Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs Apple Watch Series 6: Which should you buy?
Here's how two of our favorite smartwatches compare
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If you're in the market for a new phone and a new smartwatch, there are no better watches than the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and the Apple Watch Series 6. They're both excellent options that both offer all-day battery life as well as excellent health and fitness tracking. Not to mention the Galaxy Watch 4 has a brand new operating system.
But they're not without some caveats. If you already own an Android or iPhone and are not open to or planning on getting a new phone soon, you're further locked into each respective ecosystem. But if you are open to or want to switch platforms, read on for all the major similarities and differences between the two.
Unlike the previous Galaxy Watches, the Galaxy Watch 4 only works with Android devices, and it works best with a Samsung Galaxy phone. Pairing with a Galaxy device only takes a few minutes, but if you're using a phone like the Google Pixel 5 or another android phone you'll have to download a few Samsung apps to get everything working properly.
If you have an iPhone, you won't be able to use the Galaxy Watch 4 at all, since both devices are locked into their own ecosystems. If you're in the market for a new phone, that might make the switch easier, but if you're not looking to switch over from your current Android phone, the Apple Watch won't be an option for you.
Our pick: Galaxy Watch 4
With the Apple Watch, you can choose either a strictly GPS or a GPS + Cellular model, which adds LTE connectivity (with an accompanying monthly carrier plan). Both options come with 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0.
On the Galaxy Watch 4, you can also pick from a GPS only or GPS + LTE model. Like the Series 6, it also has Bluetooth 5.0 and 5.0Ghz Wi-Fi, so you won't be out of luck if you decide to forgo the LTE option.
Either way, if you pick a model with LTE, you'll have to pay an additional monthly fee to your carrier in most cases—usually about $10/month. You'll get the benefit of being able to get notifications and track your workouts when you leave your phone behind, but it'll cost you.
Our pick: Tie
Health and Fitness Tracking
If you're into tracking your workouts and health data, both the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 are packed with sensors to keep an eye on everything.
The Series 6 has a blood oxygen sensor, an ECG (electrocardiogram) sensor, and an optical heart sensor. The new blood oxygen sensor, which can monitor your levels passively or on-demand, will tell you how much oxygen your blood is absorbing, and may help you pick up on any health issues you may not have otherwise noticed. The new ECG sensor will monitor the rhythm of your heartbeat to check for irregularities, and make sure you know about any it picks up.
The Galaxy Watch 4 measures the same things. There's an ECG sensor, optical heart sensor, and a bioelectrical impedance analysis sensor, which sends a tiny electrical current through your body to check several body composition stats. Most of these will work with any compatible Android phone, but certain features like ECG monitoring will require a Samsung phone.
While the features are fairly similar, though, it's important to note that their actual measurements don't always match. As we noted in our Galaxy Watch 4 review, while the results between the Watch 4 and Apple Watch Series 5 were extremely close, there was usually a bit of variance. This doesn't make one better than the other, though, as neither is perfectly accurate and these measurements are more for tracking trends over time than full-blown diagnostics or analysis.
Our pick: Tie
We find setting timers, starting a workout, or sending a text message with voice control is a lot faster and more convenient than tapping around on a tiny screen to find a specific app.
On the Apple Watch Series 6, you can ask Siri to give you directions to the nearest bike shop, run an automated Shortcut, or send a quick text message. If you opt for a Galaxy Watch 4, you won’t get Google Assistant, despite the watch running Google’s Wear OS.
Instead, you’re stuck with Bixby, which is notably less functional than both Siri and Google Assistant. You can’t summon Google Maps despite the app being installed on the watch, and starting a timer while another is running will kill the first. Given Wear OS’s shallow pool of apps, you’ll also miss out on third-party app commands, like being able to add something to your to-do list app of choices. You can do all that with the Apple Watch Series 6, however.
Our pick: Apple Watch Series 6
Until this year, Samsung's Galaxy Watch line had its own custom Tizen operating system. This year, the Watch 4's OS was replaced with a custom version of Google's Wear OS with Samsung features built right in. Along with the promises of better battery life, Wear OS brought along with it Google's whole store full of apps for smartwatches.
While it's not a huge library of apps, there are some good options, including Google Maps, Accuweather, and Spotify, but there aren't many options outside of the big players. It's not a huge deal if you know which apps you'll be sticking to, but you may not have much room for experimentation down the road.
You won't have such woes with the Series 6. While it packs the same staples as Google's Play Store (Spotify, Google Maps, Strava), there's plenty of other options, too. If you want an app to gather all the nitty-gritty details of your sleep patterns, there's the robust AutoSleep. For heavy cyclists, Cyclemeter offers privacy-focused tracking that rivals Strava. You can grab an app to track your teeth brushing, manage your to-do lists, or dictate a note or two while you're on the go.
Our pick: Apple Watch Series 6
The biggest difference you'll notice between the Watch 4 and the Series 6 will probably be their displays. While the Series 6 rocks a rounded-off square display, Samsung equipped the Watch 4 with a nicely rounded display and a touch-bezel (or a physical dial if you opt for the pricier Watch 4 Classic).
The 44mm Galaxy Watch 4 has a 1.4 inch Super AMOLED display (a type of OLED display with faster refresh rates) with a resolution of 450x450, while the 40mm model packs a slightly smaller 1.2-inch display with a 396x396 resolution.
The Apple Watch Series 6 has the same 44mm and 40mm options, though its OLED display is square-shaped. In practice, that won't make much of a difference, though, and both can display plenty of information on-screen. The 44mm model has a resolution of 368x448, with the 40mm model's display coming in at 324x394.
Both models come with always-on displays that'll keep the time on your screen as long as you're wearing your watch.
Despite the Galaxy Watch 4’s slightly higher resolution, there’s not a clear winner here. Both screens look bright and vibrant, even in direct sunlight, and both the Galaxy Watch’s circular display and the Series 6’s square display present plenty of information on the screen without feeling cramped.
Our pick: Tie
If you're in the market for a new phone and smartwatch and price is a big factor, you should snag a Galaxy Watch 4. It starts at $250 for the 40mm model and goes up to $330 for the 44mm model. The 44mm model only seems to be available with cellular, but the entry-level 40mm option is GPS and Wi-Fi only, so you'll have to tack on an extra $50 to that model if you want to stay connected. The Watch 4 Classic, which adds a physical bezel for interactions, starts at $350 for the 42mm model and goes up to $380 for the 46mm model.
The Apple Watch is a bit pricier. The 40mm model starts at $400 for a Wi-Fi-only model and goes up to $500 to add cellular. If you want the 44mm model, you'll have to shell out $430 for GPS only, or $530 for the inclusion of cellular.
As we mentioned above, though, that's all before incorporating any monthly plans associated with the cellular models, so be mindful of that when making your choice.
Our pick: Galaxy Watch 4
And the winner is…
There’s a reason we ranked the Apple Watch Series 6 the best smartwatch in our guide. Its always-on display is bright, vibrant, and works well even outside on a brightly lit day. It also excels at fitness and health tracking, between automated sessions and personally selected workouts. Unfortunately, it only works with iPhones, which may limit your options a bit.
While it's an older model, iPhone users who wanted a more affordable smartwatch can still grab a Galaxy Watch 3, which is iOS compatible—though we'd probably still point Apple folks to the Apple Watch SE instead. In any case, that's not possible for the Galaxy Watch 4, so if you want the latest and greatest for your iPhone you'll need to stay within the Apple garden.
If you're already locked into an ecosystem, the differences between Samsung and Apple's flagship smartwatches aren't drastic enough to warrant a full migration. Whichever watch works with your phone will offer plenty of health and fitness tracking, while providing all-day battery life and handy notifications.
That said, while Galaxy Watch 4 comes out slightly ahead in factors like greater screen resolution and lower price, the Apple Watch Series 6 is still the top watch, ecosystems aside. It's just as good at health and workout logging, and you'll have way more apps to choose from than Google's offerings.