When it comes to picking a smartwatch, it’s pretty simple for iOS users: buy an Apple watch. But if you’re an Android user, there are more choices, and each comes with its own drawbacks.
Before you get started trying to pick the watch that’s right for you, it’s a good idea to take some time to figure out what you want your watch for. A quick way to view notifications without picking up your phone? A fitness tracker? What about app support—are there specific apps you need on your wrist? These questions (and more) will help you identify the correct smartwatch for your needs.
For example, if you’re most interested in fitness, an option from Fitbit is likely going to be your best choice. But that’s more of a fitness tracker with smartwatch features, which can leave some things to be desired when it comes to more advanced functionality.
If you want a smartwatch for notification mirroring and apps, then are two options: a Wear OS device or Samsung Gear. While both provide a true smartwatch experience, they’re both far from perfect.
With all that in mind, let’s explore which watch is best for you.
The Best Smartwatch for the Fitness Enthusiast: Fitbit Versa
At this point, Fitbit has been the unmatched champion in the fitness tracker scene for a long while. But when the company bought smartwatch maker Pebble, everything changed. It took a while for the first fitness tracker/smartwatch hybrid device to come out—the Fitbit Ionic—and it was received with lackluster reviews upon arrival.
But the company’s second smartwatch, the Versa, is a real gem. At $200, it’s $100 less than the Ionic, and the overall design is much cleaner than the Ionic as well. It’s an absolute winner all around.
In a direct comparison, the Versa has everything found in the Ionic, save for one thing: onboard GPS. If you’re using your watch for running or cycling, you’ll still need to carry the phone with you for accurate GPS measurements on the Versa, where the Iconic has its own built-in GPS chip.
Otherwise, the Versa is sleek, clean, functional, and absolutely killer smartwatch. It comes in five different colors—three “regular” options, and two special editions that will jack the price up by $30. It features access to apps like Pandora and Starbucks, has a built-in heart rate monitor, NFC for mobile payments (Fitbit Pay), sleep tracking, and an absolutely slew of other features—you can find them all here.
If you’re looking for a smartwatch with a focus on fitness, look no further than the Fitbit Versa. Absolutely the best value on the market right now in this scene.
The Best Smartwatches for Everyone Else: There Isn’t One (For Now)
Picking a smartwatch if you’re a fitness enthusiast is easy. If you’re not interested in fitness tracking, however, your choice is a lot more convoluted. In fact, it’s very easy to argue there simply isn’t a good choice in this market.
When it comes down to it, there are two serious options: Google’s Wear OS and Samsung’s Tizen-based Gear. The former is in a relatively bad place right, having gone cold over the last several months. The latter, on the other hand just doesn’t have the ecosystem one may want from a smartwatch—it also doesn’t help that Samsung employees have recently been spotted wearing Gear watches that run Wear OS. That’s foreboding for current Gear watches, as Samsung may be shifting from Tizen to Wear.
So, to put it bluntly: now isn’t the best time to buy a smartwatch if you’re not interested in Fitbit—it would be like buying a new smartphone when the company’s lineup hadn’t significantly refreshed in years.
Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel here. Qualcomm is said to be working on a new chip specifically for Wear OS watches that will “significantly change the Wear OS platform.” That’s a pretty big deal, because Wear has struggled to gain any sort of real traction in the smartwatch market since its inception, back when it was called Android Wear.
Word on the street says that the chip is set to debut this fall, which also lines up perfectly with another rumor: Google will launch a series of Pixel smartwatches at its annual Pixel even this October. Much like the Pixel phones and Pixelbook before it, this would be a great way to showcase the power of Wear OS—assuming the company is going to do more than just stick the same old operating system onto a new watch with a fancy new chip. Wear OS needs a real makeover if Google wants to compete with the Apple Watch.
With Google’s rumored upcoming push for Wear OS and the new Qualcomm chip, it makes a lot of sense that Samsung would also test the new Wear OS builds with its own smartwatch platform, so it would seem that the stars are at least somewhat aligning.
If you’re looking to buy a smartwatch any time soon, it’s probably the best idea to wait. No one really needs a smartwatch—if you already have one, we suggest sticking with it for the time being. If you’re just in the market, wait it out for a new few months to see what Google and/or Samsung does with their upcoming offerings.
You’ll likely be glad you did—and if the changes aren’t enough to woo you, then whatever model you’re already looking at will still be available. Patience is most definitely a virtue here.
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