WIRED Recommends the best smartwatches for Android and iPhone fans, including the best smartwatch for fitness and running.
You probably want a smartwatch more than you need one. However, they track your activity, open up a new world of apps and stop you needing to dig your phone out of your pocket every time you receive a message. Convinced? Here are the best smartwatches for iPhone and Android users.
Apple Watch Series 3
Pros: Good fitness tracking, more independent than ever
Cons: 4G version only available through EE (in UK)
The third Apple Watch looks like a lot like the first. And the second. However, it has additional tech that makes the original seem rather toy-like.
First, GPS lets it track runs, walks and cycles without being tethered to a phone. New for this generation, the higher end Apple Watch Series 3 has LTE as an option. This uses an electronic SIM rather than the little card you put in your phone.
The LTE Apple Watch Series 3 is only available through EE right now, though, comes with additional data charges and demands that you have an iPhone with the network, too.
As the LTE Series 3 shares a phone number with your iPhone, when you leave the house without your mobile the watch simply takes the baton, letting you make calls on your wrist like a low-rent Star Trek extra. Life goal achieved, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Best budget smartwatch: Ticwatch E
Pros: Great value for a fully featured watch
Cons: Plastic build won’t impress everyone
One issue of Wear OS watches is they tend to all feel quite familiar. But that lets a newcomer like Ticwatch swoop in and make a cheaper alternative to the big names without obvious compromise.
The Ticwatch E costs £120 to £145, depending on the retailer, but has the features of a watch twice the price. These include an OLED screen, GPS, an HR sensor and water resistance. Even battery life matches up to the better Wear OS watches at around 1.5 days, or two if the watch is hardly used.
Its bezel is polycarbonate plastic rather than steel or aluminium, but this is the best way to try out a Wear smartwatch on a budget. Just be careful if buying from an importer website: you may get stung with customs charges.
Best for battery life: Fitbit Versa
Pros: Competitive price and battery life
Cons: Limited app library
The Versa is Fitbit’s latest attempt at a smartwatch. It is similar to the Fitbit Ionic, but lacks GPS and has a much more friendly, smoothed-off design.
Losing GPS also let Fitbit cut the price to £200, giving it a wider appeal. And if you take your phone out for a run, the Versa can “borrow” its GPS signal for full tracking.
As it runs a relatively new platform with a small fan base, the Versa apps selection is limited. However, with a three- to four-day battery life it needs much less upkeep than an Apple or Wear watch.
It’s a great watch for the basics: notifications, fitness tracking, music control and, in the UK, wireless payments. There’s a Philips Hue app, too, enabling smart light control from your wrist. What’s more, the 50-metre water resistance lets you wear the Versa in the shower and swimming pool, too.
Best smartwatch for Android: Samsung Gear S3
Pros: Intuitive rotating bezel and interface, good battery life
Cons: Limited apps selection
Since the new dawn of smartwatches, Samsung has rejected Wear OS and used its own Tizen OS software instead. It tried this with phones. It didn’t work out too well. However, the Gear S3 proves in some ways it’s actually better than Google’s effort.
The interface is built around the watch’s round face and its rotating bezel, for a tactile intuitiveness Wear watches can’t match. Battery life is also miles better than that of any Wear device, lasting for 3-4 days rather than one.
Thanks in part to Samsung’s cavernously deep pockets, there are also several great apps for Tizen OS, including Runkeeper. If you want to try dozens upon dozens of smartwatch apps, you’ll be better off with an Apple Watch or Wear OS band. Having tried most of the big hitters, we can tell you you’re not missing that much, though.
Best Wear OS watch: Huawei Watch 2
Pros: Solid features and battery life
Cons: Dull design
There is no perfect Wear OS watch. However, the Huawei Watch 2 is perhaps the most complete-feeling model currently on sale.
It has GPS for sport tracking, respectable two-day battery life and a 24/7 heart rate monitor on the back. There is the option of 4G for those willing to pay more, and the OLED screen is a great display to show off Wear OS.
As a box-ticking exercise the Huawei Watch 2 is a hit. However, its design is infuriating. Huawei’s original W1 Wear watch remains one of the best-looking smartwatches made to date, but this one is rather plain and boring-looking. Huawei traded a sharp-looking stainless steel bezel for a thicker, anonymous surround plastered with numbers.
Those not bothered about run tracking should also consider the original Huawei W1, now available at around half the price.
Best alternative to Apple and Google: Fitbit Ionic
Pros: Great battery, sharp and bright screen
Cons: Very few apps (so far), polarising sharp design
Everyone knows Fitbit as a maker of pedometer bands that are only smart in a very limited sense. The Fitbit Ionic is its first attempt at a full smartwatch, introducing Fitbit’s own app store and watch OS.
Buying an Ionic as a pure smartwatch is an act of faith, though, as right now there are barely any apps. And getting devs excited about making them will depend on a growing audience. It’s a tech chicken and egg scenario.
The faithful will be rewarded with excellent four-day battery life, a very bright, sharp screen and GPS for accurate run and cycle tracking.
Its severe rectangular design won’t appeal to all eyes as much as the Apple Watch’s smoother lines. But you can be the judge on that front.
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