With the rise of smartwatches, the tech industry brought all kinds of functionality to our wrists. We can stay in touch with people, pay for things, track our fitness activities, and a whole lot more without having to pull our phones from our pockets. The best technology enhances our lives without intruding too much, and smartwatches are a perfect example.
After extensively testing the best smartwatches currently available, we can say with confidence that the Apple Watch Series 6(available at Amazon for $414.98) is the best smartwatch you can buy. Sadly, it requires an iPhone to partner with. Android phone owners will want to look at our runner-up and the best choice for people using Android right now, Samsung's Galaxy Watch Active 2 (available at Amazon). But we also ranked several other good alternatives for your consideration, including Apple's value-packed SE.
These are the best smartwatches we tested, ranked in order:
Apple Watch Series 6
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Apple Watch SE
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR
Skagen Falster 3
Fitbit Versa 2
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro (2020)
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With a wide range of features, an understated design, and no major weaknesses the Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch you can buy. It can track your fitness, provide insights into your health, handle phone calls and messaging, help you navigate or listen to music, and ensure you stay on top of your schedule, all controlled by elegant and intuitive software.
The Apple Watch comes in two case sizes (40mm and 44mm) and in a wide array of finishes and bands. Whether you want an aluminum case with a sports band primarily to help you stay healthy, or a stainless steel case with a Milanese loop band to keep you connected during a busy workday, there’s an Apple Watch for you.
Setup is a breeze, and the Apple Watch Series 6 is the perfect partner for your iPhone. It can help you find your iPhone by triggering an alert sound, and even be used as a remote control for the iPhone camera. If you opt for an LTE model, you can leave the iPhone at home, though the watch will require its own data plan.
The OLED touchscreen is bright, sharp, and surprisingly easy to swipe and tap your way around. The Digital Crown on the side can be rotated for fine control in menus and pressed to call Siri into service. Apple’s onboard apps and digital watch faces are top quality, but there are also countless third-party apps and watch faces to choose from and plenty of space to accommodate them with 32GB of storage. The Apple Watch has also sparked the creation of all sorts of accessories, from interesting charging solutions to alternative bands, cases, and screen protectors.
The fitness and health features range from GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring to reminders when you’ve been sitting too long and menstrual cycle tracking. Fall detection and warnings about atrial fibrillation elevate the Apple Watch Series 6 above most of the competition when it comes to health capabilities, and the addition of blood oxygen monitoring sets it apart from last year's excellent Apple Watch Series 5. The new sleep tracking function is quite basic, but it's a welcome addition that has also rolled out to older models thanks to a software update. The Series 6 is also a durable and waterproof device that you can wear on your wrist in virtually any scenario.
The main downside is the lack of support for Android, which effectively rules this smartwatch out if you don't own an iPhone—though it's worth mentioning that Family Setup allows you to use a family member's iPhone to set up a cellular Apple Watch Series 6 and use it without an iPhone. The Apple Watch Series 6 is also quite expensive, starting at $399.99 and requires daily charging.
Even taking the negatives into account, this is the most complete smartwatch on the market. If you like the look of it, but the price is a little too high, we recommend you check out the Apple Watch SE, listed below. It lacks an always-on display, and omits features like the ECG functionality, but is still an excellent smartwatch. While you can save even more on the aging Apple Watch Series 3, we caution that purchase as it is likely to get left behind on new features sooner or later as WatchOS advances.
Combining comprehensive fitness tracking, a sleek and minimalist design, and relatively long battery life, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the best smartwatch for Android users.
The Active 2 can make or take calls, handle messaging, and play music on the go. Samsung also offers the Bixby voice assistant, and a reasonably good range of third-party apps can run on its Tizen OS. Like the Apple Watch, Samsung’s watch comes in two case sizes (40mm and 44mm), in a range of finishes, and supports many different bands. Though it’s billed as a sporty smartwatch—with automatic exercise recognition, built-in GPS, and IP68 water resistance—it has all the features you need for a complete smartwatch experience.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 works with Android or iOS, though there are some limitations with the latter, and setup is a weak spot. To get the smartwatch up and running, and take advantage of fitness tracking, you’ll need to go through multiple app installations.
You can use the Galaxy Watch Active 2 to locate your paired phone, or vice versa. If you opt for the LTE version, you can leave your phone at home when you go out running, but you will need a smartwatch data plan. Samsung’s large AMOLED screen is bright, crisp, and legible in sunlight or dark environments. There’s a touch-sensitive bezel around the screen, so you can easily scroll through menus. The two buttons on the side enable you to go back, jump into your apps, or conjure up Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant. While Samsung’s apps are generally good, the quality of third-party apps on Tizen is mixed, and many big-name apps are absent from the platform.
Unsurprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 really shines when it comes to health and fitness tracking. You can record all kinds of workout sessions, many of which are tracked automatically. There’s also sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, and menstrual cycle tracking for women. You can even record food, water, and caffeine intake if you want.
Along with tracking, the Active 2 also offers up reminders to be active and coaches you through different exercises. Samsung says that ECG and blood pressure monitoring will also roll out in the future. Battery life is easily good enough to see you through a busy day and can be stretched to two or even three days, depending on settings.
Beyond the tricky setup, other drawbacks include a lack of some apps, a voice assistant that can’t keep up with Siri or Google Assistant, and slow charging—the slowest we tested, in fact. That said, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 starts as low as $279.99 and offers more than enough to justify its price, especially for Samsung phone users. If you want a fitness-focused smartwatch that doesn’t cut corners elsewhere, this is it. Further, if you don’t use an iPhone, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the best smartwatch for you. In fact, we recommend it ahead of the classier, but much more expensive, Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, which simply doesn't offer enough to justify the extra $120 it costs.
Most of what makes the Apple Watch Series 6 so great, and our top pick here, can also be found in the Apple Watch SE. What you won't find is the high starting price, because the Apple Watch SE starts from a much more palatable $279 entry price.
The exterior design is identical to recent flagship Apple Watch models, with a rectangular case that comes in two sizes (40mm and 44mm). However, the Apple Watch SE is only available in aluminum and has fewer options in terms of finishes.
It's easy to get up and running, with straightforward pairing to your iPhone. Plenty of handy features are present in the SE, allowing you to ping your iPhone to find it, send and receive messages, make and take calls from your wrist, and even remotely trigger the camera. There is also an LTE version for an added $50 premium, though you'll also need a cellular plan to go with it.
With a bright, sharp, legible display, the Apple Watch SE works well in the dark or in direct sunlight. The main difference between it and the Series 6 or Series 5, is that the SE does not have an always-on display. The screen does come to life instantly when you raise your wrist, but we did miss the ability to take a surreptitious glance at the time.
Pleasingly, most of Apple's excellent fitness tracking features and health functions are present and accurate. Simply fill your three circles for the day to meet your fitness goals. The Watch SE has GPS tracking and heart rate monitoring. It can warn you about irregular heartbeats, it offers fall detection, and Apple's latest sleep tracking is also an option. What it lacks is the ECG functionality and the blood oxygen monitoring. It is, however, durable and water resistant enough to swim with.
Just like all of Apple's smartwatches, the lack of Android support is disappointing, though the cellular models do offer Apple's Family Setup, which lets you use a family member's iPhone to set up your Apple Watch and potentially use it without your own iPhone.
The Apple Watch SE has the same capable processor as the Series 5, which seems perfectly fast enough, but it does miss out on the U1 chip for more precise location awareness. As mentioned, there's no always-on display, no ECG, and no blood oxygen sensor, but that seems reasonable given the bundle you save. We also think that the larger usable display and better performance more than justifies the price bump over the Apple Watch Series 3, making the SE the best-value Apple Watch (and therefore smartwatch) available.
With a smaller subset of features compared to most smartwatches, hybrid smartwatches like the Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR have real physical watch hands atop a smaller display—an e-ink display in this case. While you lose features like voice assistant support and mobile payments, you gain much longer battery life. In fact, the Jorn Hybrid can go two weeks between charges.
Featuring an attractive Scandinavian minimalist design and available in 38mm or 42mm sizes (and a range of bands), the Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR fits in wherever you go, and with whatever you wear. Its companion app lets you customize the watch's face and complications, set up notifications, and dig into its fitness tracking features.
The Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR can track some activities automatically. It also tracks your heart rate throughout the day and night, counts your steps, and tracks calories burned and minutes of exercise. Basic sleep tracking and optional alerts to remind you not to sit still for too long round out the fitness and health features.
The Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR is a little sluggish in operation and can’t accommodate apps or music, or make phone calls. But it does work well for basic notifications and remote music controls with your trusty smartphone. For people who would rather trade minimalism and battery life for fancy features, this scaled-back smartwatch is ideal.
Hey, I’m Simon Hill, a freelance technology journalist with more than a decade of writing experience covering consumer technology, including wearables. I find smartwatches are a useful extension of smartphones, and I like to wear one to help me stay fit. I’ve been testing and reviewing smartwatches for years now, and they have improved enormously in that time. This guide highlights the absolute cream of the crop, and only the very best smartwatches you can buy today made the list.
Distilling the list of smartwatches to consider for this guide was a tricky process. We drew on experience combined with the consensus among professional reviewers to identify smartwatches in multiple categories.
Like the smartphones they’re designed to tether with, smartwatches are becoming more competent and, consequently, more complicated. Many allow folks to customize their user experience with downloadable apps and watch faces. Some come packing perks like onboard GPS navigation and cellular hardware that’ll allow you to find your way and stay in touch via text message and phone calls, without a smartphone.
In order for us to recommend a smartwatch, it needs to do a few basic things well:
It should be built well and capable of standing up to casual abuse.
It should be fashionable and comfortable enough that you’ll actually want to wear it
Its user interface should be easy to navigate
Its display should be visible in direct sunlight
It needs to provide enough battery power to get you through the day
It shouldn’t cost more than your smartphone
Beyond these basics, we also paid attention to whether or not each smartwatch in our guide had access to downloadable apps and, where they did, if the apps were actually useful. We paid attention to how quickly each smartwatch responded to commands, whether its speakers and microphone worked for a hands-free conversation (where applicable), and if the watches provided the at-a-glance information we needed quickly enough to make leaving your smartphone in your pocket worthwhile.
Finally, what a smartwatch doesn’t do is just as important as what it does: We took note of how much unnecessary information each wearable pumped and how easy it was to decide which notifications we wanted to see and which we’d be happier not hearing about until we checked our smartphones.
Each smartwatch on our list was worn for at least four days. We tried out the full range of functionality, from fitness tracking to messaging to third-party apps, and scored every aspect. We also examined ease of setup, functionality, and how each watch looks and feels. We then weighed and compared the results to determine precisely how they measure up.
What You Should Know About Smartwatches
Smartwatches vs. Fitness Trackers
The line between the best smartwatches and the best fitness trackers isn’t always clear. Just like fitness trackers, smartwatches include health and fitness tracking features, alongside GPS and heart rate monitoring, but they also tend to offer better smartphone notifications and larger touchscreens.
Smartwatches are also more likely to support third-party apps, have microphones and speakers, and boast extra functionality like mobile payments, voice assistants, and customizability.
Terms You Should Know
You don’t necessarily need to know what goes on under the hood of your smartwatch to enjoy it. However, understanding a few names and definitions will help you better decide which smartwatch is best for you.
Android: Google’s open-source Android operating system runs the majority of the smartphone handsets in the world (although you can also find it used to operate some tablets and laptops, too.) Popular phone models such as the Google Pixel, the Samsung Galaxy and OnePlus use Android.
iOS: Apple’s iOS operating system is the backbone of what makes Apple’s mobile devices tick. Without it, all those apps that you use to stay productive and, sometimes, fritter away your time with, wouldn’t be able to work.
Wear OS: When Google first offered an operating system for wearable devices, it was called Android Wear. This made sense, as it was an iteration of the company’s Android operating system, designed specifically for wearable devices. However, to differentiate between smartwatches and other mobile gear, Google changed its wearables operating system’s name to Wear OS. You’ll find it running on a number of the smartwatches featured in this guide.
Watch OS: Apple’s operating system for the Apple Watch, Watch OS is based on the company’s iOS operating system, sharing many of the same features and visual elements. For Apple Watches t’s been optimized for use on the small display and to leverage health monitoring, notification and other features.
Tizen OS: Developed and primarily used by Samsung, Tizen OS was designed to reduce its dependence on Google’s Android OS. When used in Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, Tizen OS is a powerful, easy-to-navigate operating system. Unfortunately, at the time that this guide was written, both Watch OS and Wear OS offered significantly more apps than Tizen OS does.
How to Choose a Smartwatch
Smartwatches vary wildly in price and feature sets, but there are several elements beyond budget that can help you narrow down your choice.
Which smartphone do you use? Even smartwatches that can be used as standalone devices with their own mobile data connection are designed to be tethered to a smartphone. The Apple Watch runs Watch OS and will only work with an iPhone. Samsung watches run Tizen OS and work with Android phones or iPhones. Wear OS smartwatches will also work with Android or iOS, but there are limits on the functionality with iOS. Before you pick a smartwatch, check up on the compatibility.
What features do you need? If fitness tracking is important, look for heart rate sensors and GPS support. If you want to pay from your wrist, check up on the mobile payment system and make sure your bank is supported. If you want to leave the smartphone at home, look for a smartwatch with onboard storage and cellular data support, but bear in mind that you’ll need a mobile plan for it.
What style do you want? Watches are also fashion accessories, so you’ll want to choose a smartwatch that looks good on. While we are starting to see smaller and more elegant designs, with some smartwatches offered in two sizes, many are still chunky. One of the best things about smartwatches, however, is the ability to customize the watch face. You may also want to consider how easy it is to change bands and how many kinds are available.
What kind of battery life do you need? Battery life is still a big problem for smartwatches, with the most full-featured devices requiring daily charging. If you’re happy with a routine that involves placing your smartwatch on the charger every night alongside your phone, take your pick. If you want to go several days between charges, you may want to look at a hybrid smartwatch, which will lose some features but pay the debt back with incredible battery life (some offering weeks without a charge).
Other Smartwatches We Tested
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (41 mm, Bluetooth)
As Samsung's newest and best-appointed smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch 3 has plenty to recommend it. There's a vibrant round display, a stainless steel case measuring 41mm or 45mm, and lots of useful functionality inside.
The high-end design sports a shiny, stainless-steel body with sloping lugs and a choice of bands. There are also two buttons on the right side and a useful, physical rotating bezel that can be used to navigate menus and scroll through messages. Compared to the simpler design of the Watch Active 2, the Watch 3 is classier and more at home around the dinner table than the gym.
Samsung's Tizen platform is easy to use, but there isn't a great choice of apps and you miss out on Google's suite of services. Instead, you have Bixby and Samsung Pay, In fact, there are Samsung replacements for everything and they mostly work quite well. There is also the option to make or take calls and send and receive messages from your wrist.
Battery life is good, and the Watch 3 can go two days between charges, even with the display always on. It also boasts the same excellent fitness tracking as the Galaxy Watch Active 2 with coaching, automatic recognition and tracking of some workouts and activities, and daily targets. Sleep tracking works well and there's also blood oxygen monitoring, though you have to trigger it manually. Sadly, touted features like the ECG and blood pressure monitoring are not yet available outside of South Korea.
Ultimately, the Watch 3 failed to unseat the Watch Active 2 as our top pick for Android phone owners because the experience is virtually identical. There's no performance boost, the internal specs are the same apart from an extra 4GB of storage and, even when the new health features do arrive, most of them will also roll out to the older watch as a software update. That effectively leaves you with the prospect of paying an extra $120 for a slightly nicer design, and we don't think that's worthwhile for most people.
If you’re interested in a smartwatch that runs Google’s Wear OS, you have plenty of options, but most of them, including the Skagen Falster 3, are manufactured by the Fossil group. You can find all kinds of facades from brands like Diesel, Puma, Michael Kors, and Fossil itself, but the internal hardware, the software, and the experience of living with these watches are all very much the same.
The Skagen Falster 3 wins our favor with its minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic that carries through from the external design to the watch face, all created in concert with the Danish brand. This is a stylish smartwatch that blends in wherever you are, whether it’s the gym, a restaurant, a bar, or the office.
The Wear OS platform is not as smooth as we’d like, but it does give you access to Google’s suite of apps. Top highlights include Google Assistant, Google Maps for easy navigation from your wrist, Google Pay for mobile payments, and Google Keep for checklists. There are also lots of third-party apps available and support for music. You can make or take calls and send and receive messages from your wrist, too.
On the downside, the Skagen Falster 3 does need nightly charging, Wear OS can be slow and flaky at times, and the fitness tracking is quite basic compared to other smartwatches on our list. There’s also no sleep tracking and you won’t find much in the way of insights into your health. Still, if you are primarily after a stylish smartwatch and fitness is secondary, the Skagen Falster 3 is a good choice.
For fitness fanatics, athletes in training, and folks looking to get fitter and healthier, the Garmin Venu is a compelling smartwatch. The first thing that struck me when testing the Garmin Venu is how lightweight and comfortable it is. I could easily forget I was wearing this smartwatch, which is important because it tracks your heart rate and activity throughout the day and your sleep at night. It also offers phenomenal battery life. You can expect at least three days between charges, but you could push the Venu to five or more with the right settings.
The clear purpose of this smartwatch is fitness tracking and the companion app—which works well for Android or iOS—offers up a cornucopia of detailed charts and insights into your workouts, general activity, sleep quality, and more. The usual suspects like step counts and calories burned are there, but you can also gain insights into your respiration, track hydration, and there’s a clever “body battery” score that helps you decide how hard to push yourself.
The Garmin Venu doesn’t win too many style points, but it’s unobtrusive and fits in just fine with formal wear, sportswear, or casual clothing. The AMOLED touchscreen is bright and legible, but it was sometimes less responsive than I wanted, and didn’t always come to life immediately when I raised my wrist. The Garmin Venu is also a little light on smartwatch features with no support for calls or voice assistants, but if fitness is your priority it’s easy to recommend.
Better known for fitness trackers, Fitbit has crossed into smartwatch territory with the Versa line. The Versa 2 offers some significant improvements over the original, particularly the AMOLED screen, but there’s also longer battery life and support for Amazon Alexa. The square screen is a little chunky, but rounded edges make it look and feel slimmer. It’s very comfortable to wear for extended periods, which is good because it tracks your activity around the clock and offers insights into your health, fitness, and sleep quality.
If fitness tracking is your main reason for buying a smartwatch, the Fitbit Versa 2 will not disappoint. It covers steps, distance, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, all kinds of exercise sessions, detailed sleep tracking, heart rate tracking, oxygen variation, and can even track water and food intake if you’re prepared to log it. The big omission is GPS, which means you’ll need to take your smartphone with you to track cycle and run routes.
There are a handful of third-party apps, some support for notifications from your phone, and space for music, as well as Fitbit Pay, but this is a far better fitness tracker than it is a smartwatch. You have to hold down the side button to launch Alexa, and it is often slow to respond. Because there’s no speaker, the results are text on screen. The Fitbit Versa 2’s software and companion apps aren’t very intuitive, and everything takes a backseat to fitness and health.
For people already invested in Fitbit’s community, or seeking in-depth fitness tracking, the Versa 2 will be a tempting smartwatch, but everyone else should look elsewhere.
One of the few manufacturers beyond Fossil still making Wear OS smartwatches, Mobvoi has built a reputation for great value. The TicWatch Pro (2020) is a slight upgrade over the original and it boasts a thoughtful design that tries to tackle some of the shortcomings inherent in the Wear OS platform, namely limited battery life and basic fitness tracking.
The innovative touchscreen combines an AMOLED and an FSTN display, so the full-color display only comes to life when you raise your wrist or touch the screen, but you can see basics like the time, date, and step count at a glance on the less power-hungry FSTN layer.
Alongside Google Fit, Mobvoi also offers its own lineup of activity and sleep tracking, exercise, and other fitness and health apps. This enables you to get detailed sleep tracking, around-the-clock heart rate monitoring, and insight into your breathing.
Mobvoi’s apps are a little rough around the edges, with some slight translation mistakes, but the functionality is solid and much more detailed than what you get with Google Fit. As a Wear OS smartwatch, you also still get Google Assistant and other Google apps, and the TicWatch Pro supports calls and messaging from your wrist.
The main detractor here is the physical design, which is big and heavy. There’s a raised rim around the screen and two buttons that protrude on the right. The software menus, apps, and watch faces lack the style and elegance of some competitors. Despite that, the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro is a good device at a reasonable price. It essentially offers everything you’d expect from a Wear OS smartwatch, but with better battery life and deeper fitness and health tracking.
With a colorful and bright AMOLED screen, detailed fitness and health tracking, and up to 14-days of battery, the Amazfit GTS has a lot going for it. This unashamed Apple Watch clone comes with support for Android phones, as well as iOS, and is offered at a very affordable price.
At a distance, you could easily mistake the Amazfit for an Apple Watch, though the single button is located centrally on the right of the case. The build quality is inevitably nowhere near as good as Apple’s, and my review unit picked up a couple of tiny chips to the case during the first week, though it is waterproof and had no issue going through the shower. Setup is convoluted and requires lots of time-consuming updates, making the Amazfit GTS by far the worst out-of-box experience on our list.
The software and the companion app are a little confusing, but the fitness tracking features are impressively detailed. You’ll find heart rate tracking, the ability to record workouts, standalone GPS, and detailed sleep tracking. The Amazfit GTS also offers something called PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence), which has been inspired by a scientific health study to push you toward enough physical activity to reduce your risk of heart disease and other health problems. While the scope of the fitness tracking features is impressive, and there’s lots of data to review, the accuracy is sometimes questionable—especially the step count.
The main weakness of the Amazfit GTS is the smartphone notifications. I had difficulty getting message and call notifications to come through and they remained inconsistent throughout testing. There doesn’t seem to be any facility to send or reply to messages, simply a notification that a message arrived on your phone, and the Amazfit GTS can’t make or receive phone calls.
There are also no third-party apps, mobile payments, or voice assistant support. While this is a very affordable smartwatch, with a great screen and some interesting fitness tracking features, for most people it will be worth spending a little more for something better.
The Apple Watch Series 3 is our former best value pick for good reason. While the base model offers a smaller display than the new Apple Watch SE (along with a slower processor), it's still a great smartwatch with a lot of desirable health and fitness features along with the intuitive design you expect from Apple. That said, as it continues to age we fear Apple will leave this one in the dust when it comes to WatchOS updates sooner or later, which makes the newer Apple Watch SE the more prudent purchase, even at a higher price.
Samsung’s Galaxy Watch is our previous winner for the best Android smartwatch for good reason. It offers a gorgeous design, comes in multiple sizes, and it’s water-resistant up to 170 feet. While it doesn’t have a wealth of apps, it does offer great functionality and an intuitive design that makes it a real bargain.
The Garmin Vivomove HR Sport offers a minimalist design that is more elegant than utilitarian. That said, if you’re looking for a great hybrid smartwatch to use with either Android or iOS, and you don’t need a watch for calls or leaving your phone at home, this is a great choice.
The Withings Steel HR is more fitness tracker than smartwatch, and its notification window is so small it can’t even fit a single word. That said, if you’re looking for something that looks good, offers basic fitness functionality, and will even take a 50 meter dive, it’s a solid choice for the money.
The Amazfit Bip, like its newer generation above, comes at a crazy low price, but you’ll understand why if you purchase it. While it offers some basic fitness tracking and great battery life is great, it offers spotty notifications and the interface isn’t very intuitive.
Simon Hill is a freelance technology journalist with a decade of writing experience covering everything from smartphones to smart home gadgets. For the last few years, he served as Associate Editor at Digital Trends where he wrote features, reviews, analysis, how-tos, and more.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.