Skip to main content

Best smartwatch 2021

Best smartwatch 2021
(Image credit: Future)

Pick up any watch from our best smartwatch selection, and you'll be able to track your exercise, read messages from your wrist, listen to music and loads more. Smartwatches continue to evolve and get, well, smarter each year allowing you to monitor more of your vitals as you exercise, and do it much more accurately. Regardless of whether you get an Apple Watch, or a smartwatch from a different maker, there are large number of apps to choose from too, making all the watches more useful with each iteration.

So, what should you look for when choosing the best smart watch for you? While it does depend on exactly what you're using it for, fitness users should look to get a watch that tracks GPS, heart rate, and other vital stats to give as much information on your workouts as possible. It may sound obvious, but the best smartwatches for exercise are also splash and shock proof, to be able to withstand all kinds of physical exertion. They will also have built-in compasses and altimeters, so you can get more accurate data on where you have been and where you're headed. 

When you're choosing a smartwatch, think about what phone type you have - Apple Watches aren't all that great if you can't connect them to an iPhone, whereas other smartwatches work much more independently. Finally, you should think about style - how good does the watch look, and do you like the strap? After all, it's a wearable accessory and you need to like how it actually looks.

For more advice, we have a list of the best smartphones, and - for pure fitness - the best fitness trackers too, many of which feature in our guide to the best Amazon Prime Day Fitbit deals.


1. Apple Watch Series 5: Best smartwatch overall

Best smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 5

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple's smartwatch is versatile, stylish, and packed with features

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: Yes | Screen: OLED | Battery: 18 hours | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: Yes | Onboard music: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Always-on screen
32GB onboard
Compass and altimeter

Reasons to Avoid

Expensive
Battery could be better

While some companies are still fumbling around with their first or second smartwatches, Apple continues to innovate and refine its design with the Apple Watch Series 5. One of the biggest changes this time around is the addition of the always-on display option, which means your smartwatch screen will display the time at all times, not just when you lift up your arm.

If you’re a fitness buff, you’ll be happy to know that the Apple Watch Series 5 had an update on that front too, with an upgraded altimeter that can now detect absolute, as well as relative, elevation. This is alongside the standard features like heart rate monitoring, GPS and calorie counting. You also get access to a ton of apps including WhatsApp, Spotify and even Tinder.

The battery life is one of the weaknesses of the Series 5, likely as a result of the always-on screen. You get 18 hours on a single charge, which is enough to last a normal day, but it will need recharging at the end of each day.


2. Fitbit Versa 2: Best smartwatch for fitness

Best smartwatch: Fitbit Versa 2

(Image credit: Fitbit)

Fitbit Versa 2

Best fitness smartwatch

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: Yes | Battery: 5 days | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: Yes | Onboard music: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Nice-looking design
Comfy to wear
Lots of customization

Reasons to Avoid

No GPS

While more traditionally associated with dedicated fitness trackers, the Fitbit Versa 2 is a full-blown smartwatch… and an excellent one at that. This second iteration comes with some quality of life improvements and some upgrades to the hardware that we greatly appreciate. For one thing, Fitbit has finally upgraded the screen to an AMOLED display, which means the brightness woes of older Fitbits should finally be a thing of the past.

Alexa is supported on the Fitbit Versa 2 as well, so you can use voice controls for many of the features while also asking her a joke when you get bored during your morning run. You can also choose the option for always on display if you’d prefer, though that will hamper the impressive battery life, which can go for up to five days.

Due to the fitness tracker heritage, the Fitbit Versa 2 has an avalanche of health and fitness features including heart rate monitoring, GPS, sleep tracking, menstruation tracking, and more. Alexa can also be used to start tracking for specific workouts, which is super convenient.


3. Samsung Galaxy Watch: Best Android smartwatch

Best smartwatch: Samsung Galaxy Watch

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy Watch

If you don't want to go Apple, the Galaxy Watch is perfect

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: Yes | Battery: 7 days | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: Yes | Onboard music: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Good battery
Looks slick

Reasons to Avoid

Auto-tracking is hit and miss
Lack of apps

While some smartwatches like to put their technological side on display, the Samsung Galaxy Watch instead seeks to ape the design of more traditional watches to stunning effect. There are no gaudy neon colors or plastics here - instead, you get a sleek metallic finish and even an AMOLED digital watch face that looks like a standard watch most of the time - until you need the smart features, that is.

It’s not all about looks though, as the Samsung Galaxy Watch has a host of clever tech inside it including a heart rate monitor, sleep tracker, and calories counting, along with the ability to track your progress during 39 different workout types. The battery life is excellent too, with the 46mm version lasting four days on a single charge.

Sadly, the lack of popular apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger let the Samsung Galaxy Watch down. Still, if you’re not bothered about chatting via your wrist, this is one spectacular looking smartwatch.


4. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: Best Android fitness smartwatch

Best smartwatch: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Great for fitness, especially if you're not an Apple user

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: Yes | Battery: 2 days | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: Yes | Onboard music: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

New touch bezel controls
Superb screen

Reasons to Avoid

ECG still not active
Few third-party apps

While Samsung already has this smartwatch thing covered with the Galaxy Watch, it also has a more fitness focused smartwatch in the form of the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. Much like the normal Galaxy Watch, it comes in two sizes (40mm and 44mm) with both normal and LTE versions available. So what separates this from its standard cousin?

Staying true to its fitness tracker goals, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 looks more like a fitness tracker than a traditional watch, with a simple aluminium finish and very little in the way of decoration. It’s still packing a Super AMOLED screen though, which is encased in Gorilla Glass to protect it should you take a tumble while running. There are a ton of health and fitness tracking options, though the ECG feature that Samsung talked up still hasn’t been enabled (for legal reasons).

The workout tracking modes are great for keeping tabs on your exercises, but they do drain the battery quite quickly, so keep an eye out for that. Much like the normal Galaxy Watch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is also thin on apps when compared to the Apple Watch.


5. Tag Heuer Connected 2020: Best designer smartwatch

Best smartwatch: Tag Heuer Connected 2020

(Image credit: Tag Heuer)

Tag Heuer Connected 2020

If looks are most important to you, this watch has you covered

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: No | Battery: 1 day | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: Yes | Onboard music: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Looks fantastic
Great display

Reasons to Avoid

Expensive
Lacking health features

If you’re interested in picking up a smartwatch but you don’t want to let go of the classic styling that traditional watches have offered for so long, the Tag Heuer Connected is the answer to your problems… if you can afford it. This is one of the most expensive smartwatches on the market, but you get what you pay in terms of build quality, styling, and the Tag name.

The design is classic and at a glance you could easily mistake this for a standard Tag watch, especially because of the watch face screens which imitate real watch faces rather than showing a digital display. There are also some excellent sports tracking apps that work in conjunction with the Tag Heuer app. Golf anyone?

Despite that epic price tag, there are a few downsides. The battery will only last for a single day on a full charge, so much like the Apple Watch you’ll need to recharge this every day. We’d also like to have seen more health tracking options.


6. Fossil Q Venture HR: Best looking smartwatch

Best smartwatch: Fossil Q Venture HR

(Image credit: Fossil)

Fossil Q Venture HR

A smart and stylish smartwatch that won't break the bank

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: Yes | Battery: 1 day | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: Yes | Onboard music: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Lovely design
Customizable

Reasons to Avoid

Short battery life
Not great for fitness

Fossil is good at creating watches – and always has been. That’s why it’s no surprise that it’s teamed up with lots of high-end fashion names to brand their own smartwatches, including Michael Kors and Emporio Armani. But Fossil has also brought out a smartwatch range of its own – and it’s just as good, but much cheaper.

The first thing you’ll notice about this smartwatch is how nice it looks. It has a metal body, which comes in a range of colors, and an option for different styles of bezel, as well as customizable straps. But it’s not just a pretty face, it’s also slick and intuitive to use, with a high-resolution 1.19-inch AMOLED display.

The Q Venture HR is running on Wear OS and boasts a lot of great features, including a heart rate sensor, standalone GPS and support for Apple Pay, as well as many of the other additions you’d expect with Wear OS, including an alarm clock, calendar and alerts. This model has an NFC chip too, which means you can set up Android Pay.


7. Withings Steel HR Sport: Best hybrid smartwatch

Best smartwatch: Withings Steel HR Sport

(Image credit: Withings)

Withings Steel HR Sport

If you don't want a full-on smartwatch, this is a good choice

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: No | Heart rate: Yes | Battery: 25 days | Notifications: Yes | Apps: No | Contactless payments: No | Onboard music: No | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Looks good and minimal
Great battery life

Reasons to Avoid

Simple fitness tracking
Pricey

If you care about the style of your smartwatch, you can’t go wrong with the classic-looking Withings Steel HR Sport – although it does have a silicone strap to ensure it’s gym-friendly.

This smartwatch is what’s called a ‘hybrid’ smartwatch, which means it looks like a traditional watch but has some smart features built-in – there are no super bright LED screens to wow you here.

Built for those who care just as much about fitness tracking as wearing the latest smartwatch, it boasts some cool features that aren’t in every smartwatch, including multi-sport tracking (of more than 30 activities), heart rate monitoring and VO2 max estimation.

It’s also very good at tracking sleep, differentiating between deep and light sleep, as well as providing you with a ‘sleep score’ each night. 

If you’re not fussed about fitness, check out the similar Withings Steel HR, with less sporty features and a more minimal approach to smartwatch design.


8. TicWatch E2: Best on a budget

Best smartwatch: TicWatch E2

(Image credit: TicWatch)

TicWatch E2

If budget is tight, this has loads of features and won't break the bank

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: Yes | Battery: 1 day | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: No | Onboard music: No | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Affordable
Solid fitness tracker

Reasons to Avoid

No NFC chip
Design might not appeal to everyone

If you’re not entirely convinced by a smartwatch, you don’t want to spend a fortune on one. Luckily, Mobvoi has a great range of TicWatch watches that may not be cheap, but they’re a little more affordable for most people.

The E2 is one of the brand’s latest smartwatches with everything you’d expect from a capable smartwatch and fitness tracker rolled into one. It can keep tabs on a range of exercises and it’s 5 ATM water resistant, so it’s just as at home in the pool as it is at the gym. It also has built-in GPS, which means it’s good for runners.


9. Huawei Watch 2: Best sports-look watch 

Best smartwatch: Huawei Watch 2

(Image credit: Huawei)

Huawei Watch 2

A great watch for anyone who prefers a sporting look

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: Yes | Battery: 1 day | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: Yes | Onboard music: Yes | Sleep tracking: Yes

Reasons to Buy

Both GPS and NFC
A 4G option

Reasons to Avoid

Screen a little small
Design won’t suit everyone

One of the older models on the list, Huawei has since launched a newer smartwatch called the GT. But it does away with Wear OS, which means this version is actually our favorite.

It’s great for those who like the look of sporty watches but need some added smarts. In that way it’s not as slick as modern-looking smartwatches, like the Apple Watch, or stylish ones, like the Fossil range, but it’s fairly understated and bound to suit most people.

It comes with optional 4G connectivity, which means it’ll work well without your phone – ideal for those who run or workout outdoors. Speaking of working out, this is a decent fitness tracking smartwatch with a heart rate monitor, GPS and some built-in workouts.

The only downside to the watch, if you like the look of it that is, is that the display can feel a little small. Especially when you want to take a quick glance at messages or workout stats.


10. Fossil Sport: Best for style and fitness

Best smartwatch: Fossil Sport

(Image credit: Fossil)

Fossil Sport

Combines both fitness features and a stylish look

SPECIFICATIONS

GPS: Yes | Heart rate: Yes | Battery: 2 days | Notifications: Yes | Apps: Yes | Contactless payments: Yes | Onboard music: No | Sleep tracking: No

Reasons to Buy

Lightweight and comfy to wear
Gym and pool-friendly

Reasons to Avoid

Pricey for a fitness watch
Design won’t appeal to everyone

One of our favorite smartwatches for those who want to track fitness, the Fossil Sport is another great design from the watch experts at Fossil. It has a light and comfy design, which makes it a perfect workout companion, and you can switch out different wristbands easily. 

It’s a great fitness option because it has an accurate heart rate monitor and built-in GPS, It’s also swim-proof to a depth of 50 meters and the silicone strap it comes with makes it ideal for dealing with both water and sweat.

The design of the Fossil Sport is like a small stopwatch, with little dials sticking out at the side a little more than you’d get on a regular watch - this is bound to be appealing to some people, but not everyone. It also isn’t as capable as some of the higher end smartwatches on the list, but for lightweight fitness it’s perfect.