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Andrew Hayward / Lifewire
Lighter, refined design
Clever rotating bezel
Fitness and health features
Loads of watch faces
Battery life loses a step
Weak software ecosystem
Limited onboard storage
ECG limited to Samsung phones
Samsung’s Galaxy Watch3 is a little slimmer and lighter than before, but skimps on battery life in the process and feels a bit pricey. Still, it’s a very good premium option for Android users.
We purchased the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 so our reviewer could put it to the test it out to its full capabilities. Keep reading for our full product review.
Samsung was one of the first tech giants to produce modern smartwatches before Apple made its big splash, and over the last few years, they’ve settled on a design that marries traditional wristwatch styling with digital smarts. From the Gear S2 Classic through to the Galaxy Watch, Samsung’s premium smartwatch design philosophy centers on a rotating bezel that provides a unique way to navigate the menus, in addition to the familiar touch interface.
Now the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 is here, and no, you didn’t miss the Galaxy Watch 2—for some reason, Samsung decided that its two Galaxy Watch Active variants filled that void. The Galaxy Watch3 is a largely iterative upgrade, despite the two-year gap, pairing some welcome design tweaks with a feature boost that puts it in line with Apple’s own latest hardware, even if the software ecosystem is still lacking in comparison. Still, if you have an Android phone, this is one of your best options for a wearable companion, albeit at a premium price.
Like its predecessors, the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 looks more like a traditional, analog timepiece than most of today’s smartwatches. Unlike the Apple Watch, which still resembles a shrunken, hyper-minimal iPhone screen on your wrist, the chunky bezel, distinctive lugs, and large side buttons here keep the illusion of a classic watch, although you’re obviously free to customize the digital face.
The Galaxy Watch3 comes in 41mm and 45mm sizes, compared to 42mm and 46mm from the original Galaxy Watch. Samsung took the opportunity to trim some fat from the bulky original, even beyond what those slightly smaller marks suggest. The case itself is slimmer, while the lugs and bezel are a bit less chunky as well. It’s not a huge change, but those little tweaks help the Galaxy Watch3 feel lighter: this 45mm model has lost nearly 10g along the way, dropping to 53.8g for the larger Watch3 model. Surprisingly, the 41mm Watch3 weighs nearly the same as its comparably-sized predecessor.
Samsung’s distinctive rotating bezel remains the largest defining element of the Galaxy Watch3, and it’s a really clever way to navigate the watch’s menus. Sure, you can still swipe to access widgets and features, but the ability to rapidly rotate the dial left or right—with a satisfying click for each step along the way—makes a lot of sense and starts to become second nature after you’ve worn the watch for a while.
The 360x360 circular display is crisp, clear, and plenty bright, and comes in at 1.4 inches on the 45mm model or 1.2 inches on the 41mm edition. You can enable an always-on display mode that keeps the watch face on the screen but dims it when your wrist is down, or otherwise opt to have the screen switch off when your wrist isn’t raised. The latter consumes much less battery, but the always-on display better creates the illusion of a standard timepiece.
This particular 45mm Mystic Silver model that we ordered came with a thin leather strap, but other variants are available with a couple of different types of sport bands. You can also use most standard 20mm bands on the 41mm Galaxy Watch3 or 22mm bands with the 45mm Watch3, if you want to dabble in customization. It’s not a proprietary band system like Apple uses.
Samsung also sells the 45mm model in Mystic Black, with the 41mm edition in Mystic Silver and Mystic Bronze. There’s also a pricier titanium 45mm Mystic Black edition. Every variant of the watch is also available in a more expensive version with standalone LTE connectivity. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Watch3 is water-resistant up to 50 meters while swimming. It also carries an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, similar to most major smartphones today.
The ability to rapidly rotate the dial left or right to navigate through the interface—with a satisfying click for each step along the way—makes a lot of sense.
The Galaxy Watch3 can be used either with an Android phone or iPhones, although the latter option comes with limitations due to the nature of Apple’s iOS platform. In either case, you’ll use Galaxy Wearable app available from the Play Store or App Store, which walks you through the process of pairing the watch to your phone (via a displayed numeric code) and choosing from settings and options that appear along the way.
The Galaxy Watch3 can also be set up independently, without a smartphone, although the standard, non-LTE version of the device will only fully function when connected to a Wi-Fi network.
The Galaxy Watch3 uses Samsung’s own Exynos 9110 processor, and while it carries less RAM than the original model (1GB vs. 1.5GB), the device feels solidly responsive in use. Flipping through menus feels breezy and apps open within a beat or two, even if the experience doesn’t feel quite as snappy or smooth as the interface on the Apple Watch Series 6. Still, it doesn’t seem sluggish at all, and it performs as you’d expect from a high-end smartwatch.
Samsung’s distinctive rotating bezel remains the largest defining element of the Galaxy Watch3, and it’s a really clever way to navigate the watch’s menus.
With the smaller frame of the 45mm Galaxy Watch3 comes a noticeably smaller battery pack too, at 340mAh as opposed to 472mAh. Unsurprisingly, the watch doesn’t feel nearly as resilient as its 46mm predecessor.
It’s rated for two days with the always-on display activated, and that’s what I typically saw in usage. That’s from the morning on day one, through the night for sleep tracking, and then finishing at the end of day two. You might have enough of a charge left to do a second night of sleep tracking, but it’ll depend on how hard you push the watch during the day. Heavy GPS usage for fitness tracking will significantly drain your battery, and could even have you reaching for the charger after just a day.
When testing the original Galaxy Watch last year with the always-on display turned off, I would see five or six days of uptime on a charge. Given the lesser capacity this time around, I’d estimate that you’d get three or four days without the always-on display with the Galaxy Watch3. Still, I’d rather have the screen on and deal with the every-other-day charging routine.
The Galaxy Watch3 hits all the smartwatch basics, ranging from notifications from your phone to activity and fitness tracking, communication, and more. It’s handy for sending alerts and notifications to your wrist to save you the hassle of reaching for your phone with every buzz or beep, and you can respond directly to messages from the watch screen and take calls from your wrist. With the LTE edition of the watch, you can also place calls and send texts directly without pairing your smartphone.
In terms of fitness tracking and health monitoring, the Galaxy Watch3 is well-equipped thanks to the ability to track runs, walks, cycling, swimming, and more. I like how it automatically prompts to track when I’m 10 minutes into a long walk, thanks to the GPS. That said, while the Galaxy Watch3 is lighter and slimmer than the original model, it’s still not the smartwatch that I’d prefer to wear during serious workouts. It can track fitness, but the Apple Watch Series 6, Fitbit Sense, and Apple Watch SE are all more appealing in size and fit for that particular purpose. Even Samsung’s own Galaxy Watch Active2 is better suited for fitness usage.
Samsung’s smartwatch also has a similar feature set to the Apple Watch Series 6 when it comes to health monitoring, including a blood oxygen test, heart rate monitor, and fall detection feature for alerting authorities after it senses a large drop. It also has the aforementioned sleep tracking functionality, keeping tabs on your activity as you wear the watch at night and then providing a sleep quality score in the morning.
It’s a $70-80 jump over the original Galaxy Watch, depending on size, but the price bump doesn’t really come through in the end result.
Frustratingly, however, the recently FDA-approved electrocardiogram (ECG) feature for detecting potential heart irregularities—a feature that first appeared on the Apple Watch Series 4 a couple years back—is only usable if you use a Samsung Galaxy phone with the Galaxy Watch3. The rest of the phone’s features are compatible with other Android phones, but not that one significant function. That’s annoying, perplexing, and hasn’t been clearly communicated to consumers. It needs to be addressed, stat.
The Galaxy Watch3 is based on the Samsung-backed Tizen operating system, rather than Android, and has a rather unique interface by virtue of the rotating bezel element. However, creating a wearable app ecosystem from scratch rather than using Google’s established Wear OS, for example, has led to a sparse array of major apps available for the Galaxy Watch3.
This hasn’t really changed much since the original Watch was released, and in addition to Google’s own apps being missing, many other prominent apps on other devices aren’t here. On top of that, Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant can be sluggish and inconsistent in responses. It’s impressive and attractive hardware, but the software ecosystem hasn’t matured to match it. Also, note that the Galaxy Watch3 has just 8GB of storage (with about half used by system software) compared to 32GB on the Apple Watch Series 6, so there’s also a lot less space for saving music and for offline usage.
On the upside, Samsung’s ecosystem allows for third-party watch faces made by a wide array of creators. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and to be honest, finding the really fresh and well-made faces can take a long time. Still, I’ve found and purchased a few unique faces that I love and that aren’t like anything that ships on the watch or that you’ll find on a rival watch. Apple has the better and more customizable selection of on-device faces provided by the manufacturer, but you can’t add anything from other creators.
While the Galaxy Watch3 is lighter and slimmer than the original model, it’s still not the smartwatch that I’d prefer to wear during serious workouts.
At $400 for the base 41mm model and $430 for the 45mm edition, both for the non-LTE edition, Samsung has matched Apple Watch Series 6 pricing. That makes sense on the surface, as these are both high-quality devices. However, when you dig a little deeper into the direct comparison, the Apple Watch’s software and functionality do a better job of justifying the expense. It’s also a $70-80 jump over the original Galaxy Watch, depending on size, but the price bump doesn’t really come through in the end result.
These are two of the big heavy-hitters in the smartwatch space today, both equally priced and sporting impressively refined hardware. Design-wise, they’re very different: the Apple Watch still has the rounded rectangle look with little in the way of added flourishes, while the bulkier Galaxy Watch3 looks more like a traditional watch. I prefer the Apple Watch approach, as the device feels more versatile as an everyday watch, fitness watch, or something you’d dress up with a nice band, while so much of the Galaxy Watch3’s aesthetic is fixed and unchangeable.
Beyond that, the Apple Watch Series 6 feels a little smoother and speedier in usage, and more importantly has a much larger ecosystem of apps and services available. The Galaxy Watch3 can be used with iPhones, but you can’t reply to iMessage notes and other functionality doesn’t feel as harmoniously simple and baked-in as it does with the Apple Watch. An Apple Watch is a much better option for iPhone owners, but it doesn’t work with Android phones.
A stylish and solid smartwatch
The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 is an appealing, premium smartwatch with classic wristwatch styling and a unique approach to navigation. It loses some bulk from the previous edition but also sheds some battery life—one of the best perks of the original Galaxy Watch. And with the software ecosystem not advancing much in the last couple years, it does feel like a bit of the shine has worn off of Samsung’s smartwatch proposition, particularly at the higher price of $400 or more. That said, it’s great hardware if you have an Android phone, and you want that traditional allure paired with modern, digital flourishes.
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