Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro vs. Apple Watch Series 8

When the Apple Watch Ultra launched, everyone naturally compared it to the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro because they were the two "flagship" smartwatches of each respective lineup. But in actuality, it's a bit unfair to compare the ultra-expensive Ultra to the Pro, which was never actually designed as a rugged fitness smartwatch in the same way. 

As a premium Android watch designed for everyday people rather than athletes, the Watch 5 Pro's closest equivalent is actually the Apple Watch Series 8 since it costs just $20 more than the 45mm model. 

So while we've already broken down the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro vs. Apple Watch Ultra and Galaxy Watch 5 vs. Apple Watch Series 8, both of those comparisons were arguably mismatches, since the Galaxy Watch 5 might be better likened to the Apple Watch SE given their similar prices. If we compare the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro vs. Apple Watch Series 8 instead, it's arguably a much more competitive breakdown. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Design and display

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro close-up of default watch face.

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

For the purposes of this discussion, I'll focus on the larger Apple Watch Series 8 (opens in new tab) 45mm, since anyone considering the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro likely wants a spacious display. But you can choose the 41mm model if you prefer something lighter, while with the Pro you have to accept its heavy weight in exchange for its massive battery.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a 1.4-inch Sapphire Glass display at 321 pixels per inch (PPI), just five PPI less than both Series 8 displays, and at the same 1,000 nits of brightness. Apple only uses Sapphire Glass on its stainless steel watches, which cost $700 and up; so you're stuck with Ion-X glass, which is more equivalent to Gorilla Glass in scratch/crack protection. 

Also on that note, the Apple Watch Series 8 uses aluminum while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has titanium, a more high-quality and durable material. In addition, Samsung gave the Pro MIL-STD-810H-rated protection, with a raised bezel that ensures the watch display is less likely to get damaged if you fall to the ground. Apple made its Series 8 dust- and water-resistant, yet it's certainly not as well-protected as the Pro or the Apple Watch Ultra (opens in new tab)

While the Series 8 displays have tiny bezels and a tall rectangular shape, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a significant bezel that serves as a capacitive touch bezel, meaning it lets you spin your fingertip around the edge to navigate through menus. It's speedier than turning the Apple Watch's Digital Crown, but also more finicky and less precise than a physical dial, meaning it takes a bit of practice to use.

Apple Watch Series 8 next to HomePod Mini

(Image credit: Stephen Warwick / iMore)

Having reviewed the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro myself, I found that it "juts out from your wrist" and feels somewhat prohibitively heavy to wear, especially with the default D-Buckle Sport band that adds a ton of weight to it. It's not the most comfortable to wear for sleep tracking at night, and can catch on doorways if you're not careful. My recommendation would be that you choose your Galaxy Watch 5 Pro bands carefully if you plan to buy it, and lean towards something simple and light. 

The benefit of the Apple Watch Series 8 is that it's so narrow: about 4mm skinnier and 8g lighter than the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro (not counting the band). That makes it both more stylish and more comfortable, especially with a lightweight Solo or Sport Loop to further the gap. 

As for the Apple Watch Series 8, our colleague Stephen Warwick at iMore praised the "tried and trusted design" that hasn't changed since the Apple Watch Series 7. The digital crown offers "tactile scrolling that makes quick navigation a breeze," and the newly thin-bezeled display "really transforms the user experience, with buttons much easier to press and information much easier to read."

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Hardware and battery life

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 ProApple Watch Series 8
Display1.4″ Super AMOLED (450x450, 321ppi)1.6- (352x430, 326ppi) or 1.8-inch (396x484, 326ppi) Retina LTPO OLED
BrightnessUp to 1,000 nitsUp to 1,000 nits
MaterialTitaniumAluminum or stainless steel
BandsRidge-Sport, D-Buckle Sport, Global Goals, Sport, Extreme Sport, Hybrid LeatherSolo Loop, Sport Band, Sport Loop, Nylon, Leather, Stainless Steel
NavigationTouchscreen, two buttons, digital bezelTouchscreen, one crown, one button
ProcessorSamsung Exynos W920 w/ 1.5GBS8 SiP with 64-bit dual-core processor
Storage16GB32GB
Battery590mAh; Up to 80 hours282mAh or 308mAh; Up to 18 hours
Wireless chargingYes (Qi)Yes (proprietary cable)
SensorsSamsung BioActive Sensor (Optical Heart Rate + Electrical Heart Signal + Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis), Temperature Sensor, Accelerometer, Barometer, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Light SensorAccelerometer, ambient light, barometer/altimeter, compass, ECG, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, pulse oximeter, thermometer
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4+5GHz, NFC, GPS/Glonass/Beidou/Galileo, LTE (optional)LTE (optional), GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO, BeiDou, QZSS, Bluetooth 5.3, Wi-Fi, NFC, Ultra wideband
CompatibilityAndroid (Google Assistant or Bixby)iOS (Siri)
Protection5ATM, IP68, MIL-STD-810H, Sapphire GlassIP6X, WR50, crack-resistant crystal
Size45.4 x 45.4 x 15mm41 x 35 x 10.7mm; 45 x 38 x 10.7mm
Weight (without band)46.5g31.9g or 38.8g (aluminum)

Why buy the heavy Galaxy Watch 5 Pro when the Galaxy Watch 5 offers all of the same features? Aside from the more rugged design, it's because the Pro can last three days per charge even with regular use, continuous heart rate and blood pressure monitoring, and sleep tracking. In our tests, it fell closer to 1.5-2 days with more active use like music streaming, GPS tracking, or always-on display, but that's still miles above what other Wear OS watches can do. 

Meanwhile, the Apple Watch Series 8, like so many models before it, has an 18-hour estimate, which iMore described as "not bad, but annoying. Because it can't hit 24 hours, it means anyone who wants to use sleep tracking has the "difficulty of judging when to charge it," since it'll need to be charged more than once per day to make it through the night. And for everyday use, it could still easily die on you after a long and active day, while the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro will keep chugging along with juice to spare.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro BIA sensor in-progress

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

When it comes to health sensors, Samsung should have the undisputed lead but has allowed Apple to catch up. Both watches have heart rate, blood oxygen, and ECG sensors, while Samsung also offers a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (or BIA) sensor that detects your skeletal muscle, basal metabolic rate, and body water/ fat percentage. And in some countries, you can take a blood pressure reading, though not in the United States without sideloading. In both cases, you need to actively measure these, rather than have them detected passively.

The newest Galaxy Watch 5 Pro sensor is the body temperature sensor, but Samsung has yet to activate it months after launch. That's where Apple has taken its own advantage: the Series 8 has two sensors, one for skin temperature and one for your surroundings to compare. It mostly activates at night for sleep tracking; as iMore describes it, the sensors measure "shifts in temperature caused by illness and jet lag, but [they] also give users retrospective ovulation estimates to help with family planning and period predictions."

Apple Watch Series 8 workouts

(Image credit: Stephen Warwick / iMore)

We don't have benchmarks to compare how the two watches perform, but we can say confidently that both offer a lag-free experience. On the Pro, I found the watch has an "immediate response to any tap or swipe," while the Series 8 has a similarly fast and fluid experience. 

The main benefit Apple offers is its watch's 32GB of storage, double that of the Galaxy Watch 5 series. In our mind, a Galaxy Watch 5 Pro should've had more storage than the standard model. 16GB just isn't enough for a full array of apps, stored music, and watch face complications in our view, so you have to be a bit more selective with your Samsung watch.

Both watches have speedy Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, though Apple uses the newer Bluetooth 5.3 standard instead of 5.2. Both offer optional LTE for an extra $50. While both have NFC tap-to-pay, only Apple included an ultra-wideband chip, which is mainly for the Find My application but could help the Apple Watch serve as a digital key for your car in the future. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Software

Apple Watch Series 8 next to iPhone 14 Pro

(Image credit: Stephen Warwick / iMore)

Samsung used to make its watches iOS compatible, but since it switched to Wear OS 3, the Galaxy Watch 4 and 5 are Android only. In fact, some of the watch's health sensor information is only available on a Samsung phone specifically — a shame for Android phone owners who prefer another brand. 

But switching to Wear OS allowed Samsung to get access to the full suite of Google apps like Assistant, Wallet, Home, and Maps. That's a major perk, one that even diehard Apple fans will likely be jealous of. The Apple Watch will have all of its usual Apple app integrations you can rely on, at least. 

WearOS and watchOS have many of the same third-party apps, so you can benefit from those regardless of which you choose.

Both Wear OS 3.5 and watchOS 9 (opens in new tab) added a QWERTY keyboard so you can delicately type up messages, instead of having to draw letters or tap stock response options when you receive a text. Stephen Warwick called the Apple keyboard "almost-usable," while I said that the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro keyboard has "just enough room that my careful hen-and-pecking or swiping from one key to the next works about 70% of the time." They're imprecise but functional in a pinch, in other words. 

New QWERTY keyboard from One UI Watch 4.5 on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

(Image credit: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

If watchOS 9 has one major advantage, it's in its fitness software. Apple has made that a major focus, adding custom workouts with which you can challenge yourself to maintain a specific pace, heart rate, effort level, or cadence. Even without Apple Fitness+ (opens in new tab), Apple gives you some useful fitness tools, even if they don't live up to a Garmin or Fitbit. 

Apple also added some new safety features to the Series 8, such as an SOS function and crash detection.

Samsung, meanwhile, hasn't added many new tools to Samsung Health in recent years, and it doesn't have the benefit of the Pixel Watch's Fitbit integration. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro's one upside is its exclusive option to install offline GPX maps so you can guide yourself on hiking trails or cycling routes even if you lose your cellular signal. It's a useful, but niche, tool.

Whichever ecosystem you prefer, Apple and Samsung both offer fast, substantial, and consistent software updates for their respective watches. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has four confirmed software updates planned, while the Apple Watch series typically gets four watchOS updates and about 4-5 years of security updates.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro vs. Apple Watch Series 8: Which is better?

As always for these kinds of comparisons, it's easy to decide "which to buy" because you can only buy one or the other for the phone that you own. The only reason not to buy the Apple Watch Series 8 is if you want something more affordable (the Apple Watch SE) or more rugged and long-lasting (the Apple Watch Ultra). And the only reason not to buy the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is if you prefer the more compact Galaxy Watch 5 even if you lose dozens of hours of battery life. 

But if you simply want to know which is the better device, it depends on your values for a watch. Both will last you years for the software, but the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has more durable materials and a battery that'll last even if the capacity dips over the years, while the Series 8 is more likely to build up knicks and require more charging over time. On the other hand, the Apple Watch Series 8 is undeniably the sleeker watch, while the Pro is more hardcore-looking. And it's hard to overlook the extra storage, which will make the Series 8 handier for various tasks.

Michael L Hicks
Senior Editor, VR/AR and fitness

Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.