Apple Watch Series 5 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

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Apple Watch Series 5 vs Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
With the release of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, you may be wondering how it compares to last year's Apple Watch Series 5. Both have variants for $399, so which one would be the better smartwatch for you? I spent some time using both smartwatches and below are my impressions, to hopefully help you decide on your next purchase.

Look and feel

Samsung's Galaxy Watch 3 features a premium glass and metal build that closely resembles a traditional luxury watch. It's visibly not the thinnest smartwatch out there, but it's far from thick, at about 11mm in depth. It feels light too, our 41mm review unit weighs just over 48 grams. The genuine leather wristband on the Galaxy Watch 3 also feels sturdy and high end, and its standard watch band locking mechanism securely has it fit around even the smallest of wrists.

The Galaxy Watch 3 comes in three colors – Mystic Black, Mystic Silver and Mystic Bronze. Its available sizes to pick from are either 45mm or 41mm. It also comes in two connectivity variants – one with just Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS, and a more expensive one that also adds LTE connectivity.

For interacting with the watch – it has a rotating bezel, which is a joy to use, in addition to the buttons on its right side. Those are a "Back" button and a "Power / Home" button. Of course, its display is also a touch screen.

The Apple Watch also sports a premium glass and (recycled) aluminium build. It's additionally available in stainless steel, ceramic and titanium builds. It doesn't go for the looks of a standard watch, as it's square-shaped. Its default rubber wristband is much clunkier to put on than the more traditional wristband on the Galaxy Watch 3, plus it expectedly looks and feels less premium. There are, however, a huge variety of first and third-party wristbands that you can replace the default one with (at additional cost).

The little crown on the right side of the Apple Watch, which is also a button, equates to the rotating bezel on the Galaxy Watch 3. It too mostly handles scrolling through the interface, although, of course, the display is also a touch screen. The crown on the Apple Watch is a bit more effortless to use than the Galaxy Watch 3's rotating bezel, and with a single finger. In addition, the Apple Watch too has a second side button just below the crown, which can be used for seeing your recently used apps or triggering an SOS emergency call.


The Galaxy Watch 3's OLED screen is round, nice and vivid, and the Gorilla Glass on top of it does well to hide fingerprints. When seen up close, it appears to be a bit less sharp than the Apple Watch's display, although that's a nit pick most users likely won't notice or care about.

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The Galaxy Watch 3 supports always-on display, but it's disabled by default. If turned on, the display will just dim a bit instead of shutting off when not needed. This, of course, takes a toll on the Galaxy Watch 3's already unimpressive battery life.

The Apple Watch Series 5 sports an OLED Retina screen, and always-on display is literally always on. Again the screen will dim when not needed, keeping your watch face visible at all times, and the smartwatch will use variable screen refresh rate to save up on battery life, where possible. It too is covered by glass, and doesn't show fingerprints. Like the Galaxy Watch 3's display, it's colorful and can get very bright, so it's fine to use even in sunlight.


The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 runs on the company's own Tizen operating system. It has its own app store, but not a lot of apps, and some of the ones I tried were laggy and unpolished. Among the more notable available apps on this smartwatch include Bixby, Spotify, Samsung Pay, Microsoft Outlook, Uber and Samsung's emailing app. The company's internet browser app is also available on the Galaxy Watch 3, and can be used as a novel way to browse the internet, and even watch YouTube.

The Apple Watch doesn't allow for such freedom, although you can open certain websites through Siri. Ultimately, the Tizen operating system on the Galaxy Watch 3 is much less polished and attractive than what we have on the Apple Watch, and is generally a bit more jittery and prone to lagging. It does run sufficiently, though.

The Apple Watch runs on the Cupertino company's watchOS and it's always buttery smooth. The interface is beautiful and features highly polished transitions and animations, thanks to which the experience of using it is more pleasant than what the Galaxy Watch 3 offers. There are also a larger number of apps from notable developers and publishers, such as more than one training apps from both Adidas and Nike. The popular Evernote note-taking app, Things 3, and many other polished yoga, mediation and productivity ones are also on watchOS.

Both smartwatches have cellular / LTE versions that can make and answer phone calls without the need of a smartphone. And both support the use of their respective smart assistants – Samsung's Bixby or Apple's Siri, which can be asked to perform tasks or answer questions hands-free. This, in turn, also means that both the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 pack a speaker and a microphone. And while the speakers on both sound tinny, the one on the Apple Watch can get much louder. As for their microphones – they're both good enough for taking phone calls or recording nice and clear voice memos.

Both smartwatches also have customizable watch faces, allowing you to choose which complications will be showing on them. Complications can include heart rate, a calendar, alarm, music controls and more. Both watches also have equally good-looking premade watch faces, but the Apple Watch will not let you set your own image as a wallpaper, while the Galaxy Watch 3 will. On the Apple Watch, however, complications can be more elaborate, for example the Activity one is basically a widget with a graph.

It's worth mentioning that the Galaxy Watch 3 has 8GB of on-board storage, while the Apple Watch Series 5 comes with 32GB, for more photos, music, podcasts and whatever else you may want to have on it (even when your phone is not around).

Both smartwatches have fall detection functionality, which when set up, can contact the local emergency services if the user trips and falls. The Galaxy Watch 3 only has fall detection during intense activity and not if the user has fallen after sitting still. The Apple Watch has a more fleshed out fall detection, as it will also check if the user has been immobile since the fall, after which it will automatically call the emergency services and sound an alarm, so the user can be found.

In addition, both smartwatches can also enable the use of a shortcut, that will send an emergency SOS signal to chosen contacts or the local emergency services. This is especially handy to have set up in case of dangerous situations, where the user may not have an opportunity to take out their smartphone and manually send an SOS signal.

Fitness and activity tracking

Both the Galaxy Watch 3 and Apple Watch Series 5 feature heart rate monitoring and activity tracking for all common training exercises, from walking and running to yoga and swimming. Because yes, both are also water resistant to 50 meters.

In the unlikely scenario where you need to track an activity that isn't already listed, on the Galaxy Watch 3 you can pick general activity tracking, while on the Apple Watch you can select "Other" in the Workout selection menu.

Since both smartwatches also have built-in GPS, they can track your walking or running distance or navigate you to a location. The Galaxy Watch 3 also includes sleep tracking, while the Apple Watch still does not, although it's coming in future software updates.

It's worth mentioning that the Galaxy Watch 3 also has a SpO2 sensor, which can be used for measuring blood oxygen saturation, as well as an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor, although those are currently not enabled, and it's unknown when they'll be put to use. The Apple Watch Series 5 has an ECG sensor already enabled.

Battery life and charging

The Galaxy Watch 3 has a day's worth of battery life, which is quite disappointing. With always-on display off – maybe two full days. As for charging, it comes with a magnetic charger that easily clips on its back, although the watch is also Qi certified for wireless charging. For the cool factor, I tried reverse charging it on the Samsung Galaxy S20+ (via PowerShare) and it works okay.

The Apple Watch Series 5 lasts me well up to two days, and it gets props for having always-on display all the time. Plus, Siri is listening for a wake command each time you raise your wrist, which is a convenience that likely also takes a toll on the battery life. And even with all that, the battery life lasts well into a second day. Like the Galaxy Watch 3, the Apple Watch charges with a magnetic clip-on charger, and it too can charge wirelessly with compatible Qi chargers.

When they're being charged with their respective clip-on chargers, both smartwatches need about two hours to reach 100%.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or the Apple Watch Series 5?

If you're currently using an iPhone or a Samsung phone, you're already one step closer to the obvious better choice for yourself. The Apple Watch doesn't work on Android phones, and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3's functionality on iPhones is limited.

If you want the perfect iPhone companion that runs smoothly and everything on it is fluid and pleasant, you should go with the Apple Watch. It's minimalist in design and immediately recognizable as a status symbol. Its battery life is also reasonably stronger than it is on Samsung's smartwatch.

However, if you want a great smartwatch for your Android phone, especially if it's a Samsung one – you may want to go with the Galaxy Watch 3. Its traditional luxury watch design is highly attractive and the rotating bezel on it is a great way to navigate through its menus.

Lastly, if you just want a fitness tracker – although both will do you just fine, you may be interested in our best fitness trackers list for cheaper alternatives.

Specs comparison

1.8 inches
1.4 inches
59.89 %
30.42 %
Peak brightness
1000 cd/m2 (nit)
Pressure-sensitive, Scratch-resistant glass, Ambient light sensor
Scratch-resistant glass, Ambient light sensor
System chip
Apple S5
Samsung Exynos 9110 (10 nm)
Dual-core, 64-bit
Dual-core, 1150 MHz, ARM Cortex-A53, 64-bit
Mali-T720 MP1
Internal storage
32GB, not expandable
8GB, not expandable
watchOS (9.x, 8.x, 7.x, 6.1, 6.x)
296 mAh
340 mAh
1.73 x 1.50 x 0.42 inches (44 x 38 x 10.74 mm)
1.82 x 1.77 x 0.44 inches (46.2 x 45 x 11.1 mm)
1.29 oz (36.5 g)
the average is 5.6 oz (161 g)
1.90 oz (53.8 g)
the average is 5.6 oz (161 g)
Water, Dust; IP68; MIL-STD-810 certified

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