10 Best Smartwatches: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide (2018)

best smartwatches

Flickr/Kārlis Dambrāns

Smartwatches never became the must-have item that they were slated to be just a few years ago, but they have dug out a dedicated niche as the preferred way to check notifications and make calls on the go.

Before you dive right into our favorite smartwatches, it is best to discuss what criteria these devices were judged upon, since the market is taking a number of different directions right now.

While there is a large market of fitness wearables, we did not consider any of these tracking devices true smartwatches. We did however include some some smartwatches with minor fitness tracking features.

We tried to represent a fair amount of OSes, but since they all have rather small infrastructure in terms of apps and functionality, Google’s up and coming Android Wear OS is heartily represented. Due to the size limitations, these devices are mostly for in the moment reminders and updates, fitness tracking, navigation, music control, and communication apps.

Features like built-in web browsing and full voice control exist right now, but really are not a strong point of the smartwatch. Fully wrist-optimized versions of these functions are on the cusp of what is possible right now, and again, more updates will be forthcoming. But until then, enjoy Heavy’s top 10 best smartwatches.

What are the best smart watches?


1. Samsung Gear S3 Frontier – $269.90

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • Bright 1.3-inch super AMOLED screen
  • Loud built-in speaker
  • Built-in GPS
  • High price tag
  • No way to disable sHealth app
  • Limited feature compatibility across cell carriers

The Gear S3 Frontier is Samsung’s latest and greatest rugged smartwatch, and stands out by offering its full suite of features behind military-grade drop protection. This smartwatch is capable of making and answering calls, receiving and dictating texts, using Samsung Pay, and almost any of your phone’s other core features.

It also sports a 2-3 day battery life, , which could arguable last longer than your phone. Its built-in GPS lends itself great to adventuring, and it comes a 4G version which works independently from your smartphone.

Either option feels like a standalone device, though, as the Bluetooth connection is powerful and the screen is large and bright. It has a 1.3-inch super AMOLED display with a responsive Gorilla Glass touchscreen.

The built-in heart rate monitor and step tracker that have become standard features now make an appearance, but oddly, there is no way to disable them for those who aren’t interested in their steps being logged.

This small gripe aside, this is one of the top smart watches around.

Buy the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier here.


2. Apple Watch Series 3 Sport 38mm – $349.00

Apple Watch Series 3 Sport 38mm

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • Responsive digital crown control
  • Integrated speaker
  • Sleek IPX7-rated design
  • High price tag
  • 18 hour battery life
  • Only pairs with newer iPhones

Though the critical reception of the Apple Watch was not on par with the hype built up before its release, this elegant smartwatch has still made a huge splash in the wearable tech market. The watch only works with the iPhone 5 or later, and features the sleek, metallic curves characteristic of an Apple device.

The Apple Watch Sport is IPX7-rated for immersion up to 30 minutes, so while running in deep puddles with a light weight $400 wearable is still not advised, it is indeed possible. Its soft, comfortable fluoroelastomer band is also nice if you plan to actually use this for fitness purposes, and if not, swapping the bands is easy.

Behind its light, durable Ion-X Glass screen is an AMOLED Retina display with Force Touch support, which comes in 42mm (312 x 390) or 38mm sizes (272 x 340), neither of which are the largest or sharpest of screens. These screens do get the job done, though, and are highly usable thanks to the digital crown on the side of the watch, which for scrolling and zooming without covering the display with your hand.

Another dedicated button on the side is specifically for accessing your friends list, which you can send or respond to messages via dictation or custom pre-selected messages. There is an integrated speaker for taking calls, but it does not yet have enough power to be actually worth using.

Force Touch adds functionality as well, and the rather robust set of apps (3,500+ available at this time) offer a variety of different uses, from receiving notifications, to having Siri send information to your phone. Integrated Apple Pay is functional, but it is a little scary to adjust to paying for things with a watch.

Other apps can also utilize the Apple Watch’s built-in heart rate sensor, accelerometer, and gyroscope. All of this takes a bit of getting used to because the UI of WatchOS 1.0 aims to be separate from that of iOS, but it is pretty solid experience once you get adjusted.

The watch’s S1 chip is pretty quick, but non-Apple apps can be a little slow to load. The Apple Watch Sport’s wireless MagSafe charger is portable for travel, but the 246 mAh battery in the 42mm watch and 205 mAh one in the 38mm watch can only offer about 18 hours of battery life, meaning that you will likely have to charge this smartwatch every night.

This first generation of the Apple Watch Sport has a lot of promising features going for it, and will likely blossom into an incredible product over time. But until then, the price barrier of this Apple product might mean that wearable enthusiasts will look elsewhere for their early introduction to the smartwatch market.

Buy the Apple Watch Sport here.


3. Motorola Moto 360 Sport – $259.00

Motorola Moto 360 Sport

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • Large, vibrant screen
  • Universal wireless charging
  • Night stand function when charging
  • Somewhat pricey
  • Weaker processor
  • 1 day battery life

The Moto 360 sport is a durable and waterproof sport watch that delivers expanded fitness functionality in a sleek and compact package.

At the forefront of its suite of app functionalities are its heart rate monitoring, activity tracking, and GPS navigation. All of these are accessible via hands-free voice control, which helps contribute to a nearly buttonless form factor.

Obviously, the Moto 360 Sport does have one button and a crown, both of which can come in handy when using apps on the built-in screen.

Its small bezel allows for an excellent 1.7-inch IPS display underneath Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The stainless steel design and IP67 rating means it is durable and resistance to water and dust. The LCD screen displays well in sunlight, but it also drains the battery somewhat faster than OLED screen would.

This watch’s battery supports about a day of mixed use, but recharging is easy thanks to a handy wireless charge pad. It even sits the watch in a way that allows it to act as a bedside alarm clock.

Buy the Motorola Moto 360 here.


4. LG Urbane 2 4G LTE- $289.00

LG Urbane 2 4G LTE

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • 4G LTE connectivity on GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile
  • 2 day battery life
  • Easy voice commands
  • Somewhat pricey
  • Does not work with CDMA Carriers like Sprint, Verizon, Boost or Virgin
  • No GPS

LG started out a big player in the smartwatch arena, but they seem less relevant now that they are unable to keep up with the insane product release cycle of Samsung.

Still, their LG Urbane 2 watch is an attractive and powerful timepiece that takes full advantage of the available Android Wear features.

A special feature of their 4G LTE version is that it is unlocked for all GSM cell networks, including AT&T, T-Mobile, GoPhone, Net10, cricKet, and more. Many LTE smartwatches require you to have one specific brand to make this functionality work, so the flexibility is appreciated.

Like other smartwatches, it is IP67-rated, and has a built-in speaker and microphone. Its P-OLED screen has a larger bezel than other watches, but it still is bright and detailed.

The watch itself is definitely of a chunkier design, and it might be a bit large on your wrist, but that will vary from person to person. It comes with a genuine leather band, which you can swap if you prefer to customize your watches.

This watch is powered by a Snapdragon 400 processor, 768 MB RAM, and 4GB storage. These are typical specs for an Android Wear device, and will be the same for other watches unless otherwise noted.

Buy the LG Urbane 2 4G LTE here.


5. Pebble Time – $89.99

Pebble Time

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • 7 day battery life
  • Works with any smart phone
  • Robust app support
  • Simple e-paper display
  • No GPS

If you imagined a smartwatch being an infinitely customizable wrist gadget that you can create custom functions for, then the Pebble Time is the perfect smartwatch for you.

Not only is it one of the cheapest smartwatches around at under $100, but it is also one of the most customizable.

Pebble watches run an entirely open source platform, and consequentially, users and brands alike have contributed over 8,000 apps to their app store. This includes watch faces, fitness trackers, calculators, ride hailers, and more. If there is something the Pebble is missing, you can make it.

This budgets smartwatch has plenty of hardware to play with as well. It has a speaker, microphone, and activity tracker. It is missing more sophisticated inclusions like a camera or a GPS, but the basics can get a lot done.

The screen uses e-paper technology like the Kindle e-readers do, which means that resolution is limited. This is the one thing that may turn people away from the Pebble Time, but it is also part of the reason that this smartwatch has an insane 7 day max battery life.

Some will find the eInk screen cheap-looking, and others may be turned away from the chunky square display, but we find the design flashy and believe that the functionality will turn heads in itself.

Buy the Pebble Steel here.


6. Asus ZenWatch 3 – $289.00

Asus ZenWatch 3

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • Elegant curved design
  • 2 day battery life
  • Asus watch faces have useful display info
  • Less dust/water resistant
  • Fairly thick watch face
  • Poor charging cradle design

The Zenwatch is Asus’ take on what an Android Wear smartwatch should be, and it is a watch that does not sacrifice elegance for functionality. The sophisticated design features a slightly curved screen that contours to the wrist, plus stitched leather removable watch straps.

It has a beautiful 1.63 inch AMOLED display (320×320), which runs fine thanks to its standard Snapdragon 400 processor and 512 MB RAM.

The watch is IP55 meaning that it is water and dust resistant, but its rating is notably lower than that of other IP rated devices. A pedometer and heart rate monitor are also present, but is not developed enough to use for proper fitness tracking.

Most other Android Wear functions remain the same, but Asus does give its best attempt at a custom UI with their own special watch faces and manager app. Their displays show important information and the app allows you to program functions from your phone that engage on the watch.

Its 360 mAh battery lasts around 2 days, which is a little better than average and certainly manageable. Unfortunately, Asus also has the issue of the large, awkward charging cradle, which is hopefully something manufacturer’s acknowledge down the road.

Buy the Asus ZenWatch 3 here.


7.Samsung Gear Sport – $264.94

Samsung Gear Sport

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • Bright 1.3-inch super AMOLED screen
  • Loud built-in speaker
  • Built-in GPS
  • High price tag
  • No way to disable sHealth app

The Samsung Gear Sport is Samsung’s workout-friendly smartwatch within the gear family. As the Frontier S3 is also intended for outdoor use, there is little that sets the two apart.

But the Gear Sport is even more thoroughly water resistant, in addition to the drop protection it shares with the Frontier S3.

It also has more uniform feature compatibility across different OSes, making this a slightly more friendly option for iOS or 3rd party phone user.

Another neat thing about the Gear Sport is its included proprietary charger, which doubles as a bedside stand for your watch to act like an alarm clock.

The same flaw that you cannot disable the sHealth app persists on this device, but considering this is the fitness-centric version, that should be something you want to leave on anyway.

Buy the Samsung Gear Sport here.


8. Garmin vívoactive 3 – $299.99

Garmin vívoactive 3

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • Robust GPS features
  • 7 day battery life
  • Compatible with Android and iOS
  • High price tag
  • Overly sensitive touchscreen
  • GPS can be sluggish

GPS manufacturer Garmin is pushing hard for the fitness wearable market with their vívoactive 3 smartwatch, which brings extra functionality to the table through use of its built-in GPS, step tracker, and heart rate monitor.

The watch is rugged and waterproof, and has a glare-resistant screen that is perfect for outdoor use. Its custom Garmin OS is built is simple to use and puts extra weight on fitness features.

It is also able to do standard smartwatch functions like read and respond to texts and emails, make calls, and change your music.

The watch has an impressive 7 day battery life, and it can be put in a GPS-only mode that will instead last for up to 13 days. The GPS doesn’t work fast, but it is reliable for tracking large scale movement.

The 240×240 touchscreen is decently sized and is bright and vibrant, but its touchscreen is overly sensitive, causing the watch to sometime scroll through menus on its own.

Those who are focused on fitness first will be able to look past these issues, while those looking for a more cohesive smart device experience might want to go with a more tried and true UI.

Buy the Garmin vívoactive 3 here.


9. Fossil Men’s Gen 3 Q Explorist – $199.00

Fossil Men’s Gen 3 Q Explorist

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • Beautiful design
  • Speedy Google OS UI
  • Easy setup
  • No heart rate sensor
  • 1 day battery life
  • Large bezel

The Explorist watch from Fossil is equal parts attractive timepiece and useful smart device. This device is powered on Google’s Wear OS, which means it has a different suite of apps from the Android powered devices you are used to comparing.

As you may guess, Google has apps to perform most any task you would expect a smartwatch to do, including reading and writing texts and emails, answering and making calls, and tracking fitness and sleep.

Missing from the usual array of sensors is a heart rate monitor, which can limit this watch’s use as a fitness tracker, but with its gorgeous watch face and leather band, this is more meant to be worn at social occasions.

The Google OS is smooth and provides access to the useful Google Assistant. This allows you to make voice commands to set reminders, answer general trivia, and more.

Buy the Fossil Men’s Gen 3 Q Explorist here.


10. Pebble Smartwatch – $44.95

Pebble Smartwatch

Amazon

Pros: Cons:
  • Most affordable smartwatch
  • Works with any smart phone
  • 5 day battery life
  • Robust app support
  • Lower quality parts compared to Pebble Steel
  • Simple e-paper display
  • No microphone
  • Only 8 storage slots for apps

The original Pebble Smartwatch is a big step down in build quality compared to other smartwatches on this list. However, as a cheaper yet functionally identical version of the Pebble Steel, it is a great option for those looking to enter the smartwatch world without breaking the bank.

And while the plastic body and straps are not top quality, but can both be swapped out, allowing for plenty of external customization atop the different colors they come in. Its eInk display (the same 1.26 inch display as the Pebble Steel) is not the most beautiful, but it is always on with no drain on the battery.

Like the Steel, the Pebble get 5-7 days of battery life with relative ease, meaning that you can use it uninterrupted for longer. But the Pebble belongs on this list for more than just the relief it offers from the ambitious Android Wear devices that barely get 1-2 days of battery life.

Since the Pebble has been out since mid 2013, its app selection has grown immensely, and has much more support than either Android Wear or Tizen. Because of its combination of affordability and functionality, the Pebble has definitely earned a place on this top list, that is until the more advanced smartwatches can bring this kind of price and battery life to a full-color AMOLED display.

Buy the Pebble Smartwatch here.


Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

5 Comments

5 Comments

Ilori adedapo emmanuel

I like Pebble steel and Samsung gear S but i have no money at hand ! Anyway when i’m through with my student next year November i gonna buy it.

James F

Nice in-depth guide on the smart watches! Out of all the 10 I really like the Pebble & Samsung Gear the most. Currently I own the Samsung Gear S as I have a Note 4 and Its a great companion! Would love to try out the Pebble someday though.

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