Smartwatches are a quick and easy Christmas gift that can help streamline anyone’s day-to-day, whether they’re a student, a professional, or a total fitness nerd. But all smartwatches kinda look the same and claim to support the same features. To make life easier, here are the best smartwatches available and iOS or Android devices.
What to Look for in a Smartwatch
All of the smartwatches in this gift guide have the features that you’d expect from a modern wearable. They notify you when you get text messages, they track your sleep, and they count your steps. But if you’re shopping for a gym rat, health nut, or tech nerd, then you might want to shell out a bit of money for premium smartwatch features.
Here’s a quick review of the smartwatch features that may influence your shopping decisions:
- Operating System: The Apple Watch doesn’t work with Android phones. And while third-party smartwatches can work with iPhones, they often lose a lot of their key features in the process. If you’re buying for someone else, it’s important to know what phone ecosystem they live in for this reason.
- Fitness Tracking: The smartwatches in this guide offer basic fitness features like pedometers, heart-rate sensors, and GPS for running or cycling. They’re also water-resistant and swim-proof, and have built-in workout plans. That said, the more expensive options offer tracking for more activities and exercises, and often offer a more robust set of guided workouts.
- Health-Tracking: If you want more than a basic fitness tracker, the smartwatches in this gift guide are jam-packed with heart-rate sensors, fall detectors, and sleep trackers. But if you’re shopping for someone who wants an ECG or blood oxygen sensor, then prepare to pay a premium.
- Quality-of-Life Features: Look out for small features like a smartwatch’s battery life, display quality, and customizable watch faces. These small features can make a big difference, especially if you’re buying a smartwatch for someone who wants to wear their smartwatch all day every day.
- LTE/Wireless Capabilities: An LTE smartwatch saves you from carrying your phone everywhere, which is useful when you’re on a run, cycling, swimming, or even at the gym. Several of the smartwatches in this gift guide are available in offline or LTE variants, save for the Fitbit Versa 3 and the Garmin Venu.
- Shopping for Kids?: Want to buy a smartwatch for a kid, or for someone who doesn’t own a phone? Apple’s Family Setup system lets a family member who doesn’t own an iPhone use an Apple Watch to make calls, send texts, or share their location with you. Just buy an LTE Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch Series 6 to get started.
Oh boy, that’s a lot to think about! Without further ado, let’s look at some smartwatches.
The Best Overall for iPhone: Apple Watch SE
The new Apple Watch SE is an all-in-one powerhouse for fitness, health, communication, and sleep-tracking. It isn’t the highest-end Apple Watch available today (that would be the Series 6), but the Apple Watch SE packs most of the premium features you expect from Apple’s latest and greatest products. An always-on heart rate sensor? Check. A high-resolution retina display? It’s there. Fall detection, emergency SOS, an 18-hour battery, fitness assistants, apps, sleep sensors, Apple Pay, and texting? You already know.
Still, some people may prefer the latest and greatest. The Apple Watch SE is missing a few features that may appeal to the fitness freaks on your wishlist—like an ECG, a blood-oxygen sensor, and an always-on display. For that, you’ll have to drop an extra hundred dollars on the Apple Watch Series 6.
Apple Watch SE (GPS, 40mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band
Apple's mid-range Watch SE has all the health, fitness, and communications features that you expect from an Apple Watch, all at the comfortable price of $280.
The Premium Pick for iPhone: Apple Watch Series 6
Hardcore health and fitness nuts need a hardcore smartwatch. That’s the idea behind Apple’s top-of-the-line wearable, the new Watch Series 6. It packs the same features as the cheaper Apple Watch SE, but with an always-on display, a blood-oxygen sensor, faster charging, an EKG, and a brighter display when outdoors.
The Apple Watch Series 6 comes in more colors than any of its predecessors, including gold, silver, navy blue, and Apple’s popular (PRODUCT)RED shade. Consider paying extra to add LTE capabilities to the Series 6 Watch, that way, your giftee can exercise without their iPhone in tow.
Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS, 40mm) - Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band
The cutting-edge Apple Watch Series 6 has an EKG, a blood oxygen monitor, and an always-on Retina display. It's the best Apple Watch available today.
The Best Overall for Android: Fitbit Versa 3
Fitbit’s Versa 3 smartwatch packs a ton of fitness-tracking and health-monitoring features behind a large always-on display. But don’t let the branding fool you—the Versa 3 isn’t just for health nuts. It brings apps like Uber and Spotify to your wrist and gives you notifications for calls and texts. You can even use the Versa 3 to pay at cash registers with Fitbit Pay, or program Google Assistant or Alexa to take questions and commands from your wrist.
As far as health and fitness go, the Versa 3 provides 24/7 heart-rate tracking, all-day activity tracking, built-in GPS, and over 20 goal-based exercise modes. Alongside Fitbit’s fantastic app, six-day battery life, and advanced sleep-tracking features, what more could the average person need?
If you do have a person who needs more on your list, however, you should check out the Fitbit Sense. It does everything that the Versa 3 does, along with ECG, stress tracking, and even skin-temperature monitoring. It’s the most advanced health watch you can buy today.
Fitbit Versa 3 Health & Fitness Smartwatch with GPS, 24/7 Heart Rate, Alexa Built-in, 6+ Days Battery, Midnight Blue/Gold, One Size (S & L Bands Included)
The Fitbit Versa 3 packs all of Fitbit's health and fitness-tracking features in a stylish, functional smartwatch format.
The Premium Pick for Android: Galaxy Watch 3
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is basically an Apple Watch Series 6 for Android. It’s stylish and customizable, with a blood-oxygen sensor, ECG, a 48-hour battery, and an always-on display. It has a rotating bezel to help you quickly navigate the Watch interface and dig through apps, NFC payments through Samsung Pay, and a slew of fitness and health-tracking features through the fantastic Samsung Health app.
Like other Samsung products, the Galaxy Watch 3 pairs “seamlessly” with Samsung phones and tablets. Samsung users who aren’t super tech-savvy may have an easier time setting up the Galaxy Watch 3 than the other Android smartwatches in this gift guide. But make no mistake—Samsung smartwatches work with all Android phones, not just those made by Samsung.
SAMSUNG Galaxy Watch 3 (41mm, GPS, Bluetooth) Smart Watch with Advanced Health Monitoring, Fitness Tracking, and Long Lasting Battery - Mystic Bronze (US Version)
Samsung's Galaxy Watch 3 sports a better design and user interface than its competition, along with a slew of advanced health and fitness-tracking features.
Best Athletic Smartwatch: Garmin Venu
The Garmin Venu is an outrageous fitness beast. It can track just about any activity, including niche workouts like skiing, Pilates, mountain biking, and rowing. Its multiple sport profiles, strength-training exercises, and built-in workouts help keep you motivated and informed, while its large AMOLED display and quality-of-life features allow you to quickly scan text messages, control Spotify, and make contactless payments when you’re on the go.
Garmin’s fitness-focused smartwatch is an obvious win for the gym rats and fitness freaks in your life. But it’s also a solid choice for people who want a big tough smartwatch. With its six-day battery life and the durability to withstand any situation, the Garmin Venu is a certified winner.
For users who don’t need some of the more advanced features found on the Venu—like the barometric altimeter or AMOLED display—the Venu SQ or SQ Music are good choices for less money.
Garmin 010-02173-11 Venu, GPS Smartwatch with Bright Touchscreen Display, Features Music, Body Energy Monitoring, Animated Workouts, Pulse Ox Sensor and More, Black
The Garmin Venu is the most comprehensive multi-sport tracker available today, with support for all sorts of sports. Its health-monitoring sensors are the best available on Android.