Wearing a smartwatch is a great way to stay on top of the news, your calendar events and social media without ever even having to pull your smartphone out of your pocket. That means you’ll spend less time being distracted by attention-sucking apps and more time living a well-focused, well-informed life.
After spending weeks researching and testing the best smartwatches available, I can tell you that the Apple Watch Series 4(available at Amazon for $278.92) is the best smartwatch you can invest in, right now. Unfortunately, if you’re an Android user, the Apple Watch isn’t compatible with your phone. If you’re looking for a well-designed smartwatch with reasonable battery life, smart user interface and an absolutely gorgeous display, look no further than the Samsung Galaxy Watch (available at Amazon). It’s an excellent wrist-worn computer that’ll serve you well.
These are the best smartwatches we tested ranked, in order:
Apple Watch Series 4 smartwatch
Samsung Galaxy Watch
Garmin Vivomove HR smartwatch
Fossil Explorist HR smartwatch
Mobvoi TicWatch Pro smartwatch
Withings/Nokia Steel HR smartwatch
AmazFit Bip smartwatch
LG Watch W7
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There’s no single killer feature that makes the Apple Watch Series 4 (as tested: 40mm with GPS and GPS/LTE), our pick for best smartwatch. It’s the fact that it does almost everything better than every other smartwatch we’ve come across. That it can be used as a minimalist device, for keeping abreast of your smartphone notifications, or as an all-in wearable that will let you take or make phone calls, send text messages, navigate through a crowded city and listen to music without bringing your cellphone with you (provided you spring for the GPS/LTE version) is the icing on the cake.
Setting up the Apple Watch to work with your iPhone is almost effortless. Using this watch, with its responsive OLED touchscreen display and rotating Digital Crown (Apple’s marketing mumbo jumbo for the knob on the side of the watch) is just as easy. You can use your finger to navigate apps and menus, scroll through text with the Digital Crown or ask Siri to do some hands-free heavy lifting for you. At the time that this guide was written, no other smartwatch could match the number of high-quality apps or the array of aftermarket accessories such as skins, watchbands and screen protectors available to Apple Watch users —while there may be scores of other Apple Watches out there in the world, yours has the potential to be as unique as you are. What’s more, with its sapphire glass display and the fact that the Series 4 iteration of the device is water resistant up to 150 feet, it’s a smartwatch that, provided you’re careful with it, is tough enough to serve you well for years.
Don’t get me wrong, the Apple Watch isn’t without its flaws. For starters, you won’t be able to get through 24 hours without being forced to recharge it or without making serious tweaks like turning off its heart rate monitor. For the time being, it’s not possible to use its cellular connectivity while roaming across international borders. Additionally, while the grid of apps on the watch’s home screen might look neat, selecting the app you want can sometimes prove difficult. It is possible to change the home screen from a grid view to an alphabetized list of all of your apps—but scrolling through the list can be tedious.
The Apple Watch might be our pick for the best overall smartwatch but, as its name implies, it’s a smartwatch designed for Apple users. If your smartphone runs one of the many flavors of Google’s Android operating system, the best smartwatch for you is the Samsung Galaxy Watch.
With its gorgeous, largely metal construction, availability in 42-millimeter and 46-millimeter sizes, an endless array of watch faces, three different colorways to choose from and lug widths designed to accommodate an endless variety of third-party watch bands, The Galaxy Watch is sure to meet the fashion requirements for a huge portion of the smartwatch-wearing population. That Samsung built this wearable to be water-resistant down to 170 feet and resilient enough to pass military testing standards, it’s arguably one of the toughest smartwatches in its price range. The Galaxy Watch’s brilliant OLED display is sharp, colorful and easy to read in all lighting conditions.
Running the Tizen operating system as it does, the Galaxy Watch might not have access to the wealth of apps that an Apple Watch or wearables that run Google’s Wear OS operating system enjoy. However, I never felt like I was missing out. Notifications sent from my Android handset were quick to appear on the watch’s display, detailed and, in many cases, actionable with canned replies. I was able to control the music streaming from my smartphone and, if I allowed IoT devices into my home, it would have been capable of running them—provided the devices were compatible with Samsung’s SmartThings protocols. The Galaxy Watch also boasts 4GB of internal storage that you can use to listen to tunes, sans smartphone. You’ll be able to take phone calls with this watch, respond to messages and, if you spring for the LTE version, do it all without having to carry around your smartphone with you. All of this functionality is easily navigable, thanks to how the Galaxy Watch’s clever click-wheel bezel and touchscreen move you around the device’s recent One UI interface update. As for battery life, you can expect two to four days between charging, depending on how heavy you use the device.
The biggest downside to owning this smartwatch has got to be Bixby: Samsung’s proprietary digital assistant. It’s kind of awful. In use, it routinely failed to understand what I was saying, often failing to register that I was saying anything at all. Even when we were simpatico, Bixby all too often failed to serve me in the way that I expected it to. Additionally, even the smallest iteration of the Galaxy Watch may be too large for those with smaller wrists.
My name’s Seamus Bellamy. I’m Reviewed’s Updates Editor and I have a terrible memory. To help me navigate all of the things I’m doomed to forget, I’ve worn a smartwatch, every day, for the past six years. My current daily driver is a Garmin Tactix Charlie (which isn’t included in these tests as it's something of a niche device). It reminds me about upcoming meetings, when to swallow medications and notifies me of new messages and email. I don’t think it’d be hyperbole to say that it allows me to be a mostly functional human being. I understand the value of a smartwatch and what goes into making a good one.
There’s a lot of smartwatches out there! Before I could even think about calling anything in to test, I had to think about what, potentially, can make a smartwatch great and which features most people are better off avoiding. To get started down this road, I hit the internet to see what my colleagues at sites like TechRadar, CNET and Tom’s Guide recommended. This informed me of what’s new and well-reviewed. I took what I learned from my colleagues and, along with my experience as a long-time smartwatch user, began to build a profile of what a great smartwatch should look like.
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 high-end models 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 having to carry your smartphone with you. Because of the wide variety of digital wrist candy options out there today, we decided that no matter what amazing things a smartwatch can do, in order for us to recommend it, it needed to do a few basic things well:
It should be built well and capable of standing up to casual abuse.
It should be fashionable 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, I 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. I paid attention to how quickly each smartwatch responded to my commands, whether its speakers and microphone worked well for use in a hands-free conversation (where applicable), and if the watches I was testing provided the at-a-glance information that I needed, quickly enough to make leaving my smartphone in my pocket seem worthwhile.
Finally, what a smartwatch doesn’t do is just as important as what it's capable of: I took note of how much unnecessary information each wearable pumped out for me to review—and how easy it was to decide which notifications I wanted to see and which I’d be happier not hearing about until I took my smartphone out of my pocket.
Each smartwatch was worn and tested for four days, from the time that I woke up to the moment I turned in for the night. For watches that boast compatibility with both Android and iOS operating systems, I wore the watch for four days, for each platform. Testing was conducted using an iPhone 7 Plus and a OnePlus 6T for iOS and Android compatibility-testing, respectively.
What About Fitness Functionality?
While all of the smartwatches in this guide offer some level of fitness tracking, I didn’t take their health and monitoring capabilities into consideration as part of my research, for a number of reasons. First, Reviewed’s guides to the Best Fitness Trackers and The Best Running Watches cover using wearables to track your health in a more considerate, comprehensive way than I’d have the expertise to provide. If you’re looking for a smartwatch or other wearables that’ll help you keep tabs on your health, I strongly suggest checking them out. Second, I’ve got a lot of experience in keeping people safe and patching them up when things go wrong. But telling you which smartwatch can most adequately meet your health monitoring needs is something that you should discuss with your doctor, not some fella trying to steer you towards a great smartphone accessory.
Terms You Should Know
I talk about a number of different smartphone and wearable device operating systems in this guide. For someone that doesn’t think too much about what goes on under the hood of the devices they use on a daily basis, these names won’t necessarily matter. However, if you’re shopping for your first smartwatch, 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 handsets such as the Google Pixel 3a, the Samsung Galaxy 10 and OnePlus 7 Pro use Android.
iOS: Apple’s iOS operating system, is the backbone of what makes an iPhone or iPad 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. This fall, Apple will be branching off a flavor of iOS into a totally new operating system, specific to their family of iPad tablets called iPadOS.
Wear OS: When Google first offered an operating system for wearable devices, they called it Android Wear. This made sense, as it was an iteration of the company’s Android operating system, designed specifically for wearable devices. However, for some, the name was confusing as most people know Android as the operating system that runs their smartphones. Recently, Google changed its wearables operating system’s name to Wear OS, in an effort to keep things simple. 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 is called Watch OS. Watch OS is based on the company’s iOS operating system, sharing many of the same features and visual elements. However, it’s been optimized for use on the Apple Watch’s small display and to leverage its health monitoring, notification and other features that make the wearable the great piece of hardware that it is.
Tizen OS: Tizen OS is a flexible, Linux-based operating system, that can be used in a wide number of hardware categories including smart TVs, some smartphones sold outside of North America and of course, smartwatches. The OS, developed and primarily used by Samsung, was designed by the company in an effort 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 that most users should find easy to use. Unfortunately, at the time that this guide was written, both Watch OS and Wear OS offered significantly more apps than Tizen OS does.
A Word on Wear OS and Tizen OS iPhone Compatibility Wear OS devices and Samsung’s Galaxy Watch, which runs on a Tizen operating system, are designed for use with Android smartphones. However, they’re also compatible with iOS devices—although the user experience is less than stellar. With the Galaxy Watch, for example, I found that I could receive text message notifications from my iPhone, but was unable to respond to them. The same goes for email.
As such, for iPhone owners, I recommend staying away from wearables that run on Google’s Wear OS or Samsung’s Tizen operating systems. They’ll work with your smartphone, but they won’t work well.
If you’re interested in a wearable that straddles both platforms with equal aplomb, check out Garmin’s smartwatches, like the Vivomove HR. While they’re deeply sports and activity oriented, their smartphone integration is consistent across iOS and Android.
Other Smartwatches We Tested
Best Hybrid Smartwatch
Garmin vívomove HR Sport
If the fact that the Vivomove HR comes with a static, analog watch face doesn’t tip you off that this is a smartwatch for digital minimalists, let me spell it out for you: If you’re interested in downloading tons of apps, accept or reject phone calls on your wrist, or leave your phone at home, you’d be better served by another device. If however, you’re looking for a great hybrid smartwatch to use with either Android or iOS, this is the one to get.
With its classic looks and clever, daylight visible digital display that stays hidden until you want to use it, the Vivomove HR offers just enough information to power through your day without saddling you with unnecessary information. As with all of Garmin’s wearables, this smartwatch is a health tracker at heart. But you can easily overlook its fitness-oriented features if keeping abreast of your exercise, stress and sleep isn’t your thing. When a new text message or email notification is served, the text scrolls at a fast and readable pace across the wearable’s face. If there are no messages or you’re not checking the weather or controlling your phone’s music playback, the digital interface disappears. Best of all, the Vivomove HR absolutely sips power: when used as a smartwatch, I was able to go for four and a half days before I had to charge it. Garmin states that when being used solely as an analog watch, it can putter along for up to two weeks.
The only real knock against this smartwatch is that it requires a finicky, proprietary charge to juice up its batteries. Additionally, the quick-change straps that Garmin sells to accessorize the watch with come with a steep price tag. It’s possible to find third-party straps out there, but the locking mechanism that mates them to the Vivomove HR are typically flimsy and not to be trusted.
If your heart is set on picking up a smartwatch powered by Google’s Wear OS operating system, Fossil’s Explorist HR is well worth your attention. By picking one of these up, you’ll have full access to Google’s growing catalog of Wear OS apps—Google Maps, Google Keep as well as access to Spotify or your Nest cameras, for example—which are just a tap or swipe away. Thanks to Wear OS’ most recent major update, which introduces customizable application Tiles, I was able to tweak the Explorist’s interface to near perfection. Not fond of the aesthetic of the watch I tested? No problem: the Explorist series comes in a number of different sizes, styles and colors to suit a wide variety of fashion sensibilities.
I found that the bracelet on this watch was extremely difficult to remove links from. You may need to take it to a jeweler to have it properly adjusted. But not all watches in the Explorist series come with a steel bracelet, so it may be a non-issue for you. As with the Apple Watch, I was disappointed that the Explorist wasn’t able to make it through a full 24 hours of use before being recharged. Additionally, I noted that the interface, which should be fast, fluid and easy to use, suffered occasional slowdowns when navigating between apps. Fossil’s watches might be the best way to experience Wear OS right now, but they don’t offer a better overall smartwatch experience than the Samsung Galaxy Watch does.
At its core, the Steel HR is a fitness tracking wearable. However, its classic aesthetic and the small, digital notification display built into its analog watch face make it possible to also classify it as a hybrid smartwatch. This is a handsome, well-made timepiece that has the heft and look of an old school wristwatch. Its stainless-steel body and glass (also available in Sapphire glass, at a higher price), stand up well to the sort of casual abuse that a watch is subjected to during the course of a day. It’s waterproof down to 50 meters (164 feet) and remains fully functional for up to 25 days at a time, between charges.
Unfortunately, in function, the Steel HR fails in a number of ways. I found that, having been loaned one with a black face and white hands, it was impossible to see the time in low light conditions—the face of the watch doesn’t light up, nor do its hands glow in the dark. This is a frustration I can live with. My irritation at the way that the Steel HR dealt with notifications, however, is not. This watch’s notification window is so small that it’s unable to show a single word, phone number or status update without the text scrolling to accommodate it. Friends, let me tell you, this watch scrolls slow. In the time that it takes to read off the subject line of an email, I could easily unzip my jacket pocket, take out my smartphone and assess the message and repocket my handset. Additionally, in direct sunlight, the Steel HR’s display is impossible to read.
The TicWatch Pro comes packing a much sought-after feature that few other smartwatches can offer: ample battery life. Mobvoi’s plan to expand the TicWatch Pro’s runtime is a simple one: When juice is short in supply, the watch can be manually switched into Essential Mode, in much the same vein as the Apple Watch’s Power Reserve mode. Where the Apple Watch disables all but its basic time-telling functionality as a watch, Mobvoi goes a step further by turning off the TicWatch Pro’s main AMOLED display and activating a low-powered display that’s layered over it. The power savings this option provides are considerable. Once the Pro’s power reserve drops low enough, the device’s operating system will engage the secondary display, automatically. While in this low-powered mode, you’ll be able to check on the time, for days on end. You won’t, however, be able to check the time, use Google Maps or any of the other perks that come with owning a watch powered by Google’s Wear OS.
While using the TicWatch Pro in Essential mode, I found it extremely difficult to read its face in direct sunlight. Additionally, thanks to its older Qualcomm's Snapdragon 2100 processor, even when you have the battery power to rock Wear OS, you’ll be doing so at noticeably slower speeds than many other Wear OS devices allow for.
The AmazeFit Bip costs a fraction of the price of our main picks, is compatible with Android or iOS and can go for up to a month between charges. If you’re shopping with a tight budget, this is absolutely the smartwatch to get. Its always-on display is easy to see in direct sunlight (although a bit dim when gazed upon indoors) and, during testing, it served up notifications from both Android and iOS. It can also handle some very basic fitness tracking with its HR monitor and step-counting functionality. The Bip offers the best battery life of any smartwatch that we tested, powering through our tests like a champ and, according to multiple online reviews, lasting over one month before charging becomes necessary.
I love that it comes with an IP68 rating—so it’ll keep on working if you get caught in the rain or don’t want to take it off at the gym. I hate that its cheap plastic body is impact resistant but started to show scrapes and scuffs a couple of days into using wearing it. Additionally, the band that this watch ships with feels kind of gross and the non-replaceable cable attached to its proprietary charger feels flimsy, right out of the box. Finally, finding the interface option in the Bip’s companion smartphone app was less than intuitive. Once I managed to get notifications turned on, I found that the smartwatch didn’t always notify me of smartphone events if I wandered more than a few feet away from my handset.
At first blush, the W7 could pass as a traditional chronograph watch, hands and all. That it has actual physical hands is a smart way to avoid using an always-on display to keep users abreast of the time. Unfortunately, while its analog hands are novel, they’re also a feature that holds the W7 back from being a more competent device.
In order to make the hands work, LG had to provide the W7 with a display that has a hole drilled into the middle of it. The watch ships with a few digital faces that allow its wearer to customize its appearance. As the W7 runs Google’s Wear OS, it’s possible to download new watch faces to use with the smartwatch. However, the display’s hole punch and the analog hands all too often interfere with these third-party aesthetic tweaks and make it more difficult to read incoming notifications and scrolling content. Additionally, I found the watch to be less responsive than I’d like: apps were often slow to open. That it comes with these issues and needs to be charged every day is the final nail in its coffin. Given its price, I feel that it's fair to expect more than what this wearable provides.
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.