Smartwatch Smack Down: Apple Watch vs. Samsung Gear S

Apple Watch vs. Samsung Gear S

Two of the biggest tech companies on the planet unveiled new smartwatches to the public in the last week.

Apple capped off its highly anticipated launch event yesterday by taking the wraps off the Apple Watch, the company's first attempt at the young wearables market. The unique device has garnered a ton of buzz from consumers, partners, media and analysts since the event, but how does it stack up against the multiple wearables already out there?

Samsung showed off its new Gear S smartwatch just a few days before Apple's event at the IFA trade show last week. This is Samsung's sixth smartwatch in the last year, and it has some groundbreaking features of its own.

So when comparing the two, which one comes out on top?


The design of the two smartwatches are very different.

The Gear S has a single button under a curved 2-inch screen, while the strap is just as wide as the face of the watch. The big screen and wide strap gives it a larger-than-usual appearance for a watch.

The Apple Watch has a more intricate design as the company appears to have focused more on the fashion aspect of a wearable device.

The Digital Crown on the side of the 42mm face of the watch makes it seem more like your everyday watch.

Operating System

The Samsung Gear S runs on Tizen, which is Samsung's homemade operating system. Samsung has other smartwatches that run on the OS, but also models that run on Google's Android Wear. Samsung markets Tizen as having a growing ecosystem and has been working on releasing the open source OS on a smartphone. The drawback of having Tizen's ecosystem is that it is not as robust as Android's or Apple's, but Samsung says the watch will feature 1,000 apps.

Apple Watch runs on a modified version of iOS that is specifically built for the smartwatch. The company stresses the point that it is not simply a condensed version of their mobile operating system, and it is tailored for the smaller screen. The advantage of being an iOS-based platform is the ecosystem of 1.3 million apps. Apple released the WatchKit SDK to developers yesterday in order to have a slew of watch-specific applications ready to go upon release.

User Interface

Tizen's look is similar to that of smartphones or tablets with the battery life displayed on the top of the screen with commonly used apps at the bottom. The touch screen allows for users to select apps or use the scroll bar on the right side of the display. For those who have used a smartphone before, it'll look familiar.

The UI on the Apple Watch is different from any of the company's other products. The app icons look the same, but that's about it. Users navigate through the watch menus, carousel through apps and zoom in and out of maps or images using the Digital Crown on the side of the watch. The touch screen of the Apple Watch is also a first of its kind, as it detects the impact of touch, meaning a harder tap on the screen is a different command from a softer press.


The Samsung Gear S has a sharp curved 2-inch Super AMOLED display. The clear picture has bright colors in a long rectangular watch face. The rectangular watch face gives it a similar shape to a tablet or a smartphone

Apple Watch also has a rectangular display, but it's not as long. It is a flexible Retina display with a sharp, clear and bright picture. What's unique is that the display is made of sapphire crystal, making it extremely durable.

Personal Customization

The Samsung Gear S has a variety of different leather straps that can be switched on and off of the device. The watch face itself comes in two different colors, white or black.

Apple's smartwatch watch face comes in two different size, 38mm or 42mm. There are three variations of the smartwatch as it comes in stainless steel, aluminum or even 18-karat gold. There are also six different straps, each with their own material, design and colors. Apple boasts that this is the company's most personalized device it's ever made.

Most Unique Feature

The Gear S has a feature that is rather groundbreaking. It is the first smartwatch that can take and make calls thanks to its 3G connectivity. This means it is the only smartwatch that is not completely dependent on a nearby smartphone. If you want to go out with just your Gear S and leave your phone at home, that'll be just fine. However, if you want to download an app, you'll need a supported Android phone close by.

Apple Watch does not have this feature, but does have one that's gained notable buzz. Apple's new mobile payments platform, Apple Pay, is supported on Apple Watch. Using the device's Touch ID and near-field communication (NFC) technology, users can confirm payments online and at over 220,000 supporting merchants nationwide.

Biggest Drawback

The one drawback of the Samsung Gear S is that it runs on Tizen. Anyone in the tech industry will tell you that in mobility, a device is only good as its ecosystem. Tizen isn't as established as Android, iOS or Windows Phone, so the market for developers to create apps is not as appealing. That drawback for Tizen is one of Apple's strengths.

Apple Watch's biggest weakness is that it is dependent on the iPhone. If you have an Apple Watch, but don't have an iPhone 5 or later, you can't do much with the watch. The device uses Apple's Connectivity and Handoff features to take calls and push notifications from any app on the iOS ecosystem. That sounds like a nice feature, but if the Apple Watch had its own 3G connectivity like the Gear S and wasn’t as dependent on an iPhone, that would be something.

Health And Fitness

The Samsung Gear S is health focused as all smartwatches are. The device features an accelerometer, gyro sensor, heart rate monitor and barometer. The Nike+ app is carried on the Gear S as well as the Samsung S Health platform, which charts activity and tracks your heart rate.

The Apple Watch offers a gyroscope, accelerometer and heart rate monitor as well, telling the user of their calories burned, their brisk activity and time spent standing each day. The Activity app designed for the Apple Watch collects user's activity and sets personal goals and gives "rewards" for reaching fitness milestones. That activity is then charted on Apple HealthKit platform.

Battery Life

Currently, smartwatches in general seem to have a low standard for battery life as most of the devices on the market last for about a day or less.

The Samsung Gear S needs to be charged once every two days, which is above average when comparing to other devices in the space.

Apple did not address the battery life of its new smartwatch, and according to a Re/code report, this may be because the company isn't too happy about it. The report says that the Apple Watch currently needs to be charged on a nightly basis, but Apple is working to improve that before it releases the device.

Release Dates And Pricing

The Samsung Gear S is slated to be released in October, but the price of the smartwatch has not been disclosed.

Apple said the Apple Watch will be released early next year and will start at $349. What are the exact specs of the entry level model? That is open for debate at this point, but it's probably safe to say the 18-karat gold version will be a bit more expensive.