What’s the best smartwatch you can buy?
- Huawei Watch
- Apple Watch 2
- Samsung Gear S2
- Fossil Q Founder
- Samsung Gear S3 Frontier
What’s the best smartwatch? The best smartwatch in 2017 is the Huawei Watch, but we also recommend the Apple Watch Series 2 and Samsung Gear S2, and there are plenty of other top Android watches and iPhone watches to choose from. Learn about these smartwatches and more in our best smartwatches chart. These are the best smartwatches on the UK market for iPhone, Android, fitness and more.
Your buying guide to the best smartwatches in 2017
Why do I need a smartwatch?
There’s an interesting theory that smartwatches are to the smartphone what wristwatches were to the pocket watch. Picture the way the average gentlemen used to have to rummage through his pocket for his watch prior to the 20th century – now skip forward 100+ years and the average smartphone user still has to dive into his/her pocket to check their phone.
The kicker now is that your smartphone holds far more information than a pocket watch ever did, yet all of which is still locked into your pocket.
The theory behind smartwatches is not for you to make calls with and speak into, although some can do this, but instead they mainly provide a quick and easy way to check what notifications are on your smartphone, so you can decide whether it’s worth delving into your pocket or searching around your bag to fetch your smartphone or not.
What type of smartwatch should I look for?
There are two type of smartwatch around at the moment: those with a colourful touchscreen like would find on your phone, and those which combine a regular analogue watch with smart features – we call them ‘semi-smartwatches’.
The latter we class as a semi-smart device and normally gives you information via a small LCD screen, LEDs or even smaller hands on the watch face.
While a fully-fledged smartwatch can do a lot more, the juice guzzling screen results in a short battery life. Semi-smart watches benefit from longer battery life with some even having separate cells for the watch and smart features.
If you’re an Android user then an Android Wear smartwatch is the obvious choice but it’s not necessarily the best for everyone. Google’s OS tweaked for wearables also plays nicely with iOS but with cut down functionality so iPhone owners will get more from the Apple Watch.
Others have an entirely different system such as Pebble’s range of devices and some even work with Windows Phone like the Vector Watch. Samsung is sticking with its own Tizen, too, so there’s something for everyone here. Also see: Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear will make all kinds of wearable devices better.
What makes a good smartwatch?
When testing for what is the best smartwatch, the important factors to consider are how much of your smartphone’s functionalities can it perform, and how well does it handle each task, the final attribute is obviously style – it’s still bling after all.
You’ll also want to make sure it’s compatible with your smartphone – some are only for iPhone or Android while others support most phones. Note that Android Wear now has iOS support but the experience is cut down in comparison.
Some smartwatches use different software such as the Gear S3 which runs Tizen, Samsung’s own OS – it’s a legitimate alternative to Android Wear.
As is stands, you’ll need to pick a watch with more limited functionality if you want long battery life while ones which can do all sorts will typically last a couple of days.
Fitness fans will want to look for a device with a heart rate monitor and built-in GPS, although the heart rate monitors are often poor.
We consider the important factors of a smartwatch to be level of notification detail, battery life, style, water resistance, compatibility with a range of devices/smartphones, plus additional features such as microphones and Wi-Fi support so you don’t have to connect to a phone for full functionality.
With very similar, if not identical, hardware on offer with many of the Android Wear smartwatches, a large part of the decision will come down to design and price.
Smartwatch security warning
According to a new report titled Friend or Foe? Your Wearable Devices Reveal Your Personal PIN, it isn’t at all difficult for a hacker to figure out your PIN or password utilising motion sensor data from your wearable, with researchers getting it right around 80 percent of the time.
Their advice is for us to create a certain kind of noise data, or to input our PINs and passwords using the other hand.
But we have to say, we do that anyway… at least those of us who are righthanded. We fix our watch strap to our left arm using our right hand, and enter our PINs and passwords using our right hand.
Do you enter your password or PIN using your watch hand? Let us know in the poll below, and scroll down for our list of the 20 best smartwatches.
1. Hauwei Watch
Although it’s pricy, the Huawei Watch is best Android Wear smartwatch on the market with its absolutely stunning design and exquisite build quality. There’s still work to be done though as the watch lacks GPS, the heart rate monitor doesn’t work very well and the charger is bit fiddly.Rating: 8/10
2. Apple Watch Series 2
The new Apple Watch Series 2 takes the main complaints about the original – slow operation, lack of GPS, lack of official waterproofing, short battery life – and solves or at least improves them systematically. If you’re into fitness tracking with a sprinkling of notifications and superb integration with the iPhone, this is an almost perfect wearable for you… although, being greedy, we’d still like an even better battery life, and the price remains pretty steep. We thought long and hard about whether to give the Apple Watch Series 2 five out of five, and it was a close-run thing. But those two issues are still, just, keeping it from a perfect score. Great wearable, though, and the only one we’ve seen that feels like it has any chance at all of taking wearables into the mainstream.
3. Samsung Gear S2
Based on our time with the Samsung Gear S2, we think it’s a sleek smartwatch with an attractive design. It offers fairly standard smartwatch features like fitness tracking, but also includes some rather interesting features including a rotating bezel used for navigating the UI and enhanced app capabilities. At £249, it sits itself alongside the likes of the Moto 360 2, and we think the Gear S2 is a great, if not better option for Android users – especially with a custom, intuitive UI.
4. Fossil Q Founder
There’s no doubt that the Fossil Q Founder is a well-made and good looking Android Wear smartwatch which is also a competitive price. The hardware on offer is good, although some may miss the heart rate monitor and GPS. As much as we love it, the flat tyre effect of the screen is a big drawback stopping it being really great.
5. Samsung Gear S3 Frontier
The Gear S2 arrived on a deserved wave of hype, but for some reason we aren’t overly excited about this new Gear S3 Frontier. The only thing it actually adds is GPS, and at a £100 cost it’ll definitely put some people off. The reduced functionality when not using a Samsung phone is also a turn-off, despite the software being easier and more intuitive than Android Wear.
The problem isn’t entirely the S3’s fault, it’s in the inherent limitations of smartwatches. You’ll always need a smartphone to finish the majority of tasks, and added to the fact that this is practically a repackaged Gear S2 means not much new ground has been broken. If you want a smartwatch and can afford to spend £349, this is the one to get. It just isn’t essential.
6. Motorola Moto 360
The Moto 360 is a fantastic smartwatch with excellent build quality, luxurious design and an affordable price tag. However, it’s not flawless with one day battery life, a lower resolution screen which is tainted by the black section at the bottom. It will also be too big for some users. Despite the flaws, it’s the best smartwatch we’ve reviewed to date but watch out for the LG G Watch R, Asus ZenWatch and Apple Watch.
7. LG Watch Urbane
There’s a lot to like about the LG Watch Urbane with it’s handy Wi-Fi connectivity and the welcome new version of Android Wear. Since it’s essentially the same device as the G Watch R in terms of hardware, your purchase really hinges on the design. It is expensive and bulky so we can’t see it appearing to the masses so the G Watch R is still our recommended choice.
8. Sony Smartwatch 3
The SmartWatch 3’s biggest strength is its built-in GPS, but you’ll still need a smartphone for driving directions. It’s also great to see a standard USB charging port. The transflective screen is a good idea, but in practice battery life is no better than other smartwatches with better-looking screens. Ultimately, unless you’re on a fixed budget, the G Watch R is the better choice. If you can’t afford that, wait a few months: the price is bound to drop.
9. Motorola Moto 360 Sport
Available for under £200, the Motorola Moto 360 Sport is one of the best smartwatches for fitness. You get the some of the regular 360 style in a design which is practical for activities like running. The GPS tracking is accurate but it’s shame the same can’t be said of the heart rate monitor and we still find the ‘flat tyre’ on the screen an eyesore. A solid effort but hard-core fitness fans might need something which is more in-depth.
10. Withings Steel HR
If you’re not fussed about a full on touchscreen smartwatch, the Withings Steel HR is stylish, well-made and offers excellent battery life. We’re glad to see the addition of the heart rate monitor and the screen for smart features, even if they are basic. A great semi-smartwatch for the price.