Smartwatches are becoming more than just a way to get smartphone notifications on your wrist. The devices have to be everything in one: a fitness tracker, a wallet and even a phone.
Our top pick for most users is the non-cellular version of the Apple Watch Series 3 (starting at $329), which has a faster processor, barometric altimeter for measuring elevation, built-in GPS, water-resistance for swim-tracking, Siri and a suite of health and fitness features, thanks to watchOS 4. Apple just announced watchOS 5, which will add even more useful features. Meanwhile, Google's only recent improvement to its Wear OS platform is longer battery life.
Only choose the pricier $399 LTE version if you want to be able to use your watch without your phone -- and you’re willing to pay $10 per month through your carrier for the convenience.
Apple’s health and fitness features really shine compared to other smartwatches, and the Series 3 is the best smartwatch for fitness enthusiasts.
Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch rivals the Apple Watch when it comes to exercise-tracking (and handily beats Apple on battery life and sleep analysis), but lacks the style, variety in size and price, and the full-fledged App Store that make the Apple Watch our top pick.
Samsung's Gear Sport, a Tizen OS watch, is our favorite smartwatch for Android users. In addition to a very sleek design, the Gear Sport offers built-in GPS, heart rate sensor, water-resistance, Samsung Pay support, plus a nifty rotating bezel for navigating the interface.
For deeper integration with your Android phone, give Google's Wear OS platform a try with Fossil's $275 Q Control touchscreen smartwatch. It lacks GPS and support for NFC payments, which is why the Gear Sport is a better fitness-focused smartwatch for Android users, but Fossil's Google Assistant integration and stylish design make it a solid contender.
If you're looking to get a smartwatch on the cheap, the Keoker smartwatch is our top pick among budget smartwatches under $100. Those are just a few of the dozens of smartwatches we've tested.
Smartwatch News and Updates (July 2018)
- A new rumor suggests that Samsung's next smartwatch will run Wear OS. According to Ice Universe, this new device, tentatively called the Galaxy Watch, will run Google's wrist-based OS rather than Samsung's own Tizen OS, which is currently used on its Gear smartwatches. The watch is expected to be released at IFA, which starts on August 31.
- Apple announced the future of its Apple Watch operating system, watchOS 5, at its Worldwide Developers Conference on June 4. We got a sneak peek at the new features, which include automatic exercise-tracking, offline podcast and audiobook playback, more interactive notifications from third-party apps, and one-on-one activity challenges to make the Apple Watch even more of a must-have for iPhone owners.
- Garmin just added on-board music storage to its latest touchscreen smartwatch, the Vivoactive 3. The new model is $300 and on sale now.
How We Test and Rate Smartwatches
We test every new smartwatch to gauge its design and comfort. If it’s not stylish and comfortable enough to get you from an early morning workout to the office to a night out, you probably won’t wear it every day. Most smartwatches are also fitness trackers, so we put all of its sensors to the test, from step counts to heart rate to GPS (when applicable).
We install apps and use them to see if the device’s app store is robust enough to elevate it to smartwatch status. If the watch has built-in LTE, we test cellular connectivity and call quality to make sure the device can actually stand on its own without a smartphone nearby.
And we measure battery life using everyday scenarios — including workouts, using apps, and getting notifications — to make sure you can get through an entire day without needing to charge up.
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