Apple Watch 5 vs Galaxy Watch Active 2: The age old battle continues

The yearly battle for dominance between Samsung and Apple is a staple event in every wearable buyers’ calendar, and this year is no different with the new Apple Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 set to once again go head-to-head.

But with both wearables having completely different designs, software and features, knowing which is best for your specific needs can be a tricky task. Here to help you pick which is best for your specific needs we’ve broken down how the Apple Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 compare.

Editor’s note: This is an early comparison based off the two wearables specs and feature sets. We’ll update this article with our in-depth, real world findings once we’ve reviewed both smartwatches.

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Apple Watch 5 vs Galaxy Watch Active 2 – Specs and features

Visually the Apple Watch 2 and Galaxy Watch Active 2 are very different devices. The Apple Watch 5 has the same square screen design and digital crown control system seen on Apple’s previous wearables.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a more sports focused design with a circular AMOLED touch screen and atypical digital bezel controller. The control lets you navigate menus using touch inputs around the bezel.

Power them up and you’ll also get a completely different user experience. This is because the Apple Watch 5 uses Apple’s WatchOS 6 while the Galaxy Watch Active 2 runs Samsung’s custom Tizen OS.

There’s no denying that Apple’s WatchOS 6 is better for regular smartwatch users. The OS has a significantly more developed application offering and generally more uniform US. Samsung’s done good work getting most mainstream apps on Tizen, but it still doesn’t match Apple’s platform for sheer volume.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 press image high resolution

It will be interesting to see how the two stack up when it comes to fitness and sleep tracking. Sleep tracking is one of the only features missing on WatchOS 6, despite being a regular feature on most competing platforms – including Tizen – for quite some time. Samsung’s also worked hard to make the Active 2 a valid fitness tracker in its own right, toting its advanced “coaching features” as a key selling point.

That said, the Apple Watch 5 features an equally compelling set of wellness features you won’t find on the Galaxy Watch Active 2. The biggest of these are its ECG heart rate sensor, fall detection and new emergency calling services.

ECG and fall detection debuted on the Apple Watch 4 and are great options for wellness focussed buyers. The custom emergency call service is new to the Apple Watch 5 and lets LTE models autocall for help if the Watch 5 thinks its wearer is in danger, even if its disconnected from an iPhone.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is set to get ECG functionality next year, but until it does the Apple Watch definitely has a lead here.

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Outside of this, the only other big differentiator we can see is battery life. Until we test the two devices knowing which is better is tricky. On the one hand, the Apple Watch 5 has a cool new variable refresh rate display that lets it switch between 1-60Hz depending on what its doing. This will reportedly let it offer users a robust 18 hour battery life. The Active 2 doesn’t have a variable refresh rate, but it does support wireless charging, which will make it easier to top the battery up.

The two watches stack up fairly evenly on a hardware front – you can see the their specs compared in the table below.

Spec Apple Watch 5 Galaxy Watch Active 2 
Size 44mm / 40mm 44mm / 40mm
Screen 368 x 448 / 324 x 394 resolution OLED, 1000nits 1.3/1.2-inch 360 x 360 resolution AMOLED
Always on Yes Yes
CPU S5 with 64-bit dual core Exynos 91110 dual core
Storage 32GB  4GB
Battery Up to 18 hours battery life  340 mAh (wireless charging)
Water resistance  50 meters 50 meters
LTE Yes Yes
ECG Yes Yes (not active)
Compass Yes No
Emergency call Yes (LTE) No

Apple Watch 5 vs Galaxy Active 2 – Price

Neither the Galaxy Watch Active 2 or Apple Watch 5 are cheap, though Samsung’s wearable is the more affordable option of the two. You can grab the cheapest none-LTE Galaxy Watch Active 2 for £269 and the baseline LTE model for £399. The cheapest none-LTE Apple Watch 5 costs a staggering £399. The bottom end LTE Apple Watch 5 will set you back an even heftier £499.

Apple Watch 5 vs Galaxy Active 2 – Early verdict

On paper, the Apple Watch 5 offers a more diverse feature set than the Galaxy Watch Active 2 for smartwatch buyers. This is largely thanks to its new WatchOS 6 software, which has a significantly larger app library than Samsung’s Tizen OS. Add to this its advanced fall detection and wellness services, and it becomes a seriously compelling bit of kit – on paper.

But there’s no getting round the price. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a lot cheaper and, given Samsung’s great work developing fitness tracking tech, could be a great option for gym goers looking for a tracker that can double as a basic smartwatch.

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