Is it necessary to have the best smartwatch? Maybe not, but they can certainly make life a lot easier in various situations. Plus, they're a ton of fun to play with.
Are you in the market for a fancy new smartwatch? If so, I'm here to rank and compare the latest smartwatches available to you right now.
In this guide, I'll share our smartwatch top picks, and evaluate each entry's impressive features, specs, and prices. From there, I'll walk you through what you should know before deciding to make a purchase. Finally, I'll offer some suggestions of fun and useful apps you can use to pair with your new smartwatch.
In This Guide
Our Top Picks
Apple Watch 2 Review
- Sleek, rectangular design
- Switchable watchbands and watch-face
- 18-hour battery life
- Fully waterproof
- GPS tracking
- Only works with iPhones
Apple Watch 2 Specs
The Apple Watch 2 is the best smartwatch for iPhones. If you don't have an iPhone, there is really no point in buying an Apple Watch 2. If you do, however, then this smartwatch is a great choice. Keep in mind that it is also the most expensive.
Apple Watch 2 Features
The newest Apple Watch 2 features complete water resistance, but it is also fragile and somewhat exposed on your wrist. It comes in two different sized rectangles: 38mm and 42mm. If you decide to buy, I would also purchase a screen protector and/or case to prevent scratches and damage. The Apple Watch 2 includes GPS features with run/walk, swim and cycle tracking. It also gives you the ability to receive and respond to notifications from apps built specifically for the Apple Watch as well as regular smartphone apps.
If you are sick of your band or frame, you can purchase a new one for much less than any new watch. Lastly, Apple Watch 2 battery life is pretty good at up to 18-hours. You shouldn't have to worry about charging it throughout the day.
Samsung Gear S3 Frontier Review
- GPS tracking
- Sleek, circular design
- Switchable watchband and watch-face
- Works with most Android and some iPhones
- Standalone cellular LTE connection
- Less app support
- Somewhat big and expensive
Samsung Gear S3 Specs
The Samsung Gear S3 includes GPS and heart rate tracking, standalone cellular LTE connection, and anywhere wrist payments that act like a digital credit card. The payments are supposedly easier to use than Apple Pay.
This smartwatch has a somewhat chunky, circular design and a 46 mm frame, which may be too big for small wrists. It is also a bit expensive. The Samsung Smart Watch is waterproof and its battery life lasts up to 3-4 days.
Samsung Gear App
The biggest downside to the Samsung Gear S3 watch is that it has less app selection and support with its Tizen-based operating system. Although you'll have access to the Samsung Galaxy app store, many of its apps don't actually work with its standalone LTE capabilities.
Additionally, you won't be able to reply to messages and calls if you have an iPhone; you can only receive notifications. You should be able to reply, however, with Android. Download the Samsung Gear app to connect.
The Samsung Gear watch also provides the option to change the frame and band if you want a new color.
Pebble 2 Review
- Sleek, rectangular design
- GPS tracking
- Affordable and waterproof
- Up to a week of battery life
- Over 15,000 apps
- Not as advanced
- They were just bought by Fitbit
Pebble Smartwatch Specs
The Pebble 2 Smartwatch features a heart rate monitor, sleep and fitness tracking, and over 15,000 apps for you to explore on its own Pebble operating system. Its interface and apps aren't nearly as advanced as the Apple Smartwatch, Android, and other products, but it is a lot less expensive. It also has a sleeker design now than ever before.
Other new versions of Pebble Smartwatches include the Pebble 2 SE, Pebble Time Steel, and the circular Pebble Time Round. They have plenty of options on top of switchable watch-frames and watchbands.
The only downside to Pebble Smartwatches is that they were recently bought by Fitbit; so we're kind of waiting to see what happens with its products. For now, however, the Pebble Smartwatch price includes up to a week of battery life, water resistance, and an ePaper display you can see no matter how bright or dark it is. It's a great little smartwatch.
Fossil 2 Q Marshal Review
- Sleek, circular designs
- Various versions/sizes for perfect fit
- GPS tracker
- Switchable watchband and customizable faces
- Receives notifications and connects with most Android and iOS apps and smartphones
- A bit expensive
- Cannot respond to texts and calls if you have an iOS smartphone
- No sleep tracking or heart-rate monitoring
Fossil G2 Q Smartwatch Specs
The Fossil Generation 2 Q Smartwatch is one of the best-looking smartwatches on the market with various size and color options. Check their size chart before you buy.
The Fossil 2 Q smartwatch price is steeper than some other smartwatches with GPS like the Pebble 2, but it has a lot of cool features. For example, the Fossil Generation 2 Q features voice activation with Google smartphone, notifications for iOS and Android devices, and switchable watch-frames and bands. Its battery life lasts 24-hours.
The Fossil 2 Q Smartwatch does not have sleep tracking or heart-rate monitoring, unlike most smartwatches. It also does not let you respond to text and call notifications if you are connected to an Apple iOS device. If you have an iPhone, this is definitely something to consider.
Sony Smartwatch 3 Review
- GPS tracking
- Two-day battery life
- Micro USB charger
- Completely waterproof
- Sleek, rectangular design
- Only compatible with Android smartphones
- No heart rate monitoring
Sony Smartwatch 3 Specs
The Sony Smartwatch 3 has GPS tracking and is completely waterproof. It also comes with a Micro USB charge for simple charging. This Android smartwatch lasts two days on a charge and has a sleek, rectangular design.
The Sony Smartwatch 3 features a built-in compass, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope for accurate calculation of how long you've been moving and where to. It also has a couple different strap options.
Unfortunately, this smartwatch does not have a heart rate monitor, so you can't track your heart rate or sleep cycle. Additionally, it only works with Android smartphones and does not allow you to actually respond to texts and calls from your smartwatch. It is cheaper than the Apple Watch 2, the Samsung Gear S3, and the Fossil 2 Smartwatches, however.
It also has the AndroidWear operating system with access to thousands of apps built just for smartwatches. If you have an Android smartphone, this could be the best cheap smartwatch for you.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Smart Watch
The latest smartwatch sales are expected to reach 141 million units in 2018, according to Statista. There are plenty of things to consider, though, before you enter the smartwatch market and buy from the best smartwatch list. To start, can you afford it?
1. How much does it cost?
Some smartwatches can be expensive. The Apple Watch series range from about $250 to over $700 with tax, for example. Therefore, the first question you should ask yourself before you dive into the smartwatch world is how much you can afford. Also, ask yourself what you need a smartwatch for.
If you just want to track your fitness, you can get a cheap watch with a fitness tracker from the smartwatch list to do the job. For example, you can get the Pebble Watch 2 with a fitness tracker for around $100. If you want a dedicated fitness tracker, then consult our buyer's guide instead.
The most advanced smartwatches are super convenient and cool, but you may want to go for a less complex smartwatch, an older model, or wait until new models are older if you're a little low on cash.
2. What are the benefits of a smartwatch?
There are plenty of benefits that come along with owning a smartwatch. Here are some to think about:
- Hands-free driving and living: You can read messages and receive app notifications on a smartwatch without even taking your phone out of your purse or pocket. You can also respond to texts and answer your phone with your voice on some smartwatches. For example, you can do so with Apple's Siri Voice Command on the Apple Watch Series 2. This is great for motorcycle riders, workers, or those who simply feel like they never have a free hand.
- GPS for fitness tracking and sleep tracking: If you want a fitness smartwatch, make sure it comes with GPS tracking. Otherwise, it won't be able to track how long of a distance you ran or walked. You may also want to make sure the device can track your heart rate for sleep tracking.
- Access apps right from your wrist: You can click on apps right from your wrist. Scroll through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and more without having to get your phone out. Just remember, some watches are not compatible with such apps. Make sure you research compatibility before you buy. You may even be able to access your home automation system from your smartwatch for ultimate control at home.
- You can change your watch band and watch frame: Many smartwatches on the market right now let you change the watch frame, watch face and watchband whenever you want. You will have to purchase the accessories, but it's better than having to buy a whole new watch in a different color.
3. Will it work with my smartphone?
Compatibility is vital to consider when deciding on a smartwatch. Does your smartwatch of choice connect with your phone via Bluetooth and/or Wifi? If not, you will not be able to use it for voice communication or receiving and responding to notifications from smartphone apps. You will only be able to interact with smartwatch apps. Later in this article, I'll discuss some great apps you can use with your smartwatch.
Smartwatch companies will often claim to be compatible with your smartphone but won't actually allow you to respond to notifications, just receive them. Keep this in mind. After making a decision on what smartwatch you want, you can use our smartphone comparison tool to see if it is compatible with your phone. This isn't news to anyone, but Apple smartwatches are compatible with Apple devices. The same is true for Samsung smartwatches and the Android line of phones.
4. How are the size selection and battery life?
You should also think about size selection and battery life before you buy. Would you rather have a larger or smaller sized screen? Would you prefer a rectangular shape touchscreen or a circular one? This is going to determine which brand of the best smartwatches is best for you.
For example, Apple Smartwatches only come in rectangular sizes. On the contrary, the Samsung Smartwatch Gear S3 Smartwatch comes in a traditional circular watch shape. Some smartwatches, like the Fossil Gen 2 Q, even provide a size chart on their site for you to make sure the watch will fit your wrist.
5. Is it built well and water resistant?
Before you buy, you should probably consider how fragile your smartwatch is and whether or not it's water resistant. For example, the Apple smartwatch consists of extremely exposed glass that scratches easily without a screen protector.
On the other hand, it is water resistant, so you don't have to worry about it getting wet when you wash your hands or take a shower. If you decide you want to buy a fragile smartwatch, make sure you also buy the protection it needs to prevent destruction. If you buy a watch that isn't water-resistant, you better remember to take it off.
6. How are the display and processor?
If you want to buy a smartwatch, you should also consider the display and what type of processor it runs on. The best smartwatches have an advanced super AMOLED display and a dual-core processor. A super AMOLED display ensures speedy response time when you tap and the best viewing experience for a small screen.
7. Do you like the look?
Before you buy a smartwatch, you have to like the look of it. You can go with something sleek like the Apple Watch Series 2, in which you can pick your watch face color and switch your watch band whenever you want. You can also go with a simpler, cheaper design like the Pebble Watch 2. If you want something a little more classic, you can go with the Fossil G 2 and a leather strap. The leather strap makes it look more like a traditional watch than a smartwatch.
Great Apps to Pair with Your Smartwatch
Every brand of smartwatch has tons of apps to choose from. Here are some of the best Apple iOS apps and Android phone apps for smartwatches.
Apple Watch Apps
- Strava - a top of the line fitness app to track running, heart rate and more.
- Standland - a fun fitness app that motivates you to move around during the day.
- Runkeeper - another fitness app, Runkeeper allows you to leave your phone at home while you run and has a customizable activity screen.
- Round Health - an app that will track your medicine and remind you to take it if you have a condition.
- Onefootball - receive team updates and scores right to your smartwatch.
- Sleep**- track your sleep throughout the night.
Android Phone Apps
- Spotify - stream music from your watch with Android device's Android Wear Smartwatch Spotify technology.
- TripAdvisor - search for nearby hotels, food, events and more.
- Instaweather - track the weather from your Android smartwatch.
- Wear Audio Recorder - If you want to record meetings or interviews, this app will help you out.
- Google Keep - Take notes on your smartwatch with this Android Device Wear app from Google.
Related: The Best Wearable Tech of 2017!
I researched far and wide to come up with the best smartwatches on the market right now. I read through smartwatch reviews, news articles, rankings, comparisons and more. After my smartwatch review, I believe the Apple Watch 2 is the best smartwatch on the market right now unless you don't have an iPhone. In that case, I would go with the Samsung Smartwatch Gear S3.
The Apple Smartwatch 2 is extremely waterproof (up to 50 meters) and compatible with nearly all iPhone apps. If you have an iPhone, this is more than ideal. It also comes in two different sizes, has switchable straps and various watch face colors including gold, silver, rose gold, space gray, stainless steel, and white ceramic. The stainless steel and white ceramic are new and meant to prevent scratches.
With the Apple Smartwatch, you can use Siri voice command to respond to text messages and phone calls without taking out your phone. You can even answer phone calls and pay for things right from your watch. If you're a fitness buff, Apple has fantastic GPS tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and even swim-tracking. This watch has everything you could seemingly want or need in a smartwatch with a dual-core processor.
Now that you're well-versed in what the smartwatch market has to offer, go out and get one! If you can afford it, a smartwatch can make everyday life more convenient and fun to navigate through. It can also help you track your choices and activities to create more balance in your life. Plan on getting a smart watch with a data plan? You'll need one of these SIM cards to activate it.
There are also wearable device smart watches for kids that prioritize safety and security. These GPS trackers for kids are also a great device to get kids motivated and going outside.
For more great tech, check out our buyer's guide to tablets.