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Thinking about buying a smartwatch? While you could spend your entire paycheck on the latest Apple creation, you can also find models from other manufacturers for a fraction of the price. From slim, stylish models that excel at fitness tracking to feature-packed units that do a whole lot more, you're not short on options for smartwatches. You should also check out our list of best fitness trackers if your needs are more sport-oriented and our general list of best smartwatches.
Clear, attractive display
Heavy-duty and rugged
Bulky on smaller wrists
Limited compatibility with non-Samsung devices
It's not easy to find an affordable smartwatch from a major manufacturer — most of the latest models sell for several hundred dollars. That's true for the current version of Samsung's watches too, but fortunately, you can pick up the previous (and still high-performing) S3 Frontier model for a lot less.
At 1.8 x 1.9 inches and 2.2 ounces (not counting the band), it's relatively big and heavy, but that extra size is put to good use. Samsung has crammed in a lot of features, from fitness tracking and an LTE radio to a tap-and-pay system, voice control, and more. Our reviewer did point out, however, that the wrist felt big on her wrist and isn't really geared to women or those with smaller wrists.
You can answer calls directly from the watch, and send texts via an onscreen keyboard or voice dictation. Since it uses Samsung's own Tizen operating system, there aren't as many available apps as you'd find on Apple or Android-based watches. Still, many of the ones you're likely to want are there, including Uber, Yelp, and The Weather Channel. The S3 Frontier is designed to handle a bit of rough treatment and is able to survive being dropped or submerged in five feet of water for half an hour.
"It’s a sturdy and substantial watch, but that also means it has the potential to overwhelm a smaller wrist." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester
Accurate activity tracking
Great battery life
Not always responsive to swiping
Difficult to find comfortable fit
In addition to sharing the same price point, the Samsung Galaxy fit looks so much like a Fitbit you're probably wondering how it differs. First and foremost, the main benefit is seamless integration with other Samsung products. If you're already invested in the Galaxy ecosystem, chances are, this budget smartwatch will appeal most to your sensibilities. Like the Samsung Galaxy phones, the AMOLED display on the Galaxy Fit is bright and vibrant.
You also have the benefit of automatic activity tracking. In short, that means it can interpret physical activity based on your movement — whether you're walking, running, or doing something else altogether. Plus, by purchasing the Galaxy Fit, you'll get access to Samsung’s full suite of wellness monitoring, such as BPM, sleep, and even caffeine tracking options. Our reviewer particularly liked week-long battery life. Of course, this depends on how you use it, but if you take it swimming, it also has dust and water resistance to ensure it doesn't drown.
Available in black and white flavors, it’s most compatible with Galaxy devices, though it does boast some options for other Android smartphones as well as iOS.
"We were pleased with its ability to automatically track running, swimming, and sleep activities." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester
Rugged and premium build quality
Excellent 4G connectivity
Snappy, reliable performance
Clunky apps and integrations
Unfriendly setup process
Targeted at the style mogul, the fitness junkie, and everyone seated comfortably in the middle of that Venn diagram, the TicWatch Pro LTE is a less expensive smartwatch that offers the connectivity and features of higher-priced competitors. Now with cellular connectivity through Verizon, our tester loved how sleek but solid on the watch was on his wrist and how it let him do everything from call friends to make purchases to check the weather, all without pulling out your phone or wallet. It also comes equipped with Google Assistant, to help facilitate some of your daily tasks.
The 1.4-inch round AMOLED display is easy to read even in high levels of sunlight, simplifying fitness metrics as you hit the gym or the water. Its military-grade durability makes it suitable for pools and extreme temperatures. It can even withstand a few bumps here and there. Boasting an office-ready silicone strap and stainless-steel bezels, the watch can last up to 30 hours on a single charge.
"The case is made of polyamide and glass fiber, and bezel is made of knurled stainless-steel. Ticwatch keeps the weight low by opting for an aluminum back cover." — Jason Schneider, Product Tester
Classic timepiece design
Works with Android and iOS
Limited smart features
Fossil's entire Q range of smartwatches could easily be mistaken for typical timepieces, and the Machine is one of our favorites. With its attractive dark case and stainless steel band, it's a stylish — albeit fairly chunky — device that's rated to be water-resistant to an impressive 165 feet. The band is also replaceable if you'd prefer a different color or material.
The smart features here are limited compared to watches from the likes of Apple and Samsung, but it still does a reasonable amount when paired with Fossil's Android or iOS app. You can control music volume and playback, be notified of calls and texts, track your steps and distance, and more. The battery doesn't need charging but it will have to be replaced every four to six months. Travelers will appreciate the automatic time zone updates, which mean that as soon as the date and time on your phone changes, the hands on your watch will sync up as well.
Courtesy of Walmart
30-day battery life
Stylish and lightweight
GPS and heart rate monitor
Can't respond to notifications
If you've got less than $100 to spend on a smartwatch and don't want to break your bank, the Amazfit Bip is your best choice right now. Given its low price, it's surprising just how much this device gets right. The Bip isn't the most stylish of watches, but the utilitarian design is at least available in four different colors. Most other standard 20mm bands will also fit should you decide to swap and a range of different watch faces are also available.
The Bip has GPS built in for accurate navigation, as well as the usual range of sleep and exercise-tracking options. You'll be notified of incoming calls and texts, and sent alerts from apps like Facebook and Twitter. For a fully digital smartwatch like this, the battery life is quite impressive; you'll get weeks of use out of a single 2.5-hour charge. It's also IP68-rated, so it won't get destroyed if you forget to take it off before hopping in the shower.
"If you never want to worry about charging your smartwatch, then the Bip is unbeatable." — Emily Ramirez, Product Tester
Many useful smart features
6-month battery life
Missing some more smartwatch-specific features
Not everybody wants a smartwatch that looks like a smartwatch. If that sounds like you, Skagen's Holst may be exactly what you're after. The design is strikingly minimalist, the plain black face and analog hands matching perfectly with the grey titanium band. That band is replaceable, however, if you'd prefer something else. As with all the other models in the company's Hybrid range, power is provided via a replaceable battery that lasts up to six months.
Despite its sparse aesthetic, the Holst has a range of useful smart features. You'll get a gentle buzz on your wrist when your phone gets a selected notification, call, or text, and it can track your steps, sleep, and calories burned. If you misplace your phone and it's still within Bluetooth range, you can make it ring directly from the watch. Music playback and volume control are included, and you can also use the Holst as a remote shutter for your iPhone or Android camera.
Bright colors and rugged design
Focus on learning
Has step tracking
Uses micro USB
Smartwatches for children are very different than those for adults. Bright colors and rugged construction replace stylish design, with a focus on learning and having fun rather than communication or fancy features. The VTech Kidizoom is the perfect example. Water-resistant with durable silicone straps, the smartwatch comes in bright colors like blue and purple. Cameras on the front and side let kids take photos and video of themselves and their surroundings.
Dozens of different watch faces are available and there are several different games and activities included. It's also possible to track the number of steps taken each day. The watch comes with 256MB of storage, used for both apps and photos. The included micro-USB charging cable can be connected to a computer, so you can download extra apps and upload photos and videos to use elsewhere, and free up space. Aimed at kids aged four to eight, the VTech Kidizoom DX2 is a simple and affordable introduction to wearables.
If you're in the market for a smartwatch, one of the best from a major brand is the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier. It won't work well with non-Samsung devices, but if you own a Samsung phone it serves as a great watch for notifications, contactless payments, and fitness tracking. For something geared more specifically to fitness tracking, we also like the TicWatch Pro 4G. It has full LTE connectivity, allowing you to track every single one of your runs. Finally, the Amazfit Bip isn't very well know, but it's highly affordable and packed full of features.
Emily Ramirez has written for Lifewire since 2019. She specializes in wearable technology, VR, and gaming, and has been previously published in the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute and MIT Game Lab. She liked the Amazfit Bip for its affordable price and useful suite of features.
Jason Schneider has almost a decade of experience writing for tech and media companies. Specializing in audio, wearable, and other devices, he's previously been published in Greatist and Thrillist. He praised the TicWatch Pro 4G for its always-on connectivity and ability to track runs and other fitness activity.
Yoona Wagener has written for Lifewire since 2019. She specializes in smart watches and fitness trackers, and is a fitness enthusiast. She personally uses a Withings Move for her step tracking as well as a Garmin Forerunner 35 for her weekly runs. She liked the Galaxy S3 Frontier for its design, though found it big on her wrist. She also praised the Galaxy Fit for its general fitness tracking ability.
Fitness Tracking - A smartwatch isn't primarily a fitness tracker, but even a cheap one should have some basic health features. These include step and distance tracking, ideally a heart rate monitor, and the ability to detect when exercises have been started. Extra features are sleep tracking, swim tracking, and general wellness support.
Battery Life - Battery life is important for a smartwatch. Most will have rechargeable batteries, though some that are oriented toward fitness trackers tend to have replaceable coin cell batteries. At a minimum, a smartwatch should be able to handle 1-2 days of usage before needing to recharge.
Software - A vital part of a smartwatch comes down to software. Most affordable smartwatches tend to run Google's Wear OS, which lets them work with Android phones (and often iPhones as well) and integrates them with a number of Android apps and Google services.Samsung has its own proprietary Tizen OS, which is compatible exclusively with other Samsung devices. It does tend to be a cleaner and somewhat easier to navigate OS than Wear, however.