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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.
1. Fitbit Versa Smart Watch
The Fitbit Versa is a solid starter smartwatch, taking the brand’s popular fitness tracker and expanding the features into an all-in-one timepiece. The watch gets up to four days of battery life (depending on usage) and tracks your heart rate, steps and sleep patterns. Connect the watch to Pandora to download and store up to 300 songs, or grab a Deezer playlist to soundtrack your next workout. The Fitbit Versa is water-resistant up to 50 meters, and comes pre-loaded with 15 “exercise modes” that let you record specific workouts.
The special edition version of the Fitbit Versa includes a built-in NFC chip that syncs to your bank info to let you make payments without your wallet (basically like Apple Pay on your watch). Purchase: $169.95 on Amazon.com.
Note: the company also makes a Fibit Ionic model, which includes all the above features plus built-in GPS (I.e. to track your run or ride), better app compatibility, up to five-day battery life and a brighter watch face under a durable Corning Gorilla Glass cover. Purchase: $229.95 on Amazon.com.
2. Misfit Vapor 2 Smartwatch
A solid no-frills option is this Vapor 2 watch from Misfit, a company known for its stylish, colorful and customizable smartwatch selection. This Vapor 2 model is available in eight different colors, which multiple ways to swap out the wristband or watch face. The Vapor 2 has all the basic smartwatch capabilities, like sending notification alerts, measuring heart rate and tracking your activity. We also like the built-in GPS (helpful if you find yourself turned around while going on a run) and its compatibility with Google Assistant. Use the phone’s microphone to ask Google to send a text, set an alarm or play music from your connected streaming services. What we like: the slim and chic stainless steel case, and the textured strap, which gives the illusion of leather while retaining the moisture-wicking properties of silicone.
The phone features an estimated 24-hour battery life and is considered “swim-proof,” though it’s best to use in shallow water. Serious swimmers or triathletes will want to consider other options on this list. Purchase: $249.99 on Amazon.com.
3. MATRIX Powerwatch X
One of the more unique smartwatches in the market, the MATRIX PowerWatch X is powered entirely by your body heat, effectively giving it an infinite battery life with no charging cables necessary. Its reinforced bezel and sturdy silicone strap are built tough to handle bumps and bruises, and the watch is water-resistant down to 200 meters – one of the best benchmarks in the market. The PowerWatch syncs easily to any iOS or Android device, to let you track your calories, sleep, steps and notifications. Purchase: $279.00 on Amazon.com.
Worth noting: MATRIX just unveiled their PowerWatch 2 at CES 2019, debuting a smartwatch that can be charged by both thermoelectric body heat and solar power. The PowerWatch 2 also features a full-color LCD display, a built-in heart rate monitor, and improved phone pairing and activity tracking features. Pre-order the PowerWatch 2 for $499 on Powerwatch.com or see their Indiegogo page for more details.
4. Samsung Galaxy Watch
The knock on most smartwatches these days is that they, well, look like a smartwatch. For a more sophisticated blending of function and style, we like the Samsung Galaxy Watch, which gives you the look of a classic timepiece with all the features of a progressive smartwatch. The round face and real watch hands give you the feel of an old school analog watch (it even makes a ticking sound!) but the Galaxy Watch does more than just tell time. Like the other options on this list, a built-in GPS lets you track your routes, and the watch also measures steps, heart rate, calories and sleep patterns (Our tip: download guided breathing and meditation exercises to your phone and use it to help you unwind and fall asleep faster).
The Galaxy Watch also functions as a virtual assistant, displaying your schedule for the day, forwarding messages, taking calls and even letting you control home IoT products, like your connected TV, thermostat and robot vacuum all from your wrist. Military-grade hardware and a 5 ATM water resistance rating let you take your workout outdoors, regardless of weather conditions. The watch face is also coated with a scratch-proof Corning Gorilla Glass. Connect your watch to Samsung Pay and pay for your purchases at the grocery store or mall with a flick of the wrist. The Galaxy Watch is available in a 42mm version and a 46mm version. Purchase: $279.99+ on Samsung.com.
5. Polar Vantage V
The ultimate smartwatch on our list is the Polar Vantage V, which packs a ton of next generation tech features into a lightweight and unassuming package. The Vantage V 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 performance will still be tracked as accurately as possible.
Runners like the watch for its ability to measure running power, which analyzes 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). Sync the watch to your phone and monitor your training data, or connect it to popular apps like Strava or TrainingPeaks. 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. The bottom line: if you’re serious about working out, or training to be an elite athlete, this is the smartwatch to get. Purchase: $499.95 on Polar.com.