If you're reading this, chances are you already know you want a smartwatch and have at least a cursory understanding of the benefits. (Or you could be trolling in the comments about why people shouldn't buy smartwatches.) I'm not here to convince you to get one; I'm here to help you navigate the smartwatch world by showing you our favorites and flagging some key questions to ask.
Before we dive into our short list, bear in mind the phone you're using will significantly narrow down your options. Android users won't consider the Apple Watch, since the device only works with iOS. On the other hand, iPhone fans won't get as much out of Android Wear (not to mention third-party systems like Fitbit OS or Tizen OS) as Android users. In fact, folks with Samsung phones may even prefer the company's Tizen-based Gear smartwatches to Android Wear offerings.
You should also consider whether you want LTE connectivity. Most people won't need this feature, since there are few instances where you would leave your phone behind and still want to remain connected. But if you find your handset a burden but want to keep an eye on your notifications, a watch with a cellular radio might serve you well. Bear in mind, though, that this connectivity often comes at the expense of battery life and requires a chunkier case (with the Apple Watch Series 3 LTE being a notable exception). You'll also be limited to a handful of options, and they're typically more expensive than their non-LTE counterparts.
Our top picks
To make your life easier, here's a quick rundown of our favorite smartwatches. From our experience, these offer the best combination of features and design. All of our top picks have built-in GPS, heart rate sensors, mobile-payment tech and swim-tracking, in addition to support for third-party apps and some sort of digital assistant.
| ||Apple Watch Series 3 ||Samsung Gear Sport ||Fitbit Ionic ||Garmin Vivoactive 3 |
|Built-in GPS ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes |
|Heart rate sensor ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes |
|Music streaming ||Yes ||Yes ||Yes ||No |
|NFC/contactless payments ||Apple Pay ||Samsung Pay ||Fitbit Pay ||Garmin Pay |
|Waterproof ||Up to 50 meters ||Up to 50 meters ||Up to 50 meters ||Up to 5 ATM |
|Starting price ||$329 ||$300 ||$300 ||$300 |