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Best Smartwatch for 2024

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$210 at Best Buy

230801-site-thumbnail-galaxy-watch-6-2

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and 6 Classic

Best overall watch for Android

$329 at Amazon

Google Pixel Watch 2

Google Pixel Watch 2

Best Android smartwatch for heart rate accuracy

There’s a lot that goes into a great smartwatch. The best smartwatches are good at serving as a proxy for your phone at times when it’s inconvenient to grab it. The right smartwatch should also measure all the health, wellness and fitness statistics you need, all while being comfortable and stylish to wear. 

The good news is there are plenty of choices out there, whether you’re team iPhone or Android. Choosing the right smartwatch depends on your budget and how you intend to use it. For example, if you just want to log exercise, get phone notifications on your wrist and monitor your sleep, almost any smartwatch will do. Outdoor enthusiasts who want more in-depth tracking may want to opt for a more premium sports watch, like the Apple Watch Ultra 2. Check out our full guide to buying a smartwatch for more details on what to look for, and the features you should expect at each price point. 

We’ve been reviewing smartwatches for about a decade and have witnessed how they’ve evolved over the past 10 years. While smartwatches were once niche, expensive and clunky, today’s models are well worth your dollars and attention. Read on to learn more about our top picks.

What is the best smartwatch?

The Apple Watch Series 9 is our favorite overall smartwatch. It has the right combination of smooth and polished software along with a wide variety of health metrics and plenty of smartphone companion features. The Apple Watch set the stage for the modern smartwatch, and the Apple Watch Series 9 takes that a step forward with useful new features like Precision Finding for locating your iPhone 15 more easily. If you’re an iPhone owner, the Series 9 provides the right balance of features for the price.

The Apple Watch Series 9 isn’t perfect. Battery life still only lasts about one to two days, the new Double Tap feature doesn’t always feel practical and the Apple Watch still lacks helpful wellness features like a sleep score and recovery metrics. We feel it has the right balance of health tracking and everyday usability to make it the best choice.

Best smartwatches for 2024

Apple

Like

  • Faster Siri performance
  • More precise at finding a lost iPhone
  • Variety of health and fitness features
  • Double Tap lets you use the watch without touching it

Don't like

  • New Double Tap gesture can feel awkward
  • Lacks the Ultra's useful Action button
  • No improvements to battery life
  • Precision Finding requires iPhone 15

The Apple Watch Series 9 might not be as adventure-focused as the Apple Watch Ultra 2, but it still features a dust- and crack-resistant design, a temperature, blood oxygen and ECG sensor and comes in 41 and 45mm sizes. You can also choose a cellular or LTE model that lets you take calls and answer messages from your wrist without your phone, although that does cost extra.

It has the S9 chip to support the Double Tap gesture so you can pinch your thumb and forefinger together to control the watch when you can't reach it with the other hand. Like the Ultra 2, the Series 9 also has on-device Siri and faster processing times than earlier Apple Watches. Battery life generally lasts 18 hours with typical use, less than many of its competitors.

Apple

Like

  • Incredibly bright screen
  • More accurate dictation and on-device Siri
  • 64GB storage means more space for music and apps
  • Double Tap is very useful

Don't like

  • Battery life is the same as first Ultra
  • Limited recovery metrics

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is Apple's best smartwatch, with a tough titanium construction and an Action button to quickly start workouts or launch apps. It has the brightest screen of any Apple Watch at a maximum of 3,000 nits which makes it incredibly easy to see when adventuring in the great outdoors. For adventurers and athletes, it also has a built-in siren for safety and a dual-band GPS for accurately tracking your route. LTE is also onboard so you can venture out without a phone and still stay connected.

Although it's designed to be an outdoor watch, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is still a fantastic all-around smartwatch. Inside is the same S9 chip as found on the Apple Watch Series 9 which supports gestures like Double Tap and allows the watch to process Siri commands on-device. This means you can use Siri without being online and later in the year you'll be able to ask the voice assistant for health data. Like earlier Apple Watches, the Ultra 2 also comes with a blood oxygen sensor, electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) app, fall detection and emergency SOS. The battery also lasts at least twice as long as all other Apple Watch models. It's only compatible with the iPhone, so if you have an Android phone, you'll want to look at another option on this list.

Like

  • Screen is twice as bright as last year
  • One-click watch band design is backwards-compatible
  • Switch phones without resetting the watch
  • Rotating bezel is back on the Classic

Don't like

  • Need to charge the watch every day
  • Irregular heart rhythm/ECG only for Galaxy phones
  • Classic is $100 more than the Galaxy Watch 6
  • Sleep tracking accuracy is uneven

Samsung's Galaxy Watch 6 is the best Android watch for most people. Both the Galaxy Watch 6 and 6 Classic have incredibly bright screens that hit a maximum of 2,000 nits, so seeing your watch in all lighting conditions is easy. 

All the flagship features you would expect are included: an ECG, blood oxygen, body composition and temperature sensors. Note you do need a Galaxy phone to use the ECG, but all the other features work seamlessly with other Android phones. Like the Apple Watch Series 9, you'll need to charge the Galaxy Watch 6 every day, especially if you want to track sleep.

2023's Galaxy Watch 5 Pro remains in the lineup if you need the best battery life of any Galaxy Watch, lasting up to three days on a charge.

Like

  • Beautiful design
  • Accurate heart rate sensor
  • Faster charging
  • Good selection of health stats and workout options

Don't like

  • Battery life could be longer
  • Some features require Fitbit Premium
  • Only one size option
  • Bezels are noticeable

The Pixel Watch 2 is a beautiful-looking Android smartwatch with accurate heart rate tracking and health sensors like an ECG. It fills the gaps with many of the features we wanted in the first Pixel Watch, such as automatic workout detection. If you're familiar with Fitbit, the Pixel Watch 2 has a similar interface for logging workouts and viewing your health data. For runners, the watch can give you pace guidance and heart rate zone notifications.

Beware that the battery isn't as strong as some other options on this list, and you will likely find yourself charging this watch every day, especially if you like to do outdoor GPS workouts and track your sleep. It does charge faster than the first Pixel Watch. It's also still available only in one 41mm size.

Like

  • Comprehensive health and sleep metrics
  • Helpful reports and insights like Body Battery and Morning Report
  • Large screen
  • No subscription for health metrics and reports

Don't like

  • Design doesn't feel as premium as similarly priced watches
  • Small app ecosystem
  • Slow app downloads
  • Separate apps for managing health insights and watch faces
  • No home button

The Garmin Venu 3’s stellar battery life, a wide selection of health tracking features and workout types and comprehensive wellness metrics make it a top choice. The battery life alone is enough to make the Garmin Venu 3 stand out, with it lasting for about a week on a single charge according to CNET’s review. 

Of course, it isn’t perfect. It doesn’t feel as premium as some other watches of the same price, it doesn’t have as many apps as the Apple Watch, and the software may not feel as intuitive as alternative watches from Google, Samsung or Apple. The Garmin Venu 3 makes up for that with useful wellness tools like the Body Battery, which tells you how “recharged” you are based on activity, sleep and other factors. Best of all, Garmin doesn’t require a subscription to access such features.

Apple/Sarah Lord/CNET

Like

  • Lower price
  • Same performance as the Series 8
  • Car-crash detection for additional safety

Don't like

  • No always-on display
  • No QWERTY keyboard
  • Most new features can be found on older watches too

The Apple Watch SE retails for $250 but you can regularly find it discounted to $200 or less, which makes it an excellent choice for the budget-conscious buyer. Expect most of the same features found on more expensive Apple Watch models like the Series 9, including activity tracking, third-party apps and safety features like Emergency SOS. It does miss out on an always-on display and heart-health features like the ECG.

Factors to consider when buying a smartwatch

Consider last year's model: Many new smartwatches offer incremental hardware updates over previous models, so you might want to look at the last generation's smartwatch to save some cash -- especially because software updates often bring new features to older models. For example, you could look at something like the Apple Watch Series 8 which is compatible with the latest WatchOS 10 update to get many of the same software features as the newer Series 9. Avoid buying smartwatches that are several years old, as they may start to feel sluggish. 

Buy at the right time of year: Smartwatches usually go on sale during Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, so it’s a good idea to look out for discounts around those holidays. Knowing when new devices typically launch can also be helpful. After all, you don’t want to purchase a brand new smartwatch only for it to feel out of date two months later. Samsung, Apple and Google usually release new smartwatches in the late summer and early fall time frame, but you can find more information on typical launch periods here. 

Look at added costs: Some smartwatches are moving toward a subscription model that unlocks certain features of your watch. Google's Pixel Watch, for example, offers a monthly $10 subscription called Fitbit Premium that offers more in-depth sleep tracking metrics, workout programs and guidance on recovery.

apple-watch-series-9-1

How we test smartwatches and wearables

We test smartwatches in the real world, focusing on key features from fitness tracking to connectivity that you'll use every day. Starting with the watch itself, we check overall performance and responsiveness. Is there any lag when navigating menus? Is the touchscreen responsive? Do apps launch quickly?

Then we check if it has all the functionality you'd expect for the price. That could be everything from music playback controls to cellular connectivity so you can use the watch away from your phone or an always-on display. All smartwatches need to connect to a phone, so we also assess how easy the companion software is to navigate.

applewatch-iphone-bike

The iPhone 15 mounted on a bike.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

Durability and design

Smartwatches are something you wear on your body, so we assess how comfortable they are to wear. We also know that everyone has a different-sized wrist, so we try to see how it fits and feels on a variety of people. 

Then we look at how it stands up to wear and tear with daily life. Some smartwatches offer increased durability like dust resistance, or water resistance that's suited for activities like scuba diving and where possible we'll test this out for ourselves.

Google Pixel Watch 2 with the charger attached

Google Pixel Watch 2 with the charger attached vertical 

James Martin/CNET

Battery life

Battery life will vary depending on how you use a smartwatch, so we test battery life with a few standard tests. We see how long it generally lasts on a single charge with features that represent typical use, like the always-on display, sleep tracking and doing an outdoor workout with GPS.

Fitness and health sensor accuracy

We test the accuracy of smartwatch sensors in a couple of different ways. For example, the heart rate sensor is compared against the readings taken from a chest strap, considered the gold standard in consumer heart rate tracking. We compare readings from the watch against the strap for resting heart rate, and heart rate during a variety of cardio-based activities like running or cycling. We check to see how long it takes to connect to a GPS signal when doing an outdoor workout.

Other health sensors, like a blood oxygen sensor, are compared against a pulse oximeter for spot readings where possible.

Source: cnet.com

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