The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch you can buy right now, although it’s a very close race between it and the Apple Watch SE. The Series 6 is feature-rich, user-friendly, gorgeous, and extremely reliable. The SE misses out on a couple of features, but you save money by buying it. Simply put, the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch out there, whichever model you decide to buy.

However, that recommendation comes with caveats — and the biggest one is that you need to own an iPhone to use the Apple Watch. That means it’s the sensible and easy choice if you do, but if you’re using an Android smartphone, well, the Apple Watch simply isn’t an option. But don’t worry, there are plenty of great alternatives. Digital Trends has reviewed more than 100 different smartwatchesfitness trackers, and wearables, so we have all the insight you need to find your ideal smartwatch.

When you’ve decided which one is for you, make sure to check our smartwatch deals to see if it can be found for a better price.

The best smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 6

Apple Watch Series 6 with blue Sport Band Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s the best smartwatch. That’s all.

Who it’s for: Anyone with an iPhone who wants a smartwatch.

Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 6:

Apple has made it a little more difficult than usual to decide which Apple Watch to purchase this year. Normally, it’d just be about the case material and strap, but now you can pick between the Apple Watch Series 6 and the Apple Watch SE. There are four primary differences between them. If you buy the Series 6 you get the new S6 processor, an electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood oxygen (SpO2) sensor, plus the always-on screen.

If you buy the SE it doesn’t have these features and uses the S5 chip, but it costs $120 less. The S6 processor and the always-on display are genuine reasons to buy the Series 6, but the ECG and SpO2 sensors aren’t. These are useful in very specific cases, rather than being features you’ll use on a daily basis.

The majority of people will be satisfied with the Apple Watch SE, but if money isn’t a problem the Series 6 does more, and may end up lasting longer because of it. This list is all about the best smartwatches, and looking at the Apple Watch on both a technical level and a software and usability level, the Series 6 is the “best” version, but you can save a little money and get one that’s almost as good if you’d prefer. That’s a great position to be in, and only cements the Apple Watch’s position on our list.

Let’s talk about the Apple Watch’s benefits across both models. It comes in either a 40mm or 44mm case size, and we recommend getting the 100% recycled aluminum body, with your strap of choice. The always-on screen (Series 6 only) means you don’t have to raise your wrist to see the time, and it looks superb.

Fitness features are comprehensive and motivational. Activity Rings show progress towards daily goals, it can track your sleep, the watch reminds you to stand up, it has an automatic hand wash timer, GPS, a heart rate sensor, the option to track period cycles for women, and even a noise app that can warn you when you’re at risk of hearing damage. The case is swim-proof, and the prebuilt workout plans include cycling, swimming, yoga, hiking, and more. All this combines to make the Apple Watch an easy-to-use and highly accessible fitness tracker, with plenty of motivational alerts to keep you going.

Battery life is good with both models lasting up to two days even with sleep tracking enabled, but you’ll get more out of the SE due to the lack of an always-on screen. The software is fast and reliable, there are multiple apps available, you can make and receive calls from the basic model or buy one with a cellular connection for use without your phone, and there’s a very healthy third-party strap ecosystem to personalize your watch too.

Simply, if you own an iPhone, the Apple Watch is the only smartwatch to buy. If you own an Apple Watch Series 5 there aren’t many reasons to upgrade this year, but if you own any model older than this it’s well worth picking up a Apple Watch Series 6 or SE.

Read our full Apple Watch Series 6 review, and our full Apple Watch SE review

Best smartwatch for Android: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: It’s the best smartwatch if you own an Android phone.

Who it’s for: Anyone who values a great user interface on a slick smartwatch.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3:

You own an Android phone and can’t buy an Apple Watch, so which one should you choose? Samsung has delivered the best alternative for your Android phone, the Galaxy Watch 3. It doesn’t use Google’s Wear OS software, but Samsung’s own Tizen software. It works similarly — scrolling menus and swipes to access features — but the watch incorporates a brilliant rotating bezel to make using the watch much easier and more natural.

Don’t worry if your phone isn’t a Samsung either, as the Galaxy Watch 3 works with any smartphone, including an iPhone, through Samsung’s Galaxy Wear app, which you have to install first. Functionality will differ if you pair it with an iPhone, but you shouldn’t do that anyway, just buy an Apple Watch. Anyway, back to the Galaxy Watch 3.

The rotating bezel is just part of the great design. The watch is available in either a 41mm or 45mm case size, with a sharp and colorful round AMOLED screen on the front. It feels high quality with a stainless steel case, Gorilla Glass over the screen, and a glass case back for low weight and comfort on your wrist. It has an IP68 water resistance rating, plus a MIL-STD-810 G-rated case for toughness.

Wear the watch all day and night, and it will record your activity and sleep, but the battery will suffer. It will last two days if you’re careful and turn it off overnight, but if you use it hard a single day should be expected. The fitness tracking options are plentiful, and the app provides plenty of helpful information presented in a logical and easy-to-read fashion. The watch has a heart rate sensor and an ECG monitor, and once the feature is approved for use in the U.S., it will have a blood pressure monitor too.

The Galaxy Watch 3’s design is great, it comes in two sizes, the controls are excellent, and it has all the right smartwatch features on board to make it useful every day. What separates it from Wear OS watches is the software, which is faster and smoother. It’s priced at the same level as the Apple Watch, and is the best option for Android phone owners.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review

Best Wear OS smartwatch: Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3

Why you should buy this: It packs the latest technology, and therefore will last you longer.

Who it’s for: When you want the longest battery life and the latest processor inside a reasonably priced smartwatch.

Why we picked the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3:

The best smartwatch you can buy with Google’s Wear OS software at the moment is the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3. It’s the only smartwatch to use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 4100 processor, which is more powerful and more power-efficient than the Snapdragon Wear 3100 found in all other Wear OS smartwatches. By getting the latest tech, your smartwatch will last you longer.

The TicWatch Pro 3 has a very clever dual-screen system, where a second LCD screen is set over the standard 1.4-inch AMOLED touchscreen, and shows the time, date, and other basic data when the watch is in ambient mode. It saves a lot of battery power, and the TicWatch Pro 3 can last up to three days before it needs a recharge. That’s excellent for a Wear OS watch.

Mobvoi has stayed with basically the same tried-and-tested simple design used for previous TicWatch Pro models, so it’s not exactly a stunner, but it’s the technology that matters here. In addition to the new processor, the watch has a heart rate sensor, will measure blood oxygen levels, has exercise and health plans built in, and is IP68 water-resistant too.

While the Snapdragon Wear 4100 drives Wear OS better than the older chips, the software still can’t compete with Samsung’s Tizen or Apple’s WatchOS operating systems for reliability and usability. That said, at $299 the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 is good value, considering that technically it’s far beyond the competition. Mobvoi has also released a 4G LTE version of the Ticwatch Pro 3, which is so far available in the U.K. and parts of Europe, and we took a closer look at the model here.

Read our full Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 review.

Best Wear OS smartwatch for women: Fossil Gen 5e

Why you should buy this: The Fossil Gen 5e’s varied range of designs provides plenty of choice for women.

Who it’s for: Anyone who doesn’t want a large smartwatch.

Why we picked the Fossil Gen 5e:

Fossil’s Gen 5e smartwatch comes in two different sizes, 42mm and a 44mm, with the smaller of the two attached to an 18mm strap and in designs aimed at women. There’s a choice of a gold or stainless steel finish, with either a silicone strap or metal bracelet, and one with a jewel-encrusted bezel too.

The watch has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 processor, a heart rate monitor, a 1.2-inch touchscreen, sleep tracking, and support for contactless payments. It tracks activity using Google Fit or Fossil’s power-conserving Wellness app, but it doesn’t have GPS on board, so you’ll need your phone if you want to map your runs. The battery will last a day with average use.

At around $180 the Fossil Gen 5e is very competitively priced. There aren’t that many options for women who don’t want to wear a large smartwatch, so the choice offered by Fossil here is welcome. If the Gen 5e isn’t for you, take a look at the Wear OS smartwatches from fashion designer Kate Spade. The watches are older than the Gen 5e but still provide plenty of functionality, and contain many familiar Kate Spade design touches. The Kate Spade Scallop 2 is the most recent, and there’s also the lightweight, sportier KSNY Sport model. These are good alternatives to the Fossil Gen 5e, depending on your lifestyle.

Read our full Fossil Gen 5e review

Best budget smartwatch: Amazfit GTR 2

Why you should buy this: It does everything you want a smartwatch to do, and looks great too.

Who it’s for: Anyone on a budget who still wants all the benefits of a fitness tracker and a smartwatch

Why we picked the Amazfit GTR 2:

The hardware and software produced by Amazfit has matured a lot over the past year or so, to the point where we can happily recommend the Amazfit GTR 2 smartwatch, which has significant benefits over buying a cheap smartwatch with Google’s Wear OS software onboard. The biggest is battery life, as the GTR 2 will last at least a week even with heavy use, or even longer if you’re careful with the power-hungry features.

Best of all, it looks great on your wrist. It’s slim and not too large, so it should suit most people, and the curved glass and metal body give it some style and class. It is comfortable enough to wear for 24 hours, so it’s ready for fitness tracking and notifications during the day, and sleep tracking overnight.

The smartwatch connects to the Zepp app which is available for Android and iOS, and has proven reliable and easy to use, plus provides plenty of insight into your activity and fitness data. Notifications can be finicky and cannot be interacted with, but it’s no worse than you get on a Wear OS smartwatch. You can receive calls, it’s water-resistant for swimming, there’s a heart rate sensor and SpO2 measurement, and has GPS inside too. It has everything you need if you’re looking for a smartwatch that prioritizes activity tracking.

For $180 the Amazfit GTR 2 is good value, and if that’s too much, the slightly less feature-rich but cheaper $140 Amazfit GTR 2e is worth a look too.

Read our full Amazfit GTR 2 review

Best smartwatch for running: Suunto 7

Suunto Marine watch face Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

Why you should buy this: It’s packed with all the right fitness features for serious runners.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants smartwatch looks with tons of fitness-specific features.

Why we picked the Suunto 7:

The Suunto 7 smartwatch brings all Suunto’s popular running, walking, and hiking tech to Google’s Wear OS platform for the first time. The Suunto app shows local routes based on difficulty, time, and popularity, meaning wherever you are you always known which routes are best, all based on other Suunto user’s experiences. The map even shows when popular routes are likely to be busy, so you can choose accordingly.

The data shown is comprehensive, ranging from calories burned and time elapsed, to peak training effect and recovery time. Runners will appreciate the onboard GPS, the data on pace, cadence, and altitude too. The watch and app sync with Suunto’s dedicated platform, so you can continue to track your fitness levels over time. It’s as hardcore as you want it to be, but there’s plenty for less enthusiastic fitness fans too, including 70 different workout modes and a heart rate sensor.

Suunto worked closely with Qualcomm on the smartwatch, resulting in some clever adjustments to the processor to provide longer than expected battery life. Expect 12 hours of use with GPS active, or seven hours with Suunto’s mapping and the GPS active. Otherwise, the battery should last around two days before needing a recharge with normal use.

The lightweight body and comfortable strap make it wearable all day, but the design is sporty, so it won’t go with every outfit especially if you choose one of the brighter colors. The Suunto 7 is more accessible than non-Wear OS fitness watches, works with Android and iOS, looks great, and performs well too.

Read our full Suunto 7 review

Best smartwatch for swimmers: Garmin Quatix 6

Why you should buy this: It’s specifically designed for people who spend time in the water, whether it’s on a boat or swimming.

Who it’s for: Swimmers, or those who require a water-resistant smartwatch.

Why we picked the Garmin Quatix 6:

The Garmin Quatix 6 is described as a marine smartwatch, due to its strong features for anyone who likes to spend time in the water, whether it’s on a boat or swimming through it. Water-resistant to 100 meters, the Quatix 6 has activity profiles for pool and open water swimming, where it measures distance, pace, stroke count and rate, swim efficiency (SWOLF) and will even detect your stroke type and take heart rate measurements underwater too.

If you’re into boating, the Quatix 6 connects to a host of Garmin equipment from chart plotting GPS hardware to wind monitors, and from there it can interact with the autopilot function, displays data including engine RPM and water depth, and marks waypoints on a map. It has GPS, a heart rate sensor, and a blood oxygen (SpO2) sensor, plus all the activity tracking functions found on the Garmin Fenix 6, including kayaking, golf, cycling, and running.

Garmin has overhauled its interface with the Quatix 6, with watch faces now providing plenty of information without sacrificing attractiveness, and a handy widget feature that provides data in an easy scrolling list. This is all displayed on a 1.3-inch screen with a 260 x 260-pixel resolution. It works with both Android and iOS, and has plenty of storage space for music too.

The Garmin Quatix 6 is made from tough polymer with a stainless steel bezel and comes in either a 47mm or 51mm case size, with a choice of upgrading to a model with sapphire crystal over the screen for added scratch protection, and to one with solar charging for extended times away from the charger. Expect to get 14 days of battery life with normal use, but this will drop when you add GPS tracking.

Read our full Garmin Quatix 6 review

Best smartwatch with mechanical watch looks: Withings ScanWatch

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: A superb health tracker with basic fitness and smartwatch features, inside a classy, high-quality case.

Who it’s for: Men or women who like traditional watches, but still want the best health tracking features.

Why we picked the Withings ScanWatch

Smartwatches tend to look like pieces of technology, mostly because of the touchscreen, but what if you want a smartwatch that looks more like a traditional watch? Well then, you want a hybrid smartwatch, which does away with the touchscreen but still includes smartphone connectivity for notifications and fitness tracking. The choice in this category is growing and evolving, and you can spend very little or an awful lot, depending on your preferences and the size of your wallet.

The Withings ScanWatch bridges the gap between serious health tracking features and basic smartwatch functionality very well, and it’s all wrapped up in a classy, high-quality stainless steel body. It looks good on your wrist, and doesn’t fall behind in any key area, meaning you aren’t going to miss out on essential connected features by choosing it.

It has a heart rate sensor, an ECG, and an Sp02 monitor. Like the Apple Watch, the ECG and Sp02 measurements aren’t everyday features, but on the ScanWatch they serve more of a purpose. It has a comprehensive sleep tracking capability and the Sp02 monitor can help identify sleep issues. The ECG has continuous monitoring to warn against atrial fibrillation, and it’s the first wearable to be approved to use these features overnight, making it excellent for tracking and improving your sleep.

While the sleep monitoring is the best out there, the fitness and activity tracking is quite basic in comparison. It provides workout tracking, plus a step count with distance, and calories burned, but nothing more in-depth. It’s a health wearable, rather than a fitness wearable, and the data it collects helps you live a more healthy lifestyle instead of focusing on improving your lap times.

Important activity data and notifications from your phone are shown on a small screen on the watch face. It’s bright and easy to read, and controlled using the digital crown on the side of the watch. It’s not as informative as the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch 3, but it gives you the essentials in an easy-to-read format. The ScanWatch connects to both Android and iOS phones, and the battery should last 30 days before it needs recharging.

If you like the sound of this but would rather spend less, then the Withings Move ECG is similar. If you are willing to spend a lot more for a Swiss timepiece and import, then the Alpina AlpinerX deserves your consideration. If you want something that sports traditional watch hands, but with an E Ink display behind them, then the Fossil Hybrid HR could be for you.

Overall, though, the Withings Scanwatch offers a nice combination of strong health-tracking features, basic but effective fitness and smartwatch features, plus it looks and feels just like a regular, traditional watch.

Read our full Withings ScanWatch review

Research and buying tips

How do I decide between an Apple, Tizen, or Wear OS smartwatch?

Although it sounds like a complicated question, this is surprisingly straightforward. If you own an Android phone, then you can use a Tizen — which is the operating system used on Samsung’s smartwatches — or a Google Wear OS watch. The Apple Watch only works with Apple’s iOS software.

If you own an iPhone, all smartwatches work with your phone provided you use Samsung’s or Google’s special app to sync the two up. However, be aware that neither Wear OS or Tizen watches will provide the same level of functionality as they do when connected to an Android phone. This is due to certain restrictions that Apple applies to third-party devices and what they are allowed to access in the iOS software. For this reason, and many others, we don’t recommend iPhone owners buy any other smartwatch than the Apple Watch.

For Android phone owners seeking a smartwatch, it may come down to design preference for which model of watch you buy, but we do prefer the way Tizen operates on the Samsung Galaxy Watch, over many Wear OS smartwatches.

How durable is a smartwatch?

Because it’s on your wrist, smartwatches are exposed to danger. They’re easy to knock against things and can often get wet. Does this mean you must be extra careful with your watch? Many have an IP68 water resistance rating today, and some smartwatches, like the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 and the Mobvoi Ticwatch S2, meet military standards for toughness and will withstand harsher treatment than others.

While many smartwatches are water-resistant today, from the Apple Watch Series 5 to the Kate Spade Scallop 2, not all have sapphire crystal over the screen. This adds an extra level of scratch resistance to the screen and also provides a beautiful reflective sheen, but you’ll have to pay a little more for the pleasure. The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41, the Montblanc Summit 2, Huawei’s Watch GT2 Pro, and G-Shock’s top connected watches all have sapphire crystal over the screen.

If you want to make sure you can wear your chosen device in the shower or to go swimming, then you need to think about smartwatch water resistance, and look for an IP or ATM rating. It’s sensible to treat your smartwatch carefully, even with these extra levels of protection, but no more so than you would with a traditional watch.

Do I need a smartwatch with GPS?

If you are a runner and intend to use your smartwatch to track routes, and don’t want to run with your phone, then yes, you do need GPS. Most modern smartwatches come with GPS as standard anyway, so you may find it’s ready and waiting if you need it. If your smartwatch doesn’t have GPS, then some can use your phone’s GPS when connected, but it will be slower to operate. One thing to remember is that using GPS will drain the battery in the watch faster than usual.

Can my smartwatch use my data plan?

If your smartwatch connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth, then all the data it requires comes from your phone, at no extra charge to you. This changes if you buy a smartwatch with 4G LTE, like the LTE version of the Apple Watch. When a smartwatch has its own data connection, it can be used on its own without being connected to your smartphone, ready to make calls, receive messages, and plenty more.

However, you will have to pay extra for the privilege. The amount varies depending on your carrier and current plan, but expect to pay around $10 per month to enable the 4G LTE connection on your smartwatch.

Will a new smartwatch work with my older phone?

If your Android phone or iPhone was purchased in the last three or four years, then the answer is almost certainly yes. To make sure, here are the requirements for each version. Google’s Wear OS requires an Android phone running version 4.4 or later, or an iPhone on iOS 9.3 or later. You should be alright as long as you’ve bought a phone in the last two or three years.

The Apple Watch varies a little. The Series 3 and later with a cellular connection need an iPhone 6 or later to work. If you buy an Apple Watch Series 3, 4, or 5 without a cellular connection, they will operate with an iPhone 5S or later, while the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE require an iPhone 6S and iOS 14 to operate.

Samsung’s Tizen operating system, found on the Galaxy Watch and others, requires Android version 5.0 or later, and on an iPhone it needs iOS 9.0 or later installed on at least an iPhone 5. The 4G LTE version of the Galaxy Watch is only compatible with Samsung phones and may also only operate on certain carriers.

Which smartwatch OS is best?

Each smartwatch operating system is different. Apple’s WatchOS and Samsung’s special round Tizen OS for the Galaxy Watch line of watches are the two best smartwatch platforms in terms of design, features, and ease of use. Google rebranded Android Wear as Wear OS and has started to address the issues we have with the software; it’s getting more usable, but it’s still not as user-friendly as WatchOS or Tizen.

Apple’s WatchOS is super simple and so is Samsung’s Tizen. Both offer fully featured fitness tracking that’s easy to access along with intuitive interfaces. On the Galaxy Watch, you just twist the bezel in a circle to navigate through quick launch apps, your full library of apps, and settings. Each app is made to suit the circular OS, so navigation is easy to figure out. You also have a back button if you get lost. The addition of Samsung Pay’s mobile payments also takes Samsung’s watches to a new level.

The same could be said of Apple’s WatchOS. It’s attractive, apps are easy to find with a press of the digital crown, and you have access to quick launch apps in the Dock with the press of a button. Apple Pay works on WatchOS, too. WatchOS 6 is even simpler than Samsung’s interface now that Apple has cut down on a few pointless menus and boosted the companion app. Google’s Wear OS is evolving and works with Android and iOS devices, supports Google Pay, and is controlled with swipes and taps, but often menus are slow and lists are long, which can lead to frustrations.

In terms of app support, Apple’s OS has the best and most plentiful apps that we use regularly. Wear OS has a decent number of apps from the Google Play Store, and Samsung’s app store is a distant third. There are not a lot of useful apps on Tizen.

Should you buy a smartwatch?

So, you think you want a smartwatch? Are you sure?

After all, unlike a smartphone, no one really needs a smartwatch. However, because manufacturers are finally coming around to the realization that a smartwatch needs to look good if we’re to buy one, they’re a lot more tempting than they once were. One-day battery life and a touchscreen on a watch are still hard to swallow for some people, but that’s why hybrid smartwatches were invented — and battery performance and control methods are constantly getting better.

However, if you’re not ready to commit to a touchscreen smartwatch, but still want to try out some smart features, the huge choice of hybrid watches has got you covered. They often cost half of what you’ll pay for the cheapest Apple Watch, link with any smartphone, and provide traditional watch looks matched with a connected smart experience. If you’re tempted by a smartwatch, we say go for it.

How we test

We test smartwatches just like we test smartphones. We use them every day and try out every single feature. We strap them to our wrists (no matter how silly they may look) and walk around town with them, making calls and exercising to test out the workout features. We pair them with different phones and try them with different operating systems. We dunk water-resistant smartwatches in water and take outdoorsy watches on hikes. We download tons of apps and discard the lame ones to determine how strong the app ecosystem is, and we go to cafes that accept mobile payments and buy lattes with our wrists.

Basically, we get lots of weird looks, but it’s worth it.

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