Smartwatches are very much a mainstream tech category now, and with 35 million expected to be bought by the end of 2018, there are many contenders for the crown of best smartwatch.
With strong options from Apple, Fitbit, Samsung, Fossil, Tag Heuer, Garmin, Huawei and LG, choosing the best one is tougher than ever.
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So, whether you're looking for a top fitness smartwatch, the best smartwatch for your iPhone, the pick of the Wear OS bunch, or simply a good smartwatch for less than $200, we have the current best picks and upcoming smartwatches to look out for.
Got any questions about smartwatches or our selections? Let us know in the comments section below.
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The best smartwatch you can buy now
Apple Watch Series 4
Part smartwatch, part fitness tracker, and a much, much better wearable than what we first got in 2015, the Apple Watch Series 4 is still far from perfect and Wear has caught up in terms of style. But as far as the overall smartwatch experience goes, Apple is still doing the best work here.
Apple's latest Watch addition gives us the most dramatic design change since the original, bringing new 40mm and 44mm sizes (in comparison to 38mm and 42mm). That means more space to show off all the latest software features introduced in watchOS 5.
It has all the same core fitness and sports tracking as the Series 3, including built-in GPS and a swimproof design. You can also expect improvements in run tracking and new supported activities like yoga and hiking. It comes packing LTE once again so you can take it out sans iPhone and still make/receive calls, get texts and all other notifications you would on your phone. A new speaker should also make Siri chats and phone calls sound louder and clearer.
The headline features are the new ECG monitor that unlocks the ability for serious heart health monitoring. It's been FDA cleared, so the feature can be used to detect heart rhythm irregularities ‚Äď however, it's only going to be supported in the US for now. There's also a new fall detection mode that can let users access Siri to contact emergency services or a emergency contact. Apple's new smartwatch offers groundbreaking features and an improved design that makes it the standout option for iPhone owners right now.
With the Ionic, Fitbit finally delivered us its first smartwatch, but perhaps more importantly to some, its best fitness tracker, too. Running, biking, swimming, weightlifting ‚Äď 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 the smartwatch above.
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 4 or the Samsung Galaxy Watch, for instance. 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 phoning it in here, that's for sure.
The Fitbit Versa is the company's second smartwatch and, along with a change in design direction, it's crucially available at a more affordable price than the Ionic.
The Fitbit Blaze replacement looks more Pebble than the first Fitbit smartwatch, coming in a host of different finishes and with a big collection of bands to mix up the look.
It promises all of the same fitness and sports tracking features as the Ionic, though the big omission here is the lack of GPS. If you want to track runs and rides, you'll need to have your smartphone with you.
Fitbit OS 2.0 brings a new-look UI that offers more insights into your daily data and quick reply support for messages for Android phone users (iOS support coming at a later date). You can still download apps and a whole lot of watch faces, pay from your wrist using Fitbit Pay and tap into Fitbit Coach, while new women's health tracking has also been introduced for the first time, which is also available for the Ionic, too.
It's the best all-round Fitbit smartwatch so far and if you are not bothered about the lack of built-in GPS, we think you're going to like it a lot.
Best smartwatch choices
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The best Wear smartwatch
LG Watch Sport
Now we should say, there is a new wave of Wear smartwatches on the way, ones that feature slimmer, waterproof designs with features like heart rate, GPS and NFC for Google Pay. But a lot of those aren't available yet, or we're still in the process of testing.
So if you want a Wear watch that offers the all of those things right now, including LTE to ditch that smartphone, the LG Watch Sport is still among the very few that can deliver it all.
It's getting a little on the old side and a little more difficult to get hold of, but if you can grab it, you'll get GPS, LTE and NFC support ‚Äď the holy trinity. The 1.38-inch screen it's packing is still one of the best in the business, too.
Beyond outdoor workouts like running, it can keep track of reps in the gym 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. Sitting at 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, but the pay-off in size means that most of the great features of the Watch Sport have been discarded.
Samsung Galaxy Watch
The Samsung Galaxy Watch is the successor to the Gear S3 and is our pick of the best Samsung smartwatch you can get on your wrist right now.
Compatible with Android and iOS, it now comes in both 42mm and 46mm models. So you can consider it a replacement for the Gear Sport, too.
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 also the option of LTE (coming soon), if you wish for an untethered connection, with a standalone speaker for taking calls on the watch. It's now waterproof, too, adding swim tracking skills that are on par with the Watch Series 4.
It's running on Tizen OS 4.0 and feels like a better alternative to Google's Wear OS right now. You still get that rotating bezel and one of the best displays you can find on a smartwatch.
Battery life, we should say, is also solid, getting you 2-3 days on the 42mm model and more on the 46mm version. If you're not a fan of Wear and don't want an Apple Watch, this is the top option to consider instead.
Fossil Q Venture HR
Fossil Group may be holding the umbrella over a bunch of fashion houses producing smartwatches, but that doesn't mean it's not competing in the arena itself. And with its fourth-generation smartwatches, it's produced perhaps the most attractive smartwatch on the market, from a fashion perspective.
Sharing some similarities with the older Michael Kors Access Sofie (our previous best fashion watch pick), the Fossil Q Venture HR wants to stand out, and fans of a more dressy watch will probably find it a better fit than those who like to keep their wrist wear understated.
Fossil is still keeping screen resolution and other specs under wraps, but we do know this generation (which includes the men's Fossil Q Explorist HR) is the most feature-packed we've seen from the company. Building on the design improvements of the third-gen devices, which saw the flat tyre removed and a slimmer form factor, the Q Venture HR now also harbours some serious tech under the bezel.
There's now a heart rate monitor, as the name suggests, for tracking beats throughout the day and during exercise, a GPS monitor to keep up with your workouts and an NFC chip to enable Google Pay. Add to that the ability to take this underwater up to 50 metres, all on the top of the refreshed Wear OS, and it all rounds out as a very complete smartwatch experience.
Latest Wear smartwatch reviews
- Michael Kors Access RunwayFashion-focused and packed full of features
- Fossil Q Explorist HR reviewOne of the best looking Wear smartwatches gets a big features bump
- Fossil Q Venture HR reviewA stylish, everyday Wear watch that gets some welcome new features
- TicWatch ProTicwatch gets high end with its first dual-screen Wear smartwatch
- Michael Kors Access SofieA girls' girl smartwatch that's not afraid to show it
These new features aren't necessarily what we would want from a fashion-first watch, but the fact that they're inside does no harm, and bolsters the device in the eyes of fitness fanatics. Just make sure you pick up a couple of extra bands, since running with a leather or metal version of the Venture HR won't be the most comfortable.
And luckily, if this one isn't quite to your taste, the unisex Skagen Falster 2 is a close runner-up in the looks category, as is the women's fourth-gen Michael Kors Access Runway. Also worth a look is the Tag Heuer Modular 41, another great looking Wear smartwatch.
Garmin Forerunner 645 Music
Garmin has been putting out go-to smartwatches for sports lovers for a while now. Running, cycling, swimming, golf ‚Äď Garmin has had us well and truly covered. Despite the Forerunner name, the 645 Music is more in the mould of the Vivoactive 3 Music. It's got a similar look and also brings the music this time. This helps make the Garmin more of a smartwatch rival to the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear or Fitbit Ionic than before.
Not only are you getting enough storage for 500 songs, but you're getting the offline playlist support for Spotify, Deezer and iHeartRadio. For transferring your own tracks, boot up Garmin Express on your computer, select the Music tab and choose from your own music to port over.
That same attractive stainless steel design is here. The 240 x 240 pixel display at the heart of the body is by no means the brightest or most vibrant you'll find, but crucially delivers strong visibility in most workout conditions, whether you're sweating it out indoors or outside. However, there is no touchscreen or touchpad here, so you'll have to resort to pressing some buttons ‚Äď that could be a deal-breaker for some, but we're sure it won't be a massive one for most.
As far as the number of sports available to track: while it's more of the same, there are some notable exclusions ‚Äď like golf tracking and open water swimming (pool swimming is there though). Heart rate monitoring is decent if not class-leading, and it won't keep you waiting around for a GPS signal. There's also all the stress tracking goodies from Garmin's fitness trackers. As multi-sport smartwatches go, this is the best in our eyes, and builds on all the good work Garmin did with its previous iterations.
Garmin Vivomove HR
If you want a fantastic blend of design and smarts, then the Vivomove HR is your best bet ‚Äď it's our choice for the best hybrid smartwatch you can buy right now.
The Vivomove HR offers watch designs for both men and women, adding a discreet display that only appears when you tap on the watch face. And it's waterproof up to 50 metres, so you can take it for a dip, too.
On that nicely disguised display, you'll be able to see fitness tracking data, check in on your heart rate readings, view your smartphone notifications and even check on your stress levels. It's essentially the Garmin Vivosport fitness tracker, minus the built-in GPS and in a much sleeker and more stylish body.
Battery life is two weeks in watch mode and five days when you're taking full advantage of the smartwatch features. On the whole, it's a winner ‚Äď quite literally; it picked up the best hybrid watch award at the 2017 Wareable Tech Awards.
New smartwatches incoming‚Ä¶
That's right, it's smartwatch season, and more touchscreen and hybrid smartwatches are on the horizon. Here's a taster of what to look forward to and what we have confirmed is launching before 2018 is done.
On the Wear front, there's still quite a few that are launching over the coming months. We've got the new Diesel On Full Guard 2.5, the feature-packed Skagen Falster 2, the Emporio Armani Connected 2018, the Misfit Vapor 2 and Tory Burch ToryTrack Gigi.
Outside of the Fossil Group, we're waiting for the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 and the Montblanc Summit 2 has just landed. The Summit 2 is the first smartwatch to run on Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 3100 processor, which aims to make a raft of improvements including beefing up the battery life. It's also expected to be joined by a new Louis Vuitton smartwatch, which will run on that new Snapdragon chip.
All in all, there's plenty to look forward to, and you can bet there'll be plenty more announcements in the new year.
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