The first thing that came to mind after using the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 for a little while is “wow, the best just got better.” That’s in reference to the Galaxy Watch Active 2 – what used to be the best smartwatch for Android users.
Now, Samsung has outdone itself with the Galaxy Watch 3, giving users a smartwatch that is most certainly a few steps up from the Galaxy Watch Active 2 in many ways.
For starters, Samsung brought back the rotating bezel. The feature that made its smartwatches so compelling since it was introduced with the Gear S3 some years ago. But it goes beyond that. Samsung has kept the user experience simple and easy to use. Improving on its Tizen software while adding more useful features powered by sophisticated health and fitness hardware.
But how does the watch stack up on a more granular level? It’s hardly the only watch to offer an SpO2 sensor and ECG capabilities. And every other smartwatch out there tracks exercise and offers you some level of notifications and app access. Here are our thoughts.
Software so simple that anyone could use it
Lots of cool features are nice, but not necessary. Ultra luxury materials are nice, but all they do is drive up the cost of the watch in the end. What is necessary, and oftentimes I personally feel is underrated, is easy to use software.
Some smartwatch software is so convoluted it makes using the device a pain, and that leads to wanting to put it down and never touch it again. With the Galaxy Watch 3 that isn’t the case at all.
The software and thereby the user experience is so easy to use that anyone could really pick it up and be a whiz with it in no time. That’s an important factor. Because it gives Samsung the opportunity to bring other users on board who may have shied away because they’re not as tech savvy.
From the initial setup to the everyday use, interacting with the Galaxy Watch 3 never felt like a massive challenge or a boring chore. Setup was simple and quick. And using the watch in my day to day was continuously enjoyable. Every rotation of the bezel. Every skipped track on Spotify. All of it was a great experience.
Samsung could always improve the software on its smartwatches. But quite honestly there isn’t much it would have to do to get there. An there’s not much it could do as the software already shines brighter than other competing options.
That doesn’t mean Samsung shouldn’t strive to make the user experience better through the improvement of the software. We don’t want it to get sloppy and lazy here. There’s just not a huge pressing need for it to overoptimize and oversimplify.
There’s still a lack of apps, but is that really so terrible?
I marked this one down as a con because I know a lot of users out there want to see more app support from Samsung on its smartwatches. And, to some degree I also think that it would be a good thing if this particular section of the watch were improved.
That being said, I personally don’t go to my smartwatch to use a ton of apps. I want the basics from a smartwatch in most cases. Exercise tracking, music management, notifications, weather, etc.
Samsung has delivered on those while throwing in some extras with the ECG, SpO2, and sleep tracking features. While the appeal to have more app support is understandable, it doesn’t feel entirely necessary.
Nevertheless, this appears to be something that many users have been wanting an improvement on for a while. Whether you’re like me and don’t really need or desire the watch to have a lot more app support, or you’re like other users and you want your watch to be a more full-featured extension of your smartphone, the Galaxy Watch 3 is mostly equipped to handle both camps.
Battery life that you can be proud of
Samsung didn’t do anything earthshattering with the battery life on this watch, but it’s still battery life you can be proud of. This is the battery life of a smartwatch you’d be proud to take home to meet mom and dad.
You’ll likely get a two days out of it. Though realistically that probably depends on what features you’re using. I don’t and never have used all the watch has to offer all of the time. So the watch definitely feels like it lasts longer for me than it would for some others.
Still, there are many, many smartwatches that struggle to last for an entire day if you use them regularly. The Galaxy Watch 3 on the other hand doesn’t seem to have that problem.
I routinely found myself grabbing it from the charger at 100% to wear it, and then taking it off my wrist at the end of the day and setting it down anywhere but on the charger. Then I’d get up the next morning, put it back on my wrist and use it for a full day all over again.
You could easily kill the battery in a day if you were actively trying. And there are no doubt users that do. Is the battery life the best you’ll see on any smartwatch? No. But battery life is definitely not something you will have to stress over too much with this watch compared to others.
Timeless, classic style that Samsung has come to be known for
One thing that I have really come to appreciate of Samsung’s smartwatches is the style. Since the Gear S3, Samsung’s non-active watches have had that timeless classic style of a traditional wrist-worn timepiece.
Some feel that that’s boring and that Samsung needs to shake things up. Regardless of whether it should or not, there’s no denying that the Galaxy Watch 3 has a very stylish look to it.
And that’s worth appreciating. Having owned (and hated) Samsung’s first-ever smartwatch, the Gear Live running on the then Android Wear platform, any watch that Samsung puts out that looks like the Galaxy Watch 3 is like a breath of air after you’ve been deprived of it long enough to nearly suffocate.
The Galaxy Watch 3 comes in two different sizes, 41mm and 45mm, and both look great on the wrist. They also look somewhat unassuming to the point that at a quick glance you could easily mistake them for a normal watch.
Which for some (myself included) is a good thing. The watch normally comes with a premium stitched leather strap. But if you buy the watch on Samsung’s website it does give you the option to go with different strap types. You also have the option of getting the watch case in a few other color options. So there is some capability to customize the look.
If the design you’re looking for is more akin to something like the Fitbit Surge, the Galaxy Watch 3 may not be for you. It’s perfect though, for anyone wanting a more traditionally designed smartwatch.
You get pretty good sleep tracking features here
Sleep tracking on all wearables is not the same. Though it is worth noting that on some wearable devices the sleep tracking may not be that strong due to its minimal insights. With the Galaxy Watch 3 you can actually see quite a bit of data and information about your sleep quality.
The watch will let you track things like REM sleep, deep sleep, and light sleep. The cool part though is that it will even compare your sleep stats with what is deemed a normal set of stats. So you can see where your sleep ranks against a standard quality.
The sleep tracking features are located within the Samsung Health app. Like just about any of the other health and wellness-related features. It uses the heart rate sensor on the watch to measure the data, and if it can’t grab a heart rate measurement then it use movement instead.
If it uses movement though it will label your sleep quality as restless, light, or motionless. This still has the capability to give you some useful insights into your sleep health. Though I found that the heart rate measurement worked pretty well in most cases.
Performance is as you’d expect, great
If you’ve used any of the more recent smartwatches from Samsung, then you already know the performance is one of the best things about them, and that stick around here.
Navigation around the menus is already really good because of the rotating bezel and it only feels more fluid and natural thanks to the great performance. Which is yet another reason to go for something like the Galaxy Watch 3 over other options. Especially those running Wear OS as the performance on most Wear OS smartwatches is fairly poor.
It was rare that I ran into any issues with lag or poor performance on the Galaxy Watch 3. And the times I did come in contact with any hiccups, it was fleeting at most. Which made them barely noticeable at all.
Fitness is the key feature of this watch
While the performance is really good though, where the watch really shines is with the fitness features. Samsung has been driving home health features on its latest devices for the past couple of years.
And it’s done an excellent job at providing users with a large set of fitness features to help them improve their overall health and wellness. From running to yoga, the watch can automatically track what you’re doing. It even has listed workouts for pull-ups, leg presses and more for weight training.
Not that these are things you won’t find in other smartwatches. But you might be hard-pressed to find another option that not only has so many different options and delivers them in a quality package.
I mostly tested this with walks, and every time I walked anywhere the watch had no trouble automatically reading that I was starting a workout. It does take a minute or so for the watch to start up the tracking, but I found that that’s because it needs to know that you’re actually exercising and not just walking across the house to grab something.
It accurately tracked my runs and push-ups, too. And for outdoors exercises I found the GPS tracking to be pretty accurate and useful for looking back at routes. I personally love this feature so I can plot routes for next time.
Overall the fitness part of the watch is excellent. And it’s the strongest set of features that the Galaxy Watch 3 has to offer.
Should I buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3?
It won’t be the perfect smartwatch for everyone, but it does present itself as the perfect smartwatch for everyone. It is indeed an excellent option for many consumers. And if you want easy navigation, great fitness features, and stylish design, then yes you should buy the Galaxy Watch 3.
The fitness features and the rotating bezel are easily the most compelling parts about the watch. So if those things are important to you, consider picking this up. Especially now with Samsung’s discount on it.
All-in-all, the Galaxy Watch 3 is the benchmark to shoot for. Both for Samsung and for the company’s competitors.