Excellent fitness tracking
This is a comfortable smartwatch that has a lot to offer. Pair with an Android phone, and you can take calls or send messages from your wrist; you can also opt for an LTE model to take it solo. There’s support for contactless payments with Samsung Pay, excellent fitness tracking, and you’ll find plenty of customization options. The new headline features are all health related, but availability is limited by market, and sadly blood pressure monitoring and the ECG are not working in the US, yet. Once they're live, though, it will be hard to recommend anything else for Android users.
About the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
While you've got some options when it comes to the exterior, the inside of every Galaxy Watch 3 is the same:
- Display: Circular Super AMOLED Full Color Always On Display (1.2 inches for the 41mm, 1.4 inches for the 45mm, both are 360 x 360 pixels)
- Processor: Exynos 9110 Dual core 1.15GHz processor
- Navigation: A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou
- Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Barometer, Ambient light sensor
- Water resistance: Up to 50 meters (5ATM and IP68)
- Audio: Microphone and speaker
- Battery: 340mAh (45mm) and 247mAh (41mm)
- Storage: 8GB of storage
- Extras: Samsung Pay
Samsung is offering a few different models of the Galaxy Watch 3. It comes in 41mm or 45mm sizes, with a stainless-steel case, and a leather band. There’s also a special edition of the larger size that boasts a titanium body and comes with a matching titanium bracelet.
The 41mm size comes in Mystic Bronze or Mystic Silver and starts from $399, while the 45mm model comes in Mystic Black or Mystic Silver and starts from $429 for the Bluetooth model. Add $50 if you want the LTE version of either size, and you’ll need to pay a monthly service fee, ranging between $15-20 per month, depending on the carrier.
The titanium 45mm model, which is Bluetooth only and comes in Mystic Black, costs $599.99.
The LTE models can connect directly to the internet, even if your phone isn’t around, but along with the monthly fee comes a hit to the battery life.
What We Like
My review unit is the 41mm Mystic Silver with a black, padded, leather band neatly stitched in white. With a shiny, stainless-steel body and sloping lugs that reach out to meet the leather band, this is a classic watch design that looks and feels luxurious. Given the choice I would go for the larger 45mm size, but I like the way the 41mm watch looks and it will suit slender wrists nicely.
On the watch's right-hand side, you’ll find two buttons. The top button is slightly larger and has Galaxy Watch etched into it in tiny letters; it serves as a back button. The lower button opens your app drawer by default and there’s a curved protrusion between the buttons to help balance the design and reduce the risk of accidental button presses.
The Super AMOLED display is faultless. Sharp, bright enough to read in direct sunlight, and very responsive. The physical rotating bezel sits atop it, with seconds numbered around the inside; it offers an easy way to bring the screen to life and to navigate accurately through home screens and menus. Perhaps the best thing about the rotating bezel is that it dramatically reduces your need to swipe on the screen which cuts down the risk of unsightly smears. I prefer to have the display set to always-on, but you can squeeze more battery life if you turn this feature off.
I found the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 extremely comfortable to wear and it goes with most outfits. I like the leather band, but you may have to invest in one of the sport bands if you work out a lot. Ultimately, this smartwatch looks at home whether you’re in the office, out for dinner and drinks, or at the gym.
Impressive health features
Headline health features that elevate the Galaxy Watch 3 above its predecessors are the ECG capability, which can potentially detect atrial fibrillation, and the blood pressure monitor function. Sadly, neither of these features works outside of South Korea at the time of testing, though the ECG has apparently received FDA clearance in the US. Samsung will likely unlock the ECG feature with a software update, which would bring this in line with the Apple Watch Series 5 and the new Series 6. If Samsung can get the blood pressure function cleared, this will be the first mainstream smartwatch to offer cuffless blood pressure monitoring.
What the Galaxy Watch 3 does offer right now is fall detection, which can be turned on via the Galaxy Wear app. This will trigger a message to your emergency contact if it detects a hard fall. You can also measure your blood oxygen levels with the Galaxy Watch 3, but I had some trouble getting this to work; it took several attempts to get a reading. The pulse oximeter only works when you tap to measure, so it can’t take automatic readings at night, for example, when it might have been useful for detecting sleep apnea.
Sleep tracking is solid, with reports showing your REM cycle, deep, and light sleep periods, which seemed accurate for me. I appreciated the insights on my sleep quality. Samsung also partnered with the National Sleep Institute to provide useful tips on how to sleep better.
Fitness tracking runs deep
Everything that made the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 a great fitness tracking device is present and correct in the Galaxy Watch 3. It’s quick and easy to set goals for daily activity, with a heart system that challenges you to hit three targets each day. The first side is filled by burning calories, the second by completing exercises, and the third by moving around at least once every hour. Complete all three to draw the heart and get your badge for the day.
You can delve into the detail via the Samsung Health app on your phone. It tracks your steps, flights of stairs climbed, active time, workouts, sleep, heart rate, stress level, and shows your blood oxygen level readings. Further options enable you to manually track food, water, or caffeine intake, and your weight, blood glucose level, blood pressure, and menstrual cycle.
With support for 40 different activities, you can track exercise easily with the Galaxy Watch 3. Walking, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, elliptical workouts, and dynamic workouts can be tracked automatically, while activities like weight training and indoor cycling must be started manually. I find the automatic tracking quite useful for walking and running, though it doesn’t always kick in when it should.
Just like the Active 2, the Galaxy Watch 3 has built in coaching. If you do crunches, for example, it counts off the reps and assigns a rest period between sets. The running coach goes further by tracking steps per minute and pace, displaying information intermittently, and automatically pausing when you do. There are also gentle reminders to get up when you’ve been sitting for too long; it will even suggest breathing exercises to help you calm down if it detects your stress level rising.
To go along with your fitness regime, there’s the option to pair Bluetooth headphones and play music from your Galaxy Watch 3, which has 8 GB of storage. It also has GPS onboard and can track runs and cycles fairly accurately. For fitness tracking, this is one of the best smartwatches around, I just wish Samsung would get the full range of promised health features working.
Solid battery life
On average, during my time with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, I’ve had to charge it up every couple of days, and that’s with the display set to always-on. That’s good compared to the Apple Watch or Wear OS smartwatches I’ve tested, but it doesn’t quite live up to the stamina of the original Galaxy Watch. Samsung did shrink the battery here to help it achieve the slimmed-down design.
The Galaxy Watch 3 does support Qi wireless charging, but it didn’t work with any of the wireless chargers I tested. You get a magnetic charger in the box with it, which is what you’ll need to use. It can be charged with a Samsung phone that supports reverse wireless charging, and it also charged with my Galaxy Watch Active 2 charger. Unfortunately, it is slow to charge, taking more than two hours to charge fully from 20 percent. I got into the routine of charging it overnight every second night, though that does mean skipping sleep tracking that night.
What We Don’t Like
The setup, sign in, and updates are a pain
Samsung needs to work on the setup process, because it triggers multiple app installs and updates, then makes you sign into your Samsung account to get certain features working. A few times, I went to use Bixby, for example, and it prompted me to update first. The whole process could be a lot smoother. I switched to using the Galaxy Watch 3 from the Watch Active 2 and I was disappointed to find that some of my settings didn’t follow me; I had to set up things like my preferred workouts and number of sets all over again.
Small apps selection
Tizen OS is great. In fact, it’s better than Wear OS, except for the fact that Google services are absent. Bixby simply isn’t a good replacement for Google Assistant; it frequently misheard me and offered useless suggestions. I also missed Google Maps. There are some big apps, like Spotify and Strava, but far fewer than you’ll find on Wear OS or Watch OS. To make matters worse, many of the third-party apps you can get on the Galaxy Watch 3 are barebones. Thankfully, Samsung does offer a good range of apps itself, and they are highly polished.
Limited iPhone support
If you use an iPhone, do yourself a favor and buy an Apple Watch. Handy features, like the ability to reply to text messages, or use the Galaxy Watch 3 to find your phone, don’t work on iOS. The experience is much better with an Android phone, and better still with a Samsung Android phone, but there’s really nothing the Galaxy Watch 3 can currently do that’s missing from the latest Apple Watch.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, if you're ready to upgrade and don't mind paying top dollar
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is an excellent smartwatch, and if you've got the money, it's well worth the purchase thanks to its gorgeous design, excellent performance, and solid features.
That said, I’m not convinced it’s the best smartwatch currently available for most Android phone owners. I think the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 retains that title, because it offers virtually the same functionality and performance and comes in more than $100 cheaper. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Galaxy Watch 3, and if money was no object, I would pick it over the Watch Active 2, but until Samsung gets the new health features sorted out, you’re paying a large premium for a slightly nicer design and extra storage. It’s also worth noting that many of the health features will come via software updates that should roll out to the Watch Active 2 as well.
If you have the original Galaxy Watch Active or Galaxy Watch (confusingly, there was no Galaxy Watch 2), I think you’ll feel the benefit of this upgrade. Owners of the Watch Active 2 should stick with it. If you can’t live without Google and only have a casual interest in fitness tracking, then look at a Wear OS watch, like the Skagen Falster 3. Real fitness fanatics might want to check out our best fitness trackers guide.
Ultimately, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 gets a lot right and it looks gorgeous. Smartwatches that pair with Android phones simply don’t get better than this at the moment.
Meet the tester
Simon Hill is a freelance technology journalist with a decade of writing experience covering everything from smartphones to smart home gadgets. For the last few years, he served as Associate Editor at Digital Trends where he wrote features, reviews, analysis, how-tos, and more.
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