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Best Smartwatches

Updated November 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 64 Models Considered
  • 8 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 153 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best smartwatches

    Last Updated November 2018

    Back in 1970, the Hamilton Watch Company teamed up with an emerging tech company to create the first digital watch — a timepiece that was considered pretty “smart” because it flashed the date and time on a small LED screen.

    Fast forward 30+ years, and such an innovation seems like ancient history. But that first digital watch laid the groundwork for today’s smartwatch category.

    While the term “smartwatch” defies a precise definition, you can think of it as a wearable computer that sits on your wrist. Microsoft had such a concept in mind when it introduced the Spot in 2003, but the company discontinued the idea. It took more than a decade (with a few stops in between from companies such as Sony, Samsung, and Motorola) for leading consumer tech giant Apple to release its first version of the smartwatch.

    The evolution of the smartwatch continues today. Manufacturers of these wearable devices have yet to zero in on exactly which features and functions — not to mention price points — meet the demands of tech-hungry consumers.

    Still, you can’t deny the appeal of the smartwatch, and if you’ve landed on this page, chances are you’re interested in one for yourself or a loved one.

    Most smartwatches nowadays come with sharing features that can help you track your movements throughout the day, or even compete with others for fitness goals.

    Types of smartwatches

    While smartwatches are small, wearable computers that hug your wrist, that’s where the similarities between product options end. The smartwatch space spans many product types and can be divided into a few standard categories.

    Fitness smartwatches

    From such manufacturers as Fitbit (which recently purchased Pebble), Garmin, Microsoft, and Tomtom, these wearables are smaller in size than traditional smartwatches. The primary function of a fitness band is to provide support and tracking related to an individual’s exercise routine.

    Price ranges from around $80 to over $200 and varies based on the watch’s capabilities, which can include heart rate monitoring and the measurement of calories burned and steps taken. Watches on the higher end of the pricing spectrum will feature notification of phone calls or texts but not the ability to answer calls or respond to messages.

    To add GPS to a fitness band — a great asset for runners — you’re looking at a watch like the FitBit Surge, which sells for over $200. However, the FitBit Blaze is extremely popular with consumers and sells for $156. Though GPS isn’t included in the band itself, you can sync it with your smartphone for connected GPS service.

    Notification smartwatches

    Primarily manufactured by traditional watchmakers such as Timex and Fossil, these timepieces sync with a smartphone and provide alerts when a phone call comes in, when a social media message is posted, or when a text arrives. However, these gadgets lack the ability to respond to said notifications.

    As the price increases in this category, you’ll find more complex devices that are powered by either the Apple or Android operating systems to facilitate advanced functionality.

    Entry-level models offer basic fitness and sleep tracking. More advanced units may include a customizable face. In addition to syncing with an Android smartphone, the Fossil Q line has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, providing users the ability to remotely control music as well as use voice to control its features.

    Smartphone smartwatch companions

    This is far and away the biggest category. Here you will find Apple’s smartwatch as well as models from Samsung, Motorola, LG, and most popular consumer electronics manufacturers.

    All devices within this category use the manufacturer’s operating system, and each operating system and device is linked to a marketplace of applications that are exclusive to that device. For example, Samsung uses the Tizen operating system and Google uses the Android operating system. Because of this, their applications are not, for the most part, interchangeable.

    Smartwatches in this category operate in sync with their companion smartphones via WiFi and/or Bluetooth. For example, an Apple watch is tied to the iPhone, and the Samsung Gear smartwatch links with Samsung’s various phones. The phone must be in proximity of the watch in order for all applications to function properly.

    Because this category of smartwatches does not include 3G or 4G LTE chipsets, they cannot independently make or receive phone calls.

    Standalone smartwatches

    For those who want their smartwatch to be able to receive or send phone calls independent of their smartphone, a number of manufacturers are beginning to add 3G or 4G LTE chips to their wrist wearables. Most notable in this category is the Samsung Gear S3, which has cell capability built in and works with AT&T or Verizon.

    Other smartwatches with LTE functionality include the LG Urbane and a number of products from smaller Asian manufacturers, the capabilities of which can be expanded into replicating a smartphone by using an eSim card.

    On the horizon for 2017 are the long-anticipated smartwatches from Google-code named Angelfish and Swordfish, with the Swordfish including LTE (4G) functionality.


    It might sound pretty basic but, if you use your smartwatch more for fitness tracking, it is an important factor to pick which hand you want it to be on. Your dominant hand will be much more in use throughout the day than your other hand.

    Smartwatch benefits

    For those on the fence about buying a smartwatch, here are some benefits to consider:

    • A smartwatch helps you stay connected. With the ability to provide up-to-the-minute messaging, customized news, stock quotes, and more, a smartwatch allows you to stay intimately connected with the world around you.
    • A smartwatch can help you track your activity and fitness goals. With fitness apps among the most popular applications, an interactive tracking smartwatch holds you accountable to your goals. It’s fun to compete with your peers to see how many steps were taken in a given day.
    • A smartwatch can help you monitor your health. In addition to exercise features, a smartwatch has access to apps that track heart rate and even allows a diabetic to make note of eating habits and enter blood glucose readings. It’s only a matter of time before smartwatches can precisely measure a body’s vital stats and send them via WiFi to a medical professional.
    • You can find an affordable smartwatch. Entry-level smartwatches or advanced fitness bands are quite affordable (under $100). Once you try an entry-level smartwatch, you can judge for yourself whether it’s useful. Satisfaction with a lower-end model could lead to a more advanced (and costlier) version.

    Smartwatches can get pretty annoying with incessant notifications. Head to your privacy settings to control these so your wrist does not keep pinging.

    Tips for choosing the right smartwatch

    Doing your homework before you make a purchase will prevent you from buying a gadget that ends up gathering dust in your sock drawer. We suggest these tips:

    • Make sure the smartwatch you buy is compatible with your smartphone.
    • Realize that the dimensions of these products vary. For example, the Samsung Gear S3 is 1.8 inches in diameter, and it has received criticism from some smaller-framed consumers for being too large. The Moto 360 is only 1.6 inches in diameter.
    • Consider the thickness of the watch, too. A thicker watch protrudes more, potentially contributing to its wear and tear.
    • Check the battery life. The Samsung Gear S3 battery can last up to four days between chargings. Most others tend to hold their charge for 1.5 to 2 days.
    • Think about how you’ll be charging your new gadget. Some smartwatches charge wirelessly; others need to rest in a special charging cradle.
    • Select a watch with the most appropriate apps for your needs. Apple offers an extremely large number of applications with more than 10,000; Samsung offers about half of that amount. Because individuals tend to focus on specific categories of apps (such as health and fitness, news, or games), due diligence is needed.

    Be sure to keep your smartwatch updated. This will not only enhance your operating system's performance but will also fix security flaws. Remember, hackers can gain access to information not just on your smartwatch, but also on any device that the watch is connected to.

    Staff  | BestReviews

    Smartwatch maintenance

    After shelling out money for your new smartwatch, here are some tips to keep it running trouble-free:

    • Power down before attempting to clean the screen.
    • Never use a damp cloth to clean the screen. Don’t use tissue, either, as it may scratch the surface. A dry microfiber cloth is preferred.
    • A band made of silicone, rubber, or plastic can be wiped down with a damp cloth — but be sure to keep the moisture away from the screen. A cloth band can be scrubbed to remove stains.
    • Even though most smartwatches have rechargeable batteries, they have a fixed shelf life. When it’s time to change the batteries, take your smartwatch to a repair center that specializes in connected wearables. Some higher-end watch repair stores will also be able to change the battery. Avoid those shopping mall watch kiosks!
    • Know the difference between “waterproof” and “water-resistant.” Overall, it’s smart to keep your smartwatch away from water, but higher-end models do have some degree of water-resistance. Those specifications are clearly marked on the device. Not paying attention to the specs could void your warranty.
    • The length and level of coverage in your warranty depends on the manufacturer and outlet where you purchase your smartwatch. For an expensive model, you would be wise to buy the added coverage from a reputable retailer.

    Stuck in a lengthy meeting where taking out your smartphone is a no-no? A quick glance at your smartwatch can ensure you are are not missing any calls, messages, or vital information.

    The future of smartwatches

    The smartwatch faces an interesting challenge in that the category has yet to catch on with mass consumers. Manufacturers have struggled to find the right formula of style, substance, and utility, while consumers have yet to consider smartwatches a must-have product.

    With some immediate changes coming in the smartwatch market, would-be buyers must decide if now is the time to buy or if it’s wise to wait for the next cool feature.

    In the wake of Apple’s initial 2015 smartwatch launch, a number of Swiss-based luxury horology firms hinted at moving into the high-end portion of the market. To date, Tag Heuer has seen success with its Connected series selling more than 60,000 units at a price north of $1,500. With Tag’s success, Swarovski is planning an Android-based watch for Q1 with Hublot and Tissot next in line. If you think of your watch as a fashion statement, it would be wise to see what walks the world’s swanky runways.

    A third generation of Apple’s smartwatch will emerge in 2017, and based on a number of its patents, the timepiece will have a round shape instead of its rectangular face.

    A number of mass market watch manufacturers, including Swatch and Guess, have communicated weak signals regarding their take on smartwatch technology. Swatch generated plenty of enthusiasm with its 2015 introduction of the Touch Zero One sporty smartwatch, but that project quickly derailed. Guess has entered the market with a few notification-oriented smartwatches, but nothing has riled up its fan base just yet.

    So what’s the takeaway from all this future talk? Like so many other consumer tech products, buying a smartwatch comes with the knowledge that newer, flashier models will hit the market shortly after your purchase. Therefore, it’s wise to enter the smartwatch merry-go-round with a product that suits your budget and the knowledge that every year will surely bring tempting new upgrades.

    Whenever using any app on your smartwatch, be sure to check what data it is sending out to the world. Some fitness apps can, for example, be used by insurance companies to market you health plans based on the condition of your heart or other health factors as tracked by the app — and this can get pretty annoying.


    Q. How do I know if my smartwatch is compatible with my smartphone?

    A. For starters, an Apple smartwatch is generally only compatible with an iPhone. Some Android phones offer limited, but not full, compatibility. Compatibility for smartwatches built on Android Wear can be checked at this website. LG watches are built on WebOS, which means they are fully compatible only with LG smartphones.

    Q. Can I make or receive phone calls on my smartwatch?

    A. If your smartwatch has built-in 3G or LTE (4G) functionality, you can make and receive calls using the same number as your smartphone — even if you’re away from your phone. People who own smartwatches without 3G or 4G can make or receive calls using WiFi or Bluetooth when in proximity of their phones.

    Q. I heard Pebble went out of business. What do I do if I have a Pebble watch or one on order?

    A. Pebble was bought by Fitbit in Dec. 2016. This site provides the details and some clues as to what to do if you have a Pebble watch or one on order.

    Q. When will the next Apple smartwatch be released? Should I wait to buy one?

    A. Apple is expected to release the next version of its smartwatch in Q3 of 2017. It promises to provide better battery life and more storage. There is also the possibility that it will have a round screen. In Q1 or Q2, Apple may release an interim update to the current model labelling it Apple Watch 2S.

    Newer models mean lower prices for existing models. Unless you are waiting for a round screen, buying a “model 2” at a cheaper price is a smart move. The new features will be merely incremental.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melissa
      Senior Editor

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