The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3's fan-favorite bezel — the rotating bow on a beautifully-packaged, $399 smartwatch — is every bit as satisfying as it seems.
Though fidget-swiveling is great, life-saving health features like an FDA-approved ECG sensor and trip detection are better. Tack on SpO2 and VO2 Max readings, a vast library of watch faces and slimmed down design, and Samsung has found a winner in its next-generation wearable.
There’s no question this is the best Android smartwatch you can get now, but this Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review explains how this new contender stacks up against the best smartwatches, as well as the category-leading Apple Watch Series 6. Be sure to check out why it won a 2021 Tom's Guide Award for Health and Fitness, too.
It could soon be replaced by the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 or Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 4. We know for certain that Samsung's next smartwatch will ship with the new Google software, which is a refreshed combination of Wear OS, Tizen and Fitbit. This Galaxy Watch 3 will not get the merged software, but Samsung will continue to support it for at least three years.
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, 2020. Those interested in picking the new smartwatch 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 signature color, matching the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, which launched at the same time).
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. We’re talking millimeters here, but when it comes to something you wear on your wrist, the difference is noticeable.
Still, the 1.7-ounce, 41mm Mystic Bronze model I tested looks chunky compared to my Apple Watch 5. The trade-off is that it looks more like a traditional watch than a high-tech one. Whereas I might ditch my Apple Watch for a nice dinner or date night, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 holds its own as a stylish accessory.
Better yet, 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. But the leather doesn’t fare well against sweat or water, so I’d swap them for sportier ones if I were to continue using the Galaxy Watch 3 as my daily driver.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 display and watch faces
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3’s 360 x 360-pixel screen is sharp, bright enough to see in direct sunlight and always-on, but that's not what caught my interest.
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.
It took me some time to figure out which combination of design and data brought me comfort on the Galaxy Watch 3, but I'm a sucker for the weather-centric backgrounds. I can't explain why I never check the forecast before leaving the house, so if seeing rain animations on my wrist doesn't help, nothing will.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 performance
Samsung’s Tizen software still trails behind Apple’s watchOS, but is a significant improvement from Google’s fickle Wear OS. Not only are the Galaxy Watch 3’s various menus highly customizable and packed with useful apps, but launching and switching between them feels sharp, too.
Thanks to the bezel, navigation is intuitive, and I relied on it along with the dual buttons to get where I wanted to go. The motion gestures, on the other hand, didn’t really do it for me. When I could get them to work, I felt a little foolish in the process.
What didn’t feel silly is the Galaxy Watch 3’s T9 keyboard, which I relied for texting more often than I thought I would. I know, typing on such a small screen sounds ridiculous, but I appreciated the ability to send messages in cases when I couldn’t use talk to text. I wish the Apple Watch would replace Scribble with a modified, miniature keyboard.
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. I needed this when my sprightly 85-pound black lab didn’t want to stop for me to launch a walk tracking on our routine treks around our town.
The Galaxy Watch 3’s on-board GPS measured my daily course accurately enough (it's roughly 1.2 miles, depending how many times the dog wants to go in circles). I had the same experience when I took the watch biking and running, the latter of which was informed by on-demand VO2 Max readings. I’m far from an endurance runner so I didn’t trigger any warnings, but I imagine more dedicated athletes would appreciate this feature during training.
But they might not appreciate the leather straps. I certainly know I didn’t. It felt odd getting them wet with sweat, and I didn’t even consider taking the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 near a pool despite its 5ATM rating for water resistance. I’d recommend getting silicone bands if you plan to use the Galaxy Watch 3 for anything more than light exercise, or taking a look at one of the best fitness trackers instead.
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 and blood pressure monitoring
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.
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.
Now, both those smartwatches can administer ECG readings.
Samsung has also earned clearance for its blood pressure monitor in South Korea. For now, the sensor will sit dormant in The Galaxy Watch 3 until it’s approved by the FDA. If it receives the green light soon, it would be the first smartwatch from a big-name tech brand with a working blood pressure monitoring system.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 sleep tracking
In bed, the Galaxy Watch 3 benefits from Samsung’s partnership with the National Sleep Institute to provide wearers with insight on their REM cycle, plus a morning report on quality of sleep and tips on how to improve sleep.
In the nights I wore it to bed, I simultaneously tested the Apple Watch sleep tracking. Apple’s native sleep tracking app credited me with a bit more sleep and knew when I woke up in the middle of the night during monstrous thunderstorms, whereas Samsung responded with more actionable data.
Some of these insights are provided by the Galaxy Watch 3’s SpO2 sensor, or pulse oximeter. An SpO2 sensor can inform breathing disturbances while sleeping, which is a prevalent symptom of sleep apnea. I, for one, don’t have much trouble sleeping, but someone who does could learn how to take action on changing their sleep cycle with the Watch 3.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 apps and storage
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. I’ve already used up about half my Galaxy Watch 3’s storage with a few of my favorite playlists, though, so I’ll need to be mindful of offloading audio I don’t need anymore.
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’s 340 mAh battery 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.
The Galaxy Watch 3 lives up to Samsung's battery estimates. Even with hour-long workouts and sleep tracking in the first two days I wore it, the watch lasted about 2 days. However, when I enabled the always-on display setting, the battery life dropped to 24 hours in its second cycle. Still, this is better than my Apple Watch 5.
When it needs more juice, the Galaxy Watch 3 can be charged with its proprietary charge or via wireless power share with a compatible Samsung phone. I tried out this charging cradle dock from Amazon for the sake of keeping my bedside table organized, too.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 verdict
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 stands out in a crowded wearable market. There are plenty of stylish smartwatches and excellent fitness trackers to choose from these days, and Samsung managed to strike a balance between the two. It brought the best health features of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 to a bezeled design that rivals offerings from timepiece savant Fossil.
But this convergence came at a cost — the Galaxy Watch 3 is more expensive than the Galaxy Watches and Wear OS Fossil options before it, and leans more towards lifestyle than fitness. I can’t say I’d replace my Apple Watch with an Android one at the same price. But if you’ve picked up an Android phone—in particular, one made by Samsung—and want an extension of it on your wrist wherever you go, you won’t find anything more polished and powerful than the Galaxy Watch 3. Or anything with as satisfying of a spinning mechanism, at least.