(Pocket-lint) - When trying to figure out which is the best smartwatch for your needs, there are plenty of things to consider.
Especially for those new to the area, placing a wearable on the wrist and unlocking a new way to access notifications, apps and fitness tracking can feel a little daunting.
Luckily, there are now tons of great options to explore in the smartwatch field, whether your preference is with Apple, Samsung, Fitbit or something else entirely.
To help you narrow things down when choosing between different styles, operating systems and price, we've compiled our top smartwatch recommendations - updating regularly in order to factor in reviews of the latest devices on the market.
This buyer's guide covers smartwatches on various platforms, including Google's Wear OS to Apple's watchOS. If you are only interested in Wear OS smartwatches or Apple Watch options, we have separate features you can read to find the perfect smartwatch for you.
What are the best smartwatches?
Our Top Pick: Best Smartwatch
Apple Watch SE
- Great value
- Brilliant Apple integration
- Superb sensors
- No always-on display
- Doesn't work with Android phones
The Apple Watch SE misses off a couple of the more accomplished Series 7's features, including the always-on display, blood oxygen sensor and ECG sensor, but it has the Series 6's design, runs the same software and it's cheaper.
By pulling together some of the best parts of the discontinued Series 4 and Series 5, the Watch SE is an affordable entry point to the Apple Watch, offering a great middle-ground between the sensor-rich Series 7 and the older Series 3.
Essentially, this is the best smartwatch for most people - particularly, of course, if they're already embedded in the Apple ecosystem. For those with an Android phone, there are some very good alternatives on our list.
Smartwatches we also recommend
The Apple Watch SE is a superb smartwatch, and we think it's the device that most people looking for a smartwatch should consider. However, it's also not the right pick for every type of user. That's why we also recommend the four other picks below.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
- Great design
- Impressive tracking
- Good value
- Won't work with iPhone
Samsung's smartwatches have always featured excellent displays, neat design quirks and a solid software experience, and the Galaxy Watch 4 is no different. However, that's not to say the latest Samsung watch is simply another iteration.
Collaborating with Google on the software, the Galaxy Watch 4 sees Samsung return to Wear OS after a long hiatus. The results are mostly solid, with a very rich health and fitness tracking experience backed up by smooth app performance, headlined by the likes of Spotify, Strava and YouTube Music.
The look is a little understated, but we actually like this a lot. Plus, if it's not your cup of tea or you prefer something a little less exercise-focused on the design front, there's also a Galaxy Watch 4 Classic model to consider.
For Android phone users, this is easily the top device to consider.
Apple Watch Series 7
- Brilliant display
- Improved charging
- Pretty expensive
- Won't work with Android phones
The Apple Watch Series 7 improves on the previous generation with a bigger display, along with a couple of extra sensors, including a blood oxygen sensor and an always-on altimeter.
For some, these new additions will represent sensor overload, and the Apple Watch SE's spec sheet and feature set will more than suffice. For iPhone users, though, there's still no better smartwatch on the market - even if it doesn't necessarily provide the best value for everyone.
What we would say, in defence of the Series 7, is that the bigger display is actually a compelling reason to upgrade, which is something that we've not been able to say about every new Apple Watch model.
If you have an older device, or simply think you'll love having that eye-popping display for workouts, time-telling and apps, this is a superb smartwatch experience that won't age poorly.
Fitbit Versa 3
- Solid price tag
- Superb 24/7 tracking
- Excellent app experience
- Basic smartwatch experience
Fitbit's Versa 3 is the perfect blend between a fitness tracker's features and a smartwatch design. For those that want a holistic overview of their health and fitness, it doesn't really get better than this.
Now in its third generation, Fitbit has refined the Versa's design beautifully. It's one of the few watches we've tested that we receive consistently positive compliments about - with many mistaking it for an Apple Watch.
It's not as zippy as other smartwatches, and the app experience doesn't feel quite as rounded, but, for some, including some members of the Pocket-lint team who use Fitbit, this isn't necessarily a negative. The Versa 3, like other Fitbit devices, is simply the driver behind the superbly refined Fitbit app, which does an expert job of delivering both basic and complex health metrics.
Huawei Watch 3
- Nice design
- Great connectivity
- Lack of third-party apps
Huawei has been refining and improving on its smartwatches for a few years now, and the Watch 3 represents an impressive leap forward.
The company has now moved over to HarmonyOS, giving it more control over the software, and the design is its best yet, with a tasteful look and premium feel. The only thing really holding it back is third-party app support, though this might come good in time.
We wouldn't necessarily recommend it over Samsung or Apple smartwatches just yet, but the fact it can work with both Android and iPhone is a big bonus.
Other products we considered
In the process of ranking the best smartwatches, we spent hours testing and researching. We always consider a number of factors when it comes to recommending smartwatches, and try to apply the same criteria when a new device is being considered for inclusion. It's not all judged on our testing, either - we also try to factor in consumer reviews, brand quality and value.
In all of our buyer's guides, there are also many products we test that don't make the final cut. Since they may be the right fit for some people, however, we've listed them below.
- Garmin Fenix 7
- Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
- Fossil Gen 6
- Skagen Falster 3
- Michael Kors Access Runway
- Huawei Watch 3 Pro
- Fitbit Sense
- Huawei Watch GT 3
How to choose the a smartwatch
Now more than ever, there are absolutely loads of options out there in the smartwatch market, so picking the right one for you can be a bit of a challenge.
How to pick the right size smartwatch
A key decision is to decide how big you want your watch to be - most smartwatches range from 38mm to 46mm or so in size, reflecting the many sizes of normal watches available.
Working out what you prefer can really narrow the field, so is a great first step.
How much should you pay for a smartwatch?
The next thing to think about could be your budget, which will also constrain what you can choose. If you're looking to spend less than £200 / $200, for example, there are fewer quality options to go for.
Equally, if you're happy to spend over £500 / $500 you open yourself up to premium options like many Garmin watches. Spending much below £150 / $150 starts to make quality control difficult, but all the options on our list above are safe bets.
Smartwatch battery life
Another key consideration for a smartwatch is battery life. Most of the popular mainstream options like the Apple Watch and Wear OS devices will struggle to make it through two days. In general, the more features you get, the shorter the battery life might be.
However, while some models do manage a week-long battery or better, we'd say that most people get used to a nightly charge pretty easily - it's not a huge sacrifice, in our eyes.
What features should a smartwatch have?
Features offered by smartwatches vary massively, but some you should look out for include standalone GPS, which is really helpful for fitness tracking.
Bluetooth is also really useful, to connect to headphones and more, and being able to store music offline can be great for taking runs without your phone.
Sleep tracking is another optional extra that some smartwatches manage, while heart-rate monitoring is nearly ubiquitous at this stage. Some more advanced watches might also pack in SpO2 monitors, but you're unlikely to need this.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
That's even more true than usual in the case of smartwatches, since they really do accompany you on your whole day. We've worn all of the watches we've selected, and those that haven't made our cut, for weeks at a time. We don't just wear them passively, either, but use them during exercise and training, since so many watches now revolve around fitness metrics and health tracking.
This helps us to build up a thorough picture of each watch's positives and negatives, and work out where they rank. We also care a great deal about the design of each device, how they look on the wrist and how much creative control you have to make it look and feel how you like.
Software quality is also key, given the disparity between different OS options on the smartwatches available, and pricing is a huge final variable to determine quality. After all, luxury watches are nothing new, but a smartwatch lasts distinctly less impressively than an heirloom Omega.
As with any roundup, it's not possible to deliver a list that works for every type of user, but we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team - as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above - in order to do our best in this regard.
What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each watch is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity.