Picking the best smartwatch for you among the plethora of brand new devices is increasingly tough. Gone are those horrible lumps of plastic and the likes of the Apple Watch Series 2, Samsung Gear S3, Fossil Q and Huawei Watch 2 challenging classic watches in terms of design.
There are important considerations about the choice of operating system, battery life and fitness features. But wearing a watch is about also expressing some form of your personality and design is a very important consideration for many buyers.
There are more than a few expected smartwatches inbound at Baselworld 2017, too. A new Tag Heuer Modular smartwatch is set to up the ante in terms of design, and we’re also tipped for announcements from Fossil, Swarovski, Alpina, Casio and more. So keep Wareable on lock for news as it happens.
Currently on test… – Huawei Watch 2
The Huawei Watch 2 was announced along with its sibling the Huawei Watch 2 Classic, and puts fitness very much front and centre. The standard Watch 2 is packed with biometric sensors inside a lightweight ceramic case, and keeps tabs on heart rate, VO2 Max as well as GPS tracked speeds and distances.
There’s also an LTE option on the standard Watch 2, or you can trade up some of the more advanced features and the ceramic build for a stainless steel designs on the Huawei Watch 2 Classic.
We haven’t completed our review of the Huawei Watch 2 as yet, so we’re holding off on a full recommendation. Read our early first look Huawei Watch 2 review, and keep your eyes peeled for the definitive verdict in the next couple of weeks.
Feature check: GPS, heart rate monitor, dedicated sports modes.
From €329 (US/UK prices TBC), huawei.com
Best overall smartwatch – Apple Watch Series 2
With water-resistance and GPS in a sleeker (dare we say unisex) body than similarly-specced rivals, as well as an eye-popping screen – means that the Apple Watch Series 2 pips the competition to our coveted best smartwatch spot.
It’s still far from perfect and Android Wear 2.0 – currently running on the Huawei Watch 2 and LG Watch Sport – has caught up in terms of features, technology and style.
The Apple Watch app selection is still way too small and developers aren’t making use of the GPS and sensors for untethered experiences. Apple’s own fitness services are a tad hit-and-miss and the screen isn’t always-on.
But aside from those negatives, it’s still a great smartwatch experience which doesn’t feel clunky and has more than one genuine killer app. Apple Pay is a triumph, sports tracking works and there’s a genuine feeling the best is still yet to come.
Feature check: GPS, swimming friendly, Apple Pay, two-day battery, heart rate monitor.
Wareable’s Apple Watch Series 2 review verdict:
“Is the Apple Watch Series 2 the perfect smartwatch? No. But it makes a much more compelling argument than the original that you should own one.”
From $369, apple.com | Amazon
Best Android Wear smartwatch – LG Watch Sport
The flagship model for Android Wear 2.0, the LG Watch Sport guns straight for the Apple Watch. With GPS, LTE and NFC for Android Pay on-board, the LG Watch Sport comes with a revamped Google Fit, and rejuvenated third party Android Wear 2.0 apps such as Strava.
The screen really impresses, and the 1.38-inch, 480 x 480, OLED display using its 348ppi to best the Apple Watch Series 2’s tech. And beyond outdoor workouts, it can keep track of reps in the gym, which is a surprising and welcome addition.
However, it’s only water resistant just 1.5 meters for 30 mins, which makes it unsuitable for swimming. It’s bulky too. For those looking for a sleeker watch, the LG Watch Style is worth a look, but the pay-off in size means most of the great features of the Watch Sport have been discarded.
Feature check: GPS, LTE, NFC, Android Pay, heart rate monitor.
Wareable’s LG Watch Sport review verdict:
“The LG Watch Sport is a perfect showcase for Android Wear 2.0. It’s big, but it’s also clever, with some solid fitness chops and other standalone features that make it feel truly independent from your phone.”
$349, lg.com | Google Store
Best for sporty types – Garmin Vivoactive HR
While the Apple Watch and the LG Watch Sport are great smartwatches that are capable of sport tracking, the Garmin Vivoactive HR is a seriously amazing sports watch that’s more than capable as a smartwatch. Let us explain.
With dedicated GPS modes for running, cycling, swimming, golf and indoor gym work (although count out strength training), the Vivoactive HR reports detailed metrics into Garmin Connect and works with services such as Strava and RunKeeper. However, it also handles and displays smartwatch notifications, offers weather and calendar details with alarming reliability.
It’s not a looker, thanks to the low-res screen and chunky plastic body. It’s pure function over form but that’s not all bad. You get a battery life that measures around a week, even with all-day use and a few workouts thrown in. But if you’re eying the Apple Watch or LG Watch Sport for tracking your next triathlon, do yourself a favour and opt for a proper sports watch instead.
Feature check: GPS, heart rate monitor, Garmin Connect compatibility, dedicated sports modes.
Wareable’s Garmin Vivoactive HR review verdict:
“If, like us, you’re a sports enthusiast who isn’t obsessive over the details of just one type of activity, it’s truly the watch for you. Great notifications and rich data from the HR sensor complete a top performance, and the daily activity tracking is top notch too.”
$249.99, buy.garmin.com| Amazon
Best for Samsung users – Samsung Gear S3
Now compatible with Android and iOS, the Samsung Gear S3 is surprisingly open-minded with its selection of supported smartphones. Sadly, the size increased slightly from the excellent Gear S2, but that larger body delivers increased battery life, GPS and a screen where Tizen can really shine.
It’s not quite the ultimate fitness tracker/sports watch/classic Tag Heuer all-in-one thanks to a lack of water-resistance, which makes swimming out of the question. And the crappy app selection puts it behind the Apple Watch and Android Wear 2.0 in terms of versatility, although new apps from Under Armour including MyFitnessPal and Endomondo make it a much more compelling proposition.
However, strong individual style, the intuitive rotating bezel and great battery life mean it’s a strong contender. What’s more, Samsung’s impressive platforms – such as S Health – means strong 3rd party apps aren’t essential for a fulfilling experience, as they are on the Apple Watch.
Feature check: GPS, Samsung Pay, Tizen, heart rate monitor.
Wareable’s Samsung Gear S3 review verdict:
“The Gear S3 is destined to divide. After delivering us its best-ever smartwatch with the Gear S2, it has sacrificed that sleek design to cram in more features.”
From $349, samsung.com | Amazon
Best for runners – Polar M600
While the Garmin Vivoactive HR is the perfect choice for those who flit between a host of sports, the Polar M600 is just for pavement-pounding runners.
Built by running giant Polar, and backed up with Android Wear (update to Wear 2.0 slated for the ‘spring’), powerful running smarts are placed front and centre, with GPS, with advanced metrics such as Training Benefit, Running Program, Running Index and Sport Profiles available alongside bog standard speed, pace and time.
But as an Android Wear device it’s capable of running apps, offering notification, accessing Google Voice commands and all-day activity monitoring. In many ways it’s the best of both worlds for runners, and it makes no compromises when you’re pushing the limits of your training, unlike less dedicated devices.
Feature check: Heart rate monitor, GPS, Android Wear 2.0 (coming soon), Polar Flow syncing, water resistant 10m.
Wareable’s Polar M600 review verdict:
“It’s easy to forget that you’re using an Android Wear smartwatch when you’ve got the Polar M600 strapped on. It’s an outright running watch (with decent activity tracking on board too) as far as we’re concerned, with Android Wear simply there in the background in case you need it.”
$329.95, polar.com | Amazon
Best hybrid smartwatch – Withings Steel HR
When we talk about smartwatches, we tend to think of full-on OLED screen-toting wrist computers. But there is another way. Withing’s hybrid smartwatch is back for a third edition, and uses an analogue watch face to pack invisible tech into the case.
And unlike the host of similar hybrids out there – including Fossil’s impressive collection – Withings has really crammed in the features. As well as accelerometer-based step tracking and sleep monitoring, the Steel HR has a heart rate monitor built in, that measures bpm 24/7, reporting useful data such as resting heart rate into the impressive Withings Health app. Withings tracking is some of the best in the business, and it’s accurate, too.
There’s a screen hidden in the face which will display steps and flash up notifications – it’s pretty small, so keen your expectations low – and there’s an impressive 25 days of battery life, before you juice up with the supplied dock.
Feature check: Water resistant to 50m, heart rate monitor, 25 day battery.
Wareable’s Withings Steel HR review verdict:
“Withings has made a watch that walks the line between smartwatch and analogue timepiece with impressive skill. As a fitness tracker it’s among the most feature-packed and best looking; as a running watch it’s still quite pared down, despite a heart rate monitor that works like a charm.”
$179.95, withings.com | Amazon
Best for budget and battery life – Pebble 2
A double winner – not bad for a smartwatch that’s essentially DOA. Yes, that the company has been snapped up by Fitbit, buying its smartwatches is arguably a terrible idea. Support is finite and the company could turn its servers off at any moment killing its devices dead.
But when it comes to battery life, Pebble is king. Think a whole week off charge, with an always on scree and bags of functionality.
The best bit is that you can grab a Pebble 2 for a bargain basement price and it will last a week on a single charge thanks to the low-power e-paper screen tech. There’s also a heart rate monitor and a decent fitness tracking and health platform, that was really picking up pace before the sell out. There are tonnes of apps to play with and the Timeline interface is pretty useful. If you’re dipping a toe into smartwatch waters, the Pebble 2 wins on two counts.
Feature check: Heart rate monitor, week long battery, 1,000s of Pebble apps.
Wareable’s Pebble 2 review verdict:
“The Pebble 2 packs in a lot for its price, and there’s plenty to love, but it’s let down by design. If you’re after an entry-level fitness tracker and don’t care too much about how it looks, this is a solid choice.”
$99.99, pebble.com | Amazon