Smartwatches are brilliant jack-of-all-trades devices, and when it comes to fitness, they can offer real benefits.
The rise of the sporty smartwatch is real. Apple, Samsung, Google, Fitbit and Garmin have all realised that people want the ability to track runs or closely monitor gym workouts, but don't want to miss out on all the other good smartwatch stuff. Like notifications, controlling your music and more.
Essential reading: Best fitness tracker to buy
So what are the best fitness smartwatches you can get your hands on right now? We've tested pretty much every watch going so we feel like we are in a good position to pick them out for you. Whether you're a lover of cycling, swimming, running or getting in your daily HIIT classes, these are our top picks.
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Apple Watch Series 3
Apple Watch Series 3 features: Built-in GPS, swim tracking, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker, offline music playback, third party apps, contactless payments
With every new Apple Watch instalment, the smartwatch's fitness powers have only got better. You've got GPS that picks up signal at a speedy manner, a waterproof design that brings some solid swim tracking and a heart rate monitor that may well not be 100% accurate, but does the job admirably in most instances.
Essential reading: Apple Watch Series 4 investigation
If you want your watch to double as a Fitbit replacement, the Apple Watch does a pretty good job of that too when you're trying to close those activity rings. Unlike Fitbit, it doesn't have built-in sleep tracking, but there are a host of sleep tracking apps to let you bring that functionality to the Watch.
Speaking of apps, the onboard ones continue to evolve as Apple adds features and enhances existing ones through its watchOS updates. There's a whole host of third party health and fitness apps too, including Strava, that work without having to carry your iPhone around with you. Pack all those features into a sleek design that comes in a variety of looks and you've got one of the best out there.
Wareable verdict: Apple Watch Series 3
Fitbit Ionic features: Built-in GPS, swim tracking, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker, women's health tracking, offline music playback, third party apps, contactless payments
Fitbit's first smartwatch delivers all the fitness tracking goodness you'd expect from a Fitbit device, but also doubles as a pretty decent sports watch too.
Along with the key features we've mentioned above, it'll also automatically recognise when you're participating in core sports like running and cycling so you don't even have to worry about getting that tracking set up. For other sports modes like gym classes or weights, you're relying on more basic workout data ā although you do get heart rate data to measure intensity. Like most optical heart rate sensors, it's not as accurate as a heart rate chest strap, but does in most instances do the job.
You also have the benefit of tapping into Fitbit Coach (subscription based), a personalised fitness platform that lets you follow workouts straight from the watch and will also offer workouts on the phone app that are based around your previous workouts.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Ionic review
Fitbit Versa features: Swim tracking, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker, women's health tracking, offline music playback, third party apps, contactless payments
We know the Ionic's angular design won't be for everyone, so if you can live without built-in GPS, you can always go for the Fitbit Versa, which is a fair bit cheaper than the Ionic.
It has a significantly smaller frame than Fitbit's first smartwatch, making it a better fit for slimmer wrists. You also get a whole range of sport-friendly bands to choose from and a waterproof (up to 50 metres) design bringing all of the same swim-tracking skills as the Ionic.
Everything the Ionic can do, the Versa can essentially do on the activity and sports tracking side of things. One big omission though is GPS. If you want to map running, cycling or walking routes, you'll need to rely on your phone's GPS to make that happen.
If you can live with that lack of GPS because you pretty much take your phone with you everywhere you go, then the Versa is svelte, good looking fitness smartwatch that we think you're going to like a lot.
Wareable verdict: Fitbit Versa review
Samsung Gear Sport
Samsung Gear Sport features: Built-in GPS, swim tracking, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker, offline music playback, contactless payments, rep counting
The clue is in the name. Unlike the Gear S3 or the S2, the Sport is built for fitness first and foremost. That means a smaller frame, a waterproof design with swim tracking support and one of the best smartwatch screens in the business to review your data.
It serves all your standard fitness tracking needs, powered through Samsung's Health app with a host of third party fitness apps like Under Armour and Endomondo supported. Like Fitbit, it can automatically recognise when you're working and can even count reps for your bodyweight workouts, which not all entries on this list can offer.
Samsung is really pushing swimming support with the Sport and has teamed up with Speedo to integrate its Speedo On app and make the most of your metrics. We should also mention that of all of these sporty smartwatches that offer offline music support, Samsung's is the only one offers offline support for Spotify.
Wareable verdict: Samsung Gear Sport review
Price: $249.99 | Amazon
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music
Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music features: Built-in GPS, multisports tracking (run, golf, swimming, cycling), rep counting, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker, offline music playback, contactless payments
Garmin is increasingly adding smarter features to all of its sports watches, but it's the Vivoactive 3 Music which is regarded as the smartwatch in its wearable family.
This surprisingly sleek little number inherits many of the great sports tracking features we've seen crop up on other Garmins, including multiple tracking modes, a waterproof design and a heart rate monitor that offers up a decent performance for most sports modes.
Garmin's fitness tracking skills are up there with Fitbit, offering plenty of data (including automatic sleep tracking), adaptive targets and motivational modes to get you moving more. It also has Connect IQ support, which means you can access Garmin's app store to add new features including watch faces, data fields and of course apps.
Wareable verdict: Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music review
LG Watch Sport
LG Watch Sport features: Built-in GPS, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker, offline music playback, can download apps, contactless payments, LTE
The good news is that Wear watches across the board are getting better in the fitness department. Despite its age, the LG Watch Sport stands out as the one that delivers the best all-round experience.
It's got one of the best screens in the business and is still a zippy performer in the software department. Its core fitness features are powered by Google Fit, which continues to be improved by Google, but you also have the benefit of a pretty sizeable collection of third party health and fitness apps to try out instead.
LTE and NFC support means you can leave that phone and money behind, chuck some music on it and head outdoors without having to worry about carrying another piece of tech.
It's bigger than your average Wear watch, but if you want the most complete experience from a fitness perspective, this is your one. If you're really not sold on the size, and willing to make some Wear compromises, you could always consider going for the Polar M600 instead.
Wareable verdict: LG Watch Sport review
Yes, there are more fitness smartwatches on the way that are set to go on sale over the coming months. Kicking things off is the Samsung Galaxy Watch, successor to the Gear S3. The smartwatch comes in two sizes (42mm and 46mm), delivers bigger battery life than its predecessor and has made a bunch of improvements on the sports and activity tracking fronts. That includes improved rep counting for a wider range of bodyweight workouts and the addition of more detailed sleep tracking. There's also the Fossil Q Explorist and Venture HR to look forward too. The stylish duo once again run on Google's Wear OS and introduce heart rate monitoring, built-in GPS and swim tracking to the range for the very first time.
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