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 phones 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 happening in September?
Our review of the Apple Watch 5 has just landed, and you’ll find it in our list of the best smartwatches below.
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, Garmin Fenix 6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 appear in the list after we’ve tested them properly.
1. Samsung Galaxy Watch
The sporty Samsung watch gains some style
OS: Tizen OS | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Display: 1.2″ or 1.3″ 360 x 360 Super AMOLED | Processor: Dual-core 1.15GHz | Band sizes: 22mm or 20mm | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: 4 days on 46mm / less on 42mm | Charging method: Wireless | IP rating: 50m | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE (for extra)
Impressive battery life
Useful rotating bezel
Bixby isn’t great
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.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy Watch review
What’s next? Samsung launched the Galaxy Watch Active 2 at the start of August, and we’re hoping to have a full review of that smartwatch soon.
2. Apple Watch 5
The best Apple Watch money can buy
OS: watchOS 6 | Compatibility: iOS | Display: 1.78″ OLED | Processor: Apple S5 | Band sizes: Varies based on watch size | Onboard storage: 32GB | Battery: 1 day to 36 hours | Charging method: Wireless | IP rating: Water-resistant to 50m | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, LTE
Battery isn’t incredible
Apple hasn’t taken the top spot in our best smartwatch list, but this is the best device you can get if you own an iPhone. It works seamlessly with Apple’s phones, and it’s well worth considering if you plan to stick with the iPhone range for at least a few years.
There aren’t many huge upgrades over the Apple Watch 4, but the main change is it comes with an always-on display for the first time. That means you won’t have to raise the watch to see your key stats, and instead it’ll display most of the information you need on a dimmed screen.
The design is similar to the Apple Watch 4 – a look that we loved – so you’ll get a larger display than earlier iterations of the device, and it comes in either 40mm or 44mm sizes.
All of the fitness features you’d expect come on this watch, and that includes a variety of top-end features such as the ECG monitor, GPS tracking, impressive heart rate monitoring and more.
If you’re looking for the very best Apple Watch, this is it… it’s just not our favorite smartwatch money can buy.
Read the full Apple Watch 5 review
3. Fossil Sport
Fossil’s latest big smartwatch attempt
Compatibility: Android, iOS | Display: 1.2-inch 390 x 390 AMOLED | Processor: Quad-core 1.2GHz | Band sizes: 22mm straps | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Two days | Charging method: Proprietary | IP rating: IP68 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS
Lacks high-end features
GPS can be slow
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.
Read the full Fossil Sport review
4. Fitbit Versa
A smaller and cheaper Fitbit Ionic
OS: Fitbit OS | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Display: TBC, 1000 nits | Processor: Dual-core 1.0GHz | Onboard storage: 2.5GB | Battery duration: 3-4 days | Charging method: Proprietary charger | IP rating: 50M water resistant | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Relatively low price
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.
Read the full Fitbit Versa review
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
OS: Tizen OS | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Display: 1.1″ 360 x 360 Super AMOLED | Processor: Dual-core 1.15GHz | Band sizes: 20mm | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Around 2 days | Charging method: Wireless | IP rating: 50m | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Lacks rotating bezel
No LTE variant
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.
Read the full Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review
What’s next? Launched around six months after the original Galaxy Watch Active, we’ve just seen the Galaxy Watch Active 2 and it may be a suitable choice for your next smartwatch.
6. TicWatch E2
A fully-loaded Wear OS watch you’ve never heard of
OS: Wear OS | Compatibility: Android 4.3+, iOS 8+ | Display: 1.39″ 400 x 400 OLED | Processor: Snapdragon Wear 2100 | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Around 48h | Charging method: Magnetic connecting pin | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
Easily two day battery life
No NFC for payments
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.
Read the full TicWatch E2 review
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. TicWatch Pro
The watch with two screens
OS: Wear OS | Compatibility: Android 4.3+, iOS 8+ | Display: 1.4″ 400 x 400 OLED paired with LCD screen | Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 48h, 5 extra days in Essential mode | Charging method: Magnetic connecting pin | IP rating: IP68 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
Innovative screen tech
No LTE features
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.
Read the full TicWatch Pro review
8. Apple Watch 4
Once the best Apple Watch money could buy
OS: watchOS 5 | Compatibility: iOS | Display: 1.78″ OLED | Processor: Apple S4 | Band sizes: Varies based on watch size | Onboard storage: 16GB | Battery: 1 to 2 days | Charging method: Wireless | IP rating: Water-resistant to 50m | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, LTE
Battery isn’t amazing
Difficult to find now
This is remarkably similar to the Apple Watch 5 that we’ve spoken about above, but it’s easy to forget how much of a big change 2018’s addition was for the Apple Watch range.
The Series 4 comes with a larger display than preceding smartwatches, and thanks to the release of the Apple Watch 5 it’s now much cheaper. It comes in either 40mm or 44mm sizes, and the screen on both of these versions is much larger than you’d get from a lot of other watches.
The most exciting tech here 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.
There are tons of fitness features, the latest watchOS onboard and more. Just note that this won’t work with an Android phone, so it’s only an option for those who have an iPhone.
Read the full Apple Watch 4 review
9. Fitbit Ionic
The fitness brand’s first big smartwatch play
OS: Fitbit OS | Compatibility: Android, iOS | Display: TBC, 1000 nits | Processor: Dual-core 1.0GHz | Band sizes: Large | Onboard storage: 2.5GB | Battery duration: 2-3 days | Charging method: Proprietary charger | IP rating: 50M water resistant | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Variety of fitness options
Severe lack of apps
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.
Read the full Fitbit Ionic review
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. Apple Watch 3
2017’s best smartwatch is now cheaper than ever
OS: watchOS 5 | Compatibility: iOS | Display: 1.53″ OLED | Processor: S2 dual-core | Onboard storage: 8GB / 16GB (Non-LTE and LTE respectively) | Battery duration: 18 hours | Charging method: Wireless | IP rating: IPX7 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC
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 once the very best smartwatch, but it has since been bumped down by the Apple Watch 4 and 5.
The Apple Watch 3 is essentially just the Apple Watch 2 frame with some new innards… but they made a huge difference. The main highlight now is that the price is so low that it’s the equivalent of many other popular, affordable smartwatches.
The LTE connection was the headline event at the time of release, although that’s not really as useful as some might hope.
It’s 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 the latest watchOS too.
Read the full Apple Watch 3 review
Photo illustration: TechRadar; Misfit; Mobvoi; Apple; Fitbit; Samsung