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The 5 best smartwatches our reviewers personally recommend

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There’s a lot of best smartwatch lists online – most from tech sites that review smartwatches for five minutes.

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But at Wareable we live and breathe wearable tech, and when we review smartwatches they live on our wrists for months. We live with them and sweat with them – but what does our team wear on their days off?

Here we reveal the best smartwatches recommended by our expert team. The ones we actually use. We’ve been doing this for six years, and if you’ll forgive us a little indulgence, we know what we’re talking about.

There’s no bloat here – no half baked picks to pad out the article for SEO. This our wisdom from us to you.

Best smartwatches picked by our team:

Apple Watch Series 5 ($399)

Best all-round smartwatch – worn by James Stables

Apple Watch Series 5

It’s the market leader for a reason – the Apple Watch Series 5 is the best smartwatch (if you have an iPhone).

First, it’s a great looking watch made of premium materials, which is something I always look for in a smartwatch. I enjoy wearing it, and the huge, unrivalled array of cheap, third party Apple Watch straps means it’s always got a different look.

I’m a running and fitness person, and this aspect of the Watch is great. I use the Strava third party app for most of my workouts, so the data I get is no different from that of a Garmin watch.

GPS locks on instantly, the optical heart rate is as good as anything out there. The activity rings are also a great way of tackling fitness tracking too. It’s also a great swimming tracker with 50m (5ATM) water resistance.

The heart rate stuff is really powerful – ECG and irregular HR alerts, fall detection are better implemented here than any other smartwatch.

Apple Watch apps really make the Apple Watch Series 5 a personal experience, and patch holes in the functionality such as sleep tracking. The Hole19 app, for example, is a superb golf watch replacement.

But the Apple Watch is always useful – be it via complications on the watch face or major features. I’d always argue you can make it as powerful or stripped back as you want – and LTE works so simply as well.

Battery life is a downside, and it’s worse on the Series 5 than older generations. It always makes it through a day though, and I don’t personally mind charging it nightly with my phone. I get that it’s a problem that other people might find a deal breaker.

Read our full Apple Watch Series 5 review.

We like

  • Classy build
  • Apps and smarts
  • Great fitness and health features

We don’t like

  • One day of battery life
  • Punchy price point
  • iOS only
Also consider: For many people it’s better to go for the older Apple Watch Series 3. You don’t get ECG, fall detection and it uses the boxier case design, but with a price cut to $199, it’s a massive draw.

Amazfit GTS ($149.99)

Best budget smartwatch – worn by Conor Allison

Amazfit GTS

It’s an unashamed Apple Watch clone, but Amazfit has got so much right on the Amazfit GTS – and at just $149 it’s a steal. I’ve been telling anyone that will listen about it.

The watch itself has a slightly plastic and cheap-looking build, but that’s less evident on the wrist. It’s not eye-catching – no-one asks about it, and if they do, they assume it’s an Apple Watch.

However, there’s an always-on display and you’re looking at around a week of battery life with all the advanced features turned on. It’s water resistant to 50m and supports open water and pool swimming.

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And the Amazfit GTS is an absolute fitness and health powerhouse. I’ve raced with the Amazfit GTS and the GPS is accurate, as is the heart rate unless you’re doing HIIT. The data insights within the app are top quality, with loads of data to review post workout. There’s Strava integration too, so your data isn’t stuck within the Amazfit app.

The app is well designed and health focused. The fitness tracking is spot on, and a special mention to the sleep monitoring which is right up there with Fitbit’s. Accurate graphs, wakeups properly recorded, and a sleep score feature – I love it.

What’s more, Amazfit’s use of Mio’s PAI score really works. It’s a single number derived from all your weekly health and fitness activity – and we have a lot of respect for that technology and glad it’s seen the light of day here.

The silicone strap is bland, the whole thing is uninspiring visually – it’s not much of a fashion statement. But from a usability perspective I’ve loved it, and it comes recommended.

We like:

  • The price
  • The sleep tracking
  • The workout data and PAI score

We don’t like:

  • Bland, plastic tech
  • Interface is a little wonky
Also consider: If you want to spend even less then try the forthcoming Amazfit Bip S. GPS and heart rate packed into a $70 smartwatch. However, it’s even uglier and cheaper looking than the GTS and we’d say the extra $30 is worth spending.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 ($299)

Best for Android – worn by Richard Easton

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

As an Android phone user the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is among the best smartwatches I’ve tested – and I’d recommend it to iOS users as well.

While Samsung’s Tizen OS might not have quite as big a catalogue of apps as Wear OS or watchOS, there’s still plenty to fill your smartwatch with, and most of the must-haves are present.

The biggest of them all is probably having proper Spotify support complete with offline playlists. If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber (like most people, I am) then this is a pretty big deal if you want to leave your smartphone behind when going for a workout.

And working out is another of the Galaxy Watch Active 2’s strengths (the hint was in the name). With built-in GPS and a heart rate monitor, with plenty of supported exercises including swimming, it’s a great fitness companion. The swim tracking is probably the best out there and it’s water resistant to 50m.

Round that all off with decent battery life (a couple of days is good for me, though for others that might not be enough and an attractive and comfortable design and you’re onto a winner.

It’s set to get better with new updates bringing ECG, blood pressure monitoring and fall detection to give the Apple Watch a serious run for its money.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review.

We like:

  • Great build and looks great
  • Gorgeous screen
  • Decent health and fitness features

We don’t like:

  • App experience is lacking
  • Short battery life

Also consider: Samsung Galaxy Watch – we considered this for our main list but the 2018 device is due an imminent upgrade. Fans of a dress watch style will love the Galaxy Watch.

Fitbit Versa 2 ($199)

Best for fitness tracking – worn by Becca Caddy

Fitbit Versa 2

I’ve reviewed a lot of smartwatches over the past few years, but despite having brief flings with others I come back to the Fitbit Versa 2 time and time again.

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There’s not a huge amount of difference from the original Versa besides Alexa integration, which I don’t find hugely useful – even if the microphone on board the Versa 2 does a good job of picking up what I say.

It ticks all the boxes for me: it’s comfortable to wear, exercise tracking is reliable, I like that I can add a few apps and customisation is big for me too. I immediately switched out for a dark purple strap and minimal watch face.

Some people think it looks a bit naff and boxy, but I really like that it sits somewhere between a regular circular watch and a more retro square one.

The exercise tracking is the most intuitive on the market and I really like the whole Fitbit ecosystem – the app is achingly simple and has female health tracking as well.

The Fitbit app perfectly finds the balance between intuitiveness and in-depth graphs and insights related to your sleep, activity, resting heart rate and VO2 Max. Everything is in one place and there’s rarely ever any glitching – both things that can’t often be said for other companion apps.

Sure, it doesn’t have GPS tracking for outdoor exercise (I don’t mind piggy-backing from my phone using ConnectedGPS), storage for offline Spotify playlists or fancy apps – but the trade-off is an ultra-light smartwatch that I can wear to pretty much any occasion.

I hate charging watches every day, so the five or six days of battery life is a massive plus.

The 50m (5ATM) water resistance is great too, so I can wear it to swim and don’t have to take it off to shower – so less chance of leaving the house without it.

Read the full Fitbit Versa 2 review.

Also consider: The Fitbit Versa Lite doesn’t have Alexa support, payments or music features but at $129.99 you’re getting the Fitbit smartwatch experience for less.

Garmin Vivoactive 4 ($349)

Best for sports – worn by Michael Sawh

Garmin Vivoactive 4

Most of these smartwatches have a health and fitness angle – but as a runner, swimmer, golfer, gym-goer most just don’t cut the mustard.

But after time with the Garmin Vivoactive 4, I just can’t put it down. It does the job of a smartwatch with notifications and payments – but it’s got serious sports tracking chops, with 20 dedicated modes for pretty much most activities – and offline Spotify playlist syncing. Eat that Apple Watch.

It also comes in 45mm and 40mm sizes (for the latter check out the Vivoactive 4S).

In terms of sports tracking, it’s pretty comprehensive – you get running (indoor, outdoor, treadmill), cycling (indoor and outdoor), swimming (pool only), golf, strength, cardio, elliptical, indoor rowing, yoga and more. That enough for you? And, yes, you guessed it, 5ATM water resistance is on board.

And this isn’t just your average pace/distance stuff. Most modes have dedicated, data – and it’s clear to use during a workout. However, you don’t get the VO2 Max and recovery insights from the top end Forerunners.

And then there’s battery life. You get a week in smartwatch mode with 13 hours of GPS. That’s pretty excellent.

The downside is the transflective screen, which isn’t going to get any admiring comments. In fact, it’s a pretty bland affair. But it’s built to last – and built for runners.

Read the full Vivoactive 4 review.

Also consider: Garmin Venu is the Vivoactive 4 in shinier clothes. And also the Fenix 6S is the best multisport watch in the world, which doubles as a brilliant smartwatch – if you can afford it.

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