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Which Smartwatch Is Right for You?

Looking for a smartwatch? You've got options. We've rounded up the best smartwatches from Apple, Google, Samsung, Fitbit, Garmin and more.

collage of three smart watches
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A smartwatch isn’t going to replace your smartphone. In fact, it’s more of a smartphone accessory these days. They have tiny screens and many of the apps you use every day — Instagram, Twitter, Facebook — don’t have smartwatch apps. Most smartwatches don’t have LTE (or you have to pay a lot extra for it), meaning they can’t receive calls or texts when your smartphone isn't nearby.

But there are many advantages to having a smartwatch. They show you who’s calling, texting or emailing you without forcing you to look at your phone. They replace your need for a dedicated fitness tracker — because most smartwatches these days are souped-up fitness trackers. And some smartwatches look pretty cool. Whatever your lifestyle and which smartphone you use, you’re bound to find something that suits you.

Not all smartwatches are the same, however. Most fall between a fitness tracker and something that relays smartphone notifications to your wrist. Some smartwatches can work untethered, completely autonomously from a smartphone — you can make calls, send texts and navigate directions, all while your smartphone is miles away. There are also hybrid smartwatches, made by mechanical watch manufacturers like Tag Heuer, Fossil and Withings, that have sensors to track fitness and traditional watch battery that lasts months.

Before pulling the trigger on the latest Apple Watch (the Series 8) or a smartwatch by Samsung, Google or Fitbit— do some research. Make sure it’s a smartwatch that’ll work to its full potential with your current smartphone and matches your budget and how you want to use it. If you work out a lot, get a fitness-focused smartwatch. If you go off the grid, get an LTE-connected one. Whatever your case, make sure you know the basics.

Things to Consider Before You Buy

Compatibility: Not every smartwatch is compatible with every smartphone. Pretty much every smartphone manufacturer today makes a smartwatch (or several) that's designed to work in the same ecosystem as their smartphones. They pair beautifully together and work with the same apps and services. This is why it makes a lot of sense for iPhone users to get an Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy owners to get a Galaxy Watch, and Google Pixel owners to get a Pixel Watch. There are third-party manufacturers, such as Garmin, who make smartwatches for specific activities (like golf, hiking or running), but you really have to want that for those options to make sense.

GPS or LTE model: Most smartwatches are available in either GPS-only or LTE (cellular) models. The main advantage of an LTE-connected smartwatch is that it can work completely untethered from a smartphone, so you can make calls and texts and stream music independently of your phone. The main downside to going with an LTE model is that it'll cost more upfront, plus you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to add the smartwatch to your cellular plan. For most people, the “GPS only” models just make more sense.

Built-in GPS. A few years ago it was rare for a wearable or smartwatch to have built-in GPS — but that's changed. As these wearables have become more fitness-focused, a built-in GPS has become vital. It allows the smartwatch to track speed, distance and location, all of which can help calculate calories burned and determine the overall success of a workout. It can also help give you more accurate weather reports and navigation instructions if your smartphone isn’t nearby (and it won’t kill a lot of data). It’s mainly a tool to gauge fitness, however; like heart-rate sensors, it’s mainly for people into fitness.

Heart rate sensor: Knowing your heart rate is the most important fitness metric — experts agree. The data, taken both during and after your workout, will help you achieve certain fitness goals. If you’re serious about working out or just improving your cardiovascular health, you want a smartwatch with a heart rate sensor.

Battery life: The main complaint with smartwatches is battery life. There are very few on the market that can last longer than 24 hours, so manage expectations. Most of today’s high-end smartwatches have bright LCD screens or AMOLED displays, which are beautiful to look at but tend to kill the battery. Basically, expect to take it off at night to charge.

Design: At the end of the day, a smartwatch isn’t just another device — it’s part of your wardrobe. You’re not going to put it away when you want, like your smartphone, so you should like the way it looks. Also, smartwatches come in various sizes, colors and materials, and sometimes even in more refined or rugged options.

Why You Should Trust Us

We've been writing about and reviewing tech and fitness gadgets — including speakers, headphones, earbuds and other audio components that run the gamut from consumer to hi-fi — for near-on a decade. We also work with major brands and talk to experts within the industry. The below selections of smartwatches are a combination of products that we either own, have had hands-on experience with, or are made by brands we trust.

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Most High-End Apple Watch
Apple Watch Ultra
Apple
Best Apple Watch for Most People
Apple Watch Series 8
Apple
Best Budget Apple Watch
Apple Watch SE (Second Generation)
Apple
Now 11% off
Best Smartwatch for Google Pixel
Google Pixel Watch
Google
Now 14% off
Best Smartwatch for Most Samsung Galaxy Owners
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
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Best Upgrade Smartwatch for Samsung Galaxy Owners
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro
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Now 11% off
Best Fitbit Smartwatch
Fitbit Sense 2
Fitbit
Best Budget Fitbit Smartwatch
Fitbit Versa 4
Fitbit
Now 30% off
Best Budget Running Watch
Coros Pace 2
Best Garmin Smartwatch for Outdoor Adventurers
Garmin Fenix 7
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Best Garmin Smartwatch for Runners
Garmin Forerunner 955
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Best Budget Garmin Smartwatch
Garmin Vivoactive 4
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Now 42% off
Best Garmin Smartwatch for Golfers
Garmin Approach S62
Now 12% off
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