Update: August 6, 2020 at 3:45 PM ET: We have the Galaxy Watch 3 in-house! Check out our hands-on section below for new Galaxy Watch 3 photos and our thoughts on the watch so far.
Original article: August 5, 2020 at 10:00 AM ET: It’s been a couple years since Samsung released its first Galaxy Watch. In that time, the smartwatch landscape has drastically changed. Companies are adding ECGs and oxygen saturation sensors to their wearables, and features we once thought were a far-off future are now commonplace.
Today, alongside the Galaxy Note 20 lineup, the company is finally launching the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. It’s lighter and much more powerful than the original, and has additional health and safety features that will even give the Apple Watch more competition than before.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 at a glance
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is Samsung’s flagship smartwatch for 2020 and the successor to 2017’s Galaxy Watch. While 2019’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 is geared toward, well, active people, the Galaxy Watch 3 is more suited for those who want a smartwatch first and a fitness companion second.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is for those who want:
- a versatile smartwatch
- an alternative to Apple Watch or Wear OS smartwatch
- a smartwatch that doesn’t skimp on fitness or smart features
- a wearable to work alongside your Galaxy smartphone
And it may not be a great pick if you need:
- an inexpensive smartwatch
- decent third-party app support
- the most accurate fitness and health sensors
Galaxy Watch 3 hands-on and early impressions
It’s been two years since the original Galaxy Watch came out, and it’s clear Samsung has been working on improving the quality of its flagship watch since then. This is a marked improvement over the original watch, and even a step above the Galaxy Watch Active 2.
The haptics are quite good for a smartwatch — far better than anything I’ve seen from Fossil or Fitbit. The rotating bezel is noticeably smaller than the original, though it’s not more difficult to use. I think the bezel on the original watch was a bit too chunky.
I’m using the 45mm stainless steel model in Mystic Black. The hardware feels good. The buttons are clicky, and I quite like the leather strap Samsung included in the box.
I’m looking forward to testing the new health and fitness features. Only a leather strap is included in the box, though, and I am definitely not going to run with a leather strap. I’ll have to swap it out with a silicone one for testing.
There are a ton of downloadable watch faces in the Galaxy Wearable app, but not all of them are as customizable as I’d like them to be. My favorites by far are the ones that match the default wallpaper on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. They’re “live” watch faces, so the rocks move around and bump into each other, just like on the Note.
That’s it from me until our full review. Anything you’d like to know about the Galaxy Watch 3? Leave a comment and I’ll be sure to address it in the review.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 hardware and design
The design hasn’t changed much from the original Galaxy Watch. There are still two sizes to choose from — 41mm and 45mm — and both come with nearly the same specs. The differences, as per usual, are found in the display and battery sizes.
Buy the 45mm Galaxy Watch 3 if you want a bigger smartwatch with a longer-lasting battery. This model has a 1.4-inch AMOLED display and a 340mAh battery, which Samsung says will get you about two days of use on a charge. The 41mm model is smaller and sleeker, but has worse battery life. It comes with a 1.2-inch screen and a 247mAh battery, which Samsung says will get you about a day of use.
Both devices charge wirelessly and can be topped up by Samsung’s Wireless Powershare feature.
Samsung says the Galaxy Watch 3 is 14% thinner than the Galaxy Watch, 8% smaller overall, and 15% lighter. Not bad!
One popular feature that’s returning is the physical rotating bezel. Samsung had a hit on its hands (or wrists?) with the original Galaxy Watch’s bezel, which rotated for easier navigation through the software. The company removed it entirely from the Galaxy Watch Active, then added a pseudo-rotating bezel on the Active 2 that was “rotated” by touch.
You can buy the 45mm Galaxy Watch 3 in Mystic Black and Mystic Silver colorways, and the 41mm Galaxy Watch 3 comes in Mystic Bronze and Mystic Silver. All Galaxy Watch 3s are made of stainless steel, but a 45mm size SKU with a titanium build will launch at a later date.
You can get both sizes of the Galaxy Watch 3 with Bluetooth+Wi-Fi connectivity or LTE+Bluetooth+Wi-Fi.
Interestingly, Samsung is keeping these watches powered by its own Exynos 9110 SoC, which is the same processor that powered the first Galaxy Watch. It’s also upping the RAM from 768MB to 1GB and upping the storage from 4GB to 8GB.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Galaxy Watch: What’s new?
Okay, so the Galaxy Watch 3 doesn’t look too different from the original Galaxy Watch. A lot of the big changes are found under the hood.
The Galaxy Watch 3 can track 40 activities, such as running, swimming, and more. It supports automatic activity tracking for seven of those activities, while 33 need to be started manually. During running activities, the watch can give you real-time running analysis and feedback, including asymmetry, contact time, flight time, regularity, vertical, and even how balanced you are while running.
Of course, the new Samsung watch is also equipped with built-in GPS and an optical heart rate sensor. Samsung tells us these are the same sensors that appeared in the Galaxy Watch Active 2. We did have some issues with those sensors, but we’ll withhold judgement until we’re able to test out the Galaxy Watch 3 for ourselves.
Samsung included a pulse oximeter in the Galaxy Watch 3 for recording on-demand VO2 max estimates. You can also see a summary of your SpO2 data in the Samsung Health app.
Sleep tracking is getting a big boost, too. Samsung partnered with the National Sleep Foundation to bring far better sleep tracking and analysis to its new watch. The Galaxy Watch 3 can measure sleep cycles (light, deep, REM) and your total time awake. It’ll also calculate a sleep quality score based on your sleep stages and movements, available in the Samsung Health app.
If you’re wearing your watch to bed for sleep tracking, people who own the 45mm model with the bigger battery might be better off — sleep tracking does use up some juice! If you have the 41mm model and wear it all day you may need to top it up before you go to bed, otherwise you might run the risk of it dying in your sleep.
The pulse oximeter is only able to be used for on-demand readings and general health purposes. It won’t record during sleep tracking, so the Galaxy Watch 3 will not be able to detect signs of sleep apnea like competing products from Fitbit and Withings.
The Galaxy Watch 3 is getting another nice safety feature: trip detection. If the watch’s accelerometer senses that you’ve fallen, you have the option to send a custom SMS to up to four predefined contacts. This will be very helpful for runners who are out on their own, or for older users who live alone.
Samsung is also touting the Galaxy Watch 3’s built-in ECG and blood pressure monitoring, though there’s one caveat: It’s only available in South Korea. Samsung announced during its Unpacked event that the Galaxy Watch 3 has just received FDA approval to bring ECG functionality to the US. However, the company says it will arrive “this year,” meaning it won’t be available at launch. Our review unit won’t have this functionality either. We will update you as soon as we learn more.
If you happen to own a Samsung TV, the Galaxy Watch 3 will actually be a pretty decent workout companion for staying active at home. You can select a workout on your Galaxy Watch 3 and follow along with a Samsung-made workout video on your television. Samsung says users can select from up to 120 different workout videos.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 specs
|Samsung Galaxy Watch 3|
|Display||45mm: 1.4-inch AMOLED|
41mm: 1.2-inch AMOLED
Corning Gorilla Glass DX
|Dimensions and weight||45mm: 45 x 46.2 x 11.1mm|
53.8g (stainless steel), 43g (titanium)
41mm: 41 x 42.5 x 11.3mm
|Colors and materials||45mm: Mystic Black (stainless steel or titanium), Mystic Silver (stainless steel)|
41mm: Mystic Bronze (stainless steel), Mystic Silver (stainless steel)
WPC-based wireless charging
|Processor||Samsung Exynos 9110|
|Connectivity||LTE (available in select models)|
Optical heart rate sensor
Ambient light sensor
|Durability||5ATM + IP68|
|Software||Tizen OS 5.5|
|Compatibility||Android: Android 5.0 or higher & RAM 1.5GB or above|
iOS: iPhone 5 and above, iOS 9.0 or above
What about the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2?
Samsung confirmed that its Active line of smartwatches won’t be going away anytime soon. That means the Galaxy Watch 3 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 will be sold on official retail channels at the same time. Also, we will likely eventually see a Galaxy Watch Active 3.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is still a solid sports smartwatch. It’s thinner and more workout-friendly than the Galaxy Watch 3. It only has a touch-enabled rotating bezel, though, as opposed to the much-preferred physical bezel on the Galaxy Watch 3.
The jury is still out as to whether or not the Galaxy Watch Active 2 (and older devices) will get Galaxy Watch 3 features like advanced sleep tracking, though it’s possible. According to Samsung, it all depends on the hardware.
If you find yourself using your wearable for tracking workouts, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider the Galaxy Watch Active 2 if you can find it at a discount. However, the Galaxy Watch 3 does offer a solid suite of workout features, so it’s a little too early for us to crown a winner. Stay tuned for a full comparison.
What are some good Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 alternatives?
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 seems pretty great, but it’s not going to be the watch for everyone. Here are a few of our recommended Galaxy Watch 3 alternatives:
- Apple Watch Series 5: This one’s a no-brainer if you have an iPhone. For iOS users, the Apple Watch is hard to beat. It trounces the Galaxy Watch 3 with third-party app support and rivals it in terms of fitness and smart features. It’s a seriously great wearable. If you’re on Android, though, the Galaxy Watch is your best bet.
- Fossil Gen 5 or Skagen Falster 3: The Fossil Gen 5 and Skagen Falster 3 are two of the best Wear OS watches you can buy. They’re not the best smartwatches ever — they can thank Wear OS for that — but we still really enjoyed reviewing these devices. They also seem to be on sale every other week.
- Garmin Forerunner 245 Music: If you want a smartwatch that prioritizes accurate fitness and health stats, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is a good option. It’s one of our favorite fitness watches of all time, thanks to its long feature set and relatively affordable price. It’s not as “smart” as the Galaxy Watch, but it’s likely the better fitness wearable.
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: Duh! If you’re not into the Galaxy Watch 3’s high price tag, or its kinda chunky design, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 gets you most of the same features in a slimmer, cheaper package.
These smartwatches are on sale quite often. Be sure to check our best smartwatch deals hub for discounts on today’s popular wearables.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 pricing and availability
Want to get your wrists on one? The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 goes on sale Thursday, August 6 on Samsung.com, Verizon.com, and other retailers. AT&T also said it’d carry the Galaxy Watch 3, but didn’t reveal pricing.
Here’s how much each variant costs:
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (41mm, Wi-Fi): $399.99 | £399.99
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (41mm, LTE): $449.99
- Verizon: $18.75/month for 24 months or $449.99 full retail
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (45mm, Wi-Fi): $429.99 | £419.99
- Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (45mm, LTE): $479.99
- Verizon: $19.99/month for 24 months or $479.99 full retail
The Galaxy Watch 3 is a pricey smartwatch, but Samsung really did add everything but the kitchen sink to this watch. You can get more specialized watches for certain fitness activities or buy Wear OS if you want better app support on your smartwatch. But all in all, the Galaxy Watch 3 looks to be one of the most exciting smartwatches to launch this year.
Top Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 questions and answers
Q: What happened to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 2?
A: Good question. Samsung likely chose to go with “Galaxy Watch 3” to keep it more in-line with its other Active line of smartwatches. Launching a “Galaxy Watch 2” after the Galaxy Watch Active 2 has been out for so long might confuse some people.
Q: Does the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 have MST?
A: Unfortunately, no. Samsung confirmed that the Galaxy Watch 3 does not support MST technology with Samsung Pay — only NFC. It’s a bummer, and we hope Samsung brings back this wonderful feature in a future smartwatch.
Q: What watch straps work with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3?
Q: Does the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 work with iPhones?
A: Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 works with iPhones. As always, the experience will be much better with a Samsung phone, but you can access most of the watch’s features with an iPhone.
Q: What networks are compatible with the Galaxy Watch 3?
A: TBD! We are waiting for Samsung to publish the full list of compatible networks. Stay tuned for more updates in the next few days.