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If your current watch just tells time, there’s an entire universe of smartwatches on the market that bring features normally reserved for smartphones to your wrist. While even the best smartwatches can’t do everything your phone does, their health, fitness, communications, and safety features that make them a great complement to your phone. We rounded up nine of the top smartwatches on the market, but ultimately found that the Google Pixel 2 was the best of the bunch, in large part because both Apple and Android can enjoy the benefits of the smartwatch.
What You Should Look for in a Smartwatch
Google, Samsung, and Apple are all big players in this space and the best smart watch for you may come down to which tech ecosystem you’re already committed to. While a Google Watch may work with an iPhone, the integration and learning curve will be better if you stick to the brand you’re already with. (If you like the Apple Watch, you have to have an iPhone for most features.) If you value fitness and tracking features over app support and phone integration, fitness smart watch heavyweights Garmin and Suunto make several worthy options.
Some smartwatches (most of the Apple and Samsung offerings) have the ability to access wireless data networks without tethering to your phone. Most fitness-first watches from brands such as Suunto and Garmin do not, meaning you’ll either need to keep your phone on you for messaging and other connected apps and download maps for offline use. Having a data connection for your phone makes it much more capable but it also drains the battery faster and almost always requires an additional line of data on your wireless plan, which usually costs around $10 per month.
Smartwatch Size and Weight
Most smartwatches are fairly light, balancing the scales around 30 grams. More robust adventure watches such as the Garmin Fenix 7x we recommend below, however, can be more than double that average. While a few dozen grams might not seem like much on paper, we can promise you’ll notice the size and weight difference if you’re used to a slimline watch such as a Fitbit or Apple Watch SE.
Lightweight watches are comfortable for everyday wear, but the biggest reason to go bigger and deal with the weight penalty is screen size. Reading maps and messages on your phone is just more effective and enjoyable with a large, bright screen. Bigger watches also tend to pack bigger, longer-lasting batteries, so you may be willing to trade weight for fewer charging hassles.
Why You Should Trust Me
I never use to wear a watch, but modern smart watches made me appreciate using my smartphone less for telling time, quickly answering email, and tracking workouts. Since then, I’ve tested many of the major releases from brands like Garmin, Google, Suunto, Apple, Samsung, and Casio. The Garmin Fenix 7x is my current go-to, but I also cycle in the Suunto 9 Peak and Nixon Regulus for certain outings. Though I’m historically an Android user, I test Apple products with my partner’s phone.
Best Overall Smartwatch: Google Pixel Watch 2
Google entered the hardware market with their Pixel Watch in 2022 to pair with their Wear OS software that runs on many Samsung and other smartwatches for Android. The Google Pixel Watch 2 update boosts the speed and battery life to make the price tag (about $100 more than the original, at most) a worthy upgrade. Google owns Fitbit and the 2 adds several Fitbit health tracking features such as stress, sleep quality, and improved heart-rate reading. This watch also pairs easily with both Android and Apple phones.
STRAP: Fluoroelastomer Active Band
Best Smartwatch for Apple Users: Apple Watch Ultra 2
If you’re an iPhone user, it’s hard to beat the features you get with an Apple Watch, even though there are plenty of iOS compatible options from other brands. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is a more fitness-focused Apple Watch but it’s good for closer to a day and a half with normal use which is just enough to let you relax about charging and just wear the dang thing. It also has all the same upgrades and features as the Series 9 but with the addition of fitness features such as compass, run tracking, and built-in cellular so you can leave the phone at home.
STRAP: Alpine, Trail, Oceanv
Best Smartwatch for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic uses Google’s latest Wear OS update and brings back the beloved rotating bezel control that lets you easily scroll menus instead of fiddling with small buttons as on most smart watches. This latest edition of their flagship watch has a bigger battery, but that gain is negated if not overcome by a bigger, brighter screen. The battery runtime still beats most Apple watches, but if you’re prone to forgetting to juice up, previous versions or other models might be worth a look. Because you get the latest WearOS, you’ll get access to tons of third-party apps via the Google Play Store, a flexibility you don’t get with Apple Watches.
STRAP: Hybrid Leather, Sport, Extreme Sport, Fabric
Best Hybrid Smartwatch: Pininfarina Senso Hybrid
When an Italian car design firm gets into the watchmaking space, you know you're in for something sleek. Pininfarina teamed up with Globics to bring its hybrid vision to life, marrying the style of analogue timepieces with the modern technology endemic of smartwatches. The end result is Senso, a lineup of hybrids that are incredibly wearable, with offerings including Slate Grey (shown here), Sunburst Rose Gold, Moonlight Silver, and Mercure Grey. An angular stainless steel case and round bezel frame sapphire crystal glass, lending durability and refinement. The digital display is just under the 12 o’clock mark, but the time is also displayed in a more analog form, with a luminous hour and minutes hand, plus a small second subdial. As far as tech specs go, it's water resistant up to 50 meters, stays juiced up to 30 days with a full battery charge, and is compatible with iOS and Android users. It covers all the basics of health and fitness tracking, measuring heart rate, oxygen, stress, sleep, and fitness activity across a multitude of sports. If you prioritize sharp looks over digging into the minutiae of, say, running oscillation, this is the smartwatch for you.
STRAP: Genuine Italian leather
Best Outdoor Smartwatch: Garmin Fenix 7X Pro - Sapphire Solar Edition
If you’re more into tracking VO2 Max than step counts, this is the GPS fitness-oriented smartwatch for you. The Garmin Fenix 7X Pro-Sapphire Solar Edition took Best Overall in our Adventure Watch Guide thanks to it's precise GPS tracking, robust fitness and health monitoring features, and best-in-class built-in mapping and navigation for outdoor adventures. Garmin's GPS watches have had great fitness tracking features but as other watches catch up there, the Fenix 7x really stands out for the mapping features. The large 51mm face makes the maps easier to read and the ability to download map layers for offline use lets you head out untethered by cell coverage. Combined with digital compass and accurate GPS location, the watch is a powerful tool for wayfinding in the backcountry or just following a preset running route you created at home. Like any good smartwatch, the Fenix 7x can pair with your phone to let you read and reply to messages and, though this connectivity can drain battery life, solar charging extends the life of a single charge up to 37 days in normal smartwatch mode and up to a year in battery saver mode.
STRAP: Fluoroelastomer Active Band