The Best Smartwatches of 2017 for Android & iOS
Want the techiest smartwatch? We evaluated over 30 models, eventually buying the 9 best models for side-by-side testing. After over 170 hours of exhaustive head-to-head testing, we had found the winners. It can be exceedingly frustrating to sift through the technical specs and marketing claims for these pieces of wearable tech to find the perfect match That's where we come in. We pushed these watches to their limits, testing everything from their fitness tracking capabilities to smart features and functions. Keep reading to see which models are the perfect fit for you, whether you have an Apple, Samsung, or Android phone.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated June 2017
Shortly after our initial review of these products, Huawei released an updated model, the Watch 2. We compared this new product side-by-side with the rest of the pack and were quite impressed. This model even unseated our previous award winner for Android phones, the LG Watch Sport. The Watch 2 is a great all-around watch, packed with smart functions and doubles as a full-function fitness tracker. Read more about it below!
Best for iPhones
Apple Watch Series 2
Waterproof to 50m
Wide app compatibility
No automatic brightness
Subpar standby battery life
Earning an Editors' Choice award for being the Best Smartwatch for iOS users, the Apple Watch Series 2 earned the highest score of the entire group. This watch is filled with smart features and can function as a highly capable fitness tracker. In addition, this watch is easy to use and has an amazing display. For those with iPhones that want the best, look no further than the Series 2 — it's sleek and stylish, full of functionality, and on top of all that, it's waterproof.
Read Full Review: Apple Watch Series 2
Best for Samsung Phones
Samsung Gear S3
Easy to use
Best for workout tracking
Slow to charge
Limited app selection
Earning the overall runner-up position with the second highest score of the group, the Samsung Gear S3 earned an Editors' Choice award for being the best smartwatch for those with Samsung phones. The Gear S3 distinguished itself by having a particularly impressive set of fitness tracking features, as well as a standalone GPS unit and built-in altimeter. Available in two models — the stylish Classic or sporty Frontier — to match your own personal taste, this is an all-around fantastic smartwatch. Unfortunately, while this watch is compatible with non-Samsung phones, it has reduced functionality and won't receive notifications.
Read Full Review: Samsung Gear S3
Best for Android Phones
Huawei Watch 2
Fantastic fitness tracking
Great set of smart functions
Average battery life
The Watch 2 by Huawei is their first wearable to incorporate the newly released Android Wear 2.0. Building off of the Watch 1, this model adds a dedicated GPS module in the watch, as well as NFC technology to enable the use of Android Pay. The addition of the GPS unit builds upon the already great suite of fitness tracking abilities of the Watch 1, making the Watch 2 the best you can get if you are looking for your smartwatch to double as a fitness tracker. Our only real complaint about this model is its overall look, with its already small display recessed in the bezel, giving it the appearance of being even smaller. The plastic housing also feels and looks less polished than its peers. However, the Watch 2 is the best pick for Android users that you can buy today.
Read Full Review: Huawei Watch 2
Best Bang for the Buck
Asus ZenWatch 3
Good battery life
Lots of Smart Functions
Average battery life
Mediocre fitness tracking
Looking to get a smartwatch, but don't want to drop over $300 on one? Then the Asus ZenWatch 3 is a great choice, earning the Best Buy award. This wasn't the best out there but it gets the job done, displaying basic notifications, has decent app compatibility, and can function as a bare-bones fitness tracker. It can't monitor your heart rate, but it is reasonably accurate at counting steps and has a few different types of workouts that it can track. This is the model you should pick if you don't want to break your budget and can accept a minimalistic set of features.
Read Full Review: Asus ZenWatch 3
Analysis and Test Results
After conducting extensive research, combing through manufacturer's claims and reading hundreds of user reviews, we purchased the top 8 smartwatches available on the market today. We put these products through an extensive barrage of tests to assess their performance and crown the winner.
Our testing protocol was divided into five weighted metrics: Ease of Use, Smart Functions, Fitness Impact, Battery Life, and Display. Each metric had a handful of tests, with each product receiving a subscore out of 10 in each. In total, we compared the performance of these products with over 25 side-by-side tests. Keep reading to see the results!
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 Apple Watch Series 2 and the Samsung Gear S3 tied for the top score in this metric, both earning an 8 out of 10. These models both had exceptionally responsive touch screens for navigating through menus on the device and both of these models would wake up with practically zero delay when you turn your wrist to view them.
The Apple Watch Series 2 has a crown scroll — the dial on the side can be rotated to scroll through menus — making it exceptionally easy to navigate quickly. The Gear S3 lacks a crown scroll but makes use of a rotating bezel in its stead.
This pair both have sturdy connections to their chargers, with the Gear S3 sitting in a well in its cradle, and the Apple Watch's inductive charger mounting to the back with magnets strong enough to reliably hold it. However, we did find the Samsung's charging cradle to be more secure than the magnets on the Apple's charging cable. These model are both waterproof enough to take swimming or in the shower, but the Apple Watch meets a slightly more rigorous standard than the Gear S3, ISO 22810:10:2010 compared to IP68+.
It is a little easier to take screenshots on the Apple Watch than the Samsung, simply press both buttons simultaneously and it will send the photo straight to your phone. You hold down the "Home" button and swipe right to take the screenshot on the Gear S3, but it won't automatically sync to your phone, requiring you to manually send it from the gallery.
It was very easy to swap wristbands on both of these models, taking very little time at all, though it was faster to swap out the bands on the Apple Watch. Unfortunately, it is a little more difficult to locate compatible bands for this watch than for the Gear S3.
The LG Watch Sport was right on the heels of this top pair, 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 Gear S3 to navigate through the menus using the touchscreen. However, this model does have a crown scroll.
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 Android Wear 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 and the Motorola Moto 360 earned a 6 out of 10 for their above average performance in our Ease of Use metric. The Moto 360 has one of the best charging setups of the entire group — on par with the Gear S3
This model securely fits in its cradle and is exceptionally easy to align properly. This model met a lower waterproof standard, IP67, and states that it isn't meant to be used while submerged and shouldn't be worn while swimming. This model has an acceptable touchscreen, but there was a noticeable delay for the watch to wake when you lifted your wrist. It also lacks a crown or bezel scroll — something all of the top models had.
The Moto 360 did score some points for being decently easy to swap wristbands — about the same level as the Gear S3. It was more difficult to swap the bands than the Apple Watch, but the Moto 360 accommodates a wider variety of wristbands. This model also used the Android Wear app to take screenshots — plagued by similar problems as the LG Watch Sport.
TheHuawei Watch 2 also 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 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 Huawei Watch and the Nixon Mission merited a 5 out of 10 for their average performance. The Huawei Watch is rated for IP67 water protection, but states that it should not be used for swimming, diving, or prolonged submersion. On the other hand, the Nixon tied for the highest score of the group when it came to being waterproof, with its impressive 10 ATM rating, making it suitable for swimming or shallow snorkeling.
Both of these models lack a crown scroll and the touchscreen was about average to use, with the Nixon being slightly less responsive than the Watch. Both of these models had longer delays to wake when you raised your wrist — about one second for the Huawei Watch and a second and a half for the Nixon, much longer than the fraction of a second for the Apple Watch or Gear S3. It was reasonably easy to swap bands on the Huawei Watch, similar to the Moto 360 and the Gear S3. The Nixon was significantly more difficult, requiring the use of specialized, tiny hex keys. The Nixon and the Huawei Watch both use magnets to align the charging connector, similar to the Apple Watch but much more finicky. However, it was much more difficult to charge the Huawei Watch, as the locating magnets aren't quite good enough to align the connector perfectly every time, requiring you to double-check much more frequently than the Nixon.
The remaining watches — the Asus ZenWatch 3, the Fossil Q Marshall. were a little more difficult to use, earning them a subpar 4 out of 10. Both of these models comply with the IP67 level of waterproofness, meaning they are suitable for taking in the shower or for brief periods of complete submersion. Neither of these models has a crown scroll or had the most responsive touchscreens. The Asus could be twitchy and unresponsive at times, and while the Fossil was a little better, it wasn't by much. The Fossil would take about a second to wake up — just slightly slower than the Asus ZenWatch.
The Asus was far superior to the Fossil in terms of charging, on par with the Watch and Nixon. You need to line up the pins, but it will stay connected relatively easily.
The Fossil was extremely temperamental when it came to charging, becoming disconnected at the slightest touch. Both the Asus and the Fossil use the Android Wear app to capture a screenshot, and have the same issues as the other models that use this method.
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 made up 20% of the total score, with the following chart showing how all of the models scored.
The Apple Watch 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, Instagram, and Twitter. It was also compatible with Spotify, though the functionality was limited. The Apple Watch did let 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.
This watch has a built-in GPS that will automatically turn on when the phone is out of range. 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.
Next, the LG Watch Sport and the Watch 2 both earned a 7 out of 10. The LG Watch Sport lacked some of the app compatibility that the Apple Watch 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. This model works with Android 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 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 Android Wear 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.
Following this trio of top performers, the Samsung Gear S3 earned a 6 out of 10. This model was compatible with substantially fewer apps that the two previously mentioned models, severely hurting its score. The Gear S3 only worked with Spotify and a limited version of Twitter called Trends for Gear that will show you the trending topics of the day.
This model does have a microphone and speaker, allowing you to take calls and had about average sound quality. You can control music through the watch, but you can't thumb up or down songs on Pandora. The Gear S3 uses Samsung Pay and has a built-in GPS.
Next, the Asus ZenWatch 3, Huawei Watch, and the Nixon Mission all earned a 5 out of 10 for their average suite of smart functions. These three models all had identical app compatibility, working with Facebook Messenger, Spotify, Strava, IFTTT, and Shazam. Only the Huawei Watch and the Asus ZenWatch could be used to take calls, with the sound quality on the Huawei Watch being slightly superior to the ZenWatch 3. The Nixon Mission lacks a speaker but still will notify you that you have an incoming call.
All three of these models could adequately control your music, but none of these had any sort of payment capabilities or NFC communication. The Nixon was the only model of this group to have a built-in GPS module, with the Asus ZenWatch and the Watch relying on the phone's GPS unit for navigation.
Finishing out this metric were the Fossil Q Marshal and the Motorola Moto 360, both earning a 4 out of 10 for their slightly below average performance. These were both compatible with Spotify, Strava, IFTTT, and Shazam — identical to the other Android Wear 1.0 watches.
Neither the Fossil nor the Moto 360 had a speaker or microphone to take calls, but would notify you of an incoming one — similar to the Nixon Mission. This duo also lacked NFC technology, and thus can not be used as a payment method — though they do an average job at letting you control your music. This pair also lacks a built-in GPS in the standard version, though the Moto 360 Sport version does include one.
None of the assorted smart features on any of these products are of ay 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 2 and the Samsung Gear S3 once again tied for the top score in this metric, both earning an 8 out of 10. Both of these models were very easy to see in bright and dark lighting conditions and neither had a truncated screen or flat tire.
We did think the Apple Watch Series 2 had a slightly higher-quality screen with its OLED Retina Display than the Gear S3 with its AMOLED screen. The Apple Watch comes in two sizes: 42m and 38mm, with the larger screen having a slightly better resolution.
However, the Apple Watch lacks automatic brightness adjust and does not have an always on mode — both features are present on the S3, making up for its second-best screen.
Next, the bulk of the group all scored the same, with the Nixon Mission, LG Watch Sport, Huawei Watch, and Asus ZenWatch 3 all earning a 6 out of 10. These four watches all had essentially identical screen, ranging from a 1.39" to 1.4" full circle AMOLED or P-OLED screen.
All four of these have an always-on mode available, and only the Watch lacks automatic brightness adjustment. The main differentiating factor between this group of four watches was reading them in bright light. The LG Watch Sport was the easiest to see but it was still harder to see than the Apple Watch Series 2, Samsung Gear S3, and the Fossil Q Marshall. The Huawei Watch and the Asus were just a little bit dimmer than the LG and the Nixon was the dimmest and hardest to read of the entire group.
The Moto 360, Huawei Watch 2, and the Fossil Q rounded out the back of the pack on our display metric, earning a subpar 5, 5, and 4 out of 10 respectively. Both the Fossil Q and the Moto 360 had slightly larger screens than the four models listed above, measuring in at 1.5" and 42mm respectively. However, these displays were LCD and LED types and just weren't as nice as the Retina, P-OLED, or AMOLED varieties. We did find that the display on the Moto 360 was vastly superior to the Fossil Q's LCD.
The display on the Watch 2 was the smallest 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.
However, the Fossil Q was much easier to see in bright light, much better than the Moto 360 or the Watch 2 and even slightly surpassing the LG Watch Sport. Neither the Fossil nor the Moto 360 have full-circle screens but all three models have an always on mode. Only the Moto 360 and the Watch 2 will automatically adjust the brightness of the screen out of this trio, with the Fossil having manual control only.
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.
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.
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 Samsung Gear S3 stepped to the runner-up position, earning a score of 8 out of 10. This model did very well at accurately counting steps, tying for the second best out of the group. The Gear S3 only differed from our manual step count by 0.8%, about the same as the Apple Watch Series 2. Only the Nixon and the Fossil Q were more accurate at tracking steps. The Gear S3 did tie for the best score in our heart rate accuracy test, being within five bpm of the chest strap heart rate monitor on average.
While this model did well at step and heart rate tracking, the Gear S3 did an exceptional job at tracking workouts and flights of stairs climbed. It will automatically detect workouts after you have been doing them for over 10 minutes, recording a whole host of stats for a wide variety of activities. This model did the best out of the bunch at tracking flights of stairs, only missing one in the course of our testing.
The Apple Watch Series 2 was right on the heels of the S3, earning a 7 out of 10 for its fitness tracking capabilities. This model performed identically to the S3 in terms of step count and heart rate accuracy but lagged behind at tracking workouts. You need to initiate the workout by tapping the icon of a running figure. This watch doesn't have an altimeter, has fewer activity profiles than the S3, and lacks the ability to track flights of stairs climbed.
Following in the footsteps of the top scoring pair, the Huawei Watch earned a 6 out of 10. This model wasn't quite as accurate as counting steps, with an average difference of 0.94% between its count and the mechanical step counter. The HR monitor was about average, being reasonably accurate (within 5 beats) but doesn't continuously refresh. This forces you to hit update to get your new measurement. The Huawei Watch does not track stairs climbed and had a much more reduced set of activity profiles — about half as many as the Gear S3.
Next, the Fossil Q Marshal, the Motorola Moto 360, and the Nixon Mission all earned a 5 out of 10 for their reasonable fitness tracking capabilities. While the Nixon and the Fossil Q were the most accurate at counting steps, both of these watches had relatively lackluster scores in other fitness tracking aspects, dropping their scores considerably. Neither of these had heart rate monitors or stair tracking. The Moto 360 didn't have a stairs climbed tracker, wasn't a terribly accurate step counter, averaging about 3.1% off of the manual count, but it did have a heart rate monitor that was reasonably close to the chest strap heart rate monitor. All three of these models used the Android Wear Fit Activity app.
This app is about average, covering a handful of different activity profiles. The Nixon also has an additional Ski and Surf tracking features — a perfect match for its rugged, waterproof case.
Rounding out the back of the pack, the Asus ZenWatch 3 and the LG Watch Sport earned a 4 out of 10 for their overall lackluster fitness tracking performance. The Asus' step count only differed from the manual by 3.2%, on par with the Moto 360. On the other hand, the LG Watch Sport had the largest discrepancy of the entire group with a difference of 8.1% in our test, or 172 steps.
However, the LG Watch does have a heart rate monitor similar to the Watch, while the Moto 360 completely lacks one. Both the LG and the Moto 360 lack the ability to count flights of stairs, but have average workout tracking abilities — identical to the other Android Wear watches, such as the Asus ZenWatch , Fossil Q, Huawei Watch, and the Nixon Mission.
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%. 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. This set of tests made up 15% of the total score and the following graphic shows the results.
The Gear S3 and the Asus ZenWatch 3 took home the top spots in this category, both earning a 7 out of 10. The Gear S3 lasted the longest of the group, holding on for an amazing 76 hours before the battery was completely dead — much longer than the 30 hours of the Asus. However, the Asus charges amazingly fast, hitting 50% charge after only 10 minutes on the charger and 100% after 55 minutes. This is substantially better than the Gear S3, which took 63 minutes to get to 50% and over two hours to completely charge.
Next, the Apple Watch, Huawei Watch, Huawei Watch 2, Moto 360, and the Nixon Mission all earned a 6 out of 10. The Watch 2 made it 36.5 hours before entering a low-power, limited functionality "Watch Mode". The Apple Watch lasted about 36 hours, followed by the Moto 360 with a 34-hour battery life. These were closely followed by the 33.2 hours the Huawei Watch survived and the 31.5 hours that the Nixon held on for. 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.
Both the Huawei Watch, Watch 2 and Nixon did quite well in our charge time tests, both taking around 30 minutes to charge to 50% and 80-90 minutes to totally top off. Next was the Moto 360 with its 42 minutes to charge to halfway and just over two hours to complete. Finally, the Apple Watch took close to an hour (55 minutes) to hit halfway but did complete in 128 minutes.
The LG Watch Sport earned a 5 out of 10 for its average battery, just narrowly being beat by the above group of watches. It lasted for 31.5 hours of normal use, just slightly less than the Huawei Watch and comparable to the Nixon. However, it takes a little longer to charge — about 50 minutes to hit halfway and 105 minutes to complete, just slightly faster than the Apple Watch.
The Fossil Q did poorly in this test, taking a very long time to charge and barely lasting a full workday. This model died after 9.2 hours of light use and took almost four hours (220 minutes) to completely charge.
Finding the perfect piece of wearable technology for your wrist can be exceedingly difficult, with an enormous variety of makes and models available, all compatible with different operating systems and apps. Hopefully, this review has helped to thin down the pack and put you on the right path to finding your new smartwatch.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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