What's a Hybrid Smartwatch, Anyway?
Hybrid smartwatches, or connected smartwatches, bridge the gap between traditional timepieces and wrist computers. These watches don't look like smartwatches at all. Instead of touch-screen displays, they have round, analog watch faces with hands that point to the hour and minute. No one could ever tell that these devices are smart just by looking at them.
But hybrid smartwatches have Bluetooth chips and accelerometers inside, which means they can connect to your smartphone and track your activity. You can receive notifications on a hybrid smartwatch in the form of a small vibration and watch hands moving to a specific number to signify an alert from a person or an app. And you can customize all of this in the smartwatch's app on your phone.
You won't find a hybrid smartwatch from Apple or Samsung on store shelves. Instead, watchmakers like Fossil and Skagen are making their classic timepieces a little smarter. The best part: You won't have to sacrifice battery life for style.
Credit: Tom’s Guide
What to Look For
All hybrid smartwatches are compatible with both iOS and Android. To pair the device to your smartphone, install the watchmaker's app from the iOS App Store or Google Play, and then use the app to connect the two devices.
Beyond basic compatibility, you'll want to look for more advanced activity- and sleep-tracking analysis, or more unique features that can be activated with the press of a button.
Then, of course, you have to pick a watch that looks the best on you. You can find hybrid smartwatches in a variety of sizes and finishes with bands of different quality across the price spectrum.
Because hybrid smartwatches typically come with coin cell batteries that can last up to a year, battery life isn't an issue for most devices.
Credit: Tom’s Guide
How We Tested
We wore every watch on this list for a minimum of three days — and during activities ranging from working out, to working at the office, to going out on the town, to sleeping — to evaluate its quality, comfort and features.
Each watchmaker has several devices in different finishes, sizes and bands, so we didn't review every watch in the collection. Instead, we focused on the app that powers every device in the lineup and the features that set each company apart.
Credit: Tom’s Guide
Fossil has been blanketing the market with hybrid smartwatches for the past few years, and now there are so many options that it would be tough to find a Fossil design you didn't like. Fossil's smartwatches are more affordable than rival connected watches, and they're a great way to get into the smartwatch market without spending a ton of money. Fossil is also one of the few companies that have a line of smaller watches for women, which makes them more versatile.
I tested the Fossil Q Neely, a 36mm rose-gold watch with a bone-colored band. Like Fossil's other hybrid models, the Neely pairs with the Fossil Q app for iOS and Android. The app is where you calibrate the watch time and customize functions for the watch's crown and two side buttons, such as controlling music playback or seeing your activity progress on your watch face. You can also personalize notifications by assigning numbers to specific people or apps. When you receive a smartphone alert from a contact or an app, the watch vibrates and its hands move to the number you've assigned it in the Fossil Q app. I limited the number of apps and contacts to a select five so I would remember what each number corresponded to.
Fossil's app also stores your fitness and sleep data, which is pretty basic. You can see your step count and miles walked, as well as how many hours you were asleep and awake. It's not the most intelligent watch, but with its variety of sizes and styles, you can't go wrong with Fossil's lineup.
Skagen is a Fossil subsidiary and offers many of the same features. You can customize the watch buttons in the Skagen Connected app for iOS and Android with the same functionality as Fossil's. For example, you can set it to show the time in a second time zone, control music playback or set an alarm, among other options.
Skagen's app offers more detailed sleep-tracking analysis, with a breakdown of the time you spent awake, in light sleep and in restful sleep. It also averages your sleep breakdown, which Fossil's app does not do.
Skagen's watches faces are more minimalist than Fossil's, and the gold Signatur T-Bar model I tested was also one of the best-looking of the bunch.
Like Skagen, Misfit is also a Fossil-owned, but the Misfit Command differs from other Fossil smartwatches in one key area: fitness. Misfit's hybrid smartwatches, which include the Command and the Phase, automatically track your steps. But they can also tell if you're working out or going for a stroll. The Misfit app's dashboard breaks down your day into periods of activity, and it logged my morning runs as "vigorous" activity (though it overestimated my mileage). The Command also does a far better job of tracking sleep than most hybrid smartwatches do. It accurately detected my sleep and wake times, and the app helpfully divided my sleep log into light and restful sleep.
The Command features a sub-dial on its face that reflects your smartphone's notifications. When the watch vibrates to signal an incoming notification, the hand on the sub-dial moves to show you whether it's a text message, calendar event, alarm or other alert.
If you're looking for a hybrid smartwatch that excels at activity-tracking, the Misfit Command is worth considering.
Michele's hybrid smartwatches are designed for the more fashion-conscious shopper. With alligator-leather straps and gold plating on some models, these watches are more eye-catching than the average smartwatch.
Like most other hybrid smartwatch brands, Michele is owned by Fossil. The Michele app looks almost identical to the Skagen app. However, Michele is priced much higher, and its sizing isn't as versatile as Skagen's. If you're a woman looking for a more premium watch than you can find in Skagen’s or Fossil's lineups, Michele's smartwatches have all the same features but look far more luxe.
Kronaby is a Swedish brand with modern and high-end style (and a price tag to match) that belies the smart and useful location-sharing and location-finding features hidden inside. The lack of activity tracking — beyond basic step counting — takes this watch out of the running for fitness fans, but the range of sizes and finishes, plus some neat location-aware features, makes this brand worthy of consideration.
You can customize shortcuts for the pushers, or minicrowns above and below the main crown, in the Kronaby app for iOS and Android. For instance, one pusher can control your music playback from your phone, and the other can trigger your smartphone to play a loud jingle so you can find it. The pushers can also be used for two geolocation features. A safety feature called Walk Me Home sends your location to a contact when you press it and allows them to follow you remotely. If you press that button again and hold it for 3 seconds, the watch will send an emergency signal to the contact who is following you. This requires some setup: Your friend has to download the Kronaby Friend app and use a code to follow you.
If you assign one of the crowns the Remember This Spot feature and push the button before you leave, the watch will mark your location. You can call up that location again in the Kronaby app when you want to return to it. Kronaby also works with If This Then That (IFTTT), and you can use the pushers to trigger any function you've set in the IFTTT app.
The main problem with Kronaby is a software issue that will hopefully be fixed soon. A change in iOS 11 has made the Bluetooth connection between Kronaby's watches and your iPhone a little unstable. Kronaby has acknowledged the issue and is working on a fix, but a device that costs this much should be expected to work reliably all the time.
Garmin Vivomove HR
Running stalwart Garmin upped the ante for hybrid smartwatches with the Vivomove HR, the only hybrid watch in its lineup. One of the rare devices that looks like an analog watch but has a touch display and a built-in heart-rate sensor, the Vivomove HR is the most advanced connected watch on the market. Unfortunately, the rose-gold version I tested was difficult to use in bright sunlight due to its white text, and the sleep tracking was wildly inaccurate.
For a Garmin device, the fitness features are decidedly unimpressive. You can't launch a workout from the watch, or even see your running mileage in Garmin's app, which is where you customize notifications and set activity goals.
I hope Garmin will make software improvements that turn this hybrid watch into a must-have, but right now, I can't recommend it.