Unlike Apple products, Samsung smartphones aren't tied to Samsung smartwatches. In fact, you can benefit a lot more from Google's line of smartwatches.
The might actually not be a .
Writing the sentence might be a bit shocking but it’s true in my opinion. You might think that, oh, since Apple makes both smartphones and smartwatches, the logic would be that they would pair the best with each other. In the case of the line of smartwatches, that holds true.
Samsung does make really high quality smartwatches like the Active2 which represents the pinnacle of Samsung’s wearable technology. But with Samsung phones, you are running an Android which gives it a huge edge over Apple as it frees you from being locked into an ecosystem. To be fair, you also get all the downsides of leaving the ecosystem.
All the watches reviewed here are geared towards people who want a smartwatch that will help you be more productive and so they need to be able to reply to messages, take calls and also have some sport tracking features.
Nonetheless, let’s talk about the latest and greatest 3.
The 3 is a great smartwatch that has a really great interface and a really great design. The way Samsung has designed this smartwatch externally is a real treat for the eyes.
The 3 also comes with a fantastic rotating bezel which was absent in its predecessor, the Galaxy Active2. I sorely missed it because it’s one of the best features of a Samsung smartwatch. Instead of using a crown, or worse, swiping to navigate, with the 3 you can rotate a large, precise, rotating crown to scroll through menus or screens. This is really great, and the satisfaction you get from hearing each click is priceless.
The design of the menus is also really nice. The icons and . If you are using a , you will be able to access your messages and emails on your 3, just as if you were on your phone. faces look modern and are very colourful and create a really attractive to behold which is what you can expect from a
The reason why I really like this smartwatch is because of how it looks. But the software is a bit less competitive than its competition. For example, it has a smaller store and its speech to text system and voice assistant, Bixby, is just not as good as one from a . That’s a problem.
is OK, lasting about two days in my tests with the always on screen activated. It comes with a nice wireless charger which you’d then plug into a USB charger.
It also commands a price that’s up there with the Apple Watch Series 6, without being just as good. Uh oh!
The 3’s greatest competitor has to be the 3. A more affordable but equally capable smartwatch.
Mobvoi’s latest 3 is a really good smartwatch because it has all the best parts of the original , but without all the downsides of it. It comes with a really fast processor, the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 and is a lot slimmer than the original.
With the fastest processor available for a , you can enjoy that without all its typical complaints of sluggishness. Activating the Wear OS’s voice assistant, Google Assistant, is instantaneous. Replying to messages is quick and very accurate because Google’s speech to text system is amazing.
The Ticwatch Pro 3 also tracks many health stats like sleep tracking, stress and SpO2 which is a feature that’s not embedded in most Wear OS devices. 3 has a dual layer screen with one monochrome LED screen and a full colour LED screen. It mostly runs on its LCD screen to show time and certain workout stats which means it has a that’s far better than most Wear OS devices. The
All in all, I really like the 3 because it’s a very modern looking smartwatch that has all the features you’d expect from a premium smartwatch.
Fitbit Sense or 3
The new update to the Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3 have made this smartwatch a lot more dynamic of a general purpose smartwatch.
Previously, the Fitbit Sense and , but now, with the implementation of Google Assistant and the ability to take calls, the Fitbit Sense and 3 have really gone a large step forward. 3 are great smartwatches if you need a that has
I took a call on my Fitbit Sense and the quality was OK. To be honest, I was much more surprised that the new Fitbits had a speaker in such a small package. The amount of tech the Fitbit devices pack in such a small volume really approaches 6 levels.
The main reason why you’d pick the Fitbit Sense or ‘s accuracy. Overall, I found it to be a pretty good tool to help you improve productivity and lifestyle. 3 over other smartwatches is because of how useful the whole system is in helping you keep a holistic view of your health and fitness. Fitbits are designed around tracking your health 24/7 and they are actually very good at it, although there are some complaints about their
The Garmin Fenix 6 is a really nice smartwatch but it has one major flaw — it’s not the best at enhancing your productivity.
This smartwatch is really good at helping you improve your athleticism but can’t send custom replies to messages and emails.
In exchange, you get a great suite of health features including the ability to create a training plan, offline maps and music (the last two features are only available on the non-base model).
Yet, I still love wearing it daily. For one, it has an amazing that lasts over a week, outlasting every other in this article, especially if you consider the number of features the is offering. The long lasting is really important especially if you plan to do an activity for many hours. Few smartwatches will go for hours and hours while running its internal GPS.
The 6 tops it off with offline maps which I have found to be very important when navigating unfamiliar territory like forests or lakes which, after a while, look all the same.
Best Smartwatch for Samsung Phones 2020
A while ago I wrote an article regarding the best smartwatch for Apple.
In the first few paragraphs, I declared that the best smartwatch for the Apple iPhone is the Apple Watch Series 5.
So, Samsung makes its own smartwatches. There’s the Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch Active2. Logically, staying within the same brand for all your gadgets seems like the best and most streamlined way forward.
But it isn’t as clear cut with Samsung. There are definite benefits from keeping it in the family, but because Android phones do not have the compatibility problems that an iPhone has with other non-Apple smartwatches, and there’s a lot of competition and headwinds for Samsung.
To quickly summarize, Apple iPhones are a tough nut to crack. You can’t reply to messages and emails unless you are on an Apple Watch. And most smartwatches can’t answer calls when paired to an iPhone.
But such doesn’t apply when you’re on an Android smartphone. Android smartphones are like happy-go-lucky, chill friends that go along with whatever.
And that’s a problem for Samsung smartphones because, unlike the iPhone, it’s not a “protected” ecosystem.
Err, OK, but there must be a reason to buy a Samsung smartwatch, right?
Right. Buying a Samsung smartwatch as a Samsung smartphone user brings its functionality very closely in line to what Apple can do with an Apple iPhone-Watch combo.
What sets a Samsung phone-smartwatch combo apart from a Wear OS smartwatch and Samsung phone combo apart really lies in the superior integration.
The Wear OS is the most likely competitor to Samsung’s line of Tizen OS smartwatches and so it deserves to be compared head-to-head.
Let’s talk about the overall feel. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active2 and the Galaxy Watch are both great smartwatches. I love the curved glass on the Galaxy Watch Active2 as well as the rotating bezel on the Galaxy Watch.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a very stylish watch that is reminiscent of a high-end Samsung phone. The Galaxy Watch has the best innovation from Samsung — its rotating bezel is just much better than a little crown available on some smartwatches.
A crown is better than swiping to navigate, but because it’s such a small knob, it feels very inaccurate. Whereas a bezel which clicks as you rotate and where you can place multiple fingers on it gives you much better control. I love it.
No Wear OS watch has this feature. They have crowns at best. To date, I haven’t seen a Wear OS watch with a curved-edge display either.
There’s a lot of variation when it comes to hardware on Wear OS smartwatches. Some have a higher-end processor, others have a better screen, more RAM, etc.
Better control, better integration
At the end of the day, when you buy a Samsung smartwatch, you are assured good performance, a great looking interface and also great functionality including Bixby, the voice assistant, direct access to your message and email inbox, calls and a good display.
These features are not guaranteed on a Wear OS device. They vary in features so it would be possible on some but not others. Generally, even the most premium of Wear OS devices won’t be able to access your message and email logs directly.
Smooth and slick performance
One major complaint many Wear OS users had was that the operating system felt very sluggish. In early 2020, when we were still able to dine out, date and enjoy the merriment of good company, I felt that the Wear OS was very slow and sluggish.
But as 2020 progressed, I found the Wear OS to run smoother and smoother.
It still lags behind on Samsung smartwatches though. Wear OS devices can sometimes be slow especially when there’s an update running in the background (and nothing will alert you to it until you recognize the signs).
Samsung’s experience is excellent. It never slows down. There’s no pause when you activate Bixby, the voice assistant. Compared to Google Assistant, sometimes Google Assistant will say “Speak now” when it really isn’t ready to receive voice input. Annoying.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch/Active2 also have NFC and Samsung Pay as standard, so you can pay with your credit card without taking your wallet or smartphone out. The Galaxy Watch/Active2 all come with LTE functionality, so that really helps you untether the smartwatch from the smartphone. However, the number of carriers supported is pretty limited so I would be careful of that before I get too excited.
For sports, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 really sets the standard. The Samsung Gear S3 and Galaxy Watch both suffer from an unreliable heart rate sensor and that’s a problem. I hated it when the watch would tell me that I needed to adjust the watch because it couldn’t get a read on my heart rate. Adjusting it didn’t do anything.
But the Active2 solves that. It hasn’t failed me when I’m out exercising with it.
Furthermore, I really like the way Samsung Health looks on the watch. It has a vibrant, fluorescent green hue that looks really attractive.
Samsung Health is superior to whatever the Wear OS can offer. It can track more typical statistics including steps, heart rate and exercise, but also more caloric intake, water consumption, caffeine intake and weight monitoring.
I was very happy to use Samsung Health’s weight planner which can create a plan for you depending on how much weight you want to lose. Coupled with a great calorie calculator that has local products, it’s great for weight loss (or gain).
Google’s counterpart, Google Fit, can only track fitness and exercise stats. It’s not that all-encompassing as what Samsung offers.
Wear OS advantages
One main advantage with Wear OS devices is that you have a huge range of choices to go for. Different designs, different straps, different brands.
You can get leather, stainless steel or silicone straps. You can get a watch case that looks like it’s ready for the toughest mountaineering. You can also get a Wear OS smartwatch that is extremely light and extremely affordable.
Then comes the advantages of software. Yes, you do lose the ability to access your emails and texts directly but you are still able to reply to them as they come in as notifications.
Voice assistant, speech-to-text superiority
In fact, because the Wear OS is backed by Google, you also get access to the most valuable tool on a smartwatch — the voice assistant and speech-to-text function.
The speech-to-text function is fantastic. It’s probably the best and closely rivals Apple Watch’s counterpart.
I loved how I could reliably reply to texts on a Wear OS device. That provided me the convenience of avoiding taking my phone out.
Samsung has a speech-to-text function too but it’s inferior by a large margin. Speech gets transcribed, but quite inaccurately at times. And after a few times, you just give up.
The Wear OS also features a 26-alphabet keyboard rather than the T9 number pad keyboard on Samsungs. This is useful when you need to send out a custom message in a quiet environment where you can’t speak out loud.
Google Assistant is an amazing voice assistant that’s available right on your smartwatch. It can do much, much more than Bixby can.
Bixby is very limited in what it can do. If it’s a functionality supported by software, then you will not have any problems with it. However, if you want it to find random information, chances are your best bet is Google Assistant.
Again, Google Assistant harnesses the power of Google to provide you dynamic and useful information. If you ask it the most random question, it will just query Google’s search engine and give you the “I’m Feeling Lucky” result.
But there’s more. Google Assistant can integrate into Google Maps. That is really helpful because navigation is something that I really enjoy on my smartwatch.
Superior number of apps
This gives me a good segway into apps. The number of apps available on the Wear OS is much better than on Samsung’s Tizen OS.
Both platforms offer great default apps that will perform fine for most of your uses but Wear OS watches are definitely better because they have much more latitude. You are much more likely to find a niche app in the Google Play Store than on any other platform.
Again, being in Google’s ecosystem allows you to access great apps such as Google Maps, Keep and Translate. I really like Google Maps because having a map system on my wrist is very useful, especially when cycling or when you are kayaking in unfamiliar territory.
Samsung’s Galaxy Store really doesn’t have that many apps which is unfortunate because this is another area where it lags behind the Wear OS.
Wear OS or Tizen OS?
Yes, and that’s because the Wear OS is so much better than Samsung’s Tizen OS.
The conveniences you get from the Wear OS outstrips the Tizen OS’s superior integration with Samsung phones.
And you get a choice of many, many more Wear OS smartwatches to pick from rather than the handful that Samsung puts out.
Watches to pick from
If you are impressed with what the Samsung smartwatch line can do and are OK with the downsides of the Tizen OS, then I would wholeheartedly recommend the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2. I personally love its design, its reliable heart rate sensor and it has a decent battery life of two days.
Older Samsungs are worth considering, since they offer more or less the same software and might cost less on the used market. The Samsung Gear S3 is a great watch as long as you don’t need a reliable heart rate sensor. It’s also not waterproof so don’t take it swimming!
Comparatively, I can’t tell much difference between the Gear S3 and the Galaxy Watch. They are really just too similar, except for the waterproofing and the improved heart rate sensor (which still fails sometimes).
But when it comes to the Wear OS lineup, you have a much wider choice to pick from. I am personally a fan of Fossil’s Gen 5 lineup.
I own a Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. It’s a great watch because it has some of the best hardware coupled with a great number of watch faces which Fossil has taken care to design. It offers the best Wear OS experience in my opinion. The Fossil Sport Smartwatch is a great smartwatch, really lightweight and compact, but it has atrocious battery life, so for that, I’d avoid it.
Comparatively, Mobvoi’s Ticwatch range doesn’t have as nicely designed watch faces. It’s all very utilitarian with the Ticwatches. But they offer great value at the cost of weaker hardware. The Ticwatch S2 really sets itself apart because it has a Military Standard 810G rating which Mobvoi says in its blog that it “goes through a series of 29 tests, testing shock, vibration, and other things that fully measure out its mechanism and capabilities. Once it has passed the tests, this label ensures the smartwatch is ‘combat ready.’”