Best Smartwatches 2020

Best Smartwatches 2020 – Buyer’s Guide

Current smartwatches are more than an extension of a telephone; they’re a standalone wearable technology. as international-main tech organizations which include apple, google, and Samsung have worked to satisfy the desires of niche markets such as health monitoring, they’ve entered into a palms race. each technology of smartwatch has had to outperform no longer best its own in advance iterations, however also the modern-day variations of its opponents.

This has created a thriving market for smartwatch consumers, no longer only for those inside the market for a generalist watch which includes the apple five or the Samsung galaxy, however also for greater sport-specific watches including the mobvoi ticwatch or Fitbit ionic.

The terrible news, as with so many things in our consumerist financial system, is that the variety of options can result in choice overload.

My aim with this article is that will help you simplify your selections. earlier than you study any in addition, ask yourself why the smartwatch is wanted. counting laps on the pool? reps on the gymnasium? for the joy of getting the latest piece of gear? knowing why you need the smartwatch will help you search for the right capabilities. then, as you study this article, you may rank every watch by way of how well it meets your desires. the very last selection may be made by means of fee, brand, extra capabilities, etc.

For this article, I’ve begged and borrowed as many watches as I could so that you can try them out to examine and assessment them. I’m confident that, after studying this, you will have the information you need to make the proper desire for you. with black Friday across the nook, there isn’t a higher time of year to snag your self an extremely good piece of wearable tech.

For a quick glance on the top ten list, you could take a look at out the desk beneath. in case you want to dig even deeper, check out the character’s opinions under and the consumer’s guide at the cease.

Product Name Autonomy Operating System
Content Content Content Content

Best Smartwatches 2020

1. Apple Watch Series 5 GPS – Best Overall

Apple Watch Serie 5

Specs

  • OS: WatchOS 6
  • Compatibility: iOS
  • Display: 1.78” OLED
  • Processor: Apple S5
  • Band Sizes: Different based on watch size
  • Onboard Storage: 32GB
  • Battery Duration: 24 hours to 36 hours
  • Charging Method: Wireless
  • IP Rating: 50m
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE, NFC

Pros

  • Display is always on
  • Very large on-board storage
  • WatchOS 6 has great features

Cons

  • Short battery life
  • No sleep tracking
  • Pricey

Review

Apple’s latest smartwatch is, no doubt, the best smartwatch… for iPhone users. Because it won’t work with an Android phone.

The one major upgrade this watch offers over its earlier version is an Always-On display. There are of course other upgrades to the software and hardware, but from a user perspective, this is the one you’ll notice most. This helps the watch feel more like a real watch and less like a novelty athletic tracker. If you’ve worn a smartwatch before, then you’ve probably stopped noticing the time it takes your watch to wake up after you’ve flicked your wrist. But as soon as you wear a watch with an Always-On display, you’ll realize you’ve been missing something.

I appreciated this most at two points in my day – when I was doing planks, and when I was on my bike trainer. These are both situations in which I sometimes desperately want to see how much longer is on my timer, but can’t flick my wrist up to activate a watch.

For every app other than Workout, the watch will still go into sleep mode. The display won’t show the app but will instead default to a watch face that shows the time and, depending on your choice of watch face, other critical data. For me this was perfect, but if you were hoping to keep another app open without the watch going to sleep, then this may not be the right watch for you.

One issue I had with the display was the dimmer, which wasn’t dim enough. It’s supposed to automatically adjust, but always shined brighter than my future (and my future’s bright, I promise). So I ended up having to activate cinema mode at night. I think Apple should have included a low brightness mode like regular wrist watches have with luminous hands. It’s easy to see, but doesn’t distract you. It might have led to longer battery life, too.

There is a lot of hype around the LTPO technology used in the Apple Watch 5. Apple claims it’s the reason for the device’s longer battery life. However, a little research suggests that it’s really only an incremental upgrade from the OLED display in the Apple Watch 4. Of course, the new Watch 5 has a bunch of new display drivers that make things more efficient, and a better light sensor than its predecessor, but it’s really nothing that couldn’t have been done to the Watch 4. The cynic in me wonders whether Apple really needed an extra 12 months to develop this tech, or if it was just holding off for 2019 in order to exploit it for the purposes of marketing a supposed upgrade to the previous version.

Between the new LTPO technology and the new drivers and sensors, the watch can go from a refresh rate of 60Hz to just 1Hz in 1 second, making for more efficient dimming and a longer battery life. The speed of the whole process is a win for Apple; other manufacturers have a hard time making displays that can make those switches fast and dynamically.

As far as the external design is concerned, you don’t get any revolutionary change in the Apple Watch 5. Models in the Apple Watch series are notorious for all looking the same from one generation to the next – the look is part of their brand. The frame is the same curved aluminum. The display is as square as ever, and the digital crown, which you can use to scroll through the menus on the watch, hasn’t changed either. You can use a small button next to the digital crown to see the apps you opened recently and activate Apple Pay.

When it comes to fitness features, the Apple Watch 5 has hardly received any upgrades to its capabilities. The heart rate monitor, accelerometer, and GPS are the same as those in the Apple Watch 4. One major upgrade is the compass, which tells you where you’re going and works out your elevation in collaboration with the GPS. This is a great feature for hikers, joggers, or cyclists, though may be of limited use to other people.

One feature that should be noted is the EKG monitor that came out with the Series 4 and still functions on the Series 5. For more on that, read our review of the Apple Watch 4.

Despite the fact that there aren’t many new features in the Apple Watch 5, it’s still an awesome watch for fitness with everything working just as well as in the Watch 4. The GPS is super accurate and so is the heart rate monitor. When you swim, the watch will count lengths and durations accurately, though the watch might have trouble accurately telling you what strokes you’re doing.

2. Samsung Galaxy Watch – Best for Samsung Users

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Specs

  • OS:Tizen OS
  • Compatibility: Android and iOS
  • Display: 1.2 inch or 1.3 inch 360 by 360 Super AMOLED
  • Processor: Dual-core 1.15GHz
  • Band Sizes: 22mm and 20mm
  • Onboard Storage: 4GB
  • Battery Duration: Max of 4 days on 46mm; lower duration on 42mm
  • Charging Method: Wireless
  • IP Rating: 50m
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE (as an add-on/costs extra)

Pros

  • Great battery life
  • Useful rotating bezel

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Annoying charger
  • Poor voice assistant technology.

Review

Samsung’s line of Galaxy Watches is another entrant on our list with an Always-On option. This makes sense, as its direct competitor is the Apple Watch 5. These are both great watches, and if you don’t mind spending the money and are looking for a generalist watch with lots of apps, the real decision between the Samsung Galaxy and Apple Watch 5 is which OS you need. Apple 5 is for Apple users; Samsung isn’t.

Another difference is the style. If you need a watch that will match an upscale wardrobe for boardrooms or fancy dinner parties, then the Samsung Galaxy is probably the best watch on the market. It looks like something a collector might put in a shadow box. Its round, stainless steel case gives it a classic look, to which its rotating bezel only adds. Divers, pilots, and other professionals used to use these bezels on ancient, analog watches to track time. On the Samsung Galaxy, the bezel is cleverly designed to navigate menus.

This feature is more beneficial than it may at first sound. Samsung has repurposed a style from classic watches and delivered a feature that allows users to more easily interact with their watch. Rotate it left to see your notifications. Rotate it right to quickly access widgets. In combination with physical buttons and a touch screen, this is among the most intuitive watches to use.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 (reviewed below) also has a version of the rotating bezel – though this one is a virtual bezel that uses haptics to simulate the feel of the physical bezel.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch comes in two different sizes: a 46mm version and a 42mm version. The 46mm version has a silver and black theme while the 42mm version comes either in rose gold or midnight black. Both are comfortable. The larger version looks best on a big wrist in more formal wear. The smaller version looks more natural on slimmer wrists and more active wear.

However, looks aside, there is an important technical component to the different sizes. The larger, 46mm version has a larger screen and a battery that lasts as much as 24 hours longer. These are both crucial components of any wearable tech, and for that reason we recommend the 46mm version.

Samsung watches – the Galaxy included – runs on the Tizen OS, which Samsung uses in its TVs (and other devices). Tizen’s nature as a multi-platform OS is part of what allows the Galaxy’s rotating bezel.

The Tizen OS is also responsible for the Galaxy’s long battery life. The 46mm version will easily last 4 days (the smaller, 42mm version lasts 3 – which is still good). This is normal use, fetching notifications and messages, tracking workouts, and making honest efforts to communicate with Bixby, Samsung’s lackluster AI.

Like all smartwatches, Samsung’s Galaxy has fitness tracking capabilities, with a wide array of sensors and the Samsung Health app. These will nudge you along when you get too sedentary and can auto-detect six different exercises (you can set it to detect an additional 33 exercises). It also has a sleep tracker and is waterproof for a maximum depth of 50 meters.

The problems with this watch are mostly on the software end, rather than the hardware. For starters, some often used, arguably important, third party apps are missing, including Facebook Messenger, Google Maps, and WhatsApp. Other issues include not having any of the fitness apps that come with Wear OS, such as Google Health and others. The only apps you get are those that exist in the Tizen ecosystem, which is not as diverse as those in Wear OS or even iOS.

The voice assistant, Bixby, is also less than satisfactory. It has issues understanding most voice commands, a problem that could be resolved with time as the company upgrades its algorithms.

3. Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch – Best for Android

Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch

Specs

  • OS: Wear OS
  • Compatibility: Android and iOS
  • Display: 1.28 inch 416 by 416 AMOLED
  • Processor: Snapdragon Wear 3100
  • Band Sizes: 22mm
  • Onboard Storage: 4GB
  • Battery Duration: 30 hours
  • Charging Method: Proprietary method
  • IP Rating: water resistant up to 3 ATM
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC

Pros

  • Sleek minimalistic design
  • Pretty fast
  • Decent battery life
  • Battery modes feature

Cons

  • Poor speaker quality

Review

Fossil has been in the watch-making business since 1984, and developed a reputation for making great watches… in their mid-priced range. In their 35 years, they have branched out into other fashion products such as wallets, fragrances, handbags and purses, as well as higher-end watches in their “Fossil Swiss” line. However, their brand still seems focused on mid-priced watches.

With their Gen 5 smartwatch, Fossil has kept to those roots; as of this writing, the Fossil Gen 5 is priced roughly $100 less than the Apple Watch 5, and $50 less than the Samsung Galaxy. Considering its price, features, and functionality, it lies squarely in the middle of the pack of watches from this reviewer’s standpoint.

Still, it’s a good enough watch that I think it would be the right choice for some consumers – particularly users of Android devices. If you love your Android device and want the most seamless communication between it and your watch, then this is the watch to get.

In appearance, you have seven options of bezel/band, from classic stainless steel to the more athletic look of black silicone. Fossil is, at heart, a fashion company, and so their watches are accordingly stylish – which you choose depends on your own personal look.

The one issue I do take with Fossil’s style is where it crosses into function. As with their previous generations of watches, their Gen 5 has three buttons that protrude from the right of the watch face. This may be something unique to me, but I found that when I flexed my wrist far enough (especially while wearing cycling gloves and riding on the tops), I could inadvertently toggle the watch’s features.

The display is an AMOLED screen with a 328ppi pixel density. It’s pretty sharp to look at, but in bright sunlight becomes unreadable – you have to adjust the settings, which can be tricky when it’s hard to see the screen well enough to interact with it.

The chipset for the Fossil Gen 5 is the Snapdragon Wear 3100, and this is what makes this watch one of the most viable watches on the Wear OS platform. It has 1GB of RAM, which allows the watch to run faster and more smoothly than any other watch in the Wear OS world. While navigating through the apps, you’ll still notice a bit of lag – but not so much that it’s frustrating or challenging to work the watch’s features.

In terms of battery life, Fossil’s Gen 5 advertises itself as having “24+ hrs” with “Multi Day Modes.” What this means in practice is that, in terms of settings, there are perhaps too many options. There are the “Daily” and “Extended” options, which most tech users will be familiar with. But then there are also “Custom” and “Time Only” options, which doesn’t seem so bad. Until you realize that each of these also has 12 different settings that you can choose between. There are certainly tech junkies who will love messing with these settings and maximizing their battery use… but most of us would feel better with fewer options, and the trust that the watch is smart enough to give us a functional amount of battery life.

The watch comes with features that are pretty standard for this generation – built-in NFC, GPS, heart rate monitoring, and speaker. With the Cardiogram app, Fossil claims the ability to detect sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension, and atrial fibrillation. The watch is water resistant to 3 atmospheres of pressure – making it more than enough for showering, bathing, or even active swimming.

The primary app for fitness tracking is the Google Fit, which works both with an Android phone and an Apple phone. It tracks your performance using heart points and move minutes, which is great for those who don’t like to be bombarded with too many technicalities on their smartwatch display. If you want finer, more comprehensive stats, though, you’re always welcome to install a third party application.

4. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – Best for Fitness Accountability

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Specs

  • OS: Tizen OS
  • Compatibility: Android and iOS
  • Display: 1.2 inch 360 by 360 Super AMOLED
  • Processor: Dual-core 1.15GHz
  • Band Sizes: 20mm
  • Onboard Storage: 4GB
  • Battery Duration: Approximately 2 days
  • Charging Method: Wireless
  • IP Rating: 50m
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Pros

  • Great haptic dial control on-screen
  • Great minimalist design
  • Battery life is decent

Cons

  • Very few third party apps

Review

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active 2 released a mere 6-months after the original Galaxy Watch Active, and the two aren’t that different. There are minor upgrades to the software and hardware, with proportional improvements in screen sizes, battery life, etc.

For me, the biggest difference between the two is that the Active 2 has a virtual version of the Galaxy Watch’s rotating bezel (which is a big deal, and I’ll talk more about in a few paragraphs).

Another difference in the Active 2 is the introduction of the built-in fall detection and ECG – which Samsung promises, but isn’t yet available. They first need FDA approval, which they expect to get in the first months of 2020. Features like these, though, really target the watch’s audience – people interested in fitness and activity.

However – and this may be a real problem for the Active 2 – their tracking isn’t as accurate as other devices. This is true both for GPS tracking and steps counted; the Active 2 tends to over-estimate distances.

There are cases where this won’t matter. If you’re buying the watch to help yourself be more accountable, and want to track activity more than train for an event, this watch will work fine. Also, if you’re going to use this watch and only this watch to track your progress in training, then it’s consistent enough with itself that you can make gains. However, if you use this watch to, for example, train for a half-marathon, then you may be surprised when, on the day of the event, you reach mile 11 and realize the event is two miles longer than you’d been training for, or that your average times are far lower than you’d thought they’d be.

That being said, the watch has a lot going for it. Among my favorites, as I mentioned, is navigating apps with the virtual bezel. The Samsung Galaxy Watch has a physical bezel that rotates to allow users to move between apps. The Active 2 doesn’t have this physically rotating bezel, but uses haptic technology to imitate it well enough that it felt intuitive and was certainly fast.

The Active 2 also has apps for YouTube, Twitter, Spotify, and more. And while these worked well enough, whether or not watching YouTube videos or reading texts on such a small screen is a plus is up to you.

However, the Spotify app allows you to download playlists and listen offline, which is a great plus for users either in the weight room or on the trainer or in nearly any other exercise environment. Moreover, features such as tracking sleep (with a clever “goodnight” mode that dims the screen) and water, food, and caffeine consumption are a great plus for people who are interested in holding themselves accountable, but maybe aren’t training to win the next New York City marathon.

The Running Coach is also improved, and now gives real-time pace metrics and a rundown of what to expect in your workout before you start. Audio cues can be heard either through the watch’s own speakers, or over Bluetooth headset.

For casual fitness buffs or people just getting into fitness, all of this might sound great. And these features make Active 2 a great smartwatch for fitness and can last amateur athletes for years. However, be warned that if you’re hoping to reach even high-collegiate levels of training, then you will outgrow this watch.

The chipset on the Active 2 is the Exynos 9110 dual-core processor, which is the same used on the Galaxy Watch. It’s fast enough to feel intuitive, and the 768MB of RAM is more than enough for switching between apps. If you go for the more expensive LTE model, you get even more RAM (1.5GB).

The round face of the Galaxy Watch Active 2 gives it a traditional look, and it comes in a variety of colors to match your style. The stainless steel variants are a little more expensive, and the bands are interchangeable.

The bottom line on this watch is that, for consumers with an iPhone, this isn’t for them – hands down, they should go with an Apple Watch. This watch, in contrast, pairs most easily with Samsung phones. Its kit is pretty standard for this generation of watches – with heart rate monitoring, GPS tracking, etc. While its name implies it’s targeted at active users, it may not be accurate enough for collegiate-level athletes or hardcore trainers who need to track their progress to make gains. However, it’s still a Samsung watch, which is a reliable brand. For users who just want to stay fit and want a device that can help keep them accountable, this watch is great. And for people concerned with ECG monitoring and fall detection, this may be one of the best watches on the market (once those options are approved by the FDA).

5. Mobvoi TicWatch Pro – Best Battery Life

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro

Specs

  • OS: Wear OS
  • Compatibility: Android 4.3+ and iOS 8+
  • Display: 1.4 inch 400 by 400 OLED and second LCD screen
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100
  • Onboard Storage: 4GB
  • Battery Duration: 7 days in essential mode and 48hrs otherwise
  • Charging Method: Magnetic pin
  • IP Rating: IP68
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi, NFC

Pros

  • Impressive battery life (in Essential mode)
  • Beautiful design
  • Great innovation on screen

Cons

  • No LTE connectivity
  • So-so performance
  • Poor battery life (in Smart mode)

Review

Mobvoi TicWatch is a new entrant to the field. To be entirely honest, I hadn’t heard of the names TicWatch or Mobvoi until last year. However, even though it’s a new brand with new products, it’s managed to take hold of its share of the market with a savvy business strategy and sound designs. The Mobvoi TicWatch E and S were both impressive, and now we have the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro, which also is its most premium product to date.

Mobvoi started out making artificial intelligence voice technologies. They then expanded into smart home devices and wearables, focusing on the underserved Chinese market.

Their main design philosophy has been to deliver high-end specs on a budget by skimping on external designs. Which is a reasonable trade off.

But with the TicWatch Pro, they’re offering a high-end design with their usual quality specs, plus some truly innovative features.

Like most smartwatches, there are no rotating bezels or crowns – most of your interaction will come through the display itself, or through the two buttons on the watch’s side. The top of which acts as a home button, while the bottom is a programmable shortcut.

The first major innovation that Mobvoi has brought to the market is this watch’s display. Not because it’s a touchscreen, but because it’s actually two screens combined in the same watch face.

The top screen is a transparent LCD. This is the screen that’s used in low-power, or “Essential,” mode. Data such as the time and date, step count, and heart rate, can all be displayed on a low-power screen that’s still visible even in direct sunlight.

Underneath this LCD display is layered the kind of touchscreen that most smartwatches use. This more power-hungry display is high resolution (at 400×400 pixels) and is used for navigating and displaying apps, and other key functions of the smart watch.

This clever combination of screens is the reason for the second innovative feature of the TicWatch Pro – a battery life that can be measured in days instead of hours. Putting the watch into Essential mode (which it will do itself once the battery gets too low) whenever possible means the watch uses very little juice. It gives you limited access to the other features of the smartwatch, but allows you to use the watch for days at a time without having to even think about recharging.

In terms of looks, Mobvoi has stepped up their game here, but they’re still not going to compete with Fossil, Samsung, or even Apple. The TicWatch Pro has a round face, and the bezel is marked in 5-minute intervals – at a glance, it has the appearance of a higher end watch. But closer inspection will show it to be what it is – midpriced.

On the wrist, it feels a little thick and weighty, but not uncomfortably so. There are 8 different options for straps, from colored silicone to brown leather. More interestingly, there are also options for straps that combine silicone and leather.

The biggest downside to this watch is that it isn’t as user-friendly as other watches. For starters, there is no LTE version yet offered. It uses the Wear OS, but also requires that the Mobvoi app be downloaded in order for the watch to work at all. Not only is the Mobvoi app itself lackluster, but other important functions, such as the phone app, aren’t quite as good as what you’ll find on other smartwatches.

The TicWatch Pro’s fitness tracking functions are okay, and will work well enough for many users. Unless those users want to go swimming – while the watch is water resistant, Mobvoi recommends that it not get much more wet than a hot shower. If fitness tracking is high on your list of needs in a smartwatch, there are others on our list that are more accurate and have better options.

6. Mobvoi TicWatch E2 – Best for Budgets or Gifts

Mobvoi TichWatch E2

Specs

  • OS: Wear OS
  • Compatibility: Android 4.3+ and iOS 8+
  • Display: 1.39 inch 400 by 400 OLED
  • Processor: Snapdragon Wear 2100
  • Onboard Storage: 4GB
  • Battery Duration: Approximately 48 hours
  • Charging Method: Magnetic pin
  • IP Rating: IP67
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi

Pros

    • li>Battery life is pretty good

  • Can track swims and surf
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • No NFC so payments next to impossible

Review

About the Mobvoi TicWatch E2, there is one remarkable thing – its sticker price. At only $160, it’s one of the cheapest smartwatches running Wear OS.

On first look, you’ll probably think that the E2’s design favors function over fashion – and you’ll be right. The watch is available in all of one color – black polycarbonate. Its round face is unadorned. Its single button nondescript.

But if you’re in the market for a cheap smartwatch – if, for example, you’re indulging a preteen’s Christmas wish – then you may not find one as functional as the E2. It uses Google’s Wear OS, which will give its user access to one of the biggest platforms on the market.

Its chipset is an unfortunately dated Snapdragon 2100. In its day, this was a fine chipset, but modern demands are a little too much for it. Navigating between apps is slow enough that, if you’re at all used to higher-end tech, it will feel frustrating.

That being said, Google’s transition from Android Wear to Wear OS has focused on keeping dated chipsets viable. What this means is that, even though its performance may not be up to your standards, it will still run most things you could want.

In terms of battery life, you’ll see about a full day of use before it needs to be recharged. On a device such as a Fitbit, this wouldn’t be enough because many users like the sleep tracking features those watches offer. However, since the E2 doesn’t have sleep tracking, wearing it for a full day and charging it at night is a completely viable option.

The TicWatch E2 offers fitness tracking. However, we found consistent problems with accuracy. The heart monitor seemed to take awhile to register changes. This resulted in some exercises not being counted, and in calories burned and other metrics being demonstrably wrong. For serious fitness buffs or for people who truly need to track fitness, this may not be the watch for them.

That being said, the watch does include a “Swim” feature. It’s water resistant up to a pressure equivalent to 5 ATM (about 50 meters or 170ft of depth). On the pool swim option, the display automatically locks itself so you don’t swipe accidentally while underwater. Later, when you’re out of the water, you just press the power button to wake the display again. You can also set the length of the pool, so long as it is not more than 100 meters. You can set such things as your target distance, duration, and the number of lengths you want. I’m not much of a swimmer, but this wasn’t an option included on all smartphones, and seemed intuitive enough to be useful for people interested in this feature.

In terms of storage, you get 4GB, which is pretty much standard for most smartwatches out there. Importantly however, it’s not standard on most $160 smartwatches. This provides enough space to download a lot of different apps and also your music tracks to listen to on your next workout or during a boring car ride, etc. Bluetooth headphones can also be connected to the watch so music can be listened to without relying on a smartphone, or annoying other people.

The display is the same as the previous gen TicWatch E2 at 1.39 inches. It’s an OLED screen with a resolution of 400 by 400 and a pixel density of 404ppi. It’s colorful and bright and has enough detail that any text displayed on it is legible. Like most features on this watch, the display is adequate.

Like other Mobvoi watches, I found the user interface to be less than friendly. It insists that the Mobvoi app be installed for the watch to work – but the app doesn’t have to be used. And in fact, I would recommend not using it, and instead going straight to Google Play.

The watch is enabled with GPS, which allows for things such as fitness tracking. However, it does not come with NFC (near-field communication). This is used most often for things like Google Pay, to make payments without taking out your wallet or credit card. There also is not a version with LTE available.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a bad watch. If you want to get into the smartwatch game but don’t want to drop a lot of money, this is a perfectly good watch. It does all of the important things that people want in a smartwatch – music playback, interacting with different apps, health tracking, and (let’s not forget) telling the time. But it’s not an objectively great watch. When I think about the phrase, “You get what you pay for,” it doesn’t apply to this watch. With the E2, you’re getting more than you’re paying for. But it’s not going to be as fast, as accurate, or as stylish as some of the more expensive watches on our list.

7. Apple Watch 4 – Best for Mid-priced iOS

Apple Watch Serie 4

Specs

  • OS: Watch OS 5
  • Compatibility: iOS
  • Display: 1.78 inch OLED
  • Processor: Apple S4
  • Band Sizes: Depends on watch size
  • Onboard Storage: 16GB
  • Battery Duration: Between 24 hours and 48 hours
  • Charging Method: Wireless
  • IP Rating: 50m
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE, NFC

Pros

  • Large display
  • Loud speaker
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • Difficult to find

Review

When Apple Watch 4 first hit the wrists, many considered it the best smartwatch money could buy. It was fast. It was versatile. And it was innovative.

Of course, that was before the Apple Watch 5. The obvious question now is, “Why wouldn’t I just buy the Series 5?”

The answer is, if you don’t mind spending the extra $95 (at the time of this writing) and you have an iPhone, you probably should get the Apple Watch 5.

But if that extra money gives you pause, read on for a discussion of the differences and similarities.

In design, they are more similar than different. They have similar sizes and shapes and bands. They have the same amount of memory, use the same processor, and have the same digital crown that’s used to navigate apps and to access the EKG. And both offer fall detection. They also (like all Apple Watches except the original) run on the WatchOS 6.

As we mentioned at the top of the article, the Series 5 has some upgraded drivers and an improved display that give incremental upgrades in its user interface and battery life, but there are really only two downsides to buying the Series 4.

The first, and arguably least important, is that the Series 4 lacks a built-in compass. This makes it a little less accurate on runs or cycling, etc. But not enough to matter even for fitness gurus – if fitness tracking is what you want, then both Series 4 and 5 are good enough even for professional athletes.

The other downside to the Series 4 – and this one is a major difference in terms of user interface, but not necessarily functionality – is that the Series 5 offers the Always-On display. For my money, for that reason alone, it’s worth investing in the Series 5. But if that isn’t a deal breaker for you, or if you’re thinking of getting the watch as a present for someone (especially someone younger or older, who isn’t concerned with having all the latest features), then the Series 4 is still a great watch.

Importantly, the Series 4 is the watch that took wearable tech from novelty items to medical devices when the FDA approved its use as an EKG and irregular heart rhythm monitor. These features are also available in the Series 5, but since the Series 4 innovated this feature, I want to talk about it here.

To check for irregular heart rhythms, the watch works in the background to check your heart rate every two hours. If an irregularity is detected, the watch sends you a notification.

The EKG is an active system, meaning it isn’t done in the background but has to be done intentionally. After an easy setup, you simply sit still and hold your finger on the watch’s digital crown. An electrical pulse is sent through your body, and the watch then gives you a reading of your heart’s rhythms. A reading of “Atrial Fibrillation” means an irregular rhythm was detected (a “Sinus Rhythm” is normal).

While this information isn’t good enough to diagnose anything other than an irregular heartbeat, it is good enough to take to your doctor for further tests.

The Apple Watch 4 also innovated fall detection – a great feature for at-risk populations. And while the Series 5 promotes upgrades to all of these systems, in practice you probably won’t see a difference between it and the Series 4.

The bottom line here is probably what you expect. The Apple Watch Series 4 sits between the Series 5 and Series 3 in terms of price and function. The Series 4 offers most of the features of the Series 5, but is an upgrade from the Series 3 (discussed below) in some important ways.

8. Fitbit Versa 2 – Best for Sleep Tracking

Fitbit Versa 2

Specs

  • OS: Fitbit OS
  • Compatibility: Android 7+ and iOS 11+
  • Display: 300 by 300 AMOLED
  • Onboard Storage: 2.5GB
  • Battery Duration: 5 Days max
  • Charging Method: Magnetic pin
  • IP Rating: Water resistant
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, Wi-Fi, NFC

Pros

  • Battery life is great
  • Always-On AMOLED display
  • Great sleep tracking features

Cons

  • No GPS
  • No Google Fit or Apple Health integration

Review

Forbes named Fitbit’s Versa 2 as the reason Google wants to buy Fitbit. That’s because with this watch, Fitbit has come closer than any of its competition to matching the style and functionality of the Apple Watch series, which has long dominated the smartwatch market.

The first iteration of this series, the Fitbit Versa, targeted users who wanted a fitness watch with some of the functions of a smartwatch. They wanted to get and respond to notifications, without the distractions that hundreds of apps can bring.

With the Versa 2, Fitbit has moved this model firmly into the smartwatch market – though it’s still a fitness-focused accessory.

In terms of style, casual users will be forgiven for mistaking the Versa 2 for an Apple Watch. The Versa 2, still focused on fitness tracking, has bands that are mostly silicon (which doesn’t absorb sweat), and doesn’t offer the more upscale bands of something like the Fossil line. However, the only real difference in appearance between the Versa 2 and Apple Watch 5 is that the former is more square and the latter more rectangular.

The original Fitbit Versa has 3 buttons. The Versa 2 only has one, which you can use both as a back button and as a select button. You therefore never need to do more than 2 presses to get to the feature you would like to access. Any other actions you need to do can be done on the touchscreen.

The screen is also a huge improvement over its predecessor. On the Versa, it was an LCD display. However, the Versa 2 features a Gorilla Glass 3 protected AMOLED touchscreen – that has an Always-On option. While leaving this feature on will drain the battery twice as fast, it’s a great option for when I’m working out and want to be able to see how much time I have left on a plank (for example) without having to raise my wrist to activate the watch.

The Versa 2 also has an upgraded processor, which allows it not only to handle more of the functions of a smartwatch – including more functionality with apps – but also to navigate between them smoothly.

Because Fitbit bills itself as a fitness tracker first, battery life is among the most important features. That’s because many watches are only meant to last a day before being charged – which means they can’t track sleep. Sleep tracking, however, is one of Fitbit’s selling points, and the Versa 2 doesn’t disappoint. Not only are its sensors accurate, but its battery can last up to 5 days (assuming you are sparing with the Always-On display).

To access the app launcher, swipe on the screen from the left to the right. There are 4 app shortcuts on each page, which you can rearrange as you want; all you have to do is press lightly on the screen until you get haptic feedback. If you want to see the day’s data, you can swipe up and Fitbit Today will be launched. It displays up to seven items that you can choose from, including steps per hour, total steps, sleep stats, heart rate, and water and food intake.

If you swipe down you get access to the notifications and also the Quick Settings, Fitbit Pay, and music controls. In Quick Settings, you can choose between screen brightness, Always-On display, Sleep Mode, and Do Not Disturb.

While the Versa is an adequate smartwatch and a great fitness tracker, many of its best features are now behind a paywall. For example, the sleep tracker essentially has two versions – the paid and the unpaid. The unpaid version will take your sleep habits into account and give you a score. Someone struggling with poor sleep could record this to monitor their sleeping habits over a period of days or weeks, and see the effectiveness of any changes in their routine.

The paid version, however, will not only monitor their sleep, but show them periods of restlessness and total sleep duration, as well as periods of REM. It will show heart rate fluctuations, deep sleep vs light sleep, and compare their sleep from the past 30 days.

The cost of Fitbit Premium is only $9.99/month (as of this writing, which is pre-Google buyout). For some, that will be a deal breaker. However, the math is made complicated by the relatively low sticker price on the watch itself – which is $230 less than an Apple Watch 5 (as of this writing).

Fitbit Versa 2 works with iPhones – however, iPhone users will really benefit from the seamless blending of applications between their phones and an Apple Watch, making the Versa 2 a less attractive option for Apple users. However, with a sticker price lower than the Galaxy Series, the Versa 2 is a real contender in the Android market, especially for users who want a fitness-focused accessory.

9. Fitbit Ionic – Best for Workouts

Fitbit Ionic

Specs

  • OS: Fitbit OS
  • Compatibility: Android and iOS
  • Processor: Dual-core 1.0GHz
  • Onboard Storage: 2.5GB
  • Battery Duration: 48 hours to 72 hours
  • Charging Method: Proprietary
  • IP Rating: 50m
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Pros

  • Great for fitness
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Slow
  • Limited music offering
  • Somewhat controversial design

Review

As with the Versa 2, Fitbit’s Ionic is foremost a fitness watch. The Ionic is considered Fitbit’s flagship, and it offers more features and better functionality, at the cost of a larger, chunkier build. For people really into fitness, having a large watch on their wrist can be uncomfortable and distracting (and distractions are a problem, to the point of being dangerous, for people attempting Personal Records in any sport). At the same time, Ionic does offer improved functionality over the smaller, less expensive Versa 2. I can’t tell you if that loss of comfort is worth the functional gains, but it’s a tradeoff that should be weighed, in my opinion.

The Ionic’s body is aluminum, with antenna bands on the side. Despite this, it’s still quite attractive and looks like a proper premium watch. On the left is a single button, with two more on the right. They sit in the same place as the Fitbit Blaze and are there to help you navigate your way around the Fitbit UI.

The LCD screen has a resolution of 250 by 384 and has a brightness of 1000 nits, which is about the same as the Apple Watch 2. That means you can read the display even in bright sunlight.

I found the touchscreen to be slow sometimes, and I often had to be more vigorous when raising my wrist to get the raise-to-wake feature working. It’s not an ideal situation to be in when you’re running or cycling.

That being said, all the fitness-oriented features that Fitbit is loved for come alive in this watch. The heart rate monitor is more accurate even than other Fitbits due to new algorithms working behind the scenes and a design that allows the monitor to get even closer to your skin.

Possibly the most important difference for users trying to decide between the Ionic and the Versa is the inclusion of built-in GPS in the Ionic. This allows for better tracking of pace and distance and climb on runs and rides, and if this is how you plan to track those metrics, then the Ionic is the clear winner here (I, however, carry my phone when I cycle, so the Versa would be more than enough for me).

The Fitbit Coach is similar to the Fitstar app that you can get on your phone. These workouts are tailored and will take you through the motions, showing you what you should do. You can also send feedback to Fitbit Coach when you’re done with a workout and tell it whether you want something a little more or less challenging in the next round. The whole point is to make you get better and better and encourage you to try different exercises. Fitness buffs won’t get much use out of these Coaches – however, I have enjoyed them when, for example, I was traveling and couldn’t bring my bike or find a gym. And they were enough to make me break a sweat.

Another nice feature is the SpO2 sensor that monitors the levels of oxygen in your blood. You can also pair your Fitbit Ionic with a Dexcom G5 Mobile sensor and it should be able to show your blood glucose levels, making it a great product for those with diabetes.

The bottom line between the Versa 2 and the Ionic is that the Ionic is bulkier enough for it to be a downside. But that bulk allows for some important features, such as built-in GPS. If you’re going to use this not just as a fitness monitor but to track routes and make gains in running or cycling, then that tradeoff is probably worth it. If you’re more into hitting weights at the gym, then I don’t see that the Ionic offers enough to be worth the extra cost and discomfort.

10. Apple Watch 3 – Best for iPhone Users on a Budget

Apple Watch Serie 3

Specs

  • OS: Watch OS 5
  • Compatibility: iOS
  • Display: 1.53 inch OLED
  • Processor: S2 Dual-core
  • Onboard Storage: 8GB for non-LTE version, 16GB for LTE version
  • Battery Duration: 18 hours
  • Charging Method: Wireless
  • IP Rating: IPX7
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC

Pros

  • Screen is bright and clear
  • Great fitness features

Cons

  • Somewhat overtaken by newer models
  • You have to pay more for cellular connectivity

Review

When compared to the Apple Watch 2, the greatest upgrade that came with the Series 3 is the LTE connection. This basically allows the watch to work independently of your smartphone.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you can buy an Apple Watch without owning an iPhone in the first place. What it does mean is that you can receive notifications on some apps and even phone calls on the occasion that you forget your phone at home, but you’ll still need your iPhone around for other things. Moreover, you have to spend up to $10 a month to have cellular data sent to your watch.

That said, the quality of calls received on the Apple Watch 3 is good enough for quick conversations or for when you can’t reach your phone. But there’s a reason our society isn’t full of people wandering about talking into their wrists. Living with people who are constantly chatting on their phones in public is bad enough – now imagine if they were always on speakerphone!

The Series 3 comes in two sizes – 38mm or 42mm – with a choice of GPS or GPS+Cellular. Aside from the ability to use cellular data (LTE), the latter model also comes with twice the memory – 16GB vs only 8 for the GPS-only model.

The Series 3 is a definite upgrade over the Series 2 in a number of other ways. Music streaming is better, with access to both Beats Radio and Apple Music. The chipset and drivers are better, making for a faster, less frustrating experience.

In my mind though, the real question is how the Series 3 differs from the Series 4. And here the differences are important.

The chipset on the Series 4 (and 5) is clocked at twice the speed of the Series 3 – which is a huge difference not only in user experience, but also in the longevity of the watch. As we expect these devices to do more and more, they need faster and faster processors. Slower chipsets like the Series 3, while still functional, will be outdated more quickly.

The Series 3 also has a smaller display, and lacks the fall detection and monitoring for EKG and irregular heart rhythms of the Series 4 and 5. To be clear, the Series 3 does still offer a heart rate monitor. But that monitor lacks the two features that really made the Series 4 stand out from any other smartwatch in its generation. Moreover, the Series 3 heart rate monitor isn’t as accurate as later watches – even less expensive watches, such as the Fitbit brand.

In terms of operating system, the Series 3, 4 and 5 all run on WatchOS 6 – which means they’ll all give you a similar experience. However, the slower speed of the Series 3 will be noticeable.

In the end, this watch is still right for the right customer. That customer is someone who isn’t interested in all the latest features that technology has given us in the last 24-months or so.

Two years is objectively not a very long time… in most parts of our lives. But in the tech industry, two years is a very long time, equalling roughly twice the capacity.

But if you’re an Apple user who would be happy with all the features that smartwatches had to offer two years ago, and don’t need the latest widgets, then the Series 3 is still a perfectly good watch, and arguably still the best watch in its price range.

Smartwatches Buyer’s Guide

Let’s start by asking what a smartwatch is. It’s a device that you wear on your wrist and that can give you notifications for things like texts, calls, and social media updates. Put that way, the obvious thing that stands out is that smartwatches tend to be extensions of your phone that you wear on your wrist. However, these watches are capable of doing a lot on their own as well. Some of them come with cellular connectivity, which allows them to do some pretty advanced stuff such as make up calls and stream music independently of the phone. They also include lots of built-in sensors, such as heart rate monitors, barometers, accelerometers, and others, all to track your physical activity. You can also use them to make wireless payments if they have NFC technology in them.

When did the Smartwatch Craze begin?

Arguably, digital watches were the first smartwatches. After all, some of them had unit converters and calculators. A particular Seiko model even allowed you to watch TV! However, the true rise of watches with capabilities similar to smartphones really began sometime after 2010.

While the market is currently dominated by big players like Sony, Samsung, and Apple, the credit for popularizing the modern smartwatch goes to a small startup called Pebble. Pebble took to Kickstarter in 2013 to raise funds for its smartwatch and not only raised a lot of money, but also went on to sell over a million units.

Technological advances, such as the miniaturization of silicon chips, have also made it possible for other companies to make smartwatches dedicated to singular purposes. Take the Fenix watch, offered by Garmin, for example: this watch has lots of sensors and trackers geared for expeditions in the countryside and is more rugged than your average smartwatch. Sunto and other companies, on the other hand, make smartwatches for scuba diving which can withstand high water pressure for extended periods.

Smartwatch Features

For most smartwatches, whether it was made for everyday use or for some special purpose, some features are pretty standard.

Checking Notifications

Smartwatches alert you of notifications, important activities, and events. The notification types will differ from watch to watch. Smartwatches that are connected to your smartphone, for example, will typically mirror whatever your phone is already telling you. Others will give you notifications that only a smartwatch can give you. Later generations of the Apple Watch, for example, have a fall sensor whereby if you fall and the watch doesn’t detect any subsequent movement, it will send you some notifications that escalate and, if you don’t respond, the watch will then alert people you’ve listed, as well as the authorities.

Apps

Smartwatches also support a lot of different apps. The specific ecosystems depend on the OS (the Operating System) the smartwatch is running on. The greatest app ecosystems on the market today are the Google and Apple ecosystems. Special purpose smartwatches will also generally support the apps that help them accomplish their purpose and often won’t allow you to add other types of apps.

Media

Most regular smartwatches are paired with your phone such that you can use the smartwatch to manage media playback. Take the Apple family of products, for example: You can use your Apple Watch to change the track and volume when you’re listening to music on your iPhone on your AirPods.

Message Responses

This one is reminiscent of those old Dick Tracy comics where the detective would often use their watch like it was a phone. Most modern smartwatches running Wear OS or Watch OS allow you to answer messages through voice dictation. Apple Watches even have a walkie-talkie function that enable you to chat with other nearby Apple Watch wearers.

Fitness

If you’re really into fitness, then you’ll appreciate the fitness features most smartwatches have. However, if all you want is a fitness tracker, then buying a smartwatch with fitness features might be a bit of overkill.

Fitness trackers include heart rate monitors, which use sensors on the bottom of the watch to track your pulse through your wrist and register your heartbeat. They also have other trackers, such as gyrometers, barometers, accelerometers, compasses, and others in order to help track different aspects of your fitness regime.

Fitness trackers also double as general activity trackers. The Apple Watch’s ability to sense when you fall wouldn’t exactly fall under the category of fitness. It’s more of an activity tracker. The same goes for counting the number of steps you’ve taken in a day, though that bleeds between general activity and fitness. At any rate, many of the sensors that are used for fitness tracking are also used for general activity tracking.

Fitness trackers have been with us for quite a while, with the most popular fitness tracker manufacturer being Fitbit. With the rise of smartwatches, however, fitness tracker sales decreased as smartwatch apps became more and able to mimic fitness-tracking functions, and people preferred the versatility and increased functionality of the smartwatch. Smartwatches have all the functionality of a fitness tracker plus more. It’s that ‘more’ that makes it really valuable for most people. That said, fitness trackers are niche and definitely cheaper than smartwatches, so getting one is a good idea if all you want is to track your fitness.

Personally, even though I love technology, I also respect the fact that sometimes we need to escape their distractions. For me, this means I’ll often turn off my phone when I’m working, and a simple fitness tracker is exactly what I need. If my watch was also alerting me to every social media update, I would just have to turn it off, too.

GPS Functionality

Most modern smartwatches also include built-in GPS, which allows the watch to track your location for fitness purposes and also to give you location-specific alerts.

What are the different Types of Smartwatches?

Smartwatches are of two general types. On the one hand, we have general purpose smartwatches, such as Wear OS and Watch OS devices. These watches are heavily dependent on smartphones and are meant to be a support device for your phone; an extension that you wear on your wrist.

On the other hand, we have niche devices that are meant for specific purposes, which stand somewhere between a fitness tracker like the Fitbit, and a regular smartwatch.

Hiking watches are a good example. They are meant for extended travel in remote areas and feature such things as weather forecasting, tracking for basic vitals, GPS, and a great battery life. They are also typically durable and highly resilient against dust, water, drops, and strong vibrations.

Diving watches are another example. You can typically connect your first-stage regulator to your diving watch via Bluetooth. Devices like the Descent MK1 from Garmin offer you indicators for things like temperature, time remaining, and depth, among others.

We even have a niche market for flying watches, such as the D2 Delta PX from Garmin. It offers a logbook, a moving map powered by GPS, and a pulse Ox on the wrist.

What should you consider when getting a Smartwatch?

To be sure, there are some interesting shortcomings among smartwatches. Some of them have a charger that’s hard to use while others will only pair to a particular set of mobile devices. What you’re supposed to be looking out for when smartwatch shopping pretty much depends on your interests. Here are a few things you can think about as you shop around:

  • Compatibility – The smartwatch should be compatible with your smartphone or whatever device you intend to pair it with.
  • Comfort – The smartwatch should feel comfortable on your wrist. Most models are round today, with the exception of the Apple Watch and other similar models. Smartwatches are also getting slimmer and lighter by the day. However, there is still the odd large and chunky smartphone that nobody wants to wear.
  • Battery life – A good watch should go for at least a day on regular usage, depending on the sophistication of the tech in the watch. Some of them even go for weeks, though the tech is necessarily simpler in these smartwatches.
  • Water Resistance – Most of the smartwatches on the market today are at least a bit resistant to water. Some of the higher end models even track swimming as an exercise. You will have to check the specs if this matters to you.
  • Charging – Some use wireless charging while others use charging docks. Others still use cables to charge. If this matters to you then you should definitely check the specs.
  • Features – Check if the smartwatch has the specific features you want. If you want something that will help you with your fitness program, then get a smartwatch with the right sensors, such as a heart rate monitor to register your heart rate, an accelerometer, a barometer, a compass, and other sensors that help you keep track of such things as your steps, distance run, and so on. Most smartwatches today will offer heart rate monitors and built-in GPS by default. However, since not all of them offer it, it’s good to check for the specific features you want before you buy a smartwatch so you don’t get unpleasantly surprised later.