You've likely noticed that Fitbit has launched its proper smartwatch, the Ionic, and that Samsung has also got new Gear wearables. Well both are in our chart among other new wearables. We've rounded up some of the best smartwatches to potentially grace your arm in 2018, but included only those available to buy today.
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Your buying guide to the best smartwatches in 2018
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. 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.
It hasn't quite made the chart here but the Fossil Q Grant is a great example.
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 a Wear OS (formerly 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 and it's legitimately good, 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 Wear OS now has iOS support but the experience is cut down in comparison.
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. Many also come with NFC which can be used for contactless payment.
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 Wear OS smartwatches, a large part of the decision will come down to design and price.
- Reviewed on: 19 March 2018
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 yet in a sci-fi world where everyone wants a watch to make calls instead of a smartphone. Apple has nailed the integration way better than anyone else, but with network restrictions and a high price – and limited practical use cases – it isn’t going to become mainstream yet.
As a fitness tracker its Activity app works well but isn't as fully featured as other activity trackers, such as the Fitbits.
As a smartwatch though it excels - iPhone users will adore seamless notifications, fitness tracking and outstanding build quality.
Read our Apple Watch Series 3 review.
- Reviewed on: 1 February 2018
The Samsung Gear Sport is quite expensive but it's a great looking smartwatch packed full of tech, in a compact and light design. It balances regular and fitness features and also has decent battery life too.
Read our Samsung Gear Sport review.
4. Huawei Watch
- Reviewed on: 4 November 2015
It might be the previous generation but the Huawei Watch is still easy to find and remains a great choice for a smartwatch. It offers stunning design and exquisite build quality. It does lack GPS and the heart rate monitor isn't great.
Read our Huawei Watch review.
- Reviewed on: 4 December 2017
The Gear S3 adds GPS into the mix, but for £100 more than the S2 was. The reduced functionality (loss of text and email apps) when not using a Samsung phone is also a turn-off, despite the Tizen 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 one of the best. It just isn’t essential.
Read our Samsung Gear S3 Frontier 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.
7. Fitbit Ionic
- Reviewed on: 11 May 2018
We’re really pleased to see a smartwatch made by Fitbit. While it is 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 and the Adidas Edition's Train app) looks like the first proper health smartwatch.
Read our Fitbit Ionic review.
- Reviewed on: 23 March 2018
If the screen and battery life of a regular smartwatch doesn’t appeal then a hybrid is a great alternative. The Fossil Q Commuter is an excellent example and the best we’ve tried so far.
It’s stylish, available in various finishes, with top-notch build quality at an affordable price. It’s not the most intuitive system but once you get used to it, the Commuter handles tracking, notifications and more pretty neatly.
Read our Fossil Q Commuter review.
9. Ticwatch E
- Reviewed on: 30 May 2018
The Ticwatch E is a fairly basic Wear OS smartwatch, but including both a heart-rate monitor and GPS at such a low price makes this one of the most affordable smartwatches around that can also serve as a fitness tracker.
The battery life is a bit of a disappointment - not quite meeting the manufacturer's claim of two days - and we struggled to get it working properly with an iPhone, but if your phone runs Android and you want a no-frills smartwatch to go running with, this isn't a bad choice.
Read our Ticwatch E review.
10. Skagen Falster
- Reviewed on: 21 March 2018
The Skagen Falster is a very basic Wear OS (RIP Android Wear) watch with good looks at a premium price. For £279, we’d usually expect at least a heart rate sensor, but without it, NFC or GPS, this is only a watch for casual step counting from a fitness point of view.
But if you have a desire for on-wrist notifications and a smartwatch that doesn’t look too tech-y then it’s one of a few available that has full smartwatch functionality. Fossil has some hybrid models (as does Skagen itself) but we can’t escape that for the price, the Falster doesn’t do enough or last long enough on a charge.
Read our Skagen Falster review.