Samsung Gear S3 vs Apple Watch: What’s the difference?

Samsung Gear S3 vs Apple Watch: Should Apple be worried now that Samsung has unveiled its new smartwatch? We take an early look.

Samsung used its IFA 2016 event to finally introduce us all to the Gear S3, which comes with a number of improvements that make it a considerably more capable device than the preceding Gear S2.

But how does it stack up against arguably the most well-known wearable, the Apple Watch? We take a look at how the two compare in our Gear S3 vs Apple Watch showdown.

Samsung Gear S3 vs Apple Watch – Design

Samsung beefed up its smartwatch this year. The S3 is a chunky offering that comes in two versions: Frontier and Classic. There’s no functional differences between the two, however, just a different strap design and a slight weight difference: the Frontier comes in at 62g and the Classic weighs just 57g.

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Gear S3

Apple’s stainless steel rival may be a lot older than the S3 but it’s still one of the best-looking wearables available. It comes in a standard and sports version (housed in an anodised aluminium case) as well as a couple more luxurious offerings in the form of the Hermés and Edition. You can also get the device in either 42mm or 38mm versions, with the former weighing 50g and the latter coming in at 40g.

When it comes to the Sport edition, the 38mm version weighs a hefty 62g while the 42mm alternative is even more substantial at 70g. While Samsung’s wearable is certainly a tad bulky, then, the Apple Watch Sport models manage to match, and even outdo, the S3 in terms of weight.

The S3 is compatible with standard 22mm straps and there’s a couple of crown buttons on the watch itself, as opposed to the Apple Watch’s main crown button and flush ‘Friends’ button. Apple’s device also has a wide range of extra straps which can be bought through the company itself.

Samsung Gear S3 vs Apple Watch – Display

The Apple Watch 42mm comes with a 1.65-inch screen, while the smaller 38mm offering features a 1.5-inch display. Both use AMOLED tech (the only Apple device to do so thus far) so blacks are typically nicely inky and the the whites are as bright as you’d hope.

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Apple Watch

Samsung, on the other hand, although increasing the screen size over the S2, still has a smaller, 1.3-inch screen on the S3. It too uses AMOLED technology, however, so there should be a comparably stellar contrast on the new wearable.

With an always-on display, the S3 has also been designed to mimic the look of a traditional timepiece. The screen displays 16 million colours now, so the watch faces look suitably premium, too.

The Apple Watch has a 322 pixels-per-inch density, which is more than enough for a screen this size, while the S3 only has 278. You still shouldn’t be noticing individual pixels with the S3, however.

There’s also a sapphire crystal coating on the Apple Watch, as opposed to the S3’s Gorilla Glass SR+, both of which protect against scratches, but the latter of which should provide slightly more protection.

Samsung Gear S3 vs Apple Watch – Hardware

Design is all well and good, but how useful are these two smartwatches? Well, Samsung has the benefit of a couple years worth of wearable innovation, so the S3 has a few more features going for it.

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apple watch

First of all, the S3 comes with the now signature rotating bezel, which allows you to control the device without using the touchscreen by answering calls and stopping alarms etc. There’s no such bezel on the Apple Watch, but the physical crown button handles a lot of the UI navigation if you don’t want to use the touchscreen.

In terms of activity tracking, the S3 comes with an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer and heart-rate sensor. Plus, Samsung has added GPS as standard, while the Frontier also comes with LTE connectivity, so you can get online over a data connection.

The Apple Watch, on the other hand, features an accelerometer, gyroscope, and heart rate monitor, but does not come with built-in GPS. You’re going to need your iPhone with you to get the most out of this thing in other words.

Related: Gear S3 vs Gear S2

Samsung Gear S3

When it comes to hardware itself, the S3, again, has the benefit of newer tech, being a newly released device. It packs in 768MB of RAM alongside the dual-core 1GHz processor, which should ensure speedy performance.

Apple’s rival wearable only comes with 512MB of RAM and Apple’s S1 processor, which can reach speeds of 520MHz. In practice, the performance shouldn’t be too awful. However, we found the Apple Watch did have a few performance issues in our review, but much of this has been addressed with the new WatchOS update.

So, what about battery life? In general use with no restrictions on notifications being sent to the Apple Watch, and using features like navigation and the music player for short periods of 20-30 minutes a day, the 250mAh (205mAh on the 38mm version) battery drops to 50% by 5pm.

Apple Watch 2 31

In more intense use, it can fall to as low as 32% by 4.30pm. If you take it out for a run for just over an hour, it can drop by 32%. More concerning is the way in which the watch seems to sap battery from your iPhone, however.

The S3’s 380mAh cell, by contrast, should last you four days with the always-on display turned off. Once you turn this on, the battery life drops to around two days. We’re yet to review the S3 so don’t have any real-world stats to go by. But we’ll update this piece once we do.

Samsung Gear S3 vs Apple Watch – Software

Apple’s wearable runs on WatchOS, the third version of which is set to launch later this year. We’ve tried WatchOS 3 and found it to be a great upgrade, slimming things down, focusing more on fitness, and speeding the whole experience up.

Apple has ditched the slow Glances view which used to appear when you swiped up from the bottom of the screen, replacing it with a basic Control Centre. The Friends button has now been repurposed to act as an app switcher, and apps are much quicker to load.

Samsung Gear S3

Samsung’s Tizen OS 2.3.1 appears once again on the Gear S3, which has been improved since its debut. Whereas it suffered from a severe lack of support in the apps department, there’s now 10,000 apps available according to the company.

It’s still not the best smartwatch operating system out there, and we’d have preferred to see Android Wear, but it’s definitely improved.

Apple definitely has the upper hand in terms of apps, but Tizen is improving, and has the benefit of working with both Android and iOS, although we’re yet to see just how well it works with both. Which you prefer using will likely come down to personal preference.

Samsung Gear S3 vs Apple Watch – Price and release

The Apple Watch has been available for some time now, and we’re anticipating a new model fairly soon, so you’d do well to hold off until Tim Cook and co. announce the Apple Watch 2.

Samsung Gear S3

But if you simply have to have the Apple Watch right now, the 42mm version is going for around £300 and up depending on which band you get, while the 38mm model can be picked up for about £250 and up. Prices vary depending on whether you go for the Sports version, and the higher end Hermés and Edition models are obviously pricier.

Unfortunately, pricing and release details are yet to be confirmed for the Gear S3, but we’re expecting it to be around the same price as the Gear S2, which starts at £170 but can cost up to £270 depending on which model you go for.

Summary

Samsung clearly has the upper hand in terms of tech. The Gear S3 has arrived more than a year after the Apple Watch, and, as such, packs better internals. With that in mind, it should be said that this is somewhat of an unfair comparison, and once the Apple Watch 2 launches, the odds will be decidedly evened.

But if you can’t stand Tizen you may well prefer the user experience that comes with the older Apple Watch. What’s more, if you have an iPhone, you’re likely to get a much better overall experience with Apple’s device.

On paper then, the S3 clinches it pretty easily, and we’d have to give it to Samsung ourselves. But, you may just find Apple’s device more to your liking if you’re an iPhone user. Like most of these things then, it’s going to come down to preference.

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Which do you think comes out on top? Let us know in the comments.