The smartwatch phenomenon began in earnest during 2015, but now it’s in full swing. The latest-and-greatest smartwatches are a big improvement over their unsightly first and second generation counterparts. Now we have a number of attractive options from tech companies and fashion brands alike. These are our top picks for the best smartwatches.
There is a smartwatch on this list for everyone, whether you’re a man, woman, or child. We’ve also included a variety of smartwatch operating systems on this list, so you can find the watch that works best with your phone.
Apple Watch Series 3
Why should you buy this: It’s the best smartwatch.
Who’s it for: Anyone with an iPhone who wants a smartwatch.
How much will it cost: $330+
Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 3
Like the Apple Watch Series 2 and the Series 1, the new Apple Watch Series 3 is superbly made, very simple to use, and utilizes a comprehensive list of health and fitness-tracking features. Plus, it can also run apps, play music via Bluetooth, and looks smart. It comes in two sizes, 38mm and 42mm, so it looks sensible on most wrists. What makes the new model stand out? The Series 3 is very close to being a smartwatch you can use in lieu of your phone.
This is due to the inclusion of a 4G LTE radio, which provides a data and cellular connection, so you can make calls, receive and send messages, and carry out a host of tasks you’d previously only been able to do on your phone. We say it’s only close, however, because third-party app support isn’t as comprehensive as it needs to be in order for you to completely go without your phone. Nonetheless, we suspect this will be an issue cured in the near future by app developers.
A faster dual-core processor boosts the performance of the Apple Watch Series 3 over previous versions, too, ensuring the recently-released WatchOS 4 runs smoothly. There are various body styles from which to choose, but all come with water resistance down to 50 meters, making it suitable for swimming — it even has GPS for tracking your runs. The Watch can monitor your heart rate throughout the day, and can even warn of unexpected changes, potentially catching health problems early on. Ignoring the notification and app features, the Apple Watch is a health and lifestyle tracker like no other.
The aluminum Series 3 is the one to buy, even though Apple still sells the Series 1 and Series 2. There might be a temptation to buy the expensive stainless-steel or ceramic models — or one of the special editions made by Nike or Hermes — but with the wealth of aftermarket straps out there, it’s easy to personalize the watch later on, for a much smaller investment. They all work in an identical manner, after all.
However, do think sensibly about whether you need the aforementioned cellular function. The Series 3 with GPS starts at $330, whereas the model with GPS and Cellular starts at $400. Plus, to use a connection on your Watch, you’ll have to add around $10 or so to your monthly phone plan, making ownership more expensive. The GPS model is otherwise almost identical, though it sports 8GB of internal memory rather than 16GB.
Whichever you choose, be happy in the knowledge you’re not only wearing the world’s best-selling watch, but also the best smartwatch currently available.
The best smartwatch for Android
Samsung Gear Sport
Why should you buy this? It’s the best smartwatch if you own an Android phone
Who is it for? Anyone who values a great user interface on a slick smartwatch
How much will it cost? $300
Why we picked the Samsung Gear Sport
This will be a bit confusing, thanks to the various operating systems for smartwatches now available. The Samsung Gear Sport is the best smartwatch you can buy if you own an Android phone, regardless of whether it’s made by Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei, or any other brand. It’s not the best Android Wear smartwatch, because it doesn’t run Android Wear. It uses Samsung’s own Tizen software, and here’s a little-shared piece of information — Tizen’s better than Android Wear.
Why? It’s mainly because of the way you interact with it using the Samsung Gear Sport, and other recent Samsung smartwatches. The Gear Sport has a rotating bezel which helps you zip through the menus quickly and simply, rather than prodding and swiping on a tiny touchscreen for every interaction. The bezel rotates with a satisfying click, and minimizing screen touches helps keep the 1.2-inch AMOLED screen clear of too many fingerprints. That’s always a bonus.
The watch itself is stylish but leans more towards a sporty style than the Gear S3 or a smartwatch like the Apple Watch. The choice of black or blue strap as standard helps match your style, but the straps are easily swapped out for aftermarket versions if needed. The 42mm body is slim and lightweight, plus it’s properly water resistant to a depth of 50 meters, making it suitable for wearing all the time, even when swimming.
There are plenty of fitness features to ensure the Gear Sport lives up to its name, including a heart rate sensor, automatic workout recognition, fitness tracking, onboard GPS, and a range of fitness apps available through Samsung’s app store. It has 4GB of internal storage space for music, supports Spotify music playlists, and can connect to Bluetooth headphones so you can workout without your phone.
You can use the Gear Sport with almost any Android phone with the Samsung Gear app, and also with iOS, although it’s missing several features and we still recommend the Apple Watch to iPhone owners. The Gear Sport costs $300.
The best Android Wear smartwatch
Huawei Watch 2
Why should you buy this: It’s good-looking, gender neutral, and has solid specs.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a classy, round smartwatch that’ll work on iOS or Android.
How much will it cost: $300+
Why we picked the Huawei Watch 2
The Huawei Watch 2, the follow-up to the stellar Huawei Watch, was worth the wait. This time around, it’s available in two styles: The Sport and Classic. The Sport costs $300, while the Classic model costs $370, but there’s no LTE in the U.S. variant of the Sport (you can find these watches for under $300 on Amazon).
The Sport is available in black, titanium grey, or concrete grey, and it’s one of the best-looking Android Wear 2.0 devices available. It’s technically impressive too, with the 390 x 390 pixel, 1.2-inch AMOLED screen, which surpasses most other Android Wear watch displays in terms of sharpness.
Android Wear runs smoothly on the watch, and even though it’s not our favorite smartwatch OS, the new version is a big step forward in terms of design and ease of use. You can read our hands on with Android Wear 2.0 here. It’ll also work with both iOS and Android devices, though iOS functions are limited. If you have an iPhone, we still recommend the Apple Watch Series 2 ahead of Huawei’s Watch 2. However, for Android users, it doesn’t get better than this.
For those who like to work out, there’s a heart rate monitor for fitness tracking, and the Google Fit or Huawei Workout app will keep tabs on your exercise sessions. GPS will save your jogging and cycling routes to your smartphone. You can also pair Bluetooth earbuds to the watch to listen to music without a phone.
The Huawei Watch 2 isn’t meant for swimming, but like the Apple Watch Series 2, it is IP68 water resistant and can handle 30 minutes in 1.5 meter of water. If you though the Huawei Watch was large, you may be surprised to hear that the Huawei Watch 2 is even bigger. The 45mm circular body is just barely compact enough to fit on male and female wrists, but it’s definitely skewed towards men with bigger bones. However, the design is sleek enough to appeal to everyone.
The Huawei Watch 2 lasts 1-2 days on a charge depending on how much you use it, and it has a magnetic charger that’s easy to use. Its best feature, however, is how you can turn off Android Wear and have a generic watch face on for up 25 days — helpful when you’re traveling and you’ve forgotten your charger.
It’s cheaper than most Android Wear flagship devices at $300 for the Sport model.
The best smartwatch for runners
Garmin Vivosport HR+
Why should you buy this: It has all the features a runner could want at an affordable price
Who’s it for: iPhone or Android users who like a simple smartwatch with tons of running-specific features
How much will it cost: $180
Why we picked the Garmin Vivosport HR+
A sleek, simple interface makes for a fitness tracker that won’t visually stand out from the crowd, but delivers attractive measures of performance. The Garmin Vivosport HR+ packs GPS tracking with accurate distance, pace stats, and a map of your activity — whether you’re running indoors or out on the trail. This affordable tracker provides a wealth of functionality, including a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, and workout tracking including measuring calories burned and the capacity to quantify the intensity of your workout.
Running-specific features include a virtual pacer, Auto Pause, Auto Lap, and a walk/run mode — options to be coveted by athletes dedicated to measuring their progress. Smart capabilities compliment these features, including the ability to receive notifications from a compatible smartphone. Receive emails, calls, texts, and social media alerts — all from your wrist.
An added bonus for runners? Move IQ auto detects when you start or stop a workout, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to turn on your activity tracker. If you’re not using GPS mode, you can get up to 5 days of battery life — a week’s worth of workouts without needing a single charge. Using the GPS decreases the battery life to about 8 hours.
The Vivosmart HR + is available in a plethora of sizes and colors, although the style remains simple and sleek. Choose between black/shark fin gray, imperial purple/Kona purple, and midnight blue/bolt blue in the regular size while extra large wrists will have to settle for the black/shark fin gray. You can check out our guide to the best fitness trackers for more.
The best smartwatch by a fashion brand
Why should you buy this: It’s a classic, elegant Movado watch with a stylish, modern design aesthetic.
Who’s it for: Men or women seeking a bold, minimalist look.
How much will it cost: $595+
Why we picked the Movado Connect
If you’re a fan of the bezel-less trend in smartphones, then perhaps you’ll appreciate this edge-to-edge glass design from Movado. The Movado Connect is an Android Wear smartwatch with a stunning, bold design that eschews tradition in favor of a futuristic look. There are a few different design and strap options to choose from, but we think black and gold looks best. Movado has also designed more than 100 different dial variations, so you can find the precise look you want for the always-on display.
The refreshing minimalism carries over with a single button to control the watch and a vanilla Android Wear 2.0 experience. That gives you access to hundreds of apps and you can use Google Assistant from your wrist. Naturally, it can serve up notifications as well. It does have a gyroscope and accelerometer, so it can track your steps, but there’s no heart rate sensor and it’s water-resistant, not waterproof. There is support for Android Pay via NFC, but that’s the extent of the feature list. You can expect up to 20 hours from a single charge, so you’ll likely want to charge it every night.
Although it’s quite a chunky smartwatch, the Movado Connect design is sleek and elegant enough for it to work on different wrists and it’s intended to be unisex. This is definitely a statement smartwatch that’s going to draw admiring glances.
The best Android Wear smartwatch for women
Fossil Q Venture
Why should you buy this: It’s the best-looking smartwatch if you have smaller wrists.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a smaller smartwatch.
How much will it cost: $255+
Why we picked the Fossil Q Venture
Gradually, the tech world is beginning to understand women don’t always want to wear a big, masculine smartwatch, and is therefore making more of them suitable for smaller wrists. Our current pick of this growing range comes from Fossil, the Q Venture, but it faces stiff competition with the upcoming Kate Spade Scallop smartwatch.
We’ve chosen the Q Venture for its realistic starting price of $255, less than many other smartwatches, and for its simple, classy style. It’s part of Fossil’s third generation line-up, which means the body is slimmer than ever, so the profile is closer to a regular watch, and less intrusive than older smartwatches. There’s a huge choice of body styles too — a massive 10 different versions, ranging from those with leather straps to metal straps in single or double colors. Whatever your choice of attire, be it casual or fancy, there will be a Q Venture that suits you. Ultimately, that’s a major decision in choosing a watch, and one that’s not offered by many smartwatches.
The Q Venture runs Android Wear 2.0, has a 42mm size body, and interchangeable 18mm straps. It’s compatible with Android and iOS. However, it doesn’t have a heart rate sensor, GPS, or NFC for Android Pay. If you want these features, you may have to look at the Huawei Watch 2.
The best hybrid smartwatch
Fossil Q Commuter
Why should you buy this: It’s a classic Fossil watch made with high-quality materials.
Who’s it for: Men who like traditionally styled watches, but want to try out a smartwatch.
How much will it cost: $155+
Why we picked the Fossil Q Commuter
You don’t want to shout about wearing a smartwatch, or don’t particularly like bolder designs like the Fossil Q Crewmaster, or flashier designer brands like the EA Connected? The Q Commuter will appeal with its minimalist style, and no-nonsense approach to connected watches. This is a hybrid smartwatch, so it doesn’t have a touchscreen, but still counts your steps, measures the distance traveled, and estimates calorie burn for the day. It vibrates when a notification comes through on your phone and when you reach your daily step goal, plus it can also track your sleep quality, assuming you wear it in bed.
Through the app you can configure what notifications you want to receive on your wrist, and the minute and hour hands will point to a number on the clock indicating the app or contact. It can alert you to calls, texts, emails, and a host of incoming messages from popular social media apps, but you’ll want to cherry pick to avoid it all becoming pervasive.
There are certain functions you can set to the three buttons on the watch. Our favorite is the Q Commuter’s highlight feature, where you can press a button to see your estimated time of arrival at a preset destination — like your work. You can also choose from other functions like using the button to pause or play music, finding the time in another city, and more.
There are eight different versions of the Q Commuter available, giving you considerable choice, plus it’s easy to swap out the straps for 22mm alternatives. Matching the Q Commuter to your outfit should be simple. Because the watch doesn’t have a touchscreen, battery life is great, and it’s powered by an easily swapped out coin cell. It should keep going for up to a year.
We like the reasonable price too, which is half of the cheapest Gear Sport or Apple Watch Series 3. Hybrid smartwatches offer all the looks of a traditional watch, plus a useful amount of connected technology, keeping everyone happy in the process. If the Q Commuter’s restrained looks aren’t for you, Fossil and many other watch brands also produce hybrids, so it’s easy to find the right one for you.
How we test
We test smartwatches just like we test smartphones. We use them every day and test out all the marquee features. We strap them to our wrists (no matter how silly they look), and walk around town with them, making calls and exercising to test out the workout features. We pair them with different phones and test the experience when the watch is connected to phones different OSes. We dunk water-resistant smartwatches in water and take outdoorsy watches on hikes. We download tons of apps and discard the lame ones to determine how strong the app ecosystem really is, and we go to cafes that accept mobile payments and buy lattes with our wrists.
Basically, we get lots of weird looks, but it’s worth it.
Which smartwatch OS is best?
Each smartwatch operating system is different. Apple’s Watch OS 3.0 and Samsung’s special round Tizen OS for the Gear S line of watches are the two best smartwatch OSes in terms of design, features, and ease of use. We didn’t seen many new Android Wear devices in 2016, but Android Wear 2.0 solved many of the OS’ problems and brought support for mobile payments via Android Pay.
Apple’s WatchOS is dead simple and so is Samsung’s Tizen. Both offer fully-featured fitness tracking that’s easy to access and intuitive interfaces. On the Gear S watches, you just twist the bezel in a circle to navigate through quick launch apps, your full library of apps, and settings. Each app is made to suit the circular OS, so navigation is easy to figure out. You always have a back button if you get lost, too. The addition of Samsung Pay also takes Samsung’s watches to a new level with mobile payments.
The same could be said of Apple’s WatchOS. It’s attractive, apps are easy to find with a press of the digital crown, and you have access to quick launch apps in the Dock with the press of a button. Apple pay works on WatchOS, too. WatchOS 3 is even simpler than Samsung’s interface now that Apple has cut down on a few pointless menus and boosted the companion app.
In terms of app support, Apple’s OS has the best and most plentiful apps that we use on a regular basis. Android Wear is second and is starting to develop a decent number of apps, and Samsung’s app store is a distant third. There are not a lot of useful apps on Tizen.
Should you buy a smartwatch?
So you think you want a smartwatch? Are you sure? After all, unlike a smartphone, no-one really needs a smartwatch. However, because manufacturers are finally coming round to the realization a smartwatch needs to look good if we’re to buy one, they’re a lot more tempting than they once were. One-day battery life and a touchscreen on a watch is still hard to swallow for some people, but that’s why hybrid smartwatches were invented.
The Apple Watch Series 3 works without a phone, to a degree, and Android Wear is a considerably better wearable operating system than it once was. The choice of styles, for both men and women, is far greater than it was a year ago. Many big name fashion brands are adding full touchscreen smartwatches to their ranges, bringing considerable kudos with them. Now is a great time to get into smartwatches.
However, if you’re not ready to commit to a touchscreen smartwatch, but still want to try out some smart features, the huge choice of hybrid watches has got you covered. They often cost half of what you’ll pay for the cheapest Apple Watch, link with any smartphone, and provide traditional watch looks matched with a connected smart experience. At the moment, a hybrid is really all the smartwatch you need.
If you’re tempted, we say go for it.