The best smartwatch: The top smartwatches to buy in 2017

The top smartwatches on sale from Apple, Android Wear, Samsung, Fitbit and more
The best smartwatches 2017

Buying the best smartwatch isn't as easy as it once was. Sure, the Apple Watch is still the top seller, but there are some great smartwatches from the likes of Fitbit, Samsung and a whole host of brands such as Fossil, Tag Heuer and Huawei all backing Google's Android Wear stable.

Better designs are challenging classic watches, with an ever-expanding range of features not just from the traditional tech brands but from big name fashion companies too.

There are important considerations to be made about your choice of operating system, battery life and fitness options, but wearing a smartwatch is about expressing your personality too.

We've put together the below guide to make the job a bit easier, followed by our current picks for the best smartwatches you can buy right now - and the ones to wait for.

Wareable's best smartwatch 2017

Apple Watch Series 3

The best smartwatch

  • OS: watchOS 4
  • Display: OLED
  • Size: 38mm/42mm
  • Battery: 2 days
  • Water resistance: 50m
  • Heart rate: Yes
  • Connectivity: LTE, GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Works with: iOS

The Apple Watch Series 3 is part smartwatch, part fitness tracker, and a much, much better wearable than what we first got in 2015. It's still far from perfect and Android Wear 2.0 has caught up in terms of features, technology and style, but as far as the overall smartwatch experience goes, Apple is still doing the best work here.

Series 3 is almost identical to the Series 2, but with one key difference: LTE. This is Apple's first cellular smartwatch, letting you cut the invisible tether to take it out sans iPhone and still make/receive calls, get texts and all other notifications you would on your phone. Yes, that's going to hit your battery more if you're not careful; the Watch 3 still gets an average of 18 hours with balanced use, but only one hour of continuous talk time over cellular.

The Series 3, like the 2, is also heavily focused on fitness, with built-in GPS that we've found to be impressively accurate, and 50m waterproofing. It's still not perfect at high-intensity levels, but much better than most of what else is out there. The Series 3 now also tracks elevation, something the Series 2 couldn't, but otherwise this is almost identical as a fitness device.

Health stuff aside, this is also Apple's best "smartwatch", and all more so with the latest watchOS 4 software. Apple has learned how people want to use the wearable on their wrist, and the new operating system means you'll need to spend less time swiping and tapping around - which is a good thing. All of this is packed into a sleeker body than similarly-specced rivals, and features a super bright 1,000-nit display.

That said, the app selection is still too small, the the number of supported apps when using LTE on the watch is extremely limited right now. Apple Music will be coming in October so you'll be able to stream music without your phone, but don't hold out for Spotify getting through Apple's guarded walls.

Apple's end-to-end control might irk some, but it also works in its favor with the Watch. Every single one has Apple Pay, and each software rollout reaches all devices instantly. The only drawback is that the very original Apple Watch cannot do resting heart rate, a new feature Apple has introduced with Series 3 and watchOS 4. What's more, the tight control over hardware and software has allowed Apple to offer a watch experience that feels like it benefits more from a cellular line than any other smartwatch we've used. Do you need the LTE? That will depend on how you use your smartwatch, but we definitely had a few a-ha moments through the day where it made sense - a run, a short trip out of the office, evening an evening out where we weren't tempted to keep checking our phone.

Apple shouldn't rest on its laurels, as fashion brands improve the Android Wear experience and Garmin, Fitbit et al start encroaching more on the smartwatch space, but for the time being Apple has the best around.

Feature check: GPS, swimming friendly, Apple Pay, 2 day battery, heart rate monitor.

From $329 without LTE, $399 with LTE, apple.com | Amazon

Highly commended

Samsung Gear S3

Best smartwatch 2017: Apple, Android Wear, Samsung and more

  • OS: Tizen
  • Display: Super AMOLED (360 x 360)
  • Size: 46mm
  • Battery: 380mAh, 4 days
  • Water resistance: IP68
  • Heart rate: Yes
  • Connectivity: GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Works with: iOS, Android

Compatible with Android and iOS, Samsung is surprisingly open-minded with its selection of supported smartphones with the Gear S3, but it very much works to its favor.

The Gear S3 is an improvement on the Gear S2 in all ways but one: the design. Or at least we think so; you might disagree and prefer that bigger, bunkier look. While it might look more like a classic watch than the S2, it's also much bigger - 46mm wide.

However that larger body affords it a screen where Tizen can really shine, and a bigger battery, from which we've managed to squeeze an average of three days from - much better than anything in the Android Wear stable or from the Apple Watch. Like the Apple Watch, Samsung treads between smartwatch and fitness tracker, also packing in a heart rate sensor along with that GPS and its much-improved Samsung Health software. There's the option of LTE too if you wish for an untethered connection, with a standalone speaker for taking calls on the watch.

It's not quite the ultimate fitness all-in-one thanks to a lack of proper waterproofing, which makes swimming out of the question (check out the Samsung Gear Sport further down for that), while the poor app selection puts it behind the Apple Watch and Android Wear 2.0 in terms of versatility too. New apps from Under Armour along with the only Spotify smartwatch app to provide offline playback make it a much more compelling proposition, and thankfully Samsung's own software means third-party apps aren't as essential for a fulfilling experience as they are on some other watches.

Strong individual style, the intuitive rotating bezel and great battery life mean it's keeping ahead of anything from Android Wear in our list currently. Does that make it the best smartwatch for Android users? That depends on what you value, and the size alone means we can't say this is the number one choice for Androiders, but it's definitely one of our faves.

Feature check: GPS, Samsung Pay, Tizen, heart rate monitor.

From $349, samsung.com | Amazon

Best Android Wear smartwatch 2017

LG Watch Sport

the top smartwatches

  • 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
  • Works with: Android, iOS

The flagship model for Android Wear 2.0, the LG Watch Sport guns straight for the Apple Watch and Samsung's Gear S3. We first reviewed it at the start of 2017, but even now, the end of the year in sight, it still feels like the best on balance.

With GPS, LTE and NFC for Android Pay on board, the LG Watch Sport is more rounded than its sibling, the LG Watch Style, and comes running the new and improved Android Wear 2.0. The screen really impresses, and the 1.38-inch, 480 x 480 OLED display uses its 348ppi to best the Apple Watch Series 3.

Beyond outdoor workouts like running, it can keep track of reps in the gym, which is a surprising and welcome addition, and it'll track heart rate in all your activities. However, it's only water resistant to 1.5 metres for 30 mins, which makes it unsuitable for swimming.

It's also very bulky. 46mm wide might not sound like much, but then you have the depth, and there's a lot of it here. In fact, if we had to pick one criticism of the Watch Sport it's that it crams so much in, it does so to its detriment. The size will be too overbearing for many, and 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.

Alternatively, the Michael Kors Access Grayson is the next-strongest Android Wear smartwatch we'd recommend, and only fails to oust the LG Watch Sport due to its lack of NFC and any sports features. If those things aren't important to you, we'd advise looking to the Grayson instead.

Feature check: GPS, LTE, NFC, Android Pay, heart rate monitor.

$349, lg.com | Amazon

Best smartwatch for gym and sports

Garmin Vivoactive 3

Best smartwatch 2017: The top smartwatches to buy right now

  • OS: N/A
  • Display: LCD (240 x 240)
  • Size: 43mm width
  • Battery: 7 days
  • Water resistance: 50m
  • Heart rate: Yes
  • Connectivity: GPS, Bluetooth
  • Works with: iOS and Android

The Garmin Vivoactive HR was for a very long time our go-to smartwatch for sports lovers. Running, cycling, swimming, golf - Garmin's smartwatch had you well and truly covered.

In the Vivoactive 3, you'll be getting more of the same, albeit with a more attractive circular watch design and features that make it more of an Apple Watch, Samsung Gear or Fitbit Ionic rival than before.

We have to start off with the new look, which is a welcome change from the blocky builds of the previous Vivo smartwatches. The 240 x 240 pixel display at the heart of the body is by no means the brightest or vibrant you'll find, but crucially delivers strong visibility in most workout conditions whether you're sweating it out indoors or outside.

As far as the number of sports available to track, it's more of the same. Heart rate monitoring is decent if not class-leading, and it won't keep you waiting around for a GPS signal. There's now also rep counting for weight lifters and all the stress tracking goodies from Garmin's fitness trackers, too.

When it comes to connected smarts, there's notification support, but you can only act on those notifications with pre-set responses if you're an Android user. There's no onboard music storage support, but you can control music playback from your phone. So you can't entirely do away with your phone if you need some audio accompaniment for your workouts. It also has Garmin Pay, but it's still in the process of rolling out, so we can't say how well it works right now.

As sporty smartwatches go, this is the best in our eyes, and builds on all the good work Garmin did with its previous iterations. Yes, there's still a few things to sort out, but we are definitely big fans of what the Vivoactive 3 has to offer.

Feature check: GPS/GLONASS, heart rate monitor, dedicated sports modes including swimming, Garmin Pay, heart rate monitor.

$299.99, garmin.com | Amazon

Best smartwatch for fitness tracking

Fitbit Ionic

Best smartwatch 2017: Apple, Android Wear, Samsung and more

  • OS: Fitbit OS
  • Display: LCD (348 by 250)
  • Size: 38mm width
  • Battery: 5 days
  • Water resistance: 50m
  • Heart rate: Yes
  • Connectivity: GPS, Bluetooth
  • Works with: iOS, Android, Windows 10 Mobile

In the Ionic, Fitbit is finally delivering its first smartwatch, but perhaps more importantly to some, this is its best fitness tracker too. Running, biking, swimming, weight lifting - the Ionic has algorithms for tracking a range of different workouts, and in our testing it's proven to be impressively versatile.

Fitbit says the Ionic's GPS is better than anything else on the market, and we have to say it performed admirably in testing, while the four-plus days of battery life mean you won't be taking it off your wrist as much as any of the smartwatches above.

Heart rate testing proved a little uneven in our trials, but Fitbit has a good history of tweaking its algorithms through updates in the past, and we're hoping it can nix some of the problems we've come across. Generally though, HR has proven decent in our experience so far.

The Ionic supports mobile payments and features the ability to transfer and play your own music, which is a notable omission from Garmin's sporty smartwatch. The Ionic is now available, though we hope to see more third-party apps to add the currently meagre selection, and some improvements to the heart rate tracking.

The new relative SpO2 sensor also means Fitbit will be able to track sleep apnea one day, and having that insight into blood oxygen levels could one day open up other insights too, which others here aren't capable of.

The Ionic doesn't have the option of a cellular connection, however, so you won't get the standalone functionality you get with the Apple Watch Series 3 or the Samsung Gear S3. As to whether this is a bad thing or not, it depends if you class LTE as a feature or an excess.

Overall, some blemishes aside, the Ionic is a decent smartwatch that Fitbit fans and fitness trackers will really appreciate. Fitbit knows fitness, and it's not half-assing this that's for sure.

Feature check: GPS, heart rate monitor, onboard music, dedicated sports modes, Fitbit Pay.

$299.95, fitbit.com | Amazon

Best smartwatch for music lovers

Samsung Gear Sport

Best smartwatch 2017: The top smartwatches to buy right now

  • OS: Tizen
  • Display: Super AMOLED (360 x 360)
  • Size: 43mm
  • Battery: 300mAh, 3-4 days
  • Water resistance: 5ATM
  • Heart rate: Yes
  • Connectivity: GPS, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Works with: iOS, Android

Okay, so you might be wondering why we are picking out the music support on a smartwatch that's undeniably all about its sports tracking credentials, but stick with us.

The Gear Sport is the successor to the Gear S2 as opposed to the Gear S3, which does also offer similar music playback support, but we think the smaller frame makes it a more suitable workout partner than the bigger S3.

When we talk about music support we are of course talking about Spotify. So along with being able to transfer music via Samsung's Gear Manager as you can on other Gear watches, you can also transfer over Spotify playlists with 4GB of storage to play with. So that's about 500 songs.

We should talk about its sports features as well, which we found do a decent job, whether you're putting the GPS to use for running or cycling or using it as a fitness tracker. The big new addition is the waterproof design, which also brings swim tracking to the fore thanks to partnership with Speedo and its Speedo On app. We didn't have the greatest pool experience with it, but we hope that's something that can be rectified with a software update.

Tizen runs the software show, which means you still get that slick UI experience, but there's still a distinct lack of apps. Big names like Under Armour are present, but if you are hoping for a storefront to match what Apple can offer, then you're out of luck.

The drop down in size from the Gear S3 does mean it can't match the bigger Gear for battery life, but it'll still get you through a three to four days before you need to reach for that charger. If you love Spotify and you want a smartwatch with solid sports tracking features, then this could well be the one for you.

Feature check: Heart rate monitor, GPS, swim tracking, water resistant up to 50 metres, Samsung Pay.

$299.99, samsung.com | Amazon

Best smartwatch for runners

Polar M600

Best smart watch

  • 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, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
  • Works with: Android, iOS

While the Vivoactive 3 is a strong 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. You're essentially getting the best of both worlds here, and even better now that Android Wear 2.0 is running on the watch. Wear 2.0 is a vast improvement on Google's software, but too often it's let down by the hardware, especially when it comes to fitness.

The Polar M600 breaks the mould in that respect, and remains one of our favourites for running and hitting the gym. GPS tracking proved very accurate in testing, though the Ionic delivers a little better in the department. Where is does impress is with heart rate where it kept nice and close to chest-strap readings in our runs.

However, the big let down if you couldn't already tell is the bland design, giving the look of a fitness tracker more than a smartwatch, so if you want something that you'll be proud to show off on your wrist, this one might not be for you. If you're not too fussed about that, this is a stellar choice for runners.

Feature check: Heart rate monitor, GPS, Android Wear 2.0, Polar Flow syncing, water resistant to 10m.

$329.95, polar.com | Amazon

Best smartwatch for under $100

Pebble 2

Best smartwatches

  • OS: PebbleOS
  • Display: e-paper (144 x 168)
  • Size: 40mm
  • Battery: 1 week
  • Water resistance: 30m
  • Heart rate: Yes
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi
  • Works with: iOS, Android

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.

Pebble's watch is smartphone agnostic, meaning you'll get the same experience on both Android and iOS. It's important to mention that, because even with Android Wear 2.0, iOS users must still make some concessions. With the Pebble, you needn't worry about that.

The Pebble 2 is not a great looking smartwatch, but it's a cult hero thanks to a lively ecosystem of apps and watch faces, and low-power e-paper that will run you for a week before needing a recharge.

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. The monitor isn't amazing in accuracy when it's pushed during workouts, but it's not terrible either, and you also have the benefit of resting heart rate being tracked through the day - something the Apple Watch has only just caught up on.

There are also tonnes of those mentioned apps to play with while the Timeline interface, a sort-of Google Calendar, is pretty useful. If you're dipping a toe into smartwatch waters for the first time but are fearful of not liking it, the Pebble 2 is an affordable entry point. Who knows, you might end up falling in love.

Feature check: Heart rate monitor, week-long battery, thousands of Pebble apps.

$99.99, pebble.com | Amazon

Best smartwatch money-no-object

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45

Best smartwatch 2017

  • 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
  • Works with: Android, iOS

Tag's Android Wear second-coming is all about customization. Available with titanium, ceramic and 18K rose gold finishes, you can even change the smart part for a traditional mechanical Tag module, such as the Calibre 5 or the chronograph Tourbillon Heuer 02-T. You're free to swap out the lugs, the straps and even the buckle too.

In all, Tag says there are 56 different versions available, making it the most modular Android Wear watch around. What also makes it notable is the inclusion of GPS and 50m water resistance, two fitness features that other fashion-forward Android Wear watches often miss.

In testing that GPS fared well against the TomTom Spark 3, too. The inclusion of NFC for Android Pay also works to its credit, however you're still only getting the average 1.5 days of battery life.

That last one makes the cost a little harder to bear; the Tag starts at $1,550 and moves up depending on your choice of materials.

We've seen a lot of beautiful Android Wear smartwatches this year, many of them coming out Fossil's door, and while we certainly rate the Tag on looks, you may also want to look in the direction of something like the Michael Kors Access Grayson or the Fossil x Cory Richards. If you're happy to pay a lot more, there's the Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon and the Movado Connect to consider too.

Feature check: GPS, Android Pay, 50m water resistance.

From $1,550, tagheuer.com



11 Comments

  • CZ16 says:

    Gear S2 or LG Watch Style ?

  • CZ16 says:

    Lg watch style or Gear S2 ?

  • SchulieBug says:

    Why not added the Garmin Fenix 3/5 to the test. A bit pricy but with all the desired features anyone can seek for!

    • j.stables says:

      Waiting to try it out before we recommend

  • AjA says:

    The Polar M 600 smartwatch is waterproof to 10 meters and this should be mentioned in the feature check. ie Swimmer friendly.

    • j.stables says:

      Fair point and added. Thanks

  • Sleekguy says:

    Regarding battery life you say in text that Apple Watch 3 has on average 18 hours but in summary you say 2 days. For Samsung Gear S3 you say battery life on average 3 days but in summary you say 1,5 days.

  • OnkelPer says:

    A smartwatch that don't interface with all the most used wearable OS-systems can't be among  "the best smartwatches in the world"

  • Nathanielyang says:

    erm. Did you know that both the Gear S3 Classic and Frontier comes with IP68 ratings? So how come your review says they lack water resistance?!

    • m.sawh says:

      We are aware of that. It should've said waterproofing. We have amended.

  • Greg_Samways says:

    I read lots of articles like this before deciding to get an Ionic.

    Nowhere did anybody mention any of the compatibility issues with many makes of phone or all the problems with syncing, even with Windows 10.

    Wouldn't it be useful to warn consumers of the pitfalls, instead of waxing lyrical about the things that only work in a perfect world?

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