The 9 Best Smartwatches of 2021

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

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

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 for Health Tools:
Fitbit Versa 2 at Amazon
"The Fitbit Versa 2 hits almost all of the same notes as the newer Fitbit Versa 3, which could leave you wondering whether or not to make an upgrade. If you’re looking for a few deciding factors, though, you’ll find them."
"From high speed water sports to trail running, golfing, bouldering, skiing, and even gym sessions too, the Fenix 6 comes with a tracking feature for that."
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 for Rapid Charging:
Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle at Amazon
"The Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch is a wearable that design-conscious shoppers will appreciate."

The best smartwatches act as a wrist companion to your smartphone. With a smartwatch you get a second screen for notifications, a way to view activity tracking and fitness information, and a variety of sensors and connectivity options. The most common platforms for smartwatches are Apple's Watch OS, Samsung's Tizen, Fitbit, and Google's Wear OS. The majority of smartwatches offer activity, step, and general fitness tracking, but an increasing number of newer smartwatches support measurements like blood oxygen levels, stress tracking, and menstrual cycle tracking.

More advanced smartwatches can include LTE and GPS, allowing you to leave your phone at home and track your runs, not to mention onboard music storage. You should also take a look at our customized list of smartwatches geared toward women. Otherwise, read on to see the best smartwatches to get.

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.

“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

What We Like
  • Android and iOS compatibility

  • Rotating bezel

  • New fitness features

What We Don't Like
  • Too big for smaller wrists

The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 improves upon its popular design and reputation with a few welcome changes, including a slimmer overall build. While it is noticeable, it will still be too big for smaller-wristed shoppers—even the smaller 41-millimeter band. For the majority of users, though, size shouldn’t be an issue. And design assets like the returning physical rotating bezel that allows you to cycle through your favorite apps and your choice of over 50,000 different watch faces—though you’ll have to pay to access many of them—offer appealing customization and style. The Watch3 also sports a premium leather band, which helps it transition from a workout to a dressier setting more easily than some models. 

Many reviewers have remarked at the overlap with the Apple Watch, but the Watch3 has the distinct advantage of playing nicely with both Android and iOS, which gives it an edge over its Apple competitor. The Samsung Galaxy Watch3 also rises to the occasion to go to toe with the Apple 5 Series by adding an array of fitness- and health-oriented features such as SpO2 and VO2 Max to monitor blood oxygen levels, a fall-detection tool to keep you safe during workouts, and a built-in running coach tool that provides a detailed analysis after a workout. 

You’ll get all of the usual smart functionality from this device such as text and email notifications and Spotify streaming over Wi-Fi. But if you have a Galaxy phone and opt for the LTE version of this watch, your life is made even easier right out of the box with standalone calling and texting freedom and seamless app syncing.

Best Fitness Tracking: Fitbit Versa 3

What We Like
  • Six+ days of battery life

  • Built-in GPS

  • Many health features

What We Don't Like
  • No Siri support

  • Spotify controls but no stored playback

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.

"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

What We Like
  • Attractive design and straps

  • Good specs

  • Supports fitness, sleep, and period tracking

  • Has most features of Series 6

What We Don't Like
  • Lacks bloody oxygen measurement and ECG

  • Fewer design options than Series 6

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.

"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

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. The Active2 continues to offer the comfortable and close fit from the previous model and adds 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.

"The screen is colorful, sharp, and more entertaining than it has a right to be. If I lived my life in Android, buying the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 would be a no-brainer." — Lance Ulanoff, Product Tester

Best for Health Tools: Fitbit Versa 2

Fitbit Versa 2
What We Like
  • Battery lasts for 4+ days

  • Built-in Amazon Alexa

  • Wealth of health tools

What We Don't Like
  • No onboard GPS

  • Text reply on Android phones only

The Fitbit Versa 2 hits almost all of the same notes as the newer Fitbit Versa 3, which could leave you wondering whether or not to make an upgrade. If you’re looking for a few deciding factors, though, you’ll find them. The Fitbit Versa 2 doesn’t offer onboard GPS, which means you’ll need to stow your smartphone during every workout. And you won’t get any fast-charging convenience or the same battery life. But four-plus days of longevity isn’t shabby, and you’ll get the most out of each charge if you disable the always-on display.

Health and fitness-tracking features are the bread and butter of the Fitbit brand, and according to our reviewer, the Versa 2 delivers on all the desired fronts. During the day, it tracks heart rate and activity, calorie burn, and calculates a cardio fitness score to help users track fitness progress. It also serves as a dedicated sleep tracker with insights on light, deep, and REM sleep and offers guided breathing exercises when you need to slow down.

On top of this impressive arsenal of fitness-tracking assets, the Versa 2 comes with numerous sought-after smart features that simplify daily routines. These include connecting wirelessly to headphones, storing credit and debit card info for fast contactless pay, and smartphone notifications and replies on Android phones. Amazon Alexa is built right in as well, and you can store and play Deezer and Pandora playlists and control Spotify tunes when your phone is nearby.

What you get is a superlative fitness wearable with some added options that make it feel closer to a smartwatch.” – Jason Schneider, Product Tester

Best GPS: Garmin fēnix 6 Pro Solar

What We Like
  • Solar charging

  • Extremely sporty

  • Topo maps and turn-by-turn navigation

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • Bulky

To say that the Garmin Fenix 6 is feature-rich is an understatement. This rugged smartwatch is made for adventure and nearly any sport you can think of. From high-speed water sports to trail running, golfing, bouldering, skiing, and even gym sessions too, the Fenix 6 comes with a tracking feature for that. As proof of its trail-ready grit, this device has a 10 ATM waterproof rating (good for diving 100 meters and high-speed water sports) and is military-grade thermal shockproof. All of this ruggedness does pose a bit of a fit issue for users with more petite wrists. But since this product does require a hefty investment, it’s worth considering the small “S” version that offers a more manageable fit at 42 millimeters versus 47 and 51 millimeters.

In addition to a lengthy fitness and sports tracking feature list, one big-ticket item is GPS prowess. In GPS mode, Garmin says this watch is good for up to 40 hours when getting a boost from the sun. If you’re not able to get out every day to benefit from solar charging, you can count on two weeks in smartwatch mode. But this multi-sport smartwatch is best utilized outside and the mapping features are game for even the most off-the-beaten path workouts. If you like to go old school, the Expedition mode uses the least amount of battery while intermittently capturing GPS, and for dynamic guidance, topographical maps, point-to-point routing, and turn-by-turn navigation will keep you on track and back to base camp or wherever you want to be with little trouble.

And as a smartwatch, the Fenix 6 is capable of storing up to 2,000 songs, Garmin contactless pay, safety, and accident tracking, and provides access to an extensive library of watch faces and apps via the Connect IQ store.

Best for Minimalists: Skagen Falster 3

What We Like
  • Sleek, upscale look

  • Comes with rapid charger

  • Swim-proof

  • Untethered GPS

What We Don't Like
  • Wear OS limitations

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.

"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

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.

Final Verdict

The Apple Watch Series 6 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 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 models like the Garmin Forerunner 35 and Garmin Venu for their dependable built-in GPS and run-tracking accuracy. She also liked the wellness-focused features of the Fitbit Versa 3.

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. He liked the standalone functionality of the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro 4G and the health tracking features of the Fitbit Versa 2.

Lance Ulanoff has 30 years' experience as a technology journalist and editor. He specializes in reviewing Apple products and praised the Apple Watch Series 5 for its excellent suite of fitness tracking features.

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. He praised the Apple Watch Series 6 as being the best smartwatch to date.

Rebecca Isaacs has been writing for Lifewire since 2019 to test and review gadgets. She covered the Skagen Falster 3, admiring the attractive design and customization options.

FAQ

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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