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.

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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.

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