From sundials to pocket watches to those retro calculator timepieces that were great for cheating in tests with, our watches are getting smarter all the time – and none more so than our top picks for the best smartwatches.
Packed full of health-measuring apps, voice-activated helpers, mobile payment options and street-tracking GPS features, smartwatches have grown from being the interesting wrist-worn curios of the tech world to vital independent gadgets in their own right.
And though only a handful of manufacturers are making connected watches worth wearing, there’s actually plenty of variation between them – you can have just as much luck splashing the cash on a premium Apple Watch as you can a relatively inexpensive TicWatch from little-known gadget makers Mobvoi.
Being essentially a souped-up timepiece then, it’s fitting that we’ve saved you a whole lot of time by ranking the very best smartwatches below for you. Whether you’re a hardcore Apple fan looking for the right Apple Watch for you, or a Google nut after a WearOS wristable, our guide to the best smartwatch options on the market will save you valuable seconds – and maybe a few pennies, too.
Best smartwatches compared
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 replaces the original version (there was no '2' model), at the top of our best smartwatch list. If you're an android phone user, this one's a no-brainer as the best partner device.
A sleeker design cuts down on the bulk and provides a nice leather band too instead of the old rubber one. And while the body is smaller, the displays are slightly bigger this time around on the two models. The bezel returns and remains a strong favorite for methods of navigating menus on a smartwatch.
For exercise/health fans, a new blood oxygen monitor is a neat improvement, although it has to be approved country-by-country, so not every region has it. Reminders to get up and do some stretches are handy, but the gyroscopes aren't great as they often miss your first few lunges, squats etc. Once you get going though, or when out on a run, we found the tracking to be very reliable.
It may be the most expensive pick on our list, but if you’re an iPhone owner looking for all the top-of-the-line features then the Apple Watch 6 is the one for you. Built specifically with Apple’s ecosystem of devices in mind, it’s the most polished device on this list and – were it not for its high price of entry and limited compatibility with only iOS devices – it would otherwise likely be our top pick.
One of the biggest new features is a built-in blood oxygen monitor, which builds on an impressive suite of health and fitness features that also include heart-rate tracking, an ECG monitor, and GPS.
Available in 40mm and 44mm sizes you're getting a fantastic display on both models, along with an always-on display, which is perfect if you don't like having to flick your wrist to activate the watch. Always-on will be a further drain on what is already a fairly poor battery life though. The Apple Watch will get you through most of the day at 18 hours, but when Samsung's flagship smartwatch lasts two days, that's not really good enough from Apple in 2021.
Once topping this list, the original Galaxy Watch is still an excellent smartwatch and is now available for much less than it was at launch or compared to the new model.
So what makes it special? First off is the design – sporty by nature, it manages to retain a traditional-looking style with its round face and smart screen looks. But where it comes into its own is the way its rotating bezel proves genuinely useful. Running Samsung’s own Tizen OS, you can tell that the two have been designed to work from the ground up together in this generation of the watch, making what can otherwise be a finicky navigation process on some smartwatches a dream to play with on the Samsung Galaxy Watch.
Despite having a powerful processor, lush screen, and optional LTE connectivity, we also found the battery life of the Samsung Galaxy Watch to be very impressive – you can get as much as four days use from a single charge, despite it not being a giant chunky piece.
Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant still needs a bit of schooling, and the app selection of Tizen is of a high quality but relatively few to pick from. Those troubles aside, it’s an easy pick for our top timepiece in this list.
Smartwatches don’t have to break the bank to impress, and the Fossil Sport represents perhaps the happiest balance between cost and performance.
Though sports-oriented, its lightweight finish makes it a good match for everyday wear. And while it’s lacking an LTE option and speaker (making it impossible to make calls without a phone to piggyback from), it does manage to squeeze in GPS and a solid two-day battery life.
It’s also running Google’s very respectable Wear OS operating system, which offers one of the largest selection of wrist-based apps on the market. And thanks to the inclusion of a super-charged Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset, the Fossil Sport is actually more responsive than some wearables significantly more expensive than it is.
Keep in mind that though the Fossil Sport launched at an already-accessible $275 / £219 price point, it can now even regularly be found at close to half those price tags. If you’re able to pick up a similar deal, then the Fossil Sport proves to be an absolute steal.
Like the look of the Galaxy Watch, but wish it was even sportier? The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a quick succession of reworkings of the Galaxy Watch that, while commanding a higher price tag, makes a good account for its premium pricing thanks to an increased feature set.
Slimmer and lighter than the Galaxy Watch, making it less intrusive while working out, it still manages to fit that innovative rotating bezel in, while also tucking an LTE chipset inside, too. That gives it the option of working independently from your smartphone – again making it a better option while exercising.
As a result, it’s better placed to make use of the strong selection of sports and fitness-oriented apps that Tizen OS has to offer. With a heart rate and ECG sensor on board, dozens of workout routines and even stress monitoring functionality, it could prove a better workout buddy than a personal trainer – and a damn sight less awkward, too. However, like the rest of Samsung’s smartwatch range, you’ll have more joy pairing this with an Android handset than an iOS smartphone, so that’s something to consider when picking up the Tizen-based options here. Which brings us conveniently onto our next pick...
Haven’t heard of Mobvoi? Then maybe you should sit up and listen – the Chinese gadget manufacturer is a rising star in the industry, putting together affordable tech like smart speakers, headphones and, yes, smartwatches without scrimping on their capabilities. Though its design may be a bit plain, the TicWatch E2 can hold its own with the big boys when it comes to Wear OS functionality.
Waterproofed and with a respectable 2-day battery life, it gets you access to Google’s Wear OS platform and the majority of its app, as well as being a robust fitness device thanks to GPS and heart-rate monitoring capabilities.
While LTE connectivity would have been appreciated, the real true loss at this price point is NFC connectivity. As a result, it means you won’t be able to use Google Pay to make contactless payments with the TicWatch E2 – so keep your credit card handy.
Keep an eye out for the TicWatch S2, too – it’s similarly feature packed, but for a slightly higher price tag, you get a watch with a ruggedized design. It still lacks LTE and NFC, however.
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