Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Which smartwatch should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5
(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 has arrived in time to battle the Apple Watch Series 5 before the Apple Watch 6's fall debut. 

Though the Series 5 remains our top pick of the best smartwatches you can buy, Samsung makes a compelling campaign for Apple’s crown with its latest watch.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 ($399) offers a slimmer design, greater music storage and more fitness features than the original, but comes in at the same starting price as the Apple Watch 5. Though the new Galaxy Watch has added features like an FDA-approved ECG monitor and trip detection to narrow the gap with its category-leading competitor, it’s too early to name a clear winner.

We’ll have to conduct a full Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review before revisiting our rankings, but if you’re shopping for a smartwatch now and need help deciding between the Apple Watch 5 vs Galaxy Watch 3, read on for a rundown of how the two stack up on paper.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Specs compared

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy Watch 3Apple Watch Series 5
Starting Price$399.99 (Bluetooth) $449 (Bluetooth + LTE)$399.99 (GPS) $499 (GPS + LTE)
Battery Life2 days18 hours
Size45mm: 45 x 46.2 x 11.1mm / 41mm: 41 x 42.5 x 11.3mm44mm: 44 x 38 x 10.7 mm / 40mm: 40 x 34 x 10.7 mm
ColorsMystic Black, Mystic White, Mystic BronzeGold, Silver, Space Black, Space Gray, White
Case materialsStainless steel, titaniumStainless steel, ceramic, aluminum, titanium
Water resistanceUp to 50 meters (swim-proof)Up to 50 meters (swim-proof)
Music storage8 GB16 GB
Heart rate monitorYesYes
Sleep trackingYesNo, coming soon
Mobile paymentsSamsung PayApple Pay

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Prices

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Apple Watch 5 have the same starting price of $399.99. This gets you either the 41mm model of the stainless steel Galaxy Watch 3 or the 40mm model of the aluminum Apple Watch 5. For the 44mm Apple Watch or larger, 45mm Galaxy Watch 3, you’ll shell out $429. 

Where you’ll run into a significant price difference is LTE connectivity. Samsung asks for an additional $50 on top of the Galaxy Watch 3’s base price for it to work independently from your phone. Apple, meanwhile, sells its LTE models at a $100 premium.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5

Galaxy Watch 3 (Image credit: Evan Blass)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Design

The Apple Watch’s appearance hasn’t changed in five years, which could be why its design comes to mind when most people hear the word "smartwatch." The iconic rounded square still lends a modern look, and has even been copied by competitors.

The Galaxy Watch 3, on the other hand (err, wrist), looks more like a traditional watch. It strikes a balance of being a handy piece of tech and a fashion-forward wrist accessory, complete with a clever navigation bezel. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5

Apple Watch (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

And while the slender Apple Watch has held an edge in comfort, the circular Galaxy Watch 3 eliminates some of the size and bulk of Samsung's original wearable while increasing display real estate.

The Galaxy Watch 3 also comes with elegant, leather-like bands, while the Apple Watch ships with silicone sport bands. You can replace the straps on either device with any Galaxy Watch-compatible band or any of the best Apple Watch bands.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Display

One of the reasons the Apple Watch 5 is the best Apple Watch right now is its always-on display. But it’s neither the first nor the only smartwatch that lets you see the time at a glance. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3’s screen is always-on, too. 

Another display similarity between the Galaxy Watch 3 and Apple Watch 5 are ambient light sensors. These detect how bright your environment is and adjust the display accordingly, so it’s never too dim or too bright.

Both watches sport beautiful OLED touchscreen displays that are easily viewable even in direct sun while outdoors. The Apple Watch’s screen is a little higher-res (448 x 368) than the Galaxy Watch 3’s (360 x 360), but the difference won’t be noticeable.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5

Galaxy Watch 3 (Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Health and fitness features 

The Apple Watch has long been one of the best smartwatches for fitness tracking and health tools. With the Apple Watch Series 4’s FDA-cleared ECG sensor, which is capable of diagnosing atrial fibrillation, Apple raised the bar. 

Samsung answered with an ECG sensor of its own on the Galaxy Watch Active 2, but the readings didn’t receive FDA approval until the Galaxy Watch 3’s reveal. Though the sensor won’t work right away, it will give Samsung’s smartwatch a potentially life-saving capability. The same can be said for trip detection, which is old news for the Apple Watch but a smart feature Samsung finally copied this year.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5

Apple Watch (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Galaxy Watch 3 offers built-in sleep-tracking, while the Apple Watch Series 5 won’t until the watchOS 7 software update goes live in the fall. In the meantime, you can install one of the best Apple Watch sleep tracking apps from third-parties. 

We’ve found the previous Galaxy Watch’s sleep logs aren’t 100% accurate, but we’ll try it again once the Galaxy Watch 3 ships, and compare the results with the Apple Watch’s native sleep tracking app in the coming weeks.

When it comes to fitness, both smartwatches offer a large catalog of preset workouts, as well as automatic workout-tracking for when you forget to select an exercise. But unlike the Apple Watch, the Galaxy Watch 3 also has a SpO2 monitor and a built-in running coach. The Galaxy Watch 3 will be able to provide post-run insights and on-demand VO2 max readings, too, but those features aren’t available at launch.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Apps and music storage

Both the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Apple Watch 5 have app stores for browsing and installing programs that help personalize your wearable. Some are extensions of smartphone apps, while others are unique to a smartwatch’s skillset. Samsung has a more limited library of third-party selections, though.

Still, there are a few big names that support the Galaxy Watch's Tizen OS, like Spotify. With the Galaxy Watch 3’s 8GB of music storage, you can save tunes for offline play black with a Spotify Premium subscription.

You can’t store Spotify music on the Apple Watch, but if you subscribe to Apple Music, you can download and stream playlists there. You’ll also get double the storage, 16GB.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5

Apple Watch (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Battery life

We were a little disappointed that Samsung dropped the original Galaxy Watch’s 4-day battery life down to 2 days for the Galaxy Watch 3, depending on workout tracking and display settings. 

But with its 18-hour cap, the Apple Watch Series 5 has tempered our expectations when it comes to battery life of everyday smartwatches. It’ll be nice to not have to charge the Galaxy Watch 3 every day, and the slimmer form is certainly worth the trade-off. 

Whether the Watch 3 lives up to, surpasses or falls short of those estimates will be determined by hands-on testing. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5

Galaxy Watch 3 (Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Apple Watch 5: Which should you buy?

This Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Apple Watch 5 face-off is different from our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 vs Apple Watch 5 face-off in several ways. Last year, we saw Samsung catching up to Apple in the smartwatch category. But with the Galaxy Watch 3’s FDA-approved ECG sensor, trip detection and 2-day battery life, Samsung hasn't just caught up — it could have the current Apple Watch beat.

Get the Galaxy Watch 3 if you’re an Android user in the market for a smartwatch. In fact, for the same price, I’d also recommend iPhone users consider Samsung’s freshest Apple Watch alternative. 

You could also wait for the Apple Watch 6 to tip the scales when it debuts in the fall. Apple may nudge ahead once again with a surprising new health tool or productivity feature. The next-generation Apple Watch is rumored to get a blood oxygen monitor and longer battery life, preparing it for this year’s ultimate smartwatch showdown against Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.