Samsung Galaxy Watch Active vs. TicWatch S2: Which is right for you?

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Review 3
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Review 3 (Image credit: Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

The Galaxy Active is the streamlined, simplified version of the Galaxy Watch Active, making it an excellent size and value while still keeping most of the features of its big brother. In short, the Galaxy Watch Active is the fitness-oriented smartwatch you really want.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

Thin and fit

Wonderful AMOLED display
Qi charging
Samsung Pay
Comfy, lightweight design
Tizen OS still annoying at times
Lower-end battery life

Mobvoi TicWatch S2

Mobvoi aimed squarely for active outdoor users with the TicWatch S2 with MIL-STD-810G military-grade durability certifications and 5ATM waterproofing, but for $20 less, you get significantly less style and a clunkier performance.

Mobvoi TicWatch S2

Ruggedly handsome

Decent specs at an affordable price
5 ATM waterproof
Certified military-grade durability
Rugged look is a bit garish
Only two basic colors
No NFC payments

With only $20 separating the TicWatch S2 and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active, what you're trying to balance between these two watches comes down to style and software, and in both categories, there's a definite edge to the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active right now.

How sporty do you want your fitness tracking smartwatch to look?

Pretty colors

Isn't she beautiful?

The Samsung Galaxy Watch is a fitness band in the style of a smartwatch and it may be the prettiest fitness tracker I've ever seen, especially the more unique shades like Green and Rose Gold. Now, the TicWatch S2 isn't bad-looking, but it's less handsome than its fraternal twin — the TicWatch E2 — and looks downright bland next to the Active's shiny metal housing. The Active also has the benefit of being a bit slimmer in just about every dimension: smaller bezels, smaller frame, smaller screen, and thinner profile, too.

Both devices have GPS, heart-rate tracking, and activity tracking — though the Galaxy Watch Active has slightly more robust workout tracking — and both watches can easily last one day but will barely stretch to two days. Both watches are swim-friendly thanks to 5ATM waterproofing, and MIL-STD-810G durability standards say both watches should stand up to drops, dings and corrosive environments like salty sea fog.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy Watch ActiveMobvoi TicWatch S2
Rose Gold
Band width20mm22mm
Button configurationTwo button rightOne button right
Display1.1" AMOLED 360 x 360px1.39" OLED 400 x 400px
ConnectivityBluetooth v4.2 Low Energy
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n [[ nfc bluetooth v4.2 ]] Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 Ghz
Row 7 - Cell 2
Payment systemSamsung Pay
Up to 2 days
Up to 2 days
ChargingQi wireless chargingProprietary charger
Waterproof Rating5 ATM (swim-ready, up to 50m)5 ATM (swim-ready, up to 50m)
Durability RatingMIL-STD-810G
Operational between -20ºC to 55ºC
resistant to humidity, dust, and salt fog
Operational between -20ºC to 55ºC
resistant to humidity, dust, and salt fog
Heart Rate
Heart-rate sensor
Low latency off-body sensor

The last of the real hardware differences is that the Galaxy Watch Active has NFC for contactless payments through Samsung Pay. While paying with your wrist is a luxury that you still can't use everywhere, it's nice to at least have the option, even if I wish it was Google Pay and not Samsung Pay.

Samsung using Tizen OS and Samsung services for apps and fitness tracking — Galaxy Apps and Samsung Health — might rub some users the wrong way if they've been Wear OS users for years, like me. The UI on the Active isn't bad and there are plenty of apps and watch faces to choose from, but it is a definite adjustment to make, and without that sweet rotating bezel from more robust Samsung wearables like the original Samsung Galaxy Watch, Tizen feels a teeny bit less awesome to use day to day.

Again, with only $20 separating the S2 and Active, it's quite easy to justify the upgrade for a newer processor and far more stylish look, but if Tizen OS and Samsung's app selection rankles you, the TicWatch S2 is still a capable smartwatch for your day-to-day notifications and basic fitness tracking. The Galaxy Active is better all around, and I firmly believe it gives a better value for the price.

Ara Wagoner

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.