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Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: which is the smartwatch king?

Samsung continues to refine and improve its smartwatch lineup in interesting and exciting ways. With the recently-announced Galaxy Watch 5, it seems that the company has found its niche. The latest entry takes everything great about the Galaxy Watch 4 and makes it even better, adding new health sensors and holistic wellness features to the same modern yet traditional watch design.

Are these changes enough to compete with the dominant Apple Watch Series 7, or is Samsung still playing catch-up? Read on for the answer as we compare and contrast the latest and greatest wearables from the two tech behemoths.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Apple Watch Series 7
Display Size 40mm: 1.2 inches
44mm: 1.4 inches
41mm: 1.61 inches

45mm: 1.77 inches

Body size 40mm: 39.3 x 40.4 x 9.8mm
44mm: 43.3 x 44.4 x 9.8mm
41mm: 41 x 35 x 10.7 mm (1.61 x 1.38 x 0.42 inches)

45mm: 45 x 38 x 10.7 mm (1.77 x 1.50 x 0.42 inches)

Weight 40mm: 28.7g
44mm: 33.5g
41mm Aluminum: 32.0g

41mm Stainless Steel: 42.3g

41mm Titanium: 37.0g
45mm Aluminum: 38.8g

45mm Stainless Steel: 51.5g

45mm Titanium: 45.1g

Resolution in pixels 40mm: 396 x 396
44mm: 450 x 450
41mm: 368 x 448

45mm: 396 x 484

Touchscreen 40mm: Super AMOLED Always-on display
44mm: Super AMOLED Always-on display
41mm: LTPO OLED Retina Always-on display
45mm: LTPO OLED Retina Always-on display
Storage 16GB 32GB
Wireless interface Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 2.4+5GHz, NFC, LTE Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4+5GHz, NFC, LTE
Depth 9.8mm 10.7mm
Blood oxygen sensor Yes Yes
Accelerometer Yes Yes
Gyroscope Yes Yes
Ambient light sensor Yes Yes
Heart rate sensor Yes Yes
Body temperature sensor Yes No
Blood pressure sensor Yes No
Barometer Yes Yes
GPS A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo GPS,GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS, BeiDou
Compass No Yes
Water/dust resistant Yes (5ATM + IP68) Yes (ISO standard 22810:2010 + IP6X)
Battery life 40mm: 284mAh

44mm: 410mAh

Up to 50 hours (based on Samsung laboratory measurements)

41mm: 284 mAh
45mm: 309 mAh
Up to 18 hours
Price From $280 From $399
Availability Samsung Apple
DT Review Hands-on 5 stars out of 5

Design and display

The Galaxy Watch 5 is a mostly iterative design over last year’s Galaxy Watch 4, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell the two apart without a close inspection. The modern and minimalist design of the Galaxy Watch arguably looks more traditional than the square Apple Watch Series 7, but there’s no arguing that they’re radically different. One design isn’t inherently better than the other, so this one comes down entirely to personal taste. Similarly, both watches provide a wealth of bands and multiple colors to suit nearly anyone’s fashion sense.

Always-on screen on the Galaxy Watch 5.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The screen technology on the Galaxy Watch 5 and Apple Watch Series 7 are pretty evenly matched. The Galaxy Watch 5 uses the same AMOLED technology as the prior model, with resolutions of 393 x 396 (40mm) or 450 x 450 (44mm) on a 1.2-inch or 1.4-inch display, while the Apple Watch Series 7 offers 368 x 448 (41mm) or 396 x 484 (45mm) resolutions on slightly larger 1.61-inch or 1.77-inch displays.

Although you might think the smaller screen size and higher resolutions of the Galaxy Watch 5 would mean it provides a greater number of pixels per inch (ppi), it doesn’t work out that way due to the round screen. All four watches fall in the same general range: 321 ppi on the 40mm Galaxy Watch 5 to 353 ppi on the 45mm Apple Watch Series 7. That’s not a difference most folks will notice, even on a wearable.

The rectangular screen of the Apple Watch Series 7 lends itself more effectively to text-based apps like messaging and email. However, Samsung’s One UI has advanced in making the most of the circular watch face compared to earlier versions of Wear OS. Since most folks aren’t likely doing much reading on their smartwatch, it’s a minor distinction, but the Apple Watch Series 7 does get the edge if wrist-based messaging is your thing.

Notification view on the Apple Watch Series 7.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Samsung has abandoned the rotating bezel of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, so controls on the Galaxy Watch 5 are primarily swipe-based, with capacitive bezels and two physical buttons on one side. The Apple Watch Series 7 adds a rotating Digital Crown to the side, providing an additional input method for scrolling and adjusting volume.

When it comes to durability, Samsung has stepped up its game this year by adding a sapphire crystal screen that promises a 60% increase in hardness, which translates to better scratch resistance. Apple has offered sapphire crystal on the Apple Watch for years, but only on the more expensive stainless steel and titanium models. The Series 7 isn’t an exception, although the Ion-X front glass used in the entry-level aluminum Apple Watch is more resistant to cracking than prior models.

Both the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Apple Watch Series 7 are water and dust-resistant, albeit to slightly different specs. The Galaxy Watch 5 has an IP68 rating and promises water resistance of 5 atmospheres (ATM), equivalent to a depth of 50 meters. The Apple Watch Series 7 carries an IP6X dust resistance rating and a water-resistance rating of 50 meters under ISO standard 22810:2010.

Winner: Tie

Battery life and charging

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 has gotten a healthy boost in the battery and charging department, with battery capacities increasing by around 15% and support for faster charging that can take you from zero to 45% in just 30 minutes. This puts it roughly on par with the Apple Watch Series 7, the first in Apple’s lineup to boost charging speeds.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, sitting on its charger.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Since both smartwatches should easily get you through at least a day of typical use, fast charging doesn’t matter much for folks who don’t wear their watch to bed at night. However, it’s a game-changer for sleep tracking aficionados since you can now realistically drop your smartwatch on the charger during your morning ablutions and have it topped up by the time you’re ready to start your day.

Plus, if you’re worried about getting through the night, both Samsung and Apple promise that eight minutes of charging before bedtime will give you eight hours of sleep tracking.

While Samsung claims the Galaxy Watch 5 provides up to 50 hours of battery life on a single charge, compared to 18 for the Apple Watch Series 7, Apple is being much more realistic here. In our testing so far, the Galaxy Watch 5 does edge out the Apple Watch Series 7, in that you’re far more likely to get to the next morning on a single charge. But it’s nowhere near the 50 hours that Samsung advertises, and the Galaxy Watch 5 is still going to need to hit the charger at least once every 24 hours. By comparison, after a full day, the Apple Watch Series 7 often requires a quick evening top-up to get you through the night.

Winner: Tie

Fitness and health tracking

Perhaps the most significant improvements in this year’s Galaxy Watch 5 are found in Samsung’s BioActive Sensor, which has been enlarged to offer more accurate readings. This combines a Bio-Electrical Impedance (BIA), electrocardiogram (ECG), and photoplethysmography (PPG) heart rate sensor to monitor everything from how your heart is doing to body fat and blood pressure.

Body composition on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

The Apple Watch Series 7 has the same type of health sensors, but it has yet to add blood pressure monitoring to the mix. However, it’s worth noting that Samsung only offers this feature in countries where it has received regulatory approval — and the U.S. still isn’t one of them — so for many folks, that distinction is entirely academic.

Where the Galaxy Watch 5 has leapfrogged Apple is with the addition of a temperature sensor. Rumor has it this will come to the Apple Watch Series 8 next month, but Samsung has beat Apple to the punch. The temperature sensor uses infrared technology that claims to offer accurate temperature monitoring. It’s not entirely clear when we’ll see some third-party apps that can take advantage of this, but at least the hardware is in place.

On the fitness and wellness side, the Galaxy Watch 5 and Apple Watch Series 7 are roughly on par, although Samsung takes a more holistic approach. Both support around 100 different workout types, although Samsung offers more built-in coaching features, which is something that Apple cedes to third-party apps. The same is true for the sleep tracking features, where Samsung’s Sleep Coaching will offer a tailored program to help improve the quality of your sleep.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

Software and features

Samsung’s relatively new One UI Watch platform has brought solid performance and usability improvements to the Wear OS platform. But it still can’t compare with Apple’s WatchOS, which is now in its eighth major release.

One UI Watch shows a great deal of promise, but in many ways, it still feels like a work in progress compared to the more polished Apple Watch operating system. In short, Samsung has some serious catching up to do here, but it’s also making impressive strides.

App menu on the Apple Watch Series 7.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

For example, Samsung only recently introduced the ability to use Google Maps without a connected phone nearby in One UI 4.5. This has been possible with Apple Maps since the first cellular-capable Apple Watch Series 3 arrived in 2017. Sure, Google Maps didn’t support that feature until recently, but that’s on Google. One UI Watch also suffers from lacking third-party apps, with many big names like Starbucks, Delta, ESPN, and others not offering apps for the Galaxy Watch 5 at all.

Apple is a company that sweats the details in user interface design, and it shows in WatchOS. Years of refinements have resulted in a more fluid and seamless user experience, plus more customizable watch faces that include complications to tie in third-party apps and give you everything you need to see at a glance.

Winner: Apple Watch Series 7

Price and availability

The Galaxy Watch 5 is available for pre-order until August 25 and will arrive in most retail stores on August 26. Pricing starts at $280 for the 40mm Bluetooth version and $330 if you want to add in LTE support. Those who pre-order will also get a free Wireless Charger Duo, plus $75 off with an eligible smartwatch trade-in and $50 of Samsung credit to spend on accessories.

The Apple Watch Series 7 is available now from Apple, starting at $399 for the 41mm GPS model or $499 for the 41mm GPS+Cellular version. Stainless Steel and Titanium variants are available and start at $699 and $799, respectively.

Overall winner: Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch Series 7 next to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

This race is getting closer every year as Samsung continues to iterate, but it’s not surprising that Apple’s more mature hardware and WatchOS software ecosystem keeps it ahead of the pack — for now, at least.

Although Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 pulls slightly ahead by offering more health sensors, the jury is still out on whether these are simply paper specs or features that will prove helpful in the long run. Samsung also offers more holistic wellness features like sleep coaching right out of the box, but the much richer App Store ecosystem for WatchOS offers a wealth of similar third-party options.

Nevertheless, the Apple Watch Series 7 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 are both best-in-class smartwatches. Realistically, though, most folks will find the choice between them has already been made by the smartphone platform they’re using. If you’re on the fence between an iPhone 13 Pro and a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, the features of the Apple Watch Series 7 or Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 may be enough to tip the scales in one direction or another. Still, the Apple Watch Series 7 isn’t a realistic option unless you’re toting an iPhone. Although the Galaxy Watch 5 is much more widely supported, it’s still a wearable for Android users only.

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