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If there’s one piece of tech that can immediately make you feel like you’re living in the future, it’s a smartwatch. Just a decade or two ago, it may have seemed impossible to pack a smartphone’s worth of functionality and processing power into a half-dollar-sized puck on your wrist. But now, we have more options for health tracking, notification management, and GPS navigation than we can count.
Our team is full of dedicated testers—and everyday smartwatch users—who include wearable tech among their “can’t leave the house without it” essentials. Some have performed far better than others, though, so we’ve collected the best models we’ve tested, tortured, and celebrated here.
The Best Smartwatches
Best Overall for iOS: Apple Watch Series 9 Smartwatch
Best Overall for Android: Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Smartwatch
Sleekest Design: Google Pixel Watch 2 Smartwatch
Best for Run Tracking: Garmin Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch
Best Digital Style: Casio G-Shock Move DWH5600-1 Smartwatch
What to Consider
Budget aside, ask yourself which features are must-haves versus nice-to-haves. Are you a marathoner in the market for a watch that tracks mileage and stride length? A weekend warrior cyclist looking for a solid route recorder? Look for a watch from brands like Garmin that dedicate extra horsepower to robust GPS signals and biometric trackers like heart rate monitors.
If you’re simply in need of a tidy extension of your phone that shows you your notifications, the weather, and other quick data in a less intrusive way, save yourself some money and consider options with a little less oomph. Look for a watch with an approachable interface for maximum convenience—for example, if you’re an Apple user, you’ll find that the Apple Watch’s display style, home menu, and apps are strongly reminiscent of those on the standard iPhone, making picking one up and learning how to use it an afternoon’s activity instead of a constant struggle.
Although most brands list battery life on their product listings, it’s best to read the fine print when comparing different models. Most will give you a lifespan based on “smartwatch mode,” which is the watch’s most basic operating level. But each watch’s actual longevity varies depending on individual usage and which battery-zapping settings you run. For instance, turning on GPS or having an always-on display drains the battery quicker. For casual users, this may not be an issue—but if you’re training for a triathlon and running navigation and data-tracking features, it could cut your workout log short if you forget to recharge often.
While some smartwatches—especially ones in the fitness realm like Garmin—can function entirely irrespective of smartphone connectivity, most watches perform vastly better when paired with another device. This connectivity gives you access to your phone’s notifications, stored data, and apps, all of which still need your main device to display properly.
Be warned, though, that not every watch is compatible with every phone. Apple Watches only pair with Apple devices, and the same goes for Android. The latter gives you a bit more freedom to try different options (e.g., a Google watch with a Samsung phone) because they all use a variant of Google’s Wear OS tech.
How We Selected
Every watch on this list has been in the hands—and around the wrists—of members of the Popular Mechanics staff, be they in a testing environment or as an everyday accessory. We’ve worn these models on runs and hikes, in the office, and even occasionally when we sleep, and the watches that earned placement among the best are the ones that most seamlessly integrated into our lives while giving us loads of quick-access info.
We’ve included broad ranges of operating system compatibilities like Android and iOS, functional priorities like run tracking and GPS, and many options under $500. There are plenty of design variants of each of these watches that prioritize specific features, such as more accurate GPS tracking and longer battery life in the Apple Watch Ultra. You may benefit from checking out some of these more specialized models. But for the sake of getting your search started right, the models we’ve included represent some of the most versatile you can buy.
Watch Series 9 Smartwatch
Despite facing some availability hurdles related to an ongoing copyright case, this newest edition to the standard Apple Watch line is a worthy successor to previous models. Senior Tech Editor Stefan Vazharov has been testing one for quite a while, and he’s satisfied with the product line’s adherence to simplicity.
“My favorite thing about the Apple Watch Series 9 is how easy it is to use,” Vazharov says, referencing the interface’s similarity to other iOS products. “Even a complete newbie will be able to easily tap into its vast set of activity and health-tracking tools. In my experience, fitness-tracking timepieces from big-name brands like Garmin and Polar have a steeper learning curve.
“Of course, the Apple Watch Series 9 is also great for the outstanding iPhone integration it offers. Common tasks—from receiving and interacting with notifications to controlling connected gadgets—are super intuitive.”
Galaxy Watch 6 Smartwatch
Though Apple’s watches don’t offer much cross-compatibility with other phones, the Android family is a little more forgiving—Google’s Wear OS 4 works on a much wider range of smartphones thanks to its Android 13 genes. And if you’re looking for the best of the best among an Android user’s options, you’ll find that the crisp display, durability, and fast operating speed on the Galaxy Watch 6 are tough to beat.
Despite its high-profile performance, it’ll disappear on your wrist until you need it. Our SEO analyst, Kori Williams, uses hers as a quiet companion that keeps her daily habits in check.
“I have a stitch-counting app on mine that makes it easier to keep up with my knitting and crocheting projects as I’m working on them,” Williams says. “It’s also convenient since I can easily track my water intake, which is something I wanted to improve in the new year.”
Pixel Watch 2 Smartwatch
For a watch that’s sure to feel comfortable on your wrist while looking appropriate in any environment, look no further than the Pixel Watch 2, Google’s second smartwatch since acquiring Fitbit in 2021.
Built atop Fitbit’s premium health-tracking tech, the Pixel Watch is an all-day watch that functions just as well as a smartphone extension as it does an activity tracker. You can pack its large, clear face full of information, including notifications, music, and quick-reference data like the temperature and your heart rate.
Another notable feature: This watch is quite comfortable to wear thanks to the rounded edges on its face and its high-quality silicone wristband.
Forerunner 265 Running Smartwatch
Some people use a smartwatch primarily as a means to track workouts, and the best watches for this purpose often prioritize tracking-related functions like accurate heart rate readings and GPS signal strength. Garmin’s Forerunner 265 is the brand’s middle-ground watch, and it aims to walk the line between peak performance and budget-friendliness while making as few compromises as possible.
Garmin’s GPS tracking, especially at this price and above, is spot-on. It uses multiple signals at once for maximum consistency, identifying and deleting the errant data spikes you might get in a dense city or remote forest to keep your route locked in place.
This watch can also help you analyze multiple facets of your training, including sleep quality, stress, and recovery, all without needing to connect to other devices—that’s right, this watch runs all on its own if you want it to.
G-Shock Move DWH5600-1 Smartwatch
Wearing a smartwatch can sometimes feel like its own statement, especially when you’re rocking one with a flashy screen—for some, that might feel like more than a watch needs to be, smart or not. If you prefer a more minimalist approach to smart tech, you may find the dumbed-down display on this G-Shock watch is more your speed. Reviews Editor Kevin Cortez enjoys his G-Shock Move quite a bit.
“I like my G-Shock Move because it’s more like a digital watch instead of a smart one,” Cortez says. “It links to my phone to share data via Bluetooth, and because it uses older digital watch tech, it loads way faster than an Apple Watch or Pixel Watch. It’s rechargeable (with solar-powered assist, by the way!) and doesn’t share notifications all day. It also has a cool breathing meditation feature that tracks my breath whenever I need three minutes to chill out.”
Versa 4 Fitness Smartwatch
Perhaps you want something a little more stripped down than a run tracker like the Forerunner 265—in that case, a tidier smartwatch like this Fitbit model may be all you need to keep tabs on your heart rate, sleep quality, and other health-centric data.
Is the Versa 4 as comprehensive a supplement to your smartphone as, say, a Pixel Watch? No, but it’s also far more compact, and the screen is less cluttered to boot. This watch is ideal if you’re not trying to overload your senses with data, but would still prefer to keep it at arm’s reach.
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