The best technology enhances our lives without intruding too much, and smartwatches are a perfect example. They have brought all kinds of functionality to our wrists: we can stay in touch with people, pay for things and, track our health and fitness , all without having to reach for a phone.
After extensively testing the top smartwatches for years, we can say with confidence that the Apple Watch Series 8 (available at Amazon) is the best smartwatch you can buy thanks to its brilliant design, intuitive usability, and loads of useful features.
If the Series 8 is too pricey, the Apple Watch SE (2nd gen) (available at Amazon does a fine job as a stand-in for a much lower price, offering a very similar design and many of the same features. If you’re an Android phone owner (particularly those with Samsung phones) you’ll want to look at our best pick for Android, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 (available at Amazon).
But there are a few other great options below, and we've run them all through our rigorous testing procedures so you can find your Dick Tracy accessory of choice.
Apple Watch Series 8
With a wide range of features, an understated design, and few weaknesses the Apple Watch Series 8 is the top smartwatch you can buy. The Series 8 can track your fitness, provide even more insights into your health than ever (including helping with tracking your menstrual and sleep cycles), handle phone calls and messaging, and much more, all controlled by elegant and intuitive software. While it's not a massive jump over the Series 7, it's still the best smartwatch on the market.
Whether you want an aluminum case with a sports band primarily to help you stay healthy, or a stainless-steel case with a leather band to keep you connected during a busy workday or one of the new rugged bands designed for the Apple Watch Ultra, there’s a style for you. Setup is a breeze, and the Series 8 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 your iPhone at home and make or receive calls and text messages on your wrist (data plan required.) The Series 8’s OLED touchscreen is bright, sharp, and surprisingly easy to swipe and tap your way around. The Always-on display makes it easy to see in a variety of scenarios, and the Digital Crown on the watch’s side can be rotated for fine control in menus or pressed to call Siri into service.
Fitness and health features include GPS tracking, heart rate, and blood oxygen monitoring, reminders, and new temperature sensors for retroactive menstrual cycle prediction. Like the latest Apple Watch SE, there’s also a new Crash Detection system designed to inform emergency services if you’ve been in an accident. While the 18-hour battery could be better, the Low Power mode added via watchOS 9 allows you to stretch that to 36 hours.
Apple’s onboard apps and digital watch faces are top quality, and there are plenty of third-party apps available. 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 main downside is the lack of support for Android, which effectively rules this smartwatch out if you don't own an iPhone—though this is the case with many competitors, including Samsung’s newer Galaxy watches.
The Series 8 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 Series 7, which offers most of the same features, or the even more affordable Apple Watch SE (2nd gen), which drops some key functions like Always-on display, but saves you a bundle.
If you’re an iPhone user, the Apple Watch SE is a great way to step into the world of smartwatches. Building on an already great product, this 2nd-generation SE model adds a faster processor, improved features, and a few new ones—most notably crash detection, which can alert family members and emergency responders in the event of a car collision.
Available in 40mm and 44mm sizes in your choice of three colors, the Watch SE starts $30 below the previous model, a surprising but welcome move on Apple’s part. Like all other Apple smartwatches, the SE is a stylish, extremely versatile wrist companion. It links with your iPhone like no other smartwatch brand (including the otherwise impressive Fitbit Versa 3), allowing you to make and take phone calls, send and receive text messages, run countless apps, stream music and much more.
It’s also an activity- and lifestyle-tracking champ, able to log just about any exercise you can think of (everything from swimming to pickleball) and monitor your sleep. It’s less polished at automated activity-tracking than the Versa 3, and unfortunately, it doesn’t have nearly the same battery life: Expect about 24 hours from the SE, versus anywhere from 4-7 days on the Versa.
Apple still offers relatively few watch face options, but at least you can dress up the external look of the watch by choosing from hundreds of band styles and colors. However, if you want an always-on display, you’ll have to look to the pricier Watch Series 8, which also adds features like blood oxygen level, temperature-sensing, and advanced women’s cycle-tracking.
Otherwise, the Apple Watch SE will prove more than enough smartwatch, and the newly lowered price makes it even more compelling. Calling it a budget watch seems almost unfair because its price belies its capabilities. This is an easy choice as the best all-around smartwatch for sheer value.
Thanks to a number of minor, but much-welcomed tweaks to its battery life and design, the Android-only Samsung Galaxy 5 feels like a much more refined device than its predecessor, the Galaxy Watch 4.
The back of the Watch 5’s case is curved to help it better hug the wrist. Its display is still vibrant, and Samsung made some big strides in improving the watch’s accessibility features. Those include a new high-contrast font, color corrections and filters, and the option to remove UI animations and reduce transparency and blur. The Watch 5 also comes in a "Pro" version, which is a bit chunkier and less sporty but includes a boosted battery and some other upgrades for a premium price hike.
Those who plan to pair the watch with a set of wireless headphones will be pleased to know you can adjust settings like the balance for each ear. The Watch 5 series does have some quirks, however.
Long pressing the top button on the watch's right side is permanently tied to Samsung Pay, disappointing if you don't want to use your smartwatch for contact-free payments. During testing, the Watch 5’s battery (rated for up to 50 hours) drained faster than expected when using it for light fitness tracking with always-on display enabled. Additionally, we didn’t like that Samsung has completely ditched the Galaxy Watch series’ once iconic rotating bezel. The digital bezel that replaces it proved less consistent in testing.
Anyone with a Galaxy Watch 3 will see the most benefits from upgrading to the Galaxy Watch 5, thanks to its faster processor and refined Wear OS operating system that mixes in Samsung's own customization (provided you don’t mind giving up the physical bezel). It It all adds up to the best Android-compatible smartwatch on the market.
The Google Pixel Watch is a great all-arounder smartwatch for Android users, boasting good fitness features and stunning style. The design is one of our favorite things about the Pixel Watch, doing away with the rugged look and feel of many smartwatches in favor of a scaled-back, fashion-forward approach. It’s only available in the 41mm size, meaning it’ll look especially great on anyone with smaller wrists.
Of course, the Pixel Watch isn’t just pretty, it’s quite functional too. Google acquired Fitbit a few years ago, and the Pixel Watch is the first Google product that really leverages that acquisition. It offers good fitness tracking and integrates with the Fitbit app, which allows you to easily see all your fitness metrics, recent workouts, heart rate information, and more. Its Wear OS software works well, and it’s relatively easy to use.
So what are the downsides? Battery life is just OK, for one. It ended a normal day with only 30% remaining in our testing, so if you want to use it for sleep-tracking, you’ll probably need to charge it before bed. It’s also missing a few sensors/features you’ll find in rivals from Apple and Samsung. Its blood oxygen sensor isn’t yet active, for instance, while its ECG function isn’t yet set up to detect atrial fibrillation. While it will auto-track activities like a short walk or tennis, and log them when finished, it won’t currently let you do things like pause mid-workout. That said, we may see some of these addressed in a firmware update.
The other downside to using the device is that to really unlock its full potential, you’ll need to pay for Fitbit Premium. Google includes six months of Premium with purchase, but after that you’ll lose access to things like detailed sleep score breakdowns, your daily readiness score, and Fitbit’s workout library. Despite those downsides, the Pixel Watch does a lot of things well, making it an excellent option for those seeking a fashionable, Google-focused smartwatch.
Along with being one of the best smartwatches, the Fitbit Versa 3 is one of our favorite fitness trackers as well. We were most impressed by how much this fitness-first watch has to offer for the price, especially against the likes of Apple and Samsung.
Unlike the Versa 2, Fitbit added a dedicated GPS to the Versa 3, so you won’t need to tap into your phone’s GPS to track where and how far you run or walk. The watch's automated fitness tracking is incredibly responsive, too, without any notable delays or issues with tracking the wrong type of workout.
The Fitbit Versa 3 also has a long battery life and comes with plenty of other features and apps, making this platform-agnostic smartwatch great for iPhone and Android owners alike (something we can’t say about watches from Apple or Samsung). But the Versa 3 is especially good for Android owners; while both iPhone and Android owners can answer calls (not place them) from the Versa 3, Android owners can also voice-dictate a reply to text messages.
One major downside to the Versa 3: unlocking premium features like in-depth health analytics, sleep data, Calm app meditations, and Fitbit workout videos costs $10 per month or $80 per year. (You can read more about it here). Compared to Apple Fitness+, which costs the same as Fitbit’s subscription, Fitbit doesn’t integrate its paywalled features as seamlessly, and as our health and fitness team noted, its workout videos feel a lot like watching workout videos on YouTube.
Things like in-depth sleep analytics are already part of Apple’s and Samsung’s watch ecosystems for no additional cost. Still, if you're looking for a device-agnostic smartwatch with plenty of features, this is among the best out there.
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 up to two weeks between charges.
Featuring an attractive and minimalist Scandinavian 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.
The headline here is an astoundingly low asking price. The Wyze Watch comes in two sizes (44mm and 47mm) both with a rectangular design that owes a debt to Apple’s smartwatch line. The grey aluminum alloy case looks quite smart and there’s a single button on the right. The silicone band is comfortable and the Wyze Watch is IP68 certified, so it can be submerged in water for short periods without sustaining damage.
A slower processor in the 47mm model contrasts with the smaller screen and larger bezels in the 44mm model. Either way, the TFT LCD display is not the most responsive and the Wyze Watch requires a little patience. Fitness tracking is basic and includes a step count and calories burned estimation. There’s also a heart rate sensor and Sp02 sensor to measure your blood oxygen levels. Sleep tracking is automatic, but activity tracking has to be started manually and only seems to cover running.
You can configure the notifications you want to come through from your phone, but they are one-way only, so you can’t answer calls or respond to messages. Connectivity is occasionally flaky, but it works correctly most of the time. There’s no support for apps, music, mobile payments, or navigation. On the upside, battery life is very good, and most people will only need to charge the Wyze Watch once a week.
Ultimately, the Wyze Watch is a very basic smartwatch that offers one-way notifications, basic fitness and sleep tracking, long battery life, and not a great deal else, but that’s reflected in the bargain price.
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, a 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. We had difficulty getting messages 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.
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. Most come packing perks like onboard GPS navigation and available cellular hardware (for a markup) that allow you to find your way and stay in touch via text message and phone calls, with or 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 pay attention to whether or not each smartwatch in our guide has access to downloadable apps and if they're actually useful. We pay attention to how quickly each smartwatch responds to commands, whether its speakers and microphone work for a hands-free conversation (where applicable), and if the watches provide the at-a-glance information we need quickly enough to make leaving your smartphone in your pocket worthwhile. We also test health and fitness features, which are increasingly part of the smartwatch experience.
Finally, what a smartwatch doesn’t do is just as important as what it does: We take note of how much unnecessary information each wearable pumps and how easy it is to decide which notifications we wanted to see and which we’d be happier not hearing about until we check our smartphones.
Each smartwatch on our list was worn for at least four days and many for much longer. We try out the full range of functionality, from fitness tracking to messaging to third-party apps, and score every aspect. We also examine the ease of setup, functionality, and how each watch looks and feels. We then weigh and compare the results in our smartwatch rubric 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. 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, including the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
watchOS: Apple’s operating system for the Apple Watch, watchOS is based on the company’s iOS operating system, sharing many of the same features and visual elements. For Apple Watches it'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, the Tizen operating system was designed to reduce its dependence on Google’s Android OS. When used in Samsung’s Galaxy Watches, Tizen OS is a powerful, easy-to-navigate operating system. Samsung has recently incorporated Wear OS into its smartwatch experience for a sort of hybrid of Tizen and Wear OS.
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 running Tizen OS work with Android phones or iPhones, while newer Samsung watches (Galaxy Watch 4 and up) are designed for Android only. Wear OS smartwatches currently work with Android or iOS, but there are limits on the functionality with iOS. Before you pick a smartwatch, check up on its compatibility.
Which 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 (usually $10 per month or more).
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's face. You may also want to consider how easy it is to change bands and how many types are available.
How much 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).
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.
Originally from Australia, Christian has long had a passion for gadgets and consumer electronics. Christian has experience reviewing products in all areas of the consumer tech world, and is dedicated to helping people find the best products for their lifestyle.
Joanna specializes in anything and everything gaming-related and loves nerding out over graphics cards, processors, and chip architecture. Previously she was a staff writer for Gizmodo, PC Gamer, and Maximum PC.
Josh is a prepper who operates a mini farm in Tennessee where he gardens and raises chickens and rabbits. He is a certified blacksmith and General-class ham radio operator. He publishes Unprepared on Substack. His work has been seen in USA Today, The Prepared, AllOutdoor, and OutdoorHub. He is also managing editor at TidBITS.
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