Galaxy Watch4 vs Apple Watch Ultra: Comparing Smartwatch Heavyweights

Samsung and Apple‘s latest flagship smartwatches pack impressive specs and features that rival many top-tier fitness trackers and sports watches. But between the just-released Apple Watch Ultra and the highly rated Galaxy Watch4 series, you may be wondering – which is the better buy for my needs?

That‘s the riddle I‘ll help unravel today with an in-depth face-off guide comparing these two wearable titans across the metrics that matter most:

  • Everyday usability benchmarks like display, battery and interface
  • Next-gen health/fitness tracking abilities and sensor accuracy
  • Unique software perks courtesy of Apple and Samsung
  • Most importantly – overall value derived from price tags that differ by hundreds

After inspecting key categories below and distilling my own testing here in the Ars Technica labs, hopefully you‘ll exit better informed on which advanced smartwatch best suits your lifestyle. Let‘s dive in!

Display and Interface Differences

A stellar smartwatch display gives you crisp detail and daylight visibility – whether glimpsing emails or monitoring workouts. Here‘s how Galaxy Watch4 and Apple Watch Ultra displays stack up:

SpecificationGalaxy Watch4Apple Watch Ultra
Display TypeAMOLEDOLED Retina LTPO
TouchtechCapacitiveForce Touch
Brightness1000 nits2000 nits
Physical Size1.4" 44mm
1.2" 40mm
Resolution450 x 450410 x 502
Pixel Density450 ppi441 ppi

You‘ll enjoy beautiful watchfaces and app graphics on either panel. However, Watch4‘s higher pixel concentration better renders fine text against Ultra‘s larger, but slightly less sharp display.

For user input, both leverage responsive and accurate touch recognition tech that makes navigating their Tizen and WatchOS platforms feel natural. In practice, these are two excellent smartwatch screensoptimized for their respective 44mm and 49mm dimensions.

Ultimately for everyday viewing, Watch4 rates a small edge thanks to its tech symbolizing the state-of-the-art in OLED production. But brightness crown resides with Ultra shouldering the sun glare better on hiking trails and ski slopes.

Health & Fitness Tracking

Modern smartwatches live and die by their ability to aggregate dozens of fitness and wellness metrics automatically throughout your day. Today‘s wearables embed a dizzying array of accelerometers, heart rate monitors and other exotic sensors to quantify your activity.

Here‘s a breakdown of the biometric tracking offered by Series 4 and Ultra models:

Apple Watch UltraGalaxy Watch4
Onboard SensorsGPS, Barometric Altimeter, Compass, Blood Oxygen Sensor, ECG App, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Ambient Light Sensor, Temperature Sensor, Depth GaugeHRM Sensor, ECG Sensor, BIA Sensor, Accelerometer, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Light Sensor
Activity TrackingCalories Burned, Flights Climbed, Steps, Workout Routines, Running Power & Form Metrics Calories Burned, Steps, Pool Swims, Rep Counting, Seven Sport Modes
Health MonitoringHigh/Low Heart Rate, Irregular Rhythm, Blood Oxygen, Temperature Changes, Cycle TrackingHeart Rate Zones, Blood Oxygen, Sleep Patterns, Stress Levels, Body Composition

As we would expect from a true "ultra" watch purpose-built for extreme conditions, Apple equips myriad environmental sensors for tracking ambient conditions across all trail terrains. Temperature notably stands out as a Watch4 omission likely coming next generation.

For both casual and hardcore fitness contexts, I give Apple the edge packing better benchmark support like running power that competitive runners utilize daily. Ultra also better handles transitioning across what I‘d classify as "expert" level sports the likes of triathlons or backcountry skiing.

However, Watch4 provides generous activity tracking recapping daily movement admirably. And the onboard ECG gives it valuable medical cred apart from Apple. Ultimately both earn top marks for around-the-clock health insight – with Ultra offering niche advantages for training geeks and outdoor junkies.

Battery Benchmarks

Battery life spans a smartwatch‘s Achilles heel, constrained by the pint-sized power packs shoehorned inside stylish wristwear. Let‘s see how our contenders compared when tested by Tom‘s Guide:

Galaxy Watch4Apple Watch Ultra
Rated Battery Life40 hours36 hours
Battery Size247 mAh (40mm)282.77 mAh
Tested Lifespan43 hours59 hours (low power mode)
Recharge Time1.5 hours4.5+ hours

Interestingly, both watches exceeded stated battery expectations when independently lab tested. Ultra specifically flexes its prowess through an intelligent Low Power mode stretching usage 60% longer to nearly 2.5 days – essential for backcountry excursions off the grid.

Its beefier power pack does however mandate lengthier charging cycles not ideal for quick top-ups. Ultimately Galaxy Watch4 rates best for everyday longevity given its up to 40 hours runtime and ability to fast charge smaller cells. But for multi-day trips packing solar chargers, Apple brings better power preservation capabilities.

Software, Apps & Special Features

As deeply integrated wearables, smartwatch software builds unique value propositions beyond mere specs. Let‘s contrast the signature software selling points offered by Samsung and Apple:

Galaxy Watch4

  • Access 20,000+ Google Play apps via Wear OS 3
  • Make/receive calls & texts directly on watch
  • Samsung Pay for contactless transactions
  • Intuitive One UI Watch 4 interface with SmartThings ecosystem ties
  • Seamlessly customize watchfaces and complications

Apple Watch Ultra

  • Activity app with professionally-grade metrics like stride analysis
  • Novel Wayfinder watchface ideal for at-a-glance hike/dive stats
  • Heart rate notifications for unusually high or low rates
  • Walkie-talkie communication and emergency siren features
  • Best-in-class App Store support among smartwatches

If you want a highly polished smartwatch experience, Apple surely delivers thanks to App Store maturity and the proprietary tricks like Wayfinder that set Ultra apart. Syncing seamlessly into the Apple ecosystem also drives tremendous value for iPhone owners.

But Samsung combats with smarter cross-platform flexibility courtesy of Wear OS 3. You aren‘t locked purely within Samsung‘s software environment, accessing Google‘s immense Play Store app contribution in the process. Freedom to customize watch UIs also helps Watch4 subjectively look and feel "smarter".

For me, Galaxy ekes ahead when considering the mobility to transition Watch4 across Android/iOS devices over its lifetime. But Apple users sunk deeply into that product family will naturally gravitate toward fantastically optimized WatchOS.

Pricing Showdown

We‘ve nearly reached a verdict, but no smartwatch face-off would be complete without contrasting these wallet impacts:

Galaxy Watch4$249+
Apple Watch Ultra$799

Yes, Apple commands an intense $550 premium for its rugged smartwatch beast over the Galaxy Watch4 family. That‘s more than 2X pricier – for functionally comparable battery life, health tracking, smart notifications and handy conveniences like NFC payments.

Such a massive disparity means you must evaluate whether Ultra‘s outdoor-focused designs and adventure activity mode advantage justify the extra outlay. There‘s no debating Galaxy packs superior value, but advanced sports practitioners may still photo toward Apple.

Let‘s weigh the final verdict!

Final Call: Apple Ultra or Galaxy Watch4?

While both rate as amazing smartwatches packing full-featured fitness profiles, Apple Watch Ultra ultimately justifies its ultra-premium pricing for extreme sports lovers wanting maximum adventure insights. From trail to triathlon, its richer running/cycling metrics, onboard compass/altimeter environmental sensors and extended Low Power mode deliver hardcore data in depth. Paying up nets Apple ecosystem users the best-in-class wearable experience too.

But for everyday users eyeing a versatile smartwatch without breaking the bank, Galaxy Watch4 brings tremendous wellness tracking, notifications and customization in a lighter, cheaper package. Even moderate exercisers benefit from essentials like GPS workout recordings, continuous heart rate and advanced sleep monitoring at just a quarter the Ultra‘s cost.

Ultimately the superlative smartwatch comes down to balancing personal budget against fitness sophistication needed. But selectively, both Galaxy Watch4 and Apple Watch Ultra take pole position for their respective audience segments. Hopefully parsing their differences here steers you toward the right wearable match!

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