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The best smartwatches

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By Andy Boxall


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Best SmartwatchesThe smartwatch phenomenon began in earnest in 2015, but now it’s in full swing. The latest-and-greatest smartwatches are a big improvement over their unsightly first- and second-generation counterparts. Now we have a number of attractive options from tech companies and fashion brands alike.

There is a model for everyone on this list of the best smartwatches — whether you’re a man, woman, or child. We’ve also included a variety of smartwatch operating systems on this list, so you can find the watch that works best with your phone.

At a glance

ProductCategoryRating
Apple Watch Series 4Best overall smartwatch5 out of 5
Samsung Gear SportBest smartwatch for Android4 out of 5
Huawei Watch 2Best Android Wear smartwatch3.5 out 5
Garmin Forerunner 645 MusicBest smartwatch for fitness addicts3.5 out of 5
Movado ConnectBest smartwatch by a fashion brand3 out of 5
Kate Spade ScallopBest Android Wear smartwatch for women3.5 out of 5
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41Best smartwatch from a Swiss watchmaker4 ouf of 5
Fossil Q CommuterBest hybrid smartwatch4.5 out of 5

Apple Watch Series 4

The best

Apple Watch Series 4 Review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s the best smartwatch.

Who’s it for: Anyone with an iPhone who wants a smartwatch.

How much will it cost: $400+

Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch has topped our best smartwatches list for a while, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see the latest Series 4 model also beating the pack. However, it’s not just by a whisker, or with numerous caveats. It’s the best smartwatch by far, and a device that has genuinely earned a 5-out-of 5-stars rating. This doesn’t happen very often, and to find out why it did, read our review (above) for the full story.

It’s a different beast from the Series 3 is a few ways, the biggest being an increase in case size — it’s now 40mm and 44mm, over 38mm and 42mm — as well as a considerably larger viewing area on the OLED screen. The WatchOS 5 software makes great use of the extra space, with more detailed notifications, and new watch faces with more complications. Larger buttons make interacting with the Apple Watch Series 4 easier, too.

Fitness features have also been enhanced, and the Apple Watch Series 4 has GPS, a heart rate sensor, and soon an electrocardiogram feature. This will come as an update in the near future, and will help monitor for an irregular heartbeat. The case is swim-proof, and the prebuilt workout plans now include yoga and hiking. All this combines to make the Apple Watch a comprehensive, easy-to-use, and highly accessible fitness tracker, with plenty of motivational alerts to keep you going.

A new S4 dual-core processor powers the Series 4 watch for super smooth performance, and the speaker for the cellular version has been improved, making on-the-wrist conversations easier to hear in noisy environments. You will have to pay extra through your carrier to have 4G LTE for calls and data, but a sensible array of apps available now mean the Apple Watch really can work as an iPhone replacement, if only for a short time.

If there is a downside it’s the battery life, something that’s not unique to the Apple Watch. The quoted 18 hours of use is about right, although it can be stretched out for a few more hours with limited use, plus there is a power-saving mode that turns everything off except the time. It is also a little more expensive than the Series 3 watch.

Advice we gave for the Series 3 still stands. Make sure you really want the cellular connectivity feature, because if you don’t, you’ll save $100 on your purchase. We recommend one of the Sport Loop straps, and do think the space grey model looks best. There are plenty of great third-party straps available, too. A gold and an aluminum Series 4 model are also available, along with a special Nike version, and if you’re ready to pay up, a special stainless steel Hermes model can be purchased starting $1,250.

It doesn’t really matter how much you spend, the functionality is the same, and all come with 16GB of internal storage space. Whichever you choose, be happy in the knowledge you’re not only wearing the best smartwatch currently available, but the finest Apple product available today.

Read our Apple Watch Series 4 review

Samsung Galaxy Watch

The best smartwatch for Android

samsung galaxy watch 46mm lifestlye

Why should you buy this? It’s the best smartwatch if you own an Android phone

Who is it for? Anyone who values a great user interface on a slick smartwatch

How much will it cost? $330

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch

This will be a bit confusing, thanks to the various operating systems for smartwatches now available. The Samsung Galaxy Watch is the best smartwatch you can buy if you own an Android phone, regardless of whether it’s made by Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei, or any other brand. It’s not the best Wear OS smartwatch, because it doesn’t run Wear OS. It uses Samsung’s own Tizen software, and here’s a little-shared piece of information — Tizen’s better than Google’s Wear OS at the moment.

Why? It’s mainly because of the way you interact with it using the Samsung Galaxy Watch, and other recent Samsung smartwatches including our last pick, the Gear Sport. Tizen relies on a rotating bezel which helps you zip through the menus quickly and simply, rather than prodding and swiping on a tiny touchscreen for every interaction. The bezel rotates with a satisfying click, and minimizing screen touches helps keep the 1.3-inch AMOLED screen (a smaller Galaxy Watch with a 1.2-inch screen is also available) clear of too many fingerprints. That’s always a bonus.

The watch itself is Samsung’s most stylish yet, and its most watch-like too. It moves away from the sporty style adopted for the Gear S3 and the Gear Sport. Samsung has also dropped the Gear name for the Galaxy Watch, and introduced two case sizes and plenty of straps and colors. We like the 46mm version which only comes in silver, while the 42mm version comes in black or gold.

Despite the change in style, there are plenty of fitness features including a heart rate sensor, automatic workout recognition, fitness tracking, onboard GPS, and a range of fitness apps available through Samsung’s app store. However, it’s not as focused or user-friendly as the Apple Watch Series 4. It has 4GB of internal storage space for music, supports Spotify music playlists, and can connect to Bluetooth headphones so you can workout without your phone.

You can use the Galaxy Watch with almost any Android phone with the Samsung Gear app, and also with iOS, although it’s missing several features and we still recommend the Apple Watch to iPhone owners. The Galaxy Watch starts at $330.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Watch review

Huawei Watch 2

The best Wear OS smartwatch

Huawei Watch 2 Sport review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s good-looking, gender neutral, and has solid specs.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a classy, round smartwatch that’ll work on iOS or Android.

How much will it cost: $200+

Why we picked the Huawei Watch 2

The Huawei Watch 2, the follow-up to the stellar Huawei Watch, was worth the wait. This time around, it’s available in two styles: The Sport and Classic. The Sport costs $300, while the Classic model costs $370, but there is no LTE in the U.S. variant of the Sport (you can find these watches for under $300 on Amazon).

The Sport is available in black, titanium grey, or concrete grey, and it’s one of the best-looking Wear OS devices available. It’s technically impressive too, with the 390 x 390 pixel, 1.2-inch AMOLED screen, which surpasses most other Wear OS watch displays in terms of sharpness.

Wear OS (Google rebranded Android Wear as Wear OS in 2018) runs smoothly on the watch, and even though it’s not our favorite smartwatch OS, it’s better than the early versions of Android Wear. It’ll also work with both iOS and Android devices, though iOS functions are limited. If you have an iPhone, we still recommend the Apple Watch ahead of Huawei’s Watch 2. However, for Android users that want software from Google, it doesn’t get better than this.

For those who like to work out, there’s a heart rate monitor for fitness tracking, and the Google Fit or Huawei Workout app will keep tabs on your exercise sessions. GPS will save your jogging and cycling routes to your smartphone. You can also pair Bluetooth earbuds to the watch to listen to music without a phone.

The Huawei Watch 2 isn’t meant for swimming, but like the Apple Watch Series 2 and 3, it is IP68 water resistant and can handle 30 minutes in 1.5 meters of water. If you thought the Huawei Watch was large, you may be surprised to hear that the Huawei Watch 2 is even bigger. The 45mm circular body is just barely compact enough to fit on male and female wrists, but it’s definitely skewed towards men with bigger bones. However, the design is sleek enough to appeal to everyone.

The Huawei Watch 2 lasts 1-2 days on a charge depending on how much you use it, and it has a magnetic charger that’s easy to use. Its best feature, however, is how you can turn off Wear OS and have a generic watch face on for up 25 days — helpful when you’re traveling and you’ve forgotten your charger.

It’s cheaper than most Wear OS flagship devices because it has been out for some time, and you can find it for just a little more than $200.

Read our Huawei Watch 2 review

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music

The best smartwatch for fitness addicts

Garmin Forerunner 645 Music review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It has a genuine smartwatch looks and functionality, with all the right fitness features.

Who’s it for: iPhone or Android users who want smartwatch looks with tons of fitness-specific features

How much will it cost: $450

Why we picked the Garmin Forerunner 645

Fitness bands will track all your exercise and a whole lot more, but the design is often best for the gym and not everyday wear. If you want smartwatch looks without sacrificing the right fitness tracking features, the Garmin Forerunner 645 Music is the watch for you. It looks like a watch, not a fitness band, yet still has all the necessary sensors and hardware to keep up with an active lifestyle.

The one thing it doesn’t have is a touchscreen. This is more like a hybrid smartwatch and is controlled with the five buttons on the case. On the back is a heart rate sensor, and inside is GPS for tracking runs without the need to carry your phone. Even with the GPS active, the battery will still last for five days — a neat benefit of not having a power-sucking touchscreen. Runners will love the watch due to sensors being able to measure stride length, cadence, balance, and even ground contact time.

That is before we get to features including a compass, thermometer, onboard music storage for offline play, water resistance for use in the pool, and Garmin’s extensive fitness tracking software platform. It is quite expensive, but it’s hard to find a feature sports and fitness addicts will want that it doesn’t have. Plus, even when you’re not working out or running, the Forerunner 645’s looks will blend in with most outfits. You can check out our guide to the best fitness trackers for more.

Read our Garmin Forerunnner 645 Music review

Movado Connect

The best smartwatch by a fashion brand

Movado Connect wrist color
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s a classic, elegant Movado watch with a stylish, modern design aesthetic.

Who’s it for: Men or women seeking a bold, minimalist look.

How much will it cost: $595+

Why we picked the Movado Connect

If you’re a fan of the bezel-less trend in smartphones, then perhaps you’ll appreciate this edge-to-edge glass design from Movado. The Movado Connect is a Wear OS smartwatch with a stunning, bold design that eschews tradition in favor of a futuristic look. There are a few different design and strap options to choose from, but we think black and gold looks best. Movado has also designed more than 100 different dial variations, so you can find the precise look you want for the always-on display.

The refreshing minimalism carries over with a single button to control the watch and a vanilla Wear OS experience. That gives you access to hundreds of apps and you can use Google Assistant from your wrist. Naturally, it can serve up notifications as well. It does have a gyroscope and accelerometer, so it can track your steps, but there’s no heart rate sensor and it’s water-resistant, not waterproof. There is support for Google Pay via NFC, but that’s the extent of the feature list. You can expect up to 20 hours from a single charge, so you’ll likely want to charge it every night.

Although it’s quite a chunky smartwatch, the Movado Connect design is sleek and elegant enough for it to work on different wrists and it’s intended to be unisex. This is definitely a statement smartwatch that’s going to draw admiring glances.

Read our Movado Connect review

Kate Spade Scallop

The best Wear OS smartwatch for women

Kate Spade Scallop Touchscreen review
Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s the best-looking smartwatch if you have smaller wrists.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a smaller smartwatch.

How much will it cost: $295

Why we picked the Kate Spade Scallop

Gradually, the tech world is beginning to understand women don’t always want to wear a big, masculine smartwatch, and is therefore making more of them suitable for smaller wrists. Our current pick of this growing range comes from Kate Spade, a brand that understands what makes a desirable tech product for women.

We’ve chosen the Kate Spade Scallop not only because of this but also for its realistic price of $295. The smartwatch has been engineered using the latest technology, so the profile is neat and slim, and therefore less intrusive than older smartwatches. The screen measures 1.2-inches and is encased in a body that is only 9mm thick and 42mm wide. There are several different strap options and variations on the gold body color available.

The Scallop stands out due to several cool software features, with a favorite being a way to customize the watch face according to the colors of your outfit. If you don’t want to do that, the animated faces all take on familiar Kate Spade design elements, and are fun to use. The watch has Google’s Wear OS operating system, so connects to Android and iOS devices, but it doesn’t have a heart rate sensor, GPS, or NFC for Android Pay. If you want these features, you may have to look at the Huawei Watch 2.

Read our Kate Spade Scallop review

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41

The best smartwatch from a Swiss watchmaker

tag heuer watch front
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: You want a watch that’s made by a company that understands watches and is keeping up with technology.

Who is it for: Watch fans who don’t mind spending more on a smartwatch

How much will it cost: $1,200+

Why we picked the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41:

The majority of the smartwatches we have featured are made by technology brands, outside of those offered by the Fossil Group; but Swiss watchmakers are beginning to take notice of smartwatches, and come up with their own interpretations. While we’re very excited for the Alpina AlpinerX, and other hybrid watches like the Mondaine Helvetica Smart, it’s Tag Heuer that is our pick of the Swiss brands embracing the world of touchscreen watches.

We recommend the Connected Modular 41, which is smaller than the Connected Modular 45 and competition like the Montblanc Summit, and therefore fits on more wrists, more comfortably. Tag Heuer worked closely with Intel to get the tech side of the watch just right, and it shows, as it operates very smoothly compared to other Wear OS smartwatches.

It’s especially desirable due to the amount of customization available, from different straps and case colors, to replacing the body entirely for a mechanical Tag Heuer Carrera body. This gives the watch a longer life than those without such an option. However, all this comes at a price, and the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 starts at $1,200, making it very expensive for a smartwatch, but surprisingly reasonable for a Tag Heuer.

Read our Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 review

Fossil Q Commuter

The best hybrid smartwatch

fossil q commuter
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s a classic Fossil watch made with high-quality materials.

Who’s it for: Men who like traditionally styled watches, but want to try out a smartwatch.

How much will it cost: $155+

Why we picked the Fossil Q Commuter

The Q Commuter will appeal with its minimalist style and no-nonsense approach to connected watches. This is a hybrid smartwatch, so it doesn’t have a touchscreen, but still counts your steps, measures the distance traveled, and estimates calorie burn for the day. It vibrates when a notification comes through on your phone and when you reach your daily step goal, plus it can also track your sleep quality, assuming you wear it in bed.

Through the app, you can configure what notifications you want to receive on your wrist, and the minute and hour hands will point to a number on the clock indicating the app or contact. It can alert you to calls, texts, emails, and a host of incoming messages from popular social media apps, but you’ll want to cherry pick to avoid it all becoming pervasive.

There are certain functions you can set to the three buttons on the watch. Our favorite is the Q Commuter’s highlight feature, where you can press a button to see your estimated time of arrival at a preset destination — like your work. You can also choose from other functions like using the button to pause or play music, finding the time in another city, and more.

There are eight different versions of the Q Commuter available, giving you considerable choice, plus it’s easy to swap out the straps for 22mm alternatives. Matching the Q Commuter to your outfit should be simple. Because the watch doesn’t have a touchscreen, battery life is great, and it’s powered by an easily swapped out coin cell. It should keep going for up to a year.

We like the reasonable price too, which is half of the cheapest Gear Sport or Apple Watch Series 3. Hybrid smartwatches offer all the looks of a traditional watch, plus a useful amount of connected technology, keeping everyone happy in the process. If the Q Commuter’s restrained looks aren’t for you, Fossil and many other watch brands also produce hybrids, so it’s easy to find the right one for you.

Read our Fossil Q Commuter review

How we test

We test smartwatches just like we test smartphones. We use them every day and test out all the marquee features. We strap them to our wrists (no matter how silly they may look), and walk around town with them, making calls and exercising to test out the workout features. We pair them with different phones and test the experience when the watch is connected to phones different OSes. We dunk water-resistant smartwatches in water and take outdoorsy watches on hikes. We download tons of apps and discard the lame ones to determine how strong the app ecosystem really is, and we go to cafes that accept mobile payments and buy lattes with our wrists.

Basically, we get lots of weird looks, but it’s worth it.

Which smartwatch OS is best?

Each smartwatch operating system is different. Apple’s Watch OS 5 and Samsung’s special round Tizen OS for the Galaxy Watch line of watches are the two best smartwatch OSes in terms of design, features, and ease of use. Google rebranded Android Wear as Wear OS and has started to address the issues we have with the software, and although it’s getting more useable, it’s not as user-friendly as WatchOS or Tizen.

Apple’s WatchOS is dead simple and so is Samsung’s Tizen. Both offer fully-featured fitness tracking that’s easy to access and intuitive interfaces. On the Galaxy Watch, you just twist the bezel in a circle to navigate through quick launch apps, your full library of apps, and settings. Each app is made to suit the circular OS, so navigation is easy to figure out. You always have a back button if you get lost, too. The addition of Samsung Pay also takes Samsung’s watches to a new level with mobile payments.

The same could be said of Apple’s WatchOS. It’s attractive, apps are easy to find with a press of the digital crown, and you have access to quick launch apps in the Dock with the press of a button. Apple Pay works on WatchOS, too. WatchOS 5 is even simpler than Samsung’s interface now that Apple has cut down on a few pointless menus and boosted the companion app. Google’s Wear OS is evolving, and works with Android and iOS devices, supports Google Pay, and is controlled with swipes and taps; but often menus are slow and lists are long which can lead to frustrations.

In terms of app support, Apple’s OS has the best and most plentiful apps that we use on a regular basis. Wear OS has a decent number of apps from the Google Play Store, and Samsung’s app store is a distant third. There are not a lot of useful apps on Tizen.

Should you buy a smartwatch?

So you think you want a smartwatch? Are you sure? After all, unlike a smartphone, no-one really needs a smartwatch. However, because manufacturers are finally coming round to the realization a smartwatch needs to look good if we’re to buy one, they’re a lot more tempting than they once were. One-day battery life and a touchscreen on a watch is still hard to swallow for some people, but that’s why hybrid smartwatches were invented.

The Apple Watch Series 4 works without a phone, to a degree, and Wear OS is a considerably better wearable operating system than it once was. The choice of styles, for both men and women, is far greater than it was a year ago. Many big-name fashion brands are adding full touchscreen smartwatches to their ranges, bringing considerable kudos with them. We’re also looking forward to the next generation of Wear OS watches that use Qualcomm’s updated Snapdragon 3100 chip. Now is a great time to get into smartwatches.

However, if you’re not ready to commit to a touchscreen smartwatch, but still want to try out some smart features, the huge choice of hybrid watches has got you covered. They often cost half of what you’ll pay for the cheapest Apple Watch, link with any smartphone, and provide traditional watch looks matched with a connected smart experience.

If you’re tempted by a smartwatch, we say go for it.


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