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Best smartwatch 2021: The best wearables for iPhone and Android

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Here are the best smartwatches you can buy in 2021

If you're sick and tired of reaching into your pocket for your smartphone every time your phone buzzes, you’ll 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’ll 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’ll find our short guide on how to choose the right smartwatch for you.

Claim up to £120 for your old Apple Watch

When you buy an eligible smartwatch from John Lewis, you can claim up to £120 by trading in your old one. This deal applies to both the Apple Watch Series 7 and the SE that we’ve featured in our roundup below.
John Lewis
Save up to £120

BLACK FRIDAY DEAL: Save BIG on the TicWatch 3 Pro

There are hundreds of Wear OS smartwatches to choose from but the TicWatch 3 Pro is the best, thanks to dual-layer display which allows it to outlast the competition. It's currently down to its lowest ever price in the Amazon Black Friday sales, too, from an average of £265 to a tempting £197.
Amazon
Was £265
Now £197

Suunto 7 smartwatch down to its lowest EVER price

Wear OS smartwatches aren't renowned for their sports tracking prowess but the Suunto 7 breaks the mould. An attractive, comfortable smartwatch with a lovely screen, this watch features Suunto's own sports tracking software and it's been reduced from its average price of £275 to a tempting £224 in the Black Friday sales.
Amazon
Was £275
Now £224

Best smartwatch: At a glance

  • Best for iPhone users: Apple Watch Series 7 | Buy now
  • Best affordable Apple Watch: Apple Watch SE | Buy now
  • Best-value smartwatch: Ticwatch E2 | Buy now
  • Best-value Garmin sports watch: Garmin Vivoactive 3 | Buy now
  • Best Samsung smartwatch: Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 | Buy now

The best smartwatches you can buy

1. Apple Watch Series 7: Still the best smartwatch for iPhone users

Price: £399 (45mm) | Buy now from John Lewis

The Apple Watch has stayed consistently at the top of our list as the best smartwatch we’ve ever tested, and that hasn’t changed with the release of the Series 7.

Much like previous generations, the improvements here are subtle rather than revolutionary. You get all the same health and fitness features, including heart rate, blood oxygen and sleep tracking. The main changes are a 20% increase in screen size and faster USB-C charging.

Despite that, the one drawback is a familiar one: short battery life. This is up to 18 hours (with the always on display setting enabled), which is no improvement on previous generations. Nevertheless, the Apple Watch Series 7 is a fantastic smartwatch, and it goes without saying that it is the best that an iPhone user can own.

Read our full review of the Apple Watch Series 7

Key specs – Operating system: WatchOS; Screen size and type: 1.9in 484 x 396 Retina LTPO OLED; Battery life: Up to 18 hours; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes


2. Apple Watch SE: Best affordable Apple Watch

Price: £249 | Buy now from John Lewis

As we’ve already mentioned, the Apple Watch SE does the vast majority of what the Series 6 can do for £100 less, making it a very tempting prospect for those on a tighter budget. Indeed, along with having the same physical design and using the same OS as its pricier stablemate, it has the same fitness-tracking sensors and offers the same extensive selection of apps.

There are, as you might expect, a few key features that it lacks, including an always-on display, blood-oxygen measurements, and the ECG app. If you can live with these minor shortcomings, though, it’s a very fine smartwatch indeed. In fact, for £270, we’d argue there’s no better smartwatch out there.

Read our full Apple Watch SE review

Key specs – Operating system: WatchOS; Screen size and type: 1.57in 394 x 324 Retina LTPO OLED; Battery life: Up to 18 hours; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes

Buy now from John Lewis


3. Ticwatch E2: Best-value smartwatch

Price: From £92 | Buy now from Amazon

The Ticwatch E2 is unbeatable in terms of the value it delivers. It's a lightweight Wear OS watch with built-in GPS, swim tracking, a heart-rate monitor and 4GB of storage, along with a microphone for interacting with Google Assistant.

Sure, it's plasticky, but it has a more appealing design than its predecessor and compared to the more expensive watches in this list, it only really lacks NFC and a built-in speaker. If you're on a strict £150 budget and looking for a competent all-round smartwatch, this watch fits the bill admirably. And if you're not worried about swim tracking, the Ticwatch C2 is another excellent-value option that comes with NFC.

Read our full review of the Ticwatch E2

Key specs – Operating system: WearOS; Screen size and type: 1.39in 400 x 400 AMOLED; Battery life: Up to two days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No


4. Amazfit Verge Lite: The best cheap GPS watch

Price: £85 | Buy from Amazon

The Amazfit Verge and Verge Lite deliver smartwatch looks and features for a fraction of the price of traditional smartwatches. For a frankly ridiculous £75, the Verge Lite packs in GPS and heart-rate tracking, a 1.3in AMOLED display and IP68 dust- and water-resistance with battery life that's, frankly, unbeatable at this price lasting a quoted 20 days before needing a top-up.

It isn't the most attractive thing to look at, and serious runners should look towards watches from Garmin or Apple but with largely solid performance in our testing and a healthy breadth of fitness tracking and notification smarts, including sleep tracking, the Verge Lite is one of the great bargains in the smartwatch world right now. You have to look very hard to find anything else that comes close to matching it for sheer value for money.

Read the full Amazfit Verge Lite review for more details

Key specs – Operating system: Bip OS; Screen size and type: 1.3in 360 x 360 AMOLED; Battery life: 20 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No


5. Garmin Vivomove HR: Best hybrid smartwatch

Price: From £175 | Buy now from Amazon

Garmin’s Vivomove HR is one of a growing list of hybrid smartwatches that aims to bring fitness-tracking features to the world of traditional smartwatches. Its pared-down design looks great, whether you’re wearing it in the gym or on an evening out. Don’t be fooled by the low-key design, though – the Vivomove HR packs in some serious fitness-tracking features.

On top of the standard step and calorie counting, it will log your heart rate and stress levels throughout the day as well as sleep quality when you wear it at night. Thanks to a built-in altimeter, it will also keep tabs on how many steps you climb. Elsewhere, you can log workouts, and the OLED display will also show you smartphone notifications as well as allowing you to control music playback on your phone.

Although it has been superseded by the equally brilliant Vivomove 3, the Vivomove HR is still our preferred option thanks to its lower asking price.

Read our full Garmin Vivomove HR review

Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 0.38 x 0.76in 64 x 128 OLED; Battery life: Up to five days (smart mode), up to two weeks (analog mode); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: No; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No


6. Garmin Vivoactive 3: Best-value Garmin sports watch

Price: £39 | Buy now from Amazon

Its smart features might be more basic than some of the other wearables on this list, but the Vivoactive 3 has many of its adversaries beaten when it comes to fitness features, and it's a veritable bargain at just £150.

Thanks to its built-in GPS and modes for walking, running, cycling and pool swimming, you can use it to track all manner of indoor and outdoor workouts. And as it monitors your stress, you'll also know when it's the right time to laces up your running shoes and when it's a better idea to rest. Its relatively slim, lightweight design means you can also keep it on at night and it'll track the quality of your sleep.

Best of all, though, it boasts superb seven-day battery life when used as a smartwatch, and up to 13 hours with GPS enabled. Like the Vivomove HR above, the Vivoactive 3 has been superseded by a newer model. Its successor, the Vivoactive 4, adds music playback and Garmin's body battery feature but will set you back an addition £110.

Read the full Garmin Vivoactive 3 review

Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 1.2in 240 x 240 transflective LCD; Battery life: Up to seven days (smart mode); Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes


7. TicWatch Pro 3 GPS: Best Android Wear smartwatch

Price: £290 | Buy now from 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'd 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. Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: Best Samsung smartwatch

Price: £369 (46mm, Classic version) | Buy now from Amazon

Samsung’s latest flagship smartwatch introduces some big changes. As well as a faster processor chip with twice as much storage, the Galaxy Watch 4 replaces the brand’s own Tizen operating system with a version of Google’s Wear OS that is “powered by Samsung”. This gives users access to a range of Google and third party apps, including Google Maps and the Play Store, though unfortunately this doesn’t include Google Assistant.

The Watch 4 also comes with some new health and fitness features, including continuous blood oxygen tracking during the night, as well as a new-and-improved “BioActive” sensor which can measure your BMI, basal metabolic rate, skeletal muscle mass and more.

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’ll have to make do with the Watch 3 (still a great wearable and now at a reduced price). And despite the new processor chip, 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 review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic

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


9. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3: Best-value Samsung smartwatch

Price: £229 | Buy now from 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

10. Apple Watch Series 3: Now under £200

Price: £179 | Buy now from Amazon

The Watch 3 may have been succeeded by bigger, prettier siblings, but it's pretty telling that the Watch 4 has been killed while the 3 lives on: it's still an excellent wearable. And best of all, it's just had a further £80 price cut across all models, bringing it down to just £199. In terms of features, the Watch 3 still offers the vast majority of fitness and sports tracking tools of those newer models. It obviously has a smaller screen, and there's no ECG functionality or fall detection, but otherwise the Watch 3 does most of what you can do on the Watch 5. That makes it as good value as anything on this list.

Read the full Apple Watch Series 3 review

Key specs (Non-cellular) – Operating system: WatchOS; Screen size and type: 1.5in 272 x 340 OLED; Battery life: Up to 18 hours; Replaceable strap: No; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No


How to buy 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 below.

Compatibility

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’ll 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.

Apps

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.

Sensors

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’ll 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’ll 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.

Battery life

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.

Music playback

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.

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