The best smartwatches in 2023: Apple Watch Series 8, Galaxy Watch 5, and more

The Apple Watch Series 8 is the best smartwatch you can buy right now. It is feature-rich, user-friendly, gorgeous, and extremely reliable.

However, that recommendation comes with caveats — and the biggest one is that you need to own an iPhone to use the Apple Watch. That means that if you’re using an Android smartphone, the Apple Watch simply isn’t an option. But don’t worry, there are plenty of great alternatives. Digital Trends has reviewed more than 100 smartwatchesfitness trackers, and wearables, so we have all the deep insight you need to find your ideal smartwatch.

apple watch series 8 review 4

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Apple Watch Series 8

Best smartwatch

Pros

  • Sleek, comfortable design
  • Display is big and gorgeous
  • Excellent health features
  • Fast charge speeds
  • WatchOS 9 is better than ever
  • Car crash detection

Cons

  • Temperature sensors are limited
  • Almost identical to the Series 7

Why you should buy this: It’s the best smartwatch available.

Who it’s for: Anyone who seeks a beautiful, feature-rich, easy-to-use, fitness-oriented smartwatch.

Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 8: The Apple Watch Series 8 follows closely in the footsteps of its predecessor, the Series 7. Apple’s smartwatch is currently the best watch money can buy. Its style has been slightly updated over the years but has mostly stayed consistent with its signature rounded square design. Its large screen and slim bezels combine with 1,000 nits of peak brightness to make all data easy to see and interact with on its always-on display.

Despite the market competition for fitness trackers from the likes of Fitbit, Garmin, Amazfit, and others, Apple Watch’s health and activity apps remain the easiest to use and its activity rings have evolved as a linchpin for the activity metrics genre — covering disparate activities like steps, distance, heart rate, blood oxygen, and sleep.

New features in the Series 8 dovetail with watchOS 9 to show real-time heart rate zones and facilitate custom workouts and sleep tracking. Features include car crash detection and automatic contact of emergency services. The Compass app shows the current direction and degree and indicates a permanent marker depicting north at the top of the screen. For those with no sense of direction, a new Backtrack feature helps retrace your steps. The Medications app tracks the medicine and vitamin intake, atrial fibrillation patients can use the watch to track their AFib history, and the Calendar app lets you create events directly on the watch. Battery life lasts a day — sometimes longer — and supports fast charging.

Apple Watch Series 8

Apple Watch Series 8

Best smartwatch

samsung galaxy watch 5 news rumors renders leaks specs pricing review 17

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

Best smartwatch for Android

Pros

  • Lightweight, comfortable design
  • Robust health tracking
  • AMOLED screen looks excellent
  • Easy access to Google apps
  • Very fast charging speeds

Cons

  • Skin temperature tracking not yet available
  • Falls short of battery life claims

Why you should buy this: It’s ideal for people with smaller wrists who want a fully tricked-out smartwatch.

Who it’s for: Anyone who values fast charging and improved health tracking on a Wear OS watch.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Despite abundant similarities to its predecessor and fairly iterative improvements, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 features a larger battery, faster charging, a durable design, and enhanced health tracking. The only difference is the larger 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor at the bottom, designed for more accurate health data. The Watch 5 is a bit heavy but is so comfy it almost disappears on your wrist and is especially fitting for smaller wrists.

The 40mm model’s always-on Super AMOLED display measures 1.2 inches with 396 x 396-pixel resolution, while the 44mm is 1.4 inches at 450 x 450 resolution. It has an easy button or swipe interface and bright colors, with an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness and is easy to see in direct sunlight. It’s powered by Samsung’s Exynos W920 chipset, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. It runs Wear OS 3.5 and the company’s One UI Watch 4.5.

The Galaxy Watch 5 battery life is respectable, but nowhere near the company’s claims of 40 to 50 hours. Fast charging worked extremely well — better than Samsung’s claims — but the Galaxy Watch 5 uses restrictive WPC charging instead of Qi, so it’s not compatible with third-party chargers.

Google Assistant is available and works well and the watch features a full QWERTY keyboard for tap and swipe typing. The software now supports dual-SIM switching for multiple SIMs. While there’s easy access to a range of Google apps, there’s a paucity of third-party apps available. Health tracking includes step tracking, auto workout detection, manual workout tracking, and sleep tracking, accompanied by 24/7 heart-rate monitoring, SpO2 tracking, an ECG app, and a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis sensor for viewing body fat, skeletal muscle, body water, and more.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5

Best smartwatch for Android

Amazfit GTR 4 smart watch

Amazfit GTR 4

Best budget smartwatch

Pros

  • High functionality at an affordable price
  • Accurate GPS tech
  • New biometric tracker offers 24-hour monitoring

Cons

  • Lacks touch-to-wake feature

Why you should buy this: It does everything you want a smartwatch to do and looks great.

Who it’s for: Anyone on a budget who seeks all the benefits of a fitness tracker and a smartwatch.

Why we picked the Amazfit GTR 4: Don’t let its low price fool you. The Amazfit GTR 4 has all the functionality you’ll ever need in a smartwatch. It runs on the Zepp 2.0 operating system and features a large 1.43-inch AMOLED display with an anti-fingerprint and anti-glare technology on the glass bezel. Its one-piece aluminum alloy middle frame and stainless steel navigation crown look elegant and attractive. In addition to its dual-band polarized GPS, it ensures 99% accurate positioning compared with other high-quality handheld GPS locators. It even lets you import a route file from the Zepp App, so you can navigate in real time. For sports and fitness activities, it offers a selection of over 150 sports modes and recognizes eight specific sports. It supports live notifications for heart rate and hydration, distance, and more. The fitness tracker can track swimming data and withstand up to 50 meters of water pressure. The Amazfit GTR 4 also makes a huge splash with a new BioTracker 4.0 PPG biometric sensor, which gives you accurate 24-hour monitoring of heart rate, blood-oxygen saturation, breathing rate, and stress levels.

All that functionality requires a top-notch battery, and the Amazfit GTR 4 can operate for up to two weeks without needing a charge, while the watch’s new battery-saver mode enables continued use of sports modes and health metrics measurements even while saving power. The watch can be used with Amazon Alexa, supports offline voice commands, and enables phone calls via your phone’s Bluetooth connection. You can even add membership cards and store codes for convenient shopping around town.

Amazfit GTR 4 Smart Watch for Men Android iPhone, Dual-Band GPS, Alexa Built-in, Bluetooth Calls, 150+ Sports Modes, 14-Day Battery Life, Heart Rate Blood Oxygen Monitor, 1.43”AMOLED Display,Black

Amazfit GTR 4

Best budget smartwatch

apple watch ultra review on wrist pocket

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Apple Watch Ultra

Best luxury smartwatch

Pros

  • Highly durable build
  • Luxury materials
  • Three-day battery life
  • Expertly judged special features
  • Characterful design
  • Does everything the Series 8 does
  • LTE as standard

Cons

  • Twice the price of the Series 8

Why you should buy this: This is a beautifully constructed smartwatch built with high-quality materials, the ultimate health and safety functionality, and outstanding battery life.

Who it’s for: Those iPhone owners who can afford to buy the most functional smartwatch available.

Why we picked the Apple Watch Ultra: If you want a big beautiful smartwatch, and you have some money to burn, do not hesitate to consider the Apple Watch Ultra. It’s not just for athletes, deep-sea divers, and marathoners. It’s almost the same old Apple Watch, only bigger at 49mm by 44mm by 14mm and 61 grams (sans band). We said almost because it also sports a brand new orange Action Button that triggers the Workout mode by default, but can be customized to do many other things, and also serves as the emergency siren that emits a frightful noise if you are in trouble.

Its luxury status is derived from its superior build quality — titanium case, sapphire crystal cover, and ceramic back. Its beauty is enhanced by a rugged exterior that meets MIL-STD 810H standards, IP6X dust resistance, and 100-meter water resistance that’s great for diving.

It offers the same workout modes, shows the same information, and generally operates analogously to its sibling Apple Watches — except you can see everything so much better on its larger 49mm screen. Battery life lives up to the hype of 36 hours per single charge on a battery built with 76% more capacity than other Apple Watches. With normal, non-extreme work-athletic use, you can squeeze three days out of one Apple Watch Ultra battery charge.

Apple Watch Ultra

Apple Watch Ultra

Best luxury smartwatch

garmin quatix 6 review img 1728

Garmin Quatix 6

Best smartwatch for swimmers

Pros

  • Multiple fitness sensors
  • Battery life
  • Build quality
  • Music storage
  • Day to day usability

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Only one size
  • No touchscreen

Why you should buy this: It’s specifically designed for people who spend time in the water, whether it’s on a boat or swimming.

Who it’s for: Swimmers, or those who require a water-resistant smartwatch.

Why we picked the Garmin Quatix 6: The Garmin Quatix 6 is described as a marine smartwatch, due to its strong features for anyone who spends time in the water, whether it’s on a boat or swimming. Water-resistant to 100 meters, the Quatix 6 has activity profiles for pool and open water swimming, where it measures distance, pace, stroke count and rate, swim efficiency (SWOLF), and will even detect your stroke type and take heart rate measurements underwater.

If you’re into boating, the Quatix 6 connects to a host of Garmin equipment from chart plotting GPS hardware to wind monitors. It can interact with the autopilot function, display data like engine RPM and water depth, and mark waypoints on a map. It has GPS, a heart rate sensor and blood oxygen (SpO2) sensor, plus all the activity tracking functions found on the Garmin Fenix 6, including kayaking, golf, cycling, and running.

Garmin has overhauled its interface with the Quatix 6, with watch faces now providing plenty of information without sacrificing attractiveness, and a handy widget feature that provides data in a scrolling list. This is all displayed on a 1.3-inch screen with a 260 x 260-pixel resolution. It works with both Android and iOS and has plenty of storage space for music.

The Garmin Quatix 6 is made from tough polymer with a stainless steel bezel and comes in either a 47mm or 51mm case, with a choice of upgrading to a model with a sapphire crystal over the screen for added scratch protection, and to one with solar charging for extended times away from the charger. Expect to get 14 days of battery life with normal use, but this will drop when you add GPS tracking.

Garmin Quatix 6

Garmin Quatix 6

Best smartwatch for swimmers

withings scanwatch review face close

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Withings ScanWatch

Best mechanical smartwatch

Pros

  • Clinically approved ECG and SpO2 monitoring
  • High-quality materials and build
  • Easy to use, informative app
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • No sleep apnea monitoring yet
  • Watch hands often obscure the screen

Why you should buy this: It’s a superb health tracker with basic fitness and smartwatch features, inside a classy, high-quality case.

Who it’s for: Anyone who likes traditional watches, but still wants the best health-tracking features.

Why we picked the Withings ScanWatch: Smartwatches tend to look like pieces of tech, mostly because of the touchscreen, but what if you want a smartwatch that looks more like a traditional watch? Well then, you want a hybrid smartwatch, which does away with the touchscreen but still includes smartphone connectivity for notifications and fitness tracking.

The Withings ScanWatch bridges the gap between serious health-tracking features and basic smartwatch functionality very well, and it’s all wrapped up in a classy, high-quality stainless steel body. It looks good on your wrist and doesn’t fall behind in any essential connected features.

It has a heart rate sensor, an ECG, and an Sp02 monitor. The ECG and Sp02 measurements aren’t everyday features, but on the ScanWatch they serve more of a purpose. With comprehensive sleep tracking capability, the Sp02 monitor can help identify sleep issues. The ECG has continuous monitoring to warn against atrial fibrillation, and it’s the first wearable to be approved to use these features overnight, making it excellent for tracking and improving your sleep.

While its sleep monitoring is the best out there, the fitness and activity tracking is quite basic in comparison. It provides workout tracking, plus a step count with distance, and calories burned, but nothing more. It’s a health wearable, rather than a fitness wearable, and the data it collects helps you live a more healthy lifestyle instead of focusing on improving your lap times.

Important activity data and notifications from your phone are shown on a small screen on the watch face. It’s bright and easy to read, and controlled using the digital crown on the side of the watch. It’s not as informative as the Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch, but it gives you the essentials in an easy-to-read format. The ScanWatch connects to both Android and iOS phones, and the battery should last 30 days on a single charge.

Overall, the Withings Scanwatch offers a nice combination of strong health-tracking features, basic but effective fitness and smartwatch features, plus it looks and feels just like a traditional watch.

Withings ScanWatch

Best mechanical smartwatch

samsung galaxy watch 5 pro review pocket

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

Best smartwatch for battery life

Pros

  • Luxury materials
  • Super sharp screen
  • 3-day battery life
  • Comprehensive health tracking
  • D Buckle strap is excellent

Cons

  • Niche additional features
  • Slightly slow performance after waking up
  • Notifications don’t always wake the screen

Why you should buy this: This is a large, solidly built smartwatch with excellent battery life.

Who it’s for: Anyone seeks a watch made with high-quality, rugged materials for the great outdoors.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a smartwatch for the outdoors. It’s made of titanium, with a thick sapphire crystal screen overlay, water resistance up to 50 meters, a raised bezel, and a rubber strap.

Two of its newest watch features are decidedly niche. Route Workout guides you through special hiking and cycling routes, requiring the import of specific GPX files via your phone. Track Back automatically leads you back to your starting point. The watch excels at auto workouts, while other features include a 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor, body composition recording, the Bixby voice assistant, an improved smart keyboard, and Samsung Pay.

The watch runs on Google’s Wear OS 3.5, alongside Samsung’s One UI Watch 4.5, and is powered by the Exynos W920 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. The interface lets you swipe and tap the screen to access and customize menus and titles. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s screen is very sharp and colorful.

The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s battery life is its standout feature — it lasts three days without a recharge, even with a 30-minute tracked activity, but only if you don’t wear it overnight. That is better than most non-specialty consumer smartwatches, and because it’s heavy and tall, it’s not great for sleep tracking, anyway.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

Best smartwatch for battery life

polar pacer pro review in pocket

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Polar Pacer Pro

Best sporty smartwatch

Pros

  • Slim and lightweight
  • Fast and accurate GPS
  • Comprehensive fitness tracking
  • Masses of data on watch and in app

Cons

  • Low quality screen lacks brightness
  • No Sp02 sensor

Why you should buy this: It’s simple, lightweight, and loaded with sports-oriented metrics.

Who it’s for: Runners and assorted sports aficionados who seek detailed sports metrics in a slim, non-fussy design.

Why we picked the Polar Pacer Pro: The Polar Pacer Pro — with its circular plastic case and five-button aluminum bezel — measures 44mm and weighs about 40 grams, including a comfy, adjustable silicon strap. It’s as basic looking as can be and maybe a bit too plain for some. But it makes up for that plain exterior with unmatched sports-oriented functionality. The watch tracks all the usual workouts, including running, walking, cycling, and swimming, plus weight training. Sports fans will benefit from this watch’s specialty, but be aware that the watch will need multiple workouts and nights of sleep tracking before it can provide the advertised in-depth analysis it’s built for. As time passes, you will see multiple graphs, granular detail, and plenty of informative detail that will be a big help to you if you’re serious about sports and health monitoring.

It isolates and maps training zones with accompanying pace and heart rate data and breaks down calorie burn into carbs, protein, and fat, with a detailed route map and information on each lap’s heart rate, speed, and pace. With enough tracked workouts, the app builds a baseline of performance with goals to improve. Runners get a host of additional features, including training plans, power measurements, and training load data. The Pacer Pro offers a nightly recharge score alongside the usual sleep score, which determines the quality of your night’s rest.

Other features include a Gorilla Glass 3.0 screen with a 240 x 240-pixel resolution and a couple of brightness settings, respectable battery life, and accurate GPS. It also provides some cross-platform capabilities with the iPhone, which enables notifications and vibration alerts, as well as the ability to control music from your phone.

Polar Pacer Pro - Advanced GPS Running Watch - Ultra-Light Design & Grip Buttons - New Training Program & Recovery Tools - Heart Rate Monitor - Enhanced Screen Contrast - Music Controls

Polar Pacer Pro

Best sporty smartwatch

garmin forerunner 955 solar review on wrist 7

Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar

Best smartwatch for marathon runners

Pros

  • Incredible battery life
  • Consistently accurate GPS tracking
  • Touch screen and 5-button navigation
  • Easy-to-read screen in all conditions
  • Great fitness and health features

Cons

  • Solar version is overkill for most runners
  • Core features identical to lower Forerunners

Why you should buy this: It’s the best smartwatch for reliability, health and fitness, and speed tracking your run.

Who it’s for: This watch is for high-level runners who need a large, accurate device to track their progress.

Why we picked the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar: Garmin is a huge favorite of runners, and for good reason: It has the right combination of features, design, and performance, including a face that’s easy to view even in direct sunlight. This watch features a 1.3-inch always-on, high-resolution, glare-free color touchscreen, a variety of health and fitness GPS tracking modes and sensors, training and performance stats and analytics, a waterproof rugged exterior, 32GB of storage, a huge battery, and solar charging that can pair with both an iPhone and an Android phone. While it may be overkill for your morning jog, those involved in triathlons or ultramarathons will appreciate the Forerunner 955’s top-line functionality. It doesn’t come cheap. The watch costs $600 for the Solar model, and $100 less for the non-solar model.

The Forerunner 955 is not a fashion watch — the Garmin plastic body is utilitarian with a solar ring around the screen. The screen cover is shatter-free Gorilla Glass DX glass. You can navigate via a touch screen or use the Garmin five-button physical buttons. Garmin excels at accurate GPS tracking and the 955 comes with additional GPS tracking modes.

For the Garmin brand, battery life is paramount. The Solar model gets 20 days of battery life in simple smartwatch mode while connected to your phone, plus 42 to 49 hours of use in GPS mode. The solar-enhanced battery life is based on some 3 hours per day outdoors in 50,000 lux sunlight or 7 hours in GPS mode with continuous exposure to 50,000 lux. Let’s just say that outdoor runners will probably benefit from the solar feature. The watch lasts for two weeks without charging.

Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar

Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar

Best smartwatch for marathon runners

fitbit sense 2 review  9

Andy Zahn / Digital Trends

Fitbit Sense 2

Best smartwatch for Fitbit

Pros

  • Highly responsive interface
  • Excellent display
  • Rugged and highly water resistant
  • Advanced fitness and health tracking
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons

  • A bit pricey
  • Audio quality for calls isn’t great

Why you should buy this: This is an attractive and functional smartwatch that can track both fitness and stress levels.

Who it’s for: Anyone who needs a watch to help focus on their health.

Why we picked the Fitbit Sense 2: While Fitbit’s claim to fame may have started with measuring steps, today it’s known as an advanced smartwatch with all the trimmings. The Sense 2 is an attractive, high-end device that’s available in various exterior finishes and colors. It features a gorgeous display with deep blacks and vibrant colors that are easy to read even in bright light, alongside motion detection. The touchscreen is responsive without noticeable lag or recognition issues, and navigating the menu using the crown is intuitive. It has phone call audio that is functional, and though it’s a nice feature to have, it’s not stellar in terms of sound, so you may not use it too much.

The Sense 2 is tough and durable and lasts over six days on a single charge. It’s water resistant to 164 feet and is rated to operate between -14 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The watch is easy to use once you get everything set up properly — which may take some doing. You have to grant a lot of permissions before the device is fully functional, and some setup issues proved to be head-scratchers. Like other Fitbit devices, the Sense 2 tracks your steps and heart rate but goes even further. The Sense 2 can detect atrial fibrillation using an electrocardiogram app and can measure blood oxygen levels. The watch features a body response sensor to detect and manage stress and tracks ElectroDermal activity, heart rate, heart rate variability, and skin temperature. This can help you reduce your stress levels over time.

Fitbit Sense 2

Fitbit Sense 2

Best smartwatch for Fitbit

apple watch se 2 review top type

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Apple Watch SE 2

Best cheap Apple Watch

Pros

  • Comfortable to wear 24 hours a day
  • Comprehensive, yet simple-to-use fitness tracking
  • Excellent smartwatch software and support
  • Latest processor provides all the power needed
  • Two-day battery

Cons

  • No always-on screen
  • Slow battery charging

Why you should buy this: It has a winning design, great features, and is super-comfortable on your wrist.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a consumer-fitness-oriented smartwatch that has all the major elements of a pro-level device.

Why we picked the Apple Watch SE 2: Do not make the mistake of underestimating the Apple Watch SE 2. While it doesn’t have the super high-end specs of the Apple Watch 8 or the Ultra, that is its strong point and not a liability. Buyers can get the vast majority of features of the pro-level watch at a significant discount. Apple uses the same S8 processor across all its smartwatches, so you get the same performance even from the SE 2 as the pro-level Apple Watch 8. It operates on the latest watchOS 9 and uses the W3 wireless chip for a flawless connection to your phone.

Notifications reliably appear on-screen and you can reply to some messages, read emails, and swipe to dismiss notifications. Calls are instantly recognized, and the speaker is loud. Apple’s operation is famous for being automatic and just working without a lot of user input, so you don’t have to manually sync it to your iPhone for all data to upload reliably. The smartwatch is compatible with swimming to 50 meters, offers the Backtrack feature, and supports the redesigned compass app. It also has the same altimeter, accelerometer, and gyroscope as the Series 8.

The Apple Watch SE 2 has not only one of the most recognizable smartwatch designs but is also one of the easiest and most comfortable watches to wear to the office, the gym, while sleeping, or when just hanging out. The Apple Watch SE 2’s battery can last two full days, supporting a non-GPS workout, the usual notifications, a permanent connection to your phone, and sleep tracking. However, it may need to transition into Apple’s Low Power mode by the end of the second day, which deactivates certain features.

The Apple Watch SE 2’s discount price takes into account the absence of certain features. The second-generation heart rate sensor doesn’t have an electrocardiogram feature and it doesn’t track your blood oxygen. It runs on the last-generation temperature sensor for less-detailed ovulation estimates. The SE 2’s charge rate is slow, and there’s no fast charging, so it takes more than two hours to go from almost depleted to full capacity — unlike the Apple Watch 8. There’s no always-on screen option, but you do get notifications for abnormally high or low heart rates, cycle tracking, fall and noise detection, crash detection, and sleep tracking.

Apple Watch SE 2

Apple Watch SE 2

Best cheap Apple Watch

Frequently Asked Questions

Which smartwatch works with my smartphone?

Although it sounds like a complicated question, this is surprisingly straightforward. If you own an Android phone, then you can use any smartwatch with Google’s Wear OS software. You can also use most smartwatches from companies like Withings, Amazfit, and others. The only one you can’t use is the Apple Watch.

If you own an iPhone, you can use the Apple Watch (obviously) and most other third-party smartwatches. Wear OS watches used to be compatible with iPhones, but more recent options like the Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro are not.

What’s Wear OS?

Google and Samsung teamed up to create a software operating system for wearables called Wear OS 3. The joint project incorporates both the Wear OS and Tizen platforms, along with fitness expertise from Fitbit. The first smartwatches with the software were the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, but now there are more, especially newer Samsung models like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.

How durable is a smartwatch?

Because it’s on your wrist, smartwatches are exposed to danger. They’re easy to knock against things and can often get wet. Does this mean you must be extra careful with your watch? Many have an IP68 water resistance rating today, and some smartwatches meet military standards for toughness and will withstand harsher treatment than others. If you want to make sure you can wear your chosen device in the shower or to go swimming, then you need to think about smartwatch water resistance and look for an IP or ATM rating.

Do I need a smartwatch with GPS?

If you are a runner and intend to use your smartwatch to track routes, and you don’t want to run with your phone, then yes, you do need GPS. Most modern smartwatches come with GPS as standard anyway, so you may find it’s ready and waiting if you need it. If your smartwatch doesn’t have GPS, then some can use your phone’s GPS when connected, but it will be slower to operate. One thing to remember is that using GPS will drain the battery in the watch faster than usual. If you’re really concerned about GPS accuracy, consider getting the Apple Watch Ultra or the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar.

Can my smartwatch use my data plan?

If your smartwatch connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth, then all the data it requires comes from your phone at no extra charge to you. This changes if you buy a smartwatch with 4G LTE, like the LTE version of the Apple Watch. When a smartwatch has its own data connection, it can be used on its own without being connected to your smartphone, ready to make calls, receive messages, and plenty more. However, you will have to pay extra for the privilege. The amount varies depending on your carrier and current plan, but expect to pay around $10 per month to enable the 4G LTE connection on your smartwatch.

Will a new smartwatch work with my older phone?

If your Android phone or iPhone was purchased in the last three or four years, then the answer is almost certainly yes. For some context, the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro work with any Android phone running Android 8.0 or later. The Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch Ultra are compatible with iPhones running iOS 16 — meaning any models from the iPhone 8 and newer.

Which smartwatch OS is best?

Each smartwatch operating system is different, which is to say that one operating system isn’t objectively better than the other. Instead, the “best” OS is the one that’s compatible with your smartphone. If you have an Android device, a watch running Wear OS is most likely the best choice. It’s relatively easy to use, has a decent selection of apps, and has a robust feature set. If you have an iPhone — and this comes as no surprise — you should get an Apple Watch.

Should you buy a smartwatch?

So, you think you want a smartwatch? Are you sure? After all, unlike a smartphone, no one really needs a smartwatch.

However, because manufacturers are finally coming around to the realization that a smartwatch needs to look good, they’re a lot more tempting than they once were. One-day battery life and a touchscreen on a watch are still hard to swallow for some people, but that’s why hybrid smartwatches were invented — and battery performance and control methods are constantly getting better.

If you’re not ready to commit to a touchscreen smartwatch but still want to try out some smart features, the huge choice of hybrid watches has got you covered. They often cost half of what you’ll pay for the cheapest Apple Watch, link with any smartphone, and provide traditional watch looks matched with a connected smart experience.

How we test

We test smartwatches just like we test smartphones. We use them every day and try out every single feature. We strap them to our wrists (no matter how silly they may look) and walk around town with them, making calls and exercising to test out the workout features. We pair them with different phones and try them with different operating systems.

We dunk water-resistant smartwatches in water and take outdoorsy watches on hikes. We download tons of apps and discard the lame ones to determine how strong the app ecosystem is, and we go to cafes that accept mobile payments and buy lattes with our wrists. We get lots of weird looks, but, so what?

Editors’ Recommendations