Best smartwatches in 2021

(Pocket-lint) - When trying to figure out which is the best smartwatch for your needs, there are plenty of things to consider.  Especially for those new to the area, placing a wearable on the wrist and unlocking a new way to access notifications, apps and fitness tracking can feel a little daunting.  Luckily, there are now tons of great options to explore in the smartwatch field - whether your preference is with Apple, Samsung, Fitbit or something else entirely.

To help you narrow things down when choosing between different styles, operating systems and price, we've compiled our top smartwatch recommendations - updating regularly in order to factor in reviews of the latest devices on the market. This buyer's guide covers smartwatches on various platforms, including Google's Wear OS[1] to Apple's watchOS[2]. If you are only interested in Wear OS smartwatches[3] or Apple Watch options[4], we have separate features you can read to find the perfect smartwatch for you. 


Our current 'Top Pick' for the best smartwatch is the Apple Watch SE[5].

However, we also recommend considering the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4[6], Apple Watch Series 7[7], Fitbit Versa 3[8] and Huawei Watch 3[9].


Best Smartwatch: Our Top Pick

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Apple Watch SE

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For

  • Great value
  • Brilliant Apple integration
  • Superb sensors

Against

  • No always-on display

The Apple Watch SE misses off a couple of the more accomplished Series 7's features, including the always-on display, blood oxygen sensor and ECG sensor, but it has the Series 6's design, runs the same software and it's cheaper. By pulling together some of the best parts of the discontinued Series 4 and Series 5, the Watch SE is an affordable entry point to the Apple Watch, offering a great middle-ground between the sensor-rich Series 7 and the older Series 3.

Smartwatches we also recommend

Here are four other stellar smartwatches to consider picking up.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

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For

  • Great design
  • Impressive tracking
  • Good value

Against

  • Basically Android-only

Samsung's been making impressive smartwatches for a few years, and the Galaxy Watch 4 shows how far it's come. The design is a little understated, but we like that a lot, and this is probably Wear OS performing as well as it can.

The watch's tracking is impressive, and it offers a great package for Android phone users.

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Apple Watch Series 7

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For

  • Sensor-packed
  • Brilliant display
  • Improved charging

Against

  • Pretty expensive

The Apple Watch Series 7 improves on the SE with a bigger display, along with a couple of extra sensors, including a blood oxygen sensor and an always-on altimeter.  For some, it will be sensor overload and the Watch SE will more than suffice. For others, despite the sensors feeling like a bit of a tick-box exercise, there's still no better smartwatch on the market for iPhone users.

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Huawei Watch 3

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For

  • Nice design
  • Great connectivity

Against

  • Lack of third-party apps

Huawei has been refining and improving on its smartwatches for a few years now, and the Watch 3 represents an impressive leap forward.

It's moved over to HarmonyOS for more control over its own software, and the design is Huawei's best yet, with a tasteful look and premium feel. The only thing really holding it back is third-party app support that might come good in time.

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Fitbit Versa 3

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For

  • Good price
  • Great tracking

Against

  • Basic smartwatch experience

Fitbit's Versa 3 is the perfect blend between a fitness tracker's features and a smartwatch design. For those that want a holistic overview of their health and fitness, it doesn't really get better than this. 

Now in its third generation, Fitbit has refined the Versa's design beautifully. It's one of the few watches we've tested that we receive consistently positive compliments about - with many mistaking it for an Apple Watch.

Other products we considered

The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you. We consider a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality, and value.

Many of the devices we consider don't make our final best guides. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5:

How to choose the best smartwatch for you

Now more than ever, there are absolutely loads of options out there in the smartwatch market, so picking the right one for you can be a bit of a challenge. 

How to pick the right size smartwatch

A key decision is to decide how big you want your watch to be - most smartwatches range from 38mm to 46mm or so in size, reflecting the many sizes of normal watches available. Working out what you prefer can really narrow the field, so is a great first step.

How much should you pay for a smartwatch?

The next thing to think about could be your budget, which will also constrain what you can choose.

If you're looking to spend less than GBP200/£200, for example, there are fewer quality options to go for.  Equally, if you're happy to spend over GBP500/£500 you open yourself up to premium options like many Garmin watches. Spending much below GBP150/£150 starts to make quality control difficult, but all the options on our list above are safe bets. 

Smartwatch battery life

Another key consideration for a smartwatch is battery life.

Most of the popular mainstream options like the Apple Watch and Wear OS devices will struggle to make it through two days. In general, the more features you get, the shorter the battery life might be. However, while some models do manage a week-long battery or better, we'd say that most people get used to a nightly charge pretty easily - it's not a huge sacrifice, in our eyes. 

What features should a smartwatch have?

Features offered by smartwatches vary massively, but some you should look out for include standalone GPS, which is really helpful for fitness tracking.

Bluetooth is also really useful, to connect to headphones and more, and being able to store music offline can be great for taking runs without your phone.  Sleep tracking is another optional extra that some smartwatches manage, while heart-rate monitoring is nearly ubiquitous at this stage. Some more advanced watches might also pack in SpO2 monitors, but you're unlikely to need this. 

More about this story

Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.

That's even more true than usual in the case of a smartwatch, since it really does accompany you on your whole day, via your wrist. We've worn all of the watches we've selected, and those that haven't made our cut, for weeks at a time. We don't just wear them passively, but use them during exercise and training, since so many watches now revolve around fitness metrics and health tracking.

This helps us to build up a thorough picture of each watch's pros and cons, and to work out how they should rank. We care deeply about the design ethos evident in each device, and how they look on your wrist as well as how much creative control you have to make it look and feel how you like. Software quality is also key, given the disparity between different OS options on the smartwatches available, and pricing is a huge final variable to determine quality.

After all, luxury watches are nothing new, but a smartwatch lasts distinctly less impressively than an heirloom Omega. We aren't interested in pointless number crunching or extraneous details - we just want to provide an easy to understand review that gives you an idea of what it's going to be like to use. And don't for a second think that the products aren't tested fully because the reviews are concise.

We've been covering tech since 2003, and, in many cases, have not only reviewed the product in question, but the previous generations, too - right back to the first model on the market. There is also plenty of models we've considered that didn't make the cut in each of our buyer's guides. Writing by Britta O'Boyle.

Editing by Conor Allison.

Originally published on 2 January 2015.

References

  1. ^ Google's Wear OS (www.pocket-lint.com)
  2. ^ Apple's watchOS (www.pocket-lint.com)
  3. ^ Wear OS smartwatches (www.pocket-lint.com)
  4. ^ Apple Watch options (www.pocket-lint.com)
  5. ^ Apple Watch SE (little.getsquirrel.co)
  6. ^ Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 (little.getsquirrel.co)
  7. ^ Apple Watch Series 7 (little.getsquirrel.co)
  8. ^ Fitbit Versa 3 (little.getsquirrel.co)
  9. ^ Huawei Watch 3 (little.getsquirrel.co)