Our Favorite Smartwatches Do Much More Than Just Tell Time

Our Favorite Smartwatches Do Much More Than Just Tell Time

A proper timepiece doesn’t just display the time of day. A good watch can elevate your outfit and make you feel good. Smartwatches can do even more, from tracking your workouts and measuring your heart rate to offering up notifications and access to voice assistants. While you’re wearing a connected watch, you can leave your phone in your pocket and use your wrist for simple tasks. The Apple Watch is our favorite for iPhone owners, but Samsung’s Galaxy Watch4 is a great wearable for anyone on Android. We have several other options—in various styles and with different levels of smarts. These are the best smartwatches we’ve tested.

Looking for a fitness tracker instead? We’ve got plenty of more workout-friendly options in our Best Fitness Trackers guide.

Updated February 2022: We’ve added the Withings ScanWatch, Skagen Falster Gen 6, Garmin Vivomove Sport, and advice on swapping straps.

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  • Photograph: Apple

    Best for iPhone Owners

    Apple Watch Series 7

    The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch money can buy. It has the best operating system, WatchOS, which is slick with plenty of apps to help reduce the number of times you need to pull out your phone. The new Series 7 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) has a larger and brighter screen, faster charging, improved resistance to water and dust, and the ability to automatically detect when you’ve hopped on an ebike so it can properly log that activity. The bigger screen means you can use a full-screen keyboard for swipe-typing short messages.

    The health features haven’t changed much since the last version. There’s a sensor to measure oxygen saturation in the blood (SpO2)—helpful for athletes training at altitude or if you have an underlying health condition—and the FDA-cleared electrocardiogram sensor. Unfortunately, battery life is still mediocre; you’ll need to charge it in the evening (before you go to bed) if you want to track your sleep, especially if you used the watch to track a workout during the day. 

    Comes in 41-mm or 45-mm sizes.

    Cheaper alternatives: The Apple Watch SE ($279) is worth a look. It debuted alongside the Series 6 and is the model for those who balk at a $400 price and don’t need an electrocardiogram, SpO2, or the always-on display found on Apple’s premium watches. There’s also the Series 3, which is getting a bit old, but it does the basics and is frequently on sale. Check our Apple Watch guide for more details.

  • Photograph: Samsung

    Best for Android Owners

    Samsung Galaxy Watch4

    Samsung’s Galaxy Watch4 and Watch4 Classic (7/10, WIRED Recommends) are the first to use Google’s Wear OS 3 instead of the company’s homegrown Tizen operating system. This brings broader app support, making it one of the best options if you have an Android smartphone. Third-party apps are still trickling in since Samsung’s switch to Wear OS, but expect more on the way.

    Samsung managed to retain nearly the same interface and many features from its previous smartwatches, including a bright OLED screen, easy ways to respond to messages, smooth performance, and accurate health and fitness tracking (heart rate and SpO2). Unfortunately, the electrocardiogram and blood pressure monitoring features work only if you have a Samsung phone. (The latter isn’t available in the US yet.) Battery life is lackluster, with the smaller models lasting just a day. If your wrist can manage it, I recommend sizing up to get the more capable battery. The Classic version of the watch is made of stainless steel instead of aluminum, and it has a mechanical rotating bezel around the screen for navigating the interface. It’s nice, but not worth the upcharge.

    Watch4 comes in 40-mm or 44-mm sizes. Watch4 Classic comes in 42- or 46-mm sizes.

  • Photograph: Garmin

    Best Fitness Watch

    Garmin Vívomove Sport

    Who says Garmins have to be hulking, sporty-looking watches? The new Vívomove Sport comes in a few fun colors and looks like a normal watch—except for the tiny display on the lower half of the face. You can tap and swipe across this touchscreen to start tracking workouts, see notifications, and look at your calendar entries. 

    Just because it looks snazzy doesn’t mean it lacks the fitness tracking chops that Garmin is known for. You can track your heart rate, blood oxygen, respiration, and sleep, and this data can be synced to Garmin’s Connect app. That also means the watch can gauge your Body Battery, which speculates how much energy you might have for the day based on a variety of data collected by the sensors. It’ll last around three to five days doing all of this. The downside? There’s no onboard GPS, so you’ll have to bring your phone with you if you want to track your running routes. For more fitness-focused watches, read our Best Fitness Trackers guide.

    Comes in a 40-mm size.

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