Apple Watch Series 5 vs Galaxy Watch Active 2: Which one is for you?

Apple Watch Series 5 vs Galaxy Watch Active 2: Which one is for you?
The battle for the wearables market is one primarily lead between Apple and Samsung, vastly different margins notwithstanding. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 and the Apple Watch Series 5 are the two companies' most recent wristwear releases, and both are very interesting and deserving of your attention in their own right, but they are also very different.

The Apple Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 are arguably the best smartwatches you can buy right now, with features and long-term software support factored in, but they look and feel nothing alike, and are very distinctive to use and interact with. That said, they are both direct competitors fighting for a share of the same pie, and if you're in the market for a smartwatch right now, you'll most likely be considering between the Apple Watch Series 5 and Galaxy Watch Active 2, statistically speaking.

So, with that out of the way, let's see how the Apple Watch Series 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 compare to one another!

Design and display – round vs square

The Apple Watch Series 5 and the Galaxy Watch Active 2 are polar opposites in terms of design – the Apple Watch has a rectangular display, while Samsung's offering is round and much more akin to traditional watches in appearance. We know that both camps have their own arguments for choosing one design over the other, but we'd like to share our thoughts on this as well. The rectangular screen of the Apple Watch is perfectly suited to displaying a graphical user interface and short snippets of information. The round Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a bit less screen real estate, but Samsung has done a great job of designing its Tizen UI around the physical shape and dimensions of the screen.

As far as displays go, both use OLED panels. The Apple Watch, however, has an LTPO (Low-Temperature Polycrystalline Oxid) display driver, which can adjust the display's resolution and refresh rate on the fly to be much more energy-efficient than the previous models. This has allowed Apple to make the Watch Series 5 always-on and deliver the same 18 hours of battery life. And when we say always-on, we mean that the display on the Series 5 never turns off, just dims.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 uses an AMOLED panel—a staple for Samsung wearable devices and phones—which is capable of delivering amazing maximum and minimum brightness, as well as excellent colors and sharpness, despite its small size. It doesn't have an LTPO driver, though you have the choice between leaving it always-on or not, and battery life is great on this thing – we've managed to get up to two days on a single charge on our units (with the always-on display turned off, that is).

Other than that, both the Apple Watch Series 5 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 have interchangeable bands, so you can really make them your own. The Active 2 takes 20mm bands (on both the 40mm and 44mm models), while the Series 5 takes 22mm and 24mm bands on the 40mm and 44mm models, respectively. 

Health and fitness tracking features – the real difference

Both the Galaxy Watch Active 2 and the Apple Watch Series 5 cover all the bases when it comes to health and fitness tracking. Both can adequately measure your heart rate and automatically track your sporting activities, but that's where the similarities end.

One area where the Apple Watch 5 lags behind the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is in sleep tracking. That's a feature that's become quite popular in wearables over the past couple of years, and for good reasons, as abnormal sleep patterns could be a symptom of various dangerous conditions. The Watch Series 5, however, can't do sleep tracking out of the box, while the Galaxy Watch Active 2 can. Fortunately, this can be easily fixed with a third-party app like SleepWatch.

Despite the lack of native support for sleep tracking on the Apple Watch, it has many tricks up its sleeve that the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is yet to learn. First up, ECG makes a return on the Watch Series 5 from the previous model and it can already be used in the US and other regions. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 can also do ECG readings, but the feature is yet to be enabled on the device, either later this year, or in early 2020.

Furthermore, the Apple Watch Series 5 has a built-in compass and has international emergency calling for the cellular mode, that works even without an iPhone. WatchOS 6 also brings a couple of neat new features that are still in early experimental stages, but they seem very promising can be found only on the Apple Watch. These are the Cycle Tracking app, which gives users the ability to log important information related to their menstrual cycles, and see predicted timing for their next period and fertile windows using the convenience of Apple Watch. The new Noise app helps users understand the ambient sound levels in loud environments such as concerts and sporting events that could negatively impact hearing, and Activity Trends on iPhone provides a long-term view of their activity patterns to help them understand their progress.


And lastly—but not least—we need to go over the pricing of the Apple Watch 5 and the Galaxy Watch Active 2. The 40mm GPS only models will set you back with $399 and $279, respectively. The smaller Active 2 is $120 cheaper than the Watch Series 5, and the same holds true for the bigger models. The 44mm version of the Apple Watch Series 5 starts at $429 for the Bluetooth-only version, while the non-LTE Galaxy Watch Active 2 costs $299. Here's a convenient table with pricing for the different models of both smartwatches:

*US prices for the LTE version of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 are not yet available.



1. jellmoo

Posts: 2588; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

That's a really long way of saying: If you have an iPhone get an Apple Watch, if you have an Android device get a Galaxy Watch.

7. Mike88

Posts: 402; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

Galaxy Watch works on iPhones so if it was better than Apple Watch, it could be an option for iPhone users but it’s not. Series 5 is the same great series 4 added with always on display so it’s the one to get.

9. maherk

Posts: 6877; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

The Galaxy Watch as well as all Android Wear smartwaches have their limitations when used with iOS devices, and that's the way Apple wants it. Still, I agree on the part that the Apple Watch is still the best overall smartwatch on the market.

11. ev0trix

Posts: 21; Member since: Sep 08, 2015

Basically if you have an iPhone and DONT get an Apple watch, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Have to agree they are superior than Wear OS in almost every way (As an android user). Even if you are trying to save money, get the Apple Watch 3.

27. HurricaneAndrew

Posts: 1; Member since: 4 days ago

Well, except that Samsung's watches don't run WearOS, they run Tizen, and are quite capable and a solid overall value.

2. Cat97

Posts: 1892; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

The Series 5 gains a whole lot of ground with the new always-on display, but really, round is just better and less dorkier, albeit Samsung making the Watch Active 2 pretty feminine, just like Apple's watches. These watches look great on women, but not on men. I would try a Garmin Vivoactive 4 instead: more masculine versions available, always-on screen, more sensors (blood oxygen saturation sensor too which can help diagnose sleep apnea, Body Battery and many really useful features even for less active people), no WearOS, 8 days of battery life. Fossil does nice designs too, but they are all plagued by WearOS.

17. oldskool50

Posts: 1548; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

How feminine it looks,depends on color. Look at this unboxing. Doesnt look very feminine. The Rose Gold does and my mate had the same color for her S2 and she loves it.

26. Deadeye37

Posts: 300; Member since: Jan 25, 2011

I have the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle and love how it looks. Wear OS actually works great on this watch. I have the Huawei Watch 2 & Moto 360, so I've been on Wear OS for a while. Google has silently been tweaking it and its at a point design wise that it works great at what its designed for - getting info at a quick glance with minimal input. My gripe over the years is that it was never smooth and glitched a lot. With the Gen 5 watch having more memory, this seems to be fixed. Things are snappy and functions behave like they're supposed to. You still have to charge it nightly if you have pretty much every feature turned on, but I think that's par for the course with electronics. However, Google & Qualcomm really need to step up their games to get the Wear OS ecosystem to be more exciting.

3. Vancetastic

Posts: 1314; Member since: May 17, 2017

I'd pick the Apple watch. Alas, I wouldn't be able to use it.

4. peschiera

Posts: 21; Member since: Sep 17, 2017

It would be great not to repeat Apple's distraction means! A user does not care whether Apple Watch uses an LTPO display driver. Just because Sammy does not give its driver a name, it does not mean that they don't have one. You write about Galaxy "It doesn't have an LTPO driver," Of course it does not have one because it uses its own technology! As a customer I don't buy a display driver, but battery life. So you should say straightforward: Apple's watch has a battery life of 18 hours and Galaxy of 2 days. Such simple facts tell the true story and do not distract from missing functioality. You could also have mentioned a very important feature on Galaxy: the virtual rotating bezel which makes it much easier to use than Apple Watch.

13. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2362; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

Technically it's 45 hours for the 44 mm version and 24 hours for the 40 mm version according to Samsung. Also, the author is mistaken. According to the research I have found, the Series 4 had an LPTO display. What is different this year is either it's a lower power version of LPTO or they combined it with some software/processor technology to make it even more efficient.

5. tedkord

Posts: 17357; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Neither. I'll stick with my Gear S3 Frontier.

6. drunkenjay

Posts: 1671; Member since: Feb 11, 2013

after using the apple watch 4 and currently using the gear s4 i can say that the apple watch blows the samsung watch away in terms of how versatile it is. the only plus side i had one the s4 was the battery life.

28. Hyundella

Posts: 8; Member since: Jan 29, 2017

why lie? there is no such thing as gear s4. it has never existed. so what you've written isn't true.

29. reallys

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 04, 2017

Is this what Apple fans have to stop too now. The Gear you're using never existed :-)

8. darkkjedii

Posts: 31041; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Unless the Active 2 has a loud speaker, I’d take the Series 5 over it. Sleep tracking means absolutely nothing to me. I put my watch on the charger at night. Round vs square really isn’t an issue, but watches are very nice looking, but the Series 5 has ECG, fall detection, and a loud speaker. It’s more of a smart watch vs a dedicated fitness tracker.

10. maherk

Posts: 6877; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

To be honest, I always complained about the square design of the Apple Watch, but I kinda dig it now. The huge bezel was a turn off for me, but since they shrunk that and increased the screen size, I kinda liked it a lot more. And also, the square design gives it a unique look in a crowded market that is full of circular smartwatches.

25. darkkjedii

Posts: 31041; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

100% agreed. It does have its own unique look to it.

12. Slowpoke

Posts: 23; Member since: Sep 30, 2015

I'm impressed by the thoughtful comments so I will be brave enough to ask... I have Apple Watch series 3 and do a lot of hiking and biking so the GPS tracking is the big draw for me. How well does the Active record your activities and map them? I do like the round shape of the Active, although I am at the age of reading glasses so more screen area is a somewhat of a plus.

14. iushnt

Posts: 3105; Member since: Feb 06, 2013

“you'll most likely be considering between the Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch Active 2, statistically speaking” So both watch seem to be made by Apple by this simple typo.

15. oldskool50

Posts: 1548; Member since: Mar 29, 2019

The biggest advantage of the Galaxy Watch is it works on both iOS and Android. And as expected, it may have limited features on iOS, it still is an advantage. The price is the other benefit and it likely last longer too. Of it still has internal stirsgez then you. An put some tunes on it and use your wireless headphones with it. That's another feature Apple Watch doesn't have and if you have the cellular models, you can stream spotify directly with the device. Both have the same con of having a screen that is too small for anything beyond fitness tracking and other simple tasks. iOS has the app advantage, but both have pretty much equality in the types of apps people use on them. The problem with Samsung is I dont think theybadvertuae their watches enough for it to be considered seriously. Physically the Galaxy looks more striking because it mimic the style of a real dressy watch. While the Apple Watch just looks bland with any clothing. The Galaxy Watch looks better on chicks too. My mate has both a S2 sport and classy rose gold model and she liked them. The Apple Watch is simply too over price for something that for both companies have limited capabilities. Samaung has the. Better product in many more ways, but their customers arent about fluff, they need to see a need for it. Because no one needs a smartwatch. Samsung needs to sell the fact that a wearable tech gadget is a small less intrusive way to keep tabs on the things that matter to you and allow you to see important things in a less intrusive manner. Like in meetings, or even maybe at a classy dinner. The Galaxy actually looks more fashionable, but that shouldn't be its selling point. Its tech that blends right into your daily routine without flare.

16. gadgetpower

Posts: 166; Member since: Aug 23, 2019

When you are going to buy a smartwatch then buy apple watch if you want galaxy watch then buy samsung flagship phone, its free. But in the end, apple watch is the best.

18. Charlie2k

Posts: 130; Member since: Jan 11, 2016

Apple uses the buzzword LPTO and all journalists go crazy. Still Garmin Venu has more than double the battery life - with true always-on screen. Not that ultra-dimmed low hertz always-on that Apple provides.

19. Deadeye

Posts: 66; Member since: Jul 26, 2019

Galaxy Watch Active 2: Nicer, circular design Better battery life A virtual rotating bezel makes it much more easy to use Better price Works both in iOS and Android

20. DENiSart

Posts: 1; Member since: 4 days ago

Watch 5 will be better. To each his own. Some like Android, others like iOS.

21. wickedwilly

Posts: 694; Member since: Sep 19, 2018

The Galaxy watch is the better of the two, round is better, battery life longer, superior interface, especially with the intuitive dial and importantly (missed in the review) better watch face selection. Not to forget the far better value. Saying that as a man i still think the S3 is th best smartwatch for men.

22. Deadeye

Posts: 66; Member since: Jul 26, 2019

Or Galaxy Watch

23. ryugathewolf87

Posts: 32; Member since: Oct 07, 2018

The Galaxy Active 2 watch is better in all camps and matters than the Apple Watch 5, recognize that. Tizen OS is not Wear OS.

30. reallys

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 04, 2017

Sooo, you left out the innovative bezel. Was this deliberate, our just lazy research, mmmm?

31. bobbyboy

Posts: 1; Member since: 3 days ago

Nobody has mentioned the Apple Watch “Digital Crown”. As an engineer I can guarantee that the amount of wear and tear that this will take over time with regular use guarantees it will either break and fall off or become sticky and unresponsive. If you look on YouTube you will see “fixes” for these situations which are already beginning to arise. In contrast the no moving parts associated with the Samsung digital bezel and its much greater circumference guarantees robustness as well as smoother and finer selection

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