Smartwatch buying guide: Is it worth buying a smartwatch?

Smartwatch buying guide: Is it worth buying a smartwatch?
With all the different types, makes and models available, our guide is here to help you buy the best smartwatch from the likes of Apple, FitBit and Samsung

Watches have been around for hundreds of years, and mostly, they’ve served as a way to tell the time. But in the last few years, watches have progressed significantly and are more capable than ever.

Now, many people are shunning traditional analogue watches in favour of new-fangled smartwatches.

These not only tell the time and date, but also allow users to make and receive phone calls, send and read text messages, use applications, track their health and fitness, pay for things on the go, receive phone notifications, and so much more.

While smartwatches offer a wide range of capabilities and benefits, choosing one isn’t the most straightforward task when you consider all the different types, makes and models available today.

But to help you, we’ve put together this guide on everything you need to know when buying a smartwatch.

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Different types of smartwatches

Before choosing a make and model of smartwatch, it’s important to understand the different types of smartwatch available on the market and to decide which one would best suit your needs. There are three main categories: classic smartwatches, hybrid smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Classic smartwatches

Classic smartwatches link up to a smartphone via its Bluetooth connection to notify you of incoming calls, text messages, emails, social media updates, calendar events, alarms, and other types of notifications. This information is typically displayed on a touchscreen display, which you can also use to navigate a compact interface and use smartwatch-friendly apps.

Many classic smartwatches will also enable you to make and receive phone calls and send and read text messages. In fact, some classic smartwatches can be purchased as part of a contract and have their own mobile connection, allowing you to use online apps, ring people, and send text messages without being connected to a smartphone.

Classic smartwatches often sport fitness and health tracking capabilities too, and of course, they tell the time and will let you change the style of the watch face.

Hybrid smartwatches

Hybrid smartwatches are a combination of classic smartwatches and analogue watches. They look like any standard analogue watch, with mechanical arms instead of a touchscreen display. However, they can be connected to a handset via Bluetooth to provide phone notifications, fitness metrics, and other important information.

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Hybrid smartwatches can differ in how they work, but often, they’ll use mechanical watch arms, vibrations or a tiny screen for alerting users to new notifications on their phone.

Compared to classic smartwatches, hybrid smartwatches may be more durable in terms of design and sport a battery life that can last for weeks on end. Hybrid smartwatches are an excellent option for those who want a traditional watch that also offers some of the features provided by classic smartwatches with a touchscreen display.

Fitness trackers

If you’re a health and fitness fan, you’ll no doubt love fitness trackers. These are smartwatches that put health and fitness first. The best fitness trackers not only monitor your steps, calories, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep, breathing, and other metrics, but also offer a wide range of fitness modes and many other features to help you to stay healthy.

Considering they’re a type of smartwatch, fitness trackers provide the time and date. What’s also great about fitness trackers is that they tend to be cheaper than classic smartwatches, although this is often because they have fewer features overall.

Main smartwatch brands

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of smartwatches out there, you’re probably wondering which make and model to choose. We’ll now discuss the main smartwatch brands and models.

Apple

Since launching the original Apple watch in 2015, the US tech giant has gone on to announce a new model every year. Its current flagship wearable is the Apple watch series 6 (£379, Apple.com) which offers lots of different features.

These include an Always-On Retina display, a blood oxygen sensor, heart rate monitoring, fall detection, international emergency calling, the ability to take an ECG, a faster S6 processor, a battery life of up to 18 hours, an always-on altimeter, water resistance, and many more.

Read more: Apple series 6 vs Apple SE: Which smartwatch is best?

The Apple watch series 6 is available in three finishes: aluminum, stainless steel and titanium. You can also get it in two sizes (40mm or 44mm), several different colours, and a cellular option.

If you’d like to save more money on an Apple Watch, it’s worth checking out the Apple watch SE (£269, Apple.com). Costing just £269, it sports a retina display, water resistance, a dual-core S5 processor, fall detection, emergency SOS, heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, a built-in compass, and many other features. It comes in a range of finishes, colours and sizes, too.

For anyone who hasn’t used an Apple watch before, a great option to consider is the Apple watch series 3 (£199, Apple.com). While the Apple watch series 3 is older than the Apple watch series 6 and Apple watch SE, its price starts at just £199. You’d still get a Retina display, the ability to make and receive phone calls, a range of health and fitness features, and so much more.

Whichever Apple watch model you end up choosing, you’ll be able to connect it to your iPhone and use it for making phone calls, sending text messages, staying fit and healthy, and lots more.

Samsung

Samsung is another major tech company that offers a large range of smartwatches, with the Galaxy watch 3 (£399, Samsung.com) being its latest flagship model.

With a starting price of £339, it has a slim and lightweight design, an always-on OLED display, a rotating bezel, blood pressure tracking, ECG monitoring, oxygen saturation measuring, sleep tracking, more than 120 home workouts, and more.

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You can also use the Galaxy watch 3 for making and receiving phone calls, along with sending and reading text messages. The Galaxy watch 3 is available in 41mm and 45mm sizes, two colour choices (mystic bronze and mystic silver) and two connectivity options (4G and Bluetooth).

If you don’t fancy spending over £300 on a high-end smartwatch, a cheaper option from Samsung is the Galaxy watch active 2 (£199, Samsung.com). Costing from £199, it offers a Super AMOLED display, a durable design, workout tracking, stress tracking, heart rate tracking, blood pressure tracking, ECG monitoring, hand washing reminders, phone notifications, and more. It’s also available in a range of colours, sizes, and connectivity options.

Samsung also sells a fitness tracker called the Galaxy fit 2 (£39, Samsung.com). Its main features include a 1.1-inch AMOLED display, a slim and lightweight design, water resistance, and a battery capable of lasting for up to 21 days (low usage).

There are even hand washing reminders, heart rate tracking, stress level tracking, sleep monitoring, tracking of daily steps and calories burnt, more than 70 watch faces, phone notifications, and more.

Fitbit

Over the past few years, Fitbit has built a solid reputation for its fitness-focused smartwatches and trackers. And if you’re looking for the best available Fitbit smartwatch, look no further than the sense (£279.99, Fitbit.com).

The Fitbit sense offers everything you’d want in a high-end fitness smartwatch, including 24/7 heart rate tracking, oxygen saturation monitoring, menstrual health tracking, a skin temperature sensor, over 20 goal-based exercise modes, all-day activity tracking, a built-in GPS, stress monitoring, an always-on display, a six-day battery life, fast charging, and more. You can pair the Fitbit sense with both Android and iOS devices.

Read more: Fitbit Versa 3 vs Fitbit Sense: Which fitness smartwatch is best?

Another popular smartwatch from Fitbit is the versa 3 (£199.99, Fitbit.com). The Fitbit versa 3 features an always-on display, hundreds of watch faces, a six-day battery life, fast charging, 24/7 heart rate tracking, oxygen saturation monitoring, sleep metrics, and menstrual health tracking. It also has a built-in GPS, over 20 goal-based exercise modes, all-day activity tracking, phone notifications, the ability to download hundreds of apps, and many other functions. It works on iOS and Android devices, too.

Looking for something cheaper from Fitbit? We’d recommend the Fitbit inspire 2 (£89.99, Fitbit.com), which offers excellent features such as 24/7 heart rate tracking, menstrual health tracking, all-day activity tracking, over 20 exercise modes, calorie tracking, a 10-day battery life, phone notifications, and more. The Fitbit inspire 2 works with a range of popular mobile devices.

Huawei

Chinese tech firm Huawei also offers some excellent smartwatches, including the watch GT 2 pro (£299.99, Huawei.com) . It boasts a 1.39-inch AMOLED display, a two-week battery life, support for wireless charging, more than 100 fitness modes, oxygen saturation detection, 24-hour heart rate tracking, sleep monitoring, stress monitoring, phone calls, and many other features. What’s more, it’s compatible with Android and iOS devices.

Meanwhile, the Huawei watch fit (£109.99, Huawei.com) is an excellent model for people who want an affordable fitness smartwatch. Costing only £109.99, the watch fit comes with a 1.64-inch AMOLED display, a 10-day battery life, oxygen saturation detection, 96 workout modes, a built-in GPS, 24-hour heart rate tracking, sleep monitoring, stress tracking, phone notifications, and more. Like the watch GT 2 pro, it works with Android and iOS devices.

Withings

If you don’t want a smartwatch with a touchscreen display and a boxy design, you might be better off with a hybrid smartwatch like the Withings scanwatch (£208.29, Withings.com).

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One of our favourite smartwatches of 2021, the scanwatch has a traditional analogue watch design. But it also sports a small AMOLED screen that displays phone notifications, heart rate, steps, calories, and other information, in addition to a subdial that shows how you’re progressing with your activity goal on each given day.

The Withings scanwatch sports a range of advanced features, including heart rate tracking, ECG, sleep tracking, 24/7 activity tracking, oxygen saturation detection, irregular beat detection, breathing disturbances detection, and a battery life that lasts up to 30 days. Additionally, you can use the Withings scanwatch with both iOS and Android devices.

What type of smartwatch do I need?

For the vast majority of people, classic smartwatches will suit all their needs. They are more advanced than any other type of smartwatch, allowing users to ring and message people, keep fit and healthy, access their calendar entries, use smartwatch-friendly apps, make mobile payments, and so much more.

But of course, not everyone will need a watch that essentially performs all the functions offered by their smartphone. If you’re interested in purchasing a smartwatch for health and fitness reasons, then a fitness tracker will do the job fine and save you more money at the same time. And for anyone who wants a traditional analogue watch with some smart capabilities, then a hybrid smartwatch will be perfect.

Which make and model should I choose?

Another question you might have is which make and model of smartwatch to purchase. Well, you should really base your decision on the smartphone you want to use the smartwatch with. If you own an iPhone or a different iOS device, we’d recommend sticking with the Apple watch. And, in our opinion, the best smartwatch for Android users is the Samsung Galaxy watch 3. Naturally, any Fitbit wearable will be the best option for fitness and health buffs.

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But something to bear in mind is that, apart from the Apple watch, most smartwatches and fitness trackers are universal in terms of compatibility. So if you were to buy a smartwatch from a company like Samsung, Fitbit or Huawei, it’d work fine with both iOS and Android phones.

The verdict: Smartwatch buying guide

When shopping around for a smartwatch, you’re definitely spoilt for choice. But in order to choose a model that’ll suit all your needs and work well with your smartphone, it’s essential to conduct plenty of research beforehand.

Most people will be happy with a general smartwatch that lets them make phone calls, send text messages, stay up-to-date with their phone notifications, and perform other helpful functions from their wrist. Models like the Apple watch and Samsung Galaxy watch sit in this category, and overall, they’re two of the best smartwatches available today.

But there are also niche options like fitness trackers and hybrid smartwatches, which suit people who need something more specific. If you’re looking for a fitness tracker, we’d recommend checking out Fitbit’s extensive range of health and fitness-focused smartwatches. Meanwhile, the Withings scanwatch is one of our favourite hybrid smartwatches because it combines classic analogue watch style with cutting-edge technology.

Either way, smartwatches are a must-have accessory for anyone who loves their gadgets. And buying one will introduce lots of benefits to your everyday life, whether it’s ensuring you never miss any important notifications from your phone or tracking your health and fitness right around the clock.

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