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Apple Watch SE vs Galaxy Watch 3 (2021): Which Smartwatch Should You Get?

As a brand new entry in Apple’s smartwatch line, the Apple Watch SE provides shoppers a more affordable choice while still getting the essential features of its flagship model. Comparing it with Samsung’s latest smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch3, might be a lopsided match, but given how much value you get with the Apple Watch SE, it’s an interesting consideration nonetheless. We break down the specs and features of these 2020 releases to give you a better idea which to go for.

Apple Watch SE vs Galaxy Watch 3 Smartwatch Comparison Chart

ModelApple Watch SESamsung Galaxy Watch3
 New Apple Watch SE (GPS, 40mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport BandSamsung Galaxy Watch 3 (41mm, GPS, Bluetooth) Smart Watch with Advanced Health Monitoring, Fitness...
PriceCheck PriceCheck Price
DisplayRetina LTPO OLEDSuper AMOLED
Always-onNoYes
Screen Size1.57″ (40 mm)
1.78″ (44 mm)
1.2″ (41 mm)
1.4″ (45 mm)
Resolution324 x 394 pixels (40 mm)
368 x 448 pixels (44 mm)
360 x 360 pixels
Dimensions1.57″ x 1.34″ x 0.42″ (40 mm)
1.73″ x 1.5″ x 0.42″ (44 mm)
1.61″ x 1.67″ x 0.44″ (41 mm)
1.77″ x 1.82″ x 0.44″ (45 mm)
Colors33
Call & Text AlertsYesYes
Water ResistanceUp to 50 metersUp to 50 meters
Heart Rate MonitorYesYes
Blood OxygenNoYes
PedometerYesYes
AltimeterYesYes
Calorie Burn TrackerYesYes
Sleep TrackingYesYes
Swim TrackingYesYes
Female Health TrackingYesYes
Fall DetectionYesYes
CompassYesNo
GPSBuilt-inBuilt-in
CellularAvailableAvailable
Wi-FiYesYes
BluetoothYesYes
NFCYesYes
Storage32 GB8 GB
CompatibilityiOSiOS, Android
Battery Life18 hours43-56 hours

Design

The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 has a more traditional watch design than the Apple Watch SE.

The designs of the Apple Watch SE (left) and Samsung Galaxy Watch3 (right) are highly contrasting.

Because of how widely different they look, you’ll likely find the Apple Watch SE or Samsung Galaxy Watch3 to be more appealing than the other. Neither has strayed too far from the original designs of their first generation models, so your choice will still be strongly influenced by whether the once-futuristic Apple Watch rectangle or the traditional Galaxy Watch circle is more attractive to you.

Their shape selection also plays a role in just how much you get to see on either smartwatch. While the Apple Watch SE has smaller dimensions overall than the Galaxy Watch3, it has a much larger display area due to its rectangular screen. Samsung’s sizes for the Galaxy Watch3, 41 mm and 45 mm, are a tad bigger than those of Apple’s, 40 mm and 44 mm, but even the smallest Apple Watch SE offers more screen real estate than the largest Watch3.

In addition, screen resolution is a bit higher on the Apple Watch SE than on the Galaxy Watch3, though it’s pretty hard to tell the difference at this point. Both LTPO OLED and Super AMOLED screens, respectively, look fantastic and bright even under daylight. However, the Galaxy Watch3 does have an edge in its always-on display option, which is one of the features left out of the Apple Watch SE.

Both smartwatch models are water resistant up to 50 meters, so you can swim wearing them in indoor pools without worry. Durability-wise, it’s worthwhile to note that the Apple Watch SE is only available in an aluminum case (in 3 colors), while the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 only comes in a stainless steel frame.

Activity Tracking

The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 has more health and fitness features than the Apple Watch SE.

While the Apple Watch SE (left) has detailed metrics, the Galaxy Watch3 (right) goes a bit deeper, like including step asymmetry.

Smartwatches such as the Apple Watch SE and Galaxy Watch3 make for great fitness companions due to their built-in exercise tracking and automatic activity detection. The Apple Watch SE tracks your progress via Activity Rings, which shows how much you’ve walked, exercised, and rested throughout the day and how close you are at hitting the day’s goals. The Galaxy Watch3 has around 120 fitness programs you can follow, and it gives real-time analysis for running specifically, letting you see in-depth metrics such as asymmetry, balance, and flight and contact time.

One of the key distinctions between the mid-tier Apple Watch SE and the flagship model Apple Watch Series 6 is the lack of ECG measurements on the former. So while it has similar heart rate monitoring, it doesn’t have an ECG capability nor a blood oxygen sensor like the Samsung Galaxy Watch3. In addition, the Galaxy Watch3 has blood pressure monitoring, too, though these features are slated to be released later in 2020 in the US, aside from the pulse oximeter.

Apple is introducing its new Fitness+ subscription service later this year too, providing studio-style workouts held by experts in the field. You can play these in the living room via Apple TV, which seamlessly integrates with the Apple Watch. You’ll get a 3-month free trial upon purchasing an Apple Watch SE. The Galaxy Watch3 also lets you pair it with a compatible TV so you can watch workouts on the larger screen.

Both watches have fall detection features that let you notify emergency contacts with your location. The Galaxy Watch3 calls it trip detection instead, only triggering when it detects a fall during movement and not when you’re still. Sleep tracking is also a bit more robust on the Samsung smartwatch, as its partnership with the National Sleep Foundation enables it to measure light, deep, and REM sleep, calculate your Sleep Score, and give recommendations based on them. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch SE only records micro-movements from its accelerometer to find your sleep quality and any periods of wakefulness.

Smart Features

The Apple Watch SE has a better app library than the Galaxy Watch3.

Ask Siri on the Apple Watch SE or get Bixby’s help with the Samsung Galaxy Watch3.

Apple continues to lead the way when it comes to smartwatch apps and app integration, and it’s no different here. The Apple Watch SE will come with watchOS 7, so it has the latest features for the platform such as Family Setup. You’ll get access to a deep library of apps that are on average simply better than others, Galaxy Watch3 included. The Tizen OS on the Watch3 has a nice interface though, as you can use its rotating bezel to scroll through pages intuitively. In comparison, the watchOS layout is sort of in 3D and requires a bit more exploring.

Customization is a big thing for the Galaxy Watch3. Samsung mentions that there are around 80,000 watch faces you can choose from so you can match it easily with any outfit. There’s also an app that lets you create your own custom faces. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch SE has a large selection of watch faces as well, including functional ones that display relevant information depending on interests, such as for planning, stargazing, photography and surfing.

You can go for an LTE version with either Apple or Samsung smartwatch, allowing you to stay connected even without a smartphone. This lets you respond to messages or stream music with your watch, and of course receive notifications and alerts. The cellular models also provide better performance for voice assistants Siri and Bixby, which come pre-installed on the Apple Watch SE and Galaxy Watch3, respectively. Paying with your wrist works with non-cellular models, too, as they both have NFC connectivity.

The Apple Watch SE notably has a larger storage capacity of 32 GB compared to the Samsung Galaxy Watch3’s 8 GB. This gives you more room for apps and music so it’s worth remembering if you like being able to do more on your watch.

Battery Life

The Galaxy Watch3 has a longer battery life than the Apple Watch SE.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 has different battery capacities depending on model size.

Apple hasn’t made any headway into improving the Apple Watch’s battery life with these latest models. The SE still has the 18 hour battery life of the Series 5, so recharging is a daily necessity, even more so if you use GPS for an extended period. In comparison, Samsung promises multi-day use out of the Galaxy Watch3. The 41mm model can last up to 43 hours while the 45mm model can reach 56 hours.

That’s plenty more than the SE, and is a big consideration if you want to be able to wear your smartwatch almost all the time. Sleep tracking is essentially easier to pull off regularly on the Watch3, since you can reliably expect enough battery from it to last the night. The Galaxy Watch3 also has Wireless PowerShare so you can get a quick boost from any Galaxy smartphone with similar capability.

Verdict

The Apple Watch SE offers better value than the Samsung Galaxy Watch3.

To start with, if you have one of the new iPhones or Galaxy models, your choice should be pretty easy. Both work better with the Apple Watch SE and Galaxy Watch3, respectively, which should be logical enough but worth stating to be clear.

Considering the significant price difference between them, the Apple Watch SE is certainly impressive since it can go nearly toe to toe with the more expensive smartwatch thanks to its build quality, interface, and feature set. It has a more modern look, with a variety of bands to choose from. You’ll need an iPhone to use it with, but you get to enjoy Apple’s extensive app library and the Apple Watch’s fantastic display.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 is the more flexible choice, since it’s compatible with both iOS and Android phones. Some will undoubtedly prefer its more standard wristwatch design, and they’ll find the rotating bezel to be a joy to use. Aside from its bevy of activity tracking features, its battery life is its strongest point and one of the best reasons to choose it over the Apple device.

FAQs

๐Ÿ“Œ What does the Galaxy Watch 3 do?

The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 is a smartwatch with numerous health features and activity tracking capabilities. It has a heart rate monitor and other sensors to track your exercises as well as ECG, SpO2, and blood pressure monitoring. In addition to simply telling the time with a variety of watch faces, the Watch3 lets you install apps for nearly any purpose, greatly expanding what you can do with it.

๐Ÿ“Œ Does Galaxy Watch 3 have ECG?

Yes, the Samsung Galaxy Watch3 includes an electrocardiogram app, though it’s only been released in South Korea at launch. It’s yet to be cleared by the FDA to be enabled in the US though that’s expected to happen later in the year.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is the Apple Watch worth it in 2020?

We’d definitely say the Apple Watch SE is a very much worth its price as it includes nearly all the essential features of the much more expensive Series 5 and 6 while costing way less.

๐Ÿ“Œ Is Apple Watch a waste of money?

If you use them for their intended purpose, which is health monitoring and activity tracking, the Apple Watch is not a waste of money at all. It’s easily one of the best smartwatches available today.

Last update on 2020-12-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Derick Bondoc

Managing Editor at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about gadgets, gaming and snacks.