Smartwatch Buying Guide: Everything You Need To Know

This smartwatch buying guide describes all of the different factors to consider when deciding whether an Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch, Fitbit or any other top wearable manufacturer is right for you.

The best smartwatches we've tested are all great in their own way, but they're not for everyone. From big tech brands like Apple, Samsung, and Fitbit to traditional watchmakers like Tag Heuer and Fossil, dozens of companies have smartwatches that deliver notifications, apps, and more to your wrist. Newer models like the Apple Watch Series 8 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 go even further.

Despite their different features and designs, smartwatches can help you save time and track your health better. Most have built-in fitness trackers like heart rate sensors and GPS. Some can act as an extension of your phone, while others are marketed as health-focused devices like the Fitbit Sense.

Some smartwatches, like the Apple Watch SE, work independently of the phone. But if you want something that will give you a break from your notifications, one of the best fitness trackers might be better for you.

We checked out a few affordable options to see which of the best cheap smartwatches are worth checking out. So if you're on a tight budget, have specific fitness goals, or just want to be more productive, we have a smartwatch buying guide to help. you came out Decide which mobile device is right for you.

Smartwatch Buying Guide: Quick Tips

  • Compatibility: Don't buy a smartwatch without making sure it will work with your smartphone. The Apple Watch, for example, only works with the best iPhones. We've put together a guide to the best smartwatches for Android to pair your options with a Samsung, Google, or any other Android smartphone.

  • Fitness features: If you like exercising, choose a watch with a heart rate monitor and GPS (to track your runs). If exercise is your thing, you can check out our guide to the best running watches. And check out our battle between Apple Watch 7 and Garmin Instinct 2.

  • Battery life : When shopping, pay attention to the battery life. Hybrid smartwatches, which look like analog watches, have the longest battery life but no touchscreen.

  • Interchangeable Straps : Make sure the strap buckle or buckles are easy to use and easy to change. Also, make sure that finding a replacement band is easy.

  • App Availability: App selection is a factor and something that makes Wear OS stand out. watchOS. That means it's not as important as compatibility, design, and other features.

Smartwatch Buying Guide: OS and Phone Compatibility

Since most smartwatches are designed to work with your smartphone, device compatibility is very important. For example, the best Fitbits like the Fitbit Versa 3 and Fitbit Versa 2 work with select Android phones as well as the iPhone. Note that Android phone owners get additional features: quick replies to incoming text messages and the ability to answer calls.

The new Google Wear OS currently only works on the Samsung Galaxy Watch and the Montblanc Summit 3, but is coming to all smartwatches with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 4100 chipset.

Unsurprisingly, the Apple Watch only works with the iPhone. In the pre-installed Apple Watch app for iPhone you will find the WatchOS App Store. There you can install Watch versions of your favorite iOS apps or find new ones: The Store has everything from games to fitness tracking apps to extensions for your most used productivity apps so you can get Slack notifications or your View lists on Todoist. .

Smartwatch Buying Guide: OLED vs. LCD

Most smartwatches use a color LCD or AMOLED display that allows you to view photos, apps, and other content in rich, vibrant colors. Although smartwatch manufacturers are improving the device's performance, the trade-off is a short battery life. Some can last for days or even weeks, but if you want the longest staying power, go for the black and white look.

Expensive smartwatches offer sharper OLED displays than LCD displays for a slimmer design. Apple created the first OLED display to make the first generation Apple Watch as thin as possible. However, it should be noted that Samsung launched its first OLED smartwatch in 2013, the Galaxy Gear.

Smartwatch Buying Guide: Touchscreen vs. Touchless

Choosing a touchscreen for your smartwatch might seem easy. However, selecting items on a small screen can be tricky, and some gesture-based interfaces are unintuitive.

Wear OS does a good job of providing card-based notifications that you can dismiss with a simple swipe, but opening apps and other in-app options takes a lot of swiping. However, you can switch between maps with your wrist.

Apple has gone for a hybrid approach with the Apple Watch, offering a touchscreen and digital crown along with a side button on the right. You can use the crown to quickly zoom out or scroll through content, and the screen uses Force Touch, which knows the difference between a tap and a long tap. Press the side button to access the dock for frequently used apps.

The original Samsung Galaxy Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and the latest Galaxy Watch 4 have bezels that you can rotate to scroll through the menus. They are used in conjunction with touch.

Smartwatch Buyer's Guide: Design and Customization.

The best smartwatches offer a choice of straps and/or the ability to swap out for third-party options. This is important if you want to customize the look and feel of your device.

Most smartwatches offer many customization options prior to purchase. For example, you can choose the color and material of the strap, as well as the color, finish, and size of the face for Apple Watch and Fossil smartwatches.

Just as easy as strapping your watch onto your wrist, remember that comfort is just as important. We definitely avoid smartwatches that require a lot of effort to open and close. Fortunately, most new watches use a standard buckle.

A growing number of smartwatches now feature circular watch faces that make them look like traditional watches. The new ones are getting thinner and smaller. The Garmin Lily is one of the best Garmin watches out there and a very attractive choice for smaller wrists.

Traditional watchmakers are also joining Wear OS devices, which combine the style of an analogue watch with the intelligence of Google's watch operating system. Movado, Tag Heuer, Emporio Armani, and even Louis Vuitton have jumped on the smartwatch bandwagon with smart devices — and price tags. For this reason, we generally do not recommend it on Apple, Samsung, Garmin, or Fitbit devices.

Smartwatch Buying Guide: App Options

The smartwatch category is maturing, and some models now have hundreds or even thousands of apps.

Apple Watch has the most comprehensive list of apps ever, with more than 20,000 available, including ESPN, MapMyRun, Uber, and Rosetta Stone. You can do everything from control your Philips Hue lights (and other awesome smart home devices) to order lunch seamlessly.

The Apple Watch app for iOS has a separate Apple Watch App Store for installing the app. For more on what to expect, check out our top Apple Watch apps.

There are thousands of apps optimized for the Google Wear OS platform. Install the app directly on your watch instead of going through your smartphone first. Wear OS has many of the same apps as watchOS, including Lyft, which lets you plan trips, and WhatsApp, which lets you reply to voice messages.

Smartwatch Buying Guide: Fitness, Step Count, Heart Rate, ECG, SpO2 and GPS Features

As fitness trackers continue to gain attention, smartwatch manufacturers are scrambling to include activity tracking capabilities. Some smartwatches rely on your smartphone to track activity, but most have at least one built-in pedometer for counting or tracking.

If you intend to use your smartwatch primarily for work, you might want a fitness tracker with smartwatch-like functionality, such as a smartwatch. B. the Fitbit Charge 5 or the Garmin Forerunner 245, which allow you to change the watch face and read notifications. . Both offer women's health features like the ability to log periods and symptoms, and compare your cycle to health stats like sleep and activity.

Every smartwatch we recommend has a heart rate monitor built in, but we don't always find a standalone fitness tracker like the Fitbit Inspire 2 that reliable. However, the Apple Watch's heart rate sensor has proven to be more accurate in our time. Exams. .

In addition to a heart rate monitor, some models come with GPS, making them even more appealing to people who enjoy running or cycling outdoors and tracking their distance and pace. Note, however, that using GPS can significantly decrease battery life.

Other features such as ECG and SpO2 monitoring may also be important to you. Fitbit, Apple and Samsung all have FDA-approved ECG sensors in their new smartwatches. An electrocardiogram can detect signs of atrial fibrillation. An SpO2 monitor is more commonly used to measure the level of oxygen in your blood to detect signs of sleep apnea or other possible breathing problems.

Smartwatch Buying Guide: Mobile Calls and Payments

Want to make calls from your wrist? Some have LTE built in, so you can leave your phone at home, at least in theory. With Verizon's NumberSync and NumberShare features, you can use and view the same number from your AT&T phone, and you don't need to have your phone nearby or on. You'll have to pay for a separate data plan for your smartwatch -- around $10 a month -- which is worth considering if you want to use cellular connectivity.

Many smartwatches have a built-in NFC chip, which means you can use it to pay even when your phone isn't nearby. Apple Pay is enabled on all Apple Watch models, regardless of whether an iPhone or LTE connection is nearby. Wear a watch operating system that supports Google Pay. Samsung's own mobile payment system, Samsung Pay, works on all new models.

Garmin and Fitbit, known for their fitness-focused watches, have added mobile payments to their latest devices.

Smartwatch Buying Guide: Battery Life and Charging

Most smartwatches with color screens last a day or two between charges (and sometimes less than a day), so it's a good idea to consider how often you plan to plug in your watch.

A voice-activated watch won't last as long as you use it as a phone, but that's to be expected. The Apple Watch lasts 18 hours of mixed use on a single charge.

Most smartwatches, including the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, use wireless charging, which is handy: you don't have to plug the device directly into the charger. Instead, place it on the filler plate.

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- , $100, $1,600 over $200, $500

, 8 months for $399, $1,399

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