The 9 Best Smartwatches to Buy in 2018

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

Apple

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When it comes to smartwatches, one size most definitely does not fit all. The best option for you depends on a number of factors, including the smartphone you use; whether you want strong activity-tracking features; your budget; and your aesthetic tastes. For example, many people prefer a smartwatch with a round display because it looks more like a standard wristwatch than a piece of tech. You'll want to take all these factors into consideration when you begin the search for the best smartwatch for you. So 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 this year.

Best for iPhone Owners: Apple Watch Series 3

The third edition of the Apple Watch is easily the company’s best. Seventy percent faster than the previous model, it also sports quicker Wi-Fi, with an optional LTE version that largely frees the wearer from needing to carry their iPhone at the same time.

Having cellular data comes at a cost, both to battery life and in financial terms (you’ll need to pay $10/month to your cell carrier to use it), but unlike other smartwatches, the LTE-enabled model of the Apple Watch 3 uses your existing phone number for calls and texts. Note it doesn’t have roaming capabilities, though, so the cellular features only work in the country you bought it.

Whichever model you buy, there’s a heart rate monitor, built-in GPS, Apple Pay for contactless payment and the ability to save songs from Apple Music for offline listening. Water-resistant to 165 feet, with a nice bright screen, interchangeable straps and access to the widest range of smartwatch apps, it’s very much the go-to if you already own an iPhone.

Best for Android Owners: Samsung Gear S3 Sport

Just like the Apple Watch, third time’s the charm with Samsung’s Gear smartwatch brand. While it’s also available in a sleeker Style version, the Sports model offers more and looks surprisingly good for a fitness-focused device. Hundreds of watch faces are available by default, from stylish to whimsical, and it’s easy to swap between them to match your mood.

At 42mm, it’s a little smaller than many other sports watches, and lighter as well. That size reduction hasn’t made it any less rugged, though, with water-resistance to 165 feet. It also includes a heart rate monitor, GPS, NFC for using Samsung Pay, and unusually, an altimeter and barometer for measuring height and alerting to changes in the weather.

Given all those features, the Gear S3 Sport is unsurprisingly strong as a fitness tracker. It monitors everything from how many floors you climb to steps taken and calories burned, as well as peak and resting heart rates. You can also record your water and caffeine intake, for a complete health picture.

Samsung uses its own Tizen operating system, which is easy to navigate but doesn’t have quite as many apps as Android Wear or WatchOS. Most of the usual suspects are there, though, and most people will rarely notice the difference.

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 an Android Wear 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 Android Wear 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 Android Wear (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 Android Wear 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

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 Android Wear 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.