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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
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.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best smartwatches for Android phones

When they first appeared on the tech scene, smartwatches were little more than a novelty item. Big, uncomfortable, and sporting few features, they were more of a sci-fi movie prop than a valuable organizational tool. 

Fast forward to today. Smartwatches on the market now are full-featured and stylish. They can do everything from keep you up to date on texts, calls, and social media accounts to stream music and track every aspect of your fitness regimen. Paired with your Android phone or mobile network, they have become an indispensable tool designed to keep you informed, fit, and organized.

From networking and OS compatibility to battery life and the variety of apps available, this guide covers everything you need to know to purchase a smartwatch for your Android phone. In addition to covering what you can expect at various price points, we also share a variety of our favorite Android-capable smartwatches and highlight why we recommend them.

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The first modern smartwatches came out in 2014 with the Android Wear LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live.

Key considerations

Fitness apps

One of the first uses of the smartwatch was as a fitness tracker, and this is still a priority feature in most of these watches. 

Today, smartwatches include a range of apps and sensors that can perform a wide variety of functions, including track fitness progress, monitor vital signs, count calories, and even design workouts tailored to interests and needs. More advanced versions of these watches include GPS for mapping cycling or running routes and offer more specialized monitoring, such as tracking blood oxygen levels.

Whether you’re counting steps or training for a marathon, there’s a smartwatch to help you reach your goals. Be sure that any smartwatch you’re considering will work with the necessary apps and has the sensors needed to meet your fitness needs.

Connection

Pretty much all smartwatches include Bluetooth, so they will work with your smartphone. Some also include long-term evolution (LTE), so you can network the smartwatch without a phone.

Notifications

Some smartwatches only notify you when you receive something like a text or call, allowing you to decide if you need to immediately deal with it via your smartphone. Other smartwatches let you respond to texts, email, and calls using the watch. Note that all smartwatches should let you decide what notifications the watch receives and how you’re notified (screen prompt, audible beep, or vibration).

Compatibility

Because much of a smartwatch’s functionality relies on its pairing with a smartphone, you should verify that any smartwatch you’re considering actually works with your phone. Be sure that the smartwatch not only works with your particular OS (in this case, Android) but also the OS version. This is particularly true if you have an older smartphone, which might only work with older Android OS versions.

Battery

Another primary consideration with smartwatches is how long you can wear one before having to recharge it. Smartwatches contain a rechargeable battery, which can last anywhere from 24 hours to a week, depending on the watch. A watch with a longer battery life offers much more convenience than a watch that you need to recharge every day.

Recharging method: The way you recharge the battery also varies from smartwatch to smartwatch. Some use a cord or dock to charge them, requiring you to keep track of yet another cord or even take the watch apart to charge it. Other smartwatches use a much more user-friendly wireless charging method; all you need to do is lay the watch on something like a charging puck to top off the battery.

Recharging time: You should also note how long it takes to completely recharge the smartwatch because this process can take anywhere from less than an hour to several hours. The longer the charging time, the longer you have to wait before you can use your smartwatch.

Durability

Because you wear your smartwatch out in the world, it should be rugged enough to handle whatever the world throws at it. A stainless steel case and strengthened glass really help here. All smartwatches have some level of water resistance, some to the point that you can wear them while swimming. But before you dive into the pool wearing your smartwatch, be sure you know exactly how waterproof it is.

NFC

Smartwatches typically have some form of near-field communication (NFC) built into them, which you can use to quickly and easily pay for items at the register, no wallet needed! 

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Did You Know?
Due to Google’s purchase of Fitbit in 2019, tech experts expect great things in terms of Android smartwatch fitness capabilities in the coming years.
Staff
BestReviews

Features

Apps

Smartwatches come with a variety of pre-installed apps and are compatible with hundreds or even thousands more that you can download and install. A large number of popular Android apps, such as Google Maps, Uber, and Tinder, in addition to music and gaming apps, are available for use on these smartwatches. When buying a smartwatch, know what apps it comes with and what apps are available for use with the watch.

Storage

While less important than other types of computerized devices, such as smartphones and laptops, the amount of storage a smartwatch has is still a consideration. Internal storage can be used for apps, photos, streaming media, and other information. Current smartwatches usually have around 4 gigabytes of storage, although some have as much as 16.

Display and controls

The two primary ways of interacting with a smartwatch are through the display and through controls.

Display: Most smartwatch displays are LCD, although some pricier models use OLED or AMOLED displays that are thinner and provide richer colors. Color displays provide you with a better visual experience but also drain the battery more quickly than black-and-white displays. Smartwatches usually have a touchscreen, which you use by either tapping or swiping.

Controls: In addition to the display, many smartwatches include controls on the side of the case that can be used for tasks like scrolling through windows or menus. These are usually in the form of buttons or bezels that rotate.

Design

In the past few years, smartwatch style has improved considerably to the point where these watches are as small and stylish as traditional watches. Indeed, some even resemble traditional watches right down to the round cases. Some smartwatches are more utilitarian; others are more stylish. Some are available in a variety of colors and styles, while others let you swap out elements like the watchband when you order. Give some thought to how important the appearance of the smartwatch is to you before purchasing one.

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Did You Know?
While not standard, some smartwatches also have a built-in flashlight feature, so you’ll never find yourself in the dark again.
Staff
BestReviews

Pricing

Inexpensive: Smartwatches in the $25 to $100 range usually have less powerful batteries, fewer apps, and simple notifications through your Android phone via Bluetooth. If you’re in search of a simple smartwatch to keep track of steps and smartphone notifications, this range probably meets your needs.

Mid-range: In the $100 to $200 range, you can find smartwatches with more storage (4 to 8 gigabytes) and improved fitness apps and sensors. Smartwatches in this range are still largely notification only, with some offering limited response/reply capabilities. Shop in this range if you want a smartwatch with better water resistance, a more robust app selection, and longer battery life.

Expensive: For the latest smartwatch, target those in the $200 to $300 range. Serious athletes can find a wealth of fitness apps here, including sensors to measure and track everything from heart rate to blood oxygen levels. Advanced features like GPS, NFC, and LTE are common here, as are app collections that number in the thousands. These smartwatches tend to be thinner, more stylish, and require charging less often. You can use many of these smartwatches to text, call, or email without needing a phone.

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Did You Know?
Some smartwatch displays are always on, but others are tied to motion, which saves battery power.
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

  • Note the manufacturer’s battery life claims. Often the listing indicates the battery life based on the smartwatch being used only as a watch. Heavy app use results in a much shorter battery life between charges. Also, the higher the quality of the display, the more power it uses. This also limits the amount of time you can use the watch between charges.
  • Check out hybrid watches. These make up a special category of smartwatch that combines the appearance of a traditional watch with some smartwatch functionality. A big selling point with these watches is they generally run for a much longer period of time before requiring recharging.
  • Check for replacement watchbands. If you like the appearance of a smartwatch face and case but don’t like the band, check if the band can be easily replaced. If so, third-party sellers offer a wide range of watchband options.
  • Buy a smartwatch with strengthened glass. To protect the watch’s display from scratches and other damage, look for a smartwatch that uses a chemically strengthened glass, such as Corning’s Gorilla Glass.
  • Look for a smartwatch you can operate via voice. To go completely hands-free, buy a smartwatch that is capable of operating via voice commands. With this feature, you can perform a variety of tasks from sending text messages to searching online all with your voice.
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Smartwatches with fitness capabilities can track a wide range of recreational motion, including walking, running, and biking.

FAQ

Q. What is NFC?

A. Near-field communication is a technology that allows you to use your smartwatch to pay for purchases at the register. Once you’ve stored your credit or debit card information in the smartwatch, you can pay for items without the need to carry your cards with you. Many smartwatch manufacturers and OS makers have their own NFC pay system, including Samsung Pay, Garmin Pay, and Google Pay.

Q. Do these watches also work with an iPhone?

A. That largely depends on the brand of smartwatch you buy, although most of them work with both Android and iOS. There might be some differences when using them with the two operating systems, either in terms of functionality (some features may work for Android but not iOS, for example) or apps that are OS-specific. You might also need to download and install an app to the smartwatch so that it can recognize and work with iOS. Read the smartwatch listing carefully (or contact the seller or manufacturer) to verify that it will work with the operating system you want it to.

Q. What’s the difference between Bluetooth and LTE?

A. Most smartwatches include Bluetooth. This allows you to pair the watch with your smartphone and do everything from stream music to be notified when you receive a text, call, or email (or even respond to them with some smartwatches).

With long-term evolution (LTE), you don’t need to be anywhere near your phone to use some of these advanced features. LTE allows you to connect your watch directly to a mobile network, so you don’t need to go through a phone to receive texts or stream music. While this is a great feature for some people, there are a number of caveats to consider before you pay extra for LTE. One of the biggest is it costs more. You’ll pay more for a smartwatch that is LTE capable and pay an added monthly surcharge (usually around $10 per month). Add to this the fact that connection quality can be iffy with LTE and that LTE uses much more power than Bluetooth, and you might decide that carrying your phone to use with your smartwatch is the better option.
 

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