A smartwatch is the ultimate phone accessory. It can tell the time, of course, but it can also beam important notifications straight to your wrist, track your fitness stats and pay for your morning coffee.
Today’s best smartwatch models can perform a ton of tricks, such as enabling you to search the internet with your voice, track your location with GPS or even monitor your heart rate to protect your overall health – with our without pairing to one of the best smartphones on the market.
Oh, and some of them look absolutely stunning too. If you’re thinking that a smartwatch is a pointlessly geeky accessory… think again. The choices we’ve ranked below are well-made, powerful and can genuinely make you fitter through some smart nudges.
What’s big in July?
We’ve tested the vast majority of the top-end wearables you can buy right now from the Apple Watch to Fitbits, Garmin trackers to Tizen-sporting Samsung watches. There’s also Wear OS (you may have known that in its previous incarnation called Android Wear) which is Google’s own wearable operating system in the vein of Apple’s watchOS.
During our review process, we take into account the design, features, battery life, spec, price and more for each smartwatch, rank it against the competition and enter it into the list you’ll find below.
Smartwatches come and go from the ranking depending on the rest of the competition at the time, and bear in mind we may see products like the Honor Watch Magic appear in the list after we’ve tested them properly.
It looks like 2019 is set to be a big year in the wearables space too, so expect lots of change in this list if we hear official announcements for products like the Google Pixel Watch, Garmin Fenix 6 and the Apple Watch 5.
1. Samsung Galaxy Watch
The sporty Samsung watch gains some style
Our best smartwatch you can buy right now is from Samsung, and instead of opting for the expected Gear S4 name it’s called the Galaxy Watch. Following on from the Gear S3 series and the Gear Sport in 2017, the latest Samsung Watch is much improved.
We’ve tested out the larger 46mm version of the watch and it comes with a phenomenal four day battery life even when you’re using it extensively. That’s impressive considering a lot of other watches on this list last a day or so from a single charge.
The rotating bezel remains a highlight of navigating around the Tizen OS on the watch, and the interface is one of the easiest to pick up that we’ve seen on a smartwatch.
Apps available on the watch are more limited than Wear OS or watchOS – two rival smartwatch operating systems – but it still offers the core basics and Samsung had provided a watch that’s good at fitness as well as sporting a great design and lots more functionality too.
2. Apple Watch 4
The best Apple Watch money can buy
Coming in a close second, the Apple Watch Series 4 is our second favorite smartwatch you can buy right now. This is the first time Apple has updated the design of its smartwatch line, and it looks all the better for it.
You get a much bigger screen with the choice of 40mm or 44mm watch sizes, there’s a wider display (which is still bright and clear) as well as all the rest of the tech we’ve come to expect from the Apple Watch.
The speaker on this watch is louder than before, the design is still lightweight (yet it feels premium) and you can use all your existing Apple Watch straps with this latest generation too.
The most exciting tech is the fact there’s an ECG feature within the heart rate tracker. It can test your heart to see if you’re at a high risk of atrial fibrillation, which will allow you to seek help earlier if your health is in danger.
This tech isn’t present at launch, and right now we only know it’ll be available in the US. I’s not an upgrade relevant to everyone, but for some people this could be some life changing tech.
There are still tons of fitness features and the latest watchOS 5 apps onboard so you’ll likely love this smartwatch. The Apple Watch 4 is our favorite watch you can use with an iPhone (this won’t work with Android devices), but it’s just been pipped to the title of best overall smartwatch.
What’s next? The Apple Watch 4 was announced and released in September 2018, and we don’t expect to see the Apple Watch 5 until the same month this year.
3. Fossil Sport
Fossil’s latest big smartwatch attempt
Fossil has developed a lot of expertise in the wearable tech space over the last few years, and this has all culminated in the best smartwatch the company has made so far.
The Fossil Sport is a top-end watch with a lower price tag than the two devices above in this list. It features GPS, a lightweight – yet premium – design and at least two days of battery life from a single charge.
Fossil has packed a Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset inside, which is the latest update from Qualcomm that offers a smoother experience than you’ll get on a lot of older Wear OS watches.
It doesn’t sport any truly unique features, but the overall package of the Fossil Sport may be the best watch for you. That’ll especially be the case if you’re looking for a fitness watch that comes with Wear OS software and won’t look odd on your wrist when you’re going about your day.
4. Fitbit Versa
A smaller and cheaper Fitbit Ionic
Feels a little cheap and childish
Fitbit is one of the biggest names in fitness tracking tech, but until late in 2017 the company hadn’t gone anywhere near smartwatches.
The company has now released two smartwatches, and both feature on this list but first we’re starting with our favorite that was announced in March 2018.
That favorite from Fitbit is the Versa that is a touch smaller than the other one (that’s the Ionic) but it comes with Fitbit Pay for contactless payments, 2.5GB of storage for music and battery life that’ll last around three days.
It doesn’t have GPS for tracking your runs and the design doesn’t feel as premium as some of the other watches on this list, but we really like the Fitbit Versa and it’s one of the more affordable choices on this list.
What’s next? Our Fitbit Versa Lite review is now in, and it may be worth a look if you’re looking to buy the Fitbit Versa. It isn’t as feature-packed, but it’s cheaper than the original Versa.
5. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
Cheaper than our best smartwatch, but very similar
You’ve already heard all about the Samsung Galaxy Watch, but what if you just don’t want a large version of its wearable? Samsung has shrunk down most of the tech available in the Galaxy Watch into this more sport appropriate package that’s slimmer, lighter and, arguably, more comfortable.
The Galaxy Watch Active features a 1.1-inch 360 x 360 display that while being bright and beautiful allows for a smaller watch to be strapped around your wrist than a lot of the other devices in this list.
It still comes sporting all of the top-end fitness features you’d expect from Samsung’s Tizen watch range, but it lacks the rotating bezel or an LTE option that you’d get from the top-end product.
The best part is how the price has shrunk to match its size. It’s certainly not a cheap smartwatch, but when compared to the original RRP of the Galaxy Watch you may prefer to opt for this version that’s remarkably similar.
6. TicWatch E2
A fully-loaded Wear OS watch you’ve never heard of
Easily two day battery life
One of the cheapest devices on this list, the TicWatch E2 is from a relatively small brand called Mobvoi but it has made a big splash with its latest couple of smartwatches.
The E2 is waterproof, comes with great battery life and it’s all available for an affordable price. You probably won’t fall in love with the design of this watch – it’s not particularly premium – but we like the look considering how much it costs.
For health, the watch comes with built-in GPS, an accurate heart rate sensor and sleep tracking. All of the fitness features you’d expect are here, but make sure you note that it won’t be able to do contactless payments as there’s no NFC onboard.
Don’t like the design? There’s also the TicWatch S2. That’s a remarkably similar watch to the TicWatch E2, but it comes with a slightly more rugged look for adventurers who want a watch that can take a beating. Check this out if you’re happy to spend a bit extra.
7. Apple Watch 3
2017’s best smartwatch is now cheaper
Brilliant fitness tracking
Non-LTE version much better value
LTE is an unnecessary expense
Battery too short for sleep tracking
The Apple Watch 3 (or Apple Watch Series 3, if you’re picky) was the best smartwatch but has recently been bumped off the top spot and down a few places since the launch of the Apple Watch 4.
The Apple Watch 3 is essentially just the Apple Watch 2 frame with some new innards… but they make a big difference. Plus the price has recently dropped, making this a much more attractive proposition.
The LTE connection is the headline event, although that’s not really as useful as some might hope – plus it costs a lot more to use, and drains the battery.
What we like is the non-LTE version, which is a lot cheaper, and offers all the smarts of the Watch 2 but with a longer battery life and faster speeds when flicking through apps.
It’s still water-resistant so you can swim with it and you won’t have to worry about getting it wet in the rain when you’re out for a jog. There’s GPS onboard to make running that little bit easier plus it you can now upgrade to watchOS 5 too.
8. TicWatch Pro
The watch with two screens
One of our favorite Wear OS watches is the TicWatch Pro, which you can use with either an iPhone or with your Android phone. You may not have heard of TicWatch before, but the latest from the company it a top-end watch with a unique dual-screen feature.
There are two displays on this watch – one layered on top of the other. On the top is a transparent LCD display that can display the time, your heart rate and more when the battery is low.
Below that is a bright and bold full color OLED screen that will give you all of the benefits of Wear OS. That means you can have a normal smartwatch, which we found would last around two days, and then have the time and some other features still available when your battery is running low. Plus the low power mode also lasts for a whole 30 days too.
In terms of smartwatch features there’s GPS, NFC for Google Pay, Bluetooth for listening to music and the top Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset in here running the watch as well. Then there’s the price, which undercuts a lot of the other watches on this list.
9. Fitbit Ionic
The fitness brand’s first big smartwatch play
Variety of fitness options
The Fitbit Ionic was always going to be a tough move for the brand, trying to enter the world of smartwatches from fitness bands.
The effort succeeds in some places: namely fitness, as you might imagine, where you can track all manner of things, from running to weight lifting to swimming. There’s also dedicated bodyweight coaching sessions in there, and you can pay for items on the go using Fitbit Pay.
When it first launched, the price was super high and it was a bit too expensive to wholeheartedly recommend. The good news is the price seems to have dropped in recent months so you can get it for at least $70/£70 cheaper than the RRP.
If you’re a Fitbit fan looking to do more than you get on an average band, this is a nice option.
What’s next? Rumors about a new Ionic are few and far between, but we’ve put together a guide on what we want to be improved if it releases a Fitbit Ionic 2.
10. Misfit Vapor 2
A revamped watch from the fitness experts
The second attempt at a smartwatch from Misfit has gone down even better than the first. This watch is designed to sit somewhere in between a premium, fashionable smartwatch and a must-have for fitness lovers.
It doesn’t do either of those things perfectly, and instead does both quite well. It’s a good looking watch that doesn’t cost the same amount as some of the more expensive Wear OS watches you can buy.
It is sporting the older Snapdragon 2100 chipset, but it features built-in GPS, NFC for Google Pay and a variety of other features that may make you want it.
Photo illustration: TechRadar; Misfit; Mobvoi; Apple; Fitbit; Samsung
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