Something all smartwatches have in common is that they can do cool tricks, so you need this best smartwatch buyers guide to help you navigate the good from the bad. It all depends on your requirements, be it fitness tracking, a voice assistant or reliable GPS.
These things work best when paired with a smartphone, but some smartwatches can do this independently, which is really handy.
We’ve looked at the best smartwatches in 2021 from Garmin to Fitbit and, of course, Apple. This best smartwatch buyers guide will go over devices on Wear OS, Tizen and Watch OS.
Take into account factors that will be important to you, such as price, design, battery life and features. Then look at the alternatives we mention and see which suits you best.
Without further ado, here our best smartwatch buyers guide.
Apple Watch 6
The Apple Watch 6 remains firmly at the top of most lists like this, and it is, without doubt, the best smartwatch for iPhone users. It’s ranked above the Apple Watch SE because, well, it does more!
- GPS model lets you take calls and reply to texts from your wrist
- Measure your blood oxygen with an all-new sensor and app
- Check your heart rhythm with the ECG app
The Apple Watch 6 works perfectly with Apple products, naturally. If you have an iPhone or even a Mac, you can benefit from having an Apple Watch. For example, you can use your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac!
The 6 specifically, it’s not a lot different from the previous version, the Series 5. New features include blood oxygen monitoring and an upgrade on the chipset. Other than this, it’s the same device.
If you like the bells and whistles of a fitness watch with advanced data as well as incredible smartwatch features, the Apple Watch will always be one of the best choices you can make.
- Bold colour additions; red and blue
- Highly customisable
- Works perfectly with other Apple products
- No headline upgrade feature or design
- Battery life needs improvement
Apple Watch SE
The Apple Watch SE is the second-best smartwatch on the market in 2021. Why? It’s like an Apple Series 6 Lite. Again, another sensational choice for iPhone users. If you’re an Android lover, don’t worry, we’re getting there.
- GPS + Cellular model lets you call, text, and get directions without your phone
- Large Retina OLED display
- Up to 2x faster processor than Series 3
The Apple Watch SE does everything the 6 does, for the most part. And it costs far less. The SE comes with a top of the line spec, that iconic design and a host of features that you can’t get on most alternatives.
On brand for Apple, the battery life isn’t great. There’s no always-on display, and it doesn’t have the ECG and blood oxygen monitoring options. But, you can still use Apple Pay, it’s water-resistant to 50m and has all the motion sensors you could need.
If you’re after bang for your buck, you cannot go wrong with the Apple Watch SE.
- Iconic design
- Superb price for Apple Watch
- Lacks ECG, blood oxygen monitoring and always-on display
- Poor battery life (though this is always the case with Apple)
Read our comparison of the Apple Watch SE and Series 6, here.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
The best smartwatch you can get right now if you’re on Android is the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. It does pair with iPhones too, though. This is Samsung’s most acclaimed smartwatch yet. It’s the successor to the Galaxy Watch 2, naturally. It kept a lot of the design but added refinement.
- STYLE YOU CAN COUNT ON: Galaxy Watch3 combines style—two sizes, two finishes, three colors and,...
- LEAVE YOUR PHONE BEHND: Galaxy Watch3 gives you the freedom to call, text, stream music and get...
- You can share the PDF report of your ECG recording with your health care provider using the Samsung...
The Galaxy Watch 3 has a unique feature, a rotating bezel. Which means navigation around the watch is a pleasure, especially so compared to using the display, which is typical for most smartwatches.
There are plenty of apps available, though not as many as Apple or Google’s offering (Watch OS and Wear OS, respectively). You do get all the basics though, including some decent fitness, health and wellbeing tracking. It has a gorgeous sporty design, too.
Features are limited if you’re an iPhone user. But, as we’ve said, you should opt for an Apple Watch if this is the case. Overall, the Galaxy Watch 3 is the real deal for Android users if you want something that looks good and has a host of fitness and smartphone features to boot.
- Premium look and feel
- The rotating bezel is unique
- Battery life could be better
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Samsung took the better parts of the original Galaxy Watch and put them into the sportier, lighter, slimmer and more comfortable Galaxy Watch Active 2. Additional features from the predecessor include the rotating bezel and an LTE version.
- Better insights to reach your fitness goals get more out of every mile thanks to built-in pace...
- Comfortably sleek the Galaxy Watch Active2 is light enough to wear anywhere comfortably; It comes in...
- Keep your beat: You can see if your heart rate is where you want it with Galaxy Watch Active2; Get...
On the whole, not a lot has changed apart from this. It’s a sensational watch at a reasonable price. The Galaxy Watch Active 2 boasts a 1.2-inch display with 360 x 360 resolution. Bright and bold, but subtle on the wrist.
It’s packed with top-of-the-line fitness features, as you should expect from a Tizen device. This includes 39 sports modes, ECG, heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, stress monitoring and a health app. It does have the capability to monitor your blood pressure, but this is pending approval, and you’ll have to wait for the update.
Now, it’s certainly more cost-accessible than the Apple Watch 6. There was an expected increase from the original, but it’s still excellent value compared to others on this list of best smartwatches. Including the Galaxy Watch 3.
- High-end premium design
- Rotating digital bezel
- Only a handful of new features for the price increase
- Limited functionality for iPhone users
The Fitbit Sense is the latest offering from Fitbit, and it’s a whopper. It has all the latest tech packed inside so you’re able to track fitness like never before. The Sense comes with a temperature gauge (which is unique, even the Apple Watch 6 can’t do this), SP02 counter, heart rate monitor and stress management support.
- EDA Scan app detects electrodermal activity which may indicate your body's response to stress and a...
- Assess your heart for atrial fibrillation –a heart rhythm irregularity- and easily share results...
- An on-wrist skin temperature sensor tracks yours each night so you can see how it varies. You can...
The battery is a winner; you’ll get up to 6 days so unlike either the Apple or Samsung offerings, you don’t need to worry about charging it every day.
What’s generous is the 6 months of free Fitbit Premium that comes with the watch, so you can enjoy all the advanced features like guided meditations and more in-depth data for a while before you decide to pay for it.
- Compatibility with Alexa and Google Assistant
- Fitness watch with smart features
- Position of side button means it’s often unintentionally triggered by your wrist
- Sleep tracking isn’t the best
See how the Fitbit Sense stacks up against the Apple Watch 6, here.
Fitbit Versa 3
If you really don’t want something from Apple or Samsung, and the Sense isn’t within budget, don’t worry! The Fitbit Versa 3 could be a great choice for you. It’s one of the best fitness trackers on the market that comes with smartwatch features.
- Run, bike, hike and more phone-free and see your real-time pace & distance with built-in GPS. Then...
- Active Zone Minutes uses your resting heart rate to gauge exercise effort and gives you a buzz when...
- Better track heart rate 24/7 with PurePulse 2.0, Fitbit’s enhanced heart rate technology
You get built-in GPS, a sleek design, and the navigation is a dream. As with all Fitbit watches, it’s more geared towards fitness, so don’t go for this if you’re more interested in features.
However, if you’re more experienced with fitness wearables, this is an affordable, comfortable and reliable option.
- Built-in GPS is a great feature considering the price
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Side button can be fiddly
- No offline Spotify
Read our comparison of the Fitbit Versa 3 and Sense, here.
Fitbit Versa Lite
The third option on this list of best smartwatches from Fitbit is the Versa Lite. This is an affordable version of the famous Fitbit Versa, but with fewer features.
- Track your all-day activity, 24/7 heart rate, & sleep stages -- all with a 4+ day battery life...
- Use 15+ exercise modes to record workouts and connect to smartphone GPS for more precise real-time...
- Access your favorite apps for sports, weather & more and get call, calendar, text, and app alerts
The Fitbit Versa Lite naturally offers excellent fitness features and good battery life. The device itself is slim and lightweight so you can keep it on all of the time and not notice.
The features you don’t see on the Lite compared to the original Versa, Versa 2 and 3 are no built-in GPS, no Fitbit Pay and the screen isn’t quite as good. If you’re on a budget, you can’t go wrong with this well-established fitness tracker brand.
- Solid battery life
- No built-in GPS
- Lacks on-screen workouts
Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar
We couldn’t write a list of the best smartwatches on the market without talking about Garmin. The Fenix 6X Pro Solar has a huge 1.4-inch display, considerably bigger than any others in the Fenix range. This is to host small solar panels to get its power from the sun.
Garmin means business when it comes to fitness tracking. You get advanced heart rate monitoring, altitude tracking, sleep tracking and advanced training support. On top of that, there is VO2 Max estimates, pace advice and over 200 sport modes.
- Built-in GPS
- Preloaded maps to use offline
- Garmin Pay
- Huge battery life up to 21 days
- Smart notifications on your wrist
- Bluetooth and Wifi
- Military-grade resistance to water, shock and temperature
- Expensive compared to alternatives (but worth it)
TicWatch Pro 3
The TicWatch Pro 3 is an awesome Wear OS watch that you can use with an iPhone or Android device and certainly deserves a place on a list of best smartwatches. It has a healthy battery life and some intelligent features.
- Innovative Technology Ensures Longer Battery Life - Dual-layer Display 2.0 supports Smart Mode and...
- Updated Chipset, Better Experience - The 1st wear OS by Google smartwatch with the Qualcomm...
- Advanced Health and Fitness Monitoring - Multiple sports modes, with built-in GPS, barometer and...
Inside you’ll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset. This has 1GB of RAM, so apps load and run quickly and smoothly.
Smartwatches typically don’t have a great battery life, so this wearable stands out. This device will go on for up to a month without needing to be charged. Of course, this varies with use, and you’ll optimise this by using it in ‘Essential Mode’. The price is less than most of the other brands on the list, which is another benefit considering battery life.
- Battery lasts up to 30 days in Essential Mode
- Latest and fastest chipset
- The interface isn’t user-friendly for everyone
- Sleep tracking isn’t as accurate as others on the list
We hope you’ve found this useful! We’ve put together what we think is the best smartwatch buyers guide, but we welcome your comments! Don’t forget to check out the individual reviews of the watches we’ve covered if you’re thinking about buying.
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