RS Recommends: The Best Smartwatches to Use Right Now
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Whether you’re just counting calories or training for a marathon, there are a number of reasons why you should invest in a smartwatch. Once reserved for elite athletes, smartwatches have become almost de rigueur these days for anyone who cares even remotely about their health and fitness, and with production costs lowered and access to technology more readily available than ever before, smartwatches have also become more affordable to own.
While the Apple Watch may have set the standard, a number of competitors have stepped up their game in recent years with solid smartwatches that deliver impressive battery life, enhanced tracking metrics and surprisingly useful new features, all designed to help you stay active and alert throughout the day, and restful and stress-free at night.
Improving your workout or monitoring your health is now as simple as strapping one of these watches around your wrist. Here are five of our favorites.
What Are the Best Smartwatches?
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best smartwatch for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.
Watchband size: A smartwatch can have all the features in the world, but that won’t matter if it doesn’t fit. Our picks have bands between 20mm and 22mm, which should fit the average wrist. Thankfully, third-party bands are available for many of the watches in this guide.
Face Size: You’re going to be glancing down at your watch dozens of times a day, so we only chose models that had a screen size of around one-inch or above. We also made sure to pick a mix of round and rectangular screens.
Smart Features: All of these watches are smart, but their features vary pretty widely. Some have access to full app stores, support wireless payments, and integrate with smart assistants. Our baseline was that you should at least be able to get notifications on your wrists, so you don’t have to look at your phone.
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Health Features: Modern smartwatches have sensors that allow them to pull double duty as fitness trackers. These features range from basic (counting calories burned) to very advanced (tracking four distinct levels of sleep).
Battery Life: Nobody wants another gadget they have to charge every single night, so we made sure our picks can last at least two or three days of actual use (but usually much more).
1. Apple Watch Series 8
The Apple Watch Series 8 is one of the best smartwatches ever made and it’s the best choice for iPhone users.
Apple’s latest smartwatch has a wide 41mm always-on retina display. Apple also offers a larger version of its watch that has a 45mm screen.
On the health tracking side, the Apple Watch Series 8 has everything from a blood-oxygen sensor, heart rate tracker, sleep monitor and an EKG measurer. Plus it can detect when your heart rate is irregular. Apple also added a new temperature sensor on its latest smartwatch, which it says can detect cycle changes for women, as well as accurately track ovulation time.
Apple stores all of this information in the Health app, and automatically syncs it to the corresponding app on your iPhone. If you’ve been having health issues (say a heart rate that spikes unexpectedly multiple times in one week), you can share this information with your doctor in just a few taps. The Apple Watch Series 8’s smart features are all built around Siri. This is the only smartwatch that’s compatible with Apple’s smart assistant, which allows you to send texts and make calls. This watch also supports Apple Pay, so you can use it to make contactless payments at select retailers.
The Apple Watch Series 8’s technology, design, and features are all world-class, but it’s let down by the fact that you need an iPhone to use it. If you have an Android phone or even other Apple devices, you won’t be able to set it up. If that’s not a problem for you, the Apple Watch Series 8 is an excellent smartwatch.
Note: Pick the Apple Watch Ultra if you’re looking for a smartwatch best suited for sports enthusiasts.
2. Samsung Galaxy Watch5
The knock on most smartwatches these days is that they look like a piece of technology, which can be a little embarrassing considering you’re wearing it on your body. That’s not a problem with the Samsung Galaxy Watch5, whose understated design and realistic-looking watch faces make it feel more like a classic wristwatch. It may look retro, but the Galaxy Watch5 does more than just tell time.
One of the Galaxy Watch’s greatest strengths is that it comes in both 40mm and 44mm sizes, so you can pick the one that fits your wrist best. We’re recommending the larger model, but feel free to pick the 40mm model if you have a smaller wrist. Samsung claims that the Watch5 has a bigger battery, meaning it should last longer than last year’s 40-hour model.
The Galaxy Watch5 has a full set of great health and smart features that stack up favorably to the competition. The watch can track your sleep, heart rate, calories burned, and will automatically detect when you’re engaged in a popular fitness activity like running, biking, or swimming to accurately gauge how much energy you’re using. Samsung outfitted the latest generation of its smartwatch with a sensor that can read your blood-oxygen level, and detect when you’ve tripped. This data can all be found in the Galaxy Wearable app.
Speaking of apps, Samsung built a large app store for the Galaxy Watch, which has everything from Strava to Spotify to Uber. If you’re trying to cut down on your phone usage, but still want quick access to your most-used apps and services, this is a robust package. But it doesn’t stop there. The watch also works with Samsung Pay, the company’s contactless payment standard, and Bixby, its custom AI.
The Galaxy Watch 5 balances sophisticated smart and fitness features in a classy-looking package that most people won’t perceive as a smartwatch.
3. Fitbit Versa 3
This watch comes with two bands (S, L), depending on your wrist size, and its 1.58-inch display is larger and clearer than the smartwatch it replaces. You’ll still get up to six days of battery life as well and an all-new built-in GPS.
The Versa 3 is a fitness-focused smartwatch, but it has an impressive amount of smart features, too. It supports Bluetooth, so you can pair the watch directly to your wireless headphones while you exercise, and has an app store primarily populated by fitness and music streaming apps. You can install the apps you want directly from the watch.
Like its predecessor, the Versa 3 supports Fitbit Pay, a contactless payment service similar to Apple Pay. Fitbit raised the bar on its watch’s smart features by integrating it with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. You can use these AI assistants to answer questions, adjust settings, and control compatible smart home devices. You can also view any incoming notifications from your phone (texts, calendar alerts, phone calls, etc.) on the watch’s screen.
All of those abilities prove the Versa 3 can stand on its own as a smartwatch, but the fitness features take it even further. This watch can track your calories burned, heart rate, sleep, and has over 40 “exercise modes,” that let you record specific workouts (including swimming, since the Versa 3 is waterproof up to 50m of water). It also supports cycle tracking, guided breathing exercises, and a technology called SmartTrack that automatically detects when you’ve started working out.
These features were all present in the Versa 2, but its next-generation smartwatch can do even more. It has a built-in GPS, so you can track your runs, an ECG (Electrocardiogram) app, skin temperature sensor, and the ability to notify you when your heart rate is unusually high or low. The Versa 3 even has a dedicated sensor to help keep track of your body’s stress level.
The Fitbit Versa 3 can store a week’s worth of this data on its own, but it’s designed to be synced with Fitbit’s iOS and Android app, so you can view your progress over time. Fitbit has built up an entire ecosystem with its app that lets you challenge other Fitbit owners to weekly fitness challenges, or check in on their progress. These features can help encourage you to exercise more frequently.
4. Amazfit GTR 3
This smartwatch comes with a single band, which should fit most wrists without an issue, and sports a fairly large 1.39-inch OMELD display. Amazfit says the GTR 3 can last up to 21 days per charge, which is particularly impressive given the technology inside of it.
This smartwatch has sensors that can track your sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and stress level at all times, but that’s only half of the GTR 3’s wellness story. The smartwatch can detect 150 distinct sports modes, which you can select to ensure its captures the most accurate readings possible. The smartwatch can even detect some of those modes automatically once you start working out.
The Amazfit GTR 3 can receive all of the notifications from your phone, and can be set up to work with Amazon’s Alexa to unlock even more smart functionality.
Other smartwatches may look flashier, but Amazfit’s GTR 3 proves you don’t always need to spend a lot to get a lot.
5. Polar Vantage 2
This 47mm watch comes with a 22mm band and has a 1.2-inch always-on display. It’s a little heavier than some of the smartwatches in our guide, but the Vantage V2 makes up for that by getting several days of battery life. Its smart features are limited to the ability to receive notifications from your phone, but that’s ok because the Vantage V2 excels at one thing: being an insanely fine-tuned fitness tracker.
It supports over 130 different sports, to more accurately track your training sessions and success rates. Polar says its watch is also much more responsive to skin contact than competing models, thanks to its “Precision Prime Sensor” technology, which eliminates anything on the skin that might alter your heart rate signal or produce unreliable readings.
In other words: even if you’re sweating through a hike, or biking through treacherous (and dusty) terrain, your workout will still be tracked as accurately as possible. The Vantage V2 also has a handful of “performance tests,” which analyze your current level of fitness and lets you know when to push yourself harder.
Runners will like the Vantage V2’s ability to analyze the stress you are putting on your joints during a run or training session. Even better, all of these metrics can be taken just from wearing your watch on your wrist (instead of needing to connect a device to your legs and feet). This is just one example of the level of information you’ll receive when you work out with the Vantage V2.
The watch’s “Training Pro” feature monitors your cardiovascular and musculoskeletal system (Cardio Load and Muscle Load), and also takes into account how strained you feel (Perceived Load). Its “Recovery Pro” function, meantime, gives you personalized training recommendations based on how hard you’re working, and will send an alert if you’re at risk of injury.
If this all sounds like overkill, it’s because it probably is for the average person. But it’s perfect for people training for a marathon or triathlon. You’ll be able to track every metric to identify weakness to optimize your performance. Think of it this way: With the Vantage V2 you have a personal trainer on your wrist 24/7.