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 people is the Apple Watch Series 4 with GPS (starting at $399), which has a huge display, ultra-fast processor, Raise to Speak Siri, fall detection and a built-in electrical heart rate sensor for taking on-the-go electrocardiograms. It also runs watchOS 5, which makes the watch even more useful with automatic workout-tracking, offline podcast playback and a Walkie-Talkie voice chat feature.
If you're looking to get a smartwatch on the cheap, the Amazfit Bip is our favorite among budget smartwatches under $100.
Fitbit’s Versa 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 Galaxy Watch, a Tizen OS watch (starting at $329), is our favorite smartwatch for Android users. In addition to up to four days of battery life and a great design, the Galaxy Watch offers built-in GPS, heart rate sensor, water-resistance, Samsung Pay support, plus a nifty rotating bezel for navigating the interface. You can also download music from Spotify to the watch for offline listening. However, you get far fewer apps than you would with a Wear OS watch.
For deeper integration with your Android phone, you can 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. However, smartwatches with Qualcomm's new Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor start shipping in October, so you may want to hold off until we put them to the test.
Smartwatch News and Updates (November 2018)
- Fossil's just released the $255 Fossil Sport, the second smartwatch to run on Qualcomm's next-gen smartwatch chip, Snapdragon Wear 3100. That chip is expected to increase smartwatch battery life and performance. The watch comes in two sizes, 41mm and 43mm, and sports built-in GPS and NFC for accurate workout-tracking and mobile payments. The Sport also comes with Spotify preinstalled. Stay tuned for our full review.
- Fossil-owned fitness brand Misfit announced its second-gen fitness smartwatch, Misfit Vapor 2. The $250 watch comes in two sizes, 41mm and 46mm, and offers built-in GPS, NFC and 4GB of storage for offline music playback in a swim-proof package. The Vapor 2 runs on Google's Wear OS platform and is available to buy 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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