The 7 Best Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers of 2021

best smartwatches and fitness trackers including garmin venu 2, fitbit versa 3, and samsung galaxy watch 4
Garmin/Fitbit/Samsung

A smartwatch or a fitness tracker is an easy way to keep track of health goals and makes a great gift around the holidays. Something that’s constantly on your wrist, reminding you of how many steps you’ve walked and calories you’ve burned motivates you to keep it up or even do more.

In addition to tracking various health metrics, smartwatches can help you keep up with notifications on your phone and carry out tasks with a voice assistant, like Alexa or Google Assistant. Some smartwatches, like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and the Apple Watch Series 7, are an extension of your phone, letting you leave your phone at home while you’re out and about.

Whether you decide to go the route of a basic fitness tracker or a more full-featured smartwatch, it’s an excellent investment that’ll start rewarding you immediately.

Happy Holidays! This article is part of our Holiday 2021 Gift Guide where you can find the best-of-the-best recommendations from Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and How-To Geek to help you pick the perfect gift for everyone on your list!

What to Look for in a Smartwatch or Fitness Tracker

With such a variety of smartwatches and fitness trackers to choose from, it’s hard to know which one is the right fit for you. Here’s everything you need to consider before making your decision:

  • How Will You Use It?: This is the biggest thing you’ll need to consider here. If all you want is to track your daily steps and motivate you to exercise more each day, you can get something basic that doesn’t cost a lot. If you want something specific to your favorite type of exercise, like running, hiking, swimming, or biking, a smartwatch might be a better fit. Some (like those from Garmin) are designed with dedicated features for specific types of exercise. Likewise, if you want a smartwatch that has all the functionality of your smartphone, you’ll want to choose one with cellular or LTE capability, like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 or the Apple Watch Series 7.
  • GPS Capability: When it comes to GPS functionality in these gadgets, there are generally two options. Some wearables have connected GPS, meaning that it tethers to your phone and essentially displays what your phone is pulling up. Others are more advanced, with a built-in GPS that doesn’t need your phone to work. If you’re going to be using your new watch to run, hike, or do any other outside exercise, having a built-in GPS is worth it, even if it costs a little more.
  • Design: Although smartwatches and fitness trackers have many important features, the look and feel of the device still matter. After all, you’re going to be wearing it on your wrist every day, so it has to be comfortable, and it has to be something you like wearing. More prominent brands, like Samsung or Apple, will have more to offer in terms of customization, letting you choose between different band types, colors, sizes, and more. Other brands may only offer one or two customizable options. Make sure you like the overall look of the watch before you buy it, and think about how the band material of your top pick will feel against your skin (especially if you plan on wearing it while you exercise or at a more formal event).
  • Price: Depending on which features you want out of a fitness tracker or a smartwatch, the cost can vary greatly. If you want a basic tracker for daily steps, you can walk away spending less than $50. But if you want something more advanced, like a smartwatch with cellular functionality, expect to pay a lot more. Spending more upfront on a watch doesn’t seem as bad when you consider it’s something that you’ll use every day, and it’ll likely last you years before it needs to be replaced.

Best Overall: Fitbit Versa 3

Fitbit Versa 3 Health & Fitness Smartwatch with GPS
Fitbit

Pros

  • Built-in GPS
  • Active Zone Minutes feature
  • Fast charging capability

Cons

  • Lack of a physical button
  • Shorter battery life than other smartwatches
  • Requires paid music subscription

The Fitbit Versa 3 strikes the perfect balance between price and features, making it an excellent pick for most people. Plus, this Fitbit gem comes with Active Zone Minutes, an exclusive feature that uses your resting heart rate to gauge how intense you should make your workouts. With this feature, you’ll feel a buzz when your watch detects an increase in intensity and ultimately get a more effective workout overall.

With the Versa 3, it’s easy to keep track of the important stuff, like your heart rate, nightly blood oxygen levels, daily steps, and calories burned. And using the Fitbit app (Android/iOS), you can track your health trends to spot any critical changes.

Because the watch has built-in GPS, it’s not necessary to take your phone with you running, biking, hiking, or swimming (up to 50 meters). A built-in mic and speaker lets you take calls hands-free with Bluetooth and use a virtual assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant to set alarms, control your smart home, and more. You can expect about six days’ worth of battery life in between fast charges.

Best Overall

Fitbit Versa 3

For most people, the Fitbit Versa 3 is a smartwatch gem, combining the best of fitness tracking with other smart features.

Another Great Option: Garmin Venu 2

Garmin Venu 2, GPS Smartwatch with Advanced Health Monitoring and Fitness Features
Garmin

Pros

  • Pre-loaded workouts and optional Garmin Coach
  • AMOLED display
  • Can download up to 650 songs

Cons

  • Garmin Pay isn't widely available
  • More expensive than other options

If you have a little more money to splurge on a nicer smartwatch, check out Garmin’s Venu 2. You’ll get all the essential workings of a great fitness tracker and then some with this watch. There’s stress tracking, sleep tracking, a health snapshot, and even body battery energy monitoring. Everything is displayed on a bright AMOLED screen.

The Venu 2 comes with Garmin Coach free training plans and 25 pre-loaded workouts, including yoga, strength, HIIT, and cardio-focused sessions. Or, you can create your own custom workout in the Garmin Connect app (Android/iOS). Through Garmin’s app, you can view animated on-screen workout instructions on the watch face that make executing your workout a breeze.

Although there’s no LTE support in this smartwatch, it does have built-in GPS, so you can go running, cycling, hiking, and more with just your smartwatch if you wanted to. You can also download songs directly from your music library or a paid streaming service, like Spotify, Amazon Music, or Deezer.

When paired with a compatible Android or iOS phone, the Venu 2 lets you view notifications on its watch face and use GarminPay contactless payments. When using the watch in GPS mode with music, it’ll last for about eight hours in between charges; in smartwatch mode, it’ll last up to 11 days.

Another Great Option

Garmin Venu 2

The Garmin Venu 2 smartwatch works fantastically for those who need more motivation to be healthier and have a little more money to spend.

Best Budget: Wyze Band

WYZE Band Fitness Tracker with Alexa Built-in
Wyze

Pros

  • Super affordable
  • Can still use Amazon Alexa
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Only tracks basic info
  • Watch face is small

If you’re looking for a simple fitness tracker that’s affordable and incredibly easy to use, look no further than the Wyze Band. It can track your daily steps, monitor your heart rate, and even keep an eye on your sleep quality. Plus, you can easily check out all your tracked info in more detail in the Wyze app (Android/iOS).

Amazon Alexa is built into the Wyze Band, which is surprising for a tracker at this price point. With voice commands, you can control your smart devices, set alarms, or ask random questions. And for privacy, Alexa only listens when you long-press the home button.

Plus, this budget-friendly tracker has a 5 ATM water-resistant rating, which means that you can use it while swimming or showering. And depending on which features you use regularly, the Wyze Band can last you up to 10-14 days.

If you’re looking for a budget option with GPS built-in, check out the Fitbit Charge 4. While it’s a little pricier than the Wyze Band, it’s still more affordable than other options on this list.

Best Budget

Wyze Band

This smart band from Wyze offers basic fitness tracking features and even built-in Alexa functionality for a low price.

Best for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Samsung - Galaxy Watch4 Aluminum Smartwatch 40mm BT
Samsung

Pros

  • Upgraded OS in this version
  • It's an extension of your phone
  • Built-in GPS and Cellular

Cons

  • Battery life isn't the best
  • Some features are exclusive to Samsung phones
  • A bit expensive

For anyone with an Android phone, especially a Samsung phone, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is a solid choice with built-in GPS and cellular functionality. It works like an extension of your phone, letting you manage absolutely everything from your wrist without having your phone nearby. So if you want to leave your phone at home or in the car, you’ll still be able to contact people or do anything else you would usually do from your phone, including use Samsung Pay or Google Pay.

With an upgraded OS, the latest version of the Samsung Galaxy Watch is intuitive and easy to navigate. This smartwatch can analyze your body composition, give you advanced sleep quality metrics, monitor your heart with an ECG app, and measure your VO2 max. And through the Samsung Health app (Android/iOS), you can easily keep track of your health and fitness goals.

There’s also an auto workout tracking feature that makes it easy to see the areas where you’re doing great and those that could use some improvement. But beware—because this smartwatch has built-in GPS and cellular functionality, the battery is only going to last a day or two in between charges.

Best for Android Phones

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4 is a quality smartwatch at a reasonably affordable price that works great with any Android phone.

Best for iPhone Users: Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch Abyss Blue Aluminum Case with Solo Loop
Apple

Pros

  • Retina display is large and looks great
  • Built-in GPS and Cellular
  • Can use Apple's Fitness+

Cons

  • Expensive, but hey, it's Apple
  • Doesn't come with its own power adapter

For anyone who owns an iPhone, the Apple Watch Series 7 is the obvious choice. It comes with built-in GPS and cellular functionality, letting you make calls, send messages, and more even when you don’t have your iPhone on you. Plus, you’ll get to take advantage of Apple Fitness+, which you can only have access to if you have an Apple Watch Series 3 or higher. With a Fitness+ subscription, you’ll have access to a variety of great coaches and a combo of beginner-friendly or more advanced workouts.

The Series 7 has the largest retina display of any Apple Watch so far, so it’ll be easy to read and respond to texts and other notifications from your wrist. Compared to the Series 6, the Series 7 is also more durable, has the same all-day battery life but charges faster, and has all the classic health and wellness features like the ECG app and the blood oxygen app and sensor.

You can customize almost every element of your Apple Watch, including the case material, case finish, and band type. Depending on how you customize it, though, the Series 7 can get pretty expensive. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly Apple Watch, consider the SE model.

Best for iPhone Users

Apple Watch Series 7

For iPhone users, the latest Series 7 Apple Watch is the best of the best and works perfectly with everything Apple.

Best for Runners: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music running smartwatch
Garmin

Pros

  • Can store up to 500 songs
  • Create custom workouts or use optional Garmin Coach
  • Built-in GPS

Cons

  • Fairly expensive
  • Shorter battery life than other smartwatches

If running is your go-to workout, the Garmin Forerunner 245 Music is the best choice. Garmin is known for making quality running watches and this one is no exception. With a built-in GPS, safety and tracking features, and a whole slew of feedback on your workouts, every run can be great with this watch.

Most, if not all, runners prefer to have music while they’re running. There’s just something about running to the perfect playlist that amps you up and helps you get more out of your workout! You can sync music from a paid streaming service, like Spotify, or download and store up to 500 songs directly on the watch.

And as with other Garmin watches, you’ll have access to free training plans from a Garmin Coach or you can create your own custom workout through Garmin Connect (Android/iOS). If you’re using the built-in GPS on your runs, the Forerunner 245 Music lasts about six hours before needing a charge. Or, you can use it for up to seven days in smartwatch mode.

Best for Runners

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music

Garmin's Forerunner 245 Music is the perfect smartwatch for anyone who regularly runs as their workout of choice.

For Multisport Athletes: Garmin Forerunner 745

Garmin Forerunner 745, GPS Running Watch
Garmin

Pros

  • Uses multiple satellite systems to accurately track different workout types
  • Garmin Coach and custom workouts
  • Tracks a wealth of health info

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Shorter battery life depending on features used
  • Garmin Pay isn't supported everywhere

Garmin’s Forerunner 745 is a great choice if you’re into multiple types of workouts, like running, cycling, swimming, hiking, or even training for a triathlon. There’s a high price tag attached, but it’s worth it if you want quality tracking metrics and a built-in GPS that uses multiple satellite systems to track everything accurately.

You’ll see workout suggestions on your watch based on your previous workouts. If you want help with your workouts, you can use your smartphone to sync indoor or outdoor workouts from apps like Garmin Connect (Android/iOS), TrainingPeaks (Android/iOS), or TrainerRoad (Android/iOS). Or, you can also use a built-in Garmin Coach to help you reach your fitness goals and stretch past them.

You can download up to 500 songs or sync your favorite music streaming apps like Spotify, Amazon Music, and more. If you’re using the Forerunner 745 in smartwatch mode, you can get about a week of battery life in between charges. When using GPS and listening to music, the battery life drops to about six hours. You can also leave your cash and cards at home and pay with just your smartwatch using Garmin Pay.

Best for Multisport Athletes

Garmin Forerunner 745

For people who love to diversify their workouts and try out different sports, Garmin's Forerunner 745 is the perfect smartwatch.

Sarah Chaney Sarah Chaney
Sarah Chaney is a professional freelance writer for Review Geek, Android Authority, MakeUseOf, and other great websites. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Creative Writing concentration. Her degree, paired with her almost two years of professionally writing for websites, helps her write content that is engaging, yet informative. She enjoys covering anything Android, video game, or tech related. Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support Review Geek.