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.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 is now available, and no, you didn’t miss out on the Galaxy Watch 2—for whatever reason, Samsung decided that its two Galaxy Watch Active models would suffice. Despite the two-year gap, the Galaxy Watch3 is largely an iterative upgrade, combining some welcome design tweaks with a feature boost that puts it on par with Apple’s latest hardware, even if the software ecosystem still lags behind. Nonetheless, if you have an Android phone, this is one of your best wearable companion options, albeit at a premium price.
Design and Display: A classic silhouette, turned digital
The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 looks more like a traditional, analog timepiece than most modern smartwatches, just like its predecessors. Unlike the Apple Watch, which still looks like a shrunken, hyper-minimal iPhone screen on your wrist, the chunky bezel, distinctive lugs, and large side buttons here give the impression of a classic watch, even though the digital face can obviously be customized.
The Galaxy Watch3 is available in two sizes: 41mm and 45mm, as opposed to 42mm and 46mm on the original Galaxy Watch. Samsung took advantage of the opportunity to slim down the bulky original even further than the slightly smaller marks suggest. The case is slimmer, and the lugs and bezel are also a little less chunky. It’s not a huge change, but it helps the Galaxy Watch3 feel lighter: the 45mm model has lost nearly 10 grams, while the larger Watch3 model has dropped to 53.8 grams. Surprisingly, the 41mm Watch3 is nearly identical in weight to its predecessor of comparable size.
The Galaxy Watch3’s rotating bezel is still the most distinguishing feature, and it’s a very clever way to navigate the watch’s menus. Sure, you can swipe to access widgets and features, but having the ability to quickly rotate the dial left or right—with a satisfying click for each step along the way—makes a lot of sense and becomes second nature after a while.
The 360×360 circular display measures 1.4 inches on the 45mm model and 1.2 inches on the 41mm model, and is crisp, clear, and bright. You can choose between an always-on display mode, which keeps the watch face on the screen but dims it when your wrist is down, and a screen that turns off when your wrist isn’t raised. The latter uses far less battery, but the always-on display gives the impression of a traditional timepiece.
The 45mm Mystic Silver model we ordered came with a thin leather strap, but other variations come with a variety of sport bands. If you want to get creative, you can use most standard 20mm bands on the 41mm Galaxy Watch3 and 22mm bands on the 45mm Galaxy Watch3. It’s not like Apple’s proprietary band system.
Samsung also offers the 45mm model in Mystic Black, as well as Mystic Silver and Mystic Bronze for the 41mm model. There’s also a titanium 45mm Mystic Black edition, which is more expensive. Every watch model comes with a more expensive version that includes standalone LTE connectivity. While swimming, the Galaxy Watch3 is water-resistant up to 50 meters. It also has an IP68 water and dust resistance rating, which is similar to that of most modern smartphones.
It makes a lot of sense to be able to quickly rotate the dial left or right to navigate through the interface, with a satisfying click for each step along the way.
Setup Process: You have options
The Galaxy Watch3 can be used with either an Android phone or an iPhone, though the latter option has limitations due to the iOS platform’s nature. In either case, you’ll use the Galaxy Wearable app from the Play Store or App Store, which guides you through the process of pairing the watch with your phone (via a numeric code displayed on the screen) and selecting settings and options as you go.
The Galaxy Watch3 can be set up without a smartphone as well, though the standard, non-LTE version of the device will only work properly when connected to a Wi-Fi network.
Performance: Feels responsive
The Galaxy Watch3 is powered by Samsung’s own Exynos 9110 processor, and despite having less RAM (1GB vs. 1.5GB) than the original model, it feels solidly responsive in use. Even if the experience isn’t quite as snappy or smooth as the Apple Watch Series 6 interface, flipping through menus feels light and apps open in a beat or two. Still, it doesn’t feel sluggish, and it performs as well as a high-end smartwatch should.
The Galaxy Watch3’s rotating bezel is still the most distinguishing feature, and it’s a very clever way to navigate the watch’s menus.
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Battery: Two days, typically
With the 45mm Galaxy Watch3’s smaller frame comes a noticeably smaller battery pack, at 340mAh instead of 472mAh. The watch, unsurprisingly, does not feel as tough as its 46mm predecessor.
With the always-on display turned on, it’s rated for two days, and that’s what I saw most of the time. That’s starting in the morning on day one, continuing through the night for sleep tracking, and ending on day two. You might have enough battery left to track sleep for another night, but it depends on how hard you use the watch during the day. Heavy GPS usage for fitness tracking will deplete your battery quickly, and you may find yourself reaching for the charger after just one day.
I saw five or six days of uptime on a charge when testing the original Galaxy Watch last year with the always-on display turned off. Given the lower capacity this time around, I’d expect the Galaxy Watch3 to last three or four days without the always-on display. Still, I’d rather have the screen on and deal with the charging schedule every other day.
Software and Key Features: Capable, but not complete
The Galaxy Watch3 covers all the essentials of a smartwatch, from phone notifications to activity and fitness tracking, communication, and more. It’s useful for sending alerts and notifications to your wrist instead of reaching for your phone with every buzz or beep, and you can respond to messages and take calls directly from the watch screen. You can also make calls and send texts without pairing your smartphone with the LTE edition of the watch.
The Galaxy Watch3 is well-equipped for fitness tracking and health monitoring, with the ability to track runs, walks, cycling, swimming, and more. Thanks to the GPS, it automatically prompts me to track when I’m 10 minutes into a long walk. Despite the fact that the Galaxy Watch3 is lighter and slimmer than the original model, it’s still not the smartwatch I’d choose to wear during intense workouts. Although it can track fitness, the Apple Watch Series 6, Fitbit Sense, and Apple Watch SE are all more appealing in terms of size and fit. Even Samsung’s own Galaxy Watch Active2 is more fitness-oriented.
When it comes to health monitoring, Samsung’s smartwatch has a similar feature set to the Apple Watch Series 6, including a blood oxygen test, heart rate monitor, and fall detection feature that alerts authorities if it detects a large drop. It also has the previously mentioned sleep tracking feature, which keeps track of your activity while you wear the watch at night and then gives you a sleep quality score in the morning.
It costs $70-80 more than the original Galaxy Watch, depending on size, but the extra cost isn’t reflected in the final product.
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Regrettably, the recently FDA-approved electrocardiogram (ECG) feature for detecting potential heart irregularities—which first appeared on the Apple Watch Series 4 a few years ago—is only available if you pair the Galaxy Watch3 with a Samsung Galaxy phone. The phone’s other features are compatible with other Android phones, but not that one key feature. That’s inconvenient, perplexing, and hasn’t been communicated to customers clearly. It must be addressed immediately.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 runs on the Tizen operating system, which is supported by Samsung, rather than Android, and has a unique interface thanks to the rotating bezel. However, rather than using Google’s established Wear OS, Samsung built its own wearable app ecosystem from the ground up, resulting in a limited selection of major apps for the Galaxy Watch3.
This hasn’t changed much since the original Watch was released, and in addition to Google’s own apps, many other popular apps from other platforms aren’t available. Furthermore, Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant can be sluggish and unreliable in its responses. Although the hardware is impressive and appealing, the software ecosystem has yet to catch up. Also, the Galaxy Watch3 has only 8GB of storage (about half of which is used by system software), compared to 32GB on the Apple Watch Series 6, which means there’s a lot less room for music storage and offline use.
On the plus side, Samsung’s ecosystem supports a diverse range of third-party watch faces. There’s a lot of stuff out there, and finding the truly unique and well-made faces can take a long time. Nonetheless, I’ve discovered and purchased a few unique faces that I adore and that are unlike anything on the watch or on a competitor’s watch. Apple’s on-device face selection is better and more customizable, but you can’t add anything from other creators.
Despite the fact that the Galaxy Watch3 is lighter and slimmer than the original, it’s still not the smartwatch I’d prefer to wear during serious workouts.
Price: Why the price bump?
Samsung has matched Apple Watch Series 6 pricing (), with the base 41mm model costing $400 and the 45mm model costing $430 for the non-LTE edition. On the surface, this makes sense because these are both high-quality devices. When you look at the direct comparison, however, the Apple Watch’s software and functionality do a better job of justifying the price. It’s also $70-80 more expensive than the original Galaxy Watch, depending on size, but the extra cost isn’t reflected in the final product.
Samsung Galaxy Watch3 vs. Apple Watch Series 6
These are two of the most powerful smartwatches on the market today, both reasonably priced and with impressively refined hardware. They’re very different in terms of design: the Apple Watch retains its rounded rectangle look with few added flourishes, whereas the bulkier Galaxy Watch3 resembles a traditional watch. I prefer the Apple Watch approach because it feels more versatile as a daily watch, fitness watch, or something you’d dress up with a nice band, whereas the Galaxy Watch3’s aesthetic is more fixed and unchangeable.
Aside from that, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a little smoother and faster to use, and it has a much larger ecosystem of apps and services to choose from. You can use the Galaxy Watch3 with iPhones, but you can’t reply to iMessage notes, and other functionality isn’t as seamless and built-in as it is with the Apple Watch. For iPhone users, an Apple Watch is a much better option, but it does not work with Android phones.
The Final Word
The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 is a premium smartwatch with traditional wristwatch styling and a unique navigation approach. It’s slimmer than the previous model, but it loses some battery life—one of the original Galaxy Watch’s best features. With the software ecosystem not progressing much in the last couple of years, Samsung’s smartwatch proposition appears to have lost some of its luster, especially at the higher price point of $400 or more. However, if you have an Android phone and want a traditional look with modern, digital flourishes, it’s great hardware.