A great smartwatch is so much more than a way to tell time and get phone notifications. With built-in features from GPS and fitness tracking to heart-rate sensors and sleep readings, the best smartwatch for you may actually improve your life. But there’s a lot to consider, including your budget and specific wellness needs. We have all the essentials covered with our guide to the seven best smartwatches of 2021.
What smartwatch features do you need?
- Operating system compatibility: Check to make sure the smartwatch is compatible with your phone’s OS.
- GPS: Built-in GPS will help runners, cyclists and hikers find their way without a phone.
- Waterproofing: Waterproof models can track swimmers’ workouts.
- Fitness tracking: Many smartwatches feature step trackers, built-in workouts and prompts to get you moving.
- Sleep tracking: Find out what quality of sleep you’re getting and receive notifications to help you build better habits.
- Heart-rate monitor: Track your vitals while working out or at rest.
- Fall detection: Some smartwatches are able to contact emergency services if they detect the user has fallen down.
What type of smartwatch are you looking for?
Best Android Smartwatch
Operating System Compatibility: Android | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Screen Size: 1.4 inches | Body Metrics Measured: Sleep Time, Sleep Quality, Heart Rate, Calories Burned, Steps Taken, Distance Travelled, Activity/Inactivity
The Galaxy Active2’s sleek design, plus a variety of watch faces available in the Galaxy Wearable app, means you don’t have to sacrifice style for technology. It’s a great option for fitness lovers and anyone who’s into wellness: The built-in running coach provides feedback in realtime, the ECG (electrocardiogram) app monitors your heart’s rhythm and the included Calm app monitors stress levels during interactive meditation sessions. The battery also lasts for days on a single charge.
|The Active2 allows you to make phone calls and send texts from your wrist—even when you leave your phone and/or earbuds at home.||The ECG app only works when tied to a Samsung Galaxy phone.|
|It also has voice activation for making calls, turning on music or initiating fitness coaching.||The battery takes longer to fully charge compared to other smartwatch models.|
|It automatically recognizes more than 16 languages through voice or text.|
This watch is what Android users have been waiting for. Great screen quality, nice feel on the wrist and nearly all the features you could want. It is waterproof and has amazing battery life.
Vibrate is weak or is just located in the wrong part of the watch. I almost always miss vibrate notifications.
Best Apple Watch
Operating System Compatibility: Apple | Wireless Connectivity: AirPlay, Bluetooth, Network Carrier, Wi-Fi | Screen Size: 1.57 inches (the 40mm model), 1.7 inches (the 44mm model) | Body Metrics Measured: Sleep Time, Sleep Quality, Calories Burned, Heart Rate, Steps Taken, Distance Travelled, Activity/Inactivity
Most iPhone users are familiar with Apple’s coveted watches by now, and the Series 6 is the latest model. It features upgraded health technology including a new SpO2 sensor to track your blood oxygen level and the ability to monitor your heart rhythm by taking an ECG (electrocardiogram) from your wrist. Plus, the always-on display is almost three times brighter outdoors, even when you’re not checking it.
|The built-in compass and real-time elevation readings are ideal for hikes.||It’s one of the more expensive smartwatches on the market.|
|Want to leave your wallet at home? No problem. You can pay instantly from your wrist with Apple Pay.||Many users point out that the battery doesn’t last all day long.|
|The fall detection feature contacts emergency services if you take a nasty spill during a run.|
I’m an engineer with heart issues. This technology is amazing, quality is very high, and its capabilities are beyond belief. I’m so impressed that this watch can track my severe issues and help me keep on top of them.
The watch is great. However, Apple should make the watch compatible with all iPhones. I bought the watch only to find out that it does not sync with my phone.
Best Value Smartwatch
Operating System Compatibility: Apple | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Screen Size: 1.5 inches | Body Metrics Measured: Calories Burned, Heart Rate, Stairs Climbed, Steps Taken, Pace, Distance Travelled, Activity/Inactivity
If you’re looking for more bang for your buck, the Apple Watch Series 3 is a great way to go. In addition to its heart-rate sensor and fitness tracking, this model allows you to get calls and texts from your wrist. You can also sync your favourite podcasts, audiobooks and playlists so that you can listen to just about anything during your daily walks.
|You can track your swim workouts thanks to its waterproof design.||The battery life isn’t great when you’re using GPS.|
|Heart-health notifications will let you know if your heart rate is too high or too low, or if its rhythm is irregular.||There’s no headphone jack, so you’ll have to invest in a pair of wireless headphones.|
|Emergency SOS allows you to call for help from your watch when you can’t reach your phone.|
It does everything I wanted to do, plus some: heart-rate monitor, view, read and respond to text messages, set alarm clock, lets you inhale and exhale periodically throughout the day… It is like your smartphone within a smartphone.
Battery runs out very fast.
Best Hybrid Smartwatch
Operating System Compatibility: Apple and Android | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth | Screen Size: 1.3 inches | Body Metrics Measured: Sleep Time, Sleep Quality, Calories Burned, Heart Rate, Stairs Climbed, Steps Taken, Pace, Distance Travelled, Activity/Inactivity
Hybrid smartwatches look like normal wristwatches but have smart functions. In the case of Garmin’s Vivoactive 4S, top-of-the-line features are encased in a stylish rose-gold watch face. Get animated workouts (whether you’re into cardio, strength or yoga) and 20 sports apps, plus monitoring of your health habits, including breathing, sleep and hydration. You’ll even receive a reminder to relax if your stress levels get too high.
|The battery life is awesome: It lasts up to eight days in smartwatch mode and up to six hours while running GPS and playing music.||Installing apps is kind of a pain. You have to download the Garmin Connect IQ Store before you can download third-party apps.|
|Features like incident detection and assistance help you stay safe by sending your real-time location to emergency contacts.||It’s pricey compared to some other hybrid smartwatches and fitness trackers.|
|You can receive notifications for incoming calls and text messages, plus calendar reminders.|
So light, accurate on the workouts, and the insight with the stress levels is great. I totally love it.
The screen is always on and brightens when it detects movement or touch to the screen. I’ve woken myself up countless times in the night thanks to this watch.
Best Fitness Smartwatch
Operating System Compatibility: Apple and Android | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth | Screen Size: 0.9 inches | Body Metrics Measured: Sleep Quality, Calories Burned, Heart Rate, Steps Taken, Pace, Distance Travelled, Activity/Inactivity
Calling all outdoorsy types! The Garmin Instinct features preloaded activity training profiles for cycling, swimming and running. And for those who love a good, long hike, the compass, altimeter and navigation systems (including GPS and Galileo, which can track your position in places that GPS can’t reach) mean you’ll always know exactly where you are. It even has a TracBack feature that navigates you back to where you started.
|The battery lasts up to two weeks on a single charge when in smartwatch mode and up to 40 hours in UltraTrac battery saver mode.||This model doesn’t offer any music storage, so you’ll have to connect it to your phone to access your playlists.|
|It’s durable! The watch is waterproof up to 100 meters, plus it is shock- and thermal-resistant.||Since it has so many features, it can be hard to learn to use.|
|It tracks all your need-to-know stats like heart rate, activity and stress.|
I am getting more than 10 days on a charge with this watch, and it is holding up to anything I throw at it. I have bumped and hit it against things that would have taken out other watches—this one goes on without a scratch.
Big learning curve to use all the widgets, which I haven’t figured out yet.
Best Smartwatch for Sleep Tracking
Operating System Compatibility: Universal | Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Screen Size: 1.34 inches | Body Metrics Measured: Sleep Time, Sleep Quality, Calories Burned, Heart Rate, Stairs Climbed, Steps Taken, Pace, Distance Travelled, Activity/Inactivity
Bring on those sweet zzzs with the Fitbit Versa 2, a smartwatch that gives you a Sleep Score so you can take steps to improve sleep time and quality. It also features Smart Wake—a setting that vibrates at the ideal time to wakeup based on your sleep cycle (within a 30-minute window). Shell out a few extra bucks for the Fitbit Versa 3 if you want built-in GPS and faster charging. We also love these other Fitbits for swimming, running and more.
|You can use your voice to set alarms and bedtime reminders with built-in Amazon Alexa.||It doesn’t have a built-in GPS, which means you need to have your phone with you to get stats such as distance and pace.|
|The always-on option shows the time, date and battery life 24/7.||The Fitbit Versa 2 doesn’t integrate with Apple Health or Google Fit.|
|You can download up to 300 songs and listen to your favourite playlists offline.|
I like that it tracks my daily activity but also tracks sleep patterns. I get better overall health tracking to know if I am getting enough sleep or not.
The Fitbit Versa 2 works well but falls short as a smartwatch. You cannot take phone calls on it, only answer your phone.
Best Smartwatch for Kids
Age: 4+ | Operating System Compatibility: None | Wireless Connectivity: AirPlay, Bluetooth, Network Carrier, Wi-Fi | Screen Size: 1.54 inches | Body Metrics Measured: Steps Taken
The durable, splashproof design of the Tobi Robot makes it a great first smartwatch for your little one. In addition to teaching them how to tell time, Tobi comes to life with moving arms and legs, plus over 100 expressions and sound effects. It also features interactive learning games that they can unlock as they play.
|Tobi encourages kids to get active with a fun dance game and built-in pedometer.||Some users complain that the inset button is difficult to press.|
|The watch has two cameras so kids can take selfies and videos, plus storage for up to 3,000 photos or 30 minutes of video. They can add silly stickers, too!||There’s no companion app that allows parents to monitor or set limits for kids’ activities.|
|Kids can wear Tobi on their wrist or attached to their clothes using the included clip, which converts to a display stand for charging or using the watch as an alarm clock.||It doesn’t include a GPS tracker.|
This great new toy is the best way to let your kid enjoy learning about reading time and the calendar. Its interactive features will sure keep your kids entertained. It nourishes growth on a whole new level!
I wish there was some type of parent app so I can monitor and set limits for activity and whatnot throughout the day. I also wish there was a way for him to be able to message me.
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