You've likely noticed that Fitbit has just announced its first proper smartwatch, the Ionic, and that Samsung will be announcing a couple of new wearables at IFA 2017 in late August. These are not in our best smartwatches chart just yet. We've rounded up some of the smartest watches to potentially grace your arm in 2017, but included only those available to buy today.
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Your buying guide to the best smartwatches in 2017
Why do I need a smartwatch?
There's an interesting theory that smartwatches are to the smartphone what wristwatches were to the pocket watch. Picture the way the average gentlemen used to have to rummage through his pocket for his watch prior to the 20th century. Now skip forward 100+ years and the average smartphone user still has to dive into his/her pocket to check their phone.
The kicker now is that your smartphone holds far more information than a pocket watch ever did, yet all of which is still locked into your pocket.
Smartwatches aren't for making phone calls, although some can do this, but instead they provide a quick and easy way to check what notifications are on your smartphone, so you can decide whether it's worth delving into your pocket or searching around your bag to fetch your smartphone or not.
What type of smartwatch should I look for?
There are two type of smartwatch around at the moment: those with a colourful touchscreen like would find on your phone, and those which combine a regular analogue watch with smart features.
We call them 'semi-smartwatches' but they're also known as hybrids. It hasn't quite made the chart here but the Fossil Q Grant is a great example.
The latter we class as a semi-smart device and normally gives you information via a small LCD screen, LEDs or even smaller hands on the watch face.
While a fully-fledged smartwatch can do a lot more, the juice guzzling screen results in a short battery life. Semi-smart watches benefit from longer battery life with some even having separate cells for the watch and smart features.
If you're an Android user then an Android Wear smartwatch is the obvious choice but it's not necessarily the best for everyone. Google's OS tweaked for wearables also plays nicely with iOS but with cut down functionality so iPhone owners will get more from the Apple Watch. Read more on how to use Android Wear with iPhone.
Others have an entirely different system such as Pebble's range of devices and some even work with Windows Phone like the Vector Watch. Samsung is sticking with its own Tizen, too, so there's something for everyone here.
What makes a good smartwatch?
When testing for what is the best smartwatch, the important factors to consider are how much of your smartphone's functionalities can it perform, and how well does it handle each task, the final attribute is obviously style - it's still bling after all.
You'll also want to make sure it's compatible with your smartphone - some are only for iPhone or Android while others support most phones. Note that Android Wear now has iOS support but the experience is cut down in comparison.
Some smartwatches use different software such as the Gear S3 which runs Tizen, Samsung's own OS - it's a legitimate alternative to Android Wear. Read about Android Wear 2.0.
As is stands, you'll need to pick a watch with more limited functionality if you want long battery life while ones which can do all sorts will typically last a couple of days.
Fitness fans will want to look for a device with a heart rate monitor and built-in GPS, although the heart rate monitors are often poor.
We consider the important factors of a smartwatch to be level of notification detail, battery life, style, water resistance, compatibility with a range of devices/smartphones, plus additional features such as microphones and Wi-Fi support so you don't have to connect to a phone for full functionality.
With very similar, if not identical, hardware on offer with many of the Android Wear smartwatches, a large part of the decision will come down to design and price.
- Reviewed on: 22 May 2017
The Huawei Watch 2 is no-doubt a huge improvement over the first-generation Huawei Watch despite trading in the classic look for something a little sportier. The double-chrome design gives it a premium look, although it’s let down a little bit by cheap-looking removable plastic straps.
It’s the hardware that really sets the Watch 2 apart: it boasts optional 4G connectivity, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing for use without a connected smartphone. The array of built-in sensors provides in-depth fitness tracking, allowing for a more holistic view of your exercise regime, although there are small issues that need ironing out.
Read our Huawei Watch 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 4 October 2017
The Series 3 with LTE does what it set out to do, but it is a bridge product. We are not in a sci-fi world where everyone wants a watch to make calls instead of a smartphone. But some people will want to, and for now those people need an iPhone.
Apple has nailed the integration way better than any other manufacturer, but with network restrictions and a high price – and limited practical use cases – it isn’t going to become mainstream yet.
As a smartwatch though it excels - iPhone users will adore seamless notifications, fitness tracking and outstanding build quality.
The LTE aspect works best as a backup when your phone dies, and performance is consistent.
Read our Apple Watch Series 3 review.
- Reviewed on: 10 March 2016
There's no doubt that the Fossil Q Founder is a well-made and good looking Android Wear smartwatch which is also a competitive price. The hardware on offer is good, although some may miss the heart rate monitor and GPS. As much as we love it, the flat tyre effect of the screen is a big drawback stopping it being really great.
Read our Fossil Q Founder review.
4. Huawei Watch
- Reviewed on: 4 November 2015
Although it's pricy, the Huawei Watch is best Android Wear smartwatch on the market with its absolutely stunning design and exquisite build quality. There's still work to be done though as the watch lacks GPS, the heart rate monitor doesn't work very well and the charger is bit fiddly.
Read our Huawei Watch review.
- Reviewed on: 4 August 2016
Available for under £200, the Motorola Moto 360 Sport is one of the best smartwatches for fitness. You get the some of the regular 360 style in a design which is practical for activities like running. The GPS tracking is accurate but it's shame the same can't be said of the heart rate monitor and we still find the 'flat tyre' on the screen an eyesore. A solid effort but hard-core fitness fans might need something which is more in-depth.
Read our Motorola Moto 360 Sport review.
- Reviewed on: 8 December 2016
The Gear S2 arrived on a deserved wave of hype, but for some reason we aren’t overly excited about this new Gear S3 Frontier. The only thing it actually adds is GPS, and at a £100 cost it’ll definitely put some people off. The reduced functionality when not using a Samsung phone is also a turn-off, despite the software being easier and more intuitive than Android Wear.
The problem isn’t entirely the S3’s fault, it’s in the inherent limitations of smartwatches. You’ll always need a smartphone to finish the majority of tasks, and added to the fact that this is practically a repackaged Gear S2 means not much new ground has been broken. If you want a smartwatch and can afford to spend £349, this is the one to get. It just isn’t essential.
Read our Samsung Gear S3 Frontier review.
- Reviewed on: 9 November 2017
The Asus ZenWatch 3 is a gorgeous smartwatch – and one of the slimmest – but there are shortcomings to the circular smartwatch. It’s limited in terms of fitness tracking, measuring only steps and standing hours and offering tracking for only basic exercises due to the omission of GPS and a heart-rate tracker.
Its performance is sluggish (and that's being kind) and things go downhill when you update to Android Wear 2.0. Battery life is also poor with the new software.
Until Asus can fix these issues, you're better off spending more on a rival such as the Huawei Watch 2.
Read our Asus ZenWatch 3 review.
- Reviewed on: 2 February 2017
If you’re not fussed about a full on touchscreen smartwatch, the Withings Steel HR is stylish, well-made and offers excellent battery life. We’re glad to see the addition of the heart rate monitor and the screen for smart features, even if they are basic. A great semi-smartwatch for the price.
Read our Withings Steel HR review.
- Reviewed on: 26 July 2017
There's no doubt that the Mont Blanc is a stylish and extremely well-made smartwatch. However, it misses the mark in various ways making it very hard to recommend spending the asking price. The Summit's specs are very similar to much cheaper rivals from tech brands and the Summit is lacking GPS and NFC. The saddest thing of all is not being able to use the crown.
Read our Mont Blanc Summit review.
10. Fitbit Ionic
- Reviewed on: 18 October 2017
We’re really pleased to see a smartwatch made by Fitbit. While it's expensive for a fitness tracker, it does pack in a lot of high-end features that will appeal to a wide range of people, from hardcore fitness fanatics to the more casual gym-goers.While the range of non-fitness apps is not wide at launch what it offers is still beneficial to people looking for a more healthy lifestyle. With built-in GPS and music player, contactless payments and on-screen notifications it means you can leave your phone and wallet at home when out exercising.
The Ionic is lightweight and comfortable, and looks good too - even in the pool. The range of straps means you can swap out bands for different occasions - either at the gym, the office or out on the town.
While it can't rival the mainstream smartwatches for a dazzling array of apps, the smart-enough Ionic (allied with Fitbit Coach) looks like the first proper health smartwatch.
Read our Fitbit Ionic review.