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 Fall/Winter 2019: Late summer is when smartwatch makers like to tease what’s on deck for the upcoming holiday season. Fossil has already announced its Misfit Vapor X and Gen 5 flagship watches, both of which will sport the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip for snappier performance. Likewise, Samsung is already updating the Galaxy Watch Active with the Active2. With IFA around the corner, there’s a good chance we’ll see more updates from several other brands. For the past few years, Fitbit has also tended to unveil new products right before fall—see: Fitbit Ionic in August 2017, and the Charge 3 last year. And, as always, you can expect the latest Apple Watch to drop in early September. If you’re looking for a deal, wait for that sweet spot right after companies announce shiny new gadgets. That’s when you’ll find companies slash prices on slightly older stock. But if you want the latest and greatest, hold off for promotional pricing and holiday offers in October and November.
The best all-around smartwatch
Who are you?
You want the best of the best and don’t mind paying for it.
Our pick: Apple Watch Series 4 ($400-$1,500)
Apple haters might groan, but the fact is the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch out there. It’s stylish enough for a night on the town, but durable enough for a hard workout. For health nuts, it’s got accurate activity tracking, and on the medical side, it’s FDA-approved to take ECG readings. The Series 4 also has LTE option for standalone connectivity, can withstand the pool, streams music, and works with Apple Pay. And like all Apple products, the whole user experience is intuitive and seamless.
While the Apple Watch is hands-down the best, it leaves Android users in the dust. A great alternative is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active At $200, it’s half the price, gets you about two days of battery, and looks absolutely gorgeous on the wrist. It’s more suited to tracking general activity than in-depth metrics, but that should be fine for most people. The slightly more expensive Galaxy Watch ($330-$350) offers a bit more with 3-5 days of battery and standalone LTE is another great option if you want just a bit more from your smartwatch.
The best fitness smartwatch
Who are 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.
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.
The best Android-friendly smartwatch
Who are you?
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 is stylish, gets your notifications, and is pretty good for casual fitness tracking. It lacks standalone GPS, but makes up for it with five days of battery life. It’s reasonably priced at $200, and works with Android phones right out of the box. The Fitbit app ecosystem is a little thin, but if you just want the basics, then this is a good bet.
The best hybrid smartwatch
Who are you?
A person who takes pride in looking good and needs some smartwatch to match. Someone who values classic design with basic functionality over advanced features.
Our pick: Garmin Vivomove HR ($200-$300)
As far as hybrid watches go, the Garmin Vivomove HR is great at packing in solid fitness tracking and basic notifications into an analog design. It’s also got good battery life, and Garmin’s detailed platform working in its favor. It might not have the latest metrics Garmin tracks, like “body battery” because that requires red pulse oximeter LEDs, but you do get all of Garmin’s detailed exercise metrics like cadence and average pace. Plus, you can track exotic activities like snowshoeing.
The Misfit Path is tiny, stylish, and looks just like a traditional watch. It’s a mere $150, and you don’t have to charge it. While it doesn’t have a touchscreen, then watch buzzes when you’ve got a notification. And while you can’t view notifications, you can assign clock positions to correspond with your most frequent contacts or apps. For example, if the watch buzzes and the hands move to 3 ‘o clock, you’ll know it’s your mom calling.
The best non-wrist tracker
Who are you?
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.
The best budget fitness tracker
Who are you?
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.
How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:
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.