Launched alongside the flagship Galaxy Note20 series and the new Galaxy Buds Live, the new Galaxy Watch3 is the latest in a long line of smartwatches from Samsung with their latest refinements that include enhanced fitness and sleep tracking, fall detection as well as revamped aesthetics with an emphasis on a more premium looking design.
The Galaxy Watch3 has a rather bizarre naming scheme, seeing as there was no Galaxy Watch2 but a Galaxy Watch does exist which we reviewed awhile back. It skips a number, presumably on account of the fact that there is a Galaxy Watch Active2 that debuted last year in order to avoid any confusion.
At launch, the Galaxy Watch3 is available in a larger 45mm and a smaller 41mm variant. Our review unit was the latter. Both sizes of the Galaxy Watch3 have otherwise similar specifications save for differently sized displays and a differently sized battery.
The larger one gets a 1.4-inch rounded AMOLED display with a 340mAh battery and and the smaller one a 1.2-inch AMOLED panel paired with a 247mAh battery. Both the 1.4-inch and 1.2-inch displays have a similar 360 x 360 pixel resolution and are sheathed in Corning Gorilla Glass DX.
The hardware under the hood is Samsung’s Tizen firmware on a dual core Exynos processor intended for smaller wearable devices with a generous 8GB of storage which is double what its predecessors typically had.
The watch also has built-in speakers too which allows you to take calls and load a modest playlist of MP3s or via Spotify offline (assuming you have a Premium subscription) on your watch without having to rely on you toting your smartphone or a pair of wireless buds to play tunes on a run.
While LTE enabled versions exist, the ones we get in Malaysia stick with WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity only.
The contents of the packaging that comes with the watch are basic at best with a simple USB charging dock and the watch itself. There’s no additional freebies to go with it but the lugs on the watch do allow you to install your third party straps with the larger 45mm version accepting 22mm sized straps and the smaller 41mm version taking 20mm sized straps.
Galaxy Watch3 Design
In terms of design, the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 is world’s away from the Galaxy Watch Active2, which was angled as a sportier looking, more contemporary design and the original Galaxy Watch.
The case of the Galaxy Watch3 along with the crowns and lugs are hewn from stainless steel while the straps are made of genuine leather. For the 41mm version of the Galaxy Watch3, you can opt to buy it in either Mystic Bronze to match the signature shade of the Note20 series this year or get it in a more timeless shade of Mystic SIlver which our review unit came in.
The underside of the watch hosts the usual sensors for heart rate and fitness tracking. The stainless steel crowns which are actually buttons are emplaced on the 2 ‘o’clock and 4 ‘o’clock positions. When viewed from the side, the watch is rather chunky but not more so than a conventional mechanical timepiece.
Fortunately the Galaxy Watch3 is a good deal sturdier than a normal timepiece as it’s rated IP68 as well as qualifying for a MIL-STD-810G rating which means it is shock and vibration proof while being able to survive in up to 1.5 metres of fresh water for up to 30 minutes.
The watch also has a 5ATM water resistance rating, meaning that it’s able to survive in up to 50 meters of water though it’s not designed for diving. It is, however, more than able to keep pace and track your laps in a swimming pool.
Of note is that the Galaxy Watch3 brings back a feature from one of its predecessors – the physical rotating dial from the Galaxy Watch and Gear S3. While the Galaxy Watch Active2 last year had a virtual rotating bezel where you could touch the rim of the rounded AMOLED display to get about the menus, it wasn’t really a substitute for the real thing which the Watch3 has done up in matte black framing the rounded AMOLED display.
When we wore the 41mm version, it looked somewhat tiny on our wrist though it’s still good looking enough to pass casual inspection as an actual mechanical timepiece.
One particular quibble is that the bundled leather strap had rather tight buckles out of the box, which required some fiddling about and which was a bit uncomfortable to wear but as we wore it over the course of a week, the leather became a lot more flexible and comfier.
Still, we’d appreciate the option to get PVA straps in the box as well as they chafe a lot less; crucial if you plan to wear it to sleep or if you plan to use it to track your laps in the pool as the leather strap doesn’t look like an ideal option for dunking in chlorinated water on a regular basis.
Galaxy Watch3 Specifications and Performance
Getting the Galaxy Watch3 up and running was a relatively straightforward task. Once it was out of the packaging, it was simply a matter of turning it on and pairing it up with Samsung’s own Galaxy Wearable app which comes preinstalled on their phones.
If you’re using a non-Samsung Android phone, you’ll have to get the Galaxy Wearable app on the Google Play store while iPhone users can get the same thing on the Apple app store.
Regardless of where you get it from, you’ll be prompted to download a few extra plug-ins specific to the Galaxy Watch3 and you’ll need the optional Samsung Health app too if you want to make full use of the fitness tracking options of the watch.
Under the hood, the watch runs Samsung’s own Tizen OS which has remained one of the best implementations of a smartwatch user interface in the market.
If you used Samsung’s prior Galaxy Watch Active2 or Galaxy Watch, the menus are old hat and intuitive to get about. Navigating the menus is via the use of the upper crown button which acts as a back key, the lower crown button which acts as a home key, the touchscreen itself and the rotating dial.
Via the menus, you’re able to change watch faces, sort your notifications if paired with a phone with a series of canned responses, control music tracks and keep track of your fitness levels and sleep quality or lack thereof.
In terms of watch faces, you have a pretty diverse selection to choose from ranging from traditional analogue looking ones to more sophisticated ones with multiple readouts available though you can download more options via your paired Wearable app on your phone that then pushes it to the watch. A lot of these watch faces aren’t free but there’s more than enough free ones for you to tinker around with for a long time.
In lieu of finding your own watch face, you now have the option to create your own using their My Style option where you can grab the colour palette off a selected image to use as a background which you can then customise with additional ‘complications’ – watchspeak for readouts whether it’s time, date, steps taken or whatnot.
Unfortunately, unlike the watch faces, there still aren’t enough useful apps available for download though there are a few modest gems here and there. You can download an additional app that lets you use your phone as a remote shutter release for your phone, download a Youtube viewer and tinker around with a few games. There are also a few watch-based browsers and other quirkier apps with varying degrees of utility.
As a smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch3 benefits from its pedigree and handles the essentials – telling the time, notifications and the like in a very capable fashion. Answering messages off a paired smartphone is a cinch, with your option of a series of canned responses or, if you have the patience, using the dial and the touchscreen to scrawl a more cogent reply. Many need to be paid for.
You can while the time away with a simple game or two though the selection of games available still remains casual at best. You can ‘sort of’ watch YouTube videos on it but it’s hardly the most productive use of the watch and your time as the corners of a given video are clipped on account of the rounded edges of the watch display.
The biggest improvement here on offer is the addition of fall detection much like the Apple Watch where if the watch detects the wearer falling, they can automatically notify a preselected number on the contact list. There’s also Samsung Pay on the watch via NFC.
The Galaxy Watch3’s display proved to be up to the task with excellent visibility under daylight with vibrant hues onscreen. Like its predecessors, it’s set to be off by default unless you flick your wrist to trigger the accelerometer to turn it on for a quick glance at the time in order to save on battery life. You can optionally set it to always on though this will drain your battery life faster than usual.
While it’s able to control playback of music on Spotify or your phone, you can alternatively upload music to its 8GB of storage to use it as an offline player in tandem with it’s built-in speakers which also let you take calls off your phone. They aren’t very loud but it’s nice to have the option in case you need to deal with an urgent call.
Galaxy Watch3 Sleep, Activity and Health Tracking
The Galaxy Watch3 has the ability to track your blood oxygen levels on top of other usuals like your heart rate, your sleep quality and physical activity including specialised tracking for specific exercises like running, biking and swimming on demand. In the wake of the pandemic, the s more sedate indoor exercises like jumping jacks, stretching and the like have become even more essential than ever before.
The watch puts up basic diagnostics of your activities with more detailed data viewable on the Samsung Health app on your phone. We weren’t able to field test its more extensive fitness options but in terms of jumping jacks, stretches and walk count, it didn’t deviate far from actual numbers that we counted manually and was accurate for the most part.
What is particularly appreciated in the wake of the pandemic and being stuck indoors is that the Galaxy Watch3 is the virtual equivalent of a personal trainer now with 120 fitness programmes on offer.
It also has the ability to guide you with voice prompts in your chosen exercise routine along with a graphical representation of what exactly you’re supposed to do for the simpler ones like running, curls and the like including when to take breaks.
For more complicated exercises like Pilates, the watch merely tells you simple diagnostics like calories burned and your heart rate during the exercise. Unfortunately, the default voice prompts are delivered by a female voice with the vocal range of a Dalek which doesn’t make it particularly inspiring.
The Galaxy Watch3 also has a few added extras this time around that include an ECG sensor and the ability to measure your blood pressure off your wrist. Unfortunately, they’re not activated for use in Malaysia and there’s no indication when or if it will ever be turned on as they require significant regulatory approval to do so.
The ability to track blood pressure and ECG is currently only available in Samsung’s home market in Korea for now and the latter feature has only received FDA clearance in the United States though it will likely need further approval on a per-country basis which makes the possibility of it appearing here remote though we can only hope.
You can however take your own blood oxygen levels on demand to detect how efficiently your blood is oxygenated. Unfortunately, it only does this on demand rather than constantly doing so which somewhat reduces its utility though it is a good general indicator if you remind yourself to do it a few times over the course of a day.
The sleep tracking ability on the Galaxy Watch3 is noteworthy with the ability to not only track the amount of sleep you have but also your sleep quality baked on how much time you spent in REM sleep and deep sleep.
All these additional features make the Galaxy Watch3 a pleasantly versatile activity tracker though the lack of the vaunted ECG and blood pressure measurement feature are a bit of a downer.
Battery life on the Galaxy Watch3 is middling at best with the small 247mAh battery barely lasting two days in between charges with casual use on average brightness settings and basic activities like walking about to the mall and back.
If you fire up everything including the GPS, constant heart rate detection and active use of other features like gaming, unlikely it may be, you likely won’t last long. Most likely, you’ll have to tote the charging dock with you though it’s fortunately quite light with a full charge needing a couple of hours.
Galaxy Watch3 Verdict
The Galaxy Watch3 is a well crafted offering that has a premium design and leather strap combined with a host of helpful activity, fitness and sleep tracking features that lend it significant utility as a daily companion. The dearth of available apps is still a quibble that makes it fall short of greatness but this remains one of the best Android smartwatches available and a credible competitor to the Apple Watch series 5.
What we liked Changeable straps, rotating dial is back, vibrant screen, premium looking design, great fitness and sleep tracking functionality, fall detection
What we didn’t Still needs more apps, battery life could be better for 41mm version
We say The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 blends a premium design that’s also robustly protected against the elements with 5ATM swimproofing and MIL-STD810G rated durability. Add in great fitness and sleep tracking functionality and you have one of the best Android watches in the market. The larger 45mm variant is the preferred option with its larger battery and display.
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia. Available for purchase at the official Samsung online website located at https://www.samsung.com/my/wearables/galaxy-watch3-r850/SM-R850NZDAXME/
|Display||1.2inch circular Super AMOLED, 360 x 360 pixels|
|Strap width||20mm (for 41mm Galaxy Watch3)|
|OS||Tizen Wearable OS 5.5|
|Processor||Exynos 9110 dual core 1.15GHz|
|Memory||1GB RAM + 8GB memory|
|Connectivity||WiFi 802.11b/g/n, 2.4GHz, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Size/weight||41 x 42.5 x 11.3mm / 48.2g|
Samsung Galaxy Watch3 41mm
Samsung Galaxy Watch3
The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 blends a premium design that’s also robustly protected against the elements with 5ATM swimproofing and MIL-STD810G rated durability. Add in great fitness and sleep tracking functionality and you have one of the best Android watches in the market. The larger 45mm variant is the preferred option with its larger battery and display.