Buying Guide for Smartwatches
Why buy a smartwatch?
A smartwatch is a useful and convenient device for those who want to check the time, track their fitness, read emails, and access other various features without constantly taking their phone out of their pocket or purse. Though the exact features vary by model, many smartwatches come with built-in fitness logging metrics, including but not limited to step counters, heart rate monitors, and GPS trackers, making it easier to keep tabs on your physical activity levels and monitor your progress. You can receive notifications for incoming calls, text messages, and emails, make mobile payments, play music, and even access voice assistants, making it easier to perform various tasks on the go. While some look more high-tech, plenty of smartwatches are designed to resemble classic wristwatches, so they can serve as an accessory to complete your look and serve more practical functions.
What should you look for in a smartwatch?
- Compatibility: It’s important to ensure that the smartwatch you choose is compatible with your smartphone’s operating system if you plan to sync them with each other. Some smartwatches only work with specific platforms like Android or iOS. Additionally, you may want to check if the smartwatch can pair with any other devices you might use, such as headphones or smart thermostats.
- Features: Consider what features you are looking for in a smartwatch. Do you want classic fitness tracking features, like heart rate monitoring and GPS tracking? To make calls or send text messages from your smartwatch? The ability to make online purchases or control smart home devices from your wrist? Make a list of the features you want and ensure that your smartwatch has those features.
- Design and Comfort: You’ll likely wear your smartwatch for extended periods of time, so it’s important to choose one that is comfortable and fits nicely on your wrist. You may also want to consider the design and style of the smartwatch, as you’ll want it to match your taste and fashion sense. Sporty, spiffy, traditional, casual, minimalist—all these and more are design options for a smartwatch.
Do smartwatches work without a smartphone?
Some smartwatches can work without a smartphone, depending on the specific model and its capabilities. Some models have built-in cellular connectivity, meaning they can make and receive phone calls and send text messages without needing to sync or pair with a smartphone. These smartwatches will require their own SIM card and a separate data plan for these functions to work, just like a smartphone does.
Other smartwatches may not have cellular connectivity but can still function independently to a certain extent. For example, they may have built-in storage for music, apps, and other data, and Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity to connect to the internet and other home smart devices.
However, many smartwatches are designed to be used with a smartphone and thus will not have full functionality without one. They may rely on the smartphone for internet connectivity, syncing data, and accessing specific apps, features, and functions. Therefore, it’s essential to research the specific smartwatch you’re interested in to determine if it can function without a smartphone and to what extent.
Our Picks for the Best Smartwatches
Fitbit Versa 2 Health and Fitness Smartwatch
A classic health monitor in a modern shell, this smartwatch is great for both the trails and everyday use.
Pros: The Fitbit Versa 2 is a highly functional smartwatch with accurate and in-depth health and exercise tracking, good battery life, and an easy-to-use app. It has various health and fitness tracking features that are perfect for people who want to monitor their sleep, exercise, diet, and heart rate. Unlike some smartwatches, you can even use it to monitor your progress if you’re a swimmer; this model is water-resistant and swimproof to track your laps and times in the pool. The sleek and lightweight design makes it perfect for men, women, and teens alike. And to top it all off, this smartwatch comes in six colors to match various styles.
Cons: Though most customers found the Fitbit smartwatch app easy to use, others experienced issues, including difficulty syncing and problems with the custom meals feature. It’s also caused skin irritation for some wearers, so you may want to find another smartwatch if you have sensitive skin.
Bottom Line: Arguably the brand that laid the groundwork for the modern smartwatch, Fitbit has come a long way since its initial line of health trackers. The ability to measure personal fitness metrics is still present in the Fitbit Versa 2, but the added benefit of a built-in Amazon Alexa allows users to start their day with just a button.
DXPICR Full Touch Screen Smartwatch
This smartwatch is a versatile fitness tracker and offers other practical functions for a much lower price than average.
Pros: This smartwatch is a great choice for those looking for a functional and convenient device thanks to its fitness tracking, microphone, speaker for phone calls, and ease of setup via Bluetooth—all for a much lower price than the average smartwatch. It provides accurate data and features comparable to more expensive fitness watches. Furthermore, the battery life is impressive, and the screen is large and easy to read. It’s comfortable to wear due to the soft band and lightweight design, and the three color options allow customization to match individual styles. And even though it’s got a low price tag, it’s not cheaply made; this smartwatch is capable of withstanding exposure to water and other elements.
Cons: While this watch is well-made overall, some find it stops holding a charge after a few months. You may also experience issues with certain features, such as message display and time changes, though these problems can usually be resolved by adjusting settings on the watch itself.
Bottom Line: If you don’t want or can’t afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for a new smartwatch, this model is a versatile and affordable option. It allows you to make and receive calls via Bluetooth, track various sports activities, monitor your physical health, and enjoy a range of practical functions like music and camera control.
Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle Smartwatch
This statement piece that delivers health notifications is one of the most stylish smartwatches you can wear.
Pros: This smartwatch is an excellent choice for those looking for a stylish and versatile device to help them stay on top of their daily routine. Designed to resemble a classic wristwatch, it won’t look out of place if working in an office environment or out to a nice dinner. This smartwatch is as practical as it is stylish, offering many handy features, such as activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, GPS, a microphone, and access to voice assistants. It’s not only chic-looking and practical but durable, able to survive exposure to higher heat and water in environments like the kitchen. It’s compatible with iPhones and Android smartphones and charges quickly; it can reach full power in under an hour.
Cons: You may notice some issues with the battery life of this smartwatch, as some reported that the battery drains quickly and must be charged more frequently than those of other smartwatches. You may also notice the occasional bug with this watch, such as it shutting down or changing settings on its own.
Bottom Line: If other smartwatches make you feel like a secret agent, this is the one to make you feel like a royal spy. Stainless gray steel tacked onto a 44-millimeter case is one of the fanciest smartwatches you could wear out. This is all the fitness and modern tech you could want in a fashion-forward look.
SAMSUNG Galaxy Watch 3 Smartwatch
Combining style with durability and technology, this smartwatch may just have it all.
Pros: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is an excellent choice for those seeking a stylish and versatile smartwatch with many valuable features. Its slim design is reminiscent of a classic wristwatch, making it a fashionable addition to any outfit. It’s also plenty practical, providing many features that make it useful for everyday use, such as activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, GPS, a microphone, and access to voice assistants. The watch is resistant to water and high temperatures, making it ideal for use in the kitchen or during exercise. It works with both iPhones and Android smartphones and charges quickly. Furthermore, the watch’s battery can last up to a day and a half on a single charge, making it ideal for outdoor use.
Cons: Premium products almost always come with a premium price tag, and this smartwatch is no exception. Another issue mentioned by some customers is that some of this watch’s features are locked to Samsung-specific devices, which limits the watch’s usability for those who don’t own Samsung products. They also find the charging process inconvenient and feel that some features, such as BP monitoring, are not fully compatible with their devices.
Bottom Line: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is another dapper option for those who like their smartwatches with a bit of class and don’t mind a higher price tag. This watch offers advanced health monitoring and trip detection, a system that notifies an emergency contact if you’ve taken a potentially harmful fall during a workout.
Amazfit T-Rex Pro Smartwatch
This is a rugged and durable smartwatch that's not only water-resistant but offers a long battery life and a variety of other useful functions such as notifications and music control.
Pros: The Amazfit smartwatch is a great option if you want a stronger, more durable smartwatch with long battery life. Even with all of the features turned on, it can last up to 10 days on a single charge and potentially as long as 18 days with more standard use. The watch monitors various health and fitness metrics like heart rate, sleep, and workout data. It also offers more unusual and detailed features that many other smartwatches don’t, including tracking your blood oxygen levels, the current moon cycle display, and a sunset and sunrise monitor, among others. Its durability is another major benefit, as this smartwatch is water-resistant and can withstand harsh outdoor environments.
Cons: Some have reported issues with connectivity and syncing their smartphones with this watch. They have also mentioned occasional glitches or software bugs that can be frustrating. Additionally, a few have noted that the watch can be a bit difficult to navigate or operate, especially if you are unfamiliar with smartwatch technology.
Bottom Line: The Amazfit T-Rex Pro Smartwatch is notable long battery life, durability, fitness tracking, and a wider range of capabilities. Though it may have a learning curve for new customers, it’s a solid choice for those looking for a smartwatch with detailed tracking capabilities or one that can withstand an overnight hike or long weekend camping trip.
Smartwatches are versatile, wearable alternatives to classic wristwatches that offer a wide range of features such as fitness tracking, notifications, and much more. They can be a convenient addition to your daily routine if you choose one that fits your needs, lifestyle, and personal style.