Three Things to Know Before You Buy a Smart Watch

With so many smart watches out there, how do you know which one is right for you? Here are three things to consider before making your decision.

White smartwatch
Apple isn't the only company that makes smart watches anymore.Photo by Daniel Cañibano on Unsplash

Before you take the plunge on a smart watch there are several things you want to consider. You want to think about the way you’re going to use it, and what you’re hoping to get out of it. Are you always going to have you phone with you, and what kind of phone do you need? What kind of health data is important to you? How long will you need it to last between charges? With such a wide variety of features out there, it’s easy to get lost in a lot of tech jargon. Consider these three important things, though, and you’ll be pointed in the right direction.

1. Compatibility

Fossil Men's Gen 4 Explorist HR Stainless Steel Touchscreen Smartwatch
Works with iPhone and Android and features heart rate monitoring, GPS, mobile payments, swim-tracking, and Google Assistant.Fossil

Some smart watches are designed to work with specific phones. This can be a double-edged sword. On one side, picking a watch that is built to work specifically with your phone may offer more features. On the other, your shiny new smart watch may not work with your phone at all. Always check to see, whether the phone is iOS-only, Android-only, or if it’s even more specific. Of course, some smart watches are platform agnostic and will work well with virtually any phone. If you have an older phone you may run into more compatibility issues, so always check the system requirements before you click Buy.

2. Stand Alone Features

Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch
Capable of storing your favorite playlists as well as mobile payments, this watch can take you anywhere, with its scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass screen, 50M waterproofing, and built-in HRM.Samsung

While smart watches and smart phones have a cozy relationship, some watches can do more on their own. Want to track a trail run without your phone bouncing around in your pocket? Make sure your watch has built-in GPS. What if you want to listen to music? Some watches have storage for audio files and can pair directly with Bluetooth headphones. Do you sometimes want a mid-jog energy drink, but you never have your wallet with you? Look for watches with NFC chips that support mobile payments. A built-in heart rate monitor will eliminate the need for a chest-strap. Some smartwatches even have their own mobile SIM cards, so you can send and receive texts without your phone on you (additional carrier fees apply).

3. Battery Life

Fitbit Versa 2 Health & Fitness Smartwatch
This low-profile watch can last more than six days on a charge, while still supporting music playback, as well as heart rate, steps, floors climbed, active minutes, sleep, and swim tracking.Fitbit

It doesn’t really matter how smart a watch is if you can’t turn it on. There is a lot of variation when it comes to battery life. Generally speaking, there’s a trade-off. The biggest, brightest screen and the most-advanced features usually end up being pretty taxing on power consumption, and it may struggle to make it to the end of the day, depending on how much you use it. In contrast, if you’re willing to sacrifice some features you can find smart watches that will last you the better part of a week. It really comes down to what you want your watch to do, and how often you’re willing to recharge it.