Smartwatches allow us to live like Dick Tracy by giving us notifications, health and fitness tracking, the ability to send and receive calls and messages, play music, set timers, and do various tasks via voice command, and so much more — all on our wrists. Smartwatches just keep getting better and better, but what are the best smartwatches?
For most people, we think the Apple Watch Series 8 is the best smartwatch, but only if you own an iPhone. But we know there are just as many Android phone fans out there, and the Apple Watch only works with an iPhone. If that's you, then you'll want the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
The varied world of smartwatches goes far beyond these two models, so take a look at all our top recommendations before buying, as you could find one that's better for your lifestyle. Without further delay, here are our picks for the best smartwatches in 2023!
Apple Watch Series 8
Best smartwatch for the iPhone
- Sleek, comfortable design
- Display is big and gorgeous
- Excellent health features
- Fast charge speeds
- watchOS 9 is better than ever
- Car crash detection
- Temperature sensors are limited
- Almost identical to the Series 7
Why you should buy this: It's the best smartwatch available.
Who it's for: Anyone who wants a beautifully made, feature-rich, easy-to-use smartwatch.
Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 8: The design of the Apple Watch Series 8 may not be any different from the Apple Watch Series 7, but that doesn’t stop it being instantly recognizable — and also supremely comfortable to wear. This is essential, as all the Apple Watch’s benefits come when you’re wearing it, and preferably all the time. The Series 8, with the right band, can be worn 24 hours a day without a problem.
Do this, and you get all the health monitoring benefits, ranging from heart rate and blood oxygen measurements to an electrocardiogram, along with fall and crash detection. Plus, the Apple Watch Series 8 tracks your movement and workouts too. Notifications show up on the sharp, colorful, and bright screen, and touch sensitivity is spot-on. The Digital Crown on the case makes navigation simple.
There are two case sizes — 41mm and 45mm — so it’s suitable for all wrist sizes. There are dozens of bands available that are quick and easy to change, the battery can last for two days with normal use, plus you can buy it with an LTE connection for use without your phone. The latest watchOS 9 software is reliable, and the Series 8 will receive updates for years to come.
What makes the Apple Watch Series 8 such a winner is the way all the features, functions, accessories, and software come together. It’s by far the most pleasing and rewarding to use, the simplest to learn, and the most logically and thoughtfully designed smartwatch you can buy.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Best smartwatch for Android
- Lightweight, comfortable design
- Robust health tracking
- AMOLED screen looks excellent
- Easy access to Google apps
- Very fast charging speeds
- Skin temperature tracking not yet available
- Falls short of battery life claims
Why you should buy this: It looks great, is easy to use, has a lot of unique health features, and is even reasonably priced.
Who it's for: Android phone owners who want the best smartwatch available.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Despite abundant similarities to its predecessor and fairly iterative improvements, Samsung's Galaxy Watch 5 features a larger battery, faster charging, a durable design, and enhanced health tracking. The only difference is the larger 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor at the bottom, designed for more accurate health data. The Watch 5 is a bit heavy but is so comfy it almost disappears on your wrist and is especially fitting for smaller wrists.
The 40mm model's always-on Super AMOLED display measures 1.2 inches with 396 x 396-pixel resolution, while the 44mm is 1.4 inches at a 450 x 450 resolution. It has an easy button or swipe interface and bright colors, with an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness and is easy to see in direct sunlight. It's powered by Samsung’s Exynos W920 chipset, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. It runs Wear OS 3.5 and Samsung's One UI Watch 4.5 interface.
The Galaxy Watch 5's battery life is respectable, with around 24 hours of use with all the health features active before it needs a recharge. There's also a great fast charging system where 30 minutes adds 60% to the battery. It's also very comfortable to wear, comes in several colors, and the Wear OS software with Samsung's customizations is fast and easy to use. There are two case sizes, 40mm and 44mm, so it suits most wrists.
Health tracking on the Galaxy Watch 5 includes step tracking, auto workout detection, manual workout tracking, and sleep tracking — all accompanied by 24/7 heart-rate monitoring, SpO2 tracking, an ECG app, and a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis sensor for viewing body fat, skeletal muscle, body water, and more. It's right up there with the Apple Watch in terms of ability, software, and design. It's the smartwatch to buy if you have an Android phone.
Apple Watch SE 2
Best budget smartwatch for the iPhone
- Comfortable to wear 24 hours a day
- Comprehensive, yet simple-to-use fitness tracking
- Excellent smartwatch software and support
- Latest processor provides all the power needed
- Two-day battery
- No always-on screen
- Slow battery charging
Why you should buy this: It's almost the Apple Watch Series 8, but for less money.
Who it's for: Anyone who doesn't mind not having an always-on screen on their smartwatch.
Why we picked the Apple Watch SE 2: Do not make the mistake of underestimating the Apple Watch SE 2. It has the vast majority of features found on the Series 8, the same S8 processor, and it operates on the latest watchOS 9 with the W3 wireless chip for a flawless connection to your iPhone. But it will cost you less than the Series 8.
The big functional difference between the Series 8 and the Watch SE 2 is the lack of an always-on screen. It means the SE 2's screen is black until you raise your wrist, while the Series 8's screen always shows the watch face and time. Other differences include the nylon composite case back, the sensor array from the original Watch SE (so it doesn't track blood oxygen levels or take an ECG), and slower charging.
But what you do get is everything else. The wonderful easy-to-use software, the extensive health and fitness tracking, fall and noise detection, crash detection, the usual notifications, plus all the customization using different bands. It comes in two sizes, 40mm or 44mm, and several color options. The health tracking features it misses out on won't affect everyone, and if you can live without the always-on screen, the Apple Watch SE 2 will serve you just as well as the Series 8.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
Best budget smartwatch for Android
- Comfortable fit and size
- Excellent fitness and health-tracking features
- Seamless pairing with Samsung devices
- Two-day battery life
- Finicky digital bezel
- Automatic workout tracking can be inconsistent
Why you should buy this: It's not all that different from the Galaxy Watch 5, but it can be found at a cheaper price.
Who it's for: Anyone who wants a cheaper smartwatch for your Android phone that still looks modern, and doesn't compromise on features.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: The Galaxy Watch 4 may have come out in 2021, but don’t pass it by thinking it’s out of date. There aren’t all that many differences between it and the Galaxy Watch 5, and because it can be found for a great price, that makes it a very sensible purchase if you want a smartwatch that’s almost as good as the latest model.
It’s worth noting that although we’re recommending the Galaxy Watch 4, Samsung also released the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic alongside it, which has a more watch-like design and a physical rotating bezel for easy navigation. You’re more likely to find the Watch 4 at a good price, but if you spot the Classic, do take a look as the rotating bezel is more precise than the Watch 4’s touch-sensitive version.
The Galaxy Watch 4 comes in two sizes, 40mm and 44mm, and is IP68 water and dust resistant. The battery life is great, with two days possible with average use, including sleep tracking. Unfortunately, charging is slow at almost two hours to reach 100%. It has a similar biometric sensor on the back to the Galaxy Watch 5, and will measure body composition just like it, along with all the other expected health tracking.
If you don’t have to own the latest tech and prefer to find a bargain that doesn’t have many compromises, the Galaxy Watch 4 is definitely for you.
Apple Watch Ultra
Best premium smartwatch for the iPhone
- Highly durable build
- Luxury materials
- Three-day battery life
- Expertly judged special features
- Characterful design
- Does everything the Series 8 does
- LTE as standard
- Twice the price of the Series 8
Why you should buy this: It's the ultimate smartwatch for the iPhone, and astonishingly capable too.
Who it's for: Adventurers, divers, hikers, runners, and anyone who wants a no-compromise, statement-making smartwatch on their wrist.
Why we picked the Apple Watch Ultra: Apple may promote the Apple Watch Ultra as an adventure smartwatch, suitable mostly for those who enjoy all kinds of outdoor pursuits. But if that’s not you, don’t ignore this superb smartwatch. It does everything the Apple Watch Series 8 does, with a 49mm titanium case, sapphire crystal over the screen, ceramic on the case back, and a battery that can last multiple days on a single charge. It’s big, tough, and bold, but also supremely capable.
What does it do beyond the Series 8? The screen is bigger and brighter, there’s the customizable orange Action button on the side of the case, LTE comes as standard, it has an emergency alert siren to attract attention, and it’s suitable for dive use. The Low Power battery mode extends use to more than 60 hours, and the case meets MIL-STD-810H standards and is IPX8 dust resistant, and has a 100-meter water resistance too. It comes with your choice of unique Ultra band, designed to suit your activity of choice, but works with any Apple Watch strap too.
All the additional features have been well thought-out, right down to the design and choice of materials, and while it is twice the price of the Series 8 and has otherwise very similar functionality, there’s something very special about the Ultra. It has some character to it, and that’s rare to find in a smartwatch. Most people will be fine owning the Series 8, which is more wearable overnight, but if you’re tempted by the Ultra and think you’d make use of its adventurous credentials, we say go for it. You won’t be disappointed by this very special smartwatch.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro
Best premium smartwatch for Android
- Luxury materials
- Super sharp screen
- 3-day battery life
- Comprehensive health tracking
- D Buckle strap is excellent
- Niche additional features
- Slightly slow performance after waking up
- Notifications don't always wake the screen
Why you should buy this: This is a large, solidly built smartwatch with excellent battery life.
Who it's for: Anyone seeks a watch made with high-quality, rugged materials for the great outdoors.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro: The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a smartwatch for the outdoors. It’s made of titanium, with a thick sapphire crystal screen overlay, water resistance up to 50 meters, a raised bezel, and a rubber strap.
Two of its newest watch features are decidedly niche. Route Workout guides you through special hiking and cycling routes, requiring the import of specific GPX files via your phone. Track Back automatically leads you back to your starting point. The watch excels at auto workouts, while other features include a 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor, body composition recording, the Bixby voice assistant, an improved smart keyboard, and Samsung Pay.
The watch runs on Google’s Wear OS 3.5, alongside Samsung’s One UI Watch 4.5, and is powered by the Exynos W920 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. The interface lets you swipe and tap the screen to access and customize menus and titles. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s screen is very sharp and colorful.
The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s battery life is its standout feature — it lasts three days without a recharge, even with a 30-minute tracked activity, but only if you don’t wear it overnight. That is better than most non-specialty consumer smartwatches, and because it's heavy and tall, it's not great for sleep tracking, anyway.
If you like the standard Galaxy Watch 5 but want some extra features — and have more cash to spend — the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro is a great pick.
Garmin Vivomove Trend
Best hybrid smartwatch
- Hybrid, fashionable design
- Hidden screen is clear and sharp
- Comprehensive health platform
- No ongoing subscription fee
- Wireless charging
- Reflective screen hinders visibility
- Slow responsiveness
- Standard strap isn't very comfortable
Why you should buy this: It's the ideal mix of good watch design and fitness-tracking technology.
Who it's for: Anyone who doesn't want their smartwatch to look too techy, but isn't willing to compromise on fitness tracking.
Why we picked the Garmin Vivomove Trend: The Garmin Vivomove Trend is a hybrid smartwatch, and it has a physical handset rather than a bright OLED screen to show the time, but it also holds a secret. Under the handset, the face is a screen! It only lights up when it’s needed, and the rest of the time, the Vivomove Trend just looks like a regular fashionable watch. It’s a huge selling point, and the varied colors available make the Vivomove Trend even cooler to wear.
However, Garmin understands that just because you want a fashionable design doesn’t mean you’re willing to compromise on technology. The Vivomove Trend uses the same detailed, powerful health-tracking system and app found on its sportier watches, and the sensor array on the back of the watch monitors your heart rate and blood oxygen, while the software on the watch keeps track of all your workouts with ease.
What’s more, all of Garmin’s health and fitness tracking and metrics are available without a subscription, which sets it apart from lifestyle models from Fitbit and Whoop. The battery lasts for about a week on a single charge, and although you can charge it back up using the included proprietary charger, the Vivomove Trend is also compatible with Qi wireless chargers. It means you can use the same wireless charger for your smartwatch as you do for your phone.
The Garmin Vivomove Trend’s hybrid design may be all about fashion, but what’s inside is highly capable, making it the ideal choice for anyone who doesn’t want a full touchscreen smartwatch.
Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4
Best luxury smartwatch
- Tag Heuer Sports app is excellent
- Luxury sapphire, ceramic, and steel build
- Sharp, high-resolution screen
- 42mm size suitable for most people
- No Sp02 sensor
- Can't take calls
Why you should buy this: It's the definitive smartwatch made by a luxury watchmaker.
Who it's for: If you appreciate a luxury watchmaker's approach to design and wearability, the Connected Calibre range is for you.
Why we picked the Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4: There are two different Connected Calibre E4 models, one with a 42mm case and the other with a 45mm case. We recommend the 42mm case overall, as it’s going to suit more wrist sizes, but if you’re happy wearing a bigger watch, the 45mm Connected Calibre E4 has a slightly different design that may appeal more. Tag Heuer has also released various special editions, including a golf-specific model and one in collaboration with Porsche.
But why buy a luxury smartwatch? It’s all about the design, materials, and strap. The Connected Calibre E4 is made from stainless steel and has a ceramic bezel, and comes with either a steel, rubber, or leather strap equipped with Tag Heuer’s excellent folding clasp. The pushers feel almost mechanical, the crown rotates, and the design is elegant and classy. It’s a world apart from tech-forward smartwatch designs.
On the back is a heart rate sensor so it’ll track all your workouts, the watch receives notifications from your phone, and it is compatible with both Android and iOS. It comes with Google’s Wear OS software, and the good news is an update to Wear OS 3 should be available as you read this, bringing the smartwatch right up to date. It also keeps it competitive, as the Montblanc Summit 3 had Wear OS 3 installed at launch. The Montblanc smartwatch is a good alternative if you don’t like the Tag Heuer design or its watch face options.
Any luxury watch must make you feel special when you wear it, and the Tag Heuer Connected Calibre E4 manages to bring that special something into the world of smartwatches.
Garmin Forerunner 265
Best fitness smartwatch
- Extremely comfortable
- Lovely AMOLED screen
- Incredible health/fitness tools
- Highly customizable
- 4-plus days of battery life
- Doesn't require any subscriptions
- Limited smart features
- Proprietary charger
Why you should buy this: You get all Garmin's fitness expertise and features in a neat smartwatch with a touchscreen.
Who it's for: It's best for runners and sports addicts, but can also prove motivational for anyone wanting to improve their fitness.
Why we picked the Garmin Forerunner 265: Garmin’s Forerunner series, as the name suggests, targets runners — and the 265 model sits in the middle of the options available. But just because it’s most suited to running, don’t think that it can’t do anything else, because this is a fully featured fitness wearable that will keep most fitness addicts motivated and satisfied.
The 46mm case and 47 gram weight mean it’ll look and feel sizable on your wrist compared to the Apple Watch Series 8 or the Galaxy Watch 5, but the 22mm band has lots of adjustment or can be quickly swapped for another one if you want to jazz up the rather plain look. Data is presented on a high-resolution AMOLED touchscreen, and there are buttons on the case to make it easy to navigate on the move or when wearing gloves.
It has a full sensor array to monitor heart rate and blood oxygen levels, plus Garmin’s platform provides masses of additional data on your workouts, lifestyle, and sleep. It returns plenty of motivation too and can help you improve your fitness and try different plans to keep things interesting. The battery lasts for between four and seven days, depending on your use, and it recharges in around an hour.
If the Garmin Forerunner 265's high price and chunky design puts you off, then we recommend checking out the slightly cheaper and more stylish, but equally capable, Polar Pacer Pro instead.
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar
Best smartwatch for marathon runners
- Incredible battery life
- Consistently accurate GPS tracking
- Touch screen and 5-button navigation
- Easy-to-read screen in all conditions
- Great fitness and health features
- Solar version is overkill for most runners
- Core features identical to lower Forerunners
Why you should buy this: It's the best smartwatch for reliability, health and fitness, and speed tracking your run.
Who it's for: This watch is for high-level runners who need a large, accurate device to track their progress.
Why we picked the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar: Garmin is a huge favorite of runners, and for good reason: It has the right combination of features, design, and performance, including a face that's easy to view even in direct sunlight. This watch features a 1.3-inch always-on, high-resolution, glare-free color touchscreen, a variety of health and fitness GPS tracking modes and sensors, training and performance stats and analytics, a waterproof rugged exterior, 32GB of storage, a huge battery, and solar charging that can pair with both an iPhone and an Android phone. While it may be overkill for your morning jog, those involved in triathlons or ultramarathons will appreciate the Forerunner 955's top-line functionality. It doesn't come cheap. The watch costs $600 for the Solar model, and $100 less for the non-solar model.
The Forerunner 955 is not a fashion watch — the Garmin plastic body is utilitarian with a solar ring around the screen. The screen cover is shatter-free Gorilla Glass DX glass. You can navigate via a touch screen or use the Garmin five-button physical buttons. Garmin excels at accurate GPS tracking, and the 955 comes with additional GPS tracking modes.
For the Garmin brand, battery life is paramount. The Solar model gets 20 days of battery life in simple smartwatch mode while connected to your phone, plus 42 to 49 hours of use in GPS mode. The solar-enhanced battery life is based on some three hours per day outdoors in 50,000 lux sunlight or seven hours in GPS mode with continuous exposure to 50,000 lux. Let's just say that outdoor runners will probably benefit from the solar feature. The watch lasts for two weeks without charging.
Fitbit Sense 2
Best smartwatch for Fitbit
- Highly responsive interface
- Excellent display
- Rugged and highly water resistant
- Advanced fitness and health tracking
- Comfortable to wear
- A bit pricey
- Audio quality for calls isn’t great
Why you should buy this: This is an attractive and functional smartwatch that can track both fitness and stress levels.
Who it's for: Anyone who needs a watch to help focus on their health.
Why we picked the Fitbit Sense 2: While Fitbit's claim to fame may have started with measuring steps, today it's known as an advanced smartwatch with all the trimmings. The Sense 2 is an attractive, high-end device that's available in various exterior finishes and colors. It features a gorgeous display with deep blacks and vibrant colors that are easy to read even in bright light, alongside motion detection. The touchscreen is responsive without noticeable lag or recognition issues, and navigating the menu using the crown is intuitive. It has phone call audio that is functional, and though it's a nice feature to have, it's not stellar in terms of sound, so you may not use it too much.
The Sense 2 is tough and durable and lasts over six days on a single charge. It’s water resistant to 164 feet and is rated to operate between -14 and 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The watch is easy to use once you get everything set up properly — which may take some doing. You have to grant a lot of permissions before the device is fully functional, and some setup issues proved to be head-scratchers. Like other Fitbit devices, the Sense 2 tracks your steps and heart rate but goes even further. The Sense 2 can detect atrial fibrillation using an electrocardiogram app and can measure blood oxygen levels. The watch features a body response sensor to detect and manage stress and tracks ElectroDermal activity, heart rate, heart rate variability, and skin temperature. This can help you reduce your stress levels over time.
If you want Fitbit's software on a device with a more watch-like design, take a look at the Google Pixel Watch. While it may be flawed, and the case only comes in a single size, some will appreciate the minimalist design and Google's Wear OS 3 software more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although it sounds like a complicated question, this is surprisingly straightforward. If you own an Android phone, then you can use any smartwatch with Google's Wear OS software. You can also use most smartwatches from companies like Withings, Huawei, Amazfit, and others. The only one you can't use is the Apple Watch.
If you own an iPhone, you can use the Apple Watch (obviously) and most other smartwatches too, provided they have a compatible app. Wear OS watches used to be compatible with iPhones, but more recent models like the Galaxy Watch 5 and Galaxy Watch 5 Pro are not.
Google and Samsung teamed up to create a software operating system for wearables called Wear OS 3. The joint project incorporates both the Wear OS and Tizen platforms, along with fitness expertise from Fitbit. The first smartwatches with the software were the Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, but now there are more, especially newer Samsung models like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro.
Because it’s on your wrist, smartwatches are exposed to danger. They’re easy to knock against things and can often get wet. Does this mean you must be extra careful with your watch? Many have an IP68 water resistance rating today, and some smartwatches meet military standards for toughness and will withstand harsher treatment than others. If you want to make sure you can wear your chosen device in the shower or to go swimming, then you need to think about smartwatch water resistance and look for an IP or ATM rating.
If you are a runner and intend to use your smartwatch to track routes, and you don’t want to run with your phone, then yes, you do need GPS. Most modern smartwatches come with GPS as standard anyway, so you may find it’s ready and waiting if you need it. If your smartwatch doesn’t have GPS, then some can use your phone’s GPS when connected, but it will be slower to operate. One thing to remember is that using GPS will drain the battery in the watch faster than usual. If you're really concerned about GPS accuracy, consider getting the Apple Watch Ultra or the Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar.
If your smartwatch connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth, then all the data it requires comes from your phone at no extra charge to you. This changes if you buy a smartwatch with 4G LTE, like the LTE version of the Apple Watch. When a smartwatch has its own data connection, it can be used on its own without being connected to your smartphone, ready to make calls, receive messages, and plenty more. However, you will have to pay extra for the privilege. The amount varies depending on your carrier and current plan, but expect to pay around $10 per month to enable the 4G LTE connection on your smartwatch.
If your Android phone or iPhone was purchased in the last three or four years, then the answer is almost certainly yes. For some context, the Galaxy Watch 5 and Watch 5 Pro work with any Android phone running Android 8.0 or later. The Apple Watch Series 8 and Watch Ultra are compatible with iPhones running iOS 16 — meaning any models from the iPhone 8 and newer.
Each smartwatch operating system is different, which is to say that one operating system isn't objectively better than the other. Instead, the "best" OS is the one that's compatible with your smartphone. If you have an Android device, a watch running Wear OS is most likely the best choice. It's relatively easy to use, has a decent selection of apps, and has a robust feature set. If you have an iPhone — and this comes as no surprise — you should get an Apple Watch.
So, you think you want a smartwatch? Are you sure? After all, unlike a smartphone, no one really needs a smartwatch.
However, because manufacturers are finally coming around to the realization that a smartwatch needs to look good, they're a lot more tempting than they once were. One-day battery life and a touchscreen on a watch are still hard to swallow for some people, but that's why hybrid smartwatches were invented — and battery performance and control methods are constantly getting better.
If you're not ready to commit to a touchscreen smartwatch but still want to try out some smart features, the huge choice of hybrid watches has got you covered. They often cost half of what you'll pay for the cheapest Apple Watch, link with any smartphone, and provide traditional watch looks matched with a connected smart experience.
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