Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and even jewelry—if it’s technology you can wear, we’ve reviewed it. Whether you’re an Apple diehard or you stan for Android, these are the wearables you should bother with.
Buying forecast for the rest of 2019: Right now, everybody’s pretty much done updating their fall lineup—don’t expect any surprise launches from most of the major players. But, with Black Friday and the holiday season fast approaching, it is a good time to start hunting for some good deals. Not only will companies be offering discounts on new hardware, they’ll also be looking to get rid of old stock. That’s a good option if you’re on a budget and don’t mind slightly older specs.
There might be a few refreshes come January once CES 2020 gets underway. That said, most companies will probably wait until spring to announce anything truly new. If you do want the latest and greatest, however, now is the better time to buy. Spring launches tend to be tweaked updates to existing product lines, than anything truly revolutionary.
You want the best of the best and don’t mind paying for it.
Our pick: Apple Watch Series 5 ($400-$1,500)
Yes, yes, we know it’s not exciting that the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch out there. The Series 5 didn’t update much in terms of hardware—the biggest change was the addition of an always-on display powered by an LTPO screen. That said, Apple beefed up its health-tracking software. Now you can view 90-day trends, track reproductive health, and monitor environmental noise levels straight from your wrist. Plus, it’s still FDA-approved for ECG readings. More advanced features, like LTE connectivity and NFC payments, still work without a hitch. The only downside is battery life is still pretty short at an estimated 18-hours. However, in testing, we found the Series 5’s battery isn’t likely to run out on you before you make it home.
The other problem with the Apple Watch is it’s completely inaccessible to Android users. Right now, the best alternative is either the Samsung Galaxy Watch or the Galaxy Watch Active 2. Both watches run off Samsung’s proprietary Tizen operating system, which at the moment is far more intuitive to use than Google’s Wear OS. The Galaxy Watch is slightly more expensive ($330-$350), but you get a solid 3-5 days of battery life and standalone LTE. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Watch Active2 is a gorgeous, slimmer, full-featured smartwatch for $280. It wasn’t the most accurate at activity tracking during our testing, but Samsung has since released multiple software updates.
You start your mornings guzzling protein shakes and are determined to crush that 10,000 step goal every day. You want a wearable with enough battery life to keep up with your epic lifestyle and don’t mind if it’s a little ugly.
Our pick: Polar Vantage M ($280)
The Polar Vantage M is just $280, but gets you over a week of battery life, accurate built-in GPS, and excellent heart-rate data. The companion Polar Flow app really gets you in-depth training metrics, and gives you easy-to-understand insight into how each individual workout contributes into your overall progress. The transflective screen is great for outdoor running and cycling. It’s a bit lacking in terms of NFC payments and music storage, but you do get notifications and sleep tracking.
The Fitbit Ionic is a pretty hideous smartwatch, but when it comes to fitness it delivers the goods. At $270, it’s relatively affordable, delivers up to 7 days of battery life, on-board music storage, NFC payments, built-in GPS, and on-wrist workouts. It’s also great for outdoor runners, as it’ll pause automatically when you’re stuck at a stoplight. However, Fitbit’s platform won’t give you quite as much insight as Polar or Garmin, and its app offerings are still limited compared to Wear OS and the Apple Watch.
Someone who has an Android phone and wants a smartwatch that works intuitively with it.
Our pick: Fossil Sport ($255)
There’s plenty of Wear OS watches out there, but we like the Fossil Sport best. It’s got the newly-released Snapdragon 3100 processor, and it tested well when it came to delivering notifications and tracking activities. Rapid charging takes the sting out of the relatively short battery life, and with 28 straps, you’ve got style options.
The Fitbit Versa 2 adds a bit more bite to what was already a good smartwatch. There’s still no standalone GPS, but you do get an always-on display and the ability to summon Alexa from your wrist. It’s got even better battery life than the previous version, lasting a whole week on a single charge. Plus, it now has Spotify. One thing that hasn’t changed? That excellent $200 price point.
A person who takes pride in looking good and needs a smartwatch to match. Someone who values classic design with basic functionality over advanced features.
Our pick: Fossil Hybrid HR ($195-$215)
The Fossil Hybrid HR is what Pebble fans have been clamoring for since the company was sold off to Fitbit. Not only is it a beautiful watch, its clever display is simultaneously stylish, low power, and most importantly, legible. You also get two weeks of battery life on a single charge, plus heart-rate monitoring. The health tracking is on the more basic side, but you do get pretty detailed metrics for a hybrid. You can log workouts, and monitor sleep and heart rate. To round things out, you also get a good degree of customizability as far as programming buttons and watch faces go. It’s lacking NFC payments, voice assistant compatibility, and standalone LTE—but if you’re intrigued by a hybrid, these aren’t features you’ll miss.`
The Garmin Vivomove Style is a bit more pricey at $350, but it sure is a classy watch. It’s got five days of battery life, heart-rate monitoring, NFC payments, and a gorgeous hidden AMOLED display. While it looks like a typical analog watch, you can tap the screen to reveal a subtle smart display. This is the better choice for the more fitness-oriented user, as Garmin’s platform is one of the best around.
Someone who hates watches, but wants something to track fitness or activity.
Our pick: Motiv Ring ($200)
You won’t get notifications on it, but the Motiv Ring is a fitness tracker that can pass for a minimalist ring. It tracks steps, active minutes, and even your heart rate. A recent update added biometric two-factor authentication. Miraculously, it looks nice on your finger.
You want a basic fitness tracker but don’t want to pay a lot for it.
Our pick: Fitbit Inspire HR ($100)
The Inspire HR costs a fourth of what you’d pay for an Apple Watch, but delivers many of the same tracking benefits. You get continuous heart-rate monitoring, smartphone notifications, and five days of battery on a single charge. Its design isn’t as sleek as the discontinued Alta HR, but you can always swap out the bands for a classier look. If you’re really looking to save, you can also omit heart-rate monitoring and opt for the slightly cheaper Inspire ($70).
The Garmin Vivosmart 4 ($130) is slightly cheaper, but its screen interface is wonky and you can’t swap straps. That makes it a bit more frustrating to use mid-workout, and you’ll have to make peace with your color choices at checkout. You’ll get most of the same features, on top of stress tracking, and solid battery life to boot. Fitbit’s Charge 3 ($150) is also pretty solid in this price range, but its chunkier straps, “connected” GPS via your phone, and swimproof design make it better suited to someone who’s slightly more serious about getting fit. Plus, the addition of apps on a monochrome OLED screen sort of blurs the line between smartwatch and tracker—to the Charge 3's detriment.
5/15/2019: Added Samsung Galaxy Watch Active to the “Also Consider” for best overall smartwatch. Added Polar Vantage M as best fitness smartwatch, moved Fitbit Ionic to “Also Consider.” Replaced Fitbit Alta HR with Fitbit Inspire HR as best budget fitness tracker.
11/14/2019: Replaced the Apple Watch Series 4 with the Series 5 for best overall smartwatch; replaced Samsung Galaxy Watch Active with the Galaxy Watch Active2 in the “Also Consider” for the same category. Replaced Fitbit Versa with the Fitbit Versa 2 for the “Also Consider” in the best Android-friendly watch category. Replaced Garmin Vivomove HR with the Fossil Hybrid HR as best hybrid smartwatch; replaced Misfit Path with the Garmin Vivomove Style for the “Also Consider” in the same category.