Smartwatches are still in a state of early adolescence. While they’re starting to become more popular, they still aren’t as ubiquitous as smartphones. It’s been a long hard climb for smartwatch manufacturers to convince consumers why they need to add another technological device to their everyday repertoire, but the market has finally reached a stage where a convincing argument is in place.
Smartwatches can bring an added layer of convenience to your life and actually decrease the common disconnect from the world by ensuring you don’t have to be tethered to your phone all the time. But as a number of tech companies and traditional watch manufacturers rush to bring their own entries to the market, finding the best smartwatches can be difficult. Fortunately, we’re here to help.
TD;LR - Best Smartwatches:
- Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy Midnight Black Watch
- Best Features: Apple Watch Series 6 40mm Deep Navy
- Best Value: Huami Amazfit Bip Smartwatch
- Garmin vívoactive 3 Smartwatch
- Fossil Men’s Gen 4 Sport
- Mobvoi TicWatch E2
- Huawei Watch 2 Sport Smartwatch
- LG W280A Watch Sport
- Fitbit Versa Smart Watch
- Michael Kors Access Smart Watch
- CASIO WSD-F30-RGBAU Pro Trek
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Rose Gold
1. Best Overall: Samsung Galaxy Midnight Black Watch
The smartphone market is defined by an entrenched war between Apple and Android, and the same is becoming true for smartwatches. Samsung's Galaxy is the arguably the best option for Android users, and it looks like that will be the case with the smartwatch as well. This smartwatch for Android and iOS takes all the fundamentals that the Apple Watch is known for and combines them in a frame that's more sensibly designed.
Not only is this a waterproof smartwatch, but it also sports a strong battery life and an easy to read display. Together, that makes this one of the best, low maintenance options if you want to get out and explore the world. In terms of functionality, the fitness tracking features have been improved significantly over earlier models, while the ability to stream your Spotify list is a huge convenience. Voice activation is available in the form of Samsung's proprietary Bixby virtual assistant and the heart rate monitor provides the best, real-time updates.
2. Best Features: Apple Watch Series 6 40mm Deep Navy
The Apple Watch Series is arguably the device that started the whole wearables trend, and despite an army of competitors coming to the market, it's still a contender for the best smartwatch around. Now in its sixth generation, the Apple Watch has made a lot of progress over the years. The Apple Watch Series 6 is no doubt one of the best smartwatches money can buy. Its clean face strips away the bezel almost entirely, and its excellent design provides you with access to everything you could want in an uncluttered frame. A larger and easy to read display and a louder speaker make this a more feasible reason to buy the Apple Watch Series 6 for iPhone than ever before.
But where the Apple Watch Series 6 really sets the pace is in its fitness features and its heart rate monitor. By working directly with the FDA, Apple has managed to include both an atrial fibrillation feature and an ECG app. It feels in many ways like the fulfillment of a promise that's gone unfulfilled by the smartwatch market. And to make things even better, the Apple Watch Series 6 features an always-on display that allows you to see the time and watch face every time you look at it. You can even download apps from the app store on the Apple Watch Series 6. However, it comes with just 18 hours of battery life, which may not be the best for you if you're always on the go.
3. Best Value: Huami Amazfit Bip Smartwatch
The Galaxy and the Apple Watch may be the top dogs in the smartwatch market, but they're also pretty pricey options. Customers who want the core functionality that these high end watches while still keeping costs under $100 may want to check out the next best selection on our list, the Amazfit Bip. This budget smartwatch may not be the most feature-rich option available, but it's certainly one of the best smartwatches you can get for less than $100.
In fact, it's probably the best deal you'll find for a fitness smartwatch. Featuring a stylish design that's reminiscent of the Apple Watch, the Amazfit Bip features an always-on display and an excellent battery life, which allows you to go over month on a single 2.5 hour charge. Smartwatch phone compatibility for this model includes both iOS and Android, so you won't be locked into a single operating system unlike the Apple Watch Series. In terms of features, the options here are basic but solid. A GPS tracker and a heart rate monitor are built in, and you can sync it up with your smartphone for notifications.
4. Garmin vívoactive 3 Smartwatch
Garmin may be best known for their GPS devices, but they've been moving into the smartwatch market with an admirable level of enthusiasm. The Vivoactive 3, is their flagship mid-range model, and it's one of the best smartwatches on the market. Garmin has smartly made the decision to focus on fitness-related services rather than trying to compete with bigger and more experienced names on a more all-around model. They have done their best on that front, and the Vivoactive is an one of the best choices to go with if you're looking for a watch with its own unique purpose aside from being a companion to your smartphone.
A functional heart rate monitor, a precise fitness tracker, and excellent water resistance makes this smartwatch for Android and iOS one of the best for your daily exercise routine. That's not to say that the Vivoactive is solely a fitness smartwatch though. It also features one way notifications and the ability to make payments through the Garmin Pay system, but the real star here is the depth of fitness apps available. Whatever your preferred type of exercise, you'll probably find an app tailored to it in the Garmin app store .
5. Fossil Men’s Gen 4 Sport
WearOS is a variation of the Android operating system designed specifically for use with smartwatches, and the Fossil Sport is one of the best Wear OS watches that knows how to make the most of its unique capabilities. Combine that with the new Qualcomm processor that's specifically optimized for the needs of this market, and this Google smartwatch becomes a competent mid-range entry for Android users. The name is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. Fossil's watch isn't particularly tailored for the needs of the fitness crowd, and it instead focuses on being a versatile android wear option.
Three separate battery modes allow you to adjust the watch to suit your needs in any given moment, and the design is more aesthetically pleasing than a majority of more utilitarian watches around. Combine that with its two days of battery life, incredible heart rate monitor, easy to read display, and its swim-proof design, and you'll get a watch that's perfect as a phone and sports companion. If you want a sports watch that serves as one of the best Wear OS watches with a mid-range pricing, there's no more affordable option than this.
6. Mobvoi TicWatch E2
A lot of smartwatches bill themselves as the technology of the future, but if you're looking for something a little more simplistic, comfortable, and stylized, the Mobvoi TicWatch is one of the best choices to go with. This is a gadget that takes the fundamental principles of a smartwatch and executes them without any unnecessary flairs or flourishes.
The screen of the Ticwatch E2 is large and easy to read even when it's holding a lot of information, and the battery life is top notch. The water resistance of the TicWatch E2 is smartly partnered with swim tracking functionality and its 24 hours heart rate sensor makes for a more healthy living. The performance on this budget smartwatch is simply one of the best. A single button controls all of your apps, and the Ticwatch E2 even has Google Play Store and Google Assistant built-in so you can easily navigate its functions with your voice. In a surprising move for a watch at this point, this Android Wear OS watch has WiFi capabilities built in.
7. Huawei Watch 2 Sport Smartwatch
Huawei's Watch 2 Sport is a rugged but surprisingly lightweight smartwatch, and that makes it one of the best choices for the active user. If you're looking for a watch that features the sturdy resistance needed to suit you in the gym or out in the wild, this Android smartwatch has got you covered. A precise heart rate monitor, scientific sleep tracker, and GPS both come standard, but the most surprising addition is support for a 4G LTE connection. Then there's support for NFC and Google Pay which could conceivably remove the need to carry a wallet with you.
Voice activation is available in the form of integrated Google Assistant, while the dedicated Workout Coach provides you with a more natural and motivational means for keeping up with your exercise routine. The Watch 2 also features an always-on display and three different modes to help you get an excellent battery life.
8. LG W280A Watch Sport
More than one smartwatch review has identified the W280A as the best Android smartwatch on the market. The argument is a strong one. LG clearly understands the intricacies of Wear OS, and they've maximized its potential impressively to build this Android Wear smartwatch. The lack of a need to tether it to your phone allows it to effectively serve as an alternative to your mobile device in some situations, as it can be used to text and make calls by installing a SIM card.
It also features LTE connectivity, although both the call and LTE connectivity are limited to the U.S. Apps can similarly be downloaded directly on the watch , and a huge portion of the Google Play store is wide open to you. The value of this watch is reflected in its scarcity. Finding a new W280A is one hell of a task. This shows that it's truly one of the best watches on the market. You may want to keep an eye out if you want to pick it up for a decent price.
9. Fitbit Versa Smart Watch
If there's one company that understands what people desire in health-tracking smartwatches, it's Fitbit. The Fitbit Versa offers some of the best, most impressive, and focused features you'll find in a watch at a price that comfortably hovers in the lower mid-level price range. The Fitbit Versa has been built from the ground up, and its slim and sparse design emphasizes its role as a utilitarian tool rather than a fashion statement.
The Fitbit Versa comes in an elegant black color. This aluminum Fitbit watch features one of the best sleep analysis around, and it smartly includes a whole wealth of health tracking options built around the specific needs of women. For the sake of price and portability, a few features had to be stripped out of the watch itself, but music can be saved directly to the Versa, and it gains GPS functionality when tethered to your iOS or android phone. With the Fitbit Versa, you get a host of incredible features, including a 24 hours heart rate sensor, sleep tracking and built-in GPS sensors, Windows phone compatibility, and more. This Fitbit smartwatch surely deserves to be on the best smartwatch list any day, any time.
10. Michael Kors Access Smart Watch
A majority of the smartwatches available today are based around streamlined designs that put practicality above fashion. So, when luxury designer Michael Kors throws their hat in the ring, you know it's going to be a significant change of pace. The Access Runway sports a beautiful design that's in step with more traditional women's luxury watches, and while it's not the most powerful smartwatch on the market, it's packed with a surprising amount of features.
Just like the Fitbit above that comes with only one color, black, this Michael Kors watch is also designed with only one color - pink. Built on the Wear OS, the Access Runway comes with an easy to read display. It features both a GPS and a heart rate sensor, meaning it can work admirably well in the gym or out on the street. The Google Fit app built right in tracks a number of important metrics, while Google Assistant provides you with voice activation. It's not as advanced as the Fitbit above, but it's easily the best when it comes to deciding on the most fashionable smartwatch.
11. CASIO WSD-F30-RGBAU Pro Trek
There's no way to argue that the Casio Pro Trek is not an expensive watch, but Casio is a company known for producing only the best products as well as their high ratio of quality to pricing; they certainly didn't fail with this model.
This is a watch designed to help you get the best outdoor experience, and it comes with a wide variety of GPS, health, and fitness features that you'd expect from such a gadget. Notifications from your mobile device are easy to manage, and unlike many cheaper smartwatch models, they aren't one way. Thanks to its easy to read, touchscreen display, you can respond to text, social media, or email through voice control, an onscreen keyboard, or even touchscreen scribbles. And instead of using the limited, native Wear OS interface for interacting with apps, users have full and direct access to the Play Store.
12. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Rose Gold
Everything that applies to the first entry on our list applies to the Rose Gold version of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active as well. This is the same design at its heart, and the only practical difference comes from its more feminine design. And while choosing between the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Rose Gold or the midnight black variant is going to come down to a matter of aesthetic preferences, you can trust this one to be one of the best and most comfortable smartwatches for your needs.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active is one of the most respected smartwatches around, and this model takes those incredible features and functions and combines them with an elegant dress design. It is, however important to note that Samsung Galaxy Watch Active doesn't support Samsung Pay on iOS.
Smartwatch Buyer’s Guide
We’ve outlined some of the most critical specs for choosing the best smartwatch above, but the details may be lost on some customers. Here’s what you need to know so that you can make an informed decision.
The operating system (OS) is basically the software platform on which all the functions and apps of your smartwatch run. And since smartwatches are essentially small, stripped down smartphones, it makes sense that the two most popular phone operating systems – Android and iOS – dominate the best smartwatches. Apple’s tightly proprietary approach to tech ensures that only their first party Apple Phones utilize iOS. That’s unfortunate since iOS is generally well regarded as one of the best and most well supported operating systems for smartwatches.
While Android is the basis for a majority of the smartwatches on this list, it’s a specialized version of their operating system known as Wear OS. Built with the demands of smartwatch manufacturers in mind, Wear OS has something of a troubled reputation. A lack of support from Google has left many disappointed with the versatility of this operating system. Fortunately, the open source nature of Wear OS has allowed more manufacturers to monkey around with it, and a lot of companies have managed to put out impressive and respectable smartwatches using Wear OS.
Many other manufacturers make use of their own proprietary operating systems, but the details are too diverse to get into at any depth. The one proprietary operating system that deserves a place beside Wear OS and iOS is Tizen. Designed by Samsung as an open source alternative to the competitors, it’s taking a while to come into its own, but it’s getting better with each passing year.
Getting the most out of your smartwatch means coordinating it with your mobile phone, but that’s fortunately a pretty simple affair in most cases. Almost all of the phones on our list are compatible with both Android and iOS devices. The one exception is the Apple Watch which is limited only to iOS devices due to their philosophy of maintaining a closed ecosystem.
But compatibility can be a tricky thing. While all open source phones offer cross-compatibility, the features available on Watch OS devices are sometimes limited when used in conjunction with iOS. As a general rule of thumb, a smartwatch that runs on the same core operating system as your phone is likely to work better with it naturally. But this can vary, so you might want to glance at a smart watch review before pulling the trigger on a cross-compatible device.
Two major factors constitute our analysis of the screen. The first is its dimensions. With the exception of the Apple Watch, all of the phones on our list sport round faces, and the positives and negatives of the screen size are somewhat obvious. A larger screen can be bulkier to wear, but it provides you with more real estate to navigate your apps. If you’re worried about the fit, you may want to take the width of the screen’s bezel into consideration as well. Also keep in mind that how intuitively the watch’s interface is to navigate can have a major effect on its usability as well.
We’ve also identified the number of pixels for each watch. More is better with pixel density, since the more pixels are, the more detailed and crisp the resolution of your watch’s face. And while the quality of the resolution is proportionate to both the size of the phone and the pixel density, most of the watches on our list are approximately the same size, so it’s not something you’ll need to worry about.
A smart watch wouldn’t be very smart if it didn’t have a way to communicate wirelessly, and there are a few different protocol that these devices use for wireless connectivity.
The most common, available in any smartwatch on the market, is Bluetooth. Many smartwatches aren’t standalone devices and instead rely on information from your phone to access information. If your smartwatch only has access to Bluetooth and you want to access anything that requires internet – from music streaming to weather reports to Google Assistant – that information is pulled from the internet via your phone and then delivered via Bluetooth to your smartwatch.
NFC is a less commonly used but increasingly more popular technology that allows you to translate information by simply tapping one device to another. This is commonly used to trade information between devices, and it can be used to swap music between your phone and your smartwatch on some models. But more commonly it’s used as a means for automatic payments. Simply log into your digital payment account on your watch and then use it in lieu of a traditional card. Just keep in mind that WiFi is still required to work.
WiFi is the ultimate level of connectivity for smartwatches, but it tends to mostly be prominent in more expensive models. Watches that connect to WiFi can get all the information they need without having to use as an intermediary, and they can essentially serve as an alternative to a traditional phone in limited circumstances.
Ingress Protection is a universal standard that determines how sturdy a watch is. It’s identified as a double digit number. The first digit determines how resistant the device’s exterior is to solid objects like dust, while the second digit evaluates moisture protection. All of the watches on our list that are IP certified have a rating of IP68. That means they’re protected against harmful dust and can be submerged for short periods underwater.
If the device you’re evaluating doesn’t come with an IP rating, that may be a reason to pause, but you shouldn’t discount the watch entirely. Many watches offer great durability despite not being officially IP certified. The Casio Pro-Trek, for instance, is potentially the sturdiest watch on our list and tested to military standards, but it doesn’t bear an official IP rating.
Smart watches are essentially miniature computers, and just like with computers, the CPU processor serves as their brain. The processor determines how effectively your watch can run and the power of the apps it can support. In many cases, a processor can bring a level of functionality to an operating system that it otherwise doesn’t have.
That’s what makes Snapdragon processors by Qualcomm such a popular choice for manufacturers. You can count on any Snapdragon 2100 processor to suit you well, and the higher numbered models are even better. The 3100 (available on the Fossil Gen 4 Sport) can even counteract a number of the weaknesses of the Wear OS operating system by improving battery life and offering more integrated options for fitness tracking and NFC payments.
Apple uses its own proprietary processor, and the A7 is also relatively popular. Both are reliable choices. Some manufacturers don’t release the specifications of their processor, but that shouldn’t scare you off entirely.
If you’ve been considering investing in a smartwatch but you’ve been skeptical, there’s no better time than now to start. The market has just reached the point where the potential of what smartwatches can accomplish are finally showing promise, and constant improvements to the existing operating systems means that a smartwatch purchase today can grow to meet your needs more effectively over time.If you liked our article on smart watches, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.