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Apple Watch SE vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (Image credit: Android Central)

Galaxy Watch Active 2

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

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The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a major upgrade from its predecessor. You'll have ECG, blood pressure monitoring, optional LTE, Running Analysis, heart-rate monitoring, and more. Let's not forget about the improved sensors and better GPS accuracy! It's no wonder this smartwatch is such a hit.

Galaxy Watch Active 2

More features

GPS, HRM, NFC
Optional LTE connectivity
Running Analysis
ECG, SpO2, VO2 Max
Two size options
Less storage space available
App support could be improved

Apple Watch SE

Apple Watch SE

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The Apple Watch has been a top competitor in the wearable industry for quite some time. Not everyone is willing to pay the hefty price tag, though. The good news is that Apple Watch SE is more affordable and still has some great features, like activity/sleep tracking, GPS, and heart-rate monitoring.

Apple Watch SE

Great Value

GPS, HRM, NFC
Optional LTE connectivity
Activity/sleep tracking
Always-on altimeter
Two size options
Poor battery life
No ECG, SpO2 sensors
Lacks always-on display

Apple Watch SE vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Similar cost, different features

When deciding between the Apple Watch SE and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, the main factor to consider is whether you want as many features as possible or if you'd be happier with simply scoring a great deal. Another important factor when choosing the best smartwatch is, of course, whether you're an Android or iOS user. After all, Android users aren't going to find an Apple Watch to be very useful. On the flip side, iOS users will have a smoother and more seamless experience with an Apple Watch.

The price tags are also very similar, so if you're interested in having a smartwatch with extra features, it makes sense to go with the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. You'll have an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor for detecting irregular heartbeats, blood oxygen (SpO2) monitoring, and always-on display. None of these features are present on the Apple Watch SE, but this is also the most affordable new wearable from the company. If you can live without the features it lacks, it's an unbeatable deal.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 dives deeper

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

If you take a look at the company's current lineup, you'll quickly see that the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is one of the best Samsung smartwatches. Everything you'd expect from a fitness watch is present. Some examples include onboard GPS, activity/sleep tracking, heart-rate monitoring, automatic workout recognition, and 5 ATM water resistance. There are more advanced features for you to take advantage of for those who really want to dive deep into their health and fitness, which we'll cover.

Starting with the basics, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a bold and bright AMOLED display with a convenient always-on option if you want to use it. Depending on your usage, the battery life will hover around two days or so.

This watch comes either in an aluminum or a more expensive stainless steel case. You can also choose between a 40mm and a 44mm case size. Both models feature a quick-release attachment system, so there are plenty of Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 bands to choose from when you want to switch things up.

Apple Watch SEGalaxy Watch Active 2
Display1.6-inch or 1.8-inch Retina LTPO OLED display1.2-inch or 1.4-inch Super AMOLED
Dimensions40 x 34 x 10.4mm
44 x 38 x 10.4mm
40 x 40 x 10.9mm
44 x 44 x 10.9mm
Weight30.49g - 36.2 g26 - 30 g
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, LTE (select models)Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi, LTE (select models)
Water resistance5ATM5ATM+ IP68 / MIL-STD-810G
Battery life18 hours2 days (varies by model)
SensorsHRM, compass, always-on altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensorHRM, electrocardiogram (ECG), accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor, blood pressure monitor
ColorsAluminum: Silver, Space Gray, GoldAluminum: Black, Gold, Silver, Pink Gold
Stainless steel: Black, Gold, Silver
Operating systemiOSTizen
Optional LTE✔️✔️
Notifications✔️✔️
Built-in GPS✔️✔️
NFC Payments✔️✔️
Always-on display✔️
Electrocardiogram✔️
Blood oxygen✔️

Upon comparing the Galaxy Watch Active and the Galaxy Watch Active, you'll see there have been some significant upgrades. The new model offers improved GPS accuracy, a more accurate LED-based heart rate monitor, and an advanced accelerometer. Additionally, Running Coach now offers real-time pace metrics. This provides you with a breakdown of what to expect from your workout before you begin. Whether you're running, jogging, or walking, the feature coaches you via audio cues. You can listen to them right on the watch speaker or with Bluetooth headphones.

A recent update brings some of the best Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 features over to the Watch Active 2.

More importantly, a recent update brings some of the best Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 features over to the Watch Active 2. The Running Analysis feature is designed to help you improve your form, prevent injuries, and became an overall better runner. Users can also measure VO2 max, which indicates the maximum amount of oxygen that you can utilize during intense exercise.

This update also adds fall detection to the list of features. This means that when a potential fall is detected, you can promptly send an SOS notification to your pre-designated contacts. Those who heavily rely on using their watch to communicate will be happy to know that on-wrist communication is better. For instance, you won't have to take out your phone when you get a notification. You can view photos and emoticons from the watch. Of course, it'll be even better with LTE connectivity.

The Apple Watch SE handles the basics at a low price

Apple Watch Series 6 Apple Watch Se

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

To put it simply, the Apple Watch SE is essentially a lower-cost model that pulls features from the Apple Watch Series 4 and 5, but there are a few exceptions. It has the Series 5 larger display, but it lacks the always-on feature. You also won't have access to the ECG sensor or blood oxygen monitoring. However, you will get the always-on altimeter that debuted on the Series 6 as well as support for heart rate and irregular heartbeat alerts. If you're buying a smartwatch to enjoy a standard wearable experience with notifications and workout tracking, this is an excellent deal.

The Apple Watch SE runs on watchOS 7 with the S5 processor. It may not be the newer and faster S6 processor that you'll find on the Apple Watch Series 6, but there's still a noticeable difference. Simple tasks you perform daily, such as scrolling through menus and launching apps, is quick and smooth on the Apple Watch SE.

One feature that's not exclusive to this model but deserves recognition is the introduction of Apple Fitness+.

One feature that's not exclusive to this model but deserves recognition is the introduction of Apple Fitness+. It's nice to see the company is trying to keep up with the competition. As mentioned in the Apple Watch SE review, having this app on your home screen is quite the motivation tool.

Apple Watch Series 6 Apple Watch Se

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

The new subscription service offers workouts that can be accessed from virtually any Apple device. You can view your real-time metrics on the screen while you're exercising, so you don't have to keep glancing at your watch. Apple is offering three months of the new service for free when you buy an Apple Watch (a Series 3 or later, to be exact).

As noted in our initial hands-on, some people may be wondering just how great the value is for this model. Why not save some money and get an Apple Watch Series 3 instead? Will the larger and brighter display, improved performance, and new sensors really be worth it? Considering the Series 3 is already a few years old, it may not continue receiving watchOS updates for much longer. If you can afford it, splurging on the Apple Watch SE will be worthwhile. You'll also get a louder speaker, Family Setup support, and fall detection.

Apple Watch SE vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Which should you buy?

Galaxy Watch Active 2

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

When making your final decision, you'll want to think about which operating system will suit you best as well as how many features you need to be content. For a closer look at your overall health and fitness, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (opens in new tab) is the better option. To recap, it offers a few key features that the Apple Watch SE can't provide: ECG, blood oxygen monitoring, and always-on display. Naturally, this is the best choice for Android users.

While you can still use an iPhone with the Galaxy Watch Active 2, many users are going to prefer the benefits of the Apple Watch SE (opens in new tab). Not only is it one of the most affordable new releases from Apple, but it still has a good amount of useful features that make it a worthwhile purchase. The perks include optional LTE connectivity, GPS, heart-rate monitoring with low/high alerts, activity/sleep tracking, notifications, and Apple Fitness+.

We might be partial to the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 for a few reasons, but it's not hard to see why one might want to take advantage of the Apple Watch SE.