For months I've waited for the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, anticipating the moment I'd revolve my finger around its physical bezel as if I were making a wine glass sing. That fan-favorite mechanism — the embellishing bow on a slimmed down, $399 lifestyle wearable — is proving every bit as satisfying as I'd hoped now that it arrived on my wrist.
And, now that the watch's ECG sensor has the FDA's blessing, and its SpO2, VO2 Max readings are live in the U.S., we're also optimistic that the blood pressure readings could be enabled soon.
This Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review in progress shows off other ways in which the new contender stacks up against the best smartwatches, as well as the category-leading Apple Watch Series 5. Here's what we think so far.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 price and availability
Starting price: $399
Display: 1.2 inches/1.4 inches
Colors: Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic White
Size: 41 x 42.5 x 11.3 mm/45 x 46.2 x 11.1 mm
Battery: 247 mAh / 340 mAh
Durability: 5ATM + IP68
OS: Tizen 5.5
Features: HRM, SpO2, VO2 Max, ECG, blood pressure monitoring
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 went on sale on August 6. Those interested in picking the new smartwatch will have a few sizes and variations to choose from.
The starting Galaxy Watch 3 price of $399 will get you the 41mm model in either Mystic Silver or Mystic Bronze. (The latter option is Samsung’s current signature color, matching the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Buds Live).
The larger, 45mm model starts at $429 and comes in Mystic Black or Mystic Silver. It’s offered in a titanium variant as well, though that will come at a premium. And if you want your Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 with LTE so it can make phone calls and respond to messages when your smartphone is out of Bluetooth range, expect to add $50 to the base price.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 design
The bezel is back, baby. When we tested the mechanism during our original Samsung Galaxy Watch review, we found the physical bezel useful and fun. Spinning the dial worked well with both side buttons and offered a great alternative to swiping or trying to poke at the circular display with our finger.
The bezel holds up a second time around, but feels even better because Samsung slimmed down the Galaxy Watch 3. It’s 8% smaller, 14% thinner and 15% lighter than the first Galaxy Watch. The 1.7-ounce, 41mm Mystic Bronze model I'm testing still looks chunky compared to my Apple Watch, but the trade-off is that it looks more like a traditional watch than high-tech one.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 comes with genuine leather straps that match the casing’s color and contribute a more elevated aesthetic compared to the fitness-focused Samsung Galaxy Watch 2. I already know I wouldn't keep the leather bands on for working out, but can be swapped for sportier ones at any time.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 display and watch faces
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3’s 360 x 360-pixel screen is sharp, bright and always-on, but that's not what caught my interest in the first hours.
I'll admit, Apple Watch complications stress me out. I feel forced to use a combination of five different faces at once to see everything I could need throughout the day, and even then I wish there were more options. Enter the Galaxy Watch 3 with 80,000 different watch-faces and 40 complications from which to choose.
I still need to figure out which combination of design and data brings me comfort on the Galaxy Watch 3, but I'm already sold on the weather-centric backgrounds. I can't explain why I never check the forecast before leaving the house, so if seeing rain animations on wrist doesn't help, nothing will.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 fitness and health features
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 can track 40 total activities, and seven can be tracked automatically, meaning you won’t always have to select what kind of exercise you’re doing beforehand. It has a running coach for insights on stride and on-demand VO2 Max readings, which went live as of August 12.
Instead I squeezed in a brisk dog walk soon after I strapped on the Galaxy Watch 3. The on-board GPS measured my daily course accurately enough (it's roughly 1.2 miles, depending how many times my black lab wants to go in circles), but I plan to spend more time workout tracking before coming to any inclusions about how the Watch 3 fares against the best fitness trackers.
I plan to take the Galaxy Watch 3 to bed, too. For its sleep tracking, Samsung partnered with the National Sleep Institute to provide Galaxy Watch 3 wearers with insight on their REM cycle, plus a morning report on quality of sleep and tips on how to improve sleep.
The SpO2 sensor may be able to inform additional sleep data, but, similar to VO2 Max monitoring, blood oxygen monitoring didn't work at launch. It's live now, and we'll spend more time testing it in coming days.
Still, no matter where you are, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3’s trip detection sensors will call emergency services on your behalf when it senses you took a hard and sudden fall. Apple Watch has had this feature for a few years, so it's good to see Samsung catching up.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 ECG readings
It's confirmed: The Galaxy Watch 3 has a FDA-approved ECG monitor, meaning the new smartwatch will be able to detect signs of atrial fibrillation just like the Apple Watch.
If you followed along with Samsung Unpacked, you might have missed this morsel of news — Samsung snuck it in before announcing the show-stopping Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, as if the FDA gave its green light just moments before.
While the Apple Watch’s FDA-approved ECG sensor is old news (it debuted with the Apple Watch Series 4), Samsung has been slow to get its version approved, first earning clearance for the technology on the Galaxy Watch Active 2 in South Korea.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 apps and storage
Samsung's Tizen OS has a more limited library of third-party selections than the native Apple Watch App Store, but there are enough major programs like Uber and Spotify at your disposal.
And, with the Galaxy Watch 3’s 8GB of music storage, you can save tunes for offline play black with a Spotify Premium subscription. I'm not using an LTE model, so I look forward to having a few of my playlists available when I leave my phone at home for bike rides. I appreciate this feature about my Apple Watch 5, which has a larger 16GB storage capacity, although I haven't come close to needing that much music saved.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 battery life
Where the new Galaxy Watch seems to fall short of the previous model is battery life. Unlike the 4-day stamina of the original Galaxy Watch, the Galaxy Watch 3 is rated for 2 days. That’s fair for smartwatch standards (the Apple Watch 5 only gets 18 hours) and likely contributes to the slimmed-down design.
We'll need to spend more time toying with display and workout settings to see whether the Galaxy Watch 3 lives up to Samsung's battery estimates. I enabled the always-on display setting, similar to that of the Apple Watch 5.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 outlook
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is entering an increasingly crowded wearable market. There are plenty of stylish smartwatches and excellent fitness trackers to choose from these days, but if Samsung can strike the right balance between the two, it could have a winner on its hands. Or, should we say, on our wrists.
We’ll flesh out this full Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review soon to see how its features and functions stack up in everyday applications, and we’ll look at it again when the Apple Watch 6 arrives in the fall. Until then, check out our Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Apple Watch 5 face-off if you're in need of more pointed buying advice.