Your One-Stop Smartwatch Shopping Guide

Remember when a watch was just for keeping time? These days, wrist wearables are a lot smarter than they used to be, tracking everything from the weather to your whereabouts to your workout history. Linking to your smartphone via Bluetooth, smartwatches are like mini computers that are constantly at arm’s reach, displaying notifications of texts, phone calls and social media activity.

If you haven’t yet boarded the smartwatch bandwagon, there’s never been a better time (pun intended). By starting now, you’ll get access to the latest-and-greatest bells and whistles, at competitive prices. Not sure where to start? We rounded up some of the most important questions and the most popular smartwatches, so you can make an informed—and timely—choice.
 

Questions to Answer Before Choosing a Smartwatch

  • Will it sync to your phone or other device? Like smartphones, smartwatches run on operating systems. Typically, this will be iOS, which is Apple’s platform for the Apple Watch, or Google’s Android Wear. However, some models run on their own proprietary operating systems with their own exclusive apps. Before choosing a smartwatch, make sure its platform is compatible with your phone and has the apps you need.
  • How much do you want to spend? You can expect to spend anywhere from $150 to $350+ for a quality smartwatch. Although there are some lower-budget options, you’ll sacrifice some features and performance as the price dwindles.
  • What style do you prefer? Will you be wearing your smartwatch only for workouts, or will it be a permanent accessory all day long? Some people prefer a more understated design with a traditional face, while others opt for edgier athleisure styles.
  • Do you need heart rate monitoring? Smartwatches with heart rate monitoring will generally cost more. Some devices, like the Apple Watch, monitor your heart rate 24/7 regardless of activity level, while others only kick in while you're working out. If you already have a heart rate-monitoring chest strap, you can purchase a tracker that will pair with the strap.
  • Do you want to track your sleep? You already know that healthy sleep is integral to your overall well-being. Many smartwatches will monitor your sleep patterns and indicate when you're in a light and deep sleep throughout the night.
  • Will your smartwatch get wet? If you plan to swim or shower while wearing your smartwatch, or if you want to be able to kayak, paddleboard or run in rainstorms, you'll want to choose a waterproof device.
  • How long will you use the smartwatch between charges? Battery life is an important feature to consider when choosing a smartwatch. If you don't want to have to remember to charge it every night, you might want to spring for a device with extended battery life.

Top Smartwatches for 2017

Given the sheer volume of smartwatches on the market, how can you determine which is the right one for you without sifting through dozens of catalogs or websites? Below, we've compiled quick summaries of some of the most popular devices, as reviewed by PCMag and Wareable.

Apple Watch Series 2 – $364.99

With desirable features like GPS and water resistance, Apple’s latest head-turning model is arguably the most coveted in the crowded smartwatch wallet. The sleek, stylish design is appropriate for all-day wear, from the gym to the office and beyond, and consumers will notice faster performance and a brighter screen than the original watch.
  • What It Tracks: GPS (built-in), heart rate, distance, speed, pace
  • Additional Features: Water resistant to 50 meters with water indicator; Workout app lets you choose from 12 indoor and outdoor workouts; integrates with third-party apps; cord-free Air Pods; interchangeable bands in stylish colors
  • Compatible with: iOS
  • Cons: High cost; no integrated sleep tracking; heart rate tracking is limited to workouts; somewhat limited battery life compared to other smartphones; lack of heart rate zones 
Apple Watch Nike+ – around $392.90

Runner enthusiasts and Nike lovers will appreciate this version of the Apple Watch. It offers the same features as the Series 2, with the addition of a built-in Nike app, Siri commands, super sporty styling and exclusive branded watch faces.
  • What It Tracks: GPS (built-in), heart rate, distance, speed, pace
  • Additional Features: Water resistant to 50 meters with water indicator; Workout app lets you choose from 12 indoor and outdoor workouts; integrates with third-party apps; cord-free Air Pods; interchangeable bands in stylish colors; ventilated watchband; exclusive Nike watch faces
  • Compatible with: iOS
  • Cons: High cost; no integrated sleep tracking; heart rate tracking is limited to workouts; somewhat limited battery life compared to other smartphones; lack of heart rate zones 
Apple Watch Series 1 – starting from $252.88

The Series 1 has the same hardware and features as the Series 2, with the exception of the built-in GPS, water resistance and the brighter screen.
  • What It Tracks: GPS (not built-in; linked to iPhone), heart rate, distance, speed, pace
  • Additional Features: Workout app lets you choose from 12 indoor and outdoor workouts; integrates with third-party apps; cord-free Air Pods; interchangeable bands in stylish colors
  • Compatible with: iOS
  • Cons: GPS is based on iPhone; high cost; no integrated sleep tracking; heart rate tracking is limited to workouts; somewhat limited battery life compared to other smartphones 
Huawei Watch 2 (starting at $241.90)
 
Its superior fitness tracking capabilities and built-in heart rate monitor make the latest Huawei one of the stronger smartwatches, but it does have some limitations. The sporty, rather bulky appearance doesn’t seem geared to all-day wear, and some might deem the band as a little on the cheap side.
  • What It Tracks: GPS, heart rate, distance, speed, pace
  • Additional Features: Above average battery life; numerous sensors to ensure accurate fitness tracking; five pre-loaded workout apps
  • Compatible with: Android, iOS
  • Cons: Sporty band styling seems limited to workout wear; can only view last six hours of heart rate data; lack of centralized place to view workout history and progress 
Asus Zenwatch 3 (starting at $211.99)
 
For those seeking comfort and elegance in a smartwatch, the Asus Zenwatch 3 delivers—but its fit and aesthetics may be eclipsed by a clunky interface and sometimes inaccurate fitness tracking.
  • What It Tracks: Steps, calories burned, distance, sleep, various activities
  • Additional Features: Elegant, classic design; accurate sleep tracking; fast-charging battery; interchangeable bands; customizable watch faces; water resistant (not waterproof)
  • Compatible with: Android, iOS
  • Cons: Need to download four separate apps to unlock all functionality; no heart rate monitor; no GPS; clumsy OS functionality
Samsung Gear S3 ($299.99)
 
Although it boasts an impressive list of features, some reviewers found this smartwatch to be more than they needed. It’s also bigger and more cumbersome than the Gear S2 Classic. Consumers have a choice of the understated Classic or rugged Frontier style.
  • What It Tracks: Steps, GPS, heart rate
  • Additional Features: Accurate step counting; waterproof; calling and texting capability; above average battery life; improved interface compared to Android Wear models
  • Compatible with: Android
  • Cons: No syncing with popular fitness apps; clunkier and more cumbersome than previous model
Samsung Gear S2 Classic ($299.00)
 
Samsung has upgraded the original Gear S2 with the Classic’s sleek, sharp design, which includes a leather wristband and vivid display screen—but it’s not without its drawbacks.
  • What It Tracks: Steps, heart rate
  • Additional Features: Intuitive interface; rotating bezel; stainless steel case
  • Compatible with: Android
  • Cons: Lack of third-party apps; spotty voice recognition 
LG Gizmo Gadget ($149.99)

Designed for kids by Verizon Wireless, this smartwatch has a sleek, comfortable design and comes in red or blue. It’s a fun way for kids to monitor their activity while safely staying in touch with parents. Built-in parental controls provide peace of mind.
  • What It Tracks: GPS, steps, activity
  • Additional Features: Stopwatch; timer
  • Compatible with: Android, iOS
  • Cons: No free-form texting capability; parent of the user must be a Verizon subscriber 
If you’re already using a smartwatch, share your experience in the comments!

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Member Comments

These prices really make me appreciate my FitBit. Sad they no longer support the clip on trackers, though - I don't really like having a band on my wrist. Report
Love my fitbit Report
I love my Garmin Vivo Active...I've had it 4 1/2 yrs and the rechargeable battery has just now gone from weekly charging to every few days; admittedly, I'm not superactive, but do hike sporadically these days. I've also used it for swimming laps, though the buttons are a little difficult to manage in the pool. Eager to start looking to upgrade in the same brand... Report
JEPURSELL
Needs to be updated, many changes in the last 4 years Report
CD26750174
Been reported to SPARK_MERLE Report
Please please please update or remove Report
This article is badly in need of an update!!! Report
Update this, please! Report
This article needs a major update for 2021! Report
thanks for sharing Report
I love my Samsung watch but am frustrated that I cannot get it to sync to SparkPeople! Report
Needs to be updated, wondering why Fitbit watches were never mentioned. Report
outdated but still applies Report
This needs updating Report
I know more Fitbit users than any of these brands. Fitbit isn't mentioned. Report


 

About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.