The Best Smartwatch for Every Budget and Style
The Best Smartwatch for Every Budget and Style

The Best Smartwatch for Every Budget and Style

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A smartwatch is a wearable technology device that offers features beyond simply telling the time. Smartwatches connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth, allowing you to get notifications, track health and fitness data, download apps, and more right on your wrist.

Some key features that make smartwatches “smart” include:

  • Notifications – Get alerts for calls, texts, emails, and app notifications directly on your watch. This allows you to view information at a glance without pulling out your phone.
  • Health & fitness tracking – Most smartwatches have built-in sensors to track steps, distance, heart rate, calories burned and more. Some also have GPS for mapping outdoor workouts.
  • Apps – Install apps on your smartwatch to add new functions. Common smartwatch apps include news, weather, timers, alarms, lists and more. Apps are available through respective app stores.
  • Customization – Change up the watch face to suit your style. Some smartwatches allow you to install customized watch faces.
  • Voice assistance – Use your voice to get information, set reminders/timers, start a workout and control other smart home devices that are compatible with smart assistants like Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa.
  • Mobile payments – Select smartwatches allow you to load credit cards/payment apps so you can tap to pay from your wrist.

So in summary, smartwatches are mini computers for your wrist that aim to add convenience and quick access to notifications and information while staying connected to your smartphone. The latest models offer a range of versatile features to cater to different needs and use cases.

Top Smartwatch Operating Systems

When choosing a smartwatch, one of the most important factors to consider is the operating system. There are several major smartwatch operating systems on the market today that each have their own strengths and limitations.

Apple WatchOS

Apple’s WatchOS powers the Apple Watch lineup. This proprietary operating system is designed specifically for Apple’s hardware and iOS ecosystem. Key strengths of WatchOS include deep integration with other Apple devices and services, a large selection of apps optimized for the watch, and an intuitive user interface. WatchOS also enables advanced health and fitness tracking features. The main limitation is that it only works with iPhones.

Wear OS by Google

Wear OS is Google’s smartwatch platform that works with both Android and iOS devices. Its key advantage is the ability to install apps from the Google Play store. Wear OS features tight integration with Google services like Maps, Assistant, and Google Fit. Drawbacks include less polished software and hardware than WatchOS, as well as shorter battery life on most Wear OS watches.

Samsung’s Tizen

Samsung uses its own Tizen operating system to power Galaxy smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch series. Tizen enables excellent battery life and a rotating bezel for easy navigation. The downside is a more limited app ecosystem compared to Wear OS and WatchOS. Tizen also only fully integrates with Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

Fitbit OS

Fitbit OS powers Fitbit’s Versa and Sense smartwatches. It offers deep fitness tracking capabilities and long battery life. But it has a very limited app store and third-party integrations compared to other platforms. Fitbit OS is designed for fitness-focused users who want basic smartwatch functionality.

Garmin’s Proprietary OS

Garmin uses a custom operating system tuned for sports and outdoor activities across its smartwatch and fitness tracker lineup. It offers in-depth training metrics and analysis. But it lacks a third-party app store and has limited smartwatch capabilities beyond health and fitness tracking.

Important Smartwatch Features

Smartwatches have come a long way in recent years when it comes to features and capabilities. Some key features to look for when shopping for a smartwatch include:

Notifications – One of the main purposes of a smartwatch is to receive notifications from your smartphone right on your wrist. This allows you to stay on top of messages, calls, calendar events and app alerts without having to pull out your phone. Most smartwatches will buzz, beep or vibrate when a notification comes in.

Activity and Sleep Tracking – Many smartwatches have built-in sensors to track your steps, distance covered, calories burned, heart rate and sleep cycles. This makes it easy to monitor your activity levels and sleep quality right from your wrist. Some watches even have automatic workout detection.

GPS – More advanced smartwatches contain integrated GPS for tracking outdoor workouts without needing to bring your phone. GPS allows for accurately mapping routes, speed and distance when running, cycling or hiking.

Heart Rate Monitoring – Optical heart rate sensors on the back of smartwatches allow for on-demand heart rate readings. Some watches also provide continuous heart rate monitoring during workouts and can alert you if your heart rate goes too high or low.

Mobile Payments – Leading smartwatch brands like Apple and Samsung enable contactless payments through their watches using NFC technology. Rather than grabbing your wallet, you can pay with just a tap of your smartwatch.

Apps – In addition to notifications and tracking, smartwatches are becoming tiny app devices. Popular apps include news, weather, timers, translation, travel and more. Apps help make smartwatches even more useful.

Battery Life – Battery life varies widely for smartwatches. Basic models may last 1-3 days while advanced watches with always-on displays may only last a day. Look for watches with at least 24+ hours of battery life for versatility.

Water Resistance – Since you wear a smartwatch all day, water resistance is important in case you get caught in the rain or splash your watch washing hands. Many smartwatches offer 5ATM or 50m water resistance ratings suitable for swimming and showering.

Smart Home Control – Some smartwatches allow you to control smart home devices like lights, thermostats and security systems right from your wrist, giving you quick home automation access.

So when choosing a smartwatch, consider which features are most important for your lifestyle and needs. The top models offer a robust set of notifications, health/fitness tracking, mobile payments and app capabilities.

Best Smartwatches for Fitness

For those focused on health and fitness tracking, a smartwatch can provide detailed metrics to help you meet your goals. Several models stand out for their exceptional fitness tracking capabilities:

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is widely considered one of the best smartwatches for fitness tracking. All models contain an accelerometer, gyroscope, and heart rate monitor to accurately track metrics like steps taken, calories burned, and heart health. The Apple Watch excels at monitoring popular workouts like running, cycling, swimming, and yoga. You can set goals in the Apple Health app and receive personalized awards when you achieve them. The Apple Watch even provides coaching features to help you improve over time.

Fitbit Sense

Fitbit is a leader in health and fitness tracking. The Fitbit Sense packs advanced sensors to track activity, heart health, sleep, and stress levels. It provides a detailed daily readiness score to optimize your workouts. There are also on-wrist EDA and skin temperature sensors. Fitbit Premium unlocks guided programs, health insights, and advanced analytics. Overall, the Fitbit Sense is an excellent option if you want robust fitness and health tracking.

Garmin Vivoactive 4

For serious athletes, the Garmin Vivoactive 4 brings top-tier sports tracking. It contains GPS, heart rate monitoring, pulse ox sensor, and over 20 preloaded sports apps. You can analyze metrics like VO2 max, training load, and recovery time. The Garmin Coach feature provides free training plans for running, cycling, and more. With music storage and Garmin Pay contactless payments, you can leave your phone behind on workout days. The Vivoactive 4 is ideal for data-driven athletes.

Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch line offers solid fitness tracking in a stylish design. The rotating bezel makes navigating menus and apps effortless. There are automatic exercise detection and built-in GPS for over 40 activities. Health monitoring features like advanced sleep tracking, blood oxygen, heart rate, and ECG give you a comprehensive look at your overall wellness. Plenty of third-party apps boost functionality. For an attractive watch with strong fitness chops, the Galaxy Watch hits the mark.

With detailed tracking, advanced sensors, insightful metrics, and useful apps, these smartwatches allow you to take fitness and health goals to the next level. For workouts, sports, or overall wellness, they provide the capabilities you need.

Best Smartwatches for Fashion

For those who want a stylish smartwatch that makes a fashion statement, there are several great options to consider. Top picks for smartwatches that combine form and function beautifully include:

Fossil Gen 5

The Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch comes in a variety of fashionable styles that fit any look. With interchangeable straps and customizable watch faces available, you can easily change up the appearance of your Gen 5. It has a classic analog watch look with smart features like heart rate monitoring, GPS, and Google Assistant built-in. Fossil offers their smartwatches in both larger and slimmer cases to suit different wrist sizes.

Skagen Falster 3

Like Fossil, Skagen is known for their minimalist Danish designs. The Skagen Falster 3 has a very sleek, round stainless steel case and an array of stylish mesh and leather straps. The customizable watch faces allow you to change the look daily. It uses Wear OS by Google and has NFC for Google Pay. With its understated, fashion-forward look, the Skagen Falster 3 is a great option.

Kate Spade Smartwatches

For a smartwatch with a bold, feminine flair, Kate Spade designs fun scalloped cases and vivid leather straps. Combining Kate Spade’s iconic aesthetic with Google’s Wear OS, these touchscreen smartwatches let you access notifications, apps, and Google Assistant while maintaining a stylish look. Kate Spade offers versatile watch face designs and interchangeable straps to customize your look.

Michael Kors Access

Michael Kors brings its luxury fashion sense to wearable technology. The Michael Kors Access line has slim, elegant silhouettes and high-end materials like stainless steel, ceramic, and crystal accents. Customizable display faces allow you to match any outfit. With support for contactless payments, GPS, activity tracking and smartphone notifications, these sleek smartwatches deliver beauty and brains.

For the latest in fashionable tech accessories, these stylish smartwatches give you the form and functions you want. With designer appeal and smart connectivity, they are perfect for those who want both beauty and brains from their wearables.

Best Smartwatches for Battery Life

When it comes to battery life, most smartwatches struggle to last longer than a day or two on a single charge. However, there are some models that can go much longer between charges thanks to their energy-efficient designs and large batteries. If you want a smartwatch that can keep going and going, these are some of the best options currently available.

The Amazfit GTR 2 is a top choice for marathon battery life with its 471 mAh battery allowing up to 24 days of typical usage or 38 hours with constant GPS tracking activated. This makes it a great option for multi-day backpacking trips or any situation where you won’t have regular access to charging. The stylish design with a bright AMOLED display also makes it versatile enough for daily wear.

For even longer battery life, the Huawei Watch GT2 Pro can last up to two weeks in normal usage and one week in heavy usage thanks to its large 455 mAh battery. It also has an ultra-low power consumption mode that allows basic activity tracking and step counting for up to 48 days. With its premium design and health/fitness tracking capabilities, the GT2 Pro is ideal if you want a smartwatch that can just keep going and going between charges.

The Garmin Vivoactive 4 also impresses with its up to 8 days of battery life in smartwatch mode or up to 6 hours in GPS mode with music playback. Garmin smartwatches are known for their long battery life span, and the Vivoactive 4 keeps up the tradition with its energy-saving MIP color transflective display and optimized settings for battery management. For long hikes, runs, bike rides or any active pursuits, it’s a great choice.

With multi-day or even multi-week battery spans, these smartwatches allow you to focus on your activities rather than worrying about running low on power. If battery anxiety has kept you from trying a smartwatch, these long-lasting options deserve a look.

Best Smartwatches for Customization

When it comes to customizing your smartwatch, three platforms stand out for their vast assortment of watch faces, apps, and bands: Samsung’s Tizen OS, Google’s Wear OS, and the Apple Watch.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch line offers the most watch face options by far, with thousands available to download from the Galaxy Store. You can choose from analog, digital, interactive, and information-rich faces. Samsung also makes it easy to customize the watch face colors, complications, and styles directly on your wrist. While you’re limited to Samsung’s proprietary bands, there are many to pick from including leather, silicon, fabric, and stainless steel.

Wear OS watches provide nearly as much watch face variety as Samsung from both Google and third-party options. Wear OS works with standard watch bands, allowing you to customize the look with hundreds of stylish options from name brands or on Etsy. Fossil in particular releases fresh watch bands every season. Google also offers a band comparison tool to see which will fit your watch before buying.

The Apple Watch has far fewer watch face choices, but makes up for it with limitless band options. From sporty silicon and nylon to upscale stainless steel and handcrafted leather, Apple and third parties offer bands for every style. There’s also lots of variety when it comes to colors, patterns, and clasp types. The Apple Watch uses a proprietary attachment method, but plenty of quality third-party adapters are available to use standard bands.

With their combination of interchangeable band options and 1,000+ downloadable watch faces, Samsung and Wear OS smartwatches are the clear winners when it comes to customization flexibility. But the Apple Watch still captures plenty of wrist real estate thanks to the enormous selection of stylish bands. Ultimately any of these platforms will allow you to put your own personal stamp on your smartwatch.

Best Smartwatches for Apps

When it comes to app selection and quality, Apple Watch and Wear OS watches shine. These smartwatches give you access to thousands of apps that let you do everything from track your health and fitness, to get work done, to play games and more.

Apple Watch has the largest app selection of any smartwatch with over 20,000 apps designed specifically for the watchOS platform. Popular apps include fitness, health and meditation apps like Strava, MyFitnessPal, Calm, and Lifesum. Productivity apps like Fantastical, Things 3, and Calcbot help you get work done. And apps like Citymapper, Uber, and Yelp make Apple Watch a convenient tool when traveling or out and about. With an Apple Watch you’ll never be lacking in app options.

Wear OS watches, which run Google’s smartwatch platform, also have excellent app support. You’ll find over 10,000 apps designed for Wear OS in the Google Play Store, including popular options like Spotify, Google Maps, Telegram, Google Keep, and more. Health and fitness apps, task managers, weather apps, news apps, and games give you plenty to choose from. The Google Assistant is also deeply integrated for convenient voice commands.

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch has a smaller app selection since it uses Samsung’s own Tizen OS. But Samsung still offers many popular apps like Strava, Spotify, Google Maps, Uber, YouTube, and more. There are over 10,000 apps available, but the selection isn’t quite as broad as Apple Watch or Wear OS. Still, Galaxy Watch will cover basic smartwatch app needs for fitness, productivity, travel, and entertainment.

Overall if you want maximum choice and quality when it comes to smartwatch apps, Apple Watch and Wear OS are your best options. But Samsung’s Galaxy Watch still offers a solid app experience in a more limited app store.

Best Affordable Smartwatches

Smartwatches can be quite pricey, with premium models like the Apple Watch costing several hundred dollars. However, there are quality affordable options that provide great value without breaking the bank. Some of the best budget-friendly smartwatches include:

Fitbit Versa

The Fitbit Versa packs a robust set of features into a compact, lightweight design. It offers activity/sleep tracking, heart rate monitoring, smartphone notifications, onboard music storage, and 4+ day battery life. The Versa lacks built-in GPS but can connect to your phone’s GPS. It has a bright AMOLED display with customizable watch faces. Fitbit also has one of the best fitness app ecosystems. The Versa costs around $200.

Amazfit Bip

With a shocking 30-45 day battery life and always-on display, the Amazfit Bip is perfect for those wanting a low-maintenance smartwatch. It’s extremely lightweight with a minimalist, Apple Watch-like design. You get activity/sleep tracking, notifications, weather updates, and music controls. Built-in GPS allows for phone-free running. At around $80, the Bip provides tremendous value and battery efficiency.

Fossil Gen 5

Fossil’s smartwatches use Google’s Wear OS, giving you responsive performance and seamless integration with Android phones. The Gen 5 model features built-in GPS, NFC payments, heart rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, smartphone notifications, and speaker for audible alerts. With thousands of watch face options and interchangeable bands, you get ample customization. The Fossil Gen 5 costs roughly $200.


Mobvoi’s TicWatch lineup offers capable, affordable Wear OS smartwatches with a youthful, sporty design. Standout features include built-in GPS, NFC payments, heart rate monitoring, activity/sleep tracking, notifications, and Google Assistant. With prices ranging from $100-200, TicWatches deliver good versatility and functionality without breaking your budget.


After reviewing the key smartwatch operating systems, features, and top picks across various categories, the Apple Watch Series 7 stands out as the best overall smartwatch.

The Apple Watch has the most advanced and intuitive operating system, with watchOS offering seamless integration with other Apple devices. It packs numerous health and fitness tracking capabilities like heart rate monitoring, ECG, blood oxygen levels, sleep tracking, and more. The Series 7 boasts an always-on retina display that is nearly 20% larger than previous models.

With thousands of apps available and new watch faces to customize the look, the Apple Watch is the most versatile smartwatch on the market. While it may not have the longest battery life, it charges quickly and easily lasts a full day plus some on a single charge. The Apple Watch seals the title of best smartwatch with its innovative features, stylish design, and outstanding user experience.

Current limitations of smartwatch technology include short battery life compared to traditional watches, small screen sizes restricting functionality, and requiring regular charging. As the technology continues to advance, we may see longer battery life, expanded health sensors, and more seamless smartphone integration. The future looks promising for smartwatches to become even more integrated into our daily lives.

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