Here are the best smartwatches you can buy in 2023
If you’re sick and tired of reaching into your pocket for your smartphone every time your phone buzzes, you will probably find the convenience of a smartwatch that delivers notifications to your wrist appealing.
The best smartwatches come with a multitude of preinstalled apps for displaying calendar entries and other useful info, but more often than not, what attracts people to buy their first wrist wearable is the fitness features they offer. If you’re seriously into sports, you might better off looking at our list of best fitness trackers, but now that many smartwatches offer built-in GPS, along with features such as step counting and heart-rate monitoring, the lines between the two types of device have become increasingly blurred – you will find most of the devices below will accurately track your run or bike ride without it being tethered to your phone.
Without further ado, scroll down to read our pick of the best smartwatches you can currently buy. Below this, you will find our short guide on how to choose the right smartwatch for you.
How to choose the best smartwatch for you
Below, we’ve outlined the most important criteria to consider when picking which smartwatch is right for you. Of course, we consider all these points in our reviews, so you should be happy with the majority of the smartwatches we’ve picked out.
The first thing to consider when buying a smartwatch is what type of smartphone it’s compatible with. In most cases, you shouldn’t run into any problems here, but if you’re eyeing up the new Apple Watch Series 5, for example, you will need an iPhone to pair it with – sorry, Android users. The majority of other devices from manufacturers including Huawei, Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin should pair with both iOS and Android phones.
Most smartwatches offer a range of basic apps for displaying calendar entries, checking weather forecasts and monitoring your step count throughout the day. However, if you’re looking for the best selection of third-party apps, for now you’re best off with an Apple Watch (which runs Apple’s watchOS) or something that runs Wear OS (formerly known as Android Wear).
Samsung smartwatches, which run Tizen, and the Fitbit OS both fall considerably behind in this department. Garmin watches, too, predominantly stick to the essentials. Another boon for watchOS and Wear OS devices is their respective voice assistants, Siri and Google Assistant, which let you send messages and make other basic commands without touching the screen.
The next important consideration is hardware. Does it have a heart-rate sensor? Is there an altimeter for tracking how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed? Is there a compass for checking your direction? These are the kind of questions you will need to ask of your shiny, new wristwatch, depending on how you want to use it.
Built-in GPS is essential if you want to be able to track runs and bike rides accurately, and NFC is required if you want to make contactless payments (you will also need to check if your bank is supported). Although most watches have the sensors required for swim and sleep tracking, these features are not universally offered.
The single most important thing to look out for when buying a new watch is battery life, which varies enormously among the current crop of wrist-borne devices. The Fossil Sport, for example, will barely stretch past a day, while the new Fitbit Versa 2 offers closer to five days between charges. If you need a watch that’s truly dependable, you’re better off buying something with excellent battery life.
The last thing to check is whether it offers music playback, and the streaming services it supports, if any. This won’t matter if you always have your phone with you (in which case, you should still check that it has a music remote app), but if you want to leave your phone and listen to music while exercising, it’s a great feature to have.
How we test smartwatches
In order to provide you with the best buying advice, we’ve got first-hand experience with all the smartwatches we’ve included in our best buy roundup. Where possible, we compare heart rate monitoring and GPS accuracy against a Stryd wind pod and ECG chest strap.
Other factors that we take into account during testing include value for money, battery life, performance and ease of use. But the most important thing we assess in testing smartwatches are its smart features: whether it has support for installable third party apps, how well it handles notifications, whether you get onboard maps, local music playback, voice assistant support and more. If a smartwatch isn’t smart enough, it won’t gain a good review, let alone a place in this roundup.
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The best smartwatches you can buy in 2023
1. Apple Watch Series 8: Best smartwatch for iPhone users
Price when reviewed: £349 (41mm) | Check price at John Lewis
With the release of the Series 8, Apple has once again delivered a peerless smartwatch that is especially suitable for anyone who has already bought into its ecosystem.
Much like previous iterations, updates to the device are incremental. However, Apple has managed to add a few shiny new tricks to the Series 8, including the new and improved S8 chip; an accelerometer for car crash detection; a second temperature sensor for even better health tracking; a lower power mode; and watchOS 9, which of course brings with it a slew of small quality of life improvements.
While ardent fans may find themselves a little disappointed by the lack of improvements to battery life and comparatively small number of new features, the Apple Watch is still the best smartwatch available, and the Series 8 is another excellent iteration.
Read our full Apple Watch Series 8 review
Key specs – Operating system: watchOS 9; Screen size and type: Always-on 430 x 352 (41mm), 484 x 396 (45mm), Retina LTPO OLED display; Battery life: Up to 18 hours (regular mode); up to 36 hours (low power mode); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes
2. Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Best Samsung smartwatch overall
Price when reviewed: £149 | Check price at John Lewis
Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 is no longer the latest and greatest smartwatch Samsung makes but, since the Galaxy Watch 5 is barely any different, this remains the best option for Samsung smartphone owners, especially at current prices. Unlike previous Galaxy Watches it runs a version of Google’s Wear OS and this gives users access to a range of Google and third party apps, including Google Maps and the Play Store, although unfortunately not Google Assistant. The Watch 4 is certainly not short on health and fitness features and its sensors can track all sorts of advanced metrics.
Aside from the usual heart rate, step, GPS and calorie tracking features, it can also monitor your blood oxygen levels during the night, measure your BMI, basal metabolic rate and skeletal muscle mass. There are a couple of downsides, however. This is the first of Samsung’s smartwatches that can’t be used with an iPhone. So if you don’t have a Samsung or Android phone, you will have to make do with the Watch 3 (still a great wearable and now at a reduced price). And, despite the new processor, the Watch 4’s battery life could also be better. Two versions of the smartwatch are available: the Galaxy Watch 4 which has a digital bezel and comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes, and the Watch 4 Classic (which we reviewed) which has a physical rotating bezel and is slightly larger at 42mm and 46mm respectively.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic review
Key specs (46mm Watch 4 Classic) – Operating system: Wear OS; Screen size and type: 1.4in 450 x 450 AMOLED; Battery life: Approx 40 hours; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes
3. Garmin Venu 2 Plus: Best Garmin smartwatch for everyday use
Price when reviewed: £400 | Check price at Amazon
The Venu 2 Plus is a bit of a landmark wearable for Garmin. It’s the first of the brand’s smartwatches to feature a speaker and a microphone, allowing you to make and receive calls as well as interact with your phone’s voice assistant (provided you have your phone within Bluetooth range, as there’s no cellular option). This makes it a worthy competitor to rivals from Apple and Samsung.
This, of course, is the main talking point of the Venu 2. Elsewhere, though, you get the same great fitness tracking features we’ve come to expect from Garmin’s wearables, including accurate GPS plus sleep, heart rate and blood-oxygen level monitoring. The battery life is commendable too, lasting over a week in smartwatch mode and beating both the Apple Watch 7 and Galaxy Watch 4. Our only complaint is the price: at just under £400, it’s not a very affordable option (although it’s cheaper than the Fenix 7).
In short, if you have the money, and being able to make and take calls on your wrist is a priority, then the Venu 2 Plus is simply one of the best Garmin smartwatches you can buy.
Read our full Garmin Venu 2 Plus review
Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 1.3in 416 x 416 AMOLED; Battery life: Up to nine days (in smartwatch mode); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No
4. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Best-value Samsung smartwatch
Price when reviewed: £150 | Check price at Amazon
Compared to the original flagship Galaxy Watch, the Watch 3 has all the same features including GPS, NFC and heart rate monitoring, but also adds some key new fitness-tracking abilities such as measuring your blood-oxygen levels and estimating your fitness, which is given via a VO2 max reading. The Galaxy Watch 3 is also much less bulky than the original (the 45mm model is 1.8mm thinner and 9g lighter than the original 46mm watch), making it appear more stylish and sophisticated.
Since the launch of the Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic, its predecessor has dropped in price. Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 is now a great-value option if you don’t want to splash out on the brand’s latest wearable. Discounting the Apple Watch itself, it also remains the best option for iPhone users, since the Galaxy Watch 4 works exclusively with Android devices.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 review
Key specs – Operating system: Tizen OS; Screen size and type: 1.4in 360 x 360 AMOLED; Battery life: Up to 56 hours; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes
5. Garmin Fenix 7: Best multi-sports wearable
Price when reviewed: £500 | Check price at John Lewis
It’s not the cheapest smartwatch on the market, but the Garmin Fenix 7 offers a winning mix of features for sport fanatics. Quite simply, it has lapped the similarly priced competition. Alongside a touchscreen, a sleeker design than its predecessor and a longer battery life, the Fenix 7 uses the company’s latest optical sensor for more accurate monitoring of your blood oxygen level and heart rate. The GPS has also been improved, while there are three sizes and lots of colours to pick from.
Most importantly, however, there’s tracking for pretty much every sport we could think of, as well as plenty of advice and features that will help you make the most of your workout. You will stay entertained too: the Fenix 7 lets you download tracks from Spotify, Deezer or Amazon Music straight to the device. If you’re serious about sport and your budget allows it, the Fenix 7 is a brilliant choice.
Read our full Garmin Fenix 7 review
Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 1.3in 250 x 260 MIP touchscreen; Battery life: Up to 14 days (solar model); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes
6. Garmin Venu Sq 2: Best mid-priced Garmin smartwatch
Price when reviewed: £180 | Check price at John Lewis
A cheaper alternative to the Venu 2 Plus, this Garmin wearable offers a brilliant balance of quality and affordability. While it may lack the microphone and speaker on offer in the Venu Plus 2, it does have excellent sleep tracking, the same Elevate v4 heart-rate tracking sensor as seen in more expensive Garmins and accurate single-band GPS. It also has a bright, sharp 1.41in AMOLED touchscreen, a commendable 11 days of battery life, a range of well-implemented fitness tracking and training programs and, at a mere 39g, it is light and comfortable on the wrist for 24/7 wear.
If local music storage is an important factor for you, you can also pick up the Venu Sq 2 Music Edition, which costs a little bit more, but offers 3GB of space for your tunes and supports offline Spotify playlist playback as well.
Read our full Garmin Venu Sq 2 review
Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 1.41in 360 x 320 AMOLED touchscreen; Battery life: Up to 11 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes
7. TicWatch Pro 3 GPS: Best Android Wear smartwatch
Price when reviewed: £220 | Check price at Amazon
Wear OS-based smartwatches tend to offer plenty of features and the opportunity to extend their capabilities via third-party apps. However, few offer battery life much longer than two days. The TicWatch Pro 3 GPS is a little different. Although the battery life doesn’t last any longer than the average Wear OS device, its dual-layer screen means when capacity is low it can still keep delivering basic functions – heart rate monitoring, step counting, sleep tracking and telling the time – for up to three extra days via its secondary monochrome LCD display.
Elsewhere, the watch has all the features you would expect of a modern smartwatch: a bright, sharp 1.4in 454 x 454 AMOLED touchscreen; heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring; GPS, GLONASS, Galileo positioning support; NFC for contactless payments via Google Pay; and IP68 dust and water resistance that means it’s usable for swim tracking as well as all the usual dry-land activities. Plus you can read and respond to messages and ask Google Assistant for help via the built-in microphone Couple that with smart looks and the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, which makes the watch extremely responsive to use, and you have one of the best Wear OS smartwatches around. It’s expensive but it’s a great option for those who want a top-quality smartwatch with decent battery life to pair with their Android smartphone.
Key specs – Operating system: Wear OS; Screen size and type: Dual layer 1.39in 454 x 454 AMOLED and segmented FSTN display; Battery life: Up to three days (smart mode), 45 days (essential mode); Replaceable strap: Yes, 22mm; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes
8. Garmin Epix (Gen 2): Best high-end sports watch
Price when reviewed: £650 | Check price at John Lewis
It’s even more expensive than the Garmin Fenix 7 above, but the second-generation Garmin Epix does everything you could possibly need from a sports watch: the super-sharp 1.3in AMOLED touchscreen is a pleasure to use and it’s absolutely stuffed to the gills with handy features. There’s not enough space to cover them all here, but most eye-catching inclusions are topographic maps from around the world, incredible GPS accuracy, a RealTime Stamina tool that estimates how much energy you have left, Wi-Fi connectivity, the ability to store music from the major streaming services (Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music) and dedicated modes for pretty much every form of exercise, both on dry land and in the water.
Meanwhile, battery life is a respectable 16 days if you set the screen to only switch on when you lift your wrist, which plummets to six days if the display is always on. Its sky-scraping price is always going to be a sticking point, but there’s no denying that the Garmin Epix is simply the best sports watch money can buy.
Read our full Garmin Epix (Gen 2) review
Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 1.3in 416 x 416 AMOLED; Battery life: Six days (screen always on), 16 days (when you lift your wrist); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; Waterproof: Yes; NFC: Yes
9. Amazfit GTR 4: Best budget smartwatch
Price when reviewed: £199 | Check price at Amazon
Our favourite budget smartwatch to date, the Amazfit GTR 4 is a wallet-friendly option that looks and performs like a pricier piece of kit. It’s packed with smart and fitness features, from basics like receiving notifications from your smartphone, sleep tracking and step counting, to more advanced features like blood oxygen sensing and accurate dual-band GPS. What’s on offer exceeds the GTR 4’s relatively modest price tag. It’s comfortable, too, and durable thanks to impressive water resistance and tempered glass protecting the display.
There’s no compromise on design, with a sleek aluminium frame and matte silver finish contributing to its attractive appearance. The big (1.43in), bright 466 x 466 AMOLED screen looks great, the UI is smooth and ultra-responsive, plus the battery life is rated at up to 14 days typical usage or 52 hours in power saving mode. It’s a bit light on sophisticated training tools, so athletes preparing for an event might want to opt for a more fitness-focussed device. For everyone else, though, it’s a great-value hybrid option.
Read our full Amazfit GTR 4 review
Key specs – Operating system: Zepp OS; Screen size and type: 1.43in 466 x 466 AMOLED; Battery life: Up to 14 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No