As experts on all things Android, we know what makes a great smartwatch. Whether it runs Wear OS, Samsung, or something else entirely, our recommendations are based on our own wrist-on experiences.
$300 at Amazon
- Excellent use of rotating bezel
- Compatible with Android and iOS
- Great battery life
- Stylish design
- Full fitness suite
- Doesn’t support Google Play
The Samsung Galaxy Watch is the result of several generations’ worth of refinement. Samsung’s smartwatch offers a comprehensive suite of fitness features with its built-in GPS, heart rate sensor, barometer, gyro sensor, and more. It doesn’t support Google Play, but Samsung keeps it fresh with new apps and features.
$250 at Amazon
- Dual layer display gives great visibility and battery
- Full Google features: Assistant, Pay, and Google Play Apps
- Runs latest Wear OS version
- More affordable
- Exceptional battery life
- A bit bulky
There’s nothing to hate about the Ticwatch Pro. It’s durable, it’s got all the essential fitness sensors, and it offers Wear OS functionality. The real star here, however, is the dual layer display, with an LCD “always on” watch face that sips battery for days — or weeks, if you kick the watch over into Essential Mode.
It’s tough to identify a clear winner here, because both smartwatches offer tons of value. The TicWatch Pro is a fine pick if you’ll be using it with your Android phone a lot, as it runs Wear OS and more tightly integrates with all the apps and features on your phone. But Samsung’s Galaxy Watch also has tons of apps, and many of them also work perfectly fine with your Android phone. The difference is the Galaxy Watch can seemingly do more during those times when you don’t have your phone, though whether that’s worth a $50 premium is a decision only you can make.
It’s about how you use your phone
While TicWatch isn’t a brand with a ton of recognition yet, the watches produced under this brand have a history of being considerably less expensive than its competitors without sacrificing hardware or features. While the TicWatch E has received loads of attention for being the cheap powerhouse it is, the Pro model really demonstrates what this company is capable of when approaching higher-end consumers.
Its premium sport chassis features a dual layered display, combining a beautiful 1.39-inch 400×400 resolution AMOLED display with an FSTN LCD display to offer always-on functionality and high-contrast usability in direct sunlight. It’s also packing a heart-rate monitor, NFC for Google Pay, and the ability to make and receive phone calls (using your phone’s cellular connection) thanks to the on-board microphone and speaker. For a 46mm watch that stands 14.6mm thick, this is an impressive bit of hardware, promising a ton when it comes to battery life when you need it.
As impressive as the TicWatch Pro is, the Galaxy Watch competes in several critical ways. The slightly smaller 1.3-inch AMOLED display comes in at 360×360 resolution, but the difference is hardly noticeable on either the 46mm or the 42mm models Samsung has made available. Samsung’s display is always on, but instead of a Wear OS’s high contrast mode, it opts for a full-color display at all times. It’s also a full 1.6mm thinner, but that’s only really noticeable when you set the watches side by side. There are no MST payments on-board this model, but Samsung Pay via NFC is still here, and Samsung uses a wireless charger for the Galaxy Watch instead of the magnetic one you find on the TicWatch Pro.
Where Samsung does gain a clear advantage is the ability to boast waterproofing down to 5 ATM and a MIL-STD-810G durability rating. That means you can swim (or even dive casually) with this watch and bang it up quite a bit with no consequences. The same can’t be said of the TicWatch Pro, which only claims an IP68 ingress rating.
|Operating System||Tizen 4.0||Wear OS 2.2|
|Dimensions||46 x 49 x 13 mm (46mm) 41.9 x 45.7 x 12.7 mm (42mm)||45 x 45 x 14.6mm|
|Display||1.3-inch AMOLED 360 x 360 (46mm) 1.2-inch AMOLED 360 x 360 (42mm)||1.4-inch AMOLED 400 x 400 AMOLED Display FSTN LCD display|
|Processor||Exynos 9110 Dual core 1.15GHz||Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100|
|Battery||472 mAh (46mm) 270 mAh (42mm)||415 mAh|
|Connectivity||LTE GPS NFC Bluetooth 4.2||GPS NFC Bluetooth 4.2 WiFi 802.11n 2.4GHz|
|Fitness||HR Sensor, Gyroscope, Barometer, Accelerometer||HR Sensor, Gyroscope, Barometer, Accelerometer|
|Water Resistance||IP685 ATM||IP68|
|Mobile Payments||Samsung Pay||Google Pay|
|Colors||Silver Midnight Black Rose Gold||Shadow Black Metal Silver|
What really sets these two apart is the software. The Ticwatch Pro runs Google’s Wear OS, with the latest versions packing a lot of cool, new gesture controls, a greatly improved navigation layout, and an overhauled Google Assistant experience. Deeply integrated with Google services like Google Fit, Google Assistant, and of course the notification system on your Android phone, Wear OS is a great help in getting through your day efficiently.
Samsung’s Tizen is a very different kind of OS. It’s been optimized for the wrist in ways Wear OS has not, including some wonderful scrolling implementations for the rotating bezel. While apps on this watch come from Samsung’s store instead of Google Play, there are quite a few of them to choose from, and the integration with apps on your phone has improved quite a bit over the last couple of years.
Comparing these platforms really comes down to options and integration.
Comparing these platforms really comes down to options and integration. Wear OS has the greater volume when it comes to available watch faces and apps, while also being better integrated with Android itself, but there are limits to how useful “more” is in this context.
I don’t find the selection of apps for the Galaxy Watch limiting in any way. In fact, some of the available options are downright impressive for a watch. These are full-on action games and apps for streaming from your home security cameras that work without ever touching your phone. While you don’t always get the full range of notification interactions you’d normally get from Wear OS, things like replying to text messages and stopping navigation work great already.
At the end of the day, choosing between Wear OS and Tizen is choosing between a platform that is super integrated with Android but not as efficient as it could be and a platform that is fantastic as a standalone or a connected smartwatch but not as integrated with Android as it could be.
If we had to choose just one, it’d be the Samsung Galaxy Watch, if only due to its strengths away from our phone. The TicWatch Pro doesn’t suddenly become useless when not using it with an Android phone, but you certainly don’t get anything that feels like a full experience. If you don’t anticipate your phone usage being a factor, then it really boils down to personal taste.
Samsung Galaxy Watch
$300 at Amazon
The most complete smartwatch available.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch can’t run Android apps, but it still works with a ton of apps on your Android phone and even has some unique tricks of its own.
Wear OS the way it was meant to be.
$250 at Amazon
While it wouldn’t be our first pick, the TicWatch Pro isn’t far behind. It’s the best Wear OS smartwatch available today, and at $50 cheaper, it challenges Samsung’s offering in every way.