If you’re on the hunt for the best smartwatch, then you’ve come to the right place. Apple Watch continues to dominate the smartwatch market and the Apple Watch 5 is our top recommendation once again.
There have been a couple of high-profile Android smartwatches, but nothing hugely innovative.
Here’s our summary of the best smartwatches, with options to suit most people. Scroll down to read our full reviews for each, or to see the complete list.
- Best smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 5
- Best for Android: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
- Best for semi-serious runners: Garmin Vivoactive 4
- Best for Google services: Fossil Gen 5
- Best for triathletes: Garmin Fenix 6
- Best Apple Watch on a budget: Apple Watch Series 3
- Best for battery life: Huawei Watch GT 2
- Best for Wear OS battery: Mobvoi TicWatch Pro
- Best for Alexa: Fitbit Versa 2
- Best for minimalism: Garmin Venu
How do we pick the best smartwatches?
Before we score any smartwatch (or any other wearable for that matter) one of our expert reviewers will wear the device for at least a week before passing judgement. During testing, we see how each smartwatch operates, test all of the advertised claims and features, and conduct a variety of battery tests based on different use cases (for example, logging longevity with and without constant heart rate monitoring).
We try and keep the conditions as uniform as possible so that we can draw fair comparisons between similarly capable devices.
1. Apple Watch Series 5
The best smartwatch on the market – if you’re an iPhone user
- Always-on display feels like a “proper” watch
- All the previous straps still work
- Great at making you want to move and be active
- No huge improvements to battery life
- No support for Android users
Apple’s wearable remains one of the brand’s finest products and an increasingly useful accessory.
The Apple Watch Series 5 might not be packed with upgrades over its excellent predecessor, but the addition of a screen that displays the time whether you’re looking at the watch or not should make lots of people very happy. At last, the Apple Watch doesn’t feel like a computer on your wrist and Apple has managed to add this feature without sacrificing battery life.
The screen retains the same OLED panel used in the Series 4 and it’s fantastic: bright, sharp, responsive and stretched just about edge-to-edge.
The fitness and activity features really encourage you to move, nudging you to complete your three daily activity goals (move, exercise, stand) and giving badges for hitting targets – plus there’s that satisfying buzz on your wrist.
Combine the updated display with excellent fitness tracking features, sleek design and a huge number of strap options, and you’ve got a seriously tempting iPhone 11 accessory.
2. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
The best smartwatch out there for Android users
- Innovative digital bezel
- Excellent Tizen software
- Superb fitness tracking
- Good all-round smartwatch
- Lack of decent third-party apps
- Pricier than previous generation
If you have an Android phone, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the best smartwatch going. Its great design, acceptable battery life, solid fitness features and outstanding performance make it the best Wear OS watch currently available, and a great alternative to the Apple Watch Series 5. While it costs more than the original Watch Active, it offers superior performance and features, and the clever touch bezel makes interaction with it far more satisfying.
The Watch Active 2’s premium build makes it look more like a watch and less like a wrist computer. The simple design features two buttons and a mic on the right edge, a speaker on the left, and a heart rate sensor on the rear, which felt comfortable against our reviewer’s skin all day.
With a name like Galaxy Watch Active 2, you’d be right to expect some decent fitness features, and this watch also offers a whole lot more. From GPS and a built-in fitness coach to sleep tracking and Spotify, it has all the smartwatch functionality you could wish for.
One mark against the watch’s Tizen OS is the lack of decent third-party apps – Spotify is pretty much it. The Apple Watch has a far larger library, but the core functionality of the Watch Active 2 means you probably won’t miss extra app options. Nevertheless, it’s something to consider.
3. Garmin Vivoactive 4
Offers a great range of health-tracking services and a few surprises
- Can track pretty much every sport you can think of
- Looks like an actual watch
- Solid battery life
- New wellness features work well
- More expensive than the competition
- App offering could be better
While it might not be a giant step forward from the Vivoactive 3, the Vivoactive 4 remains one of the best mid-tier fitness trackers on the market. If you aren’t on a tight budget, this is a great choice for a fitness tracker with all the trimmings that looks equally at home in the gym as it does when you’re out and about. Highlights include stellar GPS location tracking, inbuilt storage for music and maps, and the ability to track pretty much every sport under the sun.
One of the Vivoactive 4’s only downsides is its smartwatch application library, which is still woefully behind the competition. Casual users and those looking for a device that’s primarily a smartwatch would be better off investing in the Fitbit Iconic, or an Apple Watch.
Thankfully, as well as ticking all the right boxes when it comes to toughness and usability, the Vivoactive 4’s superb fitness tracking portfolio more than makes up for its smartwatch shortcomings. The Vivoactive 4 also comes with everything else you’d expect from a tracker and has the ability to monitor pretty much every exercise you can think of. You can track everything from your morning jog and weight training to yoga and cross-country skiing. What really sets the Vivoactive 4 apart is the wealth of extra metrics Garmin’s added to it, with options to track estimated sweat loss, respiration rate and pulse ox level.
4. Fossil Gen 5
A near-perfect blend of personal assistant features and fitness tracking capabilities
- Lightweight, smooth design
- New battery modes
- Feature packed
- Battery life could always be better
Fossil has finally hit its stride with its fifth generation of smartwatches. Fossil Gen 5 includes the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chipset, various new features, and sets a new standard which Wear OS devices should be measured against.
Fossil’s fashion expertise has always given its smartwatches the upper hand where design is concerned, and the fifth-generation devices are no exception. The men’s Carlyle and women’s Julianna models not only look good and feel comfortable, they are also lightweight and unobtrusive. Fossil clearly now understands the physical parameters it needs to follow if its smartwatches are to be taken seriously as fitness trackers.
A 416 x 416 AMOLED display that packs a vibrant 328 pixels per inch is a substantial jump in quality. Colourful app icons pop against a black menu screen, while some of the more artistic watch faces cram a surprising amount of detail into a small amount of space.
Boasting NFC, GPS, heart rate tracking, water resistance and a built-in speaker, Fossil’s Gen 5 smartwatches aren’t lacking in the features department. A faster user experience and the new inclusion of battery-saving modes also contribute to an extraordinary step forward. If you’ve been holding out for a near-perfect blend of fitness tracking capabilities and smartwatch features, Fossil Gen 5 might be the answer.
5. Garmin Fenix 6
Best smartwatch for triathletes
- Excellent location and fitness tracking
- Unbreakable design
- Two-week battery life
- Heart rate monitor works underwater
- Smartwatch functionality still limited
If you’re a hardcore athlete looking for the ultimate smartwatch, the Fenix 6 is one of the leading fitness trackers on the market – and possibly the best. It’s not a huge upgrade on the terrific Garmin Fenix 5, but Garmin’s subtle changes, a near-indestructible design and a superb range of sensors and location tracking features have resulted in a stellar fitness tracker that’s ideal for any athlete looking to take their workout to the next level
Although it has some smartwatch functionality, the Fenix 6 is first and foremost a serious fitness tracker, so if you’re a casual gym goer or runner looking at the Garmin Fenix 6 as an Apple Watch 5 rival, you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree. Better options would be the cheaper models available from Fitbit and Garmin, which has a great Vivo line of trackers.
Considering the Fenix 5 was already best in class for tracking, it’s a real achievement that Garmin has improved on this with the Fenix 6’s multisport and general fitness tracking features. The biggest updates relate to its heart rate and location/distance tracking. Garmin’s tweaked the Fenix 6’s heart rate sensor to work underwater and this key change will be a boon for swimmers, sailors and divers, as you would previously have had to invest in a separate HRM strap to get the data on the older Fenix 5 family.
The only downside with the Fenix 6 is the cost: with pricing starting at £529.99, it’s pretty darned expensive, even by Apple Watch 5 standards. It also places a strong focus on durability and functionality over form, which might reduce its appeal to fashion-conscious buyers.
6. Apple Watch Series 3
Best smartwatch for iPhone users on a budget
- Snappy performance
- Super-bright and clear display
- Decent battery life (when not reliant on LTE)
- Apple Pay
- 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 its replacement as the new “affordable” Apple Watch, and the price of the Series 3 has continued to drop.
You can still choose between GPS-only and cellular versions of the Series 3. However, the finish options have now been cut right 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, like the Series 2 and Series 4, the Series 3 is still good for swim tracking, with water resistance up to 50m. Updated watchOS 5 support is also a nice upgrade.
7. Huawei Watch GT2
Best smartwatch for battery life
- Reasonable price
- Good fitness tracking
- Attractive design
- Formidable battery life
- No always-on display
- Few smartwatch functions
- Limited software
Offering Android users a good alternative to Wear OS and Tizen, the Huawei Watch GT2 is the brand’s latest smartwatch that runs its own software. The OS remains somewhat limited when it comes to apps but it does have a nice focus on fitness tracking.
The watch has a great design and mimics the look of a traditional timepiece, rather than emulating the more modern aesthetic of, say, the Apple Watch. It has a 1.4in OLED circular display with a 462ppi and two buttons on the side, but there’s no always-on option.
Battery life is the biggest plus and if you’ve been putting off switching to a smartwatch because you don’t want to have to charge it every single night, then you’ll like the Watch GT2. We managed around two weeks of use on a single charge and this is far better than most of the competition.
8. Mobvoi TicWatch Pro
Sublime battery life, sleek design
- Flagship-class feature set
- Competitively priced
- Excellent battery life
- Stylish design
- Limited fitness tracking options
- Laggy performance
- No cellular option
Priced under £220, the TicWatch Pro is one of the better Wear OS buys right now. The design is stylish and the smartwatch boasts pretty much every feature you could want, including GPS, NFC and excellent battery life. Its coolest addition is the display, which features a secondary FSTN panel that offers basic watch features and extends overall longevity.
This secondary screen is monochrome and always on, with the watch jumping to the more traditional full-colour Wear OS face when you raise it.
As with other Wear OS devices, performance is merely so-so. The Snapdragon 2100 SoC is old and needs replacing, giving everything an extra-laggy feel. There’s no cellular option and fitness tracking is limited.
9. Fitbit Versa 2
Best smartwatch for Alexa
- Decent battery life
- Good screen for the price
- Alexa support
- No inbuilt GPS
- No local Spotify playback
If you want a good-looking entry-level fitness tracker that can double as a basic smartwatch, then you could do a lot worse than the Fitbit Versa 2. The second generation of the iconic fitness brand’s smartwatch, the Versa 2 adds a few key features to the mix including Amazon Alexa and Spotify support. While the Versa 2 doesn’t excel in any particular area, aside from battery life, it definitely gets all the basics right and has a nifty always-on option.
Some people may find the design a little boring, especially compared to the circular Galaxy Watch Active 2, but we like the Versa 2’s utilitarian, purely functional look, which is fairly similar to that of the original Fitbit Versa. The square OLED touchscreen remains one of the best you’ll get on a watch at the Fitbit Versa 2’s price and offers wonderfully deep blacks, remaining legible even when caught in direct sunlight mid-run.
The control interface is also very intuitive, featuring touch-input controls and a single physical button on the watch’s left side. A short press of the button takes you back to your previous screen, while a long press activates Alexa.
The Fitbit Versa 2 is a solid smartwatch and fitness tracker that will meet the needs of most casual or newbie gym goers. For serious users, however, the small app store and lack of in-built GPS will be an issue. Moderately serious athletes and above would be better off investing in a Garmin Vivo or Forerunner tracker. Similarly, the heavily discounted Apple Watch 3 will be a better choice for people looking for a dedicated smartwatch.
10. Garmin Venu
A stellar workout companion that also doubles as a stylish timepiece
- Best-in-class fitness tracking
- Battery life of up to five days
- Bright AMOLED display
- High asking price
- Too similar to the Vivoactive 4
With the release of the Apple Watch 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, 2019 was a year of incremental updates to smartwatches, and the Garmin Venu was no exception.
Garmin has been making subtle changes to an already clean design with each new entry in the Vivoactive series, aiming to make a sports watch that can be worn out and about at a variety of functions, and the Garmin Venu continues this trend. It will be equally at home on your wrist whether you’re taking a trip to the gym or going on a night out – a crucial win given that, in order to get the most out of the device, Garmin expects you to wear it at all times.
Garmin’s devices have always boasted superb battery life, and now the Venu is far more easily comparable with modern smartwatches – and not just sports watches. Its battery life of up to five days should put the competition to shame: even the Fossil Gen 5, which brought in a bunch of new battery-saving modes to see it last over several days, still can’t compare.
The Venu is built upon Garmin’s unbeatable fitness tracking software, which is finally brought into the mainstream with the inclusion of a much-needed AMOLED display. It’s no secret by now that when it comes to tracking workouts, Garmin absolutely wipes the floor with the competition, and the Venu offers a wealth of data to the user – there really isn’t anything quite like it. There’s still room for improvement, however, when it comes tracking reps, particularly during strength exercises.
While fitness is at the centre of its design, the Venu is still very much a modern smartwatch, with all the bells and whistles you’d expect to find alongside. If you have money to burn, then consider opting for the Venu over the Vivoactive 4 – but for everyone else, it might be worth holding off until there’s a price drop.
How do I choose the right smartwatch for me?
These are our top picks for the best smartwatches. Read on to find out more about smartwatches and what to look out for when you’re buying one.
Which is the best operating system?
Currently, there are three big smartwatch operating systems: watchOS from Apple, Wear OS from Google and Tizen from Samsung. Fitbit, a relative newcomer to the smartwatch space, has its own Fitbit OS but so far none of its smartwatches have made this list. A big reason for this is the lack of app support and that’s a key consideration when picking your smartwatch. Right now, watchOS is by far the best supported for apps, followed by Wear OS, with Tizen lagging behind.
What are the key considerations when choosing the best smartwatch?
Aside from the operating system, you should also consider how you intend to use your smartwatch. Many now double as fitness trackers and sports watches, and if this is important to you, choose a smartwatch with built-in GPS and a heart rate sensor. It’s worth noting that smartwatches with these features are often much bigger.
Water resistance is ideal across the board. Even if you’re not a swimmer, it’s nice to be able to leave your smartwatch on when you have a shower and not have to worry about it during a downpour.
Battery life is the other big consideration. In the early days, many smartwatches struggled to last a single day. Most have now improved considerably to offer at least two days without a charge, and that’s the minimum we’d recommend.