The right smartwatches for Canadians to buy in 2020
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With a good smartwatch strapped to your wrist, there’s no end to what you can do: communicating with friends, navigating the streets, playing music, paying for your groceries, and enjoying on-screen coaching for workouts is just a tap or swipe away. They can even tell the time!
Need help deciding on the right one for you? We tested a number of smartwatches at our labs in the U.S., and here’s what we found with some of the ones you can get in Canada, right now.
1. Perfect for iPhone Users: Apple Watch Series 6
The Series 6 Watch offers a range of features combined with an understated design that makes it just about the best smartwatch money can buy. The Series 6’s OLED touchscreen is brilliant and easy to use while its Digital Crown—a circular dial on the side of the Apple Watch that looks like the crown on mechanical watches—can be rotated and pressed in to navigate menus and summon Siri, giving you precise control. The watch is waterproof so you can confidently wear it while swimming, showering, or washing the dishes. With two case sizes (40 and 44mm) and a wide variety of bands and finishes to choose from, as well as the option for LTE connectivity, there's an Apple Watch Series 6 for just about everyone.
The Series 6 offers a top-notch apps experience. And, with 32GB of storage to hold those apps, along with downloaded music and podcasts, you’ll never find yourself short of entertainment or things to do. Its intuitive touchscreen interface allows users to easily track their fitness, handle phone calls and messages, provide access to calendar events, and so much more.
In addition to the typical fitness tracking, including steps and active minutes, it can track additional health data like heart rate and features fall detection, menstrual cycle tracking, blood oxygen monitoring, and, for the first time built into an Apple Watch, sleep tracking. What’s more, if you run, bike, row or hike to stay fit, the Series 6 comes with built-in GPS, making it possible to track your route without bringing your iPhone with you.
The only downside this smartwatch is that Android users need not apply: The Apple Watch Series 6 works exclusively with iPhone handsets.
2. Ideal for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Compatible with Android or iOS handsets, available in two sizes (40 and 44mm) along with a variety of bands and finish options, the Galaxy Watch Active 2’s battery can power it through up to two or three days of wear, depending on how you use it.
The Active 2 boasts a sleek, water-resistant design with a gorgeous AMOLED screen that is visible in both dark and sunlit environments. Its touch-sensitive bezel and two-buttons interface make it easy to navigate the watch’s various menus.
While it can’t match the massive number of apps available to Apple Watch users, enough applications are available for it to keep most users happy. Right out of the box, you’ll be able to enjoy phone notifications, music on the go, voice assistance through Bixby and built-in GPS,
Looking to get fit and track your health and wellness? Active 2 offers detailed fitness tracking, heart rate tracking, and menstrual cycle tracking. ECG and blood pressure monitoring are coming with a future software update to provide even more insight into your well-being. It's a great smartwatch for fitness tracking that provides reminders to be active and even a bit of coaching.
We were, however, frustrated with how many hoops we had to jump through in order to get the Active 2 paired and working properly with an iPhone. iOS users can expect to download a number of apps from Samsung if they want to do more with this watch than keep track of what time it is.
3. A less expensive Apple Watch: Apple Watch SE
If the price of the Apple Watch Series 6 is too rich for your blood, consider the Apple Watch SE as an alternative.
Available in 40 and 44mm sizes, the SE’s body is made using lightweight aluminum—an option that’s also available to Apple Watch Series 6 users. It doesn't have an always-on display, which we missed when raising a wrist to have a quick glance at the time or fitness data, but for the price, it’s a shortcoming we’re happy to live with. When the display is on, you’ll find it bright and legible, in most environments.
It pairs just as easily with an iPhone as its sibling, the Series 6, does. Optional LTE connectivity is available and, it’s powered by the same processor used in the Apple Watch Series 5, you’ll find it speedy and enjoyable to use. As with all of Apple’s smartwatches, Apple Watch SE offers access to a glut of apps that allow their owners to customize their user experience. Right out of the box, you’ll be able to use it to help find your misplaced iPhone, trigger your handset’s camera shutter, send and receive messages, make and take calls, and more.
From a fitness and health perspective, you can do most of the same things you can do with the Series 6 watch, including track fitness, heart rate tracking, GPS, fall detection, and sleep tracking. However, the SE doesn't provide ECG or blood oxygen monitoring.
Keep in mind that, like all Apple Watches, the Apple Watch SE doesn’t work with Android phones. However, if you own an iPhone and want a companion smartwatch, the SE’s affordable price tag makes this the best value option in the Apple Watch line-up.
4. A fashionable option: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
More suited to wear for a night out on the town than a trip to the gym, the Galaxy Watch 3 sports a classy and elegant design with a stainless-steel body, choice of bands, physical rotating bezel, and two side buttons. As for battery life, the Galaxy Watch 3 can run for up to two days, per charge.
Don’t be fooled by the dressier design as this watch still functions as a fantastic fitness tracker that can track workouts, automatically recognize certain exercises, provide on-screen coaching, and log sleep. Advanced features like blood oxygen monitoring and ECG, however, are not yet available outside of Korea.
If you prefer this stylish design to the sportier Active 2, it might be worth the extra dough. Otherwise, you're better off going with the Watch Active 2, which offers an almost identical feature set at a lower price.
5. A Google WearOS option: Skagen Falster 3
Employing a minimalist Scandinavian design with a large display, the Skagen Falster 3 fits in just as well at the gym as it does down at your local pub.
Made by the Fossil Group, the Falster 3 runs on Google’s WearOS operating system. You should know that WearOS doesn’t offer the smoothest user experience—it can get flaky at times. However, having access to Google's full suite of apps, including Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Pay, and Google Keep, make the OS’s rough edges a little easier to overlook. Additionally, you can download third-party apps, and make and take phone calls right from your wrist.
The Falster 3 offers very basic fitness tracking without much in the way of health insights, and no sleep tracking. The biggest downside to this smartwatch is its battery life: it needs to be charged, nightly.
6. For Athletes: Garmin Venu
For those who are serious about physical training, the Garmin Venu is an excellent option.
While it’s not the smartest smartwatch out there—you can’t make calls or interact with a voice assistant with it—as a fitness tracker, it’s tough to beat. The Venu tracks pretty much every aspect of a workout an athlete could hope for. With its companion app, available to both Android and iOS users, you’ll be able to track your daily activities, heart rate, sleep and workouts both on the spot and over time. Garmin’s companion app offers detailed charts of progress along with factors like respiration, track hydration, and even a "body battery" score that helps you decide if you need to push yourself further to achieve your fitness goals. We found its battery life to be amazing: you'll easily get at least three days between charges, and with the right settings, you can even push it to five.
But what is most impressive is that it's really lightweight and super comfortable. At times, it was easy to forget we were even wearing it.
7. Great for General Fitness: Fitbit Versa 2
If you're simply looking to monitor your physical activity and stay motivated to live a healthier lifestyle, the Fitbit Versa 2 is a great choice.
With its chunky, square design might not be for everyone, it's really comfortable to wear for long periods of time, which is a good thing since it lasts several days per charge. The Versa 2 displays smartphone notifications and supports a ton of apps, including Spotify for music, Strava to track your exercise and Starbucks for regaining all of the calories you just finished burning off. But the experience isn't as seamless as with some of the other devices. It also supports Amazon Alexa voice assistance. Simply press and hold the Versa 2’s side button to summon her.
Where health and fitness are concerned, it tracks just about every fitness and health metric under the sun, including heart rate, oxygen variation, and even water and food intake (although you’ll have to log those yourself. Fitbit is also known for its detailed sleep tracking and data. When worn to bed, the Versa 2 can not only highlight your sleep duration but also the quality of sleep, and stages, and gives you a nightly sleep score.
That said, this smartwatch doesn’t have GPS, which means if you want to track your route on a run or bike ride, you'll have to bring your phone with you.
8. A smartwatch with rugged good looks: Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 2020
This watch has a neat display overtop its main AMOLED screen showing just basic details like the time, date, and step count at a glance when you raise your wrist. The main AMOLED screen doesn’t wake up until you want to see more, thus conserving battery life. It’s pretty big and heavy, harkening back to those classic Casio G-Shock exercise watches. with a raised rim around the screen and two buttons that protrude from the side. It also has an IP68 water- and dust-proof rating.
Mobvoi augments the WearOS platform with its own activity and sleep tracking and health apps, offering a decent alternative to Google Fit. However, there are some language translation mistakes within these apps that make them less enjoyable to use. Thankfully, With Goggle suite of WearOS apps at your finger tips, using or ignoring what Mobvoi has to offer won’t leave you wishing for more.
If you're fine with the more rugged, outdoorsy design of this watch and want to stick within the WearOS camp, it's worth considering.
9. A smartwatch with an unbeatable battery: AmazFit GTS
The AmazFit GTS' 14-day battery life is really hard to beat. However, in order to achieve this long battery life AmazFit needed to cut a few corners.
The GTS is s a basic smartwatch that can’t rival the premium feature offered by the other devices in this guide. While it may look like an Apple Watch, the GTS’s build quality leaves a lot to be desired, by comparison—our review sample’s face was chipping after a week of testing. That said, we did like it’s bright AMOLED display and waterproof housing.
The GTS’ set-up was the worst out-of-the-box experience of all the smartwatches we tested for this guide. Even once the watch is up and running, you’ll find that it’s OS and apps are confusing. Additionally, it proved less than reliable at relaying calls and message notifications from our smartphone. Did we mention that there's no third-party app support? Well, there isn’’t: no Spotify or Google Maps for you.
The GTS keeps track of a number of detailed fitness metrics, including heart rate and detailed sleep tracking. Its Personal Activity Intelligence functionality helps to motivate you to do enough activity to reduce your risk of heart disease or other health-related issues. However, we were sometimes skeptical as to the accuracy of its step counting.
If you're really looking to save money and want something you don’t have to charge often, the AmazFit might be worth it. Otherwise, it’s worth saving up for something else.