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Galaxy Watch Active vs. Apple Watch Series 3: Which should you buy?

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

Galaxy Watch Active

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The Galaxy Watch Active has "active" in the name for a reason. It's a robust fitness smartwatch that's ideal for athletes with plenty of perks, which include built-in GPS, activity, sleep, and stress tracking, up to two days of battery life, music storage with Spotify, and more.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

Fitness tracking for cheap

Built-in GPS
Activity and sleep tracking
Samsung Pay
Great battery life
No LTE connectivity
Heart-rate tracking is basic

Apple Watch Series 3

Apple Watch Series 3

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The Apple Watch Series 3 isn't marketed as a fitness smartwatch, but it can serve as one. Plus, you'll have nearly a day of battery life, built-in GPS, health and fitness tracking, superior app support, music storage with Apple Music, and optional cellular connectivity.

Apple Watch Series 3

Affordable lifestyle watch

Built-in GPS
Activity tracking
Apple Pay
Optional LTE connectivity
Shorter battery life
LTE model is more expensive

Galaxy Watch Active vs. Apple Watch Series 3: Budget-friendly wearables

It's no secret that Samsung and Apple are consistently competing with one another, especially when it comes to the wearable market. However, both companies have gotten extremely good at understanding their audiences. The result is two incredible smartwatch lineups that cater to very similar crowds.

If you're on the hunt for a budget-friendly option, you might find yourself torn between the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and the Apple Watch Series 3. It's no secret these aren't the newest devices from either company, but there's still a lot to enjoy. Both watches are ideal when you want something affordable that still offers plenty of features. There are some similarities between the two, but there are also some slight differences.

While both of these smartwatches are fashionable and packed with features, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active caters to a wider audience with its more traditional look, superior battery life, and it's still receiving new features more than two years after its initial release. With that said, the Apple Watch Series 3 is still a solid contender, especially for existing iOS users.

Galaxy Watch Active vs. Apple Watch Series 3: What's the difference?

Galaxy Watch Active

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

One of the most obvious deciding factors from the start is your OS preference. For example, are you an Android or iPhone user? While it's great that the Galaxy Watch Active can pair with both, you're going to have a better experience when you pair it with an Android Phone.

If you're an iOS user, an Apple Watch will be your best option by default. If you want a well-rounded experience, including the ability to reply to text messages from your wrist, an Apple Watch is the better choice for iOS users. Not to mention that it will be a more intuitive experience, and you'll have better third-party app support.

Galaxy Watch ActiveApple Watch Series 3
Dimensions39.5 x 39.5 x 10.5mm38.6 x 33.3 x 11.4mm
Display1.1-inch AMOLED, 360x3601.5-inch OLED, 340x272
ConnectivityBluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi b/g/nBluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi b/g/n
SensorsHRM, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, light sensorBarometric altimeter, Optical heart sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor
Storage4GB16GB
Water resistanceUp to 50mUp to 50m
Notifications✔️✔️
Built-in GPS✔️✔️
NFC payments✔️✔️
Sleep tracking✔️✔️
Optional Cellular✔️

There's also a pretty big difference in the designs. Many people prefer a traditional circular watch face, making the Galaxy Watch Active slightly more attractive. It also beats the Apple Watch's battery life by about a day or so. However, the Galaxy Watch Active only comes in one size, 40mm, and four colors: black, silver, rose gold, and green. The Apple Watch is available in 38mm or 42mm sizes and has two colors: silver and Space Gray.

While design and battery life are essential, so are the features and overall functionality. For example, both of these watches offer heart-rate monitoring and onboard GPS. Neither model has an electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor, but the Apple Watch Series 3 has an FDA-approved irregular heart rhythm notification. This feature tracks your heart rate in the background and alerts you if an irregularity is detected that could be related to a heart condition called atrial fibrillation (AFib).

The Galaxy Watch Active, on the other hand, offers more basic heart-rate monitoring along with low and high heart rate alerts. There is My BP Lab, which can record blood pressure readings. Some people might find this feature useful, but it's not quite as advanced as the irregular heart rhythm notification offered by Apple.

Apple Watch Series 3

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

The good news is that both models offer solid fitness and health tracking features. While the Apple Watch Series 3 now provides sleep tracking, there's some debate about its accuracy. Additionally, the company offers a new subscription service called Apple Fitness+ compatible with the Apple Watch Series 3. Users can access a robust library of video-led workouts displayed on most Apple devices. Your real-time Apple Watch data will be conveniently shown on the screen during your exercise.

There's no getting around the fact that the app selection on the Apple Watch is superior to that of the Galaxy Watch Active. Tizen OS has come a long way, but it still doesn't live up to Apple's selection. That said, Android users will likely find everything they need when it comes to apps. However, iPhone users might be less thrilled with the Galaxy Watch Active app selection.

Despite being over two years old, Samsung is still making an effort to provide useful updates to the Galaxy Watch Active. For example, users will now have access to the advanced fall detection feature. When a fall is detected, the watch will send an SOS notification to pre-selected contacts.

The Group Challenge feature lets users add friends and family members to a Challenge to either work out as a team or compete against each other. Additionally, Samsung added several new watch face options so that users can take personalization a step further. It's not as robust or advanced as the latest Galaxy Watch 4, but the Galaxy Watch Active is great for budget shoppers and beginners who are just starting their smartwatch journey.

Galaxy Watch Active vs. Apple Watch Series 3: Which should you buy?

While you might've guessed that we're partial to the Galaxy Watch Active, there are many valid reasons to choose either one of these smartwatches. For example, if you're already a well-established iOS user and you want a smartwatch with cellular connectivity, you'll likely benefit from the Apple Watch Series 3. It has a few benefits over the Galaxy Watch Active, including the irregular heart rhythm notification and superior app support. However, be prepared to charge your watch daily. The LTE-enabled model will also be more expensive than the standard GPS model.

If you're an Android user who wants an LTE-enabled smartwatch, you should consider stretching your budget and buying the Galaxy Watch Active 2. The second edition offers two size options as well as ECG. However, if you don't need these extras, the Galaxy Wach Active is a wonderfully affordable smartwatch with several perks to go around. Popular features include activity/sleep tracking, heart-rate monitoring, automatic workout tracking, and Samsung Pay.

Courtney Lynch is a freelance writer at Android Central. She's obsessed with all things health, fitness, and music. At any given time, she can be found checking out the latest and greatest gadgets while simultaneously petting her dog and sipping iced coffee.