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.
A report from NPD says that 16 percent of U.S. adults now own a smartwatch, up from 12 percent in December of 2017. And Apple is the "clear market leader."
Our top pick 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 have an Android phone, then we recommend Samsung's Galaxy Watch (starting at $329). 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. And, there's an LTE model, so you can leave your phone at home. However, it runs Samsung's proprietary Tizen OS, so you get far fewer apps than you would with a Wear OS watch.
iPhone owners looking for a less expensive smartwatch should check out the Apple Watch Series 3, which starts at $279, but has many of the same features as the Series 4. Can't decide which to buy? We put together this comparison of the Series 4 vs. the Series 3.
If you're looking to get a smartwatch on the cheap, the Amazfit Bip is our favorite among budget smartwatches under $100.
Smartwatch News and Updates (February 2019)
- Samsung is rolling out an update to its Galaxy Watch (both LTE and non-LTE versions) that aims to fix lingering issues some users reported with inaccurate heart rate tracking and shorter than expected battery life.
- Samsung is also reportedly working on a new smartwatch, rumored to be called the Galaxy Active, which will offer more advanced fitness-tracking features. It's unclear if Samsung will release the new watch alongside the Galaxy S10 later this month.
- The new Matrix PowerWatch 2, unveiled at CES, uses solar power and body heat to run for years without needing a charge. The new watch also sports built-in GPS, a heart rate sensor and full-color LCD display, giving the Apple Watch and Wear OS a run for their money. The $200 PowerWatch 2 is available to preorder on Indiegogo. Afterward, it will retail for $499.
The Apple Watch Series 4 packs a huge display and sophisticated health sensors in a stylish package that's just a smidge bigger than its predecessor. The watch comes in two sizes, 40mm and 44mm, with an option to add LTE for an extra $100. With FDA-cleared features and a faster processor, the GPS Series 4 is the best smartwatch around, but it's pricey.
Starting at $279, the Apple Watch Series 3 is a more affordable smartwatch option for iPhone users. It's smaller (38mm, 42mm), but still has a heart rate monitor, GPS, 8GB of storage, with offline support for Apple Music playlists , and is waterproof to 50 meters. However, it has much thicker bezels than the Series 4, and lacks that model's ability to detect atrial fibrillation.
Fitbit's Versa is a sleek, stylish smartwatch that works with both iOS and Android and costs less than $200, which makes it the best value smartwatch you can buy. The watch lasts four days on a charge, offers female health-tracking, advanced sleep-tracking and an app store with popular apps such as Starbucks and Pandora. You can even store music offline to listen to while you work out.
The one thing the Fitbit Versa lacks is onboard GPS; if you want to go for a run and not take your phone along, the Fitbit Ionic is a better option. Although its design makes it awkward for smaller wrists, the Ionic comes with GPS, continuous heart rate-monitoring, guided workouts, swim tracking, mobile payments, and offline music storage. Plus, there's a small but growing selection of apps you can install on the watch.
The Galaxy Watch, which works with both Android (and to a lesser extent) iOS smartphones, has GPS and a hear rate monitor, and can automatically track your activity and sleep. Running Samsung's Tizen operating system, there's a limited number of apps you can install on the watch, too. It's available in two sizes and with LTE, and has other such useful features as Samsung Pay, onboard music via Spotify, and best of all, four days of battery life.
Fossil's Q Control is a heart rate-monitoring Wear OS watch that takes advantage of Google Assistant to make your life easier. It's not the most advanced smartwatch, and it lacks a few basics, such as NFC payments and GPS, but it's a solid entry in a field of Wear OS duds.
This ultra-affordable device costs less than $80, yet works with iOS and Android and comes with GPS and a heart rate monitor. Other functionality is limited: You can select only from five different watchfaces, and can only view, and not respond to notifications from the watch itself.
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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