If you’re looking to get a top-tier smartwatch, but are stuck between Samsung and Apple, then this comparison guide may help.
Apple and Samsung make two of the best smartwatches, but out of their premium watches, which one is the best for you?
Design and Screen
The two watches certainly look very different. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a circular casing and is highly robust, with a titanium bezel and a sapphire crystal screen.
Even when we exposed it to rain or knocked it accidentally against weightlifting equipment, it survived just fine.
The display is touchscreen but has some physical buttons for input as well, and we were highly impressed by the display’s quality, writing, “the inky perfect black levels offered by AMOLED screens also made it look vibrant and generally pleasant to use.”
The Apple Watch Ultra has a shape that’s more like a rounded square, but it still includes some key differences from the well-known standard Apple Watch design.
There’s a side button and a larger crown, plus a screen that lies completely flat rather than having a slight curve. It is also very robust too, certified to military-grade standards. The screen is incredibly bright, up to 2000 nits, so it’s always visible regardless of weather conditions, and it has a sharp 410×502-pixel resolution.
Features and performance
The Watch 5 Pro runs on a customised version of Google’s Wear OS 3, similar to the previous edition in the series, and we found this UI to be fairly intuitive and heavily reliant on touch input. It only works, currently, with Android phones.
There are a variety of watch faces to choose from, and helpful tiles that quickly show you the key bits of information you’re looking for, and generally speaking we found that it “performed admirably as a smartwatch” even though the selection of apps is narrower than that available on the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch Ultra has a dual-core S8 processor and runs on watchOS software. This all worked well in our experience, with the reviewer writing that “Swiping through screens, opening apps, getting apps onto the watch – it’s all very slick business on the Ultra.”
You’ll need an iPhone 6S or newer to use the Ultra, and there’s no support for Android or iPads.
Fitness and health tracking
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has got a 3-in-1 BioActive sensor on the underside, along with a new infrared temperature sensor. Using these, you get a very solid overview of your general health, including giving you a body fat percentage and offering good sleep tracking capabilities.
Then, when you’re on the move, the navigation and route planning is excellent for walking or cycling, and after your workout the analytics (including heart rate zones, VO2 Max estimates, and more) help you know where to better direct your training focus.
When you’re using it to track your exercise, the Apple Watch Ultra has several key features up its sleeve. Dual-frequency GPS helps location tracking to be more accurate when you’re outdoors, and in our experience it even performed very well in the tough conditions of the Chicago marathon, where high-rise buildings can make lesser trackers give very wayward results.
Despite being one of the best-performing GPS watches we’ve tested, the Ultra could do better when it comes to hiking as detailed maps aren’t natively included on the Compass app. The heart rate monitor could also make some misreadings from time to time, and
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has a battery bigger than those of many other smartwatches (at 590mAh), but that doesn’t mean you can expect similar levels of endurance that you might see on certain fitness trackers. This watch should get you 2 or 3 days but no longer, with GPS tracking exerting particular strain on the battery. It took one hour and 22 minutes for us to charge the watch fully from zero.
Apple’s range of watches has traditionally had underwhelming battery life, but the Apple Watch Ultra does actually see significant improvement in that area. Whereas many other wearables in the range can only give you around one day’s worth of usage, this one pushes things a bit further and can supply you with 36 hours of use in normal mode and 60 hours in low power settings.
There’s a significant price difference between the watches on test here. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro starts at £429/$449/€429, but it’s a whole different story for the Apple Watch Ultra, which is a significantly pricier £849/$799/€999.
While iPhone users will go for the Apple Watch and Samsung users will have to plump for a Galaxy Watch, it remains interesting to see where both these brands are going in terms of their high-end watches.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro doesn’t feel all that ‘Pro’, while the Apple Watch Ultra really does push the series forward in an interesting way. Of course, it’s a lot more expensive and it we’d be keen to see what Samsung offered if it released a wearable at the same price.