How we test: Smartwatches

We reveal our testing processes for smartwatch reviews
Wareable Wareable testing process
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At Wareable we pride ourselves on the thoroughness of our testing processes.

To provide clarity for our readers about how smartwatches are reviewed and scored, we’ve formalized our testing processes so you can understand exactly what goes on.

We’ve reviewed pretty much every smartwatch that’s been released in Western markets since 2014, so we have an unrivaled understanding of how each device compares.

Read on for an explanation of how we rate and grade each smartwatch, and read our full selection of smartwatch reviews.

Design and weight

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we’re not here to make judgments on whether something suits every person. But we will cast our eye over the materials and general appearance, and take candid review photography so you can make decisions yourself.

However, we will weigh in on wearability. This is how comfortable a smartwatch is to wear, and whether it’s suited to different wrist sizes. We also compare the straps for quality and comfort.

Screen quality

We’ll compare screen quality to the best on the market, how easy it is to read and in different lights, and while working out. We also balance that with battery life and cost.

We live with smartwatches 24/7, and we use them as our own.

Battery life

We record the battery life of several cycles, to see the real-world usage you can expect, and turn on all the settings for a full and proper experience.

We also take the smartwatch for several hour-long runs and estimate how much longevity you can expect when using the GPS.

Finally, we test how long it takes to charge back up.

GPS accuracy

We take each smartwatch on several hour-long runs, on known routes. We also wear a Garmin or Apple Watch Ultra as a control device.

We then check the route using GPS Visualizer to look for excessive wandering when in built-up areas or with tree cover.

Heart rate accuracy

We look for real-world heart rate accuracy by working out with a smartwatch with a heart rate monitor chest strap at the same time.

While chest straps are not the absolute gold standard, it’s reasonable to expect that steady tempo workouts recorded with the optical heart rate sensor, should resemble a chest strap.

We compare the smartwatch and chest strap data in real-time during a run, and then look at average HR and max HR afterward to see how they stack up.

Sleep tracking accuracy

Sleep tracking is tough to track without a sleep lab, especially things like REM cycles and deep sleep.

But we test the sleep duration tracked against top performers such as Whoop, Oura, or Fitbit, which are excellent at discounting restlessness from your sleep duration for a true picture of your sleep quality.

This is good ensuring you're making assumptions about your sleep quality that are actually true.

We also assess how good the sleep-tracking features are at promoting better habits.

Sleep trackers often overestimate sleep duration, but if they're good at identifying issues such as poor bedtime consistency, or excessive restlessness, they can still add value.

We help identify not only the quality of the raw data, but how it is analyzed and presented, which is just as important.

Health stats accuracy

We always have a Whoop, Oura, or Fitbit in place, which all have established our baseline data – so is well set to compare metrics from review smartwatches.

We look for any obvious deviations in terms of heart rate, heart rate variability, stress scores, as well as resting heart rate, step counting, and active minutes.

This enables us to check that the data being recorded is sound – as many smartwatches will use these as basis for features like stress tracking.

We're also tuned into our personal stats such as VO2 Max – so we can spot dodgy data a mile off.

Scoring and verdict

We then mark a smartwatch out of 10, using a star rating system with half stars offered.

These scores are a mix of the following criteria:

  • Value for money
  • Features
  • Performance
  • Total score out of 10

Each criterion is weighted equally, so a product could receive a high score for providing excellent value for money, while another could be awarded the same for best-in-class features at a high price point.

We will use our experience in the wider wearables market to ascertain value for money, with our extensive back catalog of reviews as a reference.

Any product scoring over 4 stars will receive a Wareable Recommended badge.

TAGGED Wearables

How we test

James Stables


James is the co-founder of Wareable, and he has been a technology journalist for 15 years.

He started his career at Future Publishing, James became the features editor of T3 Magazine and and was a regular contributor to TechRadar – before leaving Future Publishing to found Wareable in 2014.

James has been at the helm of Wareable since 2014 and has become one of the leading experts in wearable technologies globally. He has reviewed, tested, and covered pretty much every wearable on the market, and is passionate about the evolving industry, and wearables helping people achieve healthier and happier lives.

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