Samsung Galaxy Watch v Gear S3: Smartwatch face-off

Samsung Galaxy Watch v Gear S3: Smartwatch face-off
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It may have taken a while longer than we anticipated, but a new Samsung flagship smartwatch has finally arrived.

After fans were given the Gear Sport last year as a stop-gap, the Galaxy Watch – the first to align itself, in name, with the rest of Samsung’s wares – now takes over the mantle from the Gear S3. And it brings a considerable amount of change, with an emphasis on standalone connectivity and a renewed design.

Verdict: Samsung Galaxy Watch review | Samsung Gear S3 review

But is all that different from its predecessor? It’s a question many potential buyers will be asking themselves over the next few months, and we’re here to help.

Below, we compare the two devices on design, features and price in order to give you a better idea of which is worth your investment. Any questions? Fire them into the comments section below.

Samsung Galaxy Watch v Gear S3: Design

At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Galaxy Watch only offers an incremental design tweak over the Gear S3. But, in reality, things have changed enough on this front to warrant your attention.

Sure, it’s not as radical as pivoting to a rectangular face, like the Apple Watch, but with Samsung’s circular, rotating bezel something that continues to impress in the looks department, this isn’t a negative. In the flesh, the Galaxy Watch is really an amalgamation of the two versions of its predecessor, the Gear S3 Frontier and Gear S3 Classic. That means it manages to remain robust-looking while also appealing to the more luxury end of the smartwatch scale – no easy task, of course.

Guide: Pick the best Samsung smartwatch for you

But though the Galaxy Watch doesn’t offer two versions of itself in name, like the S3, it very much does on the spec sheet. Users will have the choice between a 42mm device and a more hulking 46mm, the latter of which is the same size as the old flagship. The 42mm device features a 1.2-inch, 360 x 360 Super AMOLED display, weighing 49g and officially clock in at 41.9 x 45.7 x 12.7mm. Again, that’s slightly different to the 46 x 49 x 13mm, 63g version of the Galaxy Watch, which also packs a 1.3-inch screen of the same 360 x 360 resolution.

That’s a stark difference between the new models, with the 46mm only coming in a silver variant and the 42mm – one which we expect will appeal far more to those with smaller wrists – available in rose gold and black. Even if you do have smaller wrists, though, it’s important to be aware that the larger Galaxy Watch pulls off the heft slightly more convincingly than the Gear S3, despite the older pair officially offering the same size and weight, as well as the same screen specs.

Samsung Galaxy Watch v Gear S3: Which smartwatch is the best?

(The Gear S3, above, shares the same rotating bezel as the Galaxy Watch)

Following on from the Gear Sport, the Galaxy Watch also has the edge when it comes to waterproofing – a feature which missed out on the Gear S3. Users will be able to take both variants of the smartwatch under the water up to 50 metres, while Gear S3 owners are only afforded water submersion of up to 1.5 metres for 30 minutes and protection from splashes.

This gives Galaxy Watch owners the edge in the pool, though, generally, the sensors under the face are the same throughout each smartwatch. Both have versions that offer LTE/4G connectivity, while all have built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, barometer and gyro for activity tracking and NFC for contactless payments (though MST payment support is only available through the S3).

The differences are only small on paper, but both sizes of the Galaxy Watch have the edge over the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic. In truth, after the jump from the Gear S2, the S3 gave us a bulky design that never truly sat right with us. After improving things through the Gear Sport last year, Samsung’s new flagship goes a step further – providing a neat option for both small and big wrists with all the functionality and more from the watches that have come before it.

Samsung Galaxy Watch v Gear S3: Features

Samsung Galaxy Watch v Gear S3: Which smartwatch is the best?

Design is more down to personal preference, but the feature sets of each device can’t be disputed, and it’s often where these battles are won and lost.

Since the Galaxy Watch is two years older, you’d expect it to have the edge – and it does. The company has made a concerted effort to make its latest smartwatch a truly standalone operation, and that’s made possible by two things: LTE/4G to let you make and take calls, receive notifications and stay connected without your iOS or Android device nearby, and a vastly improved battery life which can run for up to seven days.

Essential reading: Using a Samsung smartwatch with an iPhone

With the Gear S3 Frontier featuring LTE, it’s the battery life which is the key difference here. The 46mm version of the Galaxy Watch can run for a week based on light usage, while the 42mm model will muster up around 4 days, again in low usage. When you factor in GPS, the 46mm Watch should give you 24 hours of continuous GPS battery life and the 42mm Watch serves up around 18 hours.

As we say, this is greatly improved from the Gear S3. It was no slouch, letting you eke out around three days, but things have now progressed to the point far beyond the dark ages of nightly charging.

Add this to the refreshed (though not revamped) Tizen 4.0, and the Galaxy Watch begins to extend its advantage. Samsung’s UI is now even more friendly to navigate through, and it holds improvements to both health and activity tracking.

Samsung Galaxy Watch v Gear S3: Which smartwatch is the best?

(Left, Galaxy Watch 46mm; right, Galaxy Watch 42mm)

This includes better integrated sleep tracking – something Apple itself doesn’t yet offer – to give you insights into your four sleep cycles and total rest, as well as mindfulness features. The on-board heart monitor will continuously take heart rate variability measurements, in order to provide a simplified stress score, with guided breathing modes following on from that to help you relax. It’s nothing too flashy in the wider smartwatch context, but it is new to Samsung smartwatches.

Speaking of new, the Galaxy Watch also debuts a flood of new exercise modes. A total of 39 are available in total, with 21 of those being fresh indoor workouts – it’s up from the 12 modes that featured on the Gear Sport and even less on the S3. All are available through the Health app on the wrist, and, just like the former flagship, automatic exercise detection is in tow.

However, this is slightly more advanced through the new exercise modes, with the Galaxy Watch able to detect if a user is switching between the likes of press-ups, yoga and running in real-time. A total of six different workouts can be automatically chained together in one wider workout.

Something that sees no real advancement is the music streaming, though this is no bad thing. Samsung continues to be the only major wearable vendor with a dedicated Spotify app, and LTE/4G owners of both the Galaxy Watch and Gear S3 are able to listen on the go and download playlists straight to the watch for offline listening.

It’s a similar story with apps, too. There’s nothing significant available through the Galaxy Watch that you won’t find on the Gear S3, but Tizen’s store has seen steady improvement through the generations and we expect it to continue to provide more and more worthwhile standalone apps for you to take a swing at.

So, like with its design, the Galaxy Watch manages to build on what the Gear S3 set up and refine the key aspects. Battery life is a huge factor, and the wellness and exercise improvements help it not only best its predecessor, but also its current rivals in the space. This isn’t to say the Gear S3 isn’t a worthwhile or feature-packed watch within its own right (users prioritising music and solid apps, for example, will still find it very appealing), but it’s without question that the Galaxy Watch wins out in this area.

Samsung Galaxy Watch v Gear S3: Price

With the Galaxy Watch the new kid on the block, it’s only natural that its price point is set to become higher than the two-year-old Gear S3. However, the difference isn’t as great as you might imagine – for now.

The 42mm Galaxy Watch will be available for $329.99, while the 46mm version will cost $349.99 when it launches on 24 August (or 6 September, if you’re in the UK). And while we don’t yet have details regarding the LTE/4G version of each variant, with this set to arrive later in 2018, expect it to edge more towards the $400 mark.

If that’s too much for you to take, you can still pick up the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic through Samsung and other retailers for $299.99, with the LTE Frontier still priced at $399.99. Since the Galaxy Watch isn’t yet out, we’re yet to see the true price drop on the old generation. As we drift into Black Friday and the holiday season, though, expect some big discounts for you to take advantage of.

Verdict

The Samsung Gear S3 is still a very respectable smartwatch, despite its age, but it does struggle to match up against the more advanced Galaxy Watch in both design and the features available.

Everything that made the old flagship noteworthy – its battery life, connectivity, music streaming and rotating bezel – have all been built upon or maintained, while the new smaller edition, wellness features and exercise smarts help cement the Galaxy Watch as the go-to Samsung smartwatch. And we expect its position to strengthen further once we’ve had the chance to put the accuracy of its features to the test, something which the Gear S3 didn’t exactly ace in our full review.

The differences may not be enough to make this an automatic upgrade for every S3 owner, but those looking to pick between the two will get a richer experience through the latest generation. If you’re not convinced, and the Gear S3 has more than enough functionality for your needs, keep an eye on the price – it’s sure to lower over the course of the year.


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