Because the Apple Watch isn’t right for everyone…
If you’re an iPhone owner and you want to join in with wearable tech, the Apple Watch Series 2 isn’t your only choice – there are a whole host of iOS-compatible smartwatches on the market, with features that Cupertino’s smartwatch can only dream of.
Plus, of course, Android Wear is compatible with iOS and the Gear S3 and S2 work with the iPhone as well. So iPhone users have plenty of options to choose from and it’s only getting better with the rollout of Wear 2.0. Coming up, the next big launch will be the the Fitbit smartwatch, due in the fall.
So, if you find the Apple Watch a little too pricey or just not to your taste, we’ve rounded up a selection of the best alternatives to pick from, any of which will sync seamlessly with your iPhone with zero fuss.
Samsung Gear S3
Want an Apple Watch alternative? Look no further than its biggest rival Samsung and the Gear S3. We haven’t been able to recommend it previously because the iOS support has been missing in action. But now it’s officially here, and while it’s not completely the same experience as pairing with an Android phone, it’s still does the job very well from an iPhone too.
The S3 of course comes in two models; the Frontier for rugged sporty fans and the Classic for more luxury watch look. Annoyingly, it’s bigger than the Gear S2 this time, but it is packed into the rafters with tech. There’s built-in GPS, heart rate monitor, a host of outdoor-friendly sensors and you’ll get better battery life than you will on an Apple Watch.
It runs on Samsung’s own Tizen platform, which still lacks the app support of Android Wear or the App Store, but along with the rotating bezel and a sleek UI, it’s one of the best smartwatch operating systems we’ve played with.
Have a read of our Samsung Gear S3 review to see why we’re fans of the circular smartwatch and if you can wait, check out our Gear S4 preview – we’re expecting that at IFA at the end of August.
From $349, Amazon
LG Watch Sport
The second stop on your tour of Apple Watch alternatives should be our recommended Android Wear all-rounder, the LG Watch Sport. It’s a great start for the revamped Wear 2.0 with solid fitness chops and built-in GPS, a full and untethered experience away from your phone via LTE, not to mention NFC for payments. If you want a do-it-all smartwatch then you could do much worse than the good-looking and clever flagship LG smartwatch.
$349, lg.com | Amazon
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
Yes, this is the most expensive Android Wear watch out there by some distance, but if you want a luxurious smartwatch around your wrist, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Tag’s second Connected looks like a classic Tag for starters, with first-class build quality and a host of impressively detailed custom watch faces. Android Wear 2.0 is there keeping things running but it definitely takes more of a backseat than on Wear alternatives from LG, Motorola and company. With NFC and GPS onboard, you’re well looked after no matter what you need. Tag is definitely onto a winner here .
The stylish Misfit Vapor offers a nice alternative to the Apple Watch in a couple of ways while still appealing to Apple fans. First up, it has a round OLED screen, albeit at a one size fits all 44mm (bigger than Cupertino’s watch). Next, there’s a handy touch bezel and one button at the crown position which means you shouldn’t have to smudge your finger over that screen too much.
With Android Wear 2.0 (not its own custom OS as promised), built-in GPS, optical heart rate monitor and water resistance up to 50m, the Vapor is a very capable all-rounder. As it’s compatible with both iOS and Android, it could steal sales from both the Apple Watch Series 1 and 2. The watch itself is due ‘late summer’.
With the demise of Pebble, the Ticwatch 2 is now our plucky smartwatch start-up of choice. The Ticwatch 2 boasts a vibrant 400 x 400 OLED panel at an eye-popping 287ppi, which is one hell of a display in a smartwatch that costs just $199. The OS needs some work, but there’s built-in GPS and a heart rate monitor – in fact, most things you could ask from a smartwatch.
$189, ticwear.com | Amazon
Fossil Q Accomplice
Fossil’s hybrid collection is well worth checking out. The series puts activity tracking and smartwatch notifications via vibration behind a classic analogue wrist watch and all the smarts are provided by wearable giant Misfit, which Fossil acquired in early 2016.
2017’s cohort, which includes the new Q Accomplice, are smaller, slimmer and have new smart ‘pusher’ buttons. They’re selling buckets for Fossil, and for many, make more sense and provide greater wearability than a full-on smartwatch, while offering many of the benefits. Also a worth a look if you have the money is the Kronaby smartwatch.
$175, fossil.com | Amazon
While the bigger Huawei Watch 2 is now available, the first Huawei Watch is every bit the luxury opposite number on the Android Wear side of things. Unsurprisingly then, the price tags are roughly shoulder to shoulder.
There are plenty of metal link straps to choose from and options of rose gold too, but it’s the pin-sharp 10,000:1 contrast display that will probably catch your eye. The missing GPS is the only blot on its copybook but otherwise it’s a very cool customer – and now compatible with iPhone, of course. Take a look at our full Huawei Watch review to see what we love and hate about the sleek Android Wear watch.
From $299, consumer.huawei.com | Amazon
For those looking at the Apple Watch’s fitness and health capabilities, the Fitbit Blaze is a worthy alternative. Just bear in mind that Fitbit’s first ‘proper’ smartwatch should arrive later this year.
Fitbit’s existing ‘fitness watch’ gives Apple’s undercooked health features a run for its money and still includes notifications from your iPhone’s stock apps. While runners and cyclists will find the balance of features a dead rubber, the Fitbit’s daily activity tracking with its emphasis on resting heart rate tracking steals the show.
$199.95, fitbit.com | Amazon
Garmin Vivoactive HR
Now with built-in heart rate tracking, the Garmin Vivoactive HR is possibly the most complete sports watch ever made. Much like the Apple Watch, the Vivoactive HR is designed for those who dabble in lots of sports, featuring modes for running, walking, cycling, golf and more via Connect IQ. With Garmin’s impressive notifications support added into the mix, it’s a powerful Apple Watch competitor and the battery life is top notch too.
$249, garmin.com | Amazon
Polar’s first ever Android Wear smartwatch doesn’t feel like a smartwatch, but that’s actually a good thing. It’s still the best Android Wear running watch.
You get all the Wear goodies on board including notification and app support, but it lives more in the background, letting Polar’s sports tracking features, such as the built-in GPS, heart rate monitoring and Polar Flow software, take centre stage. While it’s pretty pricey for a Polar watch and it’s nowhere near as good looking as the Apple Watch Series 2, it’s still a strong contender as a sporty alternative.
$329, polar.com | Amazon
Smartwatch jargon explained
Android Wear 2.0 The second version of Google’s smartwatch operating system, which runs across smartwatches made by a host of brands.
GPS A device that has a Global Positioning System chip means it can determine its location on the earth’s surface down to a couple of feet. Primarily used by running watches for accurate outdoor run-tracking.
IPXX The official measure of how water resistant or dustproof a device is. The first number is dust, the second is water. Higher is better. In terms of waterproofing X5 will protect your watch in the shower, X8 for swimmers.
LTE The technology that enables a smartwatch to have its own high-speed cellular connectivity.
NFC Near Field Communication, used for contactless payments.
Notifications An alert from your smartphone that’s delivered to your wearable device.
Optical heart rate monitoring A way of measuring your pulse using LEDs to highlight the speed of blood flow through your capillaries. No chest strap required.
Tizen The operating system developed and used by Samsung on its range of smartwatches.
watchOS Apple’s smartwatch OS found on the Apple Watch. watchOS 4 has just been announced and will land in the autumn.