I’ve had a Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro strapped to my wrist for about a month now and I absolutely love it.
I’ve realised there are two reasons for this:
- the design; and
- the battery life.
Starting with the former, it has a round face, just like 99% of normal watches. It’s chunky, yes, but the shock of having what initially looked and felt like a hockey puck attached to my wrist has subsided.
As for the battery life, it is the first smartwatch I’ve owned that can sail through three days almost flawlessly. I’ve never had an issue charging my Apple Watches each night, but the Watch5 Pro reveals that we really should be beyond that requirement now.
Next week, I take delivery of an Apple Watch Ultra, which I categorically don’t need. But that got me thinking – how do these two flagship wearables stack up? Are they comparable at all?
More importantly, which one will spend longer on my wrist each week?
Price and positioning
This is where the entire premise of this article potentially comes unstuck, I know. But please bear with me.
The Watch5 Pro costs £429. The Apple Watch Ultra cost nearly double that, at £849.
These smartwatches are vastly different when it comes to pricing and positioning. Apple tells us that their new watch “pushes boundaries” and that it is designed “for athletes who do the same”. Samsung takes a slightly gentler approach by suggesting that the Watch5 Pro helps users “power” through their workouts. Although, they get rather more bullish when they tell us that it is “stronger than your toughest workout”.
Clearly, these devices are aimed squarely at people who work out – a lot. The most obvious difference is that Apple has swung the Ultra in favour of people who are into extreme fitness activities and professional endurance, whereas the Watch5 Pro is more relatable for mere mortals like me.
If I found the Watch5 Pro a bit too big at first, I’m probably in for a shock when I slap the Apple Watch Ultra onto my wrist for the first time next week.
The Watch5 Pro features a display measuring 34.6mm. The Apple Watch Ultra is a wrist-encompassing 49mm – Apple’s biggest wearable display ever. It’s ridiculously bright, too; the Ultra’s screen can hit 2,000 nits when required – double that of the Watch5 Pro.
The Apple Watch Ultra’s display remains square, obviously. Although it somehow looks more appropriate on such a bad-ass watch.
There’s no contest when it comes to numbers, materials, and capabilities, here; the Apple Watch Ultra absolutely smashes the Watch5 Pro in the display stakes.
Yet, I’ve never looked at the Watch5 Pro and thought it was too dim, and I’ve certainly never considered it too small – quite the opposite, in fact.
This is where the comparison gets vastly unfair.
Let me dig out just a few of the highlights from the mammoth Apple Watch Ultra features list:
- dedicated, customisable Action button in International Orange
- bespoke ‘Wayfinder’ watch face with night mode
- siren capable of emitting an 86-decibel sound pattern
- dual speakers
- depth gauge for underwater depth and temperature readings
- up to 60 hours of battery (later this year)
- bespoke straps for diving, hiking, and trails
- L1 and L5 GPS advanced signal processing
- -20° C to 55° C operating temperature
- EN13319 certified
- fully-featured dive computer
The list goes on, and on, and on and I don’t understand any of it. Of the above, I’ll probably only put the Action button to regular use, and that’ll simply be as a shortcut to my egg timer.
The Watch5 Pro offers a much more approachable, relatable bunch of features. Alongside the usual raft of smartwatch stuff (notifications, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and the like) it enables runners to import GPX routes for ease of navigation and offers a trackback feature that guides you to your starting point if you get lost.
But it’s that 590mAh battery in the Watch5 Pro that has impressed me the most. It’s far more convenient than the Apple Watch’s ‘all-day’ battery life. Obviously, I’m yet to experience the Apple Watch Ultra in that regard, but I remain entirely skeptical of how much stamina it will have, regardless of Apple’s chest-beating.
The Apple Watch Ultra is your mate who turns up to a weekend hiking trip having spent his entire month’s salary in Blacks. The Watch5 Pro is your dad, who turns up with the same pair of boots he’s used for the last three years, a grubby pair of walking trousers, and a backpack that’s more coffee shop than ‘let’s head up Everest’.
Guess who had the better weekend?
watchOS vs Wear OS
Right, this is where things fall down a bit for Samsung.
The Watch5 Pro is powered by Google’s Wear OS with, I think, some fettling by Samsung. That latter element is always a concern, but because this is my first experience of Wear OS, I’ll avoid directing the finger of blame toward Samsung.
You see, Wear OS, when pitched against watchOS, is a bit rubbish. The best way I can describe it is ‘functional’. It gets the job done, but it’s sluggish, clunky, and not particularly easy to use. I thought much of this was due to my many years of having used watchOS, but now I’m not so sure. The more I use it, the more I think Wear OS is just a bit rubbish.
Despite this, and as I’ve noted in the past, I’m a casual smartwatch user. I use these devices to tell the time, track workouts (although I’m never really sure why – I don’t do anything with the data), time stuff, and keep an eye on notifications. For all of Wear OS’ faults, it enables me to do all of those things relatively easily.
But the king of the wearable OS remains in Apple’s corner. When you get your hands on a device like the Watch5 Pro, you realise how polished watchOS is.
How many people do you see wearing Samsung watches? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the wild.
Now think about how many Apple Watches you see each day. They are absolutely everywhere.
This is the challenge for every other smartwatch manufacturer – obtaining some of the priceless kudos the Apple Watch has gathered over the last few years. It’s the fitness watch most people want, even if it’s slightly out of their budget.
The Apple Watch Ultra confirms this. Within the comments section of my ‘Far Out’ Apple event reaction video, there are countless people who, like me, have pre-ordered the Ultra even though it is categorically not aimed at them.
The thing is, you’ll only come to that conclusion if you hang on every word of Apple’s marketing campaign for the Apple Watch Ultra. You see, Apple knows that most of the people who buy this device will never take it scuba diving, trail running, or mountaineering. They’ll wear it during a 5K treadmill run and use the 86-decibel siren to scare their mates at the cinema. It’s aspirational, supercar-silly, and it has all of the kudos any brand could ever want for one of its products.
Pricing aside, the Watch5 Pro was always off to a challenging start, because it just isn’t an Apple Watch.
Which will I stick with?
I’m keeping the Watch5 Pro – it’s going absolutely nowhere. In fact, I intend to swap regularly between Samsung’s flagship smartwatch and Apple’s Everest Conquerer.
The question is – which one will spend longer on my arm? Will the ease of watchOS and the Defender-like knowledge that I could do anything with it make the Apple Watch Ultra a regular companion?
Or will the Watch5 Pro’s no-frills simplicity, traditional good looks, and proven battery life (not to mention ironically smaller frame) be easier to live with?