From smartwatches and fitness trackers to Bluetooth rings and sleep-logging wristbands, 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 buy.
Buying forecast for Holiday 2020: All the big smartwatch launches for this year are pretty much done. We’ve got not one, but two new Apple Watches, a new Samsung flagship, and several new Fitbits. There’s also a strong showing of budget options, so you don’t have to spend a lot if you just want something simple. If you want to save a bit by going for a last-gen smartwatch, now is the time to also be on the lookout for discounts as retailers try to get rid of their stock. Otherwise, keep an eye for Black Friday deals and holiday sales.
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You want the best of the best and don’t mind paying for it.
Our pick: Apple Watch Series 6 ($400-$1,500)
It’s a bit cliche at this point to say that the Apple Watch is the best, especially because the Series 6 is a very iterative update. You’re getting blood oxygen-monitoring via a new SpO2 sensor, an always-on altimeter, better battery life (though it’s still not multi-day), a brighter always-on display, and new S6 processor. As far as watchOS 7 goes, we liked new features that seem geared toward the pandemic, like cycling directions and handwashing timers, but some things like the much-awaited native sleep-tracking are just okay. And now, with Family Setup you could, if you wanted, set up an Apple Watch for kids or elderly parents who may not have iPhones. However, while the Series 6 did eke out yet another win as the best overall watch, the competition is a hell of a lot closer than in previous years.
Most Apple users should seriously consider the Apple Watch SE. It’s got all the same motion sensors—including the always-on altimeter—as the Series 6 and the same processor as the Series 5, but costs $120 less at $280. You’re giving up an always-on display and advanced health features like ECG and blood oxygen-monitoring, but if you’re young and in excellent health, you might want to prioritize savings. If you don’t want to compromise on advanced health, but you’re not keen on the Series 6's prices, you could also hunt around for a discounted Series 5 while they still last. But this only covers iOS users. Android users should absolutely consider the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (starts at $400), especially if you’ve got a Samsung Galaxy phone. It’s gorgeous and hands down the best Android smartwatch out there. You should also consider the Fitbit Sense ($330). If you don’t care too much about LTE connectivity and don’t have a Samsung phone, this is one of the most feature-rich options available for you.
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.
The Suunto 7 is a big, beefy smartwatch with an equally hefty price tag. That said, it’s also a comprehensive fitness beast. It’s extremely accurate, and also comes with the ability to download offline maps and tracks 70 sports. You get nifty heat maps, so you can see where other Suunto users like to run, hike, and cycle. As for advanced smartwatch capabilities, you’re not missing out on that front either. You get NFC for mobile payments, as well as access to all the apps in the Google Play store—something Garmins and Polars lack with their closed ecosystems. Plus, despite the huge 50mm case, it’s actually quite light, and amazingly, it isn’t hideous.
If you’re into working out and want your watch to keep up, Garmin and Polar always offer solid options. Both companies’ smartwatches report in-depth metrics, and while their communities are smaller, Polar and Garmin fans are loyal. We like the Polar Ignite ($230) and Polar Unite ($150)—both are a better fit for more “casual” athletes who are interested in seeing how recovery impacts their performance. As for Garmins, the company’s Fenix 6 series is as top-of-the-line as you can get, though it also recently released its first touchscreen watch, the Venu ($300). If you’re on a tighter budget, the Timex Ironman GPS R300 ($120) is an accurate, affordable option with monstrously long battery life.
Someone who has an Android phone and wants a smartwatch that works intuitively with it.
Our pick: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (Starts at $400)
You finally did it, Samsung! This is the comprehensive, Android-friendly smartwatch we’ve been waiting for. Like the Apple Watch Series 6, it can do spot checks of your blood oxygen levels and has an FDA-cleared ECG app. Sleep-tracking is pretty robust, and Samsung added quite a few new health-tracking features, including a new VO2 Max app and advanced running metrics. You can also cast workout videos to your Samsung TV and see your metrics overlaid on the workout—which sounds awfully similar to Apple’s forthcoming Fitness+ service. Plus, it’s a beautiful round smartwatch with an intuitive rotating bezel. And, it fixed the software inaccuracies we had issues with in previous Samsung smartwatches. One thing to note, however, is that the Galaxy Watch 3 works best with Samsung phones. Unfortunately, some features won’t carry over to other non-Samsung Android devices, including ECG.
Again, the Fitbit Sense ($330) is a great—and cheaper!—alternative if you have a non-Samsung Android phone. Not only is its FDA-cleared ECG feature platform-agnostic, but it also has a better community if competing with friends is something that motivates you. Plus, it’s the only smartwatch currently available that has meaningful stress-tracking and the best sleep-tracking of the bunch. The one thing you’re missing out on is LTE connectivity. But if you want a Wear OS watch, Fossil recently announced a cheaper Gen 5E watch ($250) and added some much-needed feature updates to all of its smartwatches. We also like the Skagen Falster 3 ($295), as it’s pretty darn nice to look at. However, you should also consider Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 ($300). It’s the only one with the new Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip—you’ll have to wait a bit longer for other 4100-powered Wear OS watches.
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. The Hybrid HR lacks 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 pricier 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. Also, while it’s not quite a hybrid tracker, the Timex Metropolitan R is affordable at $180, has built-in GPS, and looks pretty sleek on the wrist.
Someone who hates watches, but wants something to track fitness or activity.
This smart ring has gotten a lot of renewed buzz lately, as many medical researchers are currently using it in studies to see if it can be used to detect covid-19 early. That said, it’s primarily a sleep tracker. You get detailed breakdowns of how well you slept, and your “readiness”—basically a score measuring how well you’ve recovered. It doesn’t really track activity in the way other wearables do. The focus here is mostly on meeting a daily calorie burn and minutes spent in low, medium, and high-intensity levels. It’s great for a macro, holistic look at your activity. Plus, you have the option to log mindfulness sessions within the app.
Whoop is another interesting recovery and activity tracker. The metrics are spot on, and while they take a bit of time to understand, once you do it’s quite helpful. Technically, the default is wearing it on your wrist, but you can also opt for accessories that let you wear it on your arm. The tracker itself is free, but it does require a monthly $30 subscription.
You want a basic fitness tracker but don’t want to pay a lot for it.
Our pick: Amazfit Bip S ($70)
I know, this looks more like a smartwatch than a fitness tracker, but it’s hard to beat for the price. You get extremely accurate GPS and heart rate-tracking, as well as a decent companion app. It’s about half the price of a Fitbit Charge 4, and yet it also comes with built-in GPS. You can swap custom watch faces, and it’s really hard to beat 15-day battery life—up to 40 if you tweak the power-usage settings. It’s truly a bargain that’s reminiscent of the old Pebble watches.
OK, but let’s say you actually want a fitness tracker form factor. Then the Fitbit Charge 4 ($150) is a pretty great option, because it has built-in GPS, though the Fitbit Inspire 2 is even cheaper and has 10-day battery life. The Garmin Vivosmart 4 ($130) is slightly cheaper than the Charge 4, but its screen interface is wonky and you can’t swap straps. The display makes it a bit more frustrating to use during a workout than a Charge 4, and you’ll have to make peace with your color choices at checkout. You’ll get most of the same features as the Charge 4, on top of stress-tracking and solid battery life to boot.
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.
05/05/2020: Replaced Polar Vantage M with Suunto 7 for best fitness smartwatch; moved Polar Vantage M to “Also Consider,” along with the Polar Ignite, Garmin Venu and Fenix 6 series, and Timex Ironman GPS R300 for the same category. Replaced Fossil Sport with Skagen Falster 3 in the best Android-friendly watch category; added Fossil Gen 5 to the “Also Consider” for the same category. Replaced Fitbit Inspire HR with Fitbit Charge 4 in the best budget fitness tracker category; removed Fitbit Charge 3 from the “Also Consider” in the same category.
10/15/2020: Replaced the Apple Watch Series 5 with the Series 6 for best overall smartwatch; replaced Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 and Samsung Galaxy Watch in the “Also Consider” section with the Apple Watch SE, Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, and Fitbit Sense; replaced Polar Vantage M with the Polar Unite in the “Also Consider” section for the Best Fitness Smartwatch category; replaced Skagen Falster 3 with the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 for the Best Android Smartwatch; moved Skagen Falster 3 to the “Also Consider” section for the same category, along with the Fossil Gen 5E, Fitbit Sense, and Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3; added Timex Metropolitan R to the “Also Consider” section for Best Hybrid Smartwatch; replaced Motiv Ring with Oura Ring for Best Non-wrist Tracker; added Whoop to the “Also Consider” for the same category; replaced the Fitbit Charge 4 with the Amazfit Bip S in the best budget fitness tracker category; moved Fitbit Charge 4 to the “Also Consider” section for same category along with the Fitbit Inspire 2.