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Thinking about buying a smartwatch? The wearable market continues to grow, and with it comes plenty of affordable options. From slim, stylish models that excel at fitness tracking to feature-packed units that do a whole lot more, we’ve done the research to find the right devices at the right price. Check out our list of the best fitness trackers if your needs are more sports-oriented and our main list of the best smartwatches if you want to see our favorite devices overall.
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
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.
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.
Seamless integration with other Apple devices
Answer calls and texts right from the watch
Limited functionality for non-iPhone users
Cellular connectivity costs extra
Released in the fall of 2017, the Apple Watch Series 3 isn’t the newest model of the brand’s beloved smartwatch. But it’s significantly cheaper than the newest version and still has a ton of features that you won’t find on typical smartwatches in this price range. All the expected activity tracking features are there, including motion and heart rate tracking, step counting, and a water- and sweat-resistant build. It also includes apps and features that iOS users know and love like iMessage, Apple Pay, Siri, and Apple Music. It even has GPS capabilities for Apple Maps directions. In some ways, it’s like a little iPhone on your wrist. If you’re willing to pay extra, you can enable cellular connectivity and have all these functions enabled without having to carry your phone with you.
There’s no question that Apple and iPhone users will get the most out of the Apple Watch Series 3. Having compatible devices allows you to seamlessly sync up your music library, texts, phone calls, and health data, and use other unique features like the ability to unlock your laptop from your wrist.
On-board music storage
Texting functionality only compatible with Android phones
Despite what its name might suggest, the Garmin vívoactive 3 is much more than just a fitness tracker. Syncing this device with your smartphone allows you to listen to music directly from the device, use contactless payments, and view notifications from a variety of apps including messaging, social media, and rideshare services. If you sync it with an Android phone, you can also send texts from the watch.
The Garmin vívoactive 3 has all the fitness tracking features you’d expect like heart rate monitoring and water resistance. It also comes with 15 preloaded sports and workout apps that can collect precise data about your specific fitness activities. One thing that really sets this smartwatch apart is its onboard music storage. Unlike most smartwatches that stream music from your phone, the vívoactive 3 allows you to download up to 500 songs directly to the watch. That means you can take your playlists with you if you want to leave your phone at home. And if you want to leave your wallet behind as well, you can use Garmin Pay to buy that post-workout smoothie.
Your best cheap smartwatch depends on the device you want to sync it with. If you have an iPhone, we recommend the Apple Watch Series 3 for its seamless iOS integration, full suite of features, and appealing price point. If you have an Android, we recommend the Garmin vívoactive 3, which combines the best of smartwatch and fitness tracking functionality in one affordable, sleek-looking device.
Our expert reviewers and testers evaluate cheap smartwatches the same way we evaluate most smartwatches. We start by taking a look at design, style, durability, and how easy it is to change straps. For budget smartwatches, we pay particular attention to quality and aesthetic appeal, since those two factors are often compromised on. We evaluate the screen size and resolution focusing on how legible the text, complications, and other information is, particularly outdoors and in direct sunlight.
We look at overall user experience (UX), by seeing how easy to the smartwatch is to setup, how many apps it's compatible with, how well it syncs to your phone, and the general fluidity of the operating system. We also consider any additional features that are included like heart rate monitoring, GPS, and fitness tracking.
To test battery life, we charge the smartwatch up to full, and then use it over the course of a day to see how much it drains. To make our final judgement, we look at the competition, and see how the smartwatch stacks up against rivals in a similar price range. The majority of the smartwatches we test are purchased by us; sometimes newer releases are provided by a manufacturer, but it has no bearing on the objectivity of our evaluation.
Emmeline Kaser is an experienced product researcher and reviewer in the field of consumer tech. She is a former editor for Lifewire’s product testing and recommendation round-ups.
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.
Device Compatibility - This is mostly a concern if you’re looking to buy a smartwatch with more advanced, “phone-like” features, i.e. texting, music streaming, and social media notifications. In that case, you need to make sure the software inside the watch is compatible with the software in your phone and allow your devices to seamlessly sync with one another. Many inexpensive smartwatches run Google Wear, an operating system that tends to be compatible with both Android and iOS devices. Apple Watches run iOS, which is very much designed to work with other Apple devices — if you try to connect an Android phone to an Apple Watch, you may find that you can’t use many of its features. Samsung watches similarly run Tizen OS, which is designed to work with other Samsung devices. Before buying a smartwatch, check to see if it needs to connect to a smartphone and make sure it can connect to yours.