Best Smartwatches of This Year – Android Authority

Best Smartwatches of This Year

A smartwatch is the first and the last companion of your smartphone when it comes to continuous pairing and sharing essential features to boost your productivity while doing what a watch and a fitness band can do.

Most of us know that wearable technology is still not at that level where the smartphones have reached, but these smartwatches have evolved a lot in recent years. Today’s smartwatches can perform a ton of novel tricks, such as enabling you to search the internet with your voice, tracking your exercise over GPS, and letting you check-out at the grocery store without pulling out your wallet.

There’s a lot to talk about the features but we keep doing that in our reviews, so let’s skip it and take a look at the best smartwatches you can buy in India right now.

Looking for something running Google’s OS? Here’s our best Android Wear smartwatch round-up

Apps

What separates a smart watch from a dumb watch? Lots of things, but as smartphones have taught us, apps might be the most important.

Most of the watches we like feature full-fledged app stores, bringing everything from Uber and Yelp to—yes, a calculator—to your wrist. Much like smartphones, app availability is a good way to determine which product to get, so make sure to check out the app selection for each watch before buying in.

And if you’re looking for apps, right now Apple is your best bet. The Apple Watch has the largest number of high-quality apps and big-name developers, by far. Android Wear also has it fair share, but developer interest definitely seems to be in Apple first. Samsung’s homegrown Tizen OS doesn’t seem to be on the radar for most developers, and the kid-friendly LG GizmoGadget is more about messaging than apps.

Fitness

Unless you want a gadget on both of your wrists (not the best look, in my opinion), you’ll want a smartwatch that can do double-duty as a fitness tracker—or any other wearable gadget you were thinking about getting. Most smartwatches are capable of tracking basic activity, like steps, but you need to pay close attention to any additional features.

The Apple Watch Series 3 and Nike+ edition, for instance, feature built-in GPS, so they can track your runs without the help of a companion device. They also have heart rate sensors. The Fitbit Ionic tracks more advanced fitness metrics than the competition, but has less in the way of third-party apps, so there’s some trade-off.

Look closely and choose a watch that tracks the activities you want to monitor.

Battery Life

You don’t want a smartwatch with good battery life, right? Good, because you’re not going to get it. Watches with full-color, smartphone-like displays, like the Apple Watch and Android Wear watches, only last for about a day on a single charge. Like your phone, you’re going to want to throw them on a charger every night before you go to bed. And most of the watches that fall into this category feature screens that turn off after just a few seconds. In order to check the time, you either need trigger the display with a physical button or a gesture like holding it up to your face.

Cellular Connectivity

Now that Apple has added a cellular model to its Series 3 lineup, you might be wondering if cellular connectivity is something you actually need. Basically, it allows you to make calls, send texts, stream music, download apps, and do anything else that requires an internet connection, without actually needing to be connected to your phone.

The cellular Series 3 carries a $70 premium over the standard version, and you also have to pay to add it to your phone plan—most carriers charge an additional $10 per month. Whether this convenience is worth it for you depends on what you plan to use your watch for. If you want to be able to stream music while you exercise, but you want to leave your phone back in the locker room or at home, a cellular connection can certainly come in handy. If you always have your phone on you, however, you can probably save the money and skip it.

The Best Android Watch

There are more Android Wear watches on the market than any other kind, yet a glance at the chart above shows our highest-rated Android model scores just 3.5 stars. We also don’t have an Editors’ Choice in the Android Wear category. That isn’t to say Android watches aren’t good—depending on your needs, you can get one that does everything you need for half the price of an Apple Watch. But pay close attention to the reviews, because not all Android Wear watches are created equal.

As mentioned above, make sure to look for a watch that runs Android Wear 2.0. It’s the latest version of the operating system, and a significant improvement over the original that makes operation more intuitive. Aside from that, it’s pretty much about finding the features you want at a price you can afford. Our current favorite model, the Huawei Watch 2, offers continuous heart monitoring, built-in GPS, and above-average battery life.

There are also far more styles to choose from. If you buy an Apple Watch, you’re limited to a selection of proprietary bands if you want to swap out the original for a customized look. Many Android watches support standard watch straps, making your options virtually limitless. Not only that, but the selection of watches themselves is far more diverse than the one-design-fits-all Apple Watch. Want a sporty design? Check out the LG Watch Sport. Prefer to go the traditional route? Look to the Asus ZenWatch 3.

So while Android Wear still lags behind the Apple Watch in terms of simplicity and app selection, it’s far more versatile in terms of pricing and features.

Watch Out

The infamous calculator watch has been around since the 1970s, but smartwatches have finally reached the point that they’re, well, smart. And now that the Apple Watch has catapulted the category into the mainstream, smartwatches are no longer accessories associated primarily with tech geeks. From running apps, to displaying smartphone notifications, to monitoring your heart rate, the latest crop of smartwatches do a lot more than just tell time. Since Pebble is out of the picture, which one should you buy? We’ve rounded up our top-rated options to help you decide. It’s also important to know what to look for, so keep the following advice in mind when shopping around.

Device Compatibility

Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to consider when buying a smartwatch is compatibility. Most of the devices currently available use Android Wear, Google’s operating system designed for wearables; Android Wear supports iOS, but these are still very much Android-centric devices (make sure to look for a watch that supports Android Wear 2.0, the latest version of the OS). The Apple Watch, as you’d expect, connects strictly to iOS-powered devices, so it’s iPhone-only. Make sure to pick a watch that’s compatible with the mobile device you own. Unfortunately, there aren’t any watches we recommend that support BlackBerry or Windows Mobile devices.

Price

Smartwatches can be very expensive, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money to get a good one. Yes, the ceramic Apple Watch Edition is sure to draw a lot of attention, but at $1,299 (and up), you can buy a couple of new iPhones. Even the base model Series 3 costs $329, placing it among the more expensive smartwatches we recommend. If you’re a first-time smartwatch buyer, you might want to think about going the less-expensive route, in case you wind up not wearing it all that much.

Buy It for Looks, Don’t Buy It for Life

Let’s not forget: You’re also going to wear this thing. And unlike your Timex, it’s probably not going to remain in style for years. Smartwatch design is rapidly changing, so hold out until you find something you actually want to wear. And keep in mind that smartwatches are still gadgets. The coming year is sure to bring new iterations of pretty much every watch on this list, not to mention plenty of completely new ones.

The battle for wrist real estate is quickly heating up. That’s good news for consumers, since it’s likely to result in even better—and better-looking—devices. I wouldn’t be surprised if this list reads completely differently the next time you see it. But if you’re looking for the best smartwatch available today, the options here are the finest we’ve seen so far. For the latest reviews, see our Smartwatch Product Guide.

Apple Watch Series 3

Part smartwatch, part fitness tracker, and a much, much better wearable than what we first got in 2015, the Apple Watch 3 is still far from perfect and Android Wear has caught up in terms of features, technology and style, but as far as the overall smartwatch experience goes, Apple is still doing the best work here.

This is Apple’s first cellular smartwatch, letting you cut the invisible tether to take it out sans iPhone and still make/receive calls, get texts and all other notifications you would on your phone.

The Series 3 is also heavily focused on fitness, with built-in GPS that we’ve found to be impressively accurate, and 50m waterproofing so it’s one of the best smartwatches for swimming as well.

The Apple Watch Series 3 is about those windows through the day where a cellular watch can be freeing. It’s not yet time to ditch the smartphone, but Apple makes a more convincing case for a standalone smartwatch than any other company has so far.

Feature check: GPS, swimming friendly, Apple Pay, 2 day battery, heart rate monitor.

 

Samsung Gear S3

Compatible with Android and iOS, the Gear S3 is an improvement on the Gear S2 in all ways but one: the design. Or at least we think so; you might disagree and prefer that bigger, bunkier look. While it might look more like a classic watch than the S2, it’s also much bigger – 46mm wide.

However that larger body affords it a screen where Tizen can really shine, and a bigger battery, from which we’ve managed to squeeze an average of three days from – much better than anything in the Android Wear stable or from the Apple Watch.

Samsung treads between smartwatch and fitness tracker, also packing in a heart rate sensor along with that GPS and its much-improved Samsung Health software. There’s the option of LTE too if you wish for an untethered connection, with a standalone speaker for taking calls on the watch.

It’s not quite the ultimate fitness all-in-one thanks to a lack of proper waterproofing, which makes swimming out of the question (check out the newer Samsung Gear Sport if that’s more you bag) and the poor app selection puts it behind its rivals in terms of versatility but strong individual style, the intuitive rotating bezel and great battery life mean it’s keeping ahead of anything from Android Wear in our list currently.

Feature check: GPS, Samsung Pay, Tizen, heart rate monitor.

Michael Kors Access Grayson

Last year’s Bradshaw and Dylan watches just missed the mark but the Access Grayson is more fashion-conscious. There’s no denying that the Grayson wants to stand out, and fans of a more “dressy” or bigger watches will probably find it a better fit than those who like to keep their wristwear understated.

One of the most immediately noticeable improvements is that the flat tyre, a blemish on last year’s designs, is gone, with a nice 1.39-inch, 454 x 454 pixel AMOLED display.

There’s often criticism for smartwatches lacking a heart rate monitor or GPS, but unless you’re someone who runs with their expensive stainless steel watch on the regular, we don’t see it as a problem.

However the lack of NFC, and therefore Android Pay, is a definite black mark. We’ve debated over whether Google should make NFC a minimum standard across Android Wear, and we do see both sides of the argument. But with a watch like this, it feels like a big missed opportunity in lieu of fitness elements – especially with the extra shortcut button.

Feature check: MK customised displays, IP67 water resistance.

LG Watch Sport

The flagship model for the Android Wear 2.0 launch in early 2017 but, even now, still feels like the best Wear watch on balance. With GPS, LTE and NFC for Android Pay on board, the LG Watch Sport is more rounded than its sibling, the LG Watch Style.

Beyond outdoor workouts like running, it can keep track of reps in the gym, which is a surprising and welcome addition, and it’ll track heart rate in all your activities. However, it’s only water resistant to 1.5 metres for 30 mins, which makes it unsuitable for swimming.

It’s also very bulky. 46mm wide might not sound like much, but then you have the depth, and there’s a lot of it here. In fact, if we had to pick one criticism of the Watch Sport it’s that it crams so much in, it does so to its detriment. The size will be too overbearing for many, and the LG Watch Style is worth a look, but the pay-off in size means that most of the great features of the Watch Sport have been discarded.

Finally, the screen really impresses with the 1.38-inch, 480 x 480 OLED display using its 348ppi to best the Apple Watch Series 3 and others.

Feature check: GPS, LTE, NFC, Android Pay, heart rate monitor.

Ticwatch E

The Ticwatch E is an affordable and well-balanced smartwatch, with enough of Mobvoi’s own flavours to help it stand out from the increasingly crowded family of Android Wear watches. Looking for a serious fitness watch? This isn’t it.

It doesn’t have features to set your world on fire. In fact, most of it is what feels like the bare minimum for what a smartwatch should do – except for, well, NFC payments, which is a disappointing exclusion.

Its advantage, however, is that what it does do it does well. Tic Health and Fit are more user friendly than Google Fit and Health on the device, and overall it feels like Mobvoi has put more of its own stamp on Android Wear than we’ve seen from other brands.

The Ticwatch E isn’t being heavily aimed at the fitness enthusiasts; for that, there’s the Ticwatch S. But health and fitness do make up the most interesting additions to the watch, the main one being the Tic Health app, which lets you keep track of your activity and exercise in a style that Apple Watch fans will be familiar with – rings. In fact, they’re pretty much copy and pasted.

Feature check: GPS, heart rate monitor, IP67 water resistance, unique Mobvoi UI.

Fitbit Ionic

With the Ionic, Fitbit finally delivered its first smartwatch, but perhaps more importantly to some, its best fitness tracker too. Running, biking, swimming, weight lifting – the Ionic has algorithms for tracking a range of different workouts, and in our testing it’s proven to be impressively versatile.

Fitbit says the Ionic’s GPS is better than anything else on the market, and we have to say it performed admirably in testing, while the four-plus days of battery life mean you won’t be taking it off your wrist as much as any of the smartwatches above.

The Ionic doesn’t have the option of a cellular connection, however, so you won’t get the standalone functionality you get with the Apple Watch Series 3 or the Samsung Gear S3. As to whether this is a bad thing or not, it depends if you class LTE as a feature or an excess.

Overall, some blemishes aside, the Ionic is a decent smartwatch that Fitbit fans and fitness trackers will really appreciate. Fitbit knows fitness, and it’s not half-assing this that’s for sure.

Feature check: GPS, heart rate monitor, onboard music, dedicated sports modes, Fitbit Pay.

Garmin Vivomove HR

If you want a fantastic blend of design and smarts, then the Vivomove is your best bet – it’s our choice for the best hybrid smartwatch you can buy right now.

The Vivomove HR offers watch designs for both men and women, adding a discreet display that only appears when you tap on the watch face. It’s also waterproof up to 50 metres so you can take it for a dip too.

On that nicely disguised display you’ll be able to see fitness tracking data, check in on your heart rate readings, view your smartphone notifications and even check on your stress levels. It’s essentially the Garmin Vivosport fitness tracker minus the built-in GPS in a much sleeker and stylish body.

Battery life is two weeks in watch mode and five days when you’re taking full advantage of the smartwatch features. On the whole, it’s a winner – quite literally: it picked up the best hybrid watch award at the 2017 Wareable Tech Awards.

Feature check: Heart rate monitor, run tracking, notification support, two week battery life.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

The Garmin Vivoactive HR was for a very long time our go-to smartwatch for sports lovers. Running, cycling, swimming, golf – Garmin’s smartwatch had you well and truly covered. With the Vivoactive 3, you’ll be getting more of the same, albeit with a more attractive circular watch design and features that make it more of an Apple Watch, Samsung Gear or Fitbit Ionic rival than before.

We have to start off with the new look, which is a welcome change from the blocky builds of the previous Vivo smartwatches. The 240 x 240 pixel display at the heart of the body is by no means the brightest or vibrant you’ll find, but crucially delivers strong visibility in most workout conditions whether you’re sweating it out indoors or outside.

As far as the number of sports available to track, it’s more of the same. Heart rate monitoring is decent if not class-leading, and it won’t keep you waiting around for a GPS signal. There’s now also rep counting for weight lifters and all the stress tracking goodies from Garmin’s fitness trackers, too. As sporty smartwatches go, this is the best in our eyes, and builds on all the good work Garmin did with its previous iterations.

Feature check: GPS/GLONASS, heart rate monitor, dedicated sports modes including swimming, Garmin Pay.

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