The best smartwatch is more than just a way to get notifications on your wrist. The device has to be everything in one: a fitness tracker, a wallet and in some cases, even a phone. A smartwatch can even save your life, by alerting you to an elevated heart rate, and even connect you automatically to emergency services if you fall. And, in this time when we're trying not to touch things, you can use the contactless payment systems in some of the best smartwatches to pay for items at grocery stores and other retailers.
But some smartwatches do all these things better than others. Some have huge numbers of apps you can download, while others, packed with GPS, heart rate monitors and more, are more focused on fitness. Many smartwatches have batteries that will barely last a day, while others can go nearly a week on a charge. And of course there's style: The best smartwatches can be customized, from their straps to their faces, to best fit with your personality.
- Check out our roundup of the best cheap smartwatches
- Apple Watch Series 5 vs. Apple Watch 3: What should you buy?
- These are the best Apple Watch deals
- Apple Watch 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
What is the best smartwatch?
After spending hundreds of hours testing dozens of smartwatches, our pick for the best smartwatch is the Apple Watch Series 5 (starting at $399), which has a huge, always-on display, built-in Compass, and all of the advanced health features we loved about the Series 4, including fall detection and a built-in electrical heart rate sensor for taking on-the-go electrocardiograms. And, you can get the Apple Watch 5 with LTE, so you can leave your phone at home for a truly unencumbered experience.
Among all of the smartwatches, the Apple Watch has the most developed ecosystem when it comes to apps, which means you can do far more with it can other smartwatches.
The Apple Watch 3 remains a very good value, especially with recent discounts, which has brought its price below $200. While it doesn't have such things as ECG detection, it's still a very capable device, and is also on our list of the best fitness trackers.
The best smartwatch for Android users is Samsung's $279 Galaxy Watch Active 2. In addition to a sleek, sporty design, the Galaxy Watch Active offers built-in GPS, heart rate sensor, water-resistance, Samsung Pay support, plus advanced heart health features for just $79 more than the first-gen Galaxy Watch Active. One of the best things we like about Samsung's smartwatches is that they have excellent battery life, lasting upwards of four days — twice as long as the Apple Watch. However, the number of apps available on Samsung's Tizen platform are far fewer than on Apple's.
While we don't expect to see the Apple Watch 6 until this fall—September at the earliest—there are plenty of rumors around its features, including a new crown-free design, sleep tracking, a new s6 processor, a pulse oximeter, longer battery life, and mental health tools, which could warn users of impending panic attacks and stress levels. Many of these features could be previewed in June, when Apple shows off WatchOS 7 for the first time.
The best smartwatches you can buy today
1. Apple Watch Series 5
The best smartwatch overall
Sizes: 40mm, 44mm | Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours | GPS: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes | LTE: Optional | Mobile Payments: Apple Pay | Compatibility: iOS
The Apple Watch Series 5's always-on display makes a meaningful difference in user experience, especially when working out. Now when you glance at your wrist, you'll always be able to tell the time, with the Apple Watch automatically adjusting to the conditions around you with the help of an ambient light sensor. That always-on display doesn't drain the watch's battery, either, though you'll still want to charge your Apple Watch nightly, as it lacks the multiday battery life that other smartwatches offer.
Apple's latest watch also includes a built-in compass, which comes in handy while hiking or star-gazing, and also makes Maps more useful by showing you which direction you're facing at all times. Series 5 looks identical to Series 4, but the newer model comes in fresh finishes — titanium and ceramic — and offers the same advanced health features we loved in the Series 4. This is the best smartwatch you can buy.
Read our full Apple Watch Series 5 review.
2. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
The best smartwatch for Android users
Sizes: 40mm, 44mm | Battery Life (Rated): 24-60 hours | GPS: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes | LTE: Yes | Mobile Payments: Samsung Pay | Compatibility: Android, iOS (works best with Galaxy phones)
As good as the Apple Watch is, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 can give Apple's smartwatch a run for its money. Samsung's watch works with both Android (and to a lesser extent) iOS smartphones, and features GPS, a heart rate monitor and LTE (for a premium). It also can automatically track your activity and sleep. (It's much better at the former task than the latter.)
The Galaxy Watch Active 2's circular design is visually appealing, whether you get the 40mm or 44mm model. Based on Samsung's Tizen operating system, this Galaxy Watch boasts other useful features as Samsung Pay, onboard music via Spotify and heart health features. That includes a forthcoming ECG feature similar to the one Apple offers in the Apple Watch Series 4 and 5, though Samsung is still awaiting FDA approval before issuing a software update that enables heart rate monitoring. But the biggest reason why the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the best smartwatch for Android users is its excellent battery life.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review.
3. Apple Watch Series 3
The best affordable smartwatch for iPhone users
Sizes: 38mm, 42mm | Battery Life (Rated): 18-24 hours | GPS: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes | LTE: Optional | Mobile Payments: Apple Pay | Compatibility: iOS
Starting at $199, the Apple Watch Series 3 is a more affordable smartwatch option than the Series 5 for iPhone users. The size options of 38mm and 42mm are smaller than the 40mm and 44mm versions that the Series 5 comes in, bezels are thicker on the older model, and you won't get the newer watch's ability to detect atrial fibrillation with an ECG app.
However, when you compare the Apple Watch Series 5 versus the Series 3, you'll find you don't sacrifice too much for the older version's lower price. You still get a heart rate monitor, GPS, 8GB of storage with offline support for Apple Music playlists. This watch is also water-proof if you like to track your swims, and many of the best software features found in the Apple Watch Series 5 are also found in the Series 3, thanks to the watchOS 6 Apple released last year.
Read our full Apple Watch Series 3 review.
4. Samsung Galaxy Watch
Get this smartwatch for the battery life
Sizes: 30mm, 42mm, 46mm | Battery Life (Rated): Up to 5 days | GPS: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes | LTE: Optional | Mobile Payments: Samsung Pay | Compatibility: iOS, Android
Samsung's Galaxy Watch is one of the most stylish smartwatches around, and one of the most functional, too. It's available in three sizes — 30, 42, and 46 mm — as well as in rose gold, silver, and black, so there's a version for everyone. The Galaxy Watch's signature features is a rotating bezel, which not only feels great but makes it easy to navigate the watch's interface.
Another great feature of the Galaxy Watch is its excellent battery life, up to 4-5 days, which is double that most other smartwatches. The Galaxy Watch also has storage for music, Samsung Pay for contactless payments, and some good fitness features too. The biggest issues are that Samsung's app store is pretty limited, and you can't use all of the Galaxy Watch's features when it's paired with an iPhone.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch review.
5. Fitbit Versa 2
The best smartwatch for sleep-tracking
Sizes: 39mm | Battery Life (Rated): 4 days | GPS: Only when connected to smartphone | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes | LTE: No | Mobile Payments: Optional, Fitbit Pay | Compatibility: iOS, Android
Fitbit's Versa 2 is a refined upgrade from the original Versa that adds built-in Alexa and more advanced sleep-tracking features, especially now that Fitbit has rolled out a software update that enables a feature to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels. (That data's helpful for identifying conditions like sleep apnea.) Throw in multiday battery life, and we think the Versa 2 is the best smartwatch if you're looking for a way to monitor your sleeping habits.
Like its predecessor, the Versa 2 works with both iOS and Android and costs less than $200, which makes it a great value. Fitbit added a Spotify app to the Versa 2, so you can control music playback from your wrist. However, you can't download Spotify playlists to the watch for offline listening. The Versa 2 also lacks on-board GPS. But overall, it's a solid smartwatch for people who don't want to spend more than $200.
Read our full Fitbit Versa 2 review.
6. Garmin Vivoactive 4
The best smartwatch for fitness
Sizes: 40mm, 45mm | Battery Life (Rated): Up to 7 days for Vivoactive 4S, 8 days for Vivoactive 4 | GPS: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes | LTE: Nol | Mobile Payments: Garmin Pay | Compatibility: iOS, Android
Garmin took the best features of its Vivoactive 3, the best smartwatch for fitness, and made them even better with the $349 Vivoactive 4 and 4S. The watch now comes in two sizes, 40mm and 45mm, to offer a better fit for most people, and includes both Garmin Pay and music storage out of the box (instead of having to pay more for premium features like with the Vivoactive 3).
The Vivoactive 4 also offers animated on-screen yoga and Pilates workouts to help you improve your poses. A new pulse ox sensor measures your blood oxygen level and gives you more detailed sleep insights. All of that plus 7-day battery life makes the Vivoactive 4 our favorite smartwatch for fitness buffs.
Read our full Garmin Vivoactive 4 review.
7. Amazfit Bip
The best cheap smartwatch
Sizes: One size, with 1.28-inch display | Battery Life (Rated): Up to 45 days | GPS: Yes | Swim-Proof: No | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes | LTE: No | Mobile Payments: No | Compatibility: iOS, Android
You don't necessarily have to pay big bucks to get a capable smartwatch with fitness-tracking feature. The ultra-affordable Amazfit Bip costs less than $80, yet works with iOS and Android and comes with GPS and a heart rate monitor.
Fitness-tracking features are pretty solid, and the Bip's transflective color display is easy on the eyes and doesn't drain the battery. Speaking of battery life, you can expect around 45 days of normal usage — we used the Amazfit Bip for two weeks before the battery dipped below 50%.
Other functionality is limited: You can select only from five different watch faces, and can only view, and not respond to notifications from the watch itself. But if you're in the market for a smartwatch that costs less than $100, this is the model to get.
Read our full Amazfit Bip review.
8. Fossil Gen 5
The best Wear OS watch
Sizes: 44mm | Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours, but longer with extended battery mode | GPS: Yes | Swim-Proof: Yes | Heart Rate Monitor: Yes | LTE: No | Mobile Payments: Google Pay | Compatibility: Android, iOS
Wear OS simply isn't polished enough to measure up against the best smartwatches from Apple and Samsung. But if you insist upon a Wear OS device, Fossil's Gen 5 smartwatch is the one to get, thanks to a stylish, sophisticated look. The Gen 5 also eliminates the most glaring performance lag we saw in past Wear OS watches, thanks to 1GB of RAM, and customizable battery modes also make this smartwatch worth a look.
You're not going to get the fitness and heart health features you'll find on the Apple Watch and the Galaxy Watch Active. And the Gen 5's Spotify app can't store music offline — also a disadvantage. But this smartwatch remains the best that Wear OS has to offer.
Read our full Fossil Gen 5 review.
How to pick the best smartwatch for you
When picking the best smartwatch for you, you're somewhat limited by the smartphone you own. If you want an Apple Watch, for instance, you'll need to have an iPhone. And while Wear OS watches work with both Android and iPhones, you get far less functionality when not connected to an Android device.
Samsung's smartwatches offer the greatest in terms of cross-functionality, but even here, Android phone owners will get more in terms of replies to notifications and the ability to make and receive phone calls.
After that, when picking a smartwatch, you also want to get one that fits your wrist comfortably. Those with smaller wrists may find larger smartwatches — ones with case sizes larger than 44mm — to be too bulky and cumbersome to wear.
After that, you want to find a smartwatch that fits your style. Although the Apple Watch is limited to one shape, you can purchase it in different finishes. Samsung's smartwatches offer a little more choice, while Wear OS watches, which are made by a number of companies including Fossil, Skagen, Kate Spade, Moto, Tag Heuer, Diesel, and others, give you many more options when it comes to their design.
How we test 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.