Because the Apple Watch isn’t right for everyone
If you’re an iPhone owner and you want a new smartwatch, the latest Apple Watch Series 3 isn’t your only choice. Yes, it’s a fantastic wearable and our current smartwatch fave, but it’s not for everyone’s taste and hardly the most wallet-friendly.
Luckily, there’s a whole host of iOS-compatible smartwatches on the market with features that Cupertino’s device has yet to include.
Plus, of course, Wear OS is compatible with iOS and so are Samsung’s latest Gear smartwatches. So iPhone users have plenty of options to choose from.
So, if you find the new LTE-enabled 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 Sport
The Samsung Gear Sport is not a replacement for the Gear S3. Instead, it’s an upgrade to the Gear S2 and brings it closer to the Apple Watch’s sports tracking. The new waterproof design brings dedicated swim tracking to accompany the built-in GPS for running and cycling, along with the onboard heart rate monitor. On the smartwatch front, it’ll offer the same strong notification support as the S3, Samsung Pay and Spotify offline playlist support.
That rotating bezel is still there to navigate Samsung’s Tizen OS and it still manages to eke out more battery life than the Watch Series 3, too. It doesn’t, however, have LTE support, but if you want that, you can go for the Gear S3instead, which is still a worthy alternative to the Apple Watch.
$299, samsung.com | Amazon
If Samsung or Wear OS don’t do it for you, then there’s always Fitbit’s latest smartwatch to consider. And, if we’re honest, this is easily the watch that people mistake most for the Apple Watch when we have it on our wrists.
And like the Watch Series 3, it’s all about fitness. So it’s got a waterproof design, along with swim tracking and an onboard heart rate monitor to measure workout intensity. What it doesn’t have, however, is built-in GPS – for that you’ll want to pay a bit more and get the Fitbit Ionic.
You can also expect the usual Fitbit fitness tracking features, including arguably the best sleep monitoring features of any wrist-worn wearable.
As far as core smartwatch features are concerned, it supports notifications for messages and from third-party apps (with replies available if you’re connected to an Android phone), and has an onboard music player with support for Deezer, and if you live in the US, Pandora, too (note that these can only be played offline). You can download apps from Fitbit’s growing app store, and there’s also contactless payment support via Fitbit Pay (another note: if you’re in the US, you’ll need to get the Special Edition to have Pay).
Unlike Apple’s smartwatch, it does work with Android, iOS and Windows smartphones and with up to 5 days battery life you don’t need to charge it every night. It’s a strong alternative, and one that’s going to improve as Fitbit builds on the strong array of sensors it’s loaded inside – with sleep apnea detection promised to be on the way.
$199.95, fitbit.com | Amazon
Garmin Vivomove HR
Like the Steel HR, the Vivomove HR is a sporty hybrid that packs in a lot of features. Unlike the Vivomove, Garmin’s new hybrid is available in designs for men and women and includes a sleek discreet display that appears on the watch face when you give it a tap.
On that display you can see a whole raft of information including fitness tracking data, resting heart rate, smartphone notifications and will even let you check in on your stress levels.
If you care about battery life, it’s a fine performer offering two weeks in watch mode and around five days when you tapping into all of those smartwatch features on a regular basis.
Starting at $199.99, garmin.com | Amazon
Nokia Steel HR
Offering the Apple Watch a run for its money in terms of wellness tech, the Nokia Steel HR is a serious fitness tracker disguised as a classic Swiss watch. The optical heart rate sensor offers decent analysis of your daily heart rate and tracks resting heart rate over time – arguably doing better than the Apple Watch in this department.
And despite being an analogue watch, it’s not without a screen. A discreet OLED panel displays relevant health stats, and some notifications, so you won’t miss a call.
Of course, without GPS the Steel HR is no watch for Apple’s smartwatch for outdoor runs, cycling and workouts, but it does offer automatic detection of exercise and will monitor your heart rate during a session and count that into your daily goal. It’s also an excellent sleep tracker, which fills a hole left wide open by the Apple Watch, and it offers 25 days of tracking on a single charge.
It’s a different proposition, but those mainly interested in the Apple Watch as a fitness tracker would do well to consider the Steel HR. Just be aware that Nokia has now sold its digital health arm back to Withings, so a rebrand will likely be in the works before the end of the year.
$179.95, nokia.com | Amazon
With the demise of Pebble, the Ticwatch E is now our plucky smartwatch start-up of choice. We previously recommended the feature-packed Ticwatch 2 with its independent Ticwear OS, plus GPs, heart rate and more. That’s still work a look for those seeking something leftfield, but we’re now switching our official backing to the new Ticwatch E.
It runs Wear OS, and strips back features to a minimum, but at the tantalising price of $159.99, it’s a solid Apple Watch alternative. It has a 1.4-inch OLED display with a solid 400 x 400 resolution, which matches up well it the Apple Watch’s screen.
The design is fun and quirky, and it’s a nice relief from the monotony of the same old brands – but with the certainty and stability of Wear OS under the hood. If you don’t mind waiting a few months, you can also explore the upcoming Ticwatch Pro, which debuts some fancy screen smarts.
$159, ticwear.com | Amazon
LG Watch Sport
The next stop on your tour of Apple Watch alternatives should be our recommended Wear OS all-rounder, the LG Watch Sport. It’s the flagship device 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
Garmin Vivoactive 3
The Apple Watch offers a solid sports tracking experience, but with the Vivoactive 3, it’s designed for those who dabble in a lot of sports. It’ll cover running, cycling, golf and more via its Connect IQ store. It will even cover gym workouts with the addition of rep counting. Garmin Pay has been added into the mix letting you make payments from the wrist, and improved notification support that now lets you respond to your messages.
The battery life is top notch and the new circular design is a massive step up from its predecessor the Vivoactive HR.
$269.99, garmin.com | Amazon
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
Yes, this is the most expensive Wear OS 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. Wear OS 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 – check out our full Modular 45 review for more details. A bit too big? You can now shave off 4mm with the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41 instead.
Michael Kors Access Grayson and Sofie
If you want a good looking Wear OS smartwatch, Fossil is currently serving up some of the best options right now. And its Michael Kors Access collection is definitely the models that stand out above the rest.
Available in versions for men (Grayson) and women (Sofie), both feature 1.39-inch, 454 x 454 pixel AMOLED touchscreen displays and run in the latest version of Google’s smartwatch operating system. That means you’ll be able to enjoy features like the ability to download apps, more customisable watch faces and accessing Google Assistant.
There’s no sports tracking features and unfortunately NFC is lacking as well, which means you can’t buy stuff with this smartwatch. But it gives you the basic Wear OS experience wrapped up in a design that you’d actually want around your wrist.
If you’re not a Michael Kors fan, you should definitely check out the Skagen Falster. You can read our Michael Kors Access Grayson (and Sofie) review to find out more about one of our Fossil faves.
From $350 michaelkors.com | Amazon
Kate Spade New York Scallop
The best sign yet that smartwatches for women are getting better, the Kate Spade New York Scallop is as gorgeous as it gets. The 1.19-inch AMOLED display is contained in a 42mm case, making it the same size as the larger Apple Watch, but the Scallop has a much prettier design.
What you won’t get is as many features – it’s particularly lacking in the fitness department, if that’s important to you – but what it does, it does well. You have Wear OS and all of its standard features and apps at your disposal, along with an array of Kate Spade-designed watch faces to give your watch some added personality.
And for the price, the Scallop stays accessible to the everyday smartwatch user – not confined to the luxury price bracket like the aforementioned Tag Heuer watches – and keeps it competitive to the Apple Watch.
From $300, katespade.com | Amazon