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Best smartwatch 2021: Top picks for every budget

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best smartwatch
(Image credit: Future)

The best smartwatches do more than let you know if you're getting a call or text message on your wrist. They're everything in one: a fitness tracker for getting healthier, a digital wallet and in some cases, it can act as a phone, even if your smartphone is nowhere nearby.

Smartwatches have gone beyond fitness tracking, and now have health features that can save your life. They can detect elevated heart rate alerts and automatically connect you to emergency services if you fall. Electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood oxygen (SpO2) readings are perks of certain models, too. The former detects signs of atrial fibrillation, while the latter is a good indicator of respiratory health.

But the best smartwatches do all these things better than others. Some have huge numbers of apps you can download, and some 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. 

See all of the best smartwatches below, as well as our smartwatch buying guide for more tips on finding the ultimate wearable for you, and our roundup of the best cheap smartwatches if you're looking for something more affordable.

What is the best smartwatch?

After testing dozens of the best smartwatches, our top pick is the Apple Watch Series  7 ($399), which builds on years of health features and communication upgrades, but adds brighter screen, thinner display borders and faster charging. We've spent a little time with it already and can bring you our early thoughts in our Apple Watch 7 review (hands on).

The Apple Watch 3 ($199) remains a very good value as well, although the Apple Watch SE ($279) is a better option worth checking out. The SE is a hybrid model, lacking come high-end health features and an always-on display, but it still has a compass, fall detection, and GPS. Both are often discounted thanks to the best Apple Watch deals.

Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4 ($249/$349) is the most worthy Apple Watch contender — in fact, it's the best smartwatch for Android. It offers two different designs, and yes, one of them maintains the fan-favorite rotating bezel. The latest smartwatch is the first to run the new unified Goole Wear OS software, and comes with body composition analysis.

The best smartwatch from Fitbit is the Fitbit Sense ($329). We like how it gives you a well-rounded view of your body, rather than expecting you to self-administer readings and tests. For more smartwatch recommendations, read on.

The best smartwatches you can buy today

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Apple Watch 7 full review

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Apple Watch 7 keyboard

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Apple Watch 7

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Apple Watch 7 review

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1. Apple Watch Series 7

The best smartwatch overall

Specifications
Sizes: 41mm, 45mm
Battery Life (Rated): 18 hours
GPS: Yes
Swim-Proof: Yes
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
LTE: Optional
Mobile Payments: Apple Pay
Compatibility: iOS
Reasons to buy
+Larger display+Brighter always-on mode+QWERTY keyboard+Comes with USB-C magnetic charger
Reasons to avoid
-Still just 18-hour battery life

The Apple Watch 7 is the best Apple Watch yet. It’s not a major upgrade over the Apple Watch 6 in terms of features, but it does have a larger display in new Apple Watch 7 sizes. For the first time, the Apple Watch comes in 41mm and 45mm versions, complementing the large screen. The seventh-generation Apple gets some exclusive watch faces and a full QWERTY keyboard, too.

While we would like the Apple Watch to improve its 18-hour battery life, the Series 7 does benefit from faster charging. You can completely juice it up in about an hour, letting it spend less time hooked up to the new USB-C to Magnetic cord and more time with you on the go. Whether you want a smartwatch for working out, answering calls from your wrist, or using the best Apple Watch apps, this is the best smartwatch for you. As long as you have an iPhone, of course.

Read our full Apple Watch 7 review.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 body composition analysis

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

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2. Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

The best smartwatch for Android

Specifications
Sizes: 40mm, 42mm, 44mm, 46mm
Battery Life (Rated): 40 hours
GPS: Yes
Swim-Proof: Yes
LTE: Optional
Mobile Payments: Samsung Pay
Reasons to buy
+Slim design and fun watch faces+Improved Wear OS software+Body composition analysis
Reasons to avoid
-Inconsistent battery life

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is our second choice among the best smartwatches, as it's the best Samsung watch. Samsung ditched the ‘Active’ branding for its latest lineup, instead pitching a sporty-looking Galaxy Watch 4 as the company’s flagship (starting at $249.99) and a ‘Classic’ version that carries on the luxurious characteristics like the physical rotating bezel (starting at $349.99.)

Thanks to a 3-in-1 health sensor, the Galaxy Watch 4 measures heart rate, takes ECGs and reads body composition. And while it gets appealing Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Wear OS features, it still pays homage to Tizen, making it the ideal accessory for the best Samsung phones. Note that certain features are exclusive to Samsung users, so not all Android users will benefit from all the Galaxy Watch 4 can do.

The Galaxy Watch 4's main setback is inconsistent battery life, but as long as you don’t mind a daily charge, you’ll benefit from on-board GPS, an always-on display, excellent sleep tracking and more. 

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review.

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Fitbit Sense review

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Fitbit Sense review

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Fitbit Sense review

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Fitbit Sense review

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3. Fitbit Sense

The best Fitbit smartwatch

Specifications
Sizes: 40mm
Battery Life (Rated): 6 days
GPS: Yes
Swim-Proof: Yes
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
LTE: No
Mobile Payments: Optional, Fitbit Pay
Compatibility: iOS, Android
Reasons to buy
+Attractive+Long battery life+Comprehensive fitness/health features
Reasons to avoid
-No Spotify storage

The Fitbit Sense is the company's top-shelf smartwatch that comes with more advanced health and wellness features that the Versa line. Not only does it have an FDA-approved ECG sensor and blood oxygen reading, but the Sense has the ability to measure electrodermal activity and skin temperature, too.

As one of the best Fitbits, the Sense works with both iOS and Android, and comes with on-board GPS, a native app store, Alexa and more. No longer is Fitbit just a brand with products for tracking our steps: Fitbit devices like the Fitbit Sense show what it means to take a holistic look at our health. If you're interested in the Sense, be sure to check out the best Fitbit deals for potential savings, too.

Read our full Fitbit Sense review.    

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Apple Watch SE review (hands on)

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Apple Watch SE review (hands on)

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Apple Watch SE review (hands on)

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Apple Watch SE review (hands on)

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4. Apple Watch SE

The new mid-range Apple Watch

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Classic design+Huge app library+Large screen
Reasons to avoid
-No always-on display-No ECG

The Apple Watch SE is a hybrid of the Apple Watch Series 5 (which has since been discontinued) and the Apple Watch Series 3. The $279 smartwatch doesn't have all the Series 6's features, but still stands out for its speedy chip and safety features. It also offers an LTE option, making it a good choice for those interested in trying out Family Setup.

When choosing between the Apple Watch 7 vs. Apple Watch SE, your ultimate decision will be if you want to spend an extra $120 for a brighter display with an always-on option, an ECG monitor, and and bigger display. If those tools aren't deal-breakers for you, the SE is a highly capable option for iPhone users.

Read our full Apple Watch SE review.

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5. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

The best smartwatch for Android users

Specifications
Sizes: 41mm, 45mm
Battery Life (Rated): Up to 2 days
GPS: Yes
Swim-Proof: Yes
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
LTE: Optional
Mobile Payments: Samsung Pay
Compatibility: iOS, Android
Reasons to buy
+Slimmer design than the original+Physical rotating bezel is back+FDA-approved ECG readings
Reasons to avoid
-Shorter battery life than original

Though it’s been replaced by the Galaxy Watch 4, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is still available to purchase and remains one of the most stylish smartwatches around. It's available in two sizes, as well as in LTE variants. The Galaxy Watch 3's rotating bezel makes navigating the watch's interface easy, while access to thousands of watch faces lets you customize the display to your liking.

Although the Galaxy Watch 3 has a shorter, 2-day battery life compared to the original Samsung Galaxy Watch, it introduces more music storage, FDA-approved ECG tracking and trip detection. Of course, you'll get Samsung Pay for contactless payments, and some good fitness features too. If you’re not sure whether you should get this model or the newer one, see our guide to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs. Galaxy Watch 3.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review.

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Fitbit Versa 3 review

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Fitbit Versa 3 review

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Fitbit Versa 3 review

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Fitbit Versa 3 review

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6. Fitbit Versa 3

The best smartwatch for sleep tracking under $250

Specifications
Sizes: One size
Battery Life (Rated): 6 days
GPS: Yes
Sleep Tracking: Yes
Swim-Proof: Yes
Heart Rate Monitor: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Good battery life+Custom training programs (with subscription)+Great sleep analysis
Reasons to avoid
-Can only use one voice assistant at once

The best smartwatch for those interested in advanced sleep tracking is the Fitbit Versa 3, the next-generation of the popular Fitbit Versa 2. The Versa 3’s standout upgrade is on-board GPS. Now, even when you leave your phone at home, the Versa can (finally) track your location during outdoor exercise. A curvier, larger display is welcome, too. 

Plus the Versa 3 has gained a great motivational workout feature, Active Zone Minutes. Introduced with the Fitbit Charge 4 and now a staple of Fitbit devices, Active Zone Minutes monitors the time you spend in the fat burn, cardio or peak heart-rate zones while exercising. Your goal is to earn the AHA’s and WHO’s recommended 150 Active Zone Minutes each week. Again you can use your Fitbit Versa 3 for phone calls and speak to voice assistants for queries, but note you can only enable one voice assistant at once. Torn between the Sense and Versa? See our Fitbit Sense vs. Fitbit Versa 3 face-off.

Read our full Fitbit Versa 3 review.

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Galaxy Watch Active 2

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7. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

A sleek fitness smartwatch for Android users

Specifications
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)
Reasons to buy
+Offline Spotify storage+Gorgeous design+Works with iOS and Android
Reasons to avoid
-Sleep-tracking needs some work

As our Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 vs. Galaxy Watch Active 2 face-off explains, the Watch Active 2 is still worth buying, especially when you find it on sale. Samsung's watch works with any smartphone and features GPS, a heart rate monitor and the option to enable LTE. It also can automatically track your activity and sleep. (It's much better at the former task than the latter.)

As for looks, 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 such as Samsung Pay, onboard music via Spotify and heart health features. That includes an ECG feature, which is usually reserved for pricer models.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review.

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Apple Watch Series 3 Activity

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8. Apple Watch 3

The most affordable smartwatch for iPhone users

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Improved fitness-tracking+Faster Siri+Apple Music streaming (with LTE model)
Reasons to avoid
-No always-on display-No fall detection

Starting at $199, the Apple Watch Series 3 is a more affordable smartwatch option than the Series 6 and SE for iPhone users. The size options are smaller and the bezels are thicker, and you won't get ECG or SpO2 readings, but it's still a good choice for the price.

When you compare the Apple Watch 6 vs, Apple Watch 3 or Apple Watch SE vs. Apple Watch 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 6 are also found in the Series 3. Check out our Fitbit Versa 3 vs. Apple Watch 3 face-off to see the benefits you'll get with Apple's smartwatch over Fitbit's. 

Read our full Apple Watch Series 3 review.    

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Garmin Vivoactive 4

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Garmin Vivoactive 4

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Garmin Vivoactive 4

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Garmin Vivoactive 4

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9. Garmin Vivoactive 4

The best smartwatch for fitness

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Comes in two sizes+Built-in music storage with Spotify support+Two-button navigation
Reasons to avoid
-Occasional syncing issues-Convoluted app installation process

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.    

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Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch

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Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch

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Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch

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Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch

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10. Fossil Gen 5 LTE

The best Wear OS watch

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Stylish, premium stainless-steel frame+More RAM makes a difference+Customizable battery modes
Reasons to avoid
-Feels limited compared to Samsung's and Apple's smartwatches-No offline Spotify playback-Wear OS stutters sometimes

The older 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. Either way, you might want to consider the Fossil Gen 6 instead, a new version that will eventually run the new Wear OS. The updated model doesn't offer LTE, though.

Read our full Fossil Gen 5 LTE review.  

How to pick the best smartwatch for you

When looking at the best smartwatches 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. If you need features like cycle or pregnancy tracking, you might find our list of the best smartwatches for women helpful, too.

Similarly, 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. 

And if you need smartwatches for certain fitness goals. see our guides to the best running watches and best GPS watches. You also might be better suited for one of the best fitness trackers instead.

How we test the best 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.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.


  • mprospero
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2918665/smartwatches-2015.html
    Reply
  • cdbc100
    Hmm...no speaker on the gear sport, and definitely more than 1 day battery life. Unfortunately, the calories burned per day is pretty inaccurate through s health.
    Reply
  • wrappers
    Than they are good?
    Reply
  • ripped_off_buyer
    Beware of buying a watch on Authenticwatches . com. They sell grey goods, the watchmakers warranty is void and the watchmaker can not assure you when buying from them that the watch is new or genuine. The website Authenticwatches . com while pretending to be owbn by Authenticwatches . com, Inc is actually owned by Tranik Enterprises, Inc. In 2005 They specifically filed to change their legal name from Authenticwatches . com, Inc to Tranik Enterprises, Inc.

    Here is a question you need to ask yourself: What valid reason could a business have for changing their legal name to something entirely different and then continue to use their old business name, and not list their legal name anywhere on the website, documents, or anywhere, anyone can find it.

    Before buying checkout and read the complaints on the better business bureau:

    https://www.bbb.org/us/ca/moorpark/profile/jewelry-stores/authenticwatchescom-1236-92003976/complaints

    Read about the guy who thought he was buying a new Rolex watch but it came missing all stickers and AW refused to take it back.

    Here is AW’s response “Client claims to have received timepiece in a condition other than what was advertised. At no point in time was the timepiece advertised as "new" nor "brand new". At no point in time was the timepiece advertised to come with factory stickers.”

    There are many more horror stories on the BBB and other site. Just spend a few minutes searching before you buy. Buyer beware!
    Reply
  • dagsy73
    The Ticwatch Pro is a very good Android OS Wear Smartwatch. Just be careful on getting the speaker wet as I think mine is blown, from washing my hands. ( I never showered with it on) Also, do not download to many apps as it will lock up and freeze. I am corresponding with Mobvoi to hopefully get a replacement or refund since I only had it for 30 days. Other than that, it was totally Awesome!!!
    Reply
  • dagsy73
    21712114 said:
    The Ticwatch Pro is a very good Android OS Wear Smartwatch. Just be careful on getting the speaker wet as I think mine is blown, from washing my hands. ( I never showered with it on) Also, do not download to many apps as it will lock up and freeze. I am corresponding with Mobvoi to hopefully get a replacement or refund since I only had it for 30 days. Other than that, it was totally Awesome!!!

    ***Update January 31st, 2019 MOBVOI, A DISHONEST COMPANY!!!
    After many emails and several phone calls of me basically repeating myself about the Ticwatch Pro, Mobvoi became rude and dishonest. In a email on January 23rd, the Movoi Represenative stated that he was going to mail me out a replacement watch that day and for me to return the non working watch with a prepaid post label. The next day I get the watch mailed out. I am permanently disabled and had my neighbor drive me to the Post office to expedite the process. I email Mobvoi and let them know that it was sent and provided tracking information to confirm. They do not respond until I call them on January 25th. Sean, a Mobvoi rep, tells me that the person I emailed has not shipped out the watch and that he was going to take care of it. I ask him to please email me the tracking information when He gets it. Weekend goes by and no email from Sean or Mobvoi. I call Monday morning and this Mobvoi rep would not release his name and told me that they are working on it. I just want everyone to know how this company treats its customers. Remind you that I just purchased the watch at the end of December 2019 and I contacted Mobvoi about a week and a half after it came in the mail...
    Reply
  • watchki.dean
    The calories burned per day is pretty inaccurate through s health.
    Reply