Best Smartwatches

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best smartwatches

Last Updated August 2019

Smartwatches have gained a lot of popularity in recent years with people seeking a convenient way to stay connected. General, everyday smartwatches can display a lot of useful information, limiting your need to reach for a smartphone or tablet. Given their rising utility, the number of options available is large.

The right smartwatch is a combination of the right features and comfort. The shape and size of the smartwatch will determine how it feels on your wrist and how easy the screen is to read. Features and specs are a matter of personal choice. Make sure the options you check out have the battery life, app support, tracking capabilities, and style you want.

Since there are many different smartwatch brands and models these days, it helps to have some guidance when deciding which one to buy. Our guide will give you all the details about important features, considerations, and some of the top models you should check out.

Smartwatches, like smartphones, run their own operating systems, so interfaces vary between manufacturers. For example, Apple Watches run watchOS and integrate with iPhones. Others run Android Wear and connect to Android smartphones.

Smartwatches vs. fitness trackers

Up until a few years ago, smartwatches and fitness trackers were decidedly different product categories. But as each has evolved, the lines have blurred. Smartwatches now include fitness-tracking functionality by default, and most fitness trackers can receive smartphone notifications and interact with smartphone apps.

So is there a difference between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker? Sort of. Smartwatches are designed to run apps from your phone, including fitness apps. They’re perfect for taking fitness further if you have a workout app you love, but because they’re also running a lot of other apps, they usually only last a day or two on a single charge. To put it another way, smartwatches extend the mobile experience from your phone to your wrist. That’s good for functionality, but it’s not so good for battery life.

Fitness trackers, on the other hand, are built with one primary goal in mind: helping you stay fit. Fitness trackers are more affordable and often include basic smartphone connectivity, so you can receive mobile notifications, but they rarely include features like the option for LTE mobile internet access. Fitness trackers can sometimes last up to a week on a single charge, which is no small feat when compared to their smartwatch equivalents.

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.

A hardy winner from Samsung

This newer upgrade from Samsung is slick and handsome, and you get lots for your investment, including a high-speed connection to the internet, the ability to monitor heart rate, and GPS. It’s a hardy watch that lots of owners love, though some wish it had more apps on board.

Key features

Back in the day, there was only one watch feature that mattered: whether or not it could tell time. Nowadays, it’s a bit more complicated. Here are the features to pay the most attention to as you’re comparing different models.

  • App support: First and foremost, you want to make sure that the smartwatch you buy can integrate with your smartphone and the apps you already have. Smartwatches are semi-functional on their own, but they need to connect to a smartphone in order to unlock the most useful functionality. If you own an iPhone, that means you’ll get the most from an Apple Watch. If you own an Android phone, it means you’ll want to look at smartwatches that run Android Wear.

  • Notifications: Some smartwatches don’t support apps but will receive notifications from your smartphone. If you’re looking for a basic smartwatch, get one that supports notifications, like a Fitbit. That way, you can still do things like receive important text messages.

  • Fitness tracking: If you’re a physically active person, pay attention to the fitness-tracking features available on different smartwatches. Some include GPS functionality so you can track runs or bike rides; others simply include a step counter. Consider your fitness goals before you buy, and make sure your smartwatch can support them.

  • Battery life: There are few things more frustrating than a watch that stops working in the middle of a busy day, so it’s important to get one that lasts as long as you need it to. Look through user reviews to get real-world battery life estimates on different smartwatch models.
EXPERT TIP

Using a smartwatch can be a great way to conserve battery life on your phone. Most phones use a lot of their battery life powering the screen, but with a smartwatch, you can get notifications from your phone without having to use its screen at all.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If you’re planning to buy a smartwatch with independent LTE support, contact your wireless provider first. You’ll need to add LTE service for your watch to your existing data plan, so be sure to ask about how that will change your monthly bills.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Smartwatches can also function as remote controls for media on your smartphone. For example, if you decide to go on a run and listen to music, you can change the volume or skip backward or forward in a playlist directly from your smartwatch.


Staff  | BestReviews

Smartwatch prices

Between $100 and $199, you’ll find entry-level smartwatches that are good at basic tasks like notifications and counting steps but leave out advanced features like app support. If you want to try out a smartwatch to see if you like wearing one, you can find decent options in this price range. If you think you might someday be a smartwatch power user, however, you may wish to consider pricier options.

Between $200 and $399, you’ll find the best values in smartwatches: models that have current-generation processors and can fully integrate with your smartphone apps. Smartwatches typically come in standard sizes like 38mm and 42mm; larger models generally cost more.

Smartwatches that cost more than $400 typically include LTE functionality, so you can use them without a smartphone. In many cases, upgrades to moderate phones (like a premium watchband) can bump the price of a smartwatch over $400, so keep an eye on the optional choices that could save you money.

Light, affordable, and functional

If you want a lightweight smart watch that tracks fitness stats and can be immersed in water up to 50 meters, Fitbit’s Versa is one to check out. Chances are you’ll like the look, the functionality, and perhaps best of all, the price.

Tips

  • Before you buy a specific smartwatch, look up the manufacturer’s typical product cycles, just in case a new version is expected soon. In a lot of ways, smartwatches are like smartphones — new iterations come out every few years with innovations and improvements that are worth waiting for. If there are some killer features you’re looking for, sometimes waiting for the next generation is the smart move. On the other hand, if a new version is coming soon, you’re more likely to find massive discounts as retailers look to liquidate their stock of current models. The more aware of product release cycles you are, the more likely you are to find the perfect deal for you.

  • If the smartwatch you want requires a proprietary charging cable, buy an extra one. Some smartwatches have their own charging cable interface, so they can’t be charged with standard micro-USB cables. No matter how your smartwatch gets powered up, keep a spare cable at your desk or in your bag — you never know when you’re going to need a charge on the go.

  • Insure your smartwatch in case of an accident. Many manufacturers and retailers offer product insurance on smartwatches, often referred to as “performance plans.” With most electronics, performance plans aren’t worth it — but they’re a must for smartwatches. Smartwatches have glass screens that can crack or scratch easily, not to mention dozens of sensors that can get damaged. Play it safe and get some peace of mind with an insurance plan. (Just be sure to get one that covers accidental damage.)
If you don’t like the busy watch face that comes default on most smartwatches, you could always switch to a more traditional one. For example, some people opt for a watch face that mimics an old-school analog watch.

FAQ

Q. Can I make a phone call with a smartwatch if it’s not connected to my smartphone?

A. It depends on the smartwatch. Most smartwatches are designed to be connected to a smartphone all the time, and in those cases, the smartwatch can act as both a microphone and speaker for calls from your smartphone. Some high-end smartwatches, with their own mobile data plans, can independently make phone calls and connect to the internet.

Q. What customizations can I make to a smartwatch?

A. Because smartwatches have a built-in screen, you can choose from multiple available digital watch faces. On Android Wear smartwatches, you can choose from hundreds of available options (including user-submitted designs). On Apple Watches, you can select a watch face from their curated gallery of designs. If you want to update the look of your smartwatch, you could always buy a third-party watchband.

Q. What does it mean when a smartwatch says it supports mobile payments?

A. Some smartphones support mobile payment systems, which means that you can store your banking or credit card information and pay with your phone. If a smartwatch supports mobile payments, it means that if it’s connected to smartphone that can make mobile payments, it can interface with the payment system — that is, do the actual paying — with just the watch (so you don’t have to get out your phone).

The team that worked on this review
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