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Apple and Samsung are in a battle for your wrist: Our fave smartwatches

It's been seven years since the first Apple Watch was released, and it's easily the best smartwatch available. Samsung phone users are sure to love the Galaxy Watch models, however, and there are options for those who enjoy using both the iPhone and an Android smartphone. We tested and compared the top watches to help you find the right smartwatch for your wrist.

The first modern smartwatch, the Fossil Wrist PDA, launched in 2003 from Palm. Microsoft then followed up with its unique SPOT watch collection powered by MSN Direct services running over FM radio waves. Motorola, Pebble, Samsung, Suunto, and others then provided various options as wearables advanced with smartphones.

Today's smartwatches offer more advanced features, such as detailed 24/7 health and wellness tracking, voice assistants, call and text message support, and a variety of apps and services that extend the power of your smartphone to your wrist. Some models have cellular support and can serve your needs independently from your phone for limited functionality.

In 2022, there are several powerful options available to help you get work done through a wearable device. The latest Apple Watch is the best smartwatch overall -- and especially for Apple users. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is the best option for Samsung phone owners, and there are a few others that some consider best for both Android and iOS. Read on to learn more.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Temperature sensing for sleep and ovulation estimates
  • Crash detection contacts first responders when you're in a crash
  • WR50 water resistance
  • New advanced workout metrics
cons
  • Less than 2 day battery life
More Details

Display: 396x484 pixels OLED | Battery Life: 18 hours | Dimensions: 45x38x10.7 mm | Weight: 38.8 grams (Al) | Water/Dust Resistance: 50m with IP6X | LTE Cellular Option: Yes    

In 2015, Apple released its first Apple Watch, and over the next seven years, it secured its place as the best smartwatch available. No other watch has such vast application support while also getting all the smartwatch essentials nearly perfect. It may be debatable if an iPhone is the best smartphone or not, but it is clear the Apple Watch is the wearable to beat.

And the Apple Watch Series 8 continues this legacy. New for this version is temperature sensing. It reads your temperature as you sleep. Combined with the Sleep app, you receive a more complete picture of your sleeping habits. 

Also new is Cycle Tracking, which estimates when ovulation occurs--essential for couples looking to start or add to their families. The system can also detect deviations, such as prolonged or irregular periods. 

Then, there's Crash Detection, also new for the Apple Watch Series 8. It can detect when you're involved in a car crash and connect you to emergency services. Overall, the new Apple Watch Series 8 continues the legacy of setting the bar high. 

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Gorgeous, refined hardware
  • Excellent price for a powerful smartwatch
  • Broad support for health and fitness features
  • Extensive third-party application support
cons
  • Less than 2 days of battery life
  • Limited sleep details
More Details

Display: 368x448 pixels OLED | Battery Life: 18 hours | Dimensions: 44x38x10.7 mm | Weight: 36.5 grams (Al) | Water Resistance: 50m | LTE Cellular Option: Yes

Apple made an interesting move in 2020 and released a lower-priced Apple Watch designed to expand the use of an Apple Watch to other family members. The newest version of  Apple Watch SE starts at just $249 and if you are an iPhone user it's an easy wearable to recommend.

The next generation of the Apple Watch SE contains many of the features found on the Apple Watch 8 Series. You gain Crash Detection, where the watch detects you've been in an accident and can contact first responders. 

It also features the enhanced Workout app, giving you access to custom workouts, and advanced metrics like heart rate zones, stride, length, and vertical oscillation.

Ultimately, the newest version of the Apple Watch SE proves great things can come in small packages. 

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Lightweight titanium casing
  • Sapphire glass AMOLED display
  • Large capacity battery
  • Google Wear OS 3 app support
cons
  • Limited, manual GPX process
  • Large size not suitable for smaller wrists
  • Blood pressure certification taking much longer than advertised
More Details

Display: 1.4-inch 450x450 pixels Super AMOLED | Battery Life: Two-three days | Dimensions: 45.5x45.5x15.0 mm | Weight: 46.5 grams (without strap) | Water Resistance: 5 ATM+IP68 | LTE Cellular Option: Yes

Samsung is clearly not standing by as Apple continues to update and improve the Apple Watch. Samsung's latest Galaxy Watch 5 Pro offers many of the same advanced health tracking features, such as blood oxygen monitoring, ECG, and sleep tracking, with longer battery life than the Apple Watch.

We also see the addition of body composition measurements in the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, skin temperature sensor, and materials typically found in high-end GPS sports watches priced at twice the cost of the Watch 5 Pro. We spent a few weeks with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro conducting our full review and prefer using it over the Apple Watch Series 7.

The Watch 5 Pro runs Google Wear OS 3 powered by Samsung. This means it still looks like a Samsung smartwatch, but also supports Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Wallet, Google Play Store, and more Google apps.

It has an operating system optimized for the round watch design with a virtual rotating bezel. Fall detection, messaging, phone calls, and more are available on the watch, with advanced fitness data such as VO2 Max and advanced running dynamics data also supported.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Solid third-party app support
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Affordable
  • Dual display
cons
  • Runs Wear OS 2
More Details

Display: 1.4-inch 454x454 pixels AMOLED and FSTN secondary display | Battery Life: 72 hours  | Dimensions: 47x48x1232 mm | Weight: 41 grams | Water Resistance: IP68 | LTE Cellular Option: No

Google and Samsung have partnered up for Samsung to offer outstanding watches targeted to Samsung phone owners. There are also Google Wear OS watches for other Android phones and iPhone users. The latest watch from Mobvoi is the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS, the second model from Mobvoi with Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform.

The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS is one of the best Wear OS watches available with a unique layered display design that has an LCD display on top of an AMOLED display so users can have extended battery life. The watch has a massive 577 mAh battery and is built to withstand the elements with IP68 and MIL-STD-810G durability ratings.

While not as well supported as the Apple Watch, Wear OS is still a very capable wearable platform with an extensive number of available watch faces, plenty of popular third-party apps, Google Assistant voice support, advanced health tracking, and stress tracking. The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS has all of the latest advanced health metrics, such as blood oxygen monitoring, and is also a very capable GPS sports watch.

At just $299.99, often on sale as low as $224.99, it's tough to beat the TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS. With support for five global satellite systems, the watch is built to help you explore the world.

Pros & Cons
pros
  • Bright and clear AMOLED display
  • Light and comfortable for 24/7 wear
  • Google Assistant and phone call support
  • Smart alarm support
  • Extensive health and wellness support
cons
  • Solid state button isn't as reliable as physical button
  • Limited third-party support
More Details

Display: 1.58-inch 336x336 pixels AMOLED | Battery Life: Six days  | Dimensions: 40.5x40.5x12.35 mm | Weight: 48 grams | Water Resistance: 5 ATM | LTE Cellular Option: No

The Fitbit Sense has a stainless steel ring around the watch face and additional sensors on the back so that it offers support for ECG, skin temperature, and a few more advanced health metrics. If you want to save $70 then you can buy the Fitbit Versa 3 and lose out on a few advanced wellness metrics.

A significant improvement in this watch compared to previous Fitbit watches is the integrated GPS receiver that will help you more accurately track your outside activities.

The Fitbit ecosystem is well supported, with many people on the platform to help motivate you toward achieving your daily activity and fitness goals. The smartphone app is fantastic and offers a ton of insight, recommendations, and understanding of the data collected by the watches. Android smartphone users enjoy a better experience with support for quick text message replies, but these new Fitbit watches work well with Android and iOS for most functions.

What is the best smartwatch?

My pick for the best smartwatch is the Apple Watch Series 8. It may be debatable if an iPhone is the best smartphone or not, but it is clear the Apple Watch is the wearable to beat -- especially for Apple users. 

If you're an Android user, you may prefer a Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. I picked up the LTE model that provides cellular connectivity independently from my phone, but when paired with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 it's a perfect combination of elegance and power. The battery life even exceeds the Apple Watch.

Smartwatch

Price

Battery life

Watch face size

Apple Watch Series 8

$399

18 hours

45mm

Apple Watch SE

$249

18 hours

44mm

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

$449.99

72 hours

46mm

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS

$224.99

72 hours

47mm

Fitbit Sense

$216

18 hours

44mm

Which is the right smartwatch for you?

If you own an iPhone, we highly recommend the Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch 8. Honestly, most people will be perfectly happy with the less expensive Watch SE and not even see much of a difference for a decent cost savings. Nothing beats the Apple Watch for the third-party apps, seamless connectivity, Apple Pay, and much more.

With the move from Tizen to Google WearOS, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 models are amazing smartwatches that may soon top Apple with the ability to work with both Android and iPhone devices. There is a lot of potential here with this new partnership and we look forward to more developments. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has better materials than the Apple Watch Series 8 and is built to withstand the elements.

Choose this smartwatch...

If you need...

Apple Watch Series 8

A well-rounded smartwatch for fitness and communication

Apple Watch SE

A more affordable option for Apple ecosystems

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

A reliable Google Wear OS watch for your Samsung phone

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS

A well-rounded Google-based smartwatch

Fitbit Sense

A simple smartwatch for beginners

How did we choose these smartwatches?

We have spent weeks, sometimes months, with most of these wearables while connecting them to the Apple iPhone and various Android smartwatches. We have run, walked, hiked, biked, slept, worked, traveled, played, and more with these watches on our wrists. We also read other reviews and reviewer guides provided by the smartwatch makers to make sure we have explored all of the available features. 

Can you use a Samsung Watch with an iPhone?

Google Wear OS watches and the Fitbit work with both Android and iPhone devices, but Samsung's new Galaxy Watches do not work with the iPhone. iPhone users should stick with the Apple Watch while Samsung phone users should seriously consider a Galaxy Watch 5 model.

Can I text from a smartwatch?

You absolutely can! However, most of their screens are too small to type on, so you'll compose messages with speech-to-text or other dictation functions or by choosing from several generic, auto-generated responses. 

Can you use a cellular Apple Watch as a standalone device?

While you can leave your iPhone at home while you run, go to the store, or stroll on the beach, you must have an iPhone turned on and connected to the internet at this other location. This is one reason why connecting to an iPhone and then switching to an Android then makes the Apple Watch basically useless to use with an Android phone.

A cellular-enabled Samsung Galaxy Watch can indeed act as a stand-alone mobile device after initial setup. With the latest Galaxy Watch 5 running Wear OS powered by Samsung there are many more apps that can be used on the go so you can leave the phone behind in most cases.

What are the hot new features in the latest smartwatches?

Health and fitness tracking have been the areas with most innovations and improvements in the last couple of years. While these watches are not medical devices, they have sensors, algorithms, and applications that help you track trends in your heart rate, stress levels, blood oxygen levels, even helping you detect when ovulation occurs. You can use it as a basic ECG to check if further investigation is needed. The latest Galaxy Watch 5 can also measure your body composition and testing indicates it matches other methods fairly well.

All of these smartwatches can also serve as capable GPS sports watches to track the details of your outdoor activities. Exercise guidance is provided on the watch with connected health applications on your smartphone so you can keep track of your progress too.

Can a smartwatch track blood pressure?

There are a few models out there that are capable of measuring health stats like blood pressure, which are great for giving you a general idea of how your health journey is going so you can keep your doctors up-to-date with your healthcare plans. However, they're not as accurate as an actual blood pressure monitor, so you shouldn't solely rely on your smartwatch to monitor your heart or general health.

Are there alternative smartwatches worth considering?

There are lots of options out there if you're looking for a smartwatch to pair with your phone to keep up with calls and messages or track your workouts and morning jogs. Here's a short list of alternative choices that I thought were great:



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