Getting more than the time on your wrist needn’t cost you an arm and a leg
These days, the very best smartwatches on the market can pack all manner of features onto your wrist. Fitness tracking, phone notifications, contactless payments and other apps have all become commonplace on modern wearable technology. It would be logical to assume, therefore, that these top-end features would be accompanied by a top-end price.
Not necessarily. If you’re looking for a smartwatch on a budget, there are plenty of options. They may not all have the bells and whistles as their more expensive counterparts but, for the most part, they offer the same key features and perks without breaking the bank.
We’ve put together this selection of the best cheap smartwatches to suit budgets of up to £200, including some options that are much cheaper than that. Before we get into it, though, check out our short buyer’s guide for advice on how best to make your purchase, and what features you should look out for in a budget smartwatch.
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How to choose the best cheap smartwatch for you
What sensors do you need?
When buying cheap smartwatches, cost savings have to be made somewhere, and typically that will be in the number of built-in sensors. Think carefully about what you want and need, because the chances are this will be a series of trade-offs. Do you need built-in GPS, or are you happy to run with your phone? Do you want to be able to pay for things with your wrist? If so, you’ll need NFC.
Does the operating system matter?
As with smartphones, the majority of smartwatches run Google’s own operating system – in this case Wear OS. That, as you might imagine, plays nicely with Android, but has some teething problems when talking to iPhones.
Generally though, the OS doesn’t matter too much. Samsung watches use the company’s own Tizen software, while smartwatches by Fitbit use the company’s own code. With most of the smartphones in the world running iOS or Android, compatibility shouldn’t generally be a problem, but for best results it always helps to match company to company (i.e Apple Watches work best with iPhones, and Samsung watches love to be matched to a Galaxy.)
How long should the battery last?
To keep smartwatches slim, the battery tends to be small – often as little as 200mAh. To put that into perspective, most smartphones have batteries that are 3,000mAh or more.
That’s okay – they do a lot less, but battery life varies hugely, with some requiring charging every night and others lasting a week or more. Why the huge difference? Well, it tends to be down to their design: as a rule of thumb, the more beautiful and feature-packed a smartwatch, the shorter the battery life. Ones with black-and-white reflective displays will last a lot longer than those with bright, always-on OLED displays and GPS built-in.
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The best cheap smartwatches you can buy in 2023
1. Apple Watch Series 3: Best cheap Apple Watch
Price when reviewed: £182 | Check price at AmazonIf you’re an iPhone user, Apple has a number of smartwatches to choose from. The Apple Watch SE, for instance, is a great value option at around £249. Our favourite ‘cheap’ Apple Watch, however, is the Series 3, which will now cost you £201. It’s still one of the very best smartwatches money can buy but it’s considerably cheaper than the latest Watch 7.
As well as doing practically everything its successors can do, the Apple Watch 3 is small, lightweight and beautifully designed. Notable features include GPS, in-depth fitness tracking (including swim tracking), contactless payments and music playback via Spotify. There are plenty of workouts to choose from as well as a new competition mode, so you can challenge your friends. Digital assistant Siri has also been refined.
Put simply, Apple’s smartwatches continue to set the gold standard for wearable technology, and the Series 3 currently offers the best value of anything in the California-based company’s range.
Read our full Apple Watch Series 3 review
Key specs – Operating system: watchOS; Screen size and type: 1.5in 272 x 340 OLED; Battery life: 18 hours; Replaceable strap: No; GPS: Built-in; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No
2. Garmin Vivoactive 3: Best cheap smartwatch for sports tracking
Price when reviewed: £130 | Check price at AmazonAlthough Garmin’s Vivoactive 3 had a starting price of £280, it can now be had for under £150. This is because the Vivoactive 3 was superseded by the Vivoactive 4 in 2019, which comes with the added bonus of Spotify playback from your wrist.
If you can go without built-in tunes, you still have one hell of a fitness-based smartwatch on your hands. The Vivoactive 3 pretty much ticks all the boxes in this respect: it’s easy-to-use and accurate, featuring built-in GPS, an altimeter, swim tracking, a heart-rate sensor and more.
As far as smart features go, you can control your phone’s music playback from your wrist, receive notifications and benefit from NFC payments via Garmin Pay. The latter system isn’t perfect, but if Garmin can sort out bank support for its contactless payments, the Vivoactive 3 would be the perfect all-rounder.
Read our full Garmin Vivoactive 3 review
Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 1.2in 240 x 240 transflective MIP; Battery life: 7 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Built-in; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes
3. Huawei Band 3 Pro: Best cheap smart band
Price when reviewed: £75 | Check price at AmazonDo fitness bands qualify as smartwatches? They might when they’re as good as the Huawei Band 3 Pro which manages to pack in an awful lot of value into a £75 wearable.
Not only does it tell the time, track sleep and count steps as with every fitness tracker since the original Fitbit, it also manages to pack in both GPS and heart-rate sensors. On top of this, it also receives crystal-clear notifications on a seriously bright 0.95in touchscreen. The three-week battery life is very much the cherry on an already delicious cake.
Read our full Huawei Band 3 Pro review
Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 0.95in 120×240 AMOLED; Battery life: Up to three weeks; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No
4. Huawei Watch GT 2e: Best budget smartwatch for runners
Price when reviewed: £135 | Check price at AmazonIt might not be that smart – it lacks an app store and features such as NFC, for instance – but the Huawei Watch GT 2e is a great option for runners. In fact, we like it so much that we featured it in our best running watch roundup.
After its Watch 2, Huawei said goodbye to Google’s Wear OS in favour of its own Lite OS software. This explains the lack of some smart features, but it’s also the reason the Watch GT2e boasts an impressive two-week battery life.
Coupled with excellent sports tracking, with 100 workout modes available, it’s an all-round solid exercise companion. Runners are best catered for, however, with a range of preset workouts to choose from including training plans for events from 5K to marathon distance. Huawei has also partnered with Firstbeat (which provides training analysis for Garmin’s products) to offer insights such as VO2 max, training effectiveness and recovery times.
If you’re a runner in need of a smartwatch for your workouts, the GT 2e is an absolute bargain. Just bear in mind that it’s better paired with Android devices, as you’re able to load it with music. At present, it’s also not possible to sync the GT series of smartwatches with Strava.
Key specs – Operating system: Lite OS; Screen size and type: 1.39in 454 x 454 AMOLED HD; Battery life: Up to 20 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No
5. Amazfit GTR 4: Best value smartwatch
Price when reviewed: £199 | Check price at AmazonYou simply won’t find a better budget smartwatch than the Amazfit GTR 4. That’s quite a statement, but this affordable wearable that combines a stylish design and luxurious feel with a vast array of smart and fitness features is worthy of the crown.
It’s durable – water resistant up to 50m with tempered glass protecting the display – but also comfortable and supremely attractive thanks to the sleek aluminium frame and matte silver finish.
It’s bursting with features, from basics like sleep tracking and dedicated workout modes to more sophisticated ones like blood oxygen sensing. It can also make and take calls over Bluetooth and receive notifications from your smartphone.
The big, bright 1.43in AMOLED display is outstanding, the battery life is great (up to 14 days typical usage) and the built-in GPS is incredibly accurate. Unfortunately, the heart-rate monitor isn’t the most reliable but it’s still sufficient for background readings and spot checks.
Fitness fanatics preparing for an event might want to splash out on a more advanced training tool, but as a great-value hybrid wearable, the Amazfit GTR 4 can’t be beaten.
Read our full Amazfit GTR 4 review for more details
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