Best Samsung smartwatch
Samsung is the second biggest player in the UK smartwatch market after Apple, according to research agency Mintel – but are its smartwatches a true rival to the Apple Watch? Let's see how they compare.
Which Samsung smartwatch is best?
Table updated June 2021
How much will a Samsung smartwatch cost?
That will depend on whether you want the newest model or are happy with an older one, what size watch you want and whether you need one with LTE. LTE, also known as cellular connectivity, allows you to make phone calls and use other watch functions when your smartphone is out of Bluetooth range.
Samsung smartwatches start at £129 for the original Samsung Galaxy Watch Active (now discounted, as it's a few years old) and go up to £459 for the largest (45mm) Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 with LTE.
For comparison, the latest Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Series 6, starts at £379 for the smallest version without LTE and £479 for the smallest version with LTE. The largest version with LTE starts at £509. So Samsung watches are on the whole cheaper, but they don't represent a super cheap alternative either.
For all LTE watches, bear in mind that you'll also need to pay monthly carrier fees.
Samsung also makes fitness trackers, such as the , pictured below, ranging from just under £40 to more than £200. If you're more interested in tracking your fitness and daily activity levels than in being able to handle smart notifications from your wrist, a fitness tracker might be a better option.
Samsung fitness trackers are a bit hit and miss in terms of quality, though, with some impressing us enough to earn our Best Buy recommendation and others doing surprisingly poorly in our tests. Head to our to view the range.
Choosing the best Samsung smartwatch
Although Samsung has made Android Wear OS smartwatches in the past, since 2014 Samsung's smartwatches and fitness trackers have run off Tizen, Samsung's proprietary operating system.
When it comes to apps, Tizen isn't as rich as Wear OS, Google's operating system, formerly Android Wear, nor watchOS, Apple's operating system.
Some third-party apps will be available to you, such as Spotify. You're otherwise more or less limited to Samsung's own apps, but these will at least cover the basics, and you'll still receive notifications from the apps installed on your smartphone.
Unlike watchOS, Apple's operating system, which only works with iOS, you can use a Samsung smartwatch whether you have an Android phone or an iPhone. But some features aren't available to iOS users. Generally speaking, an Apple Watch will give iPhone users the smoothest experience, as they're designed to be part of the same ecosystem.
For example, Android users of the can reply to texts and calls with preset messages, which iOS users can't. Android users also have more options for personalising the app and watch and responding to social media messages, and will find it easier to change the settings governing which notifications get pushed through from your phone to your smartwatch.
That might not matter too much to you depending on how you plan on using the watch. However, be aware that we had real difficulties getting key features on the working with iOS, even with trying on several different watches and iPhones. While we did at last get the watch working, we couldn't get to the bottom of the problem, and so we suggest you avoid this one if you're an iPhone user.
Samsung is reported to be working on a new smartwatch that won't run off Tizen. We'll be able to tell you all about Samsung's new non-Tizen smartwatch once we've run it through our tests.
Watches in Samsung's Galaxy Watch range have a classic, traditional look. The original Samsung Galaxy Watch comes in two sizes: 42mm and 46mm. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (there wasn't a Galaxy Watch 2, confusingly), comes in 41mm and 45mm.
All four come with a leather strap, but you can buy a silicone one instead if you want something more exercise-friendly. And they all have a circular watch face: none to date have the 'squircle' shape made famous by Apple and also seen on some Garmins, Fitbits, Amazfits and watches from other brands.
Watches in the Active range have a sportier, more minimalist look than the Galaxy range. These come in 40mm and 44mm for the Samsung Galaxy Active 2 and 40mm (one size only) for the Galaxy Watch Active.
The Galaxy Watches, the Gear watches and the Galaxy Watch Active 2, have a rotating bezel for navigating the watch interface, which the first Galaxy Active didn't.
All Samsung smartwatches and fitness trackers have detachable straps – which is good, as . We don't make smartwatches from any brands Best Buys unless you can remove their straps easily when you want to replace them.
All of them look stylish and well made.
All Samsung smartwatches have built-in GPS, meaning you can run phone-free and they will still track your running route. Distance measurements based on GPS are usually more accurate than when they're based on your step count too.
Apple Watches have a notoriously short battery life and usually need daily charging. Most Samsung smartwatches are designed to last much longer – some claim to last as long as 13 days, depending which features you're using, although some are only designed to last a day.
The has some interesting health features to rival Apple, including fall detection: the watch will send an SOS message to your designated emergency contact with your location if it detects that you've fallen over. This could be a useful extra feature if you're generally fit and healthy (and aren't particularly relying on it as a life-saving device during risky activities). If you're primarily after a fall detector, a dedicated fall detector will be cheaper.
The and can also take ECGs (electrocardiograms) and blood-pressure-monitor readings using the Samsung Health Monitor app. These features weren't available to UK consumers at time of launch, but have now been rolled out via a software update.
Samsung says its ECG feature and blood-pressure-monitoring feature shouldn't be used for anyone under the age of 22 (Apple says the same for users of its ECG feature). If you plan on using Samsung's blood-pressure monitor, Samsung says you should calibrate it on a monthly basis with a dedicated blood pressure monitor arm cuff or at your GP's surgery.
As with all smartwatches, you should view all of these features as interesting toys for helping you build a better picture of your health and fitness, and not as any sort of substitute for seeing a doctor.
Samsung Galaxy Watch vs Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
As we said before, the Galaxy Watch series has a more traditional look than the Galaxy Watch Active series.
Both have a touchscreen with a high resolution of 360 x 360 pixels.
In both cases, you've got the option to buy a version with 4G connectivity.
Both come with plenty of features, including NFC for contactless payments. The Galaxy Watch 3 has more by way of health features, including support for ECGs and blood pressure monitoring and, as with an increasing number of wearables, blood oxygen monitoring (pulse oximetry).
And both are waterproof to 5 ATM, meaning they're pool-safe.
Both impressed us in some tests but weren't without their flaws either.