If you want the best smartwatch, you’re looking for a true all-rounder. You need a watch that monitors your health, tracks your efforts during exercise, lasts long between charges, has handy tools like flashlights and timers and, perhaps most importantly, comes at a reasonably low price.
Here at TechRadar, we’ve tested all the best smartwatches on the market, including offerings from all the big companies, as well as newcomers and smaller names, so we can definitively rank them so you know which one to consider.
We tried everything from Apple Watches and Fitbits to Garmin watches and Samsung watches with Tizen. There’s also Wear OS, Google’s own wearable operating system modeled after Apple’s watchOS, and, spoiler alert, you’ll see it pop up in many of these devices.
If you’re buying the best smartwatch for you, it’s worth looking at the best phone for you as well, as sometimes there is additional functionality depending on the handset you have, although some smartwatches don’t even need a phone to connect to.
You do need to keep in mind that some smartwatches have limited compatibility with certain phones. For example, you won’t be able to use an Apple Watch with one of the best Android phones.
When we review the best smartwatches, we consider design, features, battery life, speed, fitness smartness, price and more, so whatever factor is important to a purchase, you can be sure we’ve taken it into account.
What makes a good smartwatch?
When testing for the best smartwatch, the most important factors to consider are “how many of your smartphone’s functions can it perform?”, and “how well does it handle each task?”, the latter attribute of course being style – it’s still bling after all.
You’ll also want to make sure it’s compatible with your smartphone – some are only for iPhone or Android, while others support most phones. Note that Wear OS now has iOS support, but as we said, the experience is less in comparison.
Fitness fans will want to look for a device with a heart rate monitor and built-in GPS, even though they often don’t compare in accuracy to a monitor worn on the chest. Many devices are also equipped with NFC, which can be used for contactless payments, through services like Google Pay.
The most important factors of a smartwatch, in our opinion, are the level of detail of notifications, battery life, style, water resistance, device compatibility and additional features, such as microphones and Wi-Fi support. Find out how we test wearables for more information.
Why do you need a smartwatch?
There is an interesting theory that smartwatches are to the smartphone what wristwatches were to the pocket watch. Imagine how the average gentleman before the 20th century had to fumble in his pocket to find his watch. Fast forward 100+ years now and the average smartphone user still has to dip into his pocket to check his phone.
The kicker now is that your smartphone holds far more information than a pocket watch ever did, all of which is still locked in your pocket.
Smartwatches are not meant to make phone calls – although some can – instead they provide (among other things) a quick and easy way to check your phone’s notifications, so you can decide if it’s worth diving into your pocket or searching your bag to grab your smartphone and take the appropriate action.
What type of smartwatch should you be looking for?
There are currently two types of smartwatches in circulation: those with a colorful touch screen – similar to what you would find on your phone – and those that combine a regular analog watch with smart features.
These are known as “hybrid” smartwatches; with some, the smart functions are almost completely hidden, while others give you information through a small integrated display.
A full-fledged smartwatch can do much more, but that juice-guzzling screen leads to shorter battery life. Hybrid watches have longer battery life and some even have separate cells for the watch and smartwatch functions.
If you’re an Android user, a Wear OS (formerly Android Wear) smartwatch is the obvious choice, but it’s not necessarily the best for everyone. Google’s OS tuned for wearables also works fine with iOS, but with slimmed-down functionality, so iPhone owners will have more use for an Apple Watch. Read more about using Android Wear with iPhone.