Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Christmas may be a few weeks out, but it’s not too early to begin thinking about holiday shopping. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are nearly upon us, and if you’re thinking about giving a loved one something wearable this season, there’s never been a better time to pull the trigger. Apple has recently released a batch of new smartwatches, and Samsung followed suit. Wearable startup Pebble even refreshed its portfolio earlier this year, and a bevy of older — but still capable — wearables are beginning to see steep discounts ahead of this year’s biggest shopping weekend. Such being the case, here’s a guide to a few of this season’s best smartwatch deals.
Apple Watch Series 1
The Apple Watch Series 1 may not be the company’s top-of-the-line model, but it’s still one of the hottest smartwatches on the market. It’s faster, lighter, and more robust than last year’s model, and it still features a cutting-edge processor and GPU that’s twice as powerful as the outgoing model. It lacks the waterproof design and GPS functionality that make the Series 2 a standout, but if you don’t mind giving up those bells and whistles, you can nab one of the best smartwatches on the market at a fantastic price.
Samsung Gear S3
The Gear S3, Samsung’s third proper smartwatch, is a meteoric leap from the models that came before it. Its body — which is crafted from shatter-resistant glass and machined steel — can withstand up to 5 meters of liquid for 30 minutes, and packs a battery that can last up to four days on a single charge. The Gear S3’s coolest feature, however, is its support for magnetic secure transmission (MST), which enables contactless payment with almost any credit card machine. Once you’ve attached a credit card to Samsung’s apt-titled Samsung Pay app, you can tap to pay at both newer, NFC-support machines or legacy point-of-sale terminals — no credit card required.
The Gear S3 also features some unique software. Samsung partnered with Spotify to bring music streaming to the Gear S3, for instance, and Nest integration lets you control your thermostat with swipes, taps, gestures, and voice commands. Samsung’s Tizen store also has a growing library of more than 9,000 apps and games. Read more here.
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The Pebble 2 may not measure up to the rest of the market, but it’s a capable wearable in its own right. The watch’s plastic, lightweight design holds up well to bumps, bruises, and sweat. It also features a monochrome, E Ink display that can deliver up to seven days on a single charge, along with a third-party app store that houses thousands of apps and watch faces. A recent update also enabled basic activity tracking, allowing you to monitor your steps, distance, calories, and sleep habits. The Pebble’s best feature, however, is its platform agnosticism; unlike the Apple Watch, it’ll play nicely with both Android and iOS devices. You can dictate text replies with your voice, see incoming emails, and stay abreast of social media just as easily on an Android devic as an iPhone, and vice versa.
There is one minor caveat, however. The Pebble 2 that’s currently for sale lacks the ability to track your heart rate, whereas the pricier model does not. Still, for the price, the Pebble is tough to beat. Read our full review.
The Huawei Watch is getting a bit old in the tooth — it debuted late last year — but it’s still one of the best smartwatches running Android Wear, Google’s operating system for wearables. The watch also sports a beautiful, high-resolution AMOLED display, a stainless-steel body, and an impressive array of silicon under the hood. It has a heart rate monitor, a speedy processor, and 4GB of internal storage for storing music on the go. The watch will get even better in the coming months, too, as it’s expected to receive a forthcoming version of Android Wear 2.0. Among the new highlights are Smart Replies, which help supply canned responses to messages and emails, and automatic activity tracking, which recognizes when you’re jogging, biking, doing push-ups, or carrying out a host of other activities. When it does, it launches the appropriate app. Read our full review.
Fossil Q Founder
There’s no doubt that smartwatch design has advanced far beyond the primitive paradigms of the early prototypes. That is to say, not every smartwatch looks like a freakish, nerdy gadget. But a surprising number still do. If you’re looking for one that doesn’t, though, look no further than Fossil’s Q Founder. It’s an Android Wear-based watch that’s made with premium materials. It has the heft you’d expect from a mechanical watch, and the sturdy metal body and stainless-steel strap to match. It’s even water-resistant in up to a meter of water.
The Fossil Q Founder definitely isn’t the most capable smartwatch for the price — it lacks a heart-rate sensor and GPS chip, for one — but if you’re searching for a smartwatch that’ll deliver notifications just as well as it’ll match your bespoke suite, it’s the one to get. Read our full review.
Sony SmartWatch 3
Sony’s SmartWatch 3 runs the same software as the Huawei Watch, but it distinguishes itself in other ways. The device benefits from an airtight body that can withstand up to 2 meters of water for about an hour. It also features a GPS that tracks your distance when the watch breaks its connection with your phone, not to mention a battery that can last at least a day on a single charge.
That’s not to say the SmartWatch 3 is the pinnacle of wearable design, however. Its screen resolution doesn’t quite match that of the aforementioned Hauwei Watch, and it lacks a heart rate monitor and a built-in speaker. But if you’re willing to make those sacrifices, this is a killer deal. Read more here.
Asus’ Android Wear effort may have flown under the radar, but it’s one of the company’s best wearables to date. The watch features an AMOLED screen covered in 2.5D Gorilla Glass 3, a battery that lasts two days on standby, and enough internal storage (4GB) to store a few songs and albums. It ships with Asus’ venerable suite of software, too, including a fitness tracker, a new wellness app, a remote control for your smartphone’s camera, and a watch face designer with more than 50 exclusive designs. An optional charging accessory even extends battery life up to half a day.
Unfortunately, the ZenWatch 2 omits GPS and heart rate tracking. But for the price, it’s one of the best no-frills smartwatches on the market. Read our full review.