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Best Smartwatch 2021: The top wearables for apps, health and more

Trusted Reviews rounds up the best smartwatches we’ve reviewed, from solid basic models to the most advanced fitness tracking

Whether it’s for notifications, fitness or even just having easy access to apps on your wrist, we’ve rounded up the best smartwatches money can buy in 2021.

Just like with smartphones, knowing where to start with smartwatches can be something of a gargantuan task. Even though, at their core, smartwatches tend to work as companions to your main handset, there’s a decent amount of sub-categories that you need to look out for. For example, fitness trackers are an entirely different beast unto themselves, which is why we have a separate list for the best fitness trackers.

From our comprehensive testing, we’ve whittled down the 11 best wearables that deserve your attention in 2021, with a note to say what area of expertise each device excels in so that you can make an informed purchasing decision that’s right for you.

Learn more about how we test smartwatches

To ensure that each smartwatch passing through our labs receives a fair and balanced verdict, one of our experts will wear the device for at least a week to see how the wearable performs under a range of tests.

During testing, our reviewers will record battery life under strenuous and casual use, whilst also seeing how a device performs in fitness tracking. This includes documenting the time taken to connect to GPS services, as well as the reliability of heart rate data when compared to a dedicated chest strap monitor.

With a catalogue of reviews spanning almost 20-years, our experts utilise this knowledge in their reviews to show you exactly how a smartwatch compares to the competition, letting you know which device is the best for you.

Best Smartwatch
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Pros

  • Great design
  • Excellent fitness and health tracking
  • Wide range of straps

Cons

  • Battery life remains basically a day

The Apple Watch 6 (or Series 6) is the best smartwatch you can buy now – if you have an iPhone that is, as Apple still doesn’t let Android users embrace this fantastic wearable.

While the new features are kept to a minimum this year, there’s still enough here to make it stand out. It can now measure your blood oxygen levels and it comes in a few new finishes, including blue and red. It still sports the same great sensors as before, for accurate GPS tracking and the altimeter is now always on.

The display is a little brighter and the performance a tad faster, but really this just a slightly improved version of the Apple Watch we love so much.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Apple Watch Series 6 Review

Best for Android
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Pros

  • Great design
  • Excellent fitness and health tracking
  • Wide range of straps

Cons

  • Battery life remains basically a day

Apple’s watchOS software is universally regarded, including by us, as the best on the market. But it doesn’t work with Android phones, which leaves the majority of people in a bit of a bind when it comes to wearables. Enter the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.

The Galaxy Watch 3 is the latest top end wearable from Samsung and it’s one of a select few wearables to give the Apple Watch a run for its money when it comes to hardware and services.

The Galaxy Watch 3 features a wonderfully bright OLED screen, distinctly watch-like circular design and Samsung’s own Tizen software.

The software is the key selling point. In the current market Tizen OS is one of the most developed wearable ecosystems outside of Watch OS. It features a more intuitive UI than Google’s Wear OS platform and supports all the major apps and services you’d expect.

Add to this robust health/fitness tracking services and in-built fall detection, and the Galaxy Watch 3 earns a place as the best option for most Android phone users right now.

Reviewer: Alastair Stevenson
Full Review: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 Review

Best Apple Watch for most people
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Pros

  • Excellent value
  • Huge range of tracking features
  • The best smartwatch OS around
  • Wide variety of straps available

Cons

  • No always-on display
  • Battery life still only really a day

The Apple Watch SE is the middle child in Apple’s current wearable line-up sitting between the ultra-affordable Watch 3 and spiffy new Watch 6 flagship.

Its feature set matches its price tag, making it the best option for most buyers as a result. Highlights include a larger OLED screen than the Apple Watch 3, a more powerful S5 chip chip and choice of 40mm and 44mm size options.

It also ticks most of the right boxes for mid-level athletes featuring GPS, water-resistance for swimming and an accelerometer for detecting if you suddenly fall over.

This plus its stellar watchOS 7 software make it the best smartwatch for most buyers on the market at the moment, even if it is missing a few of the Watch 6’s more advanced features, like an always on display, ECG reader and SpO2 sensor.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Apple Watch SE Review

Best for semi-serious runners
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Pros

  • Bursting with metrics and tracking features
  • 15-20 day battery life
  • One of the best heart rate monitors on a wearable

Cons

  • It’s an unforgiving experience if you’re not a dedicated runner
  • Lacking in smartwatch features
  • Bluetooth issues

In many ways, the Coros Pace 2 is the perfect package for runners. The watch has must-have features like untethered GPS tracking, a long battery life and best of all, a decent price that’s cheaper than the likes of the Fitbit Versa 3.

The Pace 2 also ended up having one of the best on-wrist heart rate trackers we’ve ever tested here at Trusted Reviews, with results that were incredibly close to a dedicated chest-worn strap. The accompanying Coros app also provides no shortage of info and statistics about how you performed during each workout, which is great for anyone obsessing over ways to beat their personal best.

While there’s a lot to love about the Coros Pace 2, the wearable’s infatuation with serious runners prevents it from having an easy point of access for anyone who’s just starting out. For the fact that the first milestone is a 10k, anyone who’s looking to start a little lower down the scale would fare better with a Fitbit.

Reviewer: Thomas Deehan
Full Review: Coros Pace 2 Review

Best for Google services
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Pros

  • Fast performance, courtesy of Wear 4100
  • Long battery life for a Wear OS watch
  • Dual-display is still a winner

Cons

  • The design isn’t as bold this time around
  • Questionable heart rate tracking for weightlifting
  • No Google Play Music equals no offline listening

The TicWatch Pro 3 marks the first device to sport the Snapdragon 4100 processor, offering the Wear OS device a level of performance that can truly contend with the Apple Watch.

The upgrade makes Google’s Wear OS fluid and responsive, making the act moving between apps a joy. On top of this, the TicWatch takes advantage of Mobvoi’s own suite of built-in apps, including TicSleep, TicExercise and TicZen. Google has yet to offer its own sleep-tracking app, making TicSleep a very welcome addition here.

The watch also boasts an easy-to-read backlit dual display and 40% longer battery life than its predecessor. There’s even an Essential mode that can last for up to 45 days when you’re running low – if you’re willing to sacrifice some smart features, that is.

Reviewer: Thomas Deehan
Full Review: TicWatch Pro 3 Review

Best for triathletes
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Pros

  • Excellent location and fitness tracking
  • Unbreakable design
  • Two-week battery life
  • Heart rate monitor works underwater

Cons

  • Smartwatch functionality still limited

If you’re a hardcore athlete seeking the ultimate smartwatch, the Fenix 6 is one of the leading fitness trackers on the market – arguably even the best. The Garmin Fenix 5 is still superb and this model doesn’t offer a huge upgrade, but some subtle changes, super-tough design and excellent sensors and location tracking features combine into a stellar tracker that’s ideal for serious fitness aficionados looking to up their game.

Smartwatch functionality is somewhat lacking as the Fenix 6 is primarily a fitness tracker. Casual gym goers or runners looking for an Apple Watch rival would do better to consider cheaper models from Fitbit and Garmin, which has a great Vivo line of trackers.

As the Fenix 5 was already best in class for fitness, it’s a real achievement that the Fenix 6’s multisport and tracking features offer even more improvement. The biggest updates relate to heart rate and location/distance tracking. The Fenix 6’s heart rate sensor works underwater – a boon for swimmers, sailors and divers, who would previously have had to invest in a separate HRM strap to get the data on the older Fenix 5 family.

The only real downside, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the price, which starts at £529.99 – a serious investment, even by Apple Watch standards. A strong focus on durability and functionality over form might reduce its appeal to fashion-conscious buyers.

Reviewer: Alastair Stevenson
Full Review: Garmin Fenix 6 Review

Best Apple Watch on a budget
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Pros

  • Snappy performance
  • Super-bright and clear display
  • Decent battery life (when not reliant on LTE)
  • Apple Pay

Cons

  • LTE has a big impact on battery life
  • Needs more dedicated watch apps to make use of LTE
  • Siri doesn’t always work
  • No LTE roaming

With the arrival of the Series 4, Apple retired the humble Series 1 and trimmed the Series 3 line down to serve as the “affordable” Apple Watch. The price of the Series 3 has continued to drop since.

You can still choose between GPS-only and cellular versions of the Series 3. However, the finish options have now been cut back to just silver or black-bodied aluminium, with a white or black Sport Band respectively.

The Series 3 introduced an altimeter for elevation tracking and is a good option for swim tracking, with water resistance up to 50m. Updated watchOS 7 support is also an appreciated feature.

Reviewer: Richard Easton
Full Review: Apple Watch Series 3 Review

Best for battery life
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Pros

  • Reasonable price
  • Good fitness tracking
  • Attractive design
  • Formidable battery life

Cons

  • A bit slow

The Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro is the brand’s latest smartwatch that runs its own software, offering Android users a good alternative to Wear OS and Tizen. The OS remains somewhat limited when it comes to apps but the focus on fitness tracking is strong.

Design mimics that of a traditional timepiece; there’s a 1.4-inch OLED circular display with a 462ppi and two buttons on the side.

Excellent battery life is the Huawei Watch GT2’s biggest plus, especially for anyone who’s been putting off switching to a smartwatch because they don’t want to have to charge it every night. We managed around two weeks of use on a single charge, which is far better than most of the competition. It is a little slow in terms of performance, though.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Huawei Watch GT 2 Pro Review

Best for simplicity
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Pros

  • Bright, clear screen
  • Solid performance
  • Great looking design

Cons

  • Wear OS needs more apps
  • Average at best battery life

Don’t worry, you’re not alone in thinking it – the Oppo Watch just looks like an Android version of the Apple Watch. But still, if you’re going to mimic a competitor, you might as well go for one of the most sought-after smartwatches out there.

Thanks to its inspiration, the Oppo Watch has a brilliantly minimalist style that isn’t typically found on Wear OS devices, particularly as the majority tend to opt for the more traditional circular timepiece aesthetic. The device’s 1.6″ display (1.91” for the LTE version) curves around the watch’s front-facing segment in a way that immediately catches your eye.

Even though the watch packs the now somewhat dated Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor, it still performed with decent speed during our testing. The only major letdown – aside from the obvious drawbacks that come from using Wear OS – was the Oppo Watch’s lacklustre battery life. If you push it hard enough, the Oppo Watch won’t even make it to the end of the day, which is disappointing when other Wear OS watches like the TicWatch Pro 3 can make it through just over two days of use.

Reviewer: Alastair Stevenson
Full Review: Oppo Watch Review

Best for Alexa
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Pros

  • New focus on health tracking
  • Great battery life
  • Fast GPS tracking
  • Informative running data

Cons

  • Offline playback limited to Pandora/Deezer
  • Overzealous step counter
  • Fitbit Premium required for best use
  • Back panel scratches easily

Fitbit made the decision to move beyond fitness tracking into health tracking in 2020 and its timing couldn’t have been better. The Fitbit Sense is a smartwatch packed with health tracking features, including an SpO2 tracker, an ECG sensor and even an EDA sensor for measuring your stress.

Of course, the Sense also offers some great fitness tracking features. You can check heart rate, distance covered and the time from your wrist while working out, and there’s a built-in GPS tracker for runners.

The 1.58-inch curved AMOLED display is bright, modern looking and the six day battery life offers an improvement over the already decent Fitbit Versa 2. You’ll get the best use out of the device with a Fitbit Premium subscription however, so it may be worth considering whether you’d be happy to subscribe before putting this smartwatch in your basket.

Reviewer: Thomas Deehan
Full Review: Fitbit Sense Review

Best looking
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Pros

  • Oozing in sophistication
  • Battery life champion
  • Simple to use interface
  • Great app design

Cons

  • Lagging in fitness tracking
  • No GPS or NFC

If you’re looking to introduce some smartwatch functionality to your life without sacrificing the style associated with a classic timepiece, the Withings ScanWatch is certainly an eye-catcher.

While the ScanWatch lacks a few of the skills expected of a modern fitness tracker – such as built-in GPS – it does offer a plethora of fantastic health tracking features. These include a medical-grade ECG scanner for detecting signs of atrial fibrillations and SpO2 tracking to help spot underlying illnesses.

The Health Mate app allows you to glance at all your measurements, from sleep tracking to workout recordings, on the go, with more stats available when your click on each category.

The ScanWatch also boasts an incredible battery life. Withings claims the watch can run for up to 30 days on a single charge and we were impressed with how long it lasted in our review. If you’re searching for a stylish smartwatch with effective health tracking and a big battery, then look no further.

Reviewer: Thomas Deehan
Full Review: Withings ScanWatch Review

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FAQs

Should I get a smartwatch or a fitness tracker?

While most smartwatches have fitness tracking features and vice versa, you’ll be better off with a dedicated tracker if you’re mostly concerned with being in better shape. If your main reason for buying is to have an extension of your smartphone on your wrist, then go for a smartwatch.

Can I use a Wear OS watch with an iPhone?

Yes, all Wear OS devices can be used with an iPhone that’s been updated to run at least iOS 9 (iPhone 5 onwards in practical terms). Not all features work however, which is why we recommend that iPhone users invest in an Apple Watch.

Can I use an Apple Watch with an Android phone?

No, all versions of the Apple Watch are incompatible with Android phones, instead relying on the iPhone exclusive Watch app for set-up and customisation.

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