Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Galaxy Watch: what’s new and different?

Samsung has announced today the new edition of its Galaxy Watch. Everyone knew for a while now that it was coming due to a plethora of leaks. This is an upgraded version of the device that launched back in 2018. Two years is a long in wearable tech time so it was well due for an upgrade.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

What we got is “Galaxy Watch 3” rather than “Galaxy Watch 2”. Skipping a number is an indicator that this is the latest device in Samsung’s smartwatch range. After all, it does come a year after Watch Active 2.

Here’s what’s new and different.

Galaxy Watch 3 vs Galaxy Watch: Design

Samsung has largely retained the design of the original Galaxy Watch. The new device is also circular and made of stainless steel. However, it also offers the option of purchasing it in a titanium build.

The rotating bezel is still there. To remind, this was dropped for Watch Active 2 and many thought it would be resigned to history.

The original watch comes in a 46mm and 42mm iteration, Watch 3 in 45mm and 41mm options. This also makes both versions of the new timepiece slightly thinner and lighter. The exact specs can be seen in the table below.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 will come in 9 distinct configurations
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

As far as display, there is little difference and all of these pack an AMOLED, full colour, always-on screen with Corning Gorilla DX+ protection. The differences again are in size.

While the smaller iterations on both watches are 1.2 inches, the larger version of Watch 3 comes with a 1.4 inch screen versus the 1.3 inches of its predecessor. This is impressive as it means Samsung has managed to squeeze a larger display into a smaller body by slimming the bezel on the side.

Some more differences can be found when we dig under the hood.

What all of these watches share are an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate sensor and built-in GPS (Glonass,Beidou,Galileo). However, Watch 3 comes with an improved accelerometer (measures up to 32g of force), heart rate sensor with 8 photodiodes and blood oxygen sensor. It also comes with something Apple-like, a built-in electrodiagram.

Galaxy Watch vs Galaxy Watch Active: Battery life and water resistance

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs Galaxy Watch: what’s new and different?

Battery life is fairly decent, especially considering that these figures are with the always-on screen option switched on. Samsung says Galaxy Watch comes with around 7 days of juice for the 46mm version (472 mAh) and around 3 days for the 42mm one (270 mAh). In reality you’ll find that battery life is slightly lower. With its 340mAh/247mAH lithium ion batteries, Watch 3 will keep going for around 2 days. That is a sacrifice you have to make or the souped up specs.

When it comes to water-resistance both of these wearables will do the trick. They sport a a fantastic 5 ATM water-resistance rating and will monitor your swim sessions with appropriate statistics.

Here are the full specs.

Galaxy Watch 3
Galaxy Watch
Stainless steel 316L casing, choice of leather bands. Also a titanium iteration.
Stainless steel 316L casing, choice of leather bands
45mm version (45 x 46.2 x 11.1 mm)
41mm version (41.0 x 42.5 x 11.3 mm)
46mm version (46 x 49 x 13 mm)
42mm version (41.9 x 45.7 x 12.7 mm)
Display size
45mm version (1.4 inch)
41mm version (1.2 inch)
46mm version (1.3 inch)
42mm version (1.2 inch)
Display resolution
360 x 360 pixels
360 x 360 pixels
Circular Super AMOLED
Full Color Always On Display
Corning® Gorilla® DX
Circular Super AMOLED
Full Color Always On Display
Corning® Gorilla® DX+
45mm version (340 mAh)
41mm version (247 mAh)
46mm version (472 mAh)
42mm version (270 mAh)
Battery life
Around 2 days
46mm version (up to 7 days)
42mm version (up to 3 days)
Water resistance
up to 50 metres (5 ATM)
up to 50 metres (5 ATM)
45mm version (53 grams)
41mm version (48 grams)
46mm version (63 grams)
42mm version (49 grams)
Accelerometer (measure up to 32g of force), Barometer, Gyro Sensor, HR Sensor (with 8 Photodiodes), Electrocardiogram (ECG), SpO2, GPS (Glonass,Beidou,Galileo).
Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro Sensor, HR Sensor, Light Sensor, GPS (Glonass,Beidou,Galileo).
Color options
45mm version: Mystic Black, Mystic Silver
41mm version: Mystic Silver, Mystic Bronze
Silver, Midnight Black, Rose Gold

Galaxy Watch 3 vs Galaxy Watch: Functionality

Although these are primarily smartwatches, they will more than suffice if you are after a fitness tracking wearable. All the basics that you would expect are there, plus more. This includes steps, distance, calories, floors climbed, active minutes and detailed sleep statistics. There are also move reminders and some advanced performance metrics such as VO2 Max.

Then there is built-in GPS. This is particularly important for those who enjoy phone-free exercising. The watches can track a wide number of exercises (40 for Watch 3), some of them auto-tracked (11 for Watch 3). The built-in storage for music allows for a complete phone-free experience.

The other fitness benefit is that the watches use the built-in heart rate monitor to keep an eye on stress levels. They will give you an alert to rest there is a spike in your heart rate which cannot be attributed to exercise.

Watch 3 goes further with its ability to take blood pressure measurements. The company is treading new ground here and is the first with the ability to read blood pressure via the optical sensors on the back of the device. It will be interesting to test how accurate this is in real life. The feature will become available in the months ahead, pending regulatory approval. You can read more about how this functions here.

Galaxy Watch vs Galaxy Watch Active: what’s the difference?
Galaxy Watch
Gadgets & Wearables may get a commission
Apple Watch 3 or Garmin Vivoactive 3: which to get?

Something else that is new is fall detection. If Watch 3 determines you have taken a tumble and you don’t respond in a minute, it will text or call emergency services for you. This will provide them with your location and a brief sound recording (five seconds).

There’s still more. With Watch 3 you also get an SpO2 sensor. This checks your blood oxygen on demand and automatically during sleep.

The final important health and fitness difference is the above mentioned built-in ECG. Watch 3 has it, the original doesn’t. Samsung says this is on course to be enabled in the months ahead. An electrocardiogram measures the electrical activity of your heart, flagging up your heart’s rhythm on a line on the screen. This is used to assess whether your ticker is working normally or there is some abnormality.

Galaxy Watch 3
Galaxy Watch
Blood pressure
Improved heart rate sensor/accelerometer
Fall detection
Blood oxygen readings
Gesture control

In terms of smarts, both of these devices are fully fledged smartwatches and shine on this count. They come with storage for music, NFC for payments, and Samsung’s AI assistant Bixby baked in. There’s also the option of a LTE variant for calls, messages and data away from your smartphone.

Watch 3 gets a major new software update which slaps on gesture controls. An interesting addition, it allows wearers to communicate by clenching and unclenching their hand to answer a call or shake a fist to mute it. This is more a nice-to-have than a must-have. Because the watch has a speaker, you can take calls right on the device.

Galaxy Watch 3 vs Galaxy Watch: The bottom line

Galaxy Watch 3 is a sizeable update on the original timepiece. It’s no wonder Samsung decided to name it Watch 3 rather than Watch 2. The design is more streamlined, slimmer and slightly smaller, yet it packs much more functionality.

This includes the ability to take blood pressure measurements, ECG, an improved heart rate sensor/accelerometer, fall detection and blood oxygen readings*. The price to pay for this is battery life which, at around 2 days, is much shorter.

Galaxy Watch vs Galaxy Watch Active: what’s the difference?
Galaxy Watch 3
Gadgets & Wearables may get a commission
Apple Watch 3 or Garmin Vivoactive 3: which to get?

The other price to pay is financial. Watch 3 starts at $400 so quite a premium on the $250 of the predecessor model. Nevertheless, we would recommend the new timepiece due to all the extras. The original remains a solid buy, particularly as its price is likely to come down now that the new version is out.

*some of these features will be enabled in the months ahead, pending regulatory approval

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

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