Galaxy Watch 3 just got a big upgrade to fight Apple Watch 6 — but there’s a catch

(Image credit: Samsung)

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 can now administer electrocardiograms to detect signs of atrial fibrillation. But there's a catch — only Galaxy Watch users with Galaxy smartphones are able to use the new ECG app.

While Samsung's wearable products are compatible with iPhones through the Samsung Galaxy Watch app, only those Galaxy Watches tied to Galaxy smartphones, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, can take ECG readings on their wrist.

On the one hand, most Galaxy Watch users are likely Galaxy smartphone users, so the ECG exclusivity might not be a big deal. But if you're in the smaller camp of Galaxy Watch users with iPhones, like me, this is a letdown.

I was excited when Samsung shared the news of FDA-clearance at its Galaxy Watch 3 launch event back in August. The breakthrough sounded exactly like what Samsung needed to keep up with the likes of Fitbit and Apple in the smartwatch market this year.

ECG readings can save lives by clueing you into potential heart problems. It's just too bad I can't test out this key feature on my iPhone. Ironically, I happened to return a Note 20 Ultra review unit earlier this week.

Do I hold this against Samsung? Absolutely not. In our Apple Watch 6 vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 face-off, I explained how both companies blatantly cater to their respective smartphone users. Although iPhone owners can set up and use and a Galaxy Watch (the same can't be said vice versa,) there are simply more perks that come with using a Galaxy Watch and Galaxy phone together.

If you're looking for a smartwatch with an FDA-approved ECG reader that should work with Android phones and iPhones — not just one or the other — you might want to consider the Fitbit Sense instead of the Apple Watch 6 or Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. Fitbit's all-new premium offering has a number of intriguing health and fitness features, including the ability to track your stress.

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. 

  • Kavika
    Tom's should really cover the consumer backlash. It's not just Apple phone owners who can't use ECG, it's also Android users.

    The Samsung forums are swamped with livid Active 2 and Watch 3 owners who feel they were promised features they are not going to get. Samsung still has not publicly stated that compatibility with non-Samsung Android devices will not be forthcoming (or will be?); consumers are finding out for themselves. Active 2 owners are particularly upset because they have had to wait a year for ECG. To top it off, Samsung continues to keep owners in the dark about the missing blood pressure feature the Galaxy 3 was said to have.

    Forum threads are clambering for lawsuits to be brought against the tech giant. Could they have a point? Samsung is the only maker of a mobile device to be put on the no-fly list because it kept catching fire in flight. It took class actions and legal banning to stop manufacturing the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. And Samsung's last CEO, Lee Sang-hoon, is in prison on corruption charges. So, perhaps Samsung only responds to the threat of law.