Every new Samsung smartwatch gets closer and closer to catching up with the Apple Watch—there’s just usually something that’s a little off. But with the Galaxy Watch 3, Samsung may have finally figured out how to deliver the first serious rival to the world’s most popular smartwatch.
The Galaxy Watch 3, which was announced at today’s Unpacked Event, is a refresh of its 2018 Galaxy Watch. No, you’re not reading wrong. Samsung opted not to name it the Galaxy Watch 2, likely to avoid confusion with the Galaxy Watch Active2. That means unlike the more streamlined Active line, this is a full-featured smartwatch with all the bells and whistles meant for a flagship gadget.
Let’s start with the specs. Like the rest of Samsung’s recent smartwatches, the Galaxy Watch 3 will be powered by a 1.15GHz Exynos 9110 chip. However, this time around it’ll be running Tizen OS 5.5 and RAM has been boosted to 1GB from the Galaxy Watch’s 768MB. Samsung’s also doubling onboard storage to 8GB. As for sensors, it’ll have the requisite accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor, optical heart rate sensor, built-in GPS, and NFC payment capabilities. For connectivity, the Galaxy Watch 3 will support LTE, Bluetooth 5.0, and wifi b/g/n. The watch will work with all major carriers, though extra data fees will depend on the individual carrier.
There’ll also be two sizes: 41mm and 45mm. Both watches are 8% smaller, 14% thinner, and 15% lighter than their predecessor, according to Samsung. However, that doesn’t mean Samsung’s skimped on screen size. In a briefing, a Samsung spokesperson said that despite the reduction in size, the Galaxy Watch 3's always-on display is actually a bit bigger.
The 41mm watch comes with a 247mAh battery and a 1.2-inch display, while the 45mm has a 340mAh battery and a 1.4-inch display. The 41mm and 45mm will both get up around two days of battery life, though you might get slightly more juice out of the 45mm depending on usage. Other than these differences, both watches sport the same guts and can be wirelessly charged by supporting Samsung products.
Design-wise, Samsung isn’t straying too far. The Galaxy Watch 3 keeps the round watch face, and importantly, that signature physical rotating bezel. One note: the bezel on the 41mm is smooth, while the 45mm features a notched one. In terms of color, the 41mm will come in Mystic Bronze and Mystic Silver, while the 45mm will come in Mystic Silver and Mystic Black. This is all to say that there are plenty of options to choose from.
The bump in specs alone would be an adequate, if boring, update. However, Samsung is also introducing a number of new features to keep things fresh. Notably, it’s partnered with the National Sleep Foundation to offer more in-depth sleep tracking and insights. Samsung says it created a five-figure algorithm to deliver a sleep quality score, along with automatic breathing measurements and REM cycle tracking.
Samsung’s also claimed to improve activity tracking. It introduced a running coach feature with the Galaxy Active2, but that’s will be expanded to include new metrics like vertical oscillation, contact time, optimum flight time, balance, undulation, and stiffness. Also new to the Galaxy Watch 3 will be on-demand VO2 Max readings, as well as SpO2 readings. You can also now track 40 different activities, and the watch will be capable of auto-tracking seven of them. These advanced health features won’t be supported immediately in the U.S., but will likely come via a later update. That said, yet another intriguing update is you’ll be able to sync 120 Samsung workout videos directly to your a compatible Samsung phone or TV.
Again, all these would be respectable updates, but it’s clear that Samsung won’t be content until it catches up with Apple. Not only is the Galaxy Watch 3 capable of taking ECG and blood pressure readings, but it’s also added something it calls “trip detection.” Trip detection is exactly what it sounds like. If you fall and don’t get up, the Galaxy Watch 3 will send a custom SOS message to up to four chosen contacts. That said, there’s a major caveat to the ECG and blood pressure features. While Samsung was able to get approval from South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, it’s still waiting on the FDA to clear it for use in the U.S. So while these features will be live at launch in Korea, the ECG and blood pressure apps won’t be available for U.S. customers until the FDA gives the go-ahead.
That’s definitely a bummer, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not necessarily a reason not to be excited for the Galaxy Watch 3. If and when the FDA does clear these features, you’ll already have the watch and won’t have to buy new hardware. That’s even if Samsung releases newer smartwatches down the line. Fitbit did something similar when it started incorporating SpO2 sensors in all of its wearables after the Ionic, but it didn’t include features that could really take advantage of the sensors until this year.
Altogether, the Galaxy Watch 3 is shaping up to be one of the only Android-friendly alternatives that can compete with the Apple Watch. WearOS watches haven’t come anywhere close due to hardware issues and Fitbit hasn’t quite managed it either. At least, on paper. In the last few years, Samsung has been frustratingly close to delivering a truly amazing smartwatch but has so far fallen slightly short. We’ll have to test the watch ourselves to see if Samsung’s ironed out its quirks.
In the meantime, the Galaxy Watch 3 will be available starting August 6 from Samsung’s website, carriers, and major retailers. The Bluetooth version of the 41mm watch will retail for $400, while the 45mm watch will go for $430. The LTE versions will cost an additional $50, or $450 and $480, respectively.
Update, 08/05/2020, 11:35 am: On stage at the Unpacked Event, Samsung said it had received FDA clearance for the Galaxy Watch 3's ECG and blood pressure features. We’ve reached out to Samsung for confirmation and further details.
Update, 08/05/2020, 11:56 am: A Samsung spokesperson has provided Gizmodo the following statement:
“We are thrilled to share that we recently received FDA clearance for the Samsung ECG monitor app. We look forward to sharing more details soon. The Blood Pressure Monitor App will not be available in the U.S. unless FDA authorization is granted.”