Samsung's and Apple's smartphone rivalry has bled over into the world of smartwatches – well, at least to the degree that the limited popularity of the devices allows. Ahead of the expected second-gen Apple Watch, let's take a quick look at how the O.G. Apple Watch sizes up next to Samsung's new Gear S3.
If you looked at the evolution from Samsung's Gear S to Gear S2, you might have expected to see the Gear S3 continue to get smaller, thinner and subtler. Not so, as Samsung appears to have kicked the car into reverse, going all-in on smartwatch-as-oversized-man-gadget.
Even the larger of the two Apple Watches would win a slim-and-sexy showdown with just about any other smartwatch. Add the smaller 38 mm model to the mix, and you have one of the few on the market that can actually work on a woman's wrist (or smaller man's wrist) without looking like something from an episode of Dick Tracy or Inspector Gadget.
It's no surprise that the Apple Watch plays nice with iPhones – the iOS/watchOS connection is deep – but Samsung is also planning iPhone compatibility for the Gear S3 and S2 at some undisclosed time in the future. Just keep in mind Samsung promised the same thing at the S2's launch a year ago, and we're still waiting.
One thing the Apple Watch doesn't give you is the option of using it with an Android phone.
On other mobile devices, a bigger screen can often be a huge advantage – potentially a scale-tipping factor in your buying decision.
But on smartwatches, extra space doesn't necessarily translate into a better experience, given the bite-sized nature of wearable software. That bigger screen also usually means a bigger device; with today's form factors leaning so heavily towards Luca Brasi extremes, we'll more often recommend the smaller wrist-piece.
With the 2016 Gear watch getting a bigger screen with the same resolution as the 2015 Gear, the S3 has a lower pixel density than its predecessor. The Apple Watches' screens are about 17 percent sharper.
With a few exceptions, OLED is the standard on wearable displays.
The Gear S3 uses the new Gorilla Glass SR+, Corning's new material designed specifically for wearables. The entry-level Apple Watches rock a Gorilla Glass-like Ion-X Glass, while the stainless steel versions and above make the jump to sapphire.
One thing we'd like to see in the Apple Watch 2 is an always-on display option. Your only choice on this first-gen model is a neutered black screen when you aren't actively using it.
Perhaps as an answer to the Apple Watch's Digital Crown, which lets you scroll and zoom by twisting, the Gear S3 sticks with Samsung's well-received rotating bezel.
Both make nice alternatives to tedious and repetitive swiping on tiny wearable screens.
Apple goes with a tiered line for build materials, capping out with the ostentatiously-priced Apple Watch Edition (ye of US$10,000 and up). Samsung keeps it simple with one stainless steel option.
Apple also offers more band options, a collection that grew with the Hermès collection in late 2015 and a nylon option earlier this year.
You can swap bands on both watches, but the Apple Watch doesn't support standard 22 mm straps, at least not without a third-party adapter. The Gear S3 does.
Only the frontier variant of the Gear S3 has built-in LTE, so you can leave your phone at home on your next Bear Grylls-esque journey without falling off the grid.
Samsung is talking a big game with claims of four-day battery life on the Gear S3. If past years are any indication, though, that estimate is with the always-on display setting turned off, meaning two advertised features are likely working at odds, forcing you to choose.
The Apple Watch has Apple Pay and, in a mind-numbing display of creativity and originality, Samsung named its rival service Samsung Pay. Samsung's does have one big advantage, though, in supporting Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) tech, which can simulate the swiping of a credit card.
The second-gen Apple Watch is rumored to add built-in GPS, but the old model lacks it.
Heart rate tracking
Like most high-end smartwatches and fitness trackers, both can keep tabs on your pulse.
Ditto for a pedometer feature.
The Gear's water resistance rating is higher, but keep in mind we could see this improve as well in the soon-to-be-announced Apple Watch 2.
Samsung says it remedied one of the most face-palming features (or, rather, missing features) in the Gear S2. You can actually create reminders in the Gear S3, something the Apple Watch did from Day One.
One way you may want to set those reminders (and do other things like dictate messages) is with a voice assistant, like Siri or Samsung's weaker S Voice.
Rapping out texts on the Gear S3's tiny software keyboard is far from ideal, but in some situations it may make more sense than voice dictation.
The Gear S3 runs Samsung's Tizen software, while the Apple Watch runs watchOS 2, soon to be watchOS 3.
The Gear S3 will likely launch within the next month or two, while this old Apple Watch has been around for 17 months already.
Samsung has yet to spill the beans on Gear S3 pricing, but, for what it's worth, last year's models launched at $350 and $300, respectively. This first-gen Apple Watch now matches those numbers, after getting a $50 price drop earlier this year.
Just remember this Apple Watch will (very) soon be obsolete, or at least removed from latest-and-greatest status.
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