Smartwatches have well and truly arrived, and with watches from the best names in the industry – such as the Apple Watch Series 2 and Android Wear 2.0 devices – in their second-generation, choosing is easier than ever.
In truth, choosing the right smartwatch is largely about looks. Yes, there are important considerations about the choice of operating system, battery life and fitness features – we'll be talking about those things in-depth below – but wearing a watch is about expressing some form of your personality. That was true for dumb old timepieces and it's still true for smartwatches. And since the bad old days of the first smartwatches, it's easier to pick a great-looking device.
Essential reading: Best fitness trackers 2017
We try and stay out of decreeing what's stylish or not – you know your taste. But read on for our pick of the best smartwatches and the correct pick for each type of person.
Apple Watch Series 2
Best overall smartwatch
Winner of the best smartwatch 2016 at the Wareable Tech Awards, the Apple Watch just edges the competition as our pick of the crop. Water-resistance and GPS in a sleeker (dare we say unisex) body than similarly-specced rivals impresses. And the array of cheap third party Apple Watch straps, which can be swapped in seconds, is a boon as well.
It's far from perfect and Android Wear 2.0 has caught up in terms of features. The third party Apple Watch app selection still leaves a lot to be desired, and mystifyingly, developers aren't making use of the GPS and sensors for untethered experiences. Apple's own fitness services are a bit hit-and-miss and the screen isn't always-on. But Apple Pay is a triumph, the experience is slick and there's a genuine feeling the best is still yet 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."
LG Watch Sport
Best Android Wear smartwatch
The flagship model for Google's latest smartwatch OS – Android Wear 2.0 – the LG Watch Sport guns straight for the Apple Watch Series 2. Featuring GPS, LTE and NFC for Android Pay, the LG Watch Sport comes with a revamped Google Fit as well as third party Android Wear 2.0 apps such as Strava.
The screen really steals the show with its 1.38-inch, 480 x 480, OLED display using its 348ppi to best the Apple Watch Series 2's impressive display tech. And, as well as tracking 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 meters for 30 mins which makes swimming is a no-no, and it's a beasty smartwatch, too. For those looking for a sleeker watch, the LG Watch Style is worth a look, but the pay-off in size means 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."
Samsung Gear S3
Best for Samsung users
Now compatible with Android and iOS, the Samsung Gear S3 is surprisingly unpartisan in its selection of supported smartphone. While the size increased slightly from the excellent Gear S2, that bigger body has delivered better battery life, GPS and a screen where Tizen can really shine.
It's not quite the fantastic fitness tracker/sports watch replacement thanks to a lack of water-resistance and the crappy app selection puts it behind the Apple Watch and Android Wear 2.0 in terms of versatility.
However, its strong individual style, intuitive rotating bezel and great battery life mean it's a strong contender – and Samsung's impressive platforms – such as S Health – means strong 3rd 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."
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Best for sporty types
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, offers weather and calendar details with alarming reliability.
It's not a looker, thanks to the 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 eying 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
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 (update to Wear 2.0 slates for the 'spring'), powerful running smarts are placed front and centre, with GPS, with 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 notification, 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, unlike less dedicated devices.
Feature check: Heart rate monitor, GPS, Android Wear 2.0 (coming soon), Polar Flow syncing.
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. When a WhatsApp notification does pop up, or you are offered Sonos music controls, it's almost surprising. 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."
Withings Steel HR
Best hybrid smartwatch
When we talk about smartwatches, we tend to think of full-on OLED screen-toting wrist computers such as the Apple Watch. But there is another way. Withing's hybrid smartwatch uses analogue watch faces – you know with hands and numbers – but pack hidden tech into the case.
And unlike the host of similar hybrids out there – including Fossil's impressive collection – Withings has really crammed in the tech. As well as accelerometer-based step tracking and sleep monitoring, the Steel HR has a heart rate monitor built in, that measures bpm 24/7, reporting useful data such as resting heart rate into the impressive Withings Health app. And it's accurate too, even if daily readings are only read every couple of minutes.
There's also a screen hidden in the face which will display steps and flash up notifications, and there's an impressive 25 days of battery life, before you juice up with the supplied dock.
Feature check: Water resistant to 50m, heart rate monitor, 25 day battery.
Wareable's Withings 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
Yes you read it right, a double winner. When it comes to battery life, smartwatches hardly impress – but Pebble always flew the flag for longevity.
Now, the company has been snapped up by Fitbit, so buying its smartwatches is arguably a terrible idea. Support is finite and the company could turn its servers off at any moment killing its devices dead.
But in spite of that massive caveat, 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, that 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, the Pebble 2 wins on two counts.
Feature check: Heart rate monitor, week long battery, 1,000s 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."
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