Updated January 2019
For this smartwatch update, we added in a new contender from Mobvoi, the TicWatch C2. While this watch does improve on its predecessor, the TicWatch E, the C2 is also quite a bit more expensive, failing to topple the E and claim its Best Buy award. The C2 doesn't add too much in terms of increased functionality, but it does have a more polished overall look and we liked the display a bit better. However, its price and performance leave it in a bit of an awkward position. We would recommend saving some money and sticking with the E if you are shopping on a budget or spending a bit more and getting a far better watch than the C2 if you are looking for the best. Keep reading to see exactly why we think this and how the C2 stacks up to the other smart timepieces that we have tested over the years.
Best for Samsung Phones
Samsung Galaxy Watch
: IP68 | Heart Rate Monitor
Extremely easy to use
Awesome battery life
Fantastic fitness tracking
Less comprehensive smart functions
Gigantic on most wrists
Earning one of the highest scores we have seen so far, the Samsung Galaxy is an all-around impressive smartwatch. It is absolutely jam-packed with fitness tracking functions, has a solid set of smart features, and a great display, coupled with unmatched performance in our battery life test. It's also incredibly convenient and easy to use.
However, this watch is definitely on the larger side and is very noticeable on your wrist, making it a poor choice if you prefer your wearables to be a bit more on the discreet side. Available in a 46mm and 42mm bezel size, even the smaller bezel can look absolutely enormous on those with more petite wrists. Aside from that, we had a hard time finding any other major flaws with this product, easily making it our top recommendation for anyone with a Samsung smartphone who is looking for the absolute best you can get when it comes to smartwatches
Read Full Review: Samsung Galaxy Watch
Best for iOS users
Apple Watch Series 4
: Up to 50m | Heart Rate Monitor
Incredibly convenient and easy to use
Innovative heart health features
Tons of available apps
Incompatible with non-iOS phones
Battery life could be better
Right on the heels of the Galaxy Watch, the Apple Watch Series 4 missed out on the top score by a single point. However, it still earned an Editors' Choice Award, as it is the best option for iPhone users, hands-down. This smartwatch has a comprehensive set of smart functions, including the largest library of standalone apps, as well as a very impressive set of heart monitoring features. It's super user-friendly to operate and has a solid set of fitness tracking features — even being water resistant enough to track your swimming workouts. It has the best display out of any wearable that we have tested and is available in multiple colors with different bands.
However, we did wish that the battery life was a little bit better. This watch also comes with a hefty price tag, with the standard edition already being the most expensive of the group and the LTE edition adding another $100 for that. Regardless, the Series 4 is a fantastic watch for anyone with an iPhone — if you can afford it.
Read Full Review: Apple Watch Series 4
Best for Android Phones
Huawei Watch 2
: IP68 | Heart Rate Monitor
Fantastic fitness tracking
Great set of smart functions
Average battery life
Offering substantial improvements to the original Huawei Watch, the Huawei Watch 2 is our new favorite smartwatch for those with Android phones. This is the first offering from Huawei that incorporates Wear OS, the latest version from Google, and makes use of all the new features that this operating system affords. The Watch 2 incorporates a built-in GPS unit and NFC (Near Field Communication) to allow you to use Google Pay. The inclusion of the GPS module boosts the already impressive set of fitness tracking abilities of the previous Watch 1, making the Watch 2 our top recommendation for those fitness-minded Android users out there. This impressive fitness tracking performance and improved suite of smart functions combine to net this watch our Editors' Choice award and the title of Best Smartwatch for Android Phones.
Our biggest complaint that we had with the Watch 2 by Huawei is its overall appearance. Its design harkens back to a cheap digital watch from the '80s — almost bordering on tacky — and makes an already small display seem even smaller. However, while it may be a bit deficient in the style department, it does more than make up for it with its excellent set of features and functions, making it our first choice for those who use the Android operating system on their smartphones.
Read Full Review: Huawei Watch 2
Best Bang for the Buck
: IP67 | Heart Rate Monitor
Works with both Android and iOS (iOS functions are slightly reduced)
Mediocre battery life
Unimpressive fitness tracking
While the TicWatch E didn't deliver the best performance overall, we were quite impressed by just how much functionality is crammed into such a low-profile and low-cost watch. This watch has both a built-in speaker and microphone, allowing you to utilize the Google Assistant and take calls right on your wrist, though we did find it to be a bit finicky to accomplish the latter. It also has other rudimentary smart functions, such as translation, viewing your push notifications, controlling your tunes, and replying to text messages. Thanks to Wear OS, it has the ability to run standalone apps and grants you access to the Google Play Store — even for iOS users. It also has a built-in GPS module and heart rate monitor, allowing you to track your workout progress using the Google Fit.
Unfortunately, this watch isn't terribly accurate at counting your steps or measuring your heart rate. It also lacks the ability to be used as a payment method and has no standalone cellular capabilities. It also has a less than stellar battery life and a screen that is rather lackluster in quality. However, despite these negative aspects, the TicWatch is by far the best you can get if you are shopping on a tight budget.
Read Full Review: TicWatch E
Fantastic for Fitness-Minded Users
: Up to 50m | Heart Rate Monitor
Easy to use
Best for workout tracking
Slow to charge
Limited app selection
While the Fitbit Versa isn't one of the top overall scorers and doesn't have the best set of fitness tracking features, this watch did stand out as a great option for people that are very fitness-focused. It grants you access to the extensive set of competitive and non-competitive challenges in the Fitbit app and even has a built-in coaching app. It also is quite a bit less expensive than the top products and is a much more discreet form factor.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have a built-in GPS unit, instead relying on your smartphone's. It also doesn't track quite as many activities as the top products, like the Galaxy. It also isn't the best at tracking heart rates, tending to show some variations and erratic measurements when your heart is at an elevated level. The Versa also doesn't have the largest set of smart features, but it will show most push notifications. However, while it does have some flaws, it is a great value option for someone looking for a smartwatch that is more in line with a traditional fitness tracker.
Read Full Review: Fitbit Versa
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Some of the best smartwatches you can get.
Analysis and Test Results
We've spent the past year buying and evaluating the best smartwatches on the market, continually updating our review each time promising new products have been released. In addition to tons of research, going through hundreds of user reviews and all of the available information on each watch, we also test the performance of these products side-by-side, subjecting them to our comprehensive testing process. This process is composed of over 25 different tests, divided up among five rating metrics. These metrics — Ease of Use, Fitness Tracking, Smart Functions, Battery Life, and Display — are each weighted proportional to their importance, with the full results of our testing procedure described below.
There is definitely a strong correlation between price and performance when it comes to these products. Our top picks, the Apple Watch Series 4 and the Samsung Galaxy are both top-notch timepieces, but both are quite pricey — the base model Series 4 retailing for $399 and the standalone cellular model costing closer to $400, while the base Galaxy goes for $279 and the larger model costing $299.
Two of the top products we have seen so far.
Our favorite choice for Wear OS models, the Huawei Watch 2 is also comparably expensive, also having a list price of around $300, but can usually be found at a reduced price at major retailers. However, if these high price tags are giving you cause to panic, then you should consider the TicWatch E. This is our favorite watch when shopping on a budget, even though it didn't score the highest overall, it offers a solid performance at a price that is less than half of the cost of the top models — $160, and usually can be found on sale for even less — and has most of the essential functions that you would want from one of these products. The Fitbit Versa is another attractive budget options, especially if you are particularly interested in the fitness tracking features of these products. It is a bit more expensive than the TicWatch, costing around $200 and scores quite a bit better overall, as well as granting you access to the extensive Fitbit fitness ecosystem. Unfortunately, it does lack a dedicated GPS, relying on a connected one instead.
The Gear S3 was particularly easy to use.
Ease of Use
Initially, you may be surprised that Ease of Use is the highest-weighted metric for these products, comprising 30% of the total score. These watches are meant to be worn daily, seamlessly integrating into your life, all while allowing you to maintain a constant connection to your personal digital ecosystem. A watch that is frustrating to use will quickly cease to be worn, instantly losing practically all of its utility. The following chart shows which models were a pleasure to use and which ones proved quite irritating.
We checked if these watches were waterproof, whether or not there was a crown scroll, how hard it was to take a screenshot, how they charged, and the difficulty of swapping wristbands. We also placed a great deal of importance on-screen responsiveness, evaluating it through two different tests. These products will turn off their displays when your arms are at your side, turning them back on when you swivel your wrist to look at the screen. This proved more difficult in practice, with some model having a much longer delay than others. In addition, we compared the interface of each model — how easy it was to use the touchscreen to navigate through different menus.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch, Gear S3, Gear Sport, and the Apple Watch Series 4 all tied for the top score in this metric, each earning an 8 out of 10. These watches all have exceptionally responsive touch screens for navigating through menus on the device and will wake up with practically zero delay when you turn your wrist to view them.
The Apple Watch seamlessly woke when you raised your wrist to view it.
The Apple Watch Series 4 utilizes a crown scroll — the dial on the side can be rotated to scroll through menus — making it exceptionally easy to navigate quickly. This newest edition of the Apple Watch now features haptic feedback as well.
We liked having the crown to easily scroll through menus.
All three of the Samsung smartwatches lack a crown scroll instead utilizing a rotating bezel for a physical interface.
The rotating bezel is a super easy way to navigate through the menus on this watch.
The Samsung smartwatches all rely on a charging cradle, establishing an easy to use and extremely secure connection.
The Gear Sport has a nice charging cradle.
The Apple Watch Series 4 uses an inductive charger that mounts to the back of the watch with magnets. The connection is quite strong, but the charger can be knocked off with sufficient force. However, you can purchase bases for the standard charger that turns it into a charging cradle or stand if you prefer a more secure connection.
The magnetic wireless charger is fairly secure, but can get jostled free.
These watches are all waterproof enough to take swimming or in the shower. The Apple Watch meets a slightly more rigorous standard than the Gear S3, ISO 22810:10:2010 compared to IP68+, while both the Galaxy and the Gear Sport are rated for up to 5 ATM or 50 meters of water resistance. All of these watches even have a dedicated profile for tracking your swimming workouts.
It is a little easier to take screenshots on the Apple Watch than on the trio of Samsung watches by pressing both buttons simultaneously, which will automatically send the photo straight to your phone. You hold down the "Home" button and swiping to the right to take the screenshot on the Galaxy, Gear S3, or the Gear Sport, but it won't automatically sync to your phone, requiring you to manually send it from the gallery.
The Apple Watch makes it easy to swap wristbands, but you have to use Apple-specific models.
It was very easy to swap wristbands on all of these models, taking very little time at all, though it is a tiny bit faster and easier to swap between bands on the Apple Watch. Unfortunately, it is a little more difficult to locate compatible bands for this watch than for the Samsung smartwatches, as the Apple Watch doesn't use the typical watch mechanism.
The LG Watch Sport was right on the heels of this top group earning a 7 out of 10. The screen wasn't quite as responsive, with a slightly noticeable delay for the watch to wake up when you lifted your wrist to view it. It also wasn't quite as easy as the Apple Watch or Galaxy to navigate through the menus using the touchscreen. However, this model does have a crown scroll.
We preferred to use the crown scroll on the LG Watch to navigate, rather than the touchscreen.
This model also uses a charging cradle to establish a reliable connection for charging and is IP68 rated for waterproofness. Unfortunately, this model missed out on the top score by lacking the ability to swap wristbands and by the difficulty in capturing a screenshot. The LG Watch Sport has an antenna in the band and uses the Wear OS app to capture a screenshot. This app was finicky and we almost always found a discrepancy between the preview of the screenshot and the actual screenshot.
Next, the Huawei Watch 2, the TicWatch C2, the Fossil Q Explorist HR, and the Fitbit Versa all earned a 6 out of 10 for being above average in terms of ease of use, but each having a few drawbacks that made them slightly more of a hassle than the top watches.
The Huawei Watch 2 connects extremely securely to its charger, utilizing a plastic clip to catch the body of the watch securely. It is also reasonably water resistant, complying with the IP68 standard. This model does lack any rotational input method, restricting you to the touchscreen to navigate the watch's menus.
The smaller display on the Watch 2 made it a little more difficult to use the touchscreen.
The screen is reasonably responsive, waking from sleep mode after about a second delay. It was relatively painless to swap wristbands, though the curved shape of the Watch 2 makes it a little trickier and restricts it to bands specifically made for the Watch 2.
The Fitbit Versa is one of the more water resistant models that we have seen, rated for submersion up to 50 meters, making it more than suitable for accompanying you in the shower or in the pool. It also has one of the most secure charging cradles of the entire group, actually clamping the watch in the place to the point where no amount of reasonable shaking would knock it loose.
The charging cradle holds the Versa very, very securely.
It's about average to swap wristbands on the Versa, which relies on the standard, sliding clasp style mechanism. It requires a little dexterity, but it can be accomplished quite easily without any specialized tools. The touchscreen is quite responsive, though occasionally the Versa does have a slight lag when raising your wrist, being a bit slow to wake from sleep mode. There isn't any sort of physical rotational input, like a crown or bezel scroll, but it does have a few buttons so you aren't completely reliant on the touchscreen to interact with the watch.
The Versa is decently easy to use.
Unfortunately, you can't take screenshots of the information on the screen, though this functionality may eventually show up.
The Fossil Explorist HR has a decently responsive touchscreen, but also has a crown scroll as an additional input method. It's fairly easy to swap wristbands, but we did wish the charging connection was a bit more secure, being noticeably more prone to accidental disconnects than the Apple Watch Series 4. It also is rated as water resistant to 30 meters, making it suitable for tracking swimming laps or wearing in the shower.
The crown scroll makes it very easy to navigate through the menus on the Explorist HR.
The C2 also relies solely on a touchscreen as an input method, which we found to be a bit finicky throughout our testing, periodically misreading a tap as a swipe and vice-versa.
The C2 uses WearOS.
We also found that the C2 is one of the slower watches to wake when sleeping, taking almost a complete second for the screen to light up when we raised our wrist to look at it. We also wished that the water resistance of this watch had been increased, as it is still only marked as rain or sweat proof, not suitable for total submergence or swimming. However, we did appreciate that it is extremely easy to swap the watch bands — almost on par with the Apple Watch Series 4 — and that the magnetically coupled charger attaches very securely, once you have it aligned.
The C2 is relatively secure on its charging base.
The TicWatch E and Fitbit Ionic both merited a 5 out of 10 for their average performance. The TicWatch E received an IP67 rating, but states that it is splash-proof for daily wet environments, so we wouldn't recommend taking it swimming or wearing it in the bathtub. However, the Ionic has a dedicated profile for tracking swimming workouts, making it a much better option if you plan on submerging your new smartwatch.
Both of these models lack a crown scroll or rotating bezel and rely on the touchscreen as the primary input method. We found the Ionic to be the most responsive of the group and the TicWatch being slightly slower. The TicWatch does have a noticeable delay to wake when you raise your wrist — about one second.
This watch takes a little longer to wake up than some of the others.
Both the Ionic
and the TicWatch
take much longer to wake than the Apple Watch
or one of the Samsung products, unable to compete with the barely noticeable delay of these top products. However, it is easier to swap bands on the TicWatch
and the Ionic
than the Apple Watch
— about the same as the Galaxy
The Fitbit Ionic has a charging connector that plugs into the back of the watch, but we found it could easily be disconnected with only minor movement.
It didn't take too much to accidentally jostle the charging connector out of the Ionic.
The TicWatch uses magnets to align its charging connector, similar to the Apple Watch but we found it much easier to accidentally disconnect it from slight movement.
The Apple Watch had a full set of Smart Functions available, like responding to text messages.
This metric encompasses the main set of features on these products, comparing the compatibility with popular apps, whether or not you could take phone calls on your wrist, control your music, pay for things, or navigate with a built-in GPS. To test app compatibility, we picked a sample group of 10 common apps (Uber, Facebook Messenger, Spotify, Strava, IFTTT, Evernote, Shazam, Instagram, and Twitter) and tried to install them on each model. This group of tests makes up 20% of the total score, with the following chart showing how all of the models scored.
The Apple Watch Series 4 took home the top score when it came to smart functions, earning an 8 out of 10. This model was compatible Uber, Facebook Messenger, Strava, IFTTT (If this, then that), Evernote, Shazam, and Twitterific (a Twitter viewer). It also has limited functionality with Spotify, though there are rumors of a full-featured app in the works. The Apple Watch Series 4 lets you take calls on your wrist, using its built-in microphone and speaker. The sound quality was about average, being able to easily hear the other party talking with your arm bent at a 90-degree angle.
You can answer calls right on your wrist with the Apple Watch.
This watch has a built-in GPS that will automatically turn on when the phone is out of range, as well as standalone LTE connectivity if you paid for the upgrade. It also has NFC communication and is usable with Apple Pay. This model also has music control and the capability to open Pandora from the watch itself, as well as voice control through Siri.
Next, the LG Watch Sport earned a 7 out of 10. The LG Watch Sport lacked some of the app compatibility that the Apple Watch 4 had, completely unable to use Instagram, Twitter, and Evernote and only able to use Facebook Messenger with limited functionality. However, this model did have more functionality with the Spotify app than the Apple Watch 4. This model works with Google Pay and does have a built-in GPS module. You can take calls on the watch and it had slightly better audio quality than the Apple Watch. Music controls will automatically appear when relevant as well.
The LG Watch Sport is compatible with an impressive array of apps, almost on par with the Apple Watch.
Next, the Samsung Galaxy Watch, the Gear S3, the Explorist HR, the TicWatch C2, and the Huawei Watch 2 all earned a 6 out of 10. These watches are compatible with substantially fewer apps than the two previously mentioned models, severely hurting their score. Both Galaxy and the S3 are compatible with Uber and Spotify, but don't have full versions of any of our other sample apps. However, messages from Facebook Messenger will show up like a normal SMS message, even allowing you to reply and offering a handful of preset responses.
There is a solid set of smart features on this Samsung watch.
Both of these Samsung watches have a microphone and speaker, allowing you to take or receive calls right from your wrist, with the audio being about average in quality. You can control music through both of these watches, but you can't thumb up or down songs on streaming services. Additionally, these both can use Samsung Pay with contactless payment terminals and have integrated GPS units. There are also LTE versions of both these watches available, allowing you to use cellular services and make calls when they are not paired with your smartphone.
The Watch 2 is compatible with Uber, Shazam, IFTTT, Strava, Spotify, and Facebook Messenger, putting it above average in terms of app compatibility. It was difficult to capture a screenshot — like all other Wear OS watches — and has similar music controls. This model does set itself apart by having both NFC and a dedicated GPS — something its predecessor lacked. It also has a built-in microphone and speaker, allowing you to make and take calls right from your wrist.
The built-in speaker and microphone of the Watch 2 allow you to take calls right on your wrist.
The Explorist HR and the Ticwatch C2 both run on Wear OS — identical to the Huawei Watch 2, so they have essentially the identical set of app compatibility. The Explorist HR is also compatible with Android Pay and has a built-in GPS, but does not have let you take calls on your wrist, lacking a speaker.
The TicWatch C2 expands on the smart functions of the TicWatch E, including NFC communication so you can use it as a payment option with Google (Android) Pay. It also has a microphone for voice control and an integrated GPS module, but doesn't have a speaker for taking standalone calls. It also has the standard set of music controls available on the Wear OS watches.
Next, the TicWatch E and the Samsung Gear Sport both earned a 5 out of 10 for their average suite of smart functions. The TicWatch E is another Wear OS watch, having identical app compatibility as the Huawei Watch 2 and the Explorist HR. However, the TicWatch E does have a built-in speaker for taking calls, unlike the Explorist. While the TicWatch claims to have this ability and we have seen videos of users demonstrating it, we never really got it to successfully and reliably work in our tests, which might be something to consider if you are extremely attached to that feature. The TicWatch does have basic music controls and a standalone GPS unit, but lacks any sort of payment capabilities or NFC communication.
The Samsung Gear Sport had a smaller range of app compatibility, identical to the other Samsung watches. It will notify you of incoming calls, though you have to answer them on your phone, rather than on the device itself, compared to the Galaxy or the S3 that have built-in speakers. However, if you also have your phone paired with a set of Bluetooth earbuds or headphones, it will allow you to answer the call from the watch itself. The Gear Sport does have a built-in GPS, as well as the ability to pay for transactions using Samsung Pay and control your music.
Finishing out this metric is the Fitbit Ionic earning a 4 out of 10 and the Fitbit Versa earning a 3 out of 10 for their overall lackluster showing when it came to being smart. This pair of watches both use the Fitbit app store, which is quite limited currently, though there are more and more apps becoming available as developers jump on the smart Fitbit bandwagon.
A sample of the available apps on the Fitbit store.
Some of the main apps that these watches are currently compatible with are Uber, Starbucks, Strava, and Pandora.
There is no bezel or crown to assist in navigating menus.
You don't have the ability to take phone calls on the Ionic and it lacks standalone LTE connectivity, but it does have Fitbit Pay and the ability to control your music.
The Fitbit Versa mostly shares the same app compatibility with the Ionic and also lacks a built-in speaker or microphone to take calls on your wrist, but it will allow you to answer or decline them.
You can answer calls from the Versa but it lacks a speaker or mic to take the call without your phone.
You can set which push notifications you want the watch to display, as well as respond to messages with a set of pre-programmed responses or fitness-themed emojis.
Some of the preset fitness-themed emojis on the Versa.
However, the response function is only available to Android or Samsung users at the time of writing. The Versa has the standard music controls and can also pair directly with a pair of Bluetooth earbuds for standalone music playback if you don't want to bring your phone. Unfortunately, the Versa lacks a dedicated GPS module, instead using the one in your smartphone, forcing you to bring it along if you want GPS-based fitness tracking or other location services. The standard edition of the Versa also lacks an NFC chip to utilize the Fitbit Pay. The special edition does have this chip, but retails for about $30 more, but still lacks a dedicated standalone GPS.
You can customize the different watch faces to match your preferences.
None of the assorted smart features on any of these products are of any use if you can't actually see the information displayed on the watch. We evaluated the screen quality, its visibility in bright light, whether or not the brightness could automatically adjust to changing light conditions, or if an always-on mode was available. We also awarded points if the screen was a complete circle and not truncated at the bottom. This metric made up 20% of the total scores and the following chart shows how the watches stacked.
Once again, the Apple Watch Series 4, the Samsung Galaxy, the Gear S3, and the Samsung Gear Sport tied for the first place position in this group of tests, all earning an 8 out of 10.
We did think the Apple Watch Series 4 displays a slightly better image on its OLED Retina Displays than the full-color AMOLED display on the Samsung smartwatches. The Apple Watch comes in two sizes: 42m and 38mm, with the larger screen having a slightly better resolution.
This watch is incredibly intuitive and user-friendly to use.
It is super easy to see the screen of this watch in both bright sunlight and in dimmer conditions. However, the Apple Watch lacks automatic brightness adjust and does not have an always-on mode — something all three of the Samsung watches have.
We found the image on all three of the Samsung watches to be about the same, though the larger Galaxy watch and the S3 have slightly larger 1.3" screens, while the Gear Sport and the smaller Galaxy have a 1.2" screen. It's super easy to read the display on all of these watches in even bright sunlight and we found the ability to turn the backlight to be always on or to automatically adjust to be quite handy.
This smartwatch has one of the best displays of the entire bunch.
The pair of smartwatches from Fitbit came next, with the Versa and the Ionic both earning a 7 out of 10 for their excellent, but still second-tier screens. The Fitbit Versa has a very visually stunning square LCD display, measuring in at 1.34" across and having a resolution of 300x300.
Unfortunately, the display can be hard to read in bright ambient light due to the white text becoming washed out.
Unfortunately, it is a bit hard to read the text in bright lighting conditions, mainly due to the white-on-black color scheme they picked, with the sun usually washing out the text when outside on a sunny day. We did like the automatic brightness adjustment modes, but would have liked to see the ability to set the display to be always-on at any time, not just when using the watch to workout.
The Ionic has an excellent high-quality display.
The Fitbit Ionic also has a great display, almost matching that of the Samsung Gear Sport or the Galaxy. It is a rectangular 348x250 display that will automatically adjust its brightness to ambient light conditions, but it is still a little harder to read than the Apple or Samsung watches in bright lighting conditions. It also can only be set to be always-on during workouts, rather than at any time, like the Samsung watches.
You can setup the display to be always on or auto adjust brightness.
Next, the Fossil Explorist HR, the TicWatch C2, and the LG Watch Sport both merited a 6 out of 10 for their slightly above average displays. Both of these watches have essentially the same size display and are about the same in image quality — good, but noticeably worse than the Apple Watch or Samsung Galaxy. The Explorist has an AMOLED type screen, while the LG Watch Sport uses a P-OLED screen.
The LG Watch Sport had a very easy to read display.
The TicWatch C2 has a 1.3" AMOLED display. It's reasonably high quality, improving on the display of its predecessors, but still can't quite compare to the Retina or Super AMOLED displays of the best models.
The C2 has a nice display, but not as good as the top models.
All three of these have an always-on mode available, but the TicWatch C2 lacks the ability to automatically adjust the backlight brightness to ambient lighting conditions. However, all three of these can both be a bit hard to read in direct sunlight.
The display of the Watch 2 was a little on the small side.
The Huawei Watch 2 and the TicWatch E rounded out the back of the pack in our display metric, both earning a subpar 5 out of 10. The display on the Watch 2 was one of the smaller ones of the group, measuring in at 1.2". This 390 x 390 AMOLED screen appeared even smaller than it actually was, due to it being recessed in the watch bezel significantly more than other models.
It can be hard to see this watch in bright ambient light.
The TicWatch has a slightly larger 400x400, 1.4" fully circular display, though it has a slightly lower dpi than the Watch 2. It's not super easy to read in bright conditions and won't automatically adjust the brightness of the backlight. However, there is an always-on mode that you enable if the time to wake is too long for you, at the expense of battery life.
The Series 4 can track a variety of different water workouts.
The technology in these products has progressed to the point that it is now possible to fit in a full suite of fitness tracking abilities, in addition to all of the smart functions. We compared the accuracy of the step counter and heart rate monitor, as well as evaluated the workout tracking and stair tracking abilities. You can see how each product scored in the chart below.
The Huawei Watch 2 lead the pack in this metric, earning an unparalleled 9 out of 10 for its superior fitness tracking performance. While this watch had quite an accurate step counter, we did note a discrepancy of about 1.8% off of our manual count on a mile walk, or about 39 steps.
While it wasn't the most accurate step counter, the Watch 2 was quite accurate.
We did like that this model had its own app for monitoring heart rate and would monitor your pulse continuously when using the "Workout" app, refreshing about 12 times a minute. It will also log the vertical feet climbed each day as a daily tracking metric. While this model did well in our rankings of step counts, stair counts, and heart rate measuring, it was the workout tracking that vaulted this watch to the front of the pack. With three different workout apps (Google Fit, Runtastic, and Workout) to choose from, you have a plethora of different athletic profiles to choose from.
The Watch 2 had by far the largest set of workout profiles available.
There are a ton of different athletic metrics logged for each activity, such as duration, speed, average heart rate, pace, and route, to name a few.
The Apple Watch Series 4, the Samsung Galaxy, the Gear S3, and the Gear Sport.Samsung Gear S3 and the Gear Sport, all tied for the second place position, each earning a score of 8 out of 10 for their fitness tracking features. All of these watches are highly accurate at counting steps, with the largest discrepancy for any of these watches being about 34 steps in any of our mile-long walking tests. However, the Apple Watch Series 4 had a clear edge in our heart rate monitoring assessments, delivering by far the best performance we have seen to date. This watch was almost always within 2 bpm of the value shown by our chest strap HR monitor we used as a control. The Samsung watches also did well, but we did find larger discrepancies more frequently compared to the Series 4, especially in active heart rate zones.
The Samsung Galaxy is the clear winner when it comes to workout tracking, having the most different profiles and automatically detecting if you start being active and recording it and even chain together up to 6 different exercises if you switch activities mid-workout.
This watch is highly accurate when it comes to counting steps.
and the Gear Sport
are about the same in terms of fitness tracking, though the Gear Sport
does have a swimming profile. Both have a slightly reduced set of functions compared to the Galaxy
, but still have a wider set of abilities than the Series 4
The Gear S3 had one of the widest variety of trackable workouts.
However, the Series 4, Galaxy, and Gear Sport all fared very poorly when it came to counting flights of stairs climbed, with only the S3 even coming close to recording all 10 flights of stairs we climbed in the test.
The Fitbit Versa followed, meriting a 7 out of 10 for its solid fitness tracking capabilities. The Versa scored exceptionally well in our step count accuracy assessment, only wavering from the true manual count by 5 steps or so in each of our mile-long trials. It also scored quite highly in our heart rate monitoring test, matching up with our control chest strap heart rate monitor very closely. It would waiver if your heart rate was changing rapidly, but this is a common problem for almost all wrist heart rate monitors.
This smartwatch has a respectable set of workout tracking profiles built into the device and you also have the option of adjusting these in the app.
This watch is waterproof, allowing you to take it along for your swimming sessions.
You can track basic fitness stacks, such as distance, speed, estimated calories burned, average speed, and duration, though you do need to take your phone for the connected GPS to get the full set of tracking data. Additionally, the Versa also offers a built-in app called "Coach" that offers short guided workouts for when you need some extra inspiration about what to do.
The Versa has a series of guided workouts if you need some inspiration on your path to fitness.
The Versa also very accurately tracked the flights of stairs climbed in our test, accurately registering and recording 10 out of 10.
The Fitbit Ionic and the Explorist HR came next, each watch receiving a 6 out of 10 for their decent fitness tracking abilities.
The Fitbit Ionic less than stellar performance was a bit of a surprise, especially given Fitbit's origins as a fitness tracking company. It was decently accurate at counting steps, only deviating about 1.8% from the true manual count, but we weren't terribly impressed by its performance at measuring a heart rate in our tests. We found it to be a little erratic and it took a long time to settle on a stable reading. It also deviated substantially from the chest strap heart rate monitor we were comparing the reading to during a mild workout. The Ionic did have a decent number of workout profiles and is quite accurate at tracking flights of stairs climbed.
The Ionic is accurate at counting steps.
The Explorist was highly accurate in our step tracking tests, only deviating from the true count by about 8 steps in its worst trial. However, it was much more erratic when it came to measuring heart rate and does not track the number of stairs you climb. This watch runs on Wear OS and used the Google Fit app for workout tracking, which provides a respectable amount of different workouts that you can track and a solid set of recorded stats.
The step counter on this smartwatch was surprisingly accurate in our tests.
The TicWatch C2 is about average in terms of fitness tracking functions. It does have a fairly accurate step counter and a decent suite of different workouts you can track, either by using the default Google Fit app or a third-party app, like Strava or Runkeeper. It also will try and auto-detect the type of workout you are doing, though it does need a bit of training before it starts to work correctly.
The C2 was an average of 2% off during our step trials.
However, this watch does not monitor the number of stairs you climb each day and there was usually a huge discrepancy between the chest strap heart rate monitor and the heart rate recorded by the C2 in our tests, particularly with active heart rates.
Rounding out the back of the pack, the TicWatch E, and the LG Watch Sport both earned a 4 out of 10 for their overall lackluster fitness tracking performance. The LG Watch Sport had the largest discrepancy of the entire group with a difference of 8.1% in our test, or 172 steps. The TicWatch is almost as bad, exhibiting an average discrepancy of 7.25% in our tests,
However, the LG Watch and the TicWatch both have a heart rate monitor that we found to be somewhat accurate. They were both usually within 5 bpm of the chest strap while resting, but the TicWatch would usually exhibit variations that were quite large when exercising, usually differing from the chest strap by at least 10 bpm.
The heart rate monitor on this watch didn't seem to be the most accurate.
Neither of these watches has an altimeter for tracking the flights of stairs climbed throughout the day, but both have built-in GPS modules for tracking workout data when you leave your phone behind. These both also rely on the Google Fit app for this, having the identical set of workout profiles to choose from.
Some of the various activities that can be tracked by the Ticwatch.
Similar to our display metric, none of the various features and functions of these products are any good when the battery is dead. We tested how long each watch lasted with normal use, how long it would take to completely charge a dead watch, and how long it would take to charge to 50%, all combining to be worth 15% of the overall score for each smartwatch. This is because the batteries in these watches don't charge linearly, and will rapidly charge up most of the way, then slow down to top off. We sent a variety of notifications, texts, and calls to each watch throughout the test on an identical schedule for each model and recorded how long they lasted.
Delivering an unmatched performance, the Samsung Galaxy easily claimed the top spot for this metric, earning a 9 out of 10. This watch lasted for a whopping 118 hours in our test, or just shy of five days. It also states that you can get up to 24 hours of use from the GPS with a fully-charged battery. However, this watch does take a long time to charge, taking over an hour to reach 50% and almost three to completely recharge.
The Fitbit Ionic came next, earning an 8 out of 10 for its superb battery life. It lasted an impressive 96 hours of normal use.
The Ionic has great battery life.
It also charged decently fast, hitting 50% in just 45 minutes of charging and 100% after 123 minutes.
The Fitbit Versa, the Gear S3, and the Gear Sport all tied for third place in this group of tests, all meriting a 7 out of 10 for their solid battery life.
The Gear S3 lasted the longest of this group, holding on for an amazing 76 hours before the battery was completely dead, followed by the 72 hours of the Gear Sport. The Versa came next, remaining on for 57 hours of our testing process before calling it quits.
This watch has a decent battery life, but it can be shortened considerably, depending on use.
When it came to charging, the Versa did a bit better than the pair of Samsung watches, taking about 37 minutes to reach 50% battery and 105 minutes to completely recharge. This is substantially better than the Gear S3, which took 63 minutes to get to 50% and over two hours to completely charge and the Gear Sport, which took about 75 minutes to get to 50% and about three hours to charge.
Next, the Apple Watch Series 4 and the Huawei Watch 2 both earned a 6 out of 10. The Watch 2 made it 36.5 hours before entering a low-power, limited functionality "Watch Mode". The Series 4 lasted a bit longer, calling it quits after about 48 hours. A key thing to remember is that this test was based on normal, light use and battery life will be significantly shorter by using more power hungry components, such as the built-in GPS.
The Watch 2 did quite well in our charge time tests, taking around 30 minutes to charge to 50% and 80-90 minutes to totally top off. The Series 4 took 43 minutes to hit 50% and 110 minutes to completely charge.
The LG Watch Sport, the TicWatch C2, and the TicWatch E all earned a 5 out of 10 for their average battery. The LG Watch Sport lasted for 31.5 hours of normal use. It took about 50 minutes to hit halfway and 105 minutes to complete.
The magnetically coupled charging cable attaches quite securely.
The TicWatch E lasted for about 21.5 hours in our normal usage test — one of the shortest times of the group. This means you might get 2 days out of the watch, but most likely you are going to want to charge it every night or at some point every day. However, this model does charge quite quickly, only taking about 35 minutes to hit 50% and 75 minutes to completely top off a dead battery.
The C2 is about the same, though it usually lasts 3-5 hours longer than the E and has a roughly identical charging profile.
Comparing the best smartwatches side-by-side.
Sorting through all the different specifications and matching different models to your needs can be quite a difficult challenge, but hopefully, you have a good idea of where to start at this point. If you are looking for more information on smartwatches in general and the different types, check out our Buying Advice guide for a more in-depth explanation and analysis of these products. Alternatively, you might be interested in our How We Test article, which covers exactly what we did to test and score these products in greater detail.