Our Fave Smartwatches Do Much More Than Just Tell Time

A good watch doesn’t just display the time of day—it can also elevate your outfit and sometimes just make you feel good. Smartwatches can do even more, from tracking workouts and measuring heart rate to offering up notifications and giving you a way to control smart home devices. While you’re wearing a connected watch, you can leave your phone in your pocket and just check your wrist for urgent notifications. Here are the best ones we’ve reviewed.

Be sure to check out our many other buying guides, including our Best Fitness Trackers and Best Cheap Phones guides.

Updated December 2020: We’ve added several new picks, like the Series 6, Galaxy Watch 3, TicWatch Pro 3, and Fossil Gen 5E.

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  • Photograph: Apple 

    Best for iPhone Owners

    Apple Watch Series 6

    The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch money can buy. It has the best operating system, watchOS, which is slick with plenty of apps to help reduce the number of times you need to pull out your phone. The latest model is the Series 6 (8/10, WIRED Recommends), which features blood oxygen monitoring to measure oxygen saturation in the blood (SpO2)—helpful for athletes training at altitude or if you have an underlying health condition. Coupled with the FDA-cleared electrocardiogram and the wealth of fitness tracking features, it’s a gadget aimed at good health.

    It also now includes sleep tracking, will remind you to stand up and move during the day, and with the Noise app, you can get alerts when ambient sounds around you are loud enough to damage hearing. Unfortunately, battery life is still mediocre (you’ll need to charge it before bed to track sleep), and it still only works with iPhones. Sorry Android owners.

    Comes in 40-mm or 44-mm sizes.

    Cheaper Alternative: The Apple Watch SE ($269) is worth a look. It debuted alongside the Series 6 and is the model for those who balk at a $400 price and don’t need an electrocardiogram, SpO2, or always-on display. Alternatively, if you can find a Series 5 for a similar price, go for it. The Series 3 does the basics and is frequently on sale for $169. Check our Apple Watch guide for more details.

  • Photograph: Samsung 

    Best for Android Phone Owners

    Samsung Galaxy Watch3

    Samsung’s newest smartwatch goes toe-to-toe with the Apple Watch in several metrics, from SpO2 to an FDA-cleared electrocardiogram. It can automatically track your long walks and a few other workouts, and it has the usual smartwatch tricks; you can respond to or delete notifications from your phone—even answer calls from the watch. It lasts around two days per charge if you turn off the always-on display, but a day and a half otherwise, which is enough to go a full day and track your sleep.

    It’s attractive, looks like a normal watch, and has a fun, mechanical rotating bezel to move throughout the operating system so you don’t need to touch the screen with your grubby fingers as much. Where it struggles is app support. There’s no native mapping app, and you won’t find your favorite messaging app in Samsung’s store, so it’s impossible to start a new conversation from the watch. It works best with Samsung and other Android phones, but you can use it with iPhones.

    Comes in 41-mm and 45-mm sizes.

  • Photograph: Samsung

    Runner Up for Android

    Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

    If Samsung’s watch above is out of your price range, its 2019 model should be at the top of your list. It has similarly great activity tracking and heart rate monitoring as well as an electrocardiogram, but it costs half as much. You can interact with the digital rotating bezel surrounding the round OLED screen, and as on the model above, you can check and respond to notifications, stream audio from Spotify, make contactless payments, track swimming sessions and sleep.

    It has a battery that lasts two to three days, too! App support is lackluster, but there’s enough to make this watch a worthwhile investment. It’s frequently on sale below $250, so try not to pay full price.

    Comes in 40-mm and 44-mm sizes.

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