Our editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, ZDNet may earn a commission.

Best smartwatch in 2021

It's been five years since the first Apple Watch was released, and it is clear that Apple's wearable is the best smartwatch available today. It requires an iPhone, though, so others are better for Android phone owners and those looking for something different.

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, and others then provided various options giving us a glimpse of our wearable future.

Today's smartwatches offer more advanced features, such as advanced health-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 2020, there are some powerful options available to help you get work done through a wearable device.

Apple Watch Series 6

Gets all the smartwatch essentials nearly perfect


Must read:

In 2015, Apple released its first Apple Watch, and over the next five 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.

The only current limitation of the Apple Watch is that it requires an iPhone as its companion. This means that more than 80% of the world's smartphone owners cannot use it as their wearable. If Apple supported Android smartphones, there is little doubt Apple Watch sales would rise.

The Apple Watch Series 6 is the newest model available with a couple of new case colors, blood oxygen monitoring, sleep tracking, and much more as it runs WatchOS 7.

$409 at Amazon

Apple Watch SE

Lower-priced Apple Watch

Image: Apple

Must read:

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 Apple Watch SE pricing starts at just $279 and if you are an iPhone user it's an easy wearable to recommend.

Physically, the Apple Watch SE has the same design and large display seen on the Apple Watch Series 6, complete with many of the same health tracking features and all of the application support. It's a slightly less capable processor and a few of the advanced health tracking features are not present. However, you can purchase it with a cellular radio, and with Family Setup, you can pair watches for children or older adults who don't have their own iPhone.

At this low price and with a growing Apple ecosystem, it's tough not to at least consider the Apple Watch SE if you have any interest in a wearable.

$269 at Amazon $279 at Best Buy $279 at Adorama

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

Many of the same advanced health features as Apple Watch

Image: Samsung

Must read:

Samsung is clearly not standing by as Apple continues to update and improve the Apple Watch. Samsung's latest Galaxy Watch 3 offers many of the same advanced health tracking features, such as blood oxygen monitoring, ECG, and sleep tracking, with the ability to connect with both Android and iPhone devices.

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 will also soon be certified to measure and track blood pressure, a critical health metric that Apple does not track. The Galaxy Watch 3 is an affordable smartwatch with both Wi-Fi and LTE models in two different sizes.

It has a sleek rotating bezel and an operating system optimized for the round watch design. ECG, blood oxygen, fall detection, and more is available on the watch, with advanced fitness data such as VO2 Max and advanced running dynamics data also supported.

$189 at Amazon $189 at Walmart $280 at Best Buy

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Best smartwatch available for Android phone owners

Image: Samsung

Must read:

Samsung offered smartwatches long before Apple joined the market and the early model had innovations such as integrated cameras. The latest model, the Galaxy Watch Active 2, is the best smartwatch available for Android smartphone owners even though it runs the Tizen OS.

The Galaxy Watch Active 2 is arguably better than the Apple Watch in many regards, but it doesn't have nearly the support for third-party apps that we see in the Apple ecosystem, and to be a true smartwatch, then extensive third-party app support is essential.

However, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 has a traditional round watch face design, a vast number of available watch faces, the ability to charge on the go on the back of a smartphone, and even the ability to measure your blood pressure. The Watch Active 2 is my personal smartwatch, because I switch phones so often and it even works with the Apple iPhone.

$200 at Amazon $250 at Samsung $250 at Walmart

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3

Best Wear OS device available


Must read:

While Google has not put much effort into developing its Wear OS platform, companies like Mobvoi continue to offer solid smartwatch competitors running Wear OS. The latest watch from Mobvoi is the TicWatch Pro 3, the first smartwatch sporting Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 4100 platform.

The TicWatch Pro 3 is the best Wear OS device 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, up to 30 days, with a more limited watch experience.

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 much more. The TicWatch Pro 3 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, it's also tough to beat the TicWatch Pro 3. It works with both Android and iOS smartphones too so if you are considering a smartwatch for multiple platforms, then this is a very capable option.

Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch

Track your outdoor exercises

Image: Fossil

In addition to Mobvoi, Fossil continues to release new Google Wear OS smartwatches and also often uses the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processors. The Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch is available in various colors with different band options for less than $300.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 powers this Fossil smartwatch, and with Wear OS, users enjoy the power of Google Assistant on the wrist. Google Pay is supported, so you can pay wirelessly with your phone in your pocket. Integrated GPS also means you can track your outdoor exercise with the Fossil Gen 5 Smartwatch.

There are a lot of rumors that Fossil will soon launch its first Snapdragon Wear 4100-powered smartwatch as the Fossil Gen 6 model, so we will continue to monitor these rumors until an announcement is made.

Fitbit Sense and Versa 3

Work well with Android and iOS for most functions

Image: Fitbit

Must read:

The Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3 look to be the same watch with the same size, form factor, and overall design. The 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.

In all other regards, these two new smartwatches from Fitbit are the same with a new band design. The Fitbit Sense is $100 more at $329.95 with the Fitbit Versa 3 at $229.95. A significant improvement in both of these 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.

$174 at Walmart $180 at Best Buy $180 at Adorama