Apple may dominate the smartwatch market, but it certainly isn’t the only brand out there. Whether you’re a first time buyer or looking to upgrade your smartwatch to a fresher model, we’ve compiled the best of the best in this easy to follow guide.
There’s a reason Apple is the name on everyone’s lips when it comes to smartwatches. The Apple Watch Series 5 topped our list after its release last year, beating out several high profile options from the likes of Samsung and Garmin.
Of course, Apple has recently announced the Apple Watch 6 and the Apple Watch SE, so this list could be shaken up very soon. We haven’t gotten our hands on the Series 6 just yet, but with new features that include a blood oxygen sensor, a brighter display and a 20% faster Apple Silicon dual-core chip, along with Apple’s “family setup” parental control feature, it’s set to be an exciting update.
Likewise, the more affordable Apple Watch SE could certainly shake up our budget category (if it impresses us, that is).
For all the talk about Apple, there are nevertheless some great high-profile Android smartwatches out there, though these are rarely hugely innovative.
There are also a number of smartwatches that specialise in exercise and health monitoring, though you should also check out our best fitness tracker guide if this is more your speed.
Here’s our summary of the best smartwatches, with options that will suit most people. Scroll down to read our full reviews for each, or to see the complete list.
- Best smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 5
- Best for Android: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
- Best for semi-serious runners: Garmin Vivoactive 4
- Best for Google services: Fossil Gen 5
- Best for triathletes: Garmin Fenix 6
- Best Apple Watch on a budget: Apple Watch Series 3
- Best for battery life: Huawei Watch GT 2
- Best for simplicity: Honor MagicWatch 2
- Best for Alexa: Fitbit Versa 2
- Best for minimalism: Garmin Venu
How do we pick the best smartwatches?
Before we score any smartwatch (or any other wearable for that matter) one of our expert reviewers will wear the device for at least a week before reaching a verdict. We see how each smartwatch operates, check all of the advertised claims and features, and conduct a variety of battery tests based on different use cases (for example, we log longevity with and without constant heart rate monitoring).
We try and keep conditions as uniform as possible so that we can draw fair comparisons between similarly capable devices.
1. Apple Watch Series 5
The best smartwatch on the market – if you’re an iPhone user
- Always-on display feels like a “proper” watch
- All the previous straps still work
- Great at making you want to move and be active
- No huge improvements to battery life
- No support for Android users
This wearable remains one of Apple’s top products and is an increasingly useful accessory.
While the Apple Watch Series 5 is not packed with upgrades over its excellent predecessor, the addition of a screen that constantly displays the time is very welcome. At last, the Apple Watch doesn’t feel like a computer on your wrist and this feature has been added without sacrificing battery life.
The screen retains the OLED panel used in the Series 4 – bright, sharp, responsive and stretched just about edge-to-edge, it’s superb.
The fitness and activity features really encourage you to up your game, nudging you to work at your three daily activity goals (move, exercise, stand). Hit your targets to gain badges – and that satisfying buzz on your wrist.
The updated display, excellent fitness tracking features, sleek design and a huge number of strap options combine into a seriously tempting iPhone 11 accessory.
2. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
The best smartwatch for Android users
- Innovative digital bezel
- Excellent Tizen software
- Superb fitness tracking
- Good all-round smartwatch
- Lack of decent third-party apps
- Pricier than previous generation
If you have an Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the best smartwatch out there. Its great design, reasonable battery life, solid fitness features and outstanding performance combine into best Wear OS watch currently available – an excellent alternative to the Apple Watch Series 5. It costs more than the original Watch Active, but it offers superior performance and features, and interaction with the Watch Active 2 is far more satisfying thanks to the clever touch bezel.
The straightforward design features two buttons and a mic on the right edge, a speaker on the left, and a heart rate sensor on the rear, and the Watch Active 2’s premium build looks more like a watch than a wrist computer.
As it’s name suggests, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is packed with decent fitness features, and a whole lot more – it has all the smartwatch functionality you need, from GPS and a built-in fitness coach to sleep tracking and Spotify.
Decent third-party apps are lacking, however – a mark against the watch’s Tizen OS. Spotify is pretty much the lot. But the core functionality of the Watch Active 2 means you probably won’t miss extra app options. Nevertheless, it’s something to consider, and the the Apple Watch has a far larger library.
3. Garmin Vivoactive 4
A great range of health-tracking services – plus a few surprises
- Can track pretty much every sport you can think of
- Looks like an actual watch
- Solid battery life
- New wellness features work well
- More expensive than the competition
- App offering could be better
The Vivoactive 4 is one of the best mid-tier fitness trackers on the market. If your budget will stretch to it, this fitness tracker offers all the trimmings and looks equally at home in the gym as it does when you’re out and about. Highlights include stellar GPS location tracking, inbuilt storage for music and maps, and the ability to track an extremely comprehensive range of sports.
Unfortunately, the Vivoactive 4’s smartwatch app library still lags woefully behind the competition. Casual users and those looking for a device that’s primarily a smartwatch would do better to consider the Fitbit Iconic or an Apple Watch.
However, the Vivoactive 4’s superb fitness tracking portfolio more than makes up for its smartwatch shortcomings. It ticks all the boxes for toughness and useability. It comes with everything you’d expect from a tracker and can monitor pretty much every form of exercise you can think of, from your morning jog and weight training to yoga and cross-country skiing. The plethora of extra metrics Garmin’s added to the Vivoactive 4 really sets it apart; options include tracking estimated sweat loss, respiration rate and pulse ox level.
4. Fossil Gen 5
A near-perfect blend of personal assistant features and fitness tracking capabilities
- Lightweight, smooth design
- New battery modes
- Feature packed
- Battery life could always be better
Fossil has finally hit its stride with its fifth generation of smartwatches. The Fossil Gen 5 sets a new standard which Wear OS devices should be measured against. It includes the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset and various new features, and, as always, Fossil’s fashion expertise means high-end design. The men’s Carlyle and women’s Julianna models look good, feel comfortable, and are lightweight and unobtrusive. Fossil clearly now understands the physical parameters it needs to follow if its smartwatches are to be taken seriously as fitness trackers.
The Gen 5’s 416 x 416 AMOLED display packs a vibrant 328 pixels per inch and offers a substantial jump in quality. Colourful app icons pop against a black menu screen, and some of the more artistic watch faces cram extraordinary detail into a small amount of space.
Fossil’s Gen 5 smartwatches aren’t lacking in the features department: NFC, GPS, heart rate tracking, water resistance and a built-in speaker are all included. A faster user experience and new battery-saving modes also contribute to Fossil’s significant leap forward. If you’re holding out for the ideal blend of fitness tracking capabilities and smartwatch features, Fossil Gen 5 might be the answer.
5. Garmin Fenix 6
Best smartwatch for triathletes
- Excellent location and fitness tracking
- Unbreakable design
- Two-week battery life
- Heart rate monitor works underwater
- Smartwatch functionality still limited
If you’re a hardcore athlete seeking the ultimate smartwatch, the Fenix 6 is one of the leading fitness trackers on the market – possibly even the best. The Garmin Fenix 5 is superb and this model doesn’t offer a huge upgrade, but some subtle changes, super-tough design and excellent sensors and location tracking features combine into a stellar tracker that’s ideal for serious fitness aficionados looking to up their game.
Smartwatch functionality is somewhat lacking as the Fenix 6 is primarily a fitness tracker. Casual gym goers or runners looking for an Apple Watch 5 rival would do better to consider cheaper models from Fitbit and Garmin, which has a great Vivo line of trackers.
As the Fenix 5 was already best in class for tracking, it’s a real achievement that the Fenix 6’s multisport and general fitness tracking features offer even more improvement. The biggest updates relate to heart rate and location/distance tracking. The Fenix 6’s heart rate sensor works underwater – a boon for swimmers, sailors and divers, who would previously have had to invest in a separate HRM strap to get the data on the older Fenix 5 family.
The only real downside, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the price, which starts at £529.99 – a serious investment, even by Apple Watch 5 standards. A strong focus on durability and functionality over form might reduce its appeal to fashion-conscious buyers.
6. Apple Watch Series 3
Best smartwatch for iPhone users on a budget
- Snappy performance
- Super-bright and clear display
- Decent battery life (when not reliant on LTE)
- Apple Pay
- LTE has a big impact on battery life
- Needs more dedicated watch apps to make use of LTE
- Siri doesn’t always work
- No LTE roaming
You can still choose between GPS-only and cellular versions of the Series 3. However, the finish options have now been cut back to just silver or black-bodied aluminium, with a white or black Sport Band respectively.
The Series 3 introduced an altimeter for elevation tracking and is a good option for swim tracking, with water resistance up to 50m. Updated watchOS 5 support is also a nice upgrade.
7. Huawei Watch GT2
Best smartwatch for battery life
- Reasonable price
- Good fitness tracking
- Attractive design
- Formidable battery life
- Few smartwatch functions
- Limited software
The Huawei Watch GT2 is the brand’s latest smartwatch that runs its own software, offering Android users a good alternative to Wear OS and Tizen. The OS remains somewhat limited when it comes to apps but the focus on fitness tracking is strong.
Design mimics that of a traditional timepiece; there’s a 1.4-inch OLED circular display with a 462ppi and two buttons on the side.
Excellent battery life is the Huawei Watch GT2’s biggest plus, especially for anyone who’s been putting off switching to a smartwatch because they don’t want to have to charge it every night. We managed around two weeks of use on a single charge, which is far better than most of the competition.
8. Honor MagicWatch 2
A tempting prospect for amateur athletes
- Onboard GPS
- Neat design
- Good value
The good-looking design of the MagicWatch 2 takes its style from a traditional timepiece and its AMOLED touchscreen is sharp and bright. It offers good value for money, especially considering its sharp design and attractive screen, in partnership with its enduring battery life. Honor claims that the MagicWatch 2 will last for 14 days before it needs recharging, and our testing bore that out. This endurance is impressive, especially when compared to costly rivals like the Apple Watch Series 5.
For health and fitness features, the wearable synchronises with the Huawei Health app. It’s got 24-hour heart-rate tracking (even during swimming), sleep tracking, and onboard GPS, so it’s capable of good feedback for a range of activities, including running and skiing.
The app gives you full information on exercise after it’s complete, and the interface on the watch also offers some useful stats; you can scroll left to right for heart rate, stress levels, weather forecast, music and fitness daily goals, while the main menu offers handy tools like a flashlight, stopwatch, and a “find my phone” function.
As a fitness tracker, this device fits the bill for most people’s needs; it’s accurate, has all the features you’re likely to want, and all for a good price. Its attractive looks and strong battery performance are also recommending factors. But if you want a convenient device that lets you cut down on smartphone screen time in favour of a wrist-based companion, you may be disappointed by the slim range of smart features.
9. Fitbit Versa 2
Best smartwatch for Alexa
- Decent battery life
- Good screen for the price
- Alexa support
- No inbuilt GPS
- No local Spotify playback
If you are seeking a good-looking entry-level fitness tracker that doubles as a basic smartwatch, the Fitbit Versa 2 is definitely one to consider. The second generation of the iconic fitness brand’s smartwatch, it gets all the basics right and has a nifty always-on option. It also adds several key new features, including Amazon Alexa and Spotify support, and its battery life is excellent.
The design might seem a touch dull to some, especially compared to the circular Galaxy Watch Active 2, but we like the Versa 2’s utilitarian, functional look, which is similar to that of the original Fitbit Versa. The square OLED touchscreen remains one of the best you’ll get on a watch at the Fitbit Versa 2’s price and remains legible even in direct sunlight.
The control interface is highly intuitive, with touch-input controls. A short press of the single physical button on the watch’s left side takes you back to your previous screen, while a long press activates Alexa.
The Fitbit Versa 2 is a solid smartwatch and fitness tracker that will meet the needs of most casual or newbie gym goers. However, the small app store and lack of in-built GPS will be an issue for more serious athletes, who would be better off investing in a Garmin Vivo or Forerunner tracker. The heavily discounted Apple Watch 3 is a better choice for people looking for a dedicated smartwatch.
10. Garmin Venu
A stellar workout companion that also doubles as a stylish timepiece
- Best-in-class fitness tracking
- Battery life of up to five days
- Bright AMOLED display
- High asking price
- Too similar to the Vivoactive 4
Garmin has been making subtle changes to an already clean design with each new entry in the Vivoactive series, aiming to make a sports watch that can be worn out and about, and the Venu continues this trend. It is equally at home on your wrist at the gym or on a night out – which is just as well, given that in order to get the most out of the device, Garmin expects you to wear it all the time.
Garmin’s devices have always boasted superb battery life, and the Venu is easily comparable to modern smartwatches – and not just sports watches. Its battery life of up to five days puts the competition to shame: even the Fossil Gen 5, which brought in a bunch of new battery-saving modes to help it last over several days, can’t compare.
The Venu is built around Garmin’s unbeatable fitness tracking software, which has finally joined mainstream with the inclusion of a much-needed AMOLED display. It’s no secret that, when it comes to tracking workouts, Garmin absolutely wipes the floor with the competition, and the Venu offers the user a wealth of data – there really isn’t anything else quite like it. There’s still room for improvement, however, when it comes tracking reps, particularly during strength exercises.
While fitness is at the centre of its design, the Venu is still very much a modern smartwatch, with all the bells and whistles you’d expect. If your budget can stand it, consider opting for the Venu over the Vivoactive 4 – but for those who don’t have money to burn, it might be worth holding off until there’s a price drop.
How do I choose the right smartwatch for me?
These are our top picks for the best smartwatches. Read on to find out more about smartwatches and what to look out for when you’re buying one.
Which is the best operating system?
Currently, there are three big smartwatch operating systems: watchOS from Apple, Wear OS from Google and Tizen from Samsung. Fitbit, a relative newcomer to the smartwatch space, has its own Fitbit OS but so far none of its smartwatches have made this list. A big reason for this is lack of app support, which is a key consideration when picking your smartwatch. Right now, watchOS is by far the best supported for apps, followed by Wear OS, with Tizen lagging behind.
What are the key considerations when choosing the best smartwatch?
Aside from the operating system, you should also consider how you intend to use your smartwatch. Many now double as fitness trackers and sports watches, and if this is important to you, choose a smartwatch with built-in GPS and a heart rate sensor. It’s worth noting that smartwatches with these features are often much bigger.
Water resistance is ideal across the board. Even if you’re not a swimmer, it’s convenient to be able to leave your smartwatch on when you have a shower and not have to worry about it during a downpour.
Battery life is the other big consideration. In the early days, many smartwatches struggled to last a single day. Most have now improved considerably, and can offer at least two days without a charge – the minimum we’d recommend.