Improved sensors and more

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Always-on display is here

Apple Watch Series 5

If you were left wanting more after the original Galaxy Watch Active was released, you'll be pleased with its successor. You can look forward to improved sensors and GPS, an innovative digital rotating bezel, and an updated Running Coach feature.

$300 at Samsung

Pros

  • Digital rotating bezel
  • Two sizes
  • Sleep tracking
  • Updated Running Coach
  • Built-in GPS

Cons

  • ECG feature not available at launch
  • More limited app selection

If you've been patiently waiting for the Apple Watch to debut an always-on display, your time has come. It also has a new digital compass app and double the storage at 32GB. If these minor changes are calling your name, you may want to answer.

$415 at Amazon

Pros

  • Always-on display
  • Two sizes
  • 32GB storage capacity
  • ECG at launch

Cons

  • Lacks sleep tracking
  • Not much of an upgrade from predecessor

It's that time again. Samsung and Apple are going to head to head with their latest smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 and the Apple Watch Series 5. Both of these wearables are overflowing with features that are changing the smartwatch game as we know it, so how do you choose? Most people automatically sway one way or the other when it comes to Samsung versus Apple, but it's safe to say that these new devices are turning it into a neck-and-neck competition that's worthy of a second thought.

How do they differ?

Pictured: Galaxy Watch Active 2

You won't have any trouble telling these two smartwatches apart. In terms of design, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 and the Apple Watch Series 5 couldn't be more different. Samsung offers a more traditional watch appearance with a round display while the Apple Watch has a more modern rectangular display. With that said, both of them use OLED panels. Keep in mind that they both come in an LTE version, but for the sake of this comparison we'll be looking at the larger standard models with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is an AMOLED display, which gives you plenty of brightness when you need it and the option to turn it down when you don't. Not to mention that it' sharp and beautiful to look at. It's up to you whether you want to use the always-on feature or not. If you go without, you'll be able to squeeze some more battery life out of it. You can expect a day or more depending on your usage. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is available in aluminum and a more expensive stainless steel case. You can choose between a 40mm and a 44mm case size.

The Apple Watch display works differently. It uses an LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxid) OLED display that boasts a variable refresh rate depending on what the watch is doing. This means that the display is indeed always on and dims from time to time rather than shutting off completely. The watch is still able to deliver 18 hours of battery life. In addition to the usual case materials of stainless steel, aluminum, and ceramic, you'll also now have the option of a pricier titanium case. It also comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 Apple Watch Series 5
Dimensions 44 x 44 x 10.9mm, 30g 44 x 38 x 10.74 mm, 36.5g
Display 1.4-inch AMOLED,
360 x 360
1.78-inch always-on retina display, 368 x 448
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n 2.4GHz
Sensors HRM, electrocardiogram (ECG), accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor Barometric altimeter, Optical heart sensor, HRM, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, compass
Storage 4GB 32GB
Water resistance Up to 50m Up to 50m
Always-on display ✔️ ✔️
Notifications ✔️ ✔️
Built-in GPS ✔️ ✔️
NFC payments ✔️ ✔️
Sleep tracking ✔️

While there are similarities in many of the features, there are some major differences that'll make or break your decision. If you're an activity tracking enthusiast, you might be disappointed to learn that the Apple Watch is still not equipped for sleep tracking. That's not to say that you can't download some third-party app in place of this, but it sure is nice that the Galaxy Watch Active 2 comes ready to track your sleep patterns.

The Apple Watch Series 5 prevailed in other areas, though. For instance, it once again comes locked and loaded with an electrocardiogram (ECG) feature that can detect an irregular heartbeat that may indicate a more serious health condition. Samsung is on track to roll out the same feature on the Galaxy Watch Active 2, but it won't be ready for use when that watch goes on sale.

Apple Watch Series 5Pictured: Apple Watch Series 5.

Another new feature that the Apple Watch has is a digital compass app. You'll have the option to record and show heading, incline, latitude, longitude, and current elevation. This might come in handy if you're feeling a bit disoriented or not sure what someone means when they tell you to "head west" on a certain road. It'll be most useful when looking at your maps and being able to see which direction you're currently facing. Other than that, this isn't exactly a groundbreaking feature that'll determine your ultimate choice.

Other than the new always-on display and digital compass feature, you're not going to find any major differences on the Apple Watch Series 5. In fact, it seems Apple is pushing the always-on display as the biggest new feature. It's nice, but is it worth shelling out that much cash for a new watch? That's for you decide, but we don't think so. You do get double the amount of storage, which has been upgraded from 16 to 32GB, but it's unlikely that you've been holding out for this much storage space on a wearable. Apple has also noted that the ambient light sensor is improved.

Pictured: Galaxy Watch Active 2

As for the Galaxy Watch Active 2, it's safe to say this device has a lot of upgrades and differences when you compare it to the previous model. You'll have a more accurate LED-based heart rate monitor, an advanced accelerometer, and improved GPS, to name a few features.

There are also improvements to Running Coach, which now offers real-time pace metrics. You'll get a breakdown of what you can expect from your workout session before you start. Whether you're running, jogging, or walking, the feature coaches you via audio cues. You'll be able to listen to them on the watch speaker or with connected Bluetooth headphones.

Final verdict

If you're purchasing a smartwatch for the first time, this could be one of your toughest buying decisions or it could be the easiest one yet. It's no secret that most people have a preference: Android or iOS. That preference will likely carry over to wearables as well. No matter which side you're on, both of these smartwatches have plenty to offer. You'll enjoy several features with both, including fitness tracking, built-in GPS, NFC payments, smartphone notifications, 5 ATM water resistance, and more.

On the other hand, if you're simply trying to decide if it's a worthy upgrade from the predecessor to the successor, you'll need to ask yourself what your priorities are. If you want the latest and greatest even when there aren't many new features, you're probably going to splurge on the Apple Watch Series 5. However, if budget is a concern then you may want to sit this one out.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 has made a lot of positive changes, including the digital rotating bezel, new-and-improved sensors for better accuracy, and an updated Running Coach feature. You'll have ECG in the near future, too. Don't forget that this smartwatch gives you sleep tracking while the Apple Watch does not. All things considered, they're both excellent options, but in terms of an overall great device that proves to be a significant upgrade from its predecessor, we're going to have to go with Samsung.

Improved sensors and more

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

A perfect smartwatch for Samsung enthusiasts

Ready for a new-and-improved Samsung wearable? The wait is over. It doesn't get much better than the Galaxy Watch Active 2. In addition to a robust fitness tracking suite, there's many other new features to love, too.

Always-on display is here

Apple Watch Series 5

A solid smartwatch for Apple fans

There aren't too many new features to report, but if the reason you've been hestitant to invest in an Apple Watch is the lack of always-on display, times have changed. It's a worthwhile investment if you're willing to spend the money.

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