Design, Size and Straps
We prefer the look of a round watch, but swapping straps is easier on the Apple Watch
Both watches come in two sizes: you have a smaller 40 mil version and a larger 44 mil one, and the larger one on both is not gigantic, it’s moderately large. The cheaper base models of both are made of aluminum, and you also have more premium stainless steel versions, and then the Apple Watch also comes in even pricier titanium body, or even a ceramic one if you are ready to spend more than a $1,000 on a smartwatch. We have the aluminum models here and both retain their good looks even with a lot of use, so no worries on that front.For navigation, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 no longer has the signature rotating bezel, so you navigate with taps, swipes and a new software trick called “Touch Bezel” where you run your finger over the edge of the watch to simulate a physical rotating bezel, and it works quite well. The Apple Watch on its part features the touchscreen but also the digital crown for scrolling longer lists.
The Galaxy also has a standard quick release system, so it’s easy to change your strap to a different one, while the Apple Watch uses its own proprietary system with pricey bands, but it has the advantage of being extremely easy to swap straps: just push a button and slide the straps in and out.
Watchfaces and Apps
Apple has made some truly awesome watchfaces
The biggest change in the Apple Watch S5 this year is that finally supports an always-on display function, something that Samsung wearables have had for a while now, so it’s caught up.In terms of actual watchfaces, you have 15 preloaded ones on the Galaxy Watch and they will cover most of your needs, and they do look fine, plus you can customize them with a long press and add complications. The Apple Watch on its part has a much bigger variety of watchface styles with wider functionality and more visual flare: our default option is the Infograph with its 9 complications that gives a ton information, but then you have the Siri watchfaces, the solar ones, the workout focused ones, and on, and on, and it is extremely easy to cycle between watchfaces with just a swipe from the side and we did this constantly. The Galaxy Watch requires a long tap and a selection that takes a few extra seconds, not that long, but still enough to feel more cumbersome and in reality we found ourselves annoyed by the process and wishing there was an easier way to swap faces on the Galaxy.
Apple, however, still doesn’t allow for third party watchfaces, while Samsung supports a lot of these and you can even create a watchface yourself via apps.
Speaking of apps, this is an area where the Apple Watch has the advantage: you have a mini App Store right on your watch so you can even download apps without ever opening your phone. You can also install apps on the Galaxy and there are a few nice ones, but the choice and quality of apps overall is in favor of the Apple Watch.
Siri vs Bixby
One of them is of not much use and it’s not Siri
Voice assistants can be super helpful on a smartwatch, especially when done right: you usually have your hands busy and you cannot reach for your phone when you need to use a voice assistant on the watch.
And both these support a voice assistant of their own: you have Bixby on the Galaxy and Siri on the Apple Watch. You double press the home key on the Galaxy Watch to start Bixby, while on the Apple Watch you either long hold the digital crown on the Apple Watch to invoke Siri or better yet, just raise your watch to your mouth and start speaking.
To compare the two, we tried different commands, starting with a simple weather request for Baltimore, MD that Bixby inexplicably failed by giving us the forecast for… Lutherville Timonium, MD (I kid you not). And then we also tried trivia questions that Bixby cannot answer at all, only to find that Siri is way faster, more knowledgeable, and actually useful. The only thing we found Bixby was good for is to set reminders and alarms, but for all else it was not of much use.
One smaller detail we noticed is that the Apple Watch gives a very nice and gentle tap on your wrist for notifications and when it needs to get your attention, while the vibration on the Galaxy Watch Active doesn’t feel nowhere nearly as nice.
Activity and Fitness Tracking
Galaxy wins automatic workout tracking, but Apple Watch is more precise with stats
So! What about health and fitness tracking? Both watches have their own system: the Apple Watch has the three rings that you aim to fill every day, and the Galaxy Watch has something similar, and both will tell you to get up and moving if you sit for too long. We found that automatic workout detection worked better on the Galaxy Watch, it takes around 10 minutes of the workout and it tracks a workout, while on the Apple Watch automatic workout detection doesn’t really work that well, and you need to manually start a workout every time.
You also have automatic sleep tracking on the Galaxy Watch, a feature completely absent on the Series 5, while on the Galaxy you see a nice breakdown of your deep sleep times and overall quality of sleep.
We should also say that heart monitoring works similarly well on both, but we would give the edge to the Apple Watch which is able to filter out obviously faulty readings better. For instance, the Galaxy Watch detected a heart rate of 190 beats while I was working out, only to correct it to 90 a second after that, which was obviously the correct reading. You don’t get many of those failed readings on the Apple Watch.
The ECG feature is also now available on the Apple Watch S5 and it allows you to check for early signs of heart conditions. The Samsung watch, on the other hand, will get this feature via a software update in early 2020, but it doesn’t have it just yet.
The Galaxy is a 2-day watch, while you need to charge the Apple Watch every night
Which of these two has the better battery life and is the difference significant?
Here is what our usage tells us: the Galaxy Watch Active 2 ends the typical day with some outdoor walking and a light workout with around 50% on the battery meter, and wearing it overnight drains just 5% battery. Effectively, this means that you can wear it for two days without charging and you should not have any worries making it to the evening on the second day.
The Apple Watch Series 5 on the other hand is a 1-day affair: it would end the day with somewhere between 30% and 40% on the battery meter, and it would drain a lot more if you wear it overnight, but then since it doesn’t have sleep tracking it really doesn’t make much sense doing that.
And if you were wondering about the exact battery sizes, here they are:
SizeApple Watch S5Galaxy Watch Active 240mm245 mAh247 mAh44mm296 mAh340 mAh
The smaller, 40mm models of both watches feature about the same size battery, but there is a significant difference in the size of the battery of the larger models: the battery on the 44 mil Samsung watch is nearly 15% bigger than the batttery on the comparable Apple Watch.
Finally, we should talk prices: the Galaxy Watch has a starting price of around $300 dollars, while the Apple Watch starts at $400 and can go all the way up to more than a thousand dollars for the ceramic model with cellular connectivity. These differences amplify if you pick the pricier models and the Apple Watch quickly grows in price, while the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is definitely priced way more affordably.
Here is a more detailed price breakdown:
ModelApple Watch S5Galaxy Watch Active 2Aluminum (40mm / 44mm)$400 / $430 (add $100 for cellular)$280 / $300 (no LTE)Stainless Steel (40mm / 44mm)$700 / $750 (cellular only)$430 / $450 (LTE)Titanium (40mm / 44mm)$800 / $850xCeramic (40mm / 44mm)$1,300 / $1,350xAs you can see, the price for the more premium stainless steel version of the Apple Watch S5 with cellular connectivity is nearly double the price of a comparable Galaxy Watch Active 2, a pretty noticeable difference.
At the end of the day, we feel like the Apple Watch is still the more refined watch: it runs faster, Siri is actually quite useful and fast to respond, you have more apps and even small games, and it all ties extremely well with the Apple ecosystem. Plus, you can see that despite lacking third-party watchfaces, the first-party ones that Apple offers look incredibly well made and offer functionality that you cannot get on the Samsung one: from the solar one, to the 9 complications on the Infograph watchface, to the visually impressive smoke/fire watchfaces, the Apple Watch feels way ahead in the watchface game.
However, if you want a versatile watch that will work with both Android and iOS, and that can actually last you two days, and you can use for sleep tracking, the Galaxy Watch is probably your best alternative. We would strongly recommend you go with the stainless steel version, though: it might be slightly more expensive, but it looks far better than the aluminum one.
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