The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is a great looking device. Samsung put a lot of effort in creating a Smartwatch that looks and feels like a normal, automatic watch.
The model I bought is the 45mm that, although large on paper, fits quite well on my wrists. It’s not heavy but also not featherlight, giving it a sense of a proper watch on the wrist.
There’s a rotating bezel that helps navigate through functions (more on this later) and screens within the same app. It’s a great addition because it allows for precise, fast interaction with the watch without being cumbersome or overly complicated.
In terms of hardware it has most of what a top-shelf sport watch would have:
When you look at the list of all these sensors you can then find the price of the Galaxy Watch 3 actually a better value than top of the range Garmin or Polar watches – but with some caveats that we’ll explore later.
Navigating the interface is really simple and it’s done through the use of the touchscreen, the rotating bezel, and 2 physical buttons on the right side of the watch.
The center of it all is the main watch face. There are a dozen or so coming with the watch and hundreds more can be downloaded from the Samsung Galaxy store, either for free or for a price usually between $1-$2.
Swiping from the top down shows the quick menu where you can adjust settings such as battery management, do not disturb, connections… but you can also personalise and add your own – for example I have the “find my phone” button in there.
Swiping from the left (or rotating the bezel anti-clockwise) shows the notifications. You select which notifications make it to the watch from the phone.
Swiping from the right (or rotating the bezel clockwise) goes through the various widget you put there: from your health stats (sleep, steps, activity…) to whatever app you have installed that has a widget, for example Spotify.
Touchscreen lets you then interact with that specific widget or page.
On the run the Galaxy Watch 3 exceeded my expectations. The basics Samsung App shows you 4 or 5 screens worth of data (configurable) and it’s very legible outdoors. By default the screen shuts off and you need to turn your wrist to see your stats, but you can configure it to stay on all the time and it’s my preferred setting.
If you have earbuds paired it will give you your stats every kilometer (or any other interval you set).
The biggest issue so far for me is the unreliability of the Heart Rate meter. Once it’s on I think it’s accurate – but I have had runs where there was absolutely no HR measure taken for 20 minutes at a time.
It’s simply unacceptable and I’m contacting Samsung to see if it’s an issue with my unit or if it’s just the expected behavior.
Syncing your data after a run (or any other activity) is as simple as it gets: stop the activity and it will sync automatically with your phone.
This brings me to the software.
Your running stats will be stored in the Samsung Health app – and you can only access this data on the phone. I’d love to have a web version of my data, but it will only be on the phone and I am not sure if/how you can export it if you want it.
On the other hand, you can use the watch to run using a number of other apps, including Strava, Endomondo and many others.
Back to the Samsung Health app though. It gives you more detail than I’d expected, including stats about cadence, vertical oscillation, step simmetry, contact time….
On one side having this data is great – you need a separate senson with Garmin watches – on the other side, though, you get a “good” “needs improvement” “great” etc rating without much else to go on with. Also, I cannot possibly be certain of how accurate this data is.
Last, to touch on connectivity: if you have a Samsung device – be it a phone, tablet, earbuds… the Galaxy Watch 3 will connect seamlessly and work perfect out of the box.
This is a smartwatch first and a sport watch second. In terms of other sports there is your usual array of activities from cycling to walking, skiing, golf etc…
The great thing is that there is a very active app store (many free apps) that can greatly enhance what other activity you want to do.
I use an app called “GymRun” and it’s amazing for tracking exercises, weight and reps at the gym. You create your training schedule on the phone then you can go to the gym with the watch only and it will show you what exercises you need to do next, what your stats were for that exercise last time you executed it and then you can track how much you actually lifted, for how many reps etc. It’s really brilliant and I think the pro version is less than $2.
There are a ton of such great little apps for a series of activities.
And this brings me to the smart watch aspect of this. It’s an extension of your phone and if you use your phone to set up your calendars, reminders etc this watch will make your life easier.
Battery life is a bit limited given the range of sensors and especially that beautiful AMOLED screen. Have it on, it will suck your battery in less than a day. At the same time the watch learns your patterns and over time manages to last longer and longer on battery – but I never made it more than 36 hours.
I also never reached the limit on the GPS activity. Tracked runs up to 1 hour with plenty battery left.
In terms of accuracy… the GPS is great. Connects fast and for what I’ve seen it’s quite smart in understanding where you really are. The HR monitor though is hit and miss. When it tracks I believe is great – but there are many times where for whatever reason the HR is not tracked at all.
I’m contacting Samsung about this to see if it’s an issue with my unit or if it’s something common.
The main competitor of a watch like the Samsung Watch 3 is the Apple watch of course.
With similar screens (although one square and one round) and premium execution, together with the vast availability for apps – what I think should steer you towards one or the other is what phone eco-system you belong to.
If you have a Samsung (or Android) phone you should get a Galaxy watch, if you have an iPhone you should get an Apple Watch. Quite straight forward.
The Venu line from Garmin is another competitor – but although they come with amazing screens they are still more sport watches than smart watches. Up to you what you are looking for.
In conclusion I am very happy with my Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.
I wanted a premium smart watch that I could wear at the gym or the beach but also wouldn’t look bad in a more formal occasion. I am transitioning heavily from paper to having everything digital and the watch is a godsend for this.
I wake up in the morning and the watch welcomes me with stats on my sleep, items on my calendar and weather forecast. If I am riding my bike and I receive a phone call I can just listen and talk through the phone. If I want to remember something I’ll just tap “voice memo” and speak into the phone. It will automatically convert it into text.
It’s not the watch you train for a marathon or triathlon with. Right now it’s simply not accurate enough for serious training. Maybe firmware and software updates will improve some – but you still should look into the usual suspects (Garmin, Polar…) if your focus is on measuring performance and not having a digital accessory for your connected life.
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