Samsung just took the wraps off its latest smartwatch, the Tizen OS-based Galaxy Watch. This isn't Samsung's first trip to the rodeo; the company has been making smartwatches for years. But now that the Apple Watch is selling like hotcakes and fitness-focused companies like Fitbit and Garmin are releasing full-fledged smartwatches, Samsung is redoubling its efforts to entice Galaxy buyers to accessorize.
Going hands-on with the Galaxy Watch makes it clear that Samsung's newest watch is a worthy rival for Apple. The LTE model undercuts the cellular Apple Watch on price while offering many of the same features, including new health tools. But it falls short in a few areas, including apps, which have always been a weakness on Android-compatible smartwatches.
Read on for the full breakdown of which smartwatch is worth your money, and stay tuned for our full review of the Galaxy Watch.
|Galaxy Watch ||Apple Watch Series 3 GPS|
|Size ||42mm, 46mm||38mm, 42mm|
|Display Size||Circular Super AMOLED (360 x 360)||Square OLED Retina (272 x 340 for 38mm, 312 x 390 for 42mm)|
|Colors||Midnight Black, Rose Gold (42mm); Silver (46mm)||Silver, Gold, Space Gray (both sizes)|
|OS||Tizen OS 4.0||watchOS 4|
|Music Storage?||Yes, with offline Spotify playlist support||Yes, with offline Apple Music playlist support|
|Heart Rate Monitor||Yes||Yes|
|Mobile Payments||Samsung Pay||Apple Pay|
|LTE?||LTE connectivity available in a more expensive version ($380-$400)||LTE connectivity available in the LTE Series 3, which is $399-$429|
|Other Fitness Features||Heart rate-based stress-management tool||Guided breathing exercises, Apple Heart Study|
Unlike Fitbit, which is trying to undercut the Apple Watch on price, Samsung priced its Galaxy Watch to compete head to head. Samsung's past smartwatches fell squarely in the $275-$350 range, depending on features, and the Galaxy Watch is no different. The 42mm Bluetooth model is $330, and the 46mm version is $350.
The Apple Watch is $329 for the 38mm Series 3 and $359 for the 42mm version.
The 42mm LTE Galaxy Watch will cost $379, and the 46mm model will cost $399, at least through T-Mobile, which is the first carrier to have announced pricing. The watch will also be available on Sprint, Verizon and AT&T. The LTE Apple Watch Series 3 is $399 for the 38mm version, and the 42mm model is $429.
Samsung and Apple have taken drastically different approaches to smartwatch design, with Samsung favoring the classic circular style of a traditional timepiece and Apple fully leaning into the smartphone-on-your-wrist aesthetic.
Credit: Samsung The Apple Watch skews small, with 38mm and 42mm models. The smallest Galaxy Watch is 42mm, though because it's a round device, it doesn't feel much larger than the Apple Watch. The largest Galaxy Watch is a sizeable 46mm.
Both watches come in three shades, though Samsung restricts the 46mm to silver, with black and rose gold available only in the 42mm version. Both Series 3 models come in silver, space gray and gold.
For navigation, both watches use buttons to complement their touch screens. The Apple Watch has a Digital Crown, which you press to view your app screen and turn to scroll down a page. A side button beneath it calls up your dock of most-used apps. The Galaxy Watch sports a rotating bezel for scrolling, a unique design decision carried over from past generations of Samsung smartwatches. A button on the top right of the watch case is a back key, and beneath it is a home key for returning to the main screen.
For those who prefer their smartwatches to look more like watches, the Galaxy Watch is the hands-down winner. But clearly the Apple Watch's looks haven't deterred its sales; people don't seem to mind that the watch is a slightly rounded square.
Apple has been working to perfect its optical heart-rate sensor and algorithms in each generation of Apple Watch. And last year, the company launched a feature that alerts you when your heart rate has spiked outside of a workout. That's why you read so many stories about people whose Apple Watches have saved their lives and none about Samsung's watches doing that.
But the Galaxy Watch offers new health features from past Samsung smartwatches, including a stress-management feature that detects when your heart rate is high and guides you through breathing exercises to bring that rate down. Fitbit has a similar feature, called Relax, and the Apple Watch has a related tool called Breathe.
The Galaxy Watch also automatically tracks six types of workouts, and it measures heart rate data even when you haven't launched a workout mode. This watch is also swim-proof and packs in GPS and GLONASS for more-accurate tracking of runs and bike rides.
The Apple Watch offers all of those features, plus the aforementioned heart-rate alerts and motivational features. These include activity-sharing and badges that you'll get when you achieve a new goal or hit a new streak of consecutive workouts.
Samsung is trying to catch up to Apple, but it looks like the Apple Watch is still setting the bar for health-tracking smartwatches.
Samsung promises that the Galaxy Watch can last days on a charge, but we haven't been able to put that claim to the test. It's also unclear how cellular connectivity will affect battery life. The LTE Apple Watch Series 3 struggles to stay alive through a full 8-hour workday without a phone nearby. The Bluetooth model easily coasts through 18 hours, sometimes longer without heavy usage.
Credit: SamsungWe do know that Samsung put beefy batteries (for a smartwatch) in its new devices. The 42mm has a 270-mAh battery, and the 46mm version packs in a 472-mAh battery. Apple doesn't disclose the size of its batteries.
The Galaxy Watch works with both iOS and Android phones, though owners of Samsung's Galaxy phones will get more out of Galaxy Watches thanks to the watches' tighter integration with the Samsung and Android ecosystem.
Credit: SamsungThe Apple Watch works only with iPhones, so Samsung wins on cross-platform compatibility.
Samsung has stuck with the Tizen operating system for its smartwatch lineup rather than defaulting to Wear OS. And that might be to the company's advantage in many respects, such as performance and integration with Galaxy smartphones. But Samsung has struggled to gain app support for its watches, and many popular apps were missing from the platform.
It seems like Samsung has won over apps like Strava, which was noticeably missing when we reviewed Samsung's Gear Sport last year but has prime placement on the Galaxy Watch website. It remains to be seen if the Galaxy Watch can attract as many high-quality apps as the Apple Watch has. Samsung says its smartwatch has more than 10,000 apps, but the company includes watch faces in that count. Apple's watchOS App Store also has more than 10,000 apps, but those are actually apps.
Samsung has some work to do to challenge Apple for smartwatch supremacy. For iPhone users, the Apple Watch is the obvious choice, given that device's tight integration with the iPhone. Wear OS and Samsung Galaxy watches are compatible with iOS, but you don't get the same seamless experience as you do with an Apple Watch. (You can't pair the Apple Watch to an Android phone, so that's a moot point.)
Credit: Tom's Guide