We have bought and tested over 30 of the best smartwatches on the market since 2019. For this edition, we focus on the 6 most compelling models available today, testing them head-to-head to find out which wearable came out on top. We evaluated and compared the comfort and convenience of each watch, the different smart features and functions, their health and fitness tracking abilities, as well as their display, ease of use, and battery life. Keep reading to see which devices we found to be the smartest, the most stylish, or the best if you are shopping on a budget.
Water Resistance: Up to 50m or 5 ATM | NFC: Yes, Apple Pay
REASONS TO BUY
App rich library
Extra health sensors
REASONS TO AVOID
Short battery life
Auto adjust brightness
There is no better smartwatch on the market than the elite Apple Watch Series 8. This wearable is packed with a vast library of applications and incredible health features. Users are able to track information from step-counting to blood oxygen levels with remarkable accuracy. No other smartwatch we have tested compares to the incredible 396 x 484 pixel display that comes with the Series 8. Navigating through the various menus showcases awe-inspiring color and detail with absolutely seamless simplicity.
Unfortunately, Samsung and Android users will not have access to the Series 8 as it is only compatible with iPhones. Additionally, this device is pretty expensive and becomes more expensive when adding on GPS or Celluar. Those who desire the absolute best from a smartwatch and are willing to spend the extra cash will not be disappointed with this wearable. No other product on the market can boast the Series 8 all-around elite nature.
Unfortunately, elite Apple watches are not available to most Android users; however, this does not mean there are no other options capable of high performance. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 stands alone as a colossal in the smartwatch space that is perfect for those with Android devices. You can expect high-quality health, fitness, and smart features that enable you to track your favorite exercises while at the same time giving you peace of mind through quick communication access. A great feature of the Galaxy 5 is its new sapphire crystal glass display. Additionally, you will find it has extraordinary responsiveness and is very intuitive.
Although we think this is the best smartwatch for Android, it is still comparatively less impressive than its Apple counterpart. The Google Play store has less of an app selection than the Apple store. Even with a reduced library, you will find that the Play store is not lacking; rather, the Apple store simply exceeded our expectations. Rest assured, if you're considering the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, you will not be making a significant trade-off as this wearable is equipped with every modern amenity typical of a great smartwatch.
Great smartwatches often deliver quality health, smart, and display features at the cost of reduced battery capacity. Not the case with the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3. This WearOS device is equipped with all the seminal smartwatch features without sacrificing battery life. This is due to the improved processor and the dual-display feature that allows this device to expend battery power frugally.
The most glaring issue with the Pro 3 is relative quality compared to other top-tier Android-compatible smartwatches. The Pro 3 sells at a similar price point yet underperforms in some areas, such as health and smart features. This does not mean that the Pro 3 performs sub-optimally in these key areas; you will find this device will give you relevant health and fitness data with good accuracy. If you don't mind taking a small hit in other features for a superb battery, then the Pro 3 will not disappoint.
The Fitbit Charge 5 delivers reliable health and fitness data at a reasonable price. Although marketed as a fitness tracker, this wearable also doubles as a smartwatch due to its smart capabilities. As a Fitbit device, it is no surprise how straightforward and intuitive navigating the user interface (UI) is. Simply swipe right on the touch screen to access the home screen, and you will find many useful applications that can be accessed with a touch of a finger. We recommend the Charge 5 to anyone who enjoys the Fitbit ecosystem and wants a more advanced fitness tracking experience.
Overall we are quite fond of this new rendition, but there are some notable issues. The most glaring issue is the display. Although the AMOLED display is vibrant and crisp, its size makes it difficult for those with poor eyesight to see. While taking this device out on a bright day, we found it somewhat difficult to read. Despite these concerns, we believe that the Fitbit Charge will satisfy most consumers' needs due to its reliable smart and health features.
After compiling our team and receiving all the watches, we evaluated every aspect and conducted rigorous side-by-side tests and assessments. We measured their maximum battery life under normal use conditions, checked the accuracy of their fitness tracking abilities, compared popular app compatibility, evaluated ease-of-use, display quality, screen responsiveness, and much more. Read on to learn how each watch measured up in each of these key metrics.
Our smartwatch testing is divided across five rating metrics:
Smart Functions (30% of overall score weighting)
Health (20% weighting)
Battery (20% weighting)
Ease of Use (15% weighting)
Display (15% weighting)
We began with tons of product research to determine which watches were the most intriguing. We then purchased those models at full price. We don't ever accept free units to review, and we have no financial incentive to pick one product over another. For the past four years, our smartwatch testing process has been spearheaded by Austin Palmer and Jessica Ricoscente . Austin has extensive experience reviewing smart home and wearable products, having reviewed dozens of fitness trackers, pedometers, GPS watches, and VR headsets in addition to smartwatches. Jessica's experience in product development has been invaluable to our smartwatch testing process. She has brought new and improved methods to make sure our reviews are on the top of their game. New to the team is Ben Hickok and Jared Eastlick. Ben is an avid outdoor adventurer and tech professional — the ideal combo for assessing a product like smartwatches. Jared brings a discerning eye to product assessment from his experience in quality assurance.
Price and performance have a strong correlation when it comes down to these products. For example, the Apple Watch Series 8 is an exceptional product, but the base price is significantly higher than most of the other products we tested. If you have an iPhone and want all the features and functionality of your phone on your wrist, it may be worth it. But this device isn't affordable for many and may even provide more than you really want or need.
For those seeking a solid smartwatch with a strong battery, the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 is a great choice. It hits an incredible balance of good performance at an affordable price point, the true hallmarks of a high-value product. Our top choice for Samsung users, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5, is a premium watch that, while pricey, retails for less than you might expect. This too is a high-value product for the right user.
This metric constitutes 30% of the total score for each watch. Here we tested the compatibility with popular apps, whether or not we could take phone calls on our wrists, control our music, pay for things, and leave our phone behind with onboard cellular capability. We tried to install and use the apps on each device and tested support for popular apps, focusing specifically on Uber, Messenger, Spotify, Strava, IFTTT, Evernote, Shazam, Twitterrific, Instagram, and Pandora. Of note: many of the watches we tested run Google's Wear OS at their core, so they essentially share the same modest amount of third-party app compatibility.
Again the Apple Watch Series 8 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 took home the top scores. They provide the broadest support for popular apps, with the best smart features and functionality available today. And, as you might expect from wearables expanding on the performance and success of previous models, the Series 8 and Galaxy 5 proved to be very capable of handling calls, controlling music, making wireless payments, and both include an onboard GPS. Both models are also available with cellular capabilities (for a bump up in price); you can put them on an independent data plan, and they will function separately from your phone.
While not as great as our top offerings, the Pixel Watch,TicWatch E3, Ticwatch Pro 3 GPS, and Fossil Gen 6 all have more modest smart features and functions and were proficient at taking phone calls, controlling music, making wireless payments, and include onboard GPS. However, all of these models lack a cellular capability upgrade except the Pixel Watch, meaning there is no option for the user to leave their phone behind. However, the E3 did an exceptional job handling phone calls and has the added ability to scroll through call logs and even dial out from the smartwatch.
Next, we compared and scored each watch's various fitness and health tracking features. We weighted this metric at 20% of the final score for each device. We based scores on the accuracy of the step counter (as determined by comparing the count shown on each watch to our manual count over a mile-long walk), which workouts each watch can track and what data they collect, the utility of the safety features, the accuracy of the heart rate monitor (again by comparing the measured reading against a chest strap HR monitor), and other health features.
We may be starting to sound like a broken record, but the Apple Series 8 performed the best across this metric. This watch is incredible for anyone wanting to keep on top of every part of their health and wellness. Not only can you track any kind of workout (with great accuracy, as confirmed by our heart rate and step counting control tests), but the watch can also remind you to stand up every hour, will prompt you to take deep breaths, monitor your heart rate and blood oxygen level and much more. You can even set it up to track your sleep patterns and recognize when you're washing your hands, encouraging you to wash for a full 20 seconds. Conversely, if some of these health and fitness monitoring add-ons feel too invasive, they can all be disabled in your settings.
Our other top performers for this metric are the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and Google Pixel Watch. Both of these watches have great step counters and an excellent library of workout-tracking options. The Pixel Watch outperformed the Galaxy 5 in heart rate (HR) monitoring but underperformed when it came to safety features.
The TicWatch Pro 3 performance was uninspiring at best. It offers exceptional workout selection and solid step tracking but rather poor HR monitoring. The lack of any meaningful safety features was also a contributing factor to this watch's overall health score.
Finally, we tested how long each watch lasted with normal use, how long it took to completely charge a dead watch, and how long it took to charge to different charge levels. The combined scores of the battery metric made up the final 20% of the overall score for each smartwatch.
We sent various notifications, texts, and calls to each watch at identical intervals to measure the battery life under normal use, noting how long it took for their batteries to deplete. Interestingly, the charging rate of the batteries in these devices isn't linear. They charge more rapidly for a large percentage of the battery capacity, then slow down as they approach a full charge. That's why we tested the time it took to recharge each battery to a 25%, 50%, and 75% charge level, as well as a nearly full charge.
By far the best battery performance of the group was the TicWatch Pro 3. This smartwatch can last up to 36 hours with a full charge, the longest in the group! When factoring in the remarkable smart and health capabilities of this device, the Pro 3 battery is nothing short of spectacular.
While the Apple Series 8 and Samsung Galaxy 5 dominated every other test we threw at them, this is the area where they aren't so impressive. Both operated for about 32 hours under normal use. Premium performance consumes power and therefore comes at the cost of shorter battery life. Fortunately, both these devices charge relatively quickly.
Ease of Use
Comprising 15% of the total score for each smartwatch and our most heavily weighted metric, we tested features and functions that add or detract from a product's user-friendliness. We awarded points for water resistance, charging setup, crown or bezel scrolling, and screen responsiveness. Our tests identified a few winners, some average performers, and devices that left a lot to be desired.
The Apple Watch Series 8 and the Google Pixel Watch were the leaders overall for ease of use, with Apple being in the top spot. But to our surprise, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 was a close runner-up, scoring slightly lower than the Pixel Watch. The ability to navigate using a crown or bezel greatly improves user-friendliness. The Galaxy Watch 5 actually has a completely digital bezel that makes good use of haptic feedback for an overall incredibly user-friendly experience. All three of these watches were very responsive, setting them apart from many other models.
The Fossil Gen 6 made good use of a crown for scrolling and navigation as well. It didn't work with every menu we tested, but it added significantly to a positive user experience.
A device that is only splashproof or water-resistant enough to withstand an accidental submersion into shallow water is far less convenient, especially for tracking a pool workout or surf session. Fortunately, whether you are prone to accidents or intend to track intense pool workouts, many of the models we tested have you covered. The Apple Watch 8, Samsung Galaxy 5, Fitbit Charge 5, and TicWatch Pro 3 all have water-resistance ratings of 5 ATM, or in layman's terms, can survive depths up to 50 meters.
A few of the wearables we tested, like the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, Mobvoi TicWatch E3, and Fossil Gen 6 were less water-resistant, and some even had ambiguous claims and ratings that left us confused about whether or not we could wear them into the shower. The need to remove those devices for showers, pool workouts, or just doing dishes seriously impacted their ease of use scores.
Overall, there were no completely non-user-friendly devices that we tested. Even the devices that scored on the lower end were all reasonably user-friendly, especially once you get in a groove.
Smart features are useless if you can't see the information displayed on the screen of your smart device. The metric concentrated 15% of the final score of each product and assessed the following items: screen quality, visibility in both bright and dim light, whether or not the brightness could automatically adjust to changing light conditions, and if an 'always-on' mode was available.
The Apple Watch Series 8 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 were virtually tied for the top spot in this metric. They have eye-catching displays that are very easy to read in all lighting conditions. We found the Retina display on the Apple Watch to be equally as impressive as the AMOLED display of the Samsung. The Galaxy only outshone the Series 8 with respect to an auto-brightness setting; otherwise, the differences in exceptionalism between these top-tier offerings were negligible.
The Pixel Watch and the TicWatch Pro 3 also offer excellent displays. They both have lovely image quality, and everything about the display is easy to read and appealing.
The lower-scoring models left a lot to be desired when trying to read the screens in a range of different lighting environments. That's not to say they have bad screens, but they were outshined by the exceptional quality screens used by other models.
It's worth mentioning that the Fossil Gen 6 has an auto-brightness setting, which other premium models lack.
Sorting through different specifications and feature sets to find the best model for your needs can be a challenge. We hope that we've helped you narrow down your choices to a few top contenders and provided you with the insight needed to make your final decision.
Jessica Riconscente, Benjamin Hickok, and Jared Eastlick
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.