- We tested dozens of smartwatches to find the best ones.
- After much testing, we found that the Apple Watch Series 5 offers the best smartwatch experience – if you have an iPhone.
- If you’re an Android user, we have many more choices for you.
Smartwatches aren’t yet mandatory tech purchases, but they may be one day. For those of you who like to live on the cutting-edge side of the tech world, there’s no better status symbol than the smartwatch.
Thankfully, smartwatches are a lot more attractive than they used to be, so you don’t have to worry about strapping a clunky, futuristic gadget on your wrist anymore. We’ve tested dozens of smartwatches over the years, and these are the very best ones we’ve used.
There’s a smartwatch for everyone on this list, whether you’re an iPhone user who needs the latest and greatest Apple Watch, a tech geek who wants to pay for your latte with your wrist, a fashionista, or a WearOS aficionado, we’ve got you covered.
Here are the best smartwatches you can buy:
- Best smartwatch overall: Apple Watch Series 5
- Best feminine smartwatch: Kate Spade Scallop 2
- Best stylish smartwatch for women: Fossil Q Julianna HR
- Best stylish smartwatch for men: Fossil Q Carlyle HR
- Best smartwatch for Samsung fans: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Updated on 10/21/2019 by Malarie Gokey: Added four new picks. Updated prices and formatting.
The best smartwatch overall
- Lisa Eadicicco/Business Insider
The Apple Watch Series 5 has a new always-on display and great new fitness features that make the best smartwatch you can buy better than ever.
It doesn’t get better than the Apple Watch Series 5. The unique modern design works for both men and women. The smartwatch comes in 40mm and 44mm styles to fit wrists big and small. You can buy it in several finishes to match your style and there are dozens of Apple-made and third-party watch bands to make the Watch your own.
No other smartwatch offers this much variety and customization, especially when it comes to female-friendly options. The Apple Watch is the only smartwatch I’ve ever worn regularly each day for months on end. I’ve reviewed dozens of WearOS watches, and although many of them are nice looking as well, they’re not as fully featured or easy to use as the Apple Watch.
The Apple Watch boasts cutting-edge smartwatch tech including mobile payments with Apple Pay, stand-alone GPS, full waterproofing up to 50 meters, and thousands of apps. The user interface is very simple and attractive. It’s easy to use and it has advanced, easy-to-use fitness tracking features, thanks to a plethora of sensors and an excellent heart rate monitor. The Series 5 even has a built-in compass for navigation.
The Series 5 now has an always-on display, so you don’t have to raise your wrist to activate the watch face – now you can always see the watch face just like you would on an analog watch. It’s a cool feature that you can turn on or off. Some reviewers have said that it impacts battery life negatively, so keep that in mind if you enable the feature.
Best of all the Apple Watch has several great health-focused features, including the ability to detect when you fall and even alert emergency contacts if need be, as well as an electrical heart rate sensor that works with an app to alert you to heart health issues. The electrocardiogram (ECG) app has been certified by the Food & Drug Administration.
You can also get an LTE version of the Series 5 for standalone smartwatch functions like calls, texts, and internet access. That way, you can leave your phone at home when you go out on a run or a long hike.
The LTE connection will cost you about 10 bucks a month at most carriers, and the LTE model does cost more. There’s a non-LTE version, too, if you’re not interested in the new feature. Most people probably don’t need LTE, frankly, unless you regularly go on hikes or long runs and you don’t want to be weighed down with your phone. Still, it’s a nice option to have.
The Series 5 lasts a full day on a charge, but you can get more out of it if you don’t get notifications from every app on your iPhone.
While other companies struggle to pack tons of tech into bulky smartwatches, Apple effortlessly offers all the tech you need in the most compact and attractive smartwatch you can buy.
Pros: Gorgeous larger screen, slimmer watch case, haptic feedback from the crown, great watch faces, tons of band options, lots of apps, new health-focused features
Cons: Expensive, battery life is short, only works with iPhone
The best feminine smartwatch
- Kate Spade
The Kate Spade Scallop 2 is a truly feminine, whimsical, and charming smartwatch that packs serious tech features like a heart rate monitor, GPS, and NFC for mobile payments.
Most smartwatches are unisex and are not specifically made for women. Even though Fossil, Skagen, and Apple make very convincing unisex watches that women can wear, none of them are unapologetically feminine. If you, like me, have been waiting for a super feminine smartwatch that’s made for women, you’re in luck.
The Kate Spade Scallop 2 is the ultimate women’s smartwatch. The round metal watch casing is relatively slim, very sleek, and absolutely adorable because it has the cute little detail of scalloping around the watch face.
The watch face options are classic Kate Spade designs. You get a sultry winking moon face with perfectly curled lashes, calling you a leading lady; cute bubbly balloons for a digital watch face with numbers; a speeding cab that reassures you that you’ll be there in a New York minute; and a daisy that loses petals as the time ticks away in a classic game of “He loves me; he loves me not.”
The cute scalloped silicone band in black or a leather band in blush pink and the well-made, slim metal bracelet style watch band complete the feminine look. It is these little touches that make this watch so fun.
Google’s WearOS software (formerly Android Wear) lies underneath the cute exterior with all its skills and limitations. Like all the other WearOS watches in our guide, you can pair it an iPhone or Android device to get apps and all your notifications.
The second-generation Scallop even has GPS, NFC for payments, and a heart rate monitor, making it more high tech than the original.
Pros: Adorable design, feminine watch faces and casing, cute straps, subtle details for fun, GPS, NFC, heart rate monitor
Cons: A bit expensive
The best stylish smartwatch for women
The Fossil Q Julianna HR is a sleek smartwatch with a classic design and the power of WearOS.
If you’re an Android user who wants a more classic feminine style smartwatch, you’re in luck. Over the past few years, fashion brands and watchmakers have started making great WearOS smartwatches. Fossil’s Q Julianna HR is its fifth-generation model.
The watch casing is smaller and less bulky and the touchscreen looks more refined than it did on the original. It also has more high-tech features, including a heart rate sensor, GPS, and NFC for mobile payments.
Fossil’s Q Julianna comes in a few different color and style options. I love the simple rose gold casing and tan leather strap option, but you can also get one with a bedazzled ring around the watch face. There’s also a rose gold metal bracelet strap or one that mixes rose gold with a bold navy color.
Women who are less into trendy colors can obviously go for the more traditional finishes like silver and gold. If you don’t like any of the included straps, Fossil and other brands sell many 22mm watch straps so you can make the Q Julianna your own.
It’s a chunky watch in comparison to the Apple Watch, which is great for women who like bigger watches. This version of the smartwatch is also waterproof up to 3 ATM, so you can swim with it on.
The Q Julianna runs WearOS (previously known as Android Wear) and works with thousands of apps on the Google Play Store. You can answer texts, interact with notifications, and choose your own watch face – just like you would on any other smartwatch. Fossil has lots of nice watch faces in feminine colors, too.
It’ll work with both Android phones and the iPhone, but it’s best with Android devices. When Android Wear watches are paired to the iPhone, a lot of functions no longer work, and you’re left with a pretty watch that gives you notifications.
Pros: Classic watch design, stylish color options, lots of compatible watch straps, and it’s compatible with iPhones and Android phones
Cons: It’s a bit chunky, not as good with iPhone
The best smartwatch for fashionable men
Fashion-forward men who aren’t into the high-tech futuristic look will love Fossil’s Q Carlyle HR with its classic design and smartwatch powers.
Fossil shows up twice on this list for a reason – it’s one of the few fashion brands and watchmakers that’s making gorgeous smartwatches. The Q Carlyle HR is the ultimate WearOS watch for men who want their smartwatch to look like a high-end wristwatch.
It’s a hefty smartwatch that feels luxurious, but it doesn’t cost a couple thousand dollars a la the Tag Heuer Connected smartwatch. Our guy friends just love the stainless steel casing with the chunky metal watch band, but you can choose a number of different finishes.
You can get the smartwatch in dark gray, black, and silver finishes with metal or leather straps. The straps are interchangeable with any 22mm watch band you can buy from Fossil and others.
When it comes to tech, the Q Carlyle isn’t the most high-end one on this list, but it runs WearOS and it’s compatible with thousands of apps. You can send texts, view your notifications, and track your activity – just like you would on any smartwatch. The latest generation also has NFC for mobile payments, GPS, and a heart rate monitor.
Pros: Classic watch look, WearOS, use any 2mm watch band you like
Cons: No LTE
The best smartwatch for Samsung fans
- Malarie Gokey/Business Insider
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a great fitness-focused smartwatch for Samsung fans.
The Samsung’s Galaxy smartwatch lineup has been getting better every year as more apps and features are added. The new Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a great fitness-focused smartwatch for those who own an Android phone. Samsung phone owners will get the most out of it, as some features are exclusive.
You can get it in two sizes: 40mm and 44mm – just like the Apple Watch. It has a slim round watch case so it looks more like a normal watch than a piece of tech.
You can get it in stainless steel and choose between silver, gold, and black finishes. There’s also an aluminum case version that comes in a few different colors, including Aqua Black, Cloud Silver, and Pink Gold. The watch has a simple silicone band, but you can also get leather bands for the watch. It’s rated at 5ATM for water resistance, so you can swim with it.
The Galaxy Watch Active 2 was built specifically for athletic people who want to track their activity and workout metrics. It can automatically track workouts like cycling, swimming, running, and more. The heart rate monitor also helps the watch track the intensity of your workout.
The watch even has sleep tracking built in, which is something that other smartwatches like the Apple Watch don’t offer. Based on your metrics, the companion app generates insights to help improve your overall fitness.
Just like with any other smartwatch, you’ll also get notifications from your phone and you can access many popular apps. You can get an LTE-enabled version if you want to be able to use the watch more effectively without your phone on hand.
Pros: Great fitness tracking, heart rate monitor, LTE option, auto workout tracking, sleep tracking, swim-proof
What else we considered
We’re currently in the process of testing several new smartwatches that were just released, so stay tuned for a bigger update. Here are the ones we’re currently looking into and testing.
- Garmin Vivoactive 4S: Garmin makes great fitness-focused smartwatches, and the 4S looks to be a good Apple Watch alternative, as it has many of the same specs.
- Fitbit Versa 2: The Fitbit Versa 2 could be a great contender for the best smartwatch upgrade for people who have an old Fitbit tracker and want to try out a smartwatch for the first time.
- Michael Kors Access Lexington 2: Michael Kors has been making smartwatches alongside Fossil for years now. If you like MK, you’ll probably like this watch as it has many of the same features.