Best Smartwatches For Getting Fit In Style
Just like true love, a good smartwatch is hard to find. Mainly because there are an extraordinary number of models available and most of them are a bit rubbish. Especially when you could spend a little bit extra on a traditional watch with fewer brains but a whole lot more class. Choose wisely and you’ll have yourself a wrist-bound companion with the power to make you fitter, better organised and more productive without feeling the need to reach for your phone every 30 seconds or so.
It’s a different experience to strapping on a Rolex or Tag Heuer, but those watches can’t track your heart rate or give you directions to the nearest burger joint. Plus, the design, battery life and all-round capabilities of the best smartwatches have come on leaps and bounds in the past five years. That’s why we’ve collated our favourites here into a small but elegantly formed list. Before you dive straight into our picks, you’ll want to take heed of this smartwatch-buying advice.
1. Do you want a smartwatch or a sports watch?
Smartwatches are for people who like to stay in shape but also care about being on top of their notifications, effortless music streaming and simple contactless payments. They’re what we’ve tested below, whereas sports watches are more bothered about improving your PBs via more detailed fitness tracking. If that sounds more like your bag, then go for a Garmin Forerunner or Polar watch instead. Expecting an Apple Watch to do this stuff is akin to bringing a shotgun to an archery contest; the finesse just isn’t there.
2. What phone do you own?
Even the most essential smartwatches we’ve tested here are best thought of as an accessory to your phone. That means the handset in your pocket right now will dictate what smartwatches you can feasibly use. In other words, you can’t use an Apple Watch if you have an Android-powered phone such as a Samsung, Huawei or Google Pixel. And if you have an iPhone but want to strap on a Samsung Galaxy Watch? Then you’ll lose a chunk of functionality including the ability to reply to messages and use Samsung Pay. So, yeah, the phone you own will dictate what your smartwatch can do.
3. Do you want to make phone calls with your watch?
No, seriously, this is a thing now. Both the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch are available both with or without a 4G SIM that allows them to make calls, send texts and use data independently of your phone. As you can probably guess, this option ranks more of a nice-to-have than an essential upgrade. If you do have the necessary funds, then having a dedicated data plan for your smartwatch is legitimately useful. Especially since it means you can go for a run without your taking your phone and still change your route on the fly or switch up the playlist you’re streaming.
Apple Watch Series 4
Best for iPhone
Now in its fourth incarnation, Apple's Watch finally feels like the total package you'd expect from a smartwatch. Why? Apple has figured out what you should use the thing for: staying in shape, not suffering a relentless barrage of notifications. As a fitness tracker this thing is pretty much imperious, packing in all the necessary tech to keep tabs on any activity that might have you break sweat, from running to swimming and everything in between. Thanks to its faster internals, Apple's much-improved watch OS platform and an expanded roster of apps that you'll actually want to use (including Citymapper, Spotify and Strava), the Watch is so much more than just a juiced-up Fitbit. Especially since its recent redesign allows for a bigger screen and thinner casing, while offering the same 18-hour battery life. For the sports-minded iPhone owner, this smartwatch is near-on essential.
Samsung Galaxy Watch
Best for Android
Samsung has had skin in the smartwatch game since long before even Apple. Thankfully for anyone who strapped on the godawful Galaxy Gear way back in 2013, the brand-new Galaxy Watch is lightyears removed from that hot mess. In fact, it's pretty much on par with the Apple Watch if you use it in tandem with an Android phone. Only it offers up to four days battery life and an arguably superior design. That's down to its rotating bezel that resembles the build of a wristwatch and makes flitting between apps a total breeze. With support for 39 exercises and newfound 4G capabilities, there's plenty to like here for gym-nuts too. So what's holding back the Galaxy Watch? A lack of apps that aren't made by Samsung and the dreary Bixby voice assistant, which continues to flounder even when rivalling Apple's so-so Siri.
Best for fitness
Blurring the line between smartwatch and fitness tracker, Fitbit's Versa is a bit like one of those half-and-half pizzas you can get from Domino's. Only in this metaphor its base is made of courgettes. While this might not sound like a particularly appetising recipe, it works resplendently well in practice. The Versa is supremely comfortable to wear, covers any type of exercise you could imagine and is significantly more affordable than its competition. As a trade-off, the Versa does lack certain smarts, such as GPS location tracking and a wide-ranging suite of apps, but the smartwatch fundamentals are rock solid.