The 9 Best Smartwatches of 2021

Finally, watches can do more than just keep track of time

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The best smartwatches pair with your phone, acting a second screen to provide notifications, fitness tracking features, and more. Common smartwatch operating systems are Apple Watch OS, Samsung's Tizen, Fitbit OS, and Google Wear. Smartwatches on these platforms come with a wide array of sensors and wellness features, allowing you to track heart rate, blood oxygen levels, sleep, stress, and more.

For the more outdoorsy types, you can get smartwatches with standalone LTE and GPS connectivity, allowing it to track your runs and providing onboard music storage. Depending on your use case, you may want to take a look at our roundup of the best fitness trackers and the best smartwatches for women.

Here, read on to see the best smartwatches to get.

The Rundown
The Apple Watch Series 6 combines an attractive design, great specs, and a set of impressive new features like bloody oxygen measurment and ECG.
Best for New Features:
Samsung Galaxy Watch3 at Amazon
The Watch3 has the distinct advantage of playing nicely with both Android and iOS.
Best Fitness Tracking:
Fitbit Versa 3 at Amazon
It only takes 12 minutes to power up for a full day of battery life.
The more affordable Apple Watch SE retains most of the key features of the Series 6 and doesn't compromise on style.
Best for Active Samsung Users:
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 at Amazon
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 is a great choice for fitness-oriented Samsung users who want many of the same assets the Apple Watch offers.
Best Budget:
Amazfit GTS at Amazon
The Amazfit GTS combines style and function in this affordable smartwatch and fitness tracker.
The TiWatch Pro has a unique dual display design and comes packed with features and GPS tracking.
Best for Rapid Charging:
Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle at Amazon
The Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch is a wearable that design-conscious shoppers will appreciate.
Best for Minimalists:
Skagen Falster 3 at Amazon
If you’re looking for a streamlined smartwatch with some fitness-tracking finesse, the updated Skagen Falster 3 has a lot to like.

Best Overall: Apple Watch Series 6

Apple Watch Series 6
What We Like
  • Robust health/fitness tracking

  • Bright, always-on display

  • Appealing new color options

  • Speedy and responsive

  • Fun, diverse watch faces

What We Don't Like
  • Modest upgrade over Series 5

  • Still needs to charge daily

  • No third-party faces

The Apple Watch Series 6 is still the best all-around smartwatch for iPhone users, boasting a robust suite of fitness tracking and health and wellness features, along with communication capabilities, style and customization options, and plenty more. For the most part, Series 6 is a modest upgrade over the previous edition, with the biggest upgrades coming in the form of a blood oxygen sensor and new Blue and (Product)RED case color options.

Elsewhere, the screen is a little brighter, the interface is a little bit snappier, and the watchOS 7 upgrade brings charming new faces, sleep tracking, and other handy tweaks. Series 5 owners can probably skip this model, while those with older editions will appreciate the always-on display and other collective enhancements from the last couple of years. However, the Apple Watch SE could be a more sensible alternative if you don’t care too much about health sensors.

Screen Size: 1.78 inches | Weight: 1.1oz | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE| Battery Life: All day | Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters

“Series 6 is the best Apple Watch to date, but also the one that provides the least incentive to upgrade if you already have last year’s model.” — Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best for New Features: Samsung Galaxy Watch3

Samsung Galaxy Watch3
What We Like
  • Lighter, refined design

  • Clever rotating bezel

  • Fitness and health features

  • Loads of watch faces

What We Don't Like
  • Battery life loses a step

  • Weak software ecosystem

  • Limited onboard storage

  • ECG limited to Samsung phones

The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 feels very similar to the previous Galaxy Watch model (there’s no Galaxy Watch 2, weirdly enough), opting for a traditional wristwatch silhouette with a clever rotating bezel that you can use to navigate through menus. It looks polished and still has a weighty feel to it, although Samsung has thankfully shed nearly 10g from the largest model through smart trims and tweaks.

Less great is the fact that the battery life has also been cut down, that the app ecosystem is lacking, and that the price has bumped up $70-80 depending on model. Still, Samsung’s premium watch is a good option, particularly for Android users. However, iOS limitations make it a weaker option on the iPhone side than the rival Apple Watch Series 6 or Apple Watch SE, both of which benefit from Apple’s tight integration and strong app selection.

Screen Size: 1.4 inches | Weight: 1.9oz Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE | Battery Life: 340mAh Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters

"Samsung’s distinctive rotating bezel remains the largest defining element of the Galaxy Watch3, and it’s a really clever way to navigate the watch’s menus."Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best Fitness Tracking: Fitbit Versa 3

What We Like
  • Onboard GPS

  • Lightweight design

  • Voice assistant integration

  • Music storage with Deezer and Pandora

What We Don't Like
  • Music control only with Spotify

  • Message reply/call answering for Android

  • SPO2 monitoring limited

If motivation to move is a struggle, the Fitbit Versa 3 does a capable job of helping you shift your habits. This latest version of the popular Versa 2 doubles down with more health tools and connected features that will keep you active and dialed in 24/7. Highlights include more accurate Pure Pulse heart-rate tracking technology for both resting heart rate and measuring heart rate in cardio and other active exercise zones. You can also set goals around daily intensity minutes to make sure you’re hitting your marks for cardiovascular health. Another ally in your corner is new onboard GPS, which allows you to leave your smartphone at home while you’re on your next bike ride, walk, or run. 

When your phone is nearby and the Fitbit app is active, you can set reminders to start a workout at a certain time with Amazon Alexa and even respond to texts and calls if you’re an Android user. Android users can also enhance their sweat sessions by downloading playlists directly to the device with Pandora or Deezer subscriptions. For now, the Spotify app only offers control of playlists while the Spotify mobile app is open and active. The Fitbit companion app is also the key to unlocking more detailed metrics about sleep patterns, heart rate, and how active you are. For an even deeper look at your health and metrics like SPO2 (oxygen levels in your blood) over time, you’ll need the new SPO2 watch face and the Fitbit Premium subscription.

Our product reviewer found the Fitbit Versa 3 lightweight and small enough for her petite wrist but did note issues with button and touchscreen responsiveness and some GPS tracking inconsistencies. Overall, though, she found it a solid motivator and wellness tracker with some appealing smart features for a decent level of connectivity.

Size: 1.59 inches | Weight: 1.5oz | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Battery Life: 6+ days | Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters

"In true Fitbit brand fashion, the Fitbit Versa 3 supports wellness in a big-picture way." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Value: Apple Watch SE

Apple Watch SE, Black
What We Like
  • More affordable than Series 6

  • Fast and responsive

  • Stellar fitness tracking

  • OK battery life

What We Don't Like
  • No always-on display

  • No ECG or bloody oxygen sensors

  • Fewer style options

  • No third-party faces

The Apple Watch SE is a lower-priced alternative to the top-of-the-line Apple Watch Series 6, cutting a couple of key features while slashing the price tag in the process. Starting at $279 (vs. $399 for the Series 6), the Apple Watch SE maintains most of the familiar feature set from Apple’s popular smartwatch, including robust fitness tracking, communication features, waterproofing, and heart rate sensing.

However, it loses the always-on display from the Series 6 and Series 5 before it, turning the screen off to conserve energy when your wrist isn’t raised. It also lacks the electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood oxygen sensors, limiting some of its health detection capabilities. There are also fewer color and material options available for the body, which solely comes in aluminum in three colors. Still, if the health sensors aren’t a big selling point of the Apple Watch experience for you, then you can save a lot of cash by going for the SE model.

Screen Size: 1.78 inches | Weight: 1.27oz Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE| Battery Life: Up to 18 hours | Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters

"The Apple Watch has gradually become a more robust and useful wearable device in time, and the SE model still provides the vast majority of that experience at the lower entry price." Andrew Hayward, Product Tester

Best for Active Samsung Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

SAMSUNG Galaxy Watch Active 2
What We Like
  • Touch bezel

  • More accurate heart-rate tracking

  • Spotify playlist storage

What We Don't Like
  • Limited number of apps

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 is a great choice for fitness-oriented Samsung users who want many of the same assets the Apple Watch offers. Our reviewer, Yoona, found the Active2 to offer the same comfortable and close fit from the previous model and it added on a feature that many users requested: a bezel. While the bezel isn’t a physical one like on the Samsung Galaxy Watch3, it’s touch-activated and simulates the same rotating motion of a physical dial. 

Other new perks include the improvement of the heart rate monitoring system. The Active2 now features eight sensors and a new curved design that better captures heart rate at all times—and issues alerts if readings look too low or high. There’s also talk of an ECG feature just like on the Apple Watch, but it’s yet to be released in the U.S.

As an added fitness-tracking motivator, the Active2 now also includes swimming on its list of seven automatically tracked workouts. And other health-focused apps for tracking sleep and guided breathing round out the experience. While the fitness app integrations include big names like Strava and MyFitness Pal, the broader selection of third-party apps from the Tizen store continue to be a bit limited. If you’re a premium Spotify subscriber, though, you’ll be able to store playlists to your device and even forego Bluetooth headphones since the Active2 has a built-in speaker. If you have a Samsung phone, you have the advantage of WPC Qi wireless device-to-device charging functionality, which allows you to place the watch directly on your smartphone for a battery boost.

Screen Size: 1.4 inches | Weight: 1.48oz |  Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE| Battery Life: 340mAh | Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters

"A device called Active2 should have the chops to track exercise and wellness, and this watch delivers even better than the original Active." — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best Budget: Amazfit GTS Smartwatch

Amazfit GTS
What We Like
  • Bright display with customizable widgets

  • Lightweight and comfortable form factor

  • Solid GPS and workout tracking

What We Don't Like
  • Certain settings aren't straightforward

  • Unintuitive app

  • Battery life doesn't match 14-day claim

The Amazfit GTS is a stylish and compact wearable that won’t weigh you down or clash with your wardrobe. This fashionable device seems to take much of its inspiration from the Apple Watch by matching the square-shaped display and single-button design. The GTS also comes with a flexible and comfortable silicone sport-type band in a range of colors to suit your mood and style. 

The 348x442 AMOLED display is vibrant and easy to read and highly customizable, thanks to editable main-screen widgets on either the digital or analog watch face. In watch mode (without Bluetooth or heart-rate monitoring and other smart settings active), the manufacturer claims up to 46 days of battery life. In typical use mode with smart features active, the Amazfit GTS has the potential to last up to 14 days and charges in just about 2 hours.

While the proprietary software isn’t as intuitive as what bigger players in the fitness tracking game offer, the Amazfit GTS is a capable basic tracker. It measures heart rate 24/7, logs sleep metrics, comes with 12 popular exercise modes programmed onto the device for more in-depth workout analysis, and is also suited for swimming workouts in water up to 50 meters deep. This slim and streamlined fitness tracker includes other handy traits for everyday convenience such as calendar and text notifications, a stopwatch, and the ability to navigate playlists and queue podcasts from your smartphone.

Screen Size: 1.65 inches | Weight: 1.66oz |  Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Battery Life: 14 days| Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters (3ATM)

"Along with the crisp and easy-to-read display, the GTS's biggest asset is the flexible and durable silicone with a healthy selection of notches and two tabs to keep the band in place once you’ve latched it." Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best GPS: Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS

What We Like
  • Battery-saving dual display mode

  • Up to 72 hours between charges

  • Competent fitness tracking

  • Theater mode convenient for turning off display

What We Don't Like
  • Wear OS and TicWatch health widget redundancies

  • Bulky for sleeping

  • Lacks some advanced health features

The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS smartwatch is a sporty wearable with a large build featuring a prominent display. While the overall design is smaller and lighter than the prior model, the dual-layered touchscreen is still a showstopper. The 1.4-inch 450x450 Retina AMOLED display is bright and touch-responsive. In smart mode with all connectivity features activated, this display can work for up to 72 hours before needing a charge. But the marquee feature of the watch is the efficient, low-light display on top of the AMOLED layer. Use this feature manually or rely on the watch to activate it when your battery dips to 5 percent. While you’re waiting between charges, this watch conveniently still functions as a time-telling device. If you’d like to use it exclusively as a timepiece, Essential Mode offers up to 45 days of use.

Impressive battery aside, the TicWatch Pro 3 also offers an impressive array of connectivity and fitness features. With an Android phone, easily respond to texts and phone calls. Both Android and iOS users can receive notifications to their wrists and stay on top of wellness around the clock with Google Fit and TicHealth and TicExercise apps. There is a bit of an overlap between the fitness offerings, but certain advanced monitoring for sleep and blood oxygen saturation is exclusive to the TicWatch offerings. While the fit could present challenges for wearers with smaller wrists, this watch offers a well-rounded smartwatch experience if you can find a comfortable fit.

Screen Size: 1.4 inches (dual)| Weight: 1.48oz |  Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE, GPS | Battery Life: 72 hours | Water Resistance: IP68 (no soap and water)

"Android users that can find a great fit will enjoy well-rounded connectivity and fitness tracking."Yoona Wagener, Product Tester

Best for Rapid Charging: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle

What We Like
  • Sleek design

  • Built-in Google Assistant

  • Water resistant to 98 feet

  • Rapid charging possible

What We Don't Like
  • Not great at fitness tracking

The Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch is a wearable that design-conscious shoppers will appreciate. It’s available in leather, silicone, and stainless steel band options including rose gold and blush leather hues. While it appeals to the wearer who wants a smartwatch that fits any daily wardrobe choice, don’t expect it to offer stellar fitness tracking accuracy. It does feature a built-in heart-rate monitor and you can swim with it in water 98 feet deep, but the readouts in the Google Fit app have been met with mixed reactions from users. 

Still, it’s handy for built-in GPS tracking and general health and fitness stats such as steps taken, inactivity, heart rate, and calories burned, which means it can help motivate you to keep moving. The built-in speaker is another function that lends to everyday convenience. Use Google Assistant voice commands to check the weather or set your smart thermostat to a comfortable temperature. Other daily-use conveniences include Google Pay integration so you can skip fumbling for your wallet at checkout, the ability to receive Bluetooth phone calls as long as your phone is nearby, and 8GB of storage for music. This model also offers improved battery life over the previous generation with three battery modes and a quick-charging function that brings your watch to 80 percent in just one hour.

Screen Size: 1.28 inches | Weight: 3.5oz |  Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Battery Life: 24 hours | Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters (3ATM)

Best for Minimalists: Skagen Falster 3

What We Like
  • Classic and stylish

  • Good customization options

  • Waterproof

  • USB-C charging and magnetic charging station

  • Supports GPS tracking

What We Don't Like
  • Finicky fitness tracking

  • Weak battery

  • Touch sensitive interface

If you’re looking for a streamlined smartwatch with some fitness-tracking finesse, the updated Skagen Falster 3 has a lot to like. This model features improved battery life over the previous generation and will get you through a full day of activity before requiring a charge. Even if that’s not incredibly long, this wearable comes with a rapid charger to restore the battery to 80 percent in just 50 minutes. The Falster 3 is also incredibly sleek with stainless steel mesh and silicone band options for daily wearability.

This smartwatch doesn’t just look stylish, it also offers the versatility you want in a smartwatch with Google Assistant and contactless pay, plus the added perk of a swim-proof build with untethered GPS. Go ahead and leave your phone at home while you swim laps or jog. Although, if you’re expecting a call, you’ll still want to bring that along so you can answer mid-workout. 

While the analytics you’ll see in the complementary Google Fit app should be considered more as ballpark insights rather than highly accurate metrics, there’s still value in that for those who mostly want encouragement to stay active. You’ll also get the usual step tracking, heart-rate monitoring, and smartphone notifications.

Screen Size: 1.65 inches | Weight: 1.44oz Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC | Battery Life: One day | Water Resistance: Up to 50 meters (3ATM)

"The watch body is fairly thin at 11mm, and the screen is circled by a stainless steel bezel making for a sturdy and stylish design."Rebecca Isaacs, Product Tester

Final Verdict

The Apple Watch Series 6 (view at Apple) is our top pick for best smartwatches. While you need an iPhone to use it, it’s hard to beat the long list of health and tech features that many competing models strive to match. If you’re an Android user, the Samsung Active Watch3 (view at Samsung) offers a more streamlined build than before and comes with desirable health features, some of which overlap with the Series 6.

About Our Trusted Experts

Yoona Wagener has reviewed numerous smartwatches and fitness trackers for Lifewire from brands such as Garmin, Withings, and Samsung. As an avid runner, she’s a big fan of fitness trackers.

Jason Schneider has a decade of experience covering tech and writing for media companies. He specializes in reviewing audio equipment, but has also tested a variety of other devices including smartwatches, laptops, and fitness trackers.

Andrew Hayward is a Chicago-based writer and product tester who's been writing for Lifewire since 2019. Previously published by TechRadar, Polygon, and Macworld, he's reviewed a variety of mobile devices and wearables.

Rebecca Isaacs has been writing for Lifewire since 2019 to test and review gadgets. She specializes in wearables and mobile tech.

Ajay Kumar is a Tech Editor at Lifewire with over a decade's experience in the industry. He specializes in mobile devices and has previously been published at PCMag and Newsweek where he reviewed hundreds of phones, tablets, and other products.

FAQs

Which women's smartwatch is best?
Women's smartwatches
offer the same features as most smartwatches like health tracking, lifestyle management, fitness, and activity tracking. However, they may be more oriented toward suiting your style and feature smaller straps and sized to accommodate more svelte wrists, and they may have features like menstrual cycle tracking. Among our top choices are the Galaxy Watch Active2 for Android and Samsung users, the Fitbit Versa 3, and the Apple Watch Series 6.

What is the best smartwatch for kids?
The best smartwatch for kids is the Garmin Vivofit Jr. 2. We're partial to it because of the friendly design, the inclusion of activity tracking, and some built-in features like an adventure game. It's a good way to keep kids moving and for parents to track their activity and fitness.

What is the best fitness smartwatch?
The best fitness-oriented smartwatch is the Galaxy Watch Active2. It's a more sporty taking on the Galaxy Watch3, without making serious compromises to features. You still get the latest sensors like blood oxygen monitoring, stress tracking, and general activity tracking. You should also take a look at our list of the best fitness trackers if you don't need or want all the smartwatch features.

What to Look for in Smartwatches: 

Operating system compatibility: There’s little sense in investing in a smartwatch that doesn’t work with your smartphone. While most smartwatch operating systems including Wear OS and Tizen are compatible across operating systems, some—like the Apple Watch—require a dedicated device. Others simply function more optimally with a certain OS. Samsung watches, for example, work with iPhones and a variety of Android devices, but are really unlocked when used with a Samsung smartphone.

Fit and style: If you want a wearable that transitions well, smartwatches can flex to fit your schedule. While many models favor a silicone band that’s friendly to sweat, you can purchase alternate styles and fabrics such as leather and swap them out as needed. Smartwatch faces are another design aspect to consider when purchasing a wearable for your lifestyle. Maybe you want a device that plays the part of an analog watch with an always-on display. If you don’t mind the look of a fitness-centric smartwatch, the size of the face and strap width could be keys for finding an ideal middle ground between sporty and versatile.

Battery life: Most smartwatches are built to get you through at least one full day of work and workouts, if not a few. It’s not atypical to recharge a smartwatch battery every few days, though most people will prefer a device that lasts closer to five days on a single charge. But battery longevity really depends on how you use your wearable. If you’re the adventurous type who’s always on the move, you’re better served finding a device that has some big battery chops. Additional services such as cellular connectivity, music streaming, health-tracking features, and an always-on display can put added stress on battery levels. 

Fitness tracking: Smartwatches cover a wide net of “smart” services, from smart notifications alerting you to texts and emails to being able to directly respond and make phone calls, streaming and storing music, and contactless payment convenience. But the other big part of the smartwatch equation is fitness tracking. There are many models that can provide a helpful nudge in the right direction. Otherwise, if you want an all-in-one smartwatch and fitness tracker, you’ll want to look for more specialized models that offer advanced performance tracking, precise GPS, and multisport or dedicated support for your specific sport.

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