The 9 Best Smartwatches to Buy in 2018

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

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Whether you’re looking for something appropriate for dinner parties or back-country trails, high-end, budget or something in between, we’ve tracked down the best smartwatches on the market.

The Rundown

  • Best for iPhone Owners: Apple Watch Series 4 at Apple.com, “Reams of upgrades since the Series 3; twice as fast, 30% larger display, just for starters.”
  • Best for Samsung Owners: Samsung Galaxy Watch at Amazon, “Optimized for Samsung’s own controls, a perfect sidekick to your Galaxy or Note phone.” 
  • Best Budget: Ticwatch E at Amazon, “There’s little missing from this smartwatch, and an awful lot to like for the money.”
  • Best Value: Huawei Watch 2 at Amazon, “A compelling option, with its recent price drops.”
  • Best for Fitness Tracking: Fitbit Versa at Amazon, “Iconical, serious fitness-tracking credibility at an affordable price.”
  • Best for Music: Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music at Amazon, “This one is a step closer to full-featured smartwatches, but at its core, Garmin’s still about fitness tracking.” 
  • Best for Minimalists: Skagen Falster at Amazon, “For those who’d prefer their smartwatch to look more like a piece of jewelry than a small computer on their wrist.”
  • Best for Kids: VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch at Amazon, “Ideal for kids in the 4-to-8 year range, an affordable, well-featured introduction to smartwatches.”
  • Best for the Back Country: Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 at Amazon, “Stylishly durable, with specs built for the great outdoors: digital compass, altimeter, barometer.”

Our Top Picks

Best for iPhone Owners: Apple Watch Series 4

Apple Watch Series 4
 Apple.com

Apple is back with the Apple Watch Series 4, the latest in the smartwatch game that's focused on helping wearers live a healthier lifestyle. Running on Apple’s S4 64-bit dual-core processor and the new WatchOS 5 operating system, it’s twice as fast as its predecessor. Available in two sizes — 40 mm and 44mm — it has a 30 percent larger display than the Series 3 and comes in six different aluminum and stainless steel finishes. New improvements include Walkie Talkie mode and a speaker that is 50% louder than in the Series 3. The microphone has been moved to the watch’s opposite side to reduce noise and create clearer phone calls. The bottom, now made from black ceramic and sapphire crystal for better radio wave transmission, is intended to help with cellular reception and call quality.

The new electrocardiogram (ECG) monitor — the first to be found in smartwatches or fitness trackers — can help monitor heart diseases and other potential physical complications, storing the data in an app to share with your doctor. The watch will also be able to detect if you take a hard fall, calling emergency services to assist you. 

Best for Samsung Owners: Samsung Galaxy Watch

While you can purchase smartwatches with cellular service, the most practical market-tested use is a companion for your phone. And when you’re choosing which watch to buy, seamless connection via apps and your phone OS is a key consideration. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch is a great option if your phone is a Galaxy or a Note.

The build is fantastic with IP68 waterproof and Corning Gorilla Glass DX+, and the display looks great with a resolution up to 360 x 360 and Circular Super AMOLED tech. On the larger model, the battery sports a capacity of 472 mAh, which powers the snappy Exynos 9110 Dual core processor. You can choose between Silver, Midnight Black, or Rose Gold color options, and the bands are interchangeable to match your style. But most importantly, with the Tizen-Based Wearable OS 4.0 that Samsung has optimized to work with their proprietary controls and apps, this will be the perfect sidekick to your Samsung phone.

Take a peek at some of the other best Android smartwatches you can buy.

Best Budget: Ticwatch E

Want to dip your toes into the world of smartwatches, but don’t want to drop $250+ to do it? The Ticwatch E includes many of the features of the big-name brands, at a much lower price.

With GPS and heart rate monitoring, plus water-resistance and 4GB of storage for apps and offline music, there’s little reason why you can’t leave your phone at home when heading out for a run. The company’s own fitness-tracking app isn’t particularly great, but being a Wear OS 2 device, you can just download a different one instead.

Battery life is good, with users typically getting a bit over a day of normal use. The charging cable isn’t as elegant as the inductive chargers used by many other brands, but it’s functional, and lets you get back to 100 percent in under an hour.

Unusually for a budget smartwatch, the design is simple and inoffensive, and the Ticwatch E could easily be mistaken for a chunky analog timepiece. Other than NFC payments, there’s little missing from this smartwatch, and an awful lot to like for the money.

Best Value: Huawei Watch 2

When Huawei introduced the second version of its smartwatch, it was generally viewed as being a step backward in terms of value. With subsequent price drops, however, it’s now a much more compelling option.

The Watch 2 comes in two varieties, Sports and Classic. The former is a little cheaper, looking unsurprisingly much like a standard sports watch. The Classic is noticeably more attractive, with a premium-looking shell and included leather band. If you’re after something that’s appropriate at a nice restaurant as well as the gym, you may want to pay the extra money, but all features are otherwise the same.

There are two buttons to control the Wear OS 2.0 operating system, plus an on-screen keyboard for tapping out quick replies. GPS, water-resistance, heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking is included, so the Watch 2 does a fine job as a fitness tracker.

There’s Bluetooth support, along with NFC for using Android Pay and 4GB of storage for downloading music. You’ll get up to two days out of the battery if you don’t use GPS, but expect to charge it every day otherwise.

Best for Fitness Tracking: Fitbit Versa

Fitbit pioneered the fitness tracker but had stayed out of the smartwatch space until recently. That changed with the Ionic, and shortly after, the cheaper and more-compelling Versa.

Running its own Fitbit OS, there’s no mistaking the company’s origins. A wide range of exercise types are available in the dedicated app, from running and cycling to weights, gym sessions and more. Important stats are shown during your workout, with others available with a quick swipe, and a summary pops up at the end.

Waterproof to 165 feet, the Versa handles swimming as well as any other exercise, with the screen surprisingly visible underwater. As is standard with many other non-smartwatch Fitbit models, heart rate tracking is built in, which allows for detailed sleep tracking. There’s no GPS, though — if you want to track your running route, you’ll need to carry your phone or pay the extra for the Ionic model.

Battery life is particularly good, at up to four days, and the square design isn’t unattractive. Most standard smartwatch notifications features are built in, with the ability for Android device owners to reply to text messages coming soon.

If you’re looking for a smartwatch with serious fitness-tracking credibility at an affordable price, check out the Fitbit Versa.

Best for Music: Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music

Garmin, known primarily for its GPS and fitness devices, has taken one step closer to full-featured smartwatches with their Vivoactive 3 Music. This model doesn't run on Wear OS (Google's increasingly-popular OS for wearables), but it does offer thousands of free apps, watch faces, and more via Garmin’s ConnectIQ store. The Vivoactive 3 Music also comes preloaded with 15 sports apps to monitor your progress whether you're running, swimming, lifting, or doing yoga — because, at its core, Garmin is still all about fitness tracking

The watch's face is made from chemically-strengthened glass, with a 240 x 240 resolution display that's visible even in bright sunlight. The battery is pretty impressive, too, lasting up to seven days with light use, and up to five hours of continuous use with full GPS functionality and music playing.

Speaking of music, that's what really sets this smartwatch apart (especially compared to Garmin's other wearables). The Vivoactive 3 Music has enough internal storage for 500 songs — and they're easy to download to your device using the Garmin Express software. Once your songs are downloaded, you can listen to music without a smartphone. Just connect some Bluetooth headphones to the watch and you're good to go. If streaming is more your game, then you can also download some popular media apps as well. 

Best for Minimalists: Skagen Falster

If you’d prefer your smartwatch looked more like a piece of jewelry than a small computer on your wrist, you’ll like Skagen’s Falster range. The straps of these slimline watches come in a few different leather or stainless steel options but coupled with the included minimalist watch face designs, they all look sleek and stylish in a way few other smartwatches manage.

All of the usual Wear OS features are included such as calls, texts, e-mail and calendar, with a simple button on the side to handle power, apps and activating the Google Assistant. Battery life is typical, at up to 24 hours between charges.

Note there’s no GPS or heart rate monitor built into the watch. You can still use it for basic exercise and workout tracking, but if you’re after a serious activity tracker, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

If you’re after a stylish, dressier alternative to most smartwatches, though, be sure to check out the Skagen Falster.

Best for Kids: VTech Kidizoom Smartwatch

Smartwatches for children are unsurprisingly very different to those aimed at adults. Fashion styling gives way to primary colors and rugged designs. Fancy features are replaced with easy-to-use apps, and the focus is on education and fun rather than staying in touch with the world.

The VTech Kidizoom is a great example. The water-resistant watches are available in bright shades of blue and purple, with strong silicone straps. There’s no Internet access, but instead, two cameras let kids take photos and video of both themselves and their surroundings. Over 50 watch faces are available, in both analog and digital styles.

Step tracking is built in, as are several bundled games and activities. When connected to a computer via the micro-USB charging cable, extra apps can be downloaded to the 256MB storage, and photos and videos uploaded. 

Ideal for kids aged around four to eight years old, it’s an affordable, well-featured introduction to the world of smartwatches.

Best for the Back Country: Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20

Casio Pro Trek
 Courtesy of Amazon

When you think about hitting the great outdoors, a smartwatch isn’t usually the first thing you think to pack. Casio has other ideas, though, with the stylishly-rugged Pro Trek WSD-F20.

Waterproof to 165 feet and tested to military standards for durability, it includes features like a digital compass, altimeter, and barometer that you won’t find in most other smartwatches, as well as more standard tools such as GPS. The WSD-F20 can also function as a flashlight — handy in an emergency — and lets you download maps for offline navigation when you’re far from the nearest cell signal.

Running Wear OS 2.0, the watch tracks specific activities such as kayaking, cycling, and trekking, storing the route and duration.

It’s expensive for an Android smartwatch, and you’ll need to carry a portable charger for anything longer than a day trip, but if you’re after a durable and genuinely useful smartwatch for heading into the backcountry, the Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F20 is unmatched.