In 2017, the smartwatch game has changed. What was for so long an uncertain, often awkward piece of tech now feels more assured; this year smartwatches have found their place, making our job of choosing our Best Smartwatch winner for the 2017 Wareable Tech Awards all the more challenging.
With some of the biggest fashion powerhouses doubling down on their smartwatch commitment and familiar tech giants finally grasping what we want our wrist tech to do, the Best Smartwatch category was tough to call. Alongside familiar faces we saw Fitbit make its grand entry with the Ionic, while Garmin edged further into smartwatch town with the Vivoactive 3. And then there was Samsung, which delivered its best smartwatch yet with the Gear Sport.
Read this: Wareable Tech Award 2017 winners
But it was Apple that ultimately walked away with the top prize for the Apple Watch Series 3, beating away LG, Huawei, and even Michael Kors and Louis Vuitton. The Apple Watch took a while to find its footing, but with the Series 3 it feels like Apple really hit its stride. It's not perfect by any stretch – battery life still disappoints – but with the introduction of LTE and all the benefits it brings, the Series 3 put forward the strongest case for the standalone smartwatch yet.
A handful of smartwatches have already offered cellular connectivity, sure, and that alone didn't win the Apple Watch the coveted prize, but combined with watchOS 4 and the improved fitness features, the Series 3 has become a more complete package – without feeling like it's doing too much, something other cellular watches have been guilty of.
In Series 2 Apple doubled down on fitness, and with LTE came standalone music streaming (via Apple Music) meaning you really could exercise without your phone. At the same time, GPS, heart rate, waterproofing and elevation tracking all make the Apple Watch 3 a robust workout companion that's giving the big names in fitness – Garmin, Polar et al – cause to be more concerned. The Apple Watch isn't yet at the Garmin Fenix 5 level of seriousness when it comes to fitness, but it's creeping up.
Smartwatch of the Year contenders
- Fitbit Ionic reviewUPDATED: Meet Fitbit's smartwatch riposte to the Apple Watch
- Samsung Gear Sport reviewThis is Samsung's best smartwatch yet, but is it the best you can get?
- Huawei Watch 2 reviewFitness-obsessed Android Wear watch misses the mark
- Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon reviewIs this luxury smartwatch experience worth it?
- Garmin Vivoactive 3 reviewA superb sports watch with improving smartwatch powers
- Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 reviewTag's second smartwatch is a welcome addition to the Android Wear family
- Michael Kors Access Grayson/Sofie reviewA more mature designer smartwatch
Then there are the fashion names: Louis Vuitton's Tambour Horizon got our Highly Commended award for demonstrating just how gorgeous an (admittedly expensive) smartwatch could be. The Apple Watch isn't a bad looking smartwatch, but there's also no denying there were more attractive entrants in the running.
Michael Kors and Tag Heuer also gave us beautiful smartwatches this year, while the Samsung Gear Sport is, to our eyes, at least on a par with Apple when it comes to design.
It still trails a lot of the competition in battery life, but the Apple Watch Series 3 is the best cellular smartwatch we've used to date, and the best example of what a smartwatch should be in 2017.