating that makes it safe to use them in up to 50 meters of water.
Both have an LTE option, which is useful if you want to be able to respond to messages right from your wrist or stream music without having your phone present.
Usually, the obvious choice for iPhone owners would be the Apple Watch Series 5. And for Android device owners, the Galaxy Watch 3 is the only one of the options you can get anyway. But the Galaxy Watch 3 offers some truly compelling features that make it both rival and surpass the Apple Watch Series 5.
While both are on pretty equal ground when it comes to things like fitness tracking, notifications, heart rate, fall detection, LTE options, and design, there are a number of features that stand out for the Watch 3.
The cool feature that lets you customize the look to your clothing is something anyone who is serious about fashion will appreciate. The ability to play back your workouts on the TV while controlling it from the watch is genius and so convenient – if you've ever tried to follow a workout from the tiny screen on your wrist, you'll know what I mean! And sleep tracking is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable pieces of insight you can get from a smartwatch, so the Watch 3's robust sleep tracking is a win.
Both devices are pretty expensive so you're making a big investment either way. If you own an iPhone, the Apple Watch is still the best option to match the device perfectly and work seamlessly within the Apple ecosystem. But keep in mind the upgrades from the Apple Watch Series 4 are minimal so if price is your issue, consider that one as an alternative to save a few bucks.
If the Apple Watch design is not for you, and you're really keen on features like sleep tracking and wearing something that will match all of your outfits, regardless of how dressy, the Galaxy Watch 3 is a viable alternative for iPhone owners.
For Android owners, The Galaxy Watch 3 is the only one to consider between the two. It's also a perfect rival to the Apple Watch as a smart companion that will work not only seamlessly with your Galaxy smartphone for features like Wireless Powershare (with compatible devices), but also your compatible Samsung TV for displaying workouts on the big screen.
Is it worth the price versus the original 2017 Galaxy Watch? It does look nicer, is thinner, smaller, and lighter, and adds new features. And three years is pretty ancient in tech time so it's worth it. That said, if you're really into fitness, you might still be just fine with the 2019 model Watch Active 2 which focuses more on the fitness function and less on style. It doesn't, however, have sleep tracking nor a physical rotating bezel.
Android's best friend
A step up
While the Galaxy Watch 3 is arguably styled more like a smartwatch with some useful fitness features versus a fitness watch with some smart features, it has everything you'd want in an activity tracker, including the ability to track all kinds of workouts, heart rate, GPS, music storage, LTE connectivity option, sleep tracking, and fall detection. And it all comes in a sleek and stylish design that you can further customize to your look.
Apple's best friend
Stick with what you know
The Apple Watch Series 5 remains the best option for iPhone users. It offers seamless connectivity with the device as well as services like Apple Music, access to all of your favorite apps on your wrist, LTE connectivity as an option, and a whopping 32GB of storage for all of your favorite playlists and podcasts. Plus, you get handy features like ECG, fall detection, and the Siri voice assistant. The only reason to steer away from the Apple Watch is if you don't like its physical look.
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