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Published Oct. 7, 2021

When smartphones exploded in popularity a decade ago, many predicted it would be the end of the wristwatch. After all, who needs a timepiece on their wrist when they have a phone in their pocket on which they can easily check the time? But as it turns out, the wristwatch is here to stay, because with the ever-improving technology of smartwatches, they do more than just tell time—they track fitness and sleep, provide email and text notifications, play music, and even function as a phone. We rounded up the best smartwatches to buy this year.

How We Picked the Best Smart Watches

Methodology

Smartwatches have so many different specs and features that choosing one amongst the crowd can be overwhelming. We looked at some specific criteria to make an informed decision on our top picks.

  • Battery life: The battery lives of our favorite smartwatches vary from about a day to a few weeks, but the ones with shorter battery life are often justified with tons of functionality and a quick charge.
  • Ease of use: We like smartwatches that are user-friendly and intuitive—the ones that sync easily to your smartphone and have easy-to-manage displays.
  • Price: A higher price isn’t always indicative of higher performance, so we looked at side-by-side comparisons to make sure higher prices actually had something more to offer.
  • Performance: We looked at a couple of aspects of each smartwatch’s performance: How much can it do and how well does it do it? Some watches are great because they can do almost everything a phone can do. Others we recommended because they specialized in a particular function.

The Best Smartwatches: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall:  Apple Watch Series 6

Multi-functional Style

A smartwatch that does it all. Apple

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Why It Made the Cut: The Apple Watch Series 6 is the best overall smartwatch because it functions as a phone, fitness tracker, and health monitor all in one.

Specs:

  • Measures a variety of workouts from running to yoga
  • Takes calls and replies to texts
  • Plays music, podcasts, and audiobooks

Pros:

  • Charges quickly
  • Always-on display
  • Includes a new blood oxygen reader

Cons:

  • Battery life lasts less than a day (about 18 hours)
  • Expensive

Apple has long been the titan of the technology industry, and they’ve earned their spot as the pick for best overall smartwatch with the Apple Watch Series 6. This watch is like a tiny version of your phone that you can strap to your wrist. You can answer a call or reply to a text without ever having to take your phone out, plus it syncs with your music and podcasts.

As for fitness tracking, it measures a number of different workouts that not all smartwatches track, like cycling, swimming, yoga, and dancing. And it improves on previous Apple Watches by monitoring not only sleep and heart rate, but also blood oxygen. 

We wish the battery life was longer on this watch—it doesn’t last for more than a day. However, it does charge in as little as 90 minutes. As you might expect from a top-tier product, this is a more expensive smartwatch, but well worth its price. 

Best Value: Amazfit Bip

Long-Lasting Battery

This budget-friendly watch keeps going and going. Amazfit

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Why It Made the Cut: Amazfit Bip users are amazed by the quick charge and long-lasting battery life of this watch, a major reason why we chose it as our favorite budget smartwatch.

Specs:

  • Tracks 10 sport modes
  • Always-on display
  • Monitors steps, distance, heart rate, and sleep

Pros:

  • Low price
  • Battery lasts at least 1-2 weeks, and up to 40 days
  • High visibility on the watch face

Cons:

  • Interface is sacrificed for battery life

The Amazfit Bip is a great inexpensive option for a fitness tracking smartwatch. This smartwatch is priced lower, but does a lot of the same jobs the more expensive brands do. It tracks ten different sport modes and is water resistant so you don’t have to worry about it while swimming or showering. Although the watch doesn’t have talk and text functionality, it sends notifications for messages.

This watch gets rave reviews about its battery life. Amazfit says a single charge can last up to 40 days, although most users report somewhere closer to two weeks. Additionally, when it does come time to charge, the watch reaches a full charge in about two hours, so you can still wear it for most of the day and get a full scope of your day’s health stats.

In return for the huge battery life, the watch’s interface isn’t as sophisticated-looking as other pricier models, and you can only use one function on the screen at a time. But if you’re ok with some simplicity, this is an excellent smartwatch for fitness and health tracking. 

Best for Fitness:  FitBit Charge 4

Sleek Fitness Tracker

This lightweight fitness tracker won’t get in the way of your workout. Fitbit

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Why It Made the Cut:  The FitBit is a fitness tracking favorite and we chose the Charge 4 as our top pick because it’s so simple and easy to use, and it’s an extremely versatile product at a reasonable price.

Specs:

  • Over 20 workout modes
  • Water resistant up to 50 meters
  • Built-in GPS allows you to see pace and distance on screen

Pros:

  • Small and lightweight
  • Battery lasts up to a week
  • Easy to navigate screen

Cons:

  • Using the GPS function drains the battery quickly

FitBit was the pioneer in “getting your steps in” and it’s still the top performer when it comes to fitness tracking. The Charge 4 is our favorite of the line because its small, lightweight face and rubber wristband are made with an active lifestyle in mind. FitBit recently released the Charge 5, but the 4 is still available and comparable at a much better price. 

The watch is swim-proof and water-resistant up to 50 meters, and tallies swim laps, along with walks, runs, bike rides, and hikes. It tracks your Active Zone minutes and notifies you when you hit your target heart rate. Plus, it gives a little buzz when you’ve exceeded your set goals for the day. 

We listed battery life as both a pro and a con, and that’s because when the GPS is off, the battery lasts a long time—up to an entire week. However, when the GPS is on, the battery drains quickly, in as little as five hours. We recommend leaving the GPS off unless you need it for a run or other activity. 

Best Budget Apple Watch: Apple Watch SE

Stylish and Functional

This less expensive version of the Series 6 has nearly all the same capabilities. Apple

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Why It Made the Cut: The Apple Watch SE is very similar to the Series 6 but costs significantly less, making it a smart smartwatch buy.

Specs:

  • Large Retina display
  • Swim-proof
  • Tracks fitness, sleep, heart rate, and elevation

Pros:

  • Easy-to-read display
  • Easy to set up and sync with phone
  • Plenty of storage space for apps

Cons:

  • Battery charge only lasts about 24 hours

If you like the Apple Watch Series 6 but want something at a lower price point, the Apple Watch SE is truly the next best thing—in fact, it’s an incredibly similar watch. In terms of appearance they are nearly identical, and the SE has almost all of the same functions.

The watch tracks a variety of different workouts, including running, swimming, yoga, dancing, and cycling, and monitors sleep and heart rate. It allows talk and text, so you don’t need to find a pocket for your phone when you’re working out. The only big feature of the Series 6 that the SE is missing is the blood oxygen monitor, so unless that’s a key feature for you, the SE is an excellent, budget-friendlier choice.

The SE shares one other feature with the Series 6: a shorter-than-ideal battery life. A charge lasts roughly 24 hours, so it’s tough to get continuous health tracking over the entire day, but that’s the price to pay for such high functionality.

Best for Android:  Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Comfortable Technology

A stylish watch with advanced sensors for fitness tracking. Samsung Electronics

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Why It Made the Cut: This fashionable and functional smartwatch tracks fitness and has a ton of phone features.

Specs:

  • Built-in pace coaching
  • Monitors stress and includes integrated calm app
  • Slim lightweight design

Pros:

  • Lightweight design is perfect for workouts
  • Sleep and meditation app manages mindfulness
  • Decent battery life and bluetooth range

Cons:

  • Step count may not be completely accurate

The Samsung Galaxy Active 2 is different from other smartwatches in that it looks like an analog wristwatch. The sleek, modern watch is available in five different colors, each one subtle and stylish in a way that makes it feel less like a piece of technology on your wrist and more like a fashion accessory.

This watch has all of the functions you’d want in a smartwatch, from fitness tracking, heart rate monitoring, talk and text functionality, and space for plenty of apps so you have access to weather, music, and podcasts. Expect to get about two days of battery life per charge, which is pretty good for a watch with this many capabilities. 

Some users cite step tracking accuracy as a possible concern, reporting that the step count comes in lower than actual steps taken. However, the overall health tracking still offers a good, full picture of your health trends, so unless you’re concerned about the number down to the last step, this is a fantastic fitness tracker.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Smartwatch

Activities You Want to Monitor

Until a few years ago, many fitness trackers stuck to simple activities: counting your steps and tracking distance. Now, even some of the most basic smartwatches allow you to tailor your workout coverage to different activities, like swimming, dancing, and yoga. Most monitor your heart rate and sleep, but some go even further, providing stress notifications or blood oxygen readings.

Battery Life

The battery life of a smartwatch generally depends on how much work it’s doing behind the screen. The Apple Watch Series 6 has a lot of activity and the battery lasts roughly a day. The simpler Amazfit offers more straightforward fitness tracking and only needs recharging every couple weeks or so. If you can’t recharge every day or two, you may do better with one of the more basic fitness trackers.

Communications Features

If you’re a frequent texter or need phone access for work, a smartwatch with talk and text capabilities might be a good investment. Many watches let you communicate right from your wrist. Others notify you when you have a text, but don’t allow you to respond.

FAQs

Q: What’s the best quality smartwatch?

There are a lot of high quality smartwatches available that offer tons of different features and are durable (will last at least until the technology advances and the next version comes out). As far as performance goes, the Apple Watch Series 6 is the most impressive, which is why we chose it as our best overall smartwatch.

Q: Which smartwatch can answer calls?

Most of the higher end smartwatches will answer calls. On our list, the Apple Watches and the Samsung Galaxy watch all have the capability for phone calls. Although the FitBit Charge 4 doesn’t answer calls, it does provide notifications of calls. And other Fitbit models, like the Versa 2 and the Sense Advanced, do answer calls.

Q: Is it worth having a smart watch?

Quite frankly, yes! Smartwatches offer a simple convenience that you might not realize you need in your life. Checking a text, checking the time, and monitoring your fitness, health, and sleep to keep you in tune with your body is so easy with a smartwatch and even if you’re not sure  you need one, you’ll quickly get used to the convenience.

Final Thoughts

The hardest part about choosing a smartwatch is the constantly changing technology. When is it ok to go with an older, less expensive version? When should you go with the newest model? Often the most advanced (and subsequently priciest) version of a watch only has minor improvements over previous versions, so it might be ok to go with an earlier model as long as the technology is available.

When making a decision, bear in mind that although most smartwatches have widespread functionality, they tend to specialize in one area. The FitBit sends text notifications, but if ease of communication is a priority, stick with the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch tracks fitness, but if that’s the main reason you’re seeking a smartwatch, the FitBit is for you.

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