Samsung versus Apple. A tech rivalry that started out with phones and now it’s a battle waged with smartwatches. The Apple Watch has dominated, but the Samsung Galaxy Watch is always part of the best smartwatch conversation.
The question is, which one is actually the better smartwatch? Which one delivers core features like notifications, dealing with messages and emails and music best? Which one does a better job of keeping you fit and healthy?
As we said, we’ve put in a lot of testing hours with both of these watches to tell you where the strengths and weakness lie for two of the best smartwatches you can buy right now.
Here’s our breakdown of how the impressive Apple Watch Series 6 compares to the equally impressive Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.
Apple Watch Series 6 v Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Price
Both watches are offered at difference prices, so here’s a breakdown of how that pricing compares:
- Apple Watch Series 6 (40mm): From $399
- Apple Watch Series 6 (44mm): From $429
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (41mm): From $399
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (45mm): From $429
GPS and LTE/Cellular
- Apple Watch Series 6: From $499
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: From $439
Those numbers tell us that these two watches are very close in terms of how they’re going to cost you. Going for extra connectivity though will cost more with Apple than it will with Samsung.
Apple Watch Series 6 v Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Design, sizes and models
So, lets address the big thing. One watch is square and the other is round. Samsung did make square smartwatches in the early years of launching smartwatches, but now it’s settled on a round design.
Ultimately though, these are two smartwatches that a built with high quality materials and feel great quality when they’re on. They just sit very differently on the wrist.
With the Apple Watch, you’re getting two case sizes; 44mm and 40mm. You have a touchscreen display, a single physical button and the digital crown as your means of navigating Apple’s watchOS operating system.
The Galaxy Watch 3 comes in 45mm and 41mm case options, so slightly bigger in comparison to both Apple’s size options. Samsung’s smartwatch gives you a touchscreen display too, two physical buttons and its great rotating bezel.
If materials are a big factor for you, the Series 6 comes in aluminium, stainless steel or titanium. The Watch 3 comes in stainless steel and titanium, but the latter is only for the 45mm option. Ultimately, both are built with the kind of materials that make them some of the nicest feeling and best looking watches to wear.
Completing those looks are the bands. Both Samsung and Apple offer interchangeable bands and they are easy to change them on both watches.
These bands have a really important role in elevating the look and making them feel less like tech and more like watches. We’d be inclined to say Apple does a slightly better job on that front.
Its collection is strong and there’s equally strong third party band support there too. Samsung definitely impresses a little more with its dressier options and the same can be said about its third party bands, but we’d say Apple edges things in this department.
Apple Watch Series 6 v Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Screens
Somewhere you don’t make compromises is screen quality. Apple and Samsung make some of the best smartwatch screens out there. Apple’s Retina display offers exceptional sharpness and the way it stretches to the edge of the case gives the Watch that more pleasing look.
Samsung’s AMOLED displays are exceptionally bright, colorful and sharp too. They offer much in the same way for visibility in bright light and you have always-on display options here too that will invariably impact on how much battery life you enjoy.
Another thing we should talk about are the different editions that these smartwatches are available in. Firstly, you are getting Bluetooth and LTE options for both watches with the added connectivity unsurprisingly bringing extra cost.
Along with the standard Apple Watch Series 6 model, there’s also Nike and Hermès editions of the Series 6 that offer different bands and watch faces too.
Samsung has launched a golf edition and an Under Armour edition of its cheaper Galaxy Watch Active 2, but so far hasn’t done the same for the Watch 3. Though we wouldn’t rule out those coming at some point down the line.
If you never want to take your smartwatch off or want to go swimming with it, both watches are water resistant up to 50 metres depth. That makes them safe for swimming and showering. Both offer pool and open water swim tracking too.
Apple Watch Series 6 v Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Smartwatch features
When we’re talking about smartwatch features, we’re talking about things like notification support, smart assistants, apps, payments, changing watch faces and music.
The good news is that these two watches do a good job here. Apple’s watchOS operating system runs the software show and it does it very well. Notifications are handled well, you have a richer app ecosystem than Samsung’s and the on watch experience is great overall.
Samsung relies on its Tizen OS, which brings many of the same features and makes great use of the Galaxy Watch 3’s useful rotating bezel. It’s clean, easy to get around and some desirable features that Apple is lacking. Like Spotify offline playlist support and a great mix of watch faces.
Payment support is level pegged and both offer simple and straightforward ways to pay your way without reaching into your pocket or purse. As for smart assistants, well, we’re not massively convinced by them in general. Though Apple’s Siri is certainly more useful than Samsung’s Bixby, which definitely needs to make some improvements.
Apple Watch Series 6 v Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Sports and fitness tracking
When you’re looking for your smartwatch to get you in shape or just better hold you account for staying active, these two watches make sure they offer plenty on that front.
Whether that’s 24/7 activity tracking, recording your runs and swims and everything in between.
If you’re looking for your smartwatch to behave like a competent fitness tracker, these are two of the best. They’re not perfect, but offer a good all-round experience on the whole. Apple’s Activity Rings has been copied by pretty much other watchmaker out there and that’s because it’s a really nice way to keep track of your progress during the day.
The calls for Apple to add sleep tracking into the mix have been strong and the Series 6 finally brought native sleep tracking. Though it still feels a little bit like it’s a work in progress.
Samsung matches a lot of what Apple can do in the fitness tracking department and in some ways does do it better. You can track steps, distance covered and those other tracking staples. It can also automatically recognize when you go for a walk, which we found works well. You also have a similar Activity Rings-style widget to glance at progress too.
What we like here is that Samsung does a better job of motivating you to move regularly. It will suggest exercises that you don’t necessarily have to get up to do. Samsung has slowly got its sleep monitoring into a better shape, though can offer up some questionable data.
When it’s time for a workout, we’d be inclined to say this is where the Series 6 and the Apple Watch in general does a better job at behaving like a sports watch than Samsung’s. It’s a very reliable running and swimming companion, heart rate accuracy is up there with some of the best we’ve seen on a smartwatch.
You also have the option to pair to an external sensor if you don’t trust the data. You also have richer collection of third party apps if you don’t want to use Apple’s.
The Series 6 offers much of what we saw on the Series 5, which is a good thing. Apple has added an always-on altimeter if you care about monitoring elevation and are a fan of being out in the great outdoors.
Samsung’s sports tracking credentials are solid too, though maybe lacks some of the polish and intuitiveness you’ll find on the Series 6. It offers solid results for swimming and the preloaded workouts are nice additions. For running, we found it was good for short runs, but inaccuracies crept in over longer distances.
The same can be said about heart rate performance and you don’t have the ability to pair up a chest strap monitor to remedy this.
It’s a nice touch to have the advanced running metrics, which are powered by Myotest, who has been working on providing these kind of insights without the need for wearing additional sensors. Those insights though rely on other metrics being reliable, which in our experience isn’t always the case.
Apple Watch Series 6 v Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Health monitoring features
What is abundantly clear with not only Apple and Samsung, is that smartwatches are increasingly becoming more valuable tools for monitoring serious health conditions. Or accessing data that can potentially point to an underlying issue that may have gone undetected.
These features all need the appropriate regulatory approval to be able to do that, which is something both Apple and Samsung have had to do.
Apple has been ramping up the health features on its Watch over the last couple of iterations and it’s a similar story for Samsung too.
With the Series 6, you’re getting an ECG sensor that’s capable of detecting signs you might be suffering from atrial fibrillation. Samsung’s Watch 3 has an ECG too and has made similar promises underpinned by its own research.
Apple’s ECG has been cleared and approved in many counttries since it was introduced in the Apple Watch Series 4. Samsung’s ECG has been approved in the US and Korea, so it’s a little behind in terms of making its sensor available more widely to use.
Something that Samsung has in place that Apple doesn’t currently is its own blood pressure monitoring. It’s a feature that needs to be calibrated with a dedicated blood pressure monitor before you can take readings and is still currently only available in Korea.
Apple does offer support for third party accessories like blood pressure monitors so you can better manage that kind of information in its Apple Health app.
SpO2 is a massively on trend sensor to include in smartwatches and both Apple and Samsung offer you the ability to measure blood oxygen levels. Right now, both are saying these sensors and the measurements are not used to offer serious health insights. Though as we’ve seen from Fitbit and other companies that using the data to explore sleep disorders, we imagine that will change over time.
We should also take some time to talk about the fact that both Apple and Samsung have finally decided to offer women’s health tracking and features through their smartwatch platforms. Now users can track menstrual cycles and Apple supports notifications to tell when your next period or fertile window is coming. Samsung offers similar features on its watch too.
Apple Watch Series 6 v Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Battery life
So let’s talk about battery life and how long these smartwatches are going to keep you away from grabbing that charger again.
Battery life numbers pinned to the Apple Watch Series 6 remain the same as they were when Apple launched the first Apple Watch. It’s 18 hours. Over the years Apple has done a better job in how it retains that battery life, but again, it remains short when you see what Fitbit and others in this space can offer.
For the Galaxy Watch 3, Samsung appeared to keep quiet about talking about how much battery you should expect.
We did know that the battery capacity on both sizes matched the Galaxy Watch Active 2. We found we could get a couple of days and maybe 1.5 days when you factor in using the always-on display mode and using power-sapping features like GPS.
Ultimately, you’re likely to get something very similar in terms of battery performance. The Samsung may well get you a bit more, but it’s not going to be a huge amount more.
Apple Watch Series 6 v Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Which is best?
Choose the Apple Watch Series 6 if…you own an iPhone and features like notifications, app support and health and fitness features are important to you. The overall software experience on the Apple Watch is a bit tighter and more complete than Samsung’s too.
Choose the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 if…you own an Android phone and you want solid core smartwatch features, better battery life than Apple’s and a good-looking round smartwatch you can dress up or keep things sporty.