We’ve spent the past year or so testing the best smartwatches around to bring you our round-up. It’s still early days in the smartwatch market but wearables have started to gain traction, dominating major trade shows during the past 12 months and generating more excitement than many smartphones and tablets.
If you’ve been reading our smartwatch reviews you’ll know that no one product has really hit the mark yet. Whether it’s the design, performance issues, a lack of battery power or a wider number of niggling issues there isn’t one smartwatch company that has quite nailed the concept.
That’s not to say there aren’t glimpses of quality sprinkled amongst the mediocrity, though it’s clear the best smartwatches are still to come. Whilst design and build quality continue to improve, elements like battery life and support are way below the levels we hope for.
Although early adopters have been keen to get their wrists in to a smart timepiece, we’d suggest waiting a few months until some of these bigger issues have been ironed out before buying a smartwatch yourself.
If you are in the market for the best smartwatch then you can click on the links below to jump straight to our short reviews or hit the ‘Next’ arrow to go through each product individually.
A gorgeous, activity-tracking smartwatch perfect for even formal occasions
- Gorgeous design
- 50m water resistance
- Sapphire crystal glass face
- Tracks steps, runs and sleep
There aren’t many smartwatches out there that you’d wear with pride at a formal event, but the Withings Activité is undoubtedly one of a select few. Strictly speaking, it’s not actually a smartwatch, but a ‘smarter watch’. It’s a beautiful device built from quality materials – there’s no LED lights, dodgy touchscreens and chunky bezels here. From the stainless steel body to the calf leather strap and super-tough sapphire crystal glass face, it oozes class and is comfortable to wear.
It’s able to monitor steps, runs and sleep, though it will also be able to track swimming in the future. This is because it’s waterproof to 50m, as well as dustproof. Unfortunately there’s no altimeter on board, which means it can’t tell when you’re climbing steps. The battery lasts for eight months before it needs replacing.
A small dial on the face of the Activité shows how close you are to completing your daily activity goal. It’s a neat, discreet display that does its job perfectly, and we’re glad Withings hasn’t essentially tried to attach a shrunken smartphone display to our wrists.
Withings’ Healthmate app works with iOS, with Android compatibility due. It’s colourful, user-friendly and presents data in an easy-to-understand manner, though it’s not perfect. Healthmate doesn’t pack the same proactive feedback as competitors like Jawbone. Simply put, it’ll praise you for hitting targets, but won’t tell you to pick up your game when you’re falling short.
Withings Activité Pop
An attractive, waterproof smartwatch that costs just £119
- Attractive design
- 30m water resistance
- Tracks steps, runs and sleep
The Withings Activité Pop is the budget version of the Activité, costing £200 less. However, almost all differences between the two watches come in the hardware department – they work in exactly the same way.
Cheaper materials are the order of the Pop. The main body is made from a durable PVD metal with a brushed steel finish, the face is mineral glass and the straps are made of silicone rubber. They’re replaceable too, which means you could easily go out and buy a pair of leather ones if you fancy. Even without the premium materials of its grander sibling, the Activité Pop looks terrific.
It tracks steps, runs and sleep too, and displays your daily progress on a secondary dial on the watch face. It also works alongside the same Withings Healthmate app and packs the same eight-month battery, but is waterproof to 30m instead of 50m – you’ll still be able to take it swimming though.
Even smartwatch-cynics will be tempted by the Activité Pop.
LG G Watch R
A good-looking Android Wear smartwatch with a 1.3-inch, 320 x 320 P-OLED screen
- 1.3-inch, 320 x 320 P-OLED screen
- Tracks steps, runs and heart rate
- Android Wear
The LG G Watch R is one of the better Android Wear smartwatches on the market. It lacks the natural grace of the Activité, but is still good-looking thanks to its round face, thin bezel and replaceable leather strap. The circular, 320 x 320 P-OLED display is vibrant and bright enough to work in direct sunlight, which is great.
It comes with a war chest of features, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, barometer and heart rate reader. There’s no GPS though. Being IP67-certified, it’s shower-proof, but we wouldn’t recommend taking it for a swim with you. The 410mAh battery inside goes for an unimpressive one and a half days, and has to be charged through a docking cradle.
Android Wear pairs the watch with any phone running Jelly Bean and above via Bluetooth, and is still too slow and tricky to navigate for our liking. Google Voice Search and Google Now are at heart of the operation, but the results aren’t quite slick. While there are now a decent number of Android Wear apps available, none of them come close to matching the smartphone experience.
The LG G Watch R is an improvement on the disastrous LG G Watch, but it’s still flawed. We’d only recommend it to more tolerant early adopters, rather than consumers looking for the real McCoy.
Samsung Gear Live
An Android Wear smartwatch with a 1.63-inch, 320 x 320 Super AMOLED display
- 1.63-inch, 320 x 320 Super AMOLED display
- Tracks steps, runs and heart rate
- Android Wear
Samsung’s fourth attempt at a smartwatch comes in the form of the Samsung Gear Live, and it’s the South Korean firm’s best effort yet. Its standout feature is the 1.63-inch, 320 x 320 Super AMOLED display, which is bright, vibrant and sharp. It’s not an attractive timepiece, however, so move on quickly if you consider yourself a stylish so and so, and want to keep your reputation intact.
In terms of features, it’s very similar to the G Watch R. There’s a gyroscope, compass, accelerometer and heart rate monitor on board, but we have our reservations about the accuracy of the latter. The IP67 rating means you’ll be able to shower with it, but we wouldn’t dunk it into a pool.
Battery life, unfortunately, is dreadful. The Gear Live’s 300mAh battery delivers just a day of use before it needs charging again. To add to the pain, the special charging cradle is both clunky and fiddly – not exactly a winning combination.
It runs on Android Wear so voice commands are central to its use but, like the G Watch R, this isn’t the finished article.
TomTom Runner Cardio
A large smartwatch with excellent fitness credentials
- 1-inch, 168 x 144 display
- GPS, heart rate sensor and accelerometer
- Waterproof to 50m
Almost a cross between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch, the TomTom Runner Cardio is feature-packed and, you guessed it, targeted at runners. It’s got GPS, a heart rate sensor, accelerometer, a stopwatch option and five distinct training modes. It’s also waterproof to 165ft (about 50m), so you can take it swimming. That’s impressive.
However, it’s undeniably ugly, and you wouldn’t really want to be seen with it outside a running context. The chunky main body and GPS sensor are attached to each other, and held in place with a 0.54-inch wide rubber strap that’s durable but not entirely comfortable. The display is a 1-inch, 168 x 144 mono-style affair that comes with backlighting.
You can sync data either through the TomTom MySport web tool or smartphone app, which is currently only available on iOS. However, the entire process is more about logging information than real-time analysis. Opening your logged activities will show information such as distance, calories burned, pace and heart rate. Tracking is really accurate, both for outdoor runs and sessions on the treadmill.
Unfortunately, the sheer quantity of high-end features does have a downside. Due to the presence of GPS and a heart rate sensor in particular, battery life is poor. With both features constantly enabled, you’ll get around eight hours of joy. Still, this is the pick of the bunch for keen runners.
An iOS-based smartwatch with lots of customisation options
- Lots of customisation options
- Sapphire crystal face
- Heart rate sensor
Not to be confused with the fabled iWatch, the Apple Watch is Apple’s highly-anticipated foray into the wearables sector, and it’s coming on 24 April. In terms of looks, it’s a bit of a let-down. While many of us were expecting to come across Apple’s trademark sleek, effortlessly-beautiful style, it’s actually a fairly chunky affair.
There are loads of different customisation options available though, including two different sizes (1.3- and 1.5-inch), lots of straps and three different models, so you should be able to find a combination you like. These are the Watch, Watch Sport and Watch Edition, and get steadily more expensive as you go along. The latter is built from solid gold.
While the Apple Watch’s sapphire crystal-protected screen is touch-enabled, navigation will predominantly controlled with the special digital crown. Siri’s also on board, so voice commands also have a big role to play.
Elsewhere, it’s largely similar to the other smartwatches in this round-up, except of course for the fact it runs iOS-based apps. It’s got a heart rate sensor, you make and take calls with it and check your messages too. Apple Pay is currently only available in the US, and its 18-hour battery life has confirmed our worst fears – you’ll have to charge it every day.
Pebble Time Steel
A smartwatch with excellent battery life and a colour ePaper, non-touchscreen display
- Colour ePaper non-touchscreen display
- 10-day battery life
- Slick Timeline UI
- Stainless steel build
The Pebble Time Steel might just be the best smartwatch we’ve seen to date. It’s the souped-up version of the plastic Pebble Time, featuring a stainless steel bezel and an optional metal bracelet. In terms of looks, it’s not quite in Activité territory, but it’s still prettier and less clunky than most Android Wear models.
One of the best things about it is battery life. You’ll get up to 10 days of joy before turning back to the magnetic charger. That’s due in part to the use of a battery-friendly, colour ePaper non-touchscreen display. It’s also waterproof to 5ATM (50m), meaning you can take it swimming without worrying about the consequences.
Navigation is done through four physical buttons on the sides of the Steel and it’s surprisingly slick, due to the new Timeline feature. This essentially delivers the most important information relevant to you at certain times, whether that’s a scheduled meetings or a reminder to buy some milk. A built-in microphone allows for Google Voice-style search too.
An attractive Android Wear smartwatch with a stunning 1.4-inch, 400 x 400 AMOLED screen
- Excellent 1.4-inch, 400 x 400 AMOLED display
- Sapphire crystal glass
- Monitors steps, calories burned and heart rate
- Android Wear
The Huawei Watch is what the smartwatch market has been calling for, and what we expected the Moto 360 to be. It’s an Android Wear smartwatch that more closely resembles a watch than a gadget. Its greatest strengths lie in the design department. The 42mm stainless steel body is lovely, and will come in silver, black and gold variants when it launches this summer. The crown is still on board too, and works as a physical home button.
The screen is also outstanding. It’s a 1.4-inch, 400 x 400 AMOLED offering, and it’s the sharpest, most accurate display we’ve seen on an Android Wear watch. Sapphire crystal glass keeps it safe from scratch marks without affecting touch sensitivity.
In terms of features, the Huawei Watch is able to monitor step count, distances covered, calorie burn, climbing height and heart rate – it’s a pretty substantial range. Unfortunately, it’s also got all of the same shortcomings that all Android Wear smartwatches have at present – beneath the surface, they’re all the same.