The Best Smartwatches To Keep You Fit And Connected

When smartwatches were first introduced, they were little more than tiny second screens that paired with a smartphone. They also displayed the time using fancy (often customizable) digital watch faces. These days, however, the best smartwatches are finally living up to their “smart” name. Many provide extensive health and productivity functionality, and some even offer complete autonomy from a smartphone.

For example, thanks to accurate sensors and GPS built into the latest smartwatches, many smartwatches offer a nice selection of health and fitness features. The watches can also make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, help with navigation, control other smart devices and more.

For many people, the smartwatch has already become a “must have” piece of digital equipment. Whether it’s an Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch or a Fitbit, for example, it may be time for you to stick your old, mechanical wristwatch into a drawer and strap a cutting-edge smartwatch onto your wrist. Let us help you with our recommendations for the best smartwatches.


Best Smartwatch for iPhone Overall

The Latest Apple Watch Is Like Having An iPhone On Your Wrist

Editor’s Pick

Who It’s For: Any Apple iPhone user who wants one of the most versatile smartwatches currently available.

The price you pay for the Apple Watch Series 7 will ultimately depend on several factors, including the size of the display, the Apple watchband you select and whether you choose the GPS + cellular option. No matter which options you choose, the watch itself is waterproof and comes with a nice collection of watch apps and customizable watch faces preinstalled. However, thousands more optional apps and watch faces are available from the App Store.

The Series 7 version of the watch offers an always-on display, along with a handful of new features that can make it an even more useful tool in your personal and professional life. With the right apps, it’s also a powerful health and fitness tool that’ll work in conjunction with a wide range of other equipment beyond your iPhone.

Pros:

  • Extensive app library
  • Large selection of optional watchbands
  • Customizable watch faces

Cons:

  • ]Must be used with an iPhone


Best Smartwatch for Android Overall

The Perfect Companion To Android-Based Smartphones

Best Features

Who It’s For: Ideal for users of Android smartphones (particularly Samsung smartphones) that want a full-featured smartphone with impressive functionality and plenty of optional apps.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch4 Classic includes advanced sleep and continuous SPO2 tracking, fitness and auto workout tracking, a real-time ECG monitor, optional cellular data connectivity (for when Wi-Fi and a smartphone are not nearby) and a more robust version of the watch’s powerful operating system. You’ll also discover it weighs less and features a sleeker design than previous models, yet offers up to a 40 hour battery life.

The watch runs an upgraded version of the WearOS operating system that was jointly developed by Samsung and Google. You’ll discover a wealth of new health and fitness features, like automatic exercise identification and ECG monitoring. There’s also a useful trip-and-fall detector, barometer, ambient light sensor, compass, optical heart rate sensor and other built-in technologies and apps that health and fitness enthusiasts will really appreciate.

Pros:

  • More sensors and functions
  • Excellent rotating bezel
  • Extended (40 hour) battery life

Cons:

  • Best used with an Android-based smartphone
  • Some features only work with Samsung smartphones


Best Smartwatch for Men

An Elegant Spin On Smartwatch Technology

Who It’s For: Someone wanting the sophisticated design and appearance of a Montblanc watch combined with an impressive assortment of “smart” features and technologies.

The problem with smartwatches is that the technology within them gets outdated after just a few years. While a traditional mechanical wristwatch will just tell the time (and maybe display the date), it’ll last for decades or longer. In this case, you’re paying a premium for the Montblanc name, but you’re also buying a smartwatch whose technology will eventually need to be replaced (not upgraded).

That said, the waterproof Montblanc Summit Lite is loaded with functionality that makes it an excellent communications and productivity tool. It also offers impressive health and fitness functions. This watch relies on Google’s WearOS, so there are plenty of optional apps available for it. This makes it an elegant companion to any Android-based smartphone.

Pros:

  • Extremely elegant design
  • Full-color display
  • Runs using the WearOS operating system

Cons:

  • High priced
  • Unlike traditional Montblanc watches, it won’t become an heirloom


Best Smartwatch for Women

The Garmin Lily Sport Edition Is Stylish And Powerful

Who It’s For: This Garmin smartwatch offers a beautiful and chic design, plus incorporates health, fitness and basic smartwatch functionality. This makes it ideal for everyday life or your most exhilarating adventures.

Featuring a deep orchid colored casing and watchband, this smartwatch offers a sizable touchscreen display, up to a five day battery life, nicely tracks important health stats and serves as a handy second screen for your smartphones. It can also be used to track your steps, sleep patterns, stress level and energy level throughout each day.

In the spirit of the health and fitness benefits that Garmin has become known for, the Lily Sport Edition comes bundled with a collection of speciality apps for yoga, walking, cardio, mindful breathing, women’s health tracking, hydration tracking and respiration tracking. There’s also a built in pulse Ox sensor, so you know how well your body is absorbing oxygen.

Pros:

  • Long battery life, making it great for daytime use and sleep tracking
  • Lots of bundled health and fitness apps
  • See texts, calls and calendar reminders from your smartphone

Cons:

  • Not as robust as a general-purpose smartwatch
  • No GPS + cellular option (just built-in GPS)
  • Lacks full-color display


Best Budget Smartwatch For iPhone

Not Apple’s Best, But The Apple Watch SE Is Still Pretty Smart

Good Value

Who It’s For: An Apple iPhone user looking for a lower-cost “starter” smartwatch that still offers the versatility and app selection of an Apple Watch.

With a starting price of less than $300, the Apple Watch SE offers the best value in the Apple Watch lineup. It is probably the right choice for a first-time smartwatch user. The 40- and 44-millimeter casings come in several metal finishes and in a variety of stylish colors. However, the customizability options expand greatly when you choose from the hundreds of digital watch faces and dozens of stylish and often colorful watch bands available.

As the “budget” model, a few features, like the always-on display, ECG and SpO2 sensors are missing from this version of the watch. Otherwise, it can automatically identify many exercises (when you start your activity), has fall detection, detects irregular heartbeats and it’s compatible with all the usual apps. It’s a well-designed, water resistant (up to 50 meters), customizable and stylish smartwatch that is offered with GPS or GPS + Cellular capabilities.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Highly customizable
  • Works with Apple’s WatchOS 8

Cons:

  • GPS + Cellular version needed to have maximum autonomy from an iPhone


Best Budget Smartwatch For Android

A General-Purpose Smartwatch Offered At A Great Price

Who It’s For: An Android-based smartphone user who wants an extremely customizable, versatile and powerful smartwatch at an affordable price.

Just as the Apple Watch is the ideal watch for most iPhone users, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 serves the same purpose for Android-based smartphone users—particularly Samsung smartphone users. In addition to being able to choose the watch’s aluminum or stainless steel casing color, the watch offers many interchangeable bands and customizable watch faces.

Sure, the Galaxy Watch 4 includes a nice selection of health and fitness tracking features, but it also serves as a full-featured smartwatch when it comes to communication and productivity. Especially when you invest in the LTE (cellular) connectivity option, the Galaxy Watch 4 becomes much more than an extension of your smartphone. This is a slightly scaled-down version of the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic that’s offered at a lower price.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Very customizable

Cons:

  • Lacks a rotating bezel
  • Battery life could be better and more consistent


Best Fitbit Smartwatch

It Makes Perfect Sense To Strap A Fitbit Sense On Your Wrist

Who It’s For: A health and fitness enthusiast who wants a general-purpose smartwatch that has a major emphasis on its fitness tracking capabilities—what Fitbit is best known for.

Available in several colors, the Fitbit Sense is the company’s more advanced health-related smartwatch, so it’ll definitely appeal to health and fitness enthusiasts. For example, this full-featured smartwatch can be used to help you stay in tune with your body by using built-in sensors, apps and tools for stress management, heart health, SpO2 monitoring, skin temperature monitoring and an ECG app.

The Fitbit Sense also has built-in GPS, is considered “swim proof” (so it can be used in and around water) and it offers a battery that lasts approximately six days per charge. Like most Fitbit devices, this one is compatible with both iPhone- and Android-based smartphones. The overall design of the Fitbit Sense is sleek and modern. Thanks to its soft silicone band, it’s also rather comfortable.

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life (up to 6 days)
  • Superb Fitbit fitness apps
  • Built in EDA sensor for measuring stress

Cons:

  • Fitbit Premium (paid subscription) required for many health/fitness features


Best Smartwatch for Kids

The Fitbit Ace 3 Is A Great “Starter” Watch For Kids

Who It’s For: Young people (ages six and up) who want the core functionality offered by an affordable “starter” smartwatch that also offers parental controls.

You probably know that Fitbit offers an impressive lineup of cutting-edge and dedicated fitness trackers, along with a growing selection of full-featured smartwatches. The Fitbit Ace 3 is a third-generation fitness tracker and smartwatch hybrid that’s designed specifically for young people. The watch comes with a durable silicon casing and watchband that’s available in three color options. It also offers an impressive eight day battery life.

Parents can customize the waterproof Fitbit Ace 3 for their children via their own iOS or Android-based smartphone, so a child does not need their own phone to utilize the watch. If the child does have their own smartphone, they can receive notifications from their phone directly on their watch. Otherwise, the functionality focuses more on fitness and activity tracking, telling time and providing motivation for a young person to stay active.

Pros:

  • Parents maintain control over what the watch does
  • Customizable watch faces and on-screen avatars
  • Tracks activity (not steps) and sleep

Cons:

  • Lacks the full-functionality of a smartwatch
  • Monochrome display (not full color)
  • Doesn’t include features offered by most other Fitbit models


Best Fitness Smartwatch

A Sophisticated Fitness Tool And Smartwatch

Who It’s For: Anyone who wants to stay connected with alerts for incoming calls, text messages and a calendar view right on their watch, plus benefit from a wide range of health and fitness functionality.

If you are serious about your fitness routine, one really good smartwatch option is the Garmin Vívoactive 4S. It’s hard not to love the on-screen animated exercise demonstrations—including Pilates and yoga routines—which are handy for checking your form. You also get built-in storage for playing music, plus access to a large library of specialized workout apps.

Energy monitoring, a pulse OX sensor, stress tracking, women’s health tracking, hydration tracking, respiration tracking, sleep monitoring, heart rate monitoring, and a mindful breathing tool are also included—although it lacks many of the productivity, communications, and general use applications found in other smart watches. It does offer Garmin Pay, however, which allows for contactless payments like Apple Pay or Android Pay.

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life
  • On-screen workout animations
  • SpO2 sensor

Cons:

  • Requires multiple mobile apps


Best Smartwatch Under $175

The Amazfit GTS 2 Looks Like An Apple Watch, But It’s Much Less Expensive

MOST POPULAR

Who It’s For: Anyone looking for versatile smartwatch functionality without having to spend a fortune.

When it comes to budget-priced and water-resistant smartwatches, the Amazfit GT 2 offers a decent selection of features and functions primarily for health and fitness enthusiasts. In addition to very basic smartwatch functionality for handing tasks like text messaging and scheduling reminders, this smartwatch offers the Alexa voice assistant and can be used in conjunction with your smartphone to make and receive calls. There’s also a built-in timer, stopwatch and do not disturb mode.

From an appearance standpoint, you might think the Amazfit G2 looks like an Apple Watch thanks to its sleek and modern design, but while it certainly looks nice, it lacks the full functionality of Apple’s popular smartwatches. It does, however, offer some important features, such as heart rate monitoring, water resistance, built-in GPS, a slew of exercise tracking modes, a nice selection of digital watch faces and all-day heart rate and SpO2 monitoring.

Pros:

  • Unequalled battery life (7+ days)
  • Budget price
  • Extensive health and fitness features (with 90 sports modes)

Cons:


What To Consider When Buying A Smartwatch

The smartwatches featured in this article only scratch the surface of the many models available across a wide range of price points. Keep in mind, most smartwatches today are designed to handle the same tasks as a fitness tracker, along with a wide assortment of other functions.

When choosing which smartwatch make and model is best for you, think carefully about how you’ll be using it and what functionality will make your life easier. Next, consider the smartwatch’s overall capabilities and price, along with its appearance. Since multiple screen sizes are often available, choose one that’ll fit nicely on your wrist, enhances your lifestyle and will look good with your typical wardrobe. Let’s explore a few of the other features to seek out when choosing the ideal smartwatch.

Device Compatibility

Many smartwatches are designed to work with any smartphone that offers Bluetooth connectivity, but there are exceptions. For example, to use an Apple Watch, you will need to pair it with an iPhone. Likewise, to use a Samsung Galaxy Watch, you’ll experience seamless integration when you use it with a Samsung smartphone.

Other smartwatches from companies like Fitbit, Garmin or Montblanc will work with just about any smartphone. In addition to making sure the smartwatch you choose will work with your smartphone, also consider any other smart gear you already have—including medical devices, smart home equipment and smart fitness equipment—that will be able to collect and sync data with your smartphone and compatible smartwatch.

GPS Only Versus GPS + Cellular

Some smartphone manufacturers offer two versions of each of their smartwatches—one that only supports GPS and that relies heavily on a smartphone to function. The other supports cellular connectivity. When your smartwatch is able to connect directly to your cellular service provider, it’ll be able to make and receive calls or send and receive text messages, access the Internet, and handle many other tasks without requiring your smartphone to be nearby.

For instance, if you leave your smartphone at home when you go outside for a walk or run, but you happen to fall and are unresponsive for several seconds, your smartwatch can generate an SOS call to local emergency services. It’ll also automatically send a text message to your emergency contacts that includes your exact location. On most smartwatches with cellular capabilities, this feature will work anywhere in the world.

The drawback to a GPS + Cellular smartwatch is that you need to pay an additional monthly fee to add a new line for your smartwatch to your wireless plan. This monthly fee is usually around $10, but may vary.

Display Size And Type

These days, most smartwatches have a full-color touchscreen display. However, the size and shape of the display will vary greatly based on the smartwatch make and model. Choose a display type and size that’s easy for you to see and interact with. It should also fit comfortably on your wrist. Smartwatches with a monochrome display (as opposed to a full-color and touchscreen display) will offer a much longer battery life.

Battery Life

The rechargeable battery built into most smartwatches is designed to last at least a full day before needing to be recharged. That said, if you rely heavily on the smartwatch’s built-in speaker, GPS, or cellular connectivity, for example, this will use more battery power. Based on how you’ll be using the smartwatch, consider the battery life it offers and make sure the model you choose will meet your needs.

Watchband And Watch Face Options

All smartwatches come with a watchband. However, the smartwatch manufacturer may offer anywhere from a few to dozens of styles to choose from. Plus, you’ll likely discover a variety of watchbands you can buy separately. On most smartwatches, swapping bands takes 30 seconds or less, so you can invest in as many colors and styles as you desire.

Again, depending on the smartwatch make and model, a selection of customizable digital watch faces will also likely be available. In addition to the collection that comes pre-installed on the watch or built into the watch’s operating system, chances are you’ll be able to download hundreds of optional watch faces and then customize them to display exactly the information you want in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing to you.

Other Smartwatch Features

Every smartwatch offers a unique collection of built-in sensors and other technology that allows it to collect, analyze and share data with your smartphone (and potentially other smart devices). Each new generation of smartwatch typically brings with it new types of sensors to collect more data, and more accurately than ever before.

Whether you’re looking to overcome problems sleeping, reduce your stress level, monitor your heart rate, keep tabs on your blood oxygen level or see how slight changes in your body temperature impact various aspects of your life, some smartwatches can track and monitor these things and much more.

Pay attention to the sensors and other technologies that are built into specific smartwatches. Determine what information you’d like the smartwatch to be able to collect, as well as what mobile apps you’d like the watch to sync with in order to analyze, archive and make the best use of the collected data.


Are Smartwatches Worth It?

If you find yourself constantly glancing at your smartphone’s screen throughout the day or wish you had smartphone functionality with having to carry one all the time (during workouts, for example), a smartwatch will definitely be a good investment for you.

A smartwatch can provide a second (albeit smaller) screen for your smartphone that you wear on your wrist. If you have a GPS only version of a smartwatch, as long as your smartphone is nearby, you’ll benefit by having much of your smartphone’s functionality in a more portable form.

When you invest in a smartwatch with cellular capabilities, the watch can work much more independently. This means you can leave your smartphone at home and still be able to make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, access your calendar, access a digital assistant, stream audio and handle many other tasks you currently rely on your smartphone for. Most people find a smartwatch to be a powerful, versatile and highly customizable tool that fits many communication and productivity needs comfortably on their wrist.


Are Smart Watches Accurate?

Your smartwatch pulls information pertaining to the time, date and current weather from your smartphone, so that data is always accurate. That said, the accuracy of other data collected by a smartwatch is generally accurate as well.

However, smartwatches are not medical devices, so the health and fitness data that’s collected and analyzed should only be used for general guidance. Exactly how accurate a smartwatch is at collecting specific types of data—like heart rate, distance traveled, steps taken or blood oxygen level—depends a lot on the make and model of the watch. In any case, a smartwatch shouldn’t be used to diagnose any potential health issues, but to identify them and use the information when speaking with a healthcare professional.


What’s The Difference Between ECG And Optical Heart Rate Sensors?

These days, smartwatches are bristling with ever-more health and fitness sensors. Two of the most common sensors in modern watches are ECG and optical heart rate sensors. While they both measure your heart, they’re actually measuring different things.

Virtually all smartwatches today include an optical heart rate sensor—it’s one of the oldest health sensors found in wearable devices. An optical sensor reflects a particular wavelength of light off the blood flowing under the skin beneath your watch. This helps the watch determine how fast your heart is beating. Some watches measure this regularly throughout the day; others reserve it just for workouts and when you trigger it manually.

An ECG—short for electrocardiogram—is a more recent innovation in smartwatches. It measures electrical signals under your skin generated by your heart’s normal rhythmic beating to generate a very accurate picture of your heart rate. To function, the ECG feature must be triggered manually and requires you to touch a specific part of the watch while the ECG measures the electrical signal generated by the heart’s contractions. The result is a summary that tells you if your heart is behaving normally or if there’s an abnormal rhythm (called atrial fibrillation).


Is An Apple Watch Useful Without An iPhone?

Unfortunately, in order to set up any Apple Watch, an iPhone is a necessity. There’s no way to set it up without one. You need to use the Apple Watch mobile app on your iPhone to install watch faces and watch apps. If you don’t invest in a GPS + Cellular Apple Watch model, the watch also relies on your iPhone to make/receive calls, send/receive text messages and to stream content from the Internet (such as music, podcasts, or audiobooks).

On the other hand, if you have an iPhone but don’t always carry it with you, you can certainly wear an Apple Watch instead and use many of the watch’s key features on its own. The watch becomes more autonomous in terms of what it can do when you invest in a more expensive GPS + Cellular model.

If you’re already an iPhone user, it probably makes sense to go with an Apple Watch as your smartwatch, because the two devices can freely sync data between a wide range of commonly used apps. An Apple Watch, however, will not appeal to an Android-based smartphone user.


What Does A Smartwatch’s IP Rating Mean?

The “IP” in IP Rating is short for Ingress Protection. This is an industry-standard method for describing how protected a device is from being damaged by the environment, such as dirt, sweat and water. IP ratings always have two numbers, such as IP65 or IP15.

The first digit indicates how well protected the device is from intrusion from solids, like dirt, dust and debris. The second digit is for moisture protection—such as rain, drips, sprays, sweat or full immersion in water. Generally, the higher the IP rating you see, the better protection it has.

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