Picking the best smartwatch out there right now is tough, and the market has come along way since the bad old days of the wrist computer. Picking the perfect model from the plethora of brand new devices is increasingly hard to do.
Gone are those horrible lumps of plastic, with the likes of the Apple Watch Series 2, Samsung Gear S3, the luxury Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 and the Fossil Q range challenging classic watches in terms of design.
Essential reading: Best budget smartwatches
There are important considerations to be made about your choice of operating system, battery life and fitness features as well. But wearing a watch is about expressing your personality too, and design is a sticking point for many buyers.
Take a look at our buying guide below, followed by our current picks for the best smartwatches you can buy right now.
Any questions? Let us know in the comments section below.
How to buy the perfect smartwatch
Think about your smartphone
A lot of choosing the right smartwatch for your needs will depend a lot on your smartphone. Things have opened up slowly over the last year and Android Wear and Samsung Gear devices now work with iOS.
While iOS users now get the luxury of choice, the experience is still pretty basic. You'll find some functionality locked off, and many Android Wear watch manufacturers quote less battery when their device is used with an Apple phone. Annoying.
But to get the best experience, generally, Android users should stick to Android Wear and iOS users' first port of call should be the Apple Watch. That logic offers much more choice for Android Wear users who have the pick of over 40 devices to choose from.
There used to be more choice for Apple users, but the cannibalisation of indie brands like Pebble and Vector has meant a return to the familiar tech battle lines of Apple, Google and Samsung. There is, however, a cheaper option with the Apple Watch Series 1 which forgoes GPS and waterproofing for a discount on the RRP.
Think about features
But putting compatibility aside – choosing a smartwatch is also increasingly about the differentiation of features. Many at the top end (and predominantly made by tech brands) are heavy on fitness features.
The Apple Watch Series 2, LG Watch Sport and Samsung Gear S3 are all laden with GPS, heart rate monitors to replace the running watch. But at the moment they're still jack-of-all-trades devices – tech companies still don't get fitness and wellness. You won't even get the same fitness tracking experience as a top Fitbit – but it's coming.
It's not just the tech. The Apple Watch's heart rate monitor is pretty good, but it doesn't do much. The data barely leveraged from a wellness or sports perspective, the built-in fitness apps are by-and-large terrible, and third parties like Strava are only starting to pick up the mantle.
Smartwatches go stylish
There's also a drive towards cheaper devices from classic fashion brands. Those devices boast fewer features, but are managing to make slimmer, smaller watches – and certainly upping the design stakes.
The final big change in smartwatches is the appearance of luxury brands. The fashion world has started to embrace smartwatches, coaxed by Google onto its platform. That means there's more choice than ever.
Soon enough, writing definitive round-ups like this with be near impossible, as hundreds of watches that all do the same thing flood the market. It will just be about style.
Wareable's best smartwatch 2017
Apple Watch Series 2
OS: watchOS 3 | Display: OLED | Size: 38mm/42mm | Battery: 2 days | Water resistance: 50m | Heart rate: Yes | Connectivity: GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Water resistance and GPS in a sleeker body than similarly-specced rivals, as well as an eye-popping screen, mean that the Apple Watch Series 2 pips the competition to our coveted best smartwatch spot.
It's still far from perfect and Android Wear 2.0 has caught up in terms of features, technology and style, but watchOS 4 is on its ways before the end of the year and there are plenty of new features to look forward to.
Read this: Apple Watch Series 3 investigation
The Apple Watch app selection is still way too small and developers aren't making enough use of the GPS and sensors for untethered experiences. Apple's own fitness services are a tad hit-and-miss and the screen isn't always-on.
But aside from those negatives, it's still a great smartwatch experience, which doesn't feel clunky and has more than one genuine killer app. Apple Pay is a triumph, sports tracking works, it wins in the pool and there's a genuine feeling that the best is still to come.
Feature check: GPS, swimming friendly, Apple Pay, two-day battery, heart rate monitor.
Wareable's Apple Watch Series 2 review verdict:
"Is the Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect smartwatch? No. But it makes a much more compelling argument than the original that you should own one."
Samsung Gear S3
OS: Tizen | Display: Super AMOLED (360 x 360) | Size: 46mm | Battery: 380mAh, 1.5 days | Water resistance: IP68 | Heart rate: Yes | Connectivity: GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Now compatible with Android and iOS, the Samsung Gear S3 is surprisingly open-minded with its selection of supported smartphones. Sadly, the size increased slightly from the excellent Gear S2, but that larger body delivers better battery life, GPS and a screen where Tizen can really shine.
Head-to-head: Samsung Gear S3 v Apple Watch Series 2
It's not quite the ultimate fitness all-in-one thanks to a lack of water-resistance, which makes swimming out of the question. And the crappy app selection puts it behind the Apple Watch and Android Wear 2.0 in terms of versatility, although new apps from Under Armour along with the only Spotify smartwatch app to provide offline playback make it a much more compelling proposition.
However, strong individual style, the intuitive rotating bezel and great battery life mean it's a strong contender. What's more, Samsung's impressive platforms – such as its own Samsung Health – means strong third party apps aren't essential for a fulfilling experience, as they are on the Apple Watch.
Feature check: GPS, Samsung Pay, Tizen, heart rate monitor.
Wareable's Samsung Gear S3 review verdict:
"The Gear S3 is destined to divide. After delivering us its best-ever smartwatch with the Gear S2, it has sacrificed that sleek design to cram in more features."
Best Android Wear
LG Watch Sport
OS: Android Wear 2.0 | Display: OLED (480 x 480) | Size: 46mm | Battery: 430mAh, 1.5 days | Water resistance: IP68 | Heart rate: Yes | Connectivity: GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
The flagship model for Android Wear 2.0, the LG Watch Sport guns straight for the Apple Watch. With GPS, LTE and NFC for Android Pay on board, the LG Watch Sport comes with a revamped Google Fit and rejuvenated third party Android Wear 2.0 apps such as Strava.
The screen really impresses, and the 1.38-inch, 480 x 480 OLED display uses its 348ppi to best the Apple Watch Series 2's tech. And beyond outdoor workouts, it can keep track of reps in the gym, which is a surprising and welcome addition.
However, it's only water resistant to 1.5 metres for 30 mins, which makes it unsuitable for swimming. It's bulky too. For those looking for a sleeker watch, the LG Watch Style is worth a look, but the pay-off in size means that most of the great features of the Watch Sport have been discarded.
Feature check: GPS, LTE, NFC, Android Pay, heart rate monitor.
Wareable's LG Watch Sport review verdict:
"The LG Watch Sport is a perfect showcase for Android Wear 2.0. It's big, but it's also clever, with some solid fitness chops and other standalone features that make it feel truly independent from your phone."
Best for sporty types
Garmin Vivoactive HR
OS: Garmin | Display: 16 colour MIP (205 x 148) | Size: 28mm | Battery: 8 days | Water resistance: 5AM | Heart rate: Yes | Connectivity: GPS, Bluetooth
While the Apple Watch and the LG Watch Sport are great smartwatches that are capable of sport tracking, the Garmin Vivoactive HR is a seriously amazing sports watch that's more than capable as a smartwatch. Let us explain.
With dedicated GPS modes for running, cycling, swimming, golf and indoor gym work (although count out strength training), the Vivoactive HR reports detailed metrics into Garmin Connect and works with services such as Strava and Runkeeper. However, it also handles and displays smartwatch notifications, plus reliably offers weather and calendar details.
It's not a looker, with a low-res screen and chunky plastic body. It's pure function over form but that's not all bad. You get a battery life that measures around a week, even with all-day use and a few workouts thrown in. But if you're eyeing the Apple Watch or LG Watch Sport for tracking your next triathlon, do yourself a favour and opt for a proper sports watch instead.
Feature check: GPS, heart rate monitor, Garmin Connect compatibility, dedicated sports modes.
Wareable's Garmin Vivoactive HR review verdict:
"If, like us, you're a sports enthusiast who isn't obsessive over the details of just one type of activity, it's truly the watch for you. Great notifications and rich data from the HR sensor complete a top performance, and the daily activity tracking is top notch too."
Best for runners
OS: Android Wear 2.0 | Display: TFT (240 x 240) | Size: 1.3-inch | Battery: 500mAh, 2 days | Water resistance: IPX8 | Heart rate: Yes | Connectivity: GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
While the Garmin Vivoactive HR is the perfect choice for those who flit between a host of sports, the Polar M600 is just for pavement-pounding runners.
Built by running giant Polar, and backed up with Android Wear, powerful running smarts are placed front and centre, with GPS and advanced metrics such as Training Benefit, Running Program, Running Index and Sport Profiles available alongside bog standard speed, pace and time.
But as an Android Wear device it's capable of running apps, offering notifications, accessing Google Voice commands and all-day activity monitoring. In many ways it's the best of both worlds for runners, and it makes no compromises when you're pushing the limits of your training.
Feature check: Heart rate monitor, GPS, Android Wear 2.0, Polar Flow syncing, water resistant to 10m.
Wareable's Polar M600 review verdict:
"It's easy to forget that you're using an Android Wear smartwatch when you've got the Polar M600 strapped on. It's an outright running watch (with decent activity tracking on board too) as far as we're concerned, with Android Wear simply there in the background in case you need it."
Nokia Steel HR
OS: N/A | Display: OLED | Size: 40mm | Battery: 28 days | Water resistance: 50m | Heart rate: Yes | Connectivity: Bluetooth
When we talk about smartwatches, we tend to think of full-on OLED screen-toting wrist computers. But there is another way. Withings (now part of Nokia) has a pretty slick hybrid smartwatch that uses an analogue watch face to pack invisible tech into the case.
And unlike the host of similar hybrids out there – including Fossil's impressive collection – it really crams in the features. As well as accelerometer-based step tracking and sleep monitoring, the Steel HR has a heart rate monitor built in, which measures bpm 24/7, reporting useful data such as resting heart rate into the impressive Nokia Health Mate app. Nokia's tracking is some of the best in the business.
There's a screen hidden in the face which will display steps and flash up notifications – it's pretty small, so keep your expectations low – and you've got an impressive 25 days of battery life to play with, before you juice up with the supplied dock.
Feature check: Water resistant to 50m, heart rate monitor, 25 day battery.
Wareable's Nokia Steel HR review verdict:
"Withings has made a watch that walks the line between smartwatch and analogue timepiece with impressive skill. As a fitness tracker it's among the most feature-packed and best looking; as a running watch it's still quite pared down, despite a heart rate monitor that works like a charm."
Best for budget and battery life
OS: PebbleOS | Display: e-paper (144 x 168) | Size: 40mm | Battery: 1 week | Water resistance: 30m | Heart rate: Yes | Connectivity: Wi-Fi
A double winner – not bad for a smartwatch that's essentially DOA. Conventional wisdom says that buying a Pebble smartwatch is a terrible idea, given that the company has been shuttered after its buyout by Fitbit. But hear us out.
The latest and last update guarantees that smartwatches will continue to work even after the servers are switched off, and when it comes to buying on a budget, few can match the Pebble 2 for features and value.
You can grab a Pebble 2 for a bargain basement price and it will last a week on a single charge thanks to the low-power e-paper screen tech. There's also a heart rate monitor and a decent fitness tracking and health platform, which was really picking up pace before the sell out. There are tonnes of apps to play with and the Timeline interface is pretty useful. If you're dipping a toe into smartwatch waters for the first time, the Pebble 2 wins on two counts.
Feature check: Heart rate monitor, week long battery, thousands of Pebble apps.
Wareable's Pebble 2 review verdict:
"The Pebble 2 packs in a lot for its price, and there's plenty to love, but it's let down by design. If you're after an entry-level fitness tracker and don't care too much about how it looks, this is a solid choice."
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
OS: Android Wear 2.0 | Display: AMOLED (400 x 400) | Size: 45mm | Battery: 410mAh, 1.5 days | Water resistance: 50m | Heart rate: No | Connectivity: GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi
Tag's Android Wear second-coming is available with titanium, ceramic and 18K rose gold finishes and, as speculated, will feature what Tag is describing as a modular design. You'll be able to change the smart part for a traditional mechanical Tag module, such as the Calibre 5 or the chronograph Tourbillon Heuer 02-T. You'll also be free to swap out the lugs, the straps and even the buckle. In all, Tag says there are 56 different versions available at launch.
Tag is offering 30 new exclusive watch faces and a companion Studio app to let you create/personalise your own that will be available for Android devices originally – iOS is coming, we're promised.
Wareable's Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 review verdict:
"The modular design is a big plus and while it's no match for a sports watch, the GPS and waterproofing definitely gives it something over the first Connected. There's still room for improvement, but overall, Tag's second attempt shows proves that this is one Swiss watchmaker that's learning very quickly how to make a good smartwatch."
From $1,650, tagheuer.com
New smartwatches incoming 2017
The smartwatches detailed above are our pick of the bunch currently available, but remember there are a tonne of new smartwatches going on sale later this year. Check out our guide to the best upcoming smartwatch releases for more information.