A smartwatch isn’t going to replace your smartphone. The screens are too tiny and they can’t stream Netflix. Plus most smartwatches don’t have LTE, meaning they can’t receive calls or texts when not tethered to your smartphone or connected to wi-fi. But smartwatches do have some advantages. Many effectively make your Fitbit, Misfit or Jawbone fitness tracker obsolete. They show you who’s calling, texting or emailing you without forcing you to look at your phone. And some look pretty cool. Whatever your lifestyle and which smartphone you use, you’re bound to find something that suits you.
Apple Watch Series 2
For the iPhone Owner: The Apple Watch Series 2 is a significant improvement upon the first iteration of the smartwatch. iMessage, Twitter and Instagram all work smoothly, and you can adjust all your HomeKit gadgets from the watch. It has a heart rate monitor to accurately keep track of your fitness metrics, even when your iPhone isn’t nearby. Unlike the Apple Watch Series 1, the Series 2 also has a built-in GPS and is waterproof. The main downsides of the Apple Watch Series 2 are that it doesn’t really look like a traditional quartz watch and that it doesn’t come in an LTE version, so you can’t receive calls or texts without your iPhone. And if you have Android, no Apple Watch, Series 1 or Series 2, will work with it.
Samsung Gear S3 Frontier
For the Galaxy S7 or S8 Owner: The Gear S3 runs on Tizen OS — not Android Wear 2.0 — and seamlessly works with all of Samsung’s apps: Samsung Pay, S-Health, and the S-Voice assistant. Newer Android smartphones, like the Google Pixel or LG G6, can work with the Gear S3, but it’s probably not worth it since not all Samsung apps will carry over. The Gear S3 comes in two models, Frontier and Classic, but the Frontier is a better option, as it’s water resistant and has a built-in GPS. Plus, the Frontier comes in an LTE model, meaning you can call and text people without your smartphone. (Although, a separate data plan has to be set up and it only works with AT&T or T-Mobile.) Other nice features include a 2- to 3-hour battery life and tactile rotating bezel.
Read our review, here.
Garmin Forerunner 935
For the Ironman Athlete: The 2017 Forerunner 935 is one of Garmin’s elite fitness smartwatches. It has a built-in GPS and heart-rate sensor so you can leave your iPhone or Android device at home while you train. And it computes VO2, the rate at which athletes consume oxygen during a workout, which is a rarity in fitness trackers. The Forerunner 935 can quickly switch between different activities — running, cycling and swimming, plus many others, like cross-country skiing and strength training — and when you finish your workout, it will evaluate your training sessions and analyze your technique (such as cadence, stride length, ground contact time and balance). This is a serious fitness smartwatch for the serious athlete.
Withings Active HR
For the Professional with Style: Hybrid smartwatches are powered by traditional watch batteries, so they can go months between charges. They have analog dials and hands, so they look like standard quartz timepieces, and they have sensors that track fitness and sleep. As for timekeeping, the watches sync with your phone, so you never have to worry about manually adjusting them, even during daylight savings. Most won’t receive push notifications from your phone, however, so they won’t tell you if you get a call or text. The Withings Active HR is your best bet for a great hybrid smartwatch because it’s elegant, relatively inexpensive and waterproof, and it’s one of the first in the field to have a built-in heart-rate monitor.
Huawei Watch 2
For the Android Junkie: The Huawei Watch 2 is one of a large crop of Android 2.0 smartwatches that, if we’re honest, are pretty similar (others include the LG Watch Style and Sport, and Moto 360). The Huawei Watch 2 is a solid option because it has a built-in heart rate sensor and GPS, so your workouts will be accurately tracked without your phone. And it has built-in NFC, so you can pay with Android Pay. It’s also waterproof, and like other Android 2.0 smartwatches, you can download music and listen to it without your phone. (This only works with Google Play Music; sorry, Spotify subscribers.) The downsides: its 1.2-inch screen is tiny, and LTE models aren’t available. If you have any smartphone running stock Android — the Pixel, LG G6, Huawei Mate 9, Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom — the Huawei Watch 2 is a solid option.