Latest and greatest

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

Still one of our favorites

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 builds on the successes of one of the most popular "Android" watches ever with new features, new colors, and a greater focus on healthy lifestyles. It's truly a next-generation smartwatch aiming to compete with the best from the likes of Apple and Garmin.

From $339 at Amazon

Pros

  • Physical rotating bezel
  • New sleep and running features
  • Trip detection
  • Built-in GPS
  • LTE option
  • Over two days of battery life

Cons

  • Over $100 more than Watch Active 2
  • Blood-pressure monitoring and ECG not widely enabled yet

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 has been our favorite smartwatch for Android users since it first debuted in late 2019, and it's likely to stay high on our list until the Watch Active 3 appears on the scene. It is lightweight, sporty, and perfect for everyday use.

From $180 at Amazon

Pros

  • Digital rotating bezel
  • Built-in GPS
  • LTE option
  • Lighter, more streamlined look
  • Much cheaper than Galaxy Watch 3
  • Two-day battery life

Cons

  • No trip detection
  • Blood-pressure monitoring and ECG STILL not widely enabled

Don't let the naming convention fool you when comparing the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. the Galaxy Watch Active 2; these are both the second iterations of two of Samsung's most popular wearables. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 was released in late 2019, and the Galaxy Watch 3 in mid-2020, yet these two smartwatches share an awful lot of family DNA. But you're not here to learn about their similarities, are you? Let's dive into what makes the Watch 3 different from the Watch Active 2 and why you might want to consider one over the other.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 vs. Galaxy Watch Active 2 When Galaxies collide

The Galaxy Watch 3 is actually only the second edition of Samsung's popular flagship smartwatch. Still, as with the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Note 20 phones, the company feels that the device represents such a generational leap forward that a leap in numbering was required. The latest and greatest wearable from Samsung has not only iterated on the first edition but also borrowed some of the best features from the wildly successful Galaxy Watch Active 2.

So if these two watches are so similar, why would you want to go for the Active 2 instead of the newer Watch 3? There are several reasons, including style, fit, and price, just to name a few.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Display 1.2-inch or 1.4-inch Super AMOLED 1.2-inch or 1.4-inch Super AMOLED
Dimensions 41x42.5x11.3mm
45x46.2x11.1mm
40x40x10.9mm
44x44x10.9mm
Weight 49.2 - 53.8 g 26 - 30 g
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, LTE (select models) Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, LTE (select models)
Water resistance 5ATM+ IP68 / MIL-STD-910G 5ATM+ IP68 / MIL-STD-810G
Battery life 2+ days (varies by model) 2 days (varies by model)
Sensors HRM, electrocardiogram (ECG), accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor, blood pressure monitor HRM, electrocardiogram (ECG), accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor, blood pressure monitor
Operating system Tizen Tizen
Notifications Yes Yes
Built-in GPS Yes Yes
NFC Payments Yes
Samsung Pay
Yes
Samsung Pay
Electrocardiogram Yes
not available worldwide
Yes
not available worldwide
Blood pressure monitor Yes
not available worldwide
Yes
not available worldwide
Optional LTE Yes Yes
Colors Stainless steel: Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black, Mystic Silver
Titanium: Mystic Black
Aluminum: Black, Gold, Silver, Pink Gold
Stainless steel: Black, Gold, Silver
Material Stainless steel
Titanium
Aluminium
Stainless steel

That was a lot to cover. Let's dive into what makes each watch great before we decide on a winner in this matchup.

Athleisure focus Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Galaxy Watch Active 2 HeroSource: Chris Wedel/Android Central

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the perfect wearable for the fitness-focused person who wants a legitimate smartwatch companion. It compares quite favorably to more dedicated sports watches and trackers in this space while dramatically outpacing those other devices when it comes to the user interface, power, and smartwatch functionality.

This sporty watch comes in two sizes, a smaller 40mm and a larger 44mm, with four subtle yet beautiful colors to choose from, including black, gold, silver, and pink. The casing is constructed of brushed aluminum, which is both durable and lightweight, and the overall feel with the included fluoroelastomer bands is quite comfortable. You almost don't even notice that you have it on!

The display is a bright and beautiful SUPER AMOLED panel, and it features one of Samsung's best user interface features, a rotating bezel. Well, sort of. The rotating bezel here is virtual, but it gives you a similar experience as on the Galaxy Watch and Galaxy Watch 3. The only drawback is that when your fingers are wet or sweaty, it can be a bit difficult to use this feature (and as a sports watch, your hands may be slippery when trying to use it).

As you would expect, GPS is built-in, and there are LTE versions available in both sizes as well. The Watch Active 2 also comes in a golf edition, with accurate course distances from over 40,000 courses worldwide, as well as fun, sporty bands, and colors in both sizes. So if you're an avid golfer, that might just sway you to swing with this watch.

Next-generation smartwatch Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

Galaxy Watch 3 45mm BlackSource: Android Central

It took approximately two years for Samsung to update its popular Galaxy Watch, but that hasn't stopped it from continuing to be one of the most-searched-for wearables on Android Central to this day. Fans are no doubt ecstatic to see it updated in the form of the Galaxy Watch 3.

Wait, you might be saying, what happened to the Galaxy Watch 2? Well, it never existed. Samsung skipped a generation in names because it felt that this watch was such a leap forward in terms of performance, and we think it might be on to something.

The latest version of the Galaxy Watch line comes with a host of new and exciting features, including a version of fall (trip) detection, the ability to control the smartwatch with hand gestures, and new watch faces and controls. There are also new health, fitness, and lifestyle features, such as advanced running analysis and improved sleep monitoring. Samsung is also offering the ability to connect to over 120 video workouts via the Samsung Health app on your Galaxy smartphone.

Unfortunately, some of the most significant health features won't be available to everyone at launch and likely for some time to come. Like the Watch Active 2, which was released in November 2019, the Watch 3 will only support blood oxygen reading and electrocardiogram in some locations such as South Korea and the U.S. This is particularly frustrating, as it has the sensors to do both now, and competitors have similar features enabled in other parts of the world.

There is a 41mm version for smaller wrists that retails for $399 and a larger 45mm version that retails for $429. While this watch's price is a substantial increase over the Active 2, it still sits on the lower end of premier smartwatches like the Apple Watch. It comes in stainless steel and titanium finish options, with bold colors such as the new Mystic Bronze to match the Note 20 Ultra and a stealthy Mystic Black (which is the one I'd go for).

Which should you buy?

Galaxy Watch3 Mystic Bronze And Black Front Lifestyle Official LifestyleSource: Samsung

When it comes to smartwatches, buying advice is generally to purchase the newest device available. Even more so than smartphones, generational upgrades can perform exponentially better than previous versions.

That's why when forced to pick a winner, I'd have to recommend that if you're considering both the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 that you go with the newer option. Yes, the newer Watch 3 is more expensive, but if you get the 41mm Bluetooth stainless steel version, it comes in cheaper than the larger LTE Active 2. I know that's not exactly apples to apples (or Galaxies to Galaxies), but they're not as far apart as you'd imagine. And you can expect that the Watch 3 will have some deals and sales over the coming months as well.

Despite my official recommendation, I still think the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is still one heck of a smartwatch. That's why it's one of our favorite Android smartwatches. It packs a ton of useability features, excellent performance, and comparable battery life at significant price savings. If you elect to go with this wearable, you're not going to regret it.

Latest and greatest

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

Generational upgrade

The Galaxy Watch 3 builds on its predecessor with improved internals and sensors and borrows a fitness page from its sibling, the Active 2. However, this watch carries a bit more substance and gravitas and looks just as good paired with formal wear as it does with workout clothes.

Still one of our favorites

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

A great everyday watch

This is the Android smartwatch to get if you're inclined to fitness activities and don't want something like a Garmin or Fitbit. It handles all of the sporty functions of its competition and is markedly better as a smartwatch.

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