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If your current watch just tells time, there’s an entire universe of smartwatches on the market that bring features normally reserved for smartphones right to your wrist. While these smartwatches can’t do everything your phone does, they bring in lots of health, fitness, and safety features that make them a great complement to your phone. We rounded up nine of the best smartwatches on the market, but ultimately found that the Google Pixel 2 was the best of the bunch, mostly because users of both Apple and Android can enjoy the benefits of the smartwatch.
What You Should Look for in a Smart Watch
Google, Samsung, and Apple are all big players in this space and the best smart watch for you may come down to which tech ecosystem you’re already committed to. While a Google Watch may work with an iPhone, the integration and learning curve will be better if you stick to the brand you’re already with. (If you like the Apple Watch, you have to have an iPhone for most features.) If you value fitness and tracking features over app support and phone integration, fitness smart watch heavyweights Garmin and Suunto make dozens of worthy options.
Some smartwatches (most of the Apple and Samsung offerings) have the ability to access wireless data networks without tethering to your phone. Most fitness-first watches from brands such as Suunto and Garmin do not, meaning you’ll either need to keep your phone on you for messaging and other connected apps and download maps for offline use. Having a data connection for your phone makes it much more capable but it also drains the battery faster and almost always requires an additional line of data on your wireless plan, which usually costs around $10 per month.
Size & Weight
Most smartwatches are fairly light, balancing the scales around 30 grams. More robust adventure watches such as the Garmin Fenix 7x we recommend below, however, can be more than double that average. While a few dozen grams might not seem like much on paper, we can promise you’ll notice the size and weight difference if you’re used to a slimline watch such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch SE.
Lightweight watches are comfortable for everyday wear, but the biggest reason to go bigger and deal with the weight penalty is screen size. Reading maps and messages on your phone is just more effective and enjoyable with a large, bright screen. Bigger watches also tend to pack bigger, longer-lasting batteries, so you may be willing to trade weight for fewer charging hassles.
Why You Should Trust Me
After refusing to wear a watch for a decade (figured my phone had the time), outdoor sports watches made me appreciate using my smartphone less for telling time, navigation, and tracking. Since then, I’ve tested many of the major releases from brands like Garmin, Suunto, Samsung, and Casio. The Garmin Fenix 7x is my current go-to, but I also cycle in the Suunto 9 Peak and Nixon Regulus for certain outings.
I’m one of the few Android users left on Earth, but I test Apple products with my partner’s phone (under protest).
Best Overall Smartwatch: Google Pixel Watch 2
Google finally entered the hardware market with their Pixel Watch to pair with their Wear OS software that runs on many Samsung and other smartwatches for Android. The Google Pixel Watch 2 is a fairly light upgrade, but the price tag is only about $100 more than the original at most–and you get speed and battery upgrades that make it worth going with Version 2. Google owns Fitbit and so the 2 also brings in several Fitbit health tracking features that are welcome. With tech companies there are always rumors of a new model and the accompanying question of “Should I wait for the newer model?” But with no confirmed release date, we think it makes sense to grab the Pixel 2 unless you want to pick up the original Pixel Watch at a discount for now.
- SIZE: 41mm
- WEIGHT: 31g
- STRAP: Fluoroelastomer Active Band
If you’re an iPhone user, it’s hard to beat the features you get with an Apple Watch, even though there are plenty of iOS compatible options from other brands. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a more fitness-focused Apple Watch but it’s good for closer to a day and a half with normal use which is just enough to let you relax about charging and just wear the dang thing. It also has all the same upgrades and features as the Series 9 but with the addition of lots of fitness features such as compass, run tracking, and built-in cellular so you can leave the phone at home when desired.
- SIZE: 49mm
- WEIGHT: 61.4g
- STRAP: Alpine, Trail, Oceanv
Best Smartwatch for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic uses Google’s latest Wear OS update and brings back the beloved rotating bezel control that lets you easily scroll menus instead of fiddling with small buttons as on most smart watches. This latest edition of their flagship watch has a bigger battery, but that gain is negated if not overcome by a bigger, brighter screen. The battery runtime still beats most Apple watches, but if you’re prone to forgetting to juice up, previous versions or other models might be worth a look. Because you get the latest WearOS, you’ll get access to tons of third-party apps via the Google Play Store, a flexibility you don’t get with Apple Watches and one of the best reasons to choose Samsung in this category.
- SIZE: 43mm
- WEIGHT: 33g
- STRAP: Hybrid Leather, Sport, Extreme Sport, Fabric
Best Outdoor Smartwatch: Garmin Fenix 7X Pro – Sapphire Solar Edition
If you’re more into tracking VO2 Max than step counts, The Garmin Fenix 7X Pro-Sapphire Solar Edition is the GPS smartwatch for the outdoor athletes that want the latest and greatest. Garmin has a bewildering array of full-featured tracking watches for racers and adventurers, but this watch brings together fitness tracking and navigation features as well as any watch to-date. To get the most out of the significant investment here, you’ll need to value the robust fitness tracking features from sleep monitoring to ECG heart rhythm monitoring to stress and endurance scores to help you dial in your training. But for outdoor adventurers, it’s the maps and navigation tools that seal the deal. The GPS uses multi-band tech for maximum accuracy and you get altitude and compass readings like any good outdoor watch. But the mapping stands out with lots of premium features such as golf course maps, ski area maps, suggested routes back to your start, and even turn-by-turn directions for at-a-glance wayfinding when you’re moving fast.
- SIZE: 51mm
- WEIGHT: 88g
- STRAP: Fluoroelastomer Active Band
More Smartwatches We Love
Because Apple doesn’t license its wearable OS to other manufacturers, your options for finding a cheaper Apple watch are limited to sales and considering previous models. The Apple Watch SE 2nd Gen isn’t yet outdated, but you can pick one up for less than half the cost of the Ultra without that drastic of a downgrade in experience. If you’re new to the smartwatch category, it can be tough to stomach spending over a certain amount for a watch. But the SE makes that a bit more palatable. It’s also a great watch to hand down to kids when you’re ready for an upgrade.
- SIZE: 44mm
- WEIGHT: 32.9g
- STRAP: Fabric Sport Loop, Silicone Sport Band
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 has the rotating bezel navigation that makes this watch line stand out functionally. The screen isn’t quite as big and bright as the Galaxy 6—and it won’t be quite as future-proof–but the battery life is comparable and it’ll have most of the same functionality. Given that you can get a Watch 4 Classic for around $100 (a quarter or less of the cost of most of the latest Samsung and Apple smartwatches), it’s a no-brainer way to dip your toes into the smartwatch category before splurging.
- SIZE: 46mm
- WEIGHT: 52g
- STRAP: Silicone
Fitbit nails simplicity in fitness tracking and the Fitbit Versa 3 watch delivers all the basic smartphone integration you need while keeping a feature-rich but easy-to-use fitness tracking interface in the forefront, with 24/7 heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking. The Versa 3 is compatible with Android and Apple, but not surprisingly, integration is better with Android and you can use Google Assistant with the Versa 3 but no Siri, so iPhone users may prefer an Apple Watch.
- SIZE: 40mm
- WEIGHT: 20g
- STRAP: Elastomer
Suunto and Garmin both make a ton of feature-rich fitness-focused GPS smartwatches, but the price tags creep close to $1000, scaring off most outside of the truly hardcore. The Suunto Race Sports Watch manages to pack in almost all the must-have fitness tracking and outdoor features. The highlights are significantly better battery life than Apple/Samsung/Google and built-in mapping that lets you go off-grid without needing your phone at every intersection. The biggest difference between the Race and pricier options is the lack of solar charging, which can extend battery life almost infinitely.
- SIZE: 49mm
- WEIGHT: 69g
- STRAP: Silicone
Google has licensed its Wear OS wearable operating system so select manufacturers such as Fossil can bring some diversity of style to the category. The Fossil Gen 6 Classic has a metal band (silicone strap included as well) which is enough to make this look far different than the most popular offerings from Samsung, Google, and Apple. The Gen 6 Classic works with both Android and Apple phones, but with a Google operating system, it’ll perform best for Android users. Though the latest Wear OS iteration is still only available on a few Samsung watches for now.
- SIZE: 44mm
- WEIGHT: 72.6g
- STRAP: Silicone, leather, steel