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Opening, switching and interacting with apps feels fast and incredibly smooth. Double-tap gesture lets you control the watch even when your hands are full. Bright 2,000-nit screen can be viewed even in direct sunlight.
Stainless steel case and cellular options add to the initial cost. Not compatible with Android devices.
This capable system is just one generation behind the top Apple models. It offers a familiar and intuitive watchOS interface. The 1,000-nit screen works well in most cases. It’s available in both GPS and GPS + Cellular models.
Display lacks always-on functionality. Slightly smaller in both sizes to comparable flagship Apple Watch models.
Rugged titanium case is lighter than expected and withstands extreme conditions. Bright 3000-nit display. Surprisingly comfortable in our testing, even during sleep. Includes flashlight, siren and dual-frequency GPS.
Expensive. May look too rugged for formal and professional settings.
Make a statement with the attractive, stylish and fashion-forward design. The large, bright touch screen was smooth and intuitive in our testing. It offers an impressive 14-day battery life. Works well with all smartphones — including music playback and phone calls.
Battery life reduces to five days with display set to “always-on.” Somewhat pricey.
Its round face is the largest yet in the Galaxy Watch line. Its virtual bezel offers minimalist design and handy controls. Health sensors include body composition. It can control some Samsung devices remotely.
The Galaxy Watch6 lacks a mechanical bezel popular with older models of the Galaxy Watch. Works best with Samsung devices.
After going through an intensive research process to narrow down our short list of top products in this space, we tested the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 to be sure that it’s worthy of our recommendation. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter and test to verify manufacturer claims.
The best smartwatches of 2023 combine features, style and performance into a useful and attractive accessory you can use throughout the day. These smart gadgets help you keep track of various aspects of your health, such as how many steps you take and how well you sleep. When you’re out and about, a smartwatch can provide you with map information and directions as needed. And with a simple glance at your wrist, it can help you keep up with your email and other messages.
The best smartwatches provide information not just about the time but also the weather, your appointments and even what music you’re listening to. Almost every model allows you to make phone calls without picking up your smartphone.
We put more than a dozen smartwatches and fitness trackers to the test in the BestReviews Testing Lab, rating them on screen brightness, ease of use, fitness features, battery life and design style. We consulted our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez, on what to look for in a smartwatch and how to get the most out of it.
After rigorous testing, we picked the Apple Watch Series 9 as the top smartwatch of 2023 for its wealth of features, smooth performance and fashionable style. But we didn’t stop there: We identified nine other smartwatches we loved, each with its own “best” category.
If you’re looking for the best smartwatch in 2023, we think you’d be happy with any of the products below.
Operating System: watchOS | Display Type and Size: 1.69- to 1.9-inch LTPO OLED | Battery Life: 18 hours (14 in testing) | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, cellular (some models) | RAM and Storage: 64GB
Apple’s ninth-generation flagship smartwatch tops our picks for continuing to elevate the smartwatch experience. Its updated systems not only make its operation even faster and smoother overall but also enhances health privacy, Siri privacy and makes the highly convenient “double tap” gesture a reality.
With its sleek and rounded square shape and swappable bands, the Series 9 doesn’t deviate from the successful Apple Watch look and feel. Like the last few generations, the Apple Watch Series 9 has an always-on display, letting its customizable faces show even if you’re not using it. When active, the OLED screen shines at up to 2,000 nits, making it appear bright and colorful even in direct sunlight during our testing.
The S9 SiP (system-in-package) processor enhances the speed of opening apps, switching between them and using Siri. Additionally, it enables double-tap, which allows you to dismiss notifications or answer calls even when your hands are occupied. We found this gesture extremely convenient while carrying packages or engaging in outdoor fitness, whenever we couldn’t or didn’t want to use our opposite hand to control the Series 9.
As with other Apple Watch models, you get a suite of health and fitness sensors like heart rate, ECG, blood O2, skin temperature and sleep tracking, plus third-party apps that go with any apps you may have on your iPhone. You can pick between GPS-only or GPS + Cellular versions that don’t need a phone to connect to the internet. There’s a vast variety of bands available to go with any outfit or aesthetic, and the watch comes in two sizes to cater to folks with smaller-sized wrists. A refinement of everything its predecessors have done well, the Apple Watch Series 9 is an outstanding smartwatch for anyone.
Operating System: watchOS | Display Type and Size: 1.5- to 1.7-inch AMOLED | Battery Life: 18 hours | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, cellular (optional) | RAM and Storage: 32GB
While the Apple Watch Series 9 and its predecessors set the standard for Apple’s smartwatches and smartwatches in general, the lower-cost Apple Watch SE line has provided almost all the same features for less money. You sacrifice an always-on screen and the latest and fastest chips, but otherwise, the Apple Watch SE, now in its second generation, is a full-featured and dependable smartwatch.
The Apple Watch SE comes in two case sizes: 40 millimeters and 44 millimeters. These were the original case sizes of the first generations of the Apple Watch and are 1 millimeter smaller than the Series 9. Like the Series 9, the Apple Watch SE is available as GPS-only and GPS + Cellular models for 40% less than a Series 9 GPS + Cellular model. The second-generation SE runs on the S8 SiP, which is only one year behind the Series 9 hardware.
The display on the second-generation Apple Watch SE is 50% dimmer than the Series 9, reaching a maximum of 1,000 nits compared to 2,000. Despite this, it remains easily readable in bright sunlight. The screen is slightly smaller than the Series 9, featuring thicker black borders. Notably, it doesn't have an always-on functionality, so when not in use, it appears as a blank black square. The SE also lacks ECG and blood O2 sensors, and it can’t take advantage of the double-tap gesture. It does have the same battery life, however, and it’s compatible with a wide variety of watch straps and bands. Although it offers fewer features, it still delivers incredibly useful health-tracking tools at a much easier-to-swallow price point.
Operating System: watchOS | Display Type and Size: 1.91-inch LTPO OLED | Battery Life: 36 hours (72 in low-power mode) | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, cellular | RAM and Storage: 64GB
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 retains everything we loved in the first-generation Apple Watch Ultra, which we tested in 2022, and adds a 30% brighter screen, double the storage and an updated 9th-generation system-in-package (SiP) processor that adds hands-free double-tap and onboard Siri.
When we tested the original Apple Watch Ultra, one of our top findings was how light and comfortable it was to wear despite its rugged appearance and titanium casing. The Ultra 2 still has that lightweight and durable 49-millimeter titanium casing, but Apple has increased its screen brightness from 2,000 to 3,000 nits and extended its battery life in low-power mode from 60 to 72 hours. (Normal battery life remains 36 hours, but we got more than two days of use out of the original Ultra in testing.)
The features of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 read like a wishlist of smartwatch capabilities: customizable Action button, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, fitness tracking, ECG, blood O2, dual-frequency GPS, a full-featured dive computer, the ability to work in extreme temperatures, topographic maps, zone training, automatic track detection, an altitude limit higher than Mount Everest … the list goes on. Did we mention it has a flashlight and an 82-decibel siren?
We tested the original Ultra on snowy mountains, 98-degree beach days, in the shower and in bed, and it never felt uncomfortable or let us down; the Ultra 2 is faster and brighter. Its biggest downside is its price — it costs twice as much as the Series 9 Apple Watch. However, if you want an ultra-durable and extremely powerful watch that packs plenty of features, you won’t be disappointed.
Operating System: Garmin OS | Display Type and Size: 1.4-inch AMOLED | Battery Life: 14 days (5 days with always-on display) | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC | RAM and Storage: 8GB
Apple may have the top spots in our smartwatch roundup, but there’s another name that’s just as famous, sometimes more so, when it comes to navigation, tracking and fitness, and that’s Garmin. Long before smartwatches became trendy, Garmin was making GPS technology available to consumers. Its smartwatches, like the Venu 3, continue that legacy. During our testing, the Venu 3 matched up well against the Apple Watch and other rivals.
The Garmin Venu 3 is a lightweight and stylish smartwatch that comes in two sizes: the 41-millimeter Venu 3S and the 45-millimeter Venu 3. We tested the latter, but both models are identical in terms of usage and button layout. They only differ in color, size and battery life.
We appreciate that the Venu series is more utilitarian and sporty than other Garmin smartwatches, making it suitable for wearing to work or out on the town just as much as the gym or the trail. Its elevated finish and appealing design make it stand out from other smartwatches, and we found the Garmin OS worked smoothly with its large, bright, colorful touch screen. Like other Garmin products, it has an enviable battery life. We couldn’t drain the battery completely during our entire testing period, and 24 hours of constant wear only reduced its charge to 84%.
The Venu 3 is more touch-oriented than other Garmin smartwatches, resembling Apple or Samsung products in that regard. It paired well with an iPhone during our testing, answering calls and playing music as well as syncing its suite of health and fitness sensors with the Apple Health app and its own ConnectIQ app.
With its style, features and excellent battery life, the Garmin Venu is a stellar smartwatch alternative.
Operating System: WearOS | Display Type and Size: 1.3- to 1.5-inch diameter Super AMOLED | Battery Life: 40 hours | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, optional cellular | RAM and Storage: 2GB memory, 16GB storage
If you have a Samsung smartphone or tablet, or you’re a committed Android user, you should consider the Galaxy Watch6, the mainstream line of Samsung smartwatches for 2023. With its sleek, rounded face and impressive integration with other Samsung devices, the Samsung Galaxy Watch6 is the best smartwatch for Android.
Building on the previous Galaxy Watch5, which we tested and positively scored, the Watch6 offers the Galaxy Watch line’s biggest screen to date, with a round face that updates classic wristwatch designs with minimalist sleekness. Its 40-hour estimated battery life lets you wear it all day and all night plus all day again. This helps you make the most of its impressive sleep-tracking features, including nap and snore detection. Its body composition sensors can even measure muscle mass and body-fat percentage.
A full checklist of health and fitness features round out the capabilities of this top-notch smartwatch for Android users. These include training zones for setting and hitting your fitness goals, sleep tracking with sleep-phase detection, compatibility for tracking dozens of activities and exercises and fall detection to get help in case of an accident. We think the Samsung Galaxy Watch6 is your top choice for an Android smartwatch.
Operating System: Garmin OS | Display Type and Size: 1.3-inch sunlight-visible MIP | Battery Life: 18 to 22 days | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC | RAM and Storage: 32GB
In a crowd of smooth touch-screen smartwatches, the Garmin Fenix 7 Pro Solar stands out from the pack. With its thick bezel, protruding buttons and rugged black metal finish, it differs from most modern and minimalistic smartwatches. The Garmin targets users with active lifestyles. It features a scratch-resistant design and appeals to those who appreciate bold aesthetics.
While testing the Fenix 7 Pro Solar, we were first surprised to find what looked like a basic LCD display. Indeed, the memory-in-pixel (MIP) display looks like something out of the 20th century until you realize three things: One, it looks sharp and clear in direct sunlight; two, it’s touch-enabled, so it works a lot like any other smartwatch; and three, it charges the Fenix in bright sunlight. We found solar charging a slow process that demanded as much direct sunlight as possible, but it’s good to know it’s available.
Battery life was superb, as is to be expected from a Garmin device. It never fell below 87% despite a full day of testing. The Fenix provides robust health and fitness details, and it offers a variety of faces that make the most of its GPS, compass and directional navigation features. It paired well with an iPhone and the Garmin Connect app and included features such as Garmin Pay for NFC transactions from your smartwatch. Although a little heavy and bulky, it’s packed with data and up-to-date smartwatch features you’ll love.
Operating System: Garmin OS | Display Type and Size: 1.4-inch AMOLED | Battery Life: 23 days (smartwatch mode) | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC | RAM and Storage: 32GB
Garmin’s Forerunner 965 is a fitness-oriented smartwatch aimed at runners, swimmers, cyclists, climbers and other athletes who need to meet or exceed their training goals. This performance focus makes it a little more specialized than the other smartwatches we tested, but its goal-oriented training features combined with its excellent 23-day battery life make the Forerunner 965 worth recommending.
With plenty of color and excellent detail, its bright 1.4-inch AMOLED screen stood up well in broad daylight during our outdoor fitness tests. The Forerunner 965 comes preloaded with precise topographic maps for major regions of the world, and you can download more maps as needed from Garmin. Newcomers to fitness tracking may also welcome the training readiness score, calculated over a five-day period, that lets you know how fit you are and if you’re ready for more advanced exercise goals.
The Forerunner 965 is highly versatile, supporting an extensive range of sports and activities. It goes beyond running and cycling to include swimming (thanks to its waterproof nature), rock climbing, mountain climbing, winter sports and even golf. Its battery lost only 25% of its charge over three days of testing, and its GPS locked onto a satellite instantly. Its impressive sports and fitness features, bright screen and battery life make the Garmin Forerunner ideal for all your training needs.
Operating System: watchOS | Display Type and Size: 1.6- to 1.677-inch always-on LTPO OLED | Battery Life: 18 hours (36 hours low-power mode) | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, cellular (optional) | RAM and Storage: 32GB
Last year’s top Apple Watch model, the Apple Watch Series 8, is a great alternative to both the Series 9 and the Apple Watch SE. It’s essentially the same as the Series 9 but with the slightly less powerful S8 chip — the same one that powers the second-generation Apple Watch SE.
The Apple Watch Series 8 screen has an always-on display that runs almost to the edge, like that of the Series 9. But at 1,000 nits maximum, it’s only as bright as the Apple Watch SE. Like the Series 9, it’s capable of tracking your blood O2 and reading an ECG as well as heart rate, skin temperature and sleep stages. As with most Apple Watches, it’s available in 41- and 45-millimeter case sizes in aluminum or stainless steel and in GPS-only and phone-free GPS + Cellular models.
The Series 8, if you can find it, provides many of the same features as the Series 9 while costing 20% to 25% less. It won’t support double-tap or on-device Siri like the Series 9, but it can do almost everything else.
Operating System: WearOS | Display Type and Size: 1.4-inch Super AMOLED | Battery Life: 50 hours | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC, cellular | RAM and Storage: 16GB
The Samsung Galaxy Watch5, released in 2022, is still available from Samsung. While it has been surpassed by 2023’s Watch6 and Watch6 Classic, the Galaxy Watch5 still offers plenty of features and value. We tested it earlier this year and found it to be one of the most advanced smartwatches we’d used.
Like the Watch6 and Watch6 Classic, the Galaxy Watch5 has a round face that sets it apart from rivals like the Apple Watch. Unlike the Watch6 Classic, the Watch5 doesn’t have a mechanical control bezel, but its touch screen was responsive without being too sensitive in our testing. Like other Galaxy watches, the Watch5 has a body composition sensor that can measure bone, muscle and fat percentage. Its sleep tracking, including snore detection, was detailed and worked well during the test period.
We liked its bright screen and noted that it felt rugged enough to wear and use every day without scratching. In our experience, its estimated 50-hour battery life was accurate. While we had some trouble swapping its bands, we thought it was a great fitness tracker and an attractive watch to wear to the office or on the town, and we concluded it was one of the better watches we’d tested overall.
Is there a difference between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker? There used to be, but the lines have blurred. Smartwatches are designed to run apps from your phone, including fitness apps. They’re great for taking fitness further if you have a workout app you love, but they also run a lot of other apps. To put it another way, smartwatches extend the mobile experience from your phone to your wrist.
Fitness trackers are built with one 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 non-fitness features.
Back in the day, there was only one watch feature that mattered: whether it could tell time. Nowadays, with smartwatches, it’s a bit more complicated. Here are the features to pay attention to as you compare smartwatch models.
First and foremost, you want to make sure the smartwatch you buy can integrate with your smartphone and the apps you already have. Smartwatches are semi-functional on their own, but most need to connect to a smartphone 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, you may want to consider a smartwatch that runs the Android-based WearOS, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Watches or Google’s Pixel Watch. Some smartwatches, such as those from Garmin, come with apps that work well with either iOS or Android.
One of the most useful things a smartwatch can do is show you notifications on your wrist. You can see messages, emails, reminders, appointments, weather alerts, flight alerts and more on any smartwatch. Pick a smartwatch that’s easy to read and use and, when possible, allows you to respond to notifications without opening your phone.
If you’re a physically active person, pay attention to the fitness-tracking features available on different smartwatches. Every good smartwatch should feature GPS functionality so you can track not just your location but also your runs and bike rides.
Most smartwatches also support specific sports and fitness activities such as running, hiking, climbing, skiing and swimming. Some offer fitness and athletic coaching to help you reach your goals.
Consider your fitness goals before you buy, and make sure your smartwatch can support them.
These days, smartwatches can provide wearers with a variety of health data. Some models can even monitor blood oxygen levels and ECG information, which may give you an idea of when you need to seek medical attention.
If you have particular health concerns, you may want to consult with your healthcare provider about which health monitoring features would benefit you the most.
It’s frustrating when a watch stops working in the middle of a busy day. As such, it’s important to get one that lasts as long as you need it to. A smartwatch should last at least a full day of use, or close to it. For example, Apple Watches tend to last about 18 hours at full power and up to 36 hours on low-power mode.
If you wear a smartwatch to sleep, consider a model that lasts at least 24 hours. For fitness and outdoor activities, look for one whose battery life is measured in days instead of hours. Some fitness-focused smartwatches, such as those from Garmin, boast a battery life of a week or more.
Between $100 and $199, you’ll find budget smartwatches that are good at basic tasks like notifications and counting steps but leave out advanced features like health tracking, navigation and social media. If you want to try a smartwatch to see if you like wearing it, you might consider one of the options in this price range. If you want a smartwatch you can rely on every day, however, you may wish to consider higher-end options.
Between $200 and $500, you’ll find the best values in smartwatches: models that have current-generation processors and can fully integrate with your smartphone and digital life. Smartwatches typically come in pairs of sizes, such as 40 mm and 45 mm, or small and large. Bigger models generally cost more.
Smartwatches that cost more than $500 typically include wireless cellular functionality, so you can use them without a smartphone. In many cases, moderate smartwatch upgrades (like a premium watch band) can bump the price up over $400. The Apple Watch Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Watch6 Classic fall in this category, though you may find them to be worthwhile investments.
Our recommendations for this article are based primarily on extensive hands-on testing conducted on seven smartwatch models, five of which made the cut. Testing involved wearing and usage for several days indoors and outdoors, in various activities and sports, for usability and battery life. In addition to our hands-on testing, we surveyed the smartwatch market and noted the top smartwatch offerings from major brands as well as industry and customer reviews. We also consulted Jaime Vazquez, our tech expert, who advised us on usage tips and features.
A. It depends on the smartwatch. Most are designed to be connected to a smartphone all the time. In those cases, the smartwatch can act as a microphone and speaker for calls from your smartphone. Some high-end smartwatches can independently make phone calls and connect to the internet.
A. You can choose from multiple available digital watch faces for the built-in screen. Smartwatches come with galleries of available faces, including digital and analog-style faces, each of which can be customized with personal color combinations or “complications” based on the apps installed and what you’d prefer to see on the screen.
Many smartwatches can also switch straps or bands easily. Depending on what brand of smartwatch you choose, there may be dozens or hundreds of compatible straps from third-party manufacturers.
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 watch band.
A. Some smartphones support mobile payment systems, which means 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 a 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).
A. The Huawei 4 smartwatch is the first on the market to feature built-in noninvasive blood glucose monitoring. It doesn’t need a separate blood glucose monitor, and it doesn’t break the skin.
Apple, among others, is researching adding blood glucose monitoring as well. The top smartwatches do support reading blood glucose levels from separate compatible blood glucose monitors.
A. Yes, tattoos interfere with several smartwatch features. Many smartwatches use optical sensors on their backs, where they touch the wrist, for everything from heart rate to whether the watch is actually being worn.
A tattoo, which is typically an artificially dark color, interferes with these sensors, leading to some features (such as heart rate) not tracking properly. In some cases, the watch may not work at all because it “thinks” it’s not on your wrist.
If you have tattoos or skin art, use a smartwatch on a wrist that is not tattooed, if possible. Or, use it with a compatible chest strap for fitness monitoring.
Jmar Gambol has used a smartwatch since receiving one unexpectedly for Christmas in 2016. Since then, he’s had three different smartwatches and is rarely not wearing one, except to shower. He personally tested four of the nine smartwatches listed here and has written about smartwatches for the BestReviews Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping guides as well as the BestReviews buying guides.
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