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The best smartwatch in 2021: For iPhone and Android users

best smartwatch
(Image credit: Dylan Ferreira via Unsplash)

Choosing the best smartwatch comes down to a balance between the user experience and style. The software has to make it worth buying a smartwatch over the huge range of wonderful regular watches out there, but you don't want to give up the expression of personal style. The best smartwatch should balance both factors, connecting with our phones in useful ways while offering faces, colours, materials and other features that feel personal.

There are different things you might prioritise in a smartwatch's features. For many people, health and fitness tracking is a key benefit, but there are various degrees of this, from light step counting and encouragement to full sports activity tracking. Others find the most useful function of a smartwatch is as a kind of remote control for their phone, allowing them to see notifications and decide whether to respond without needing to see their phone. This is useful everywhere from being stuck in a meeting, to being out for a run or even holding a baby.

The guide below will help you find the best smartwatch for you, explaining the pros and cons of the best models available now. If you're also looking for a new phone, see our guide to the best camera phones.

The best smartwatches available now

Best smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 6CB

(Image credit: Apple Watch Series 6)

01. Apple Watch Series 6

The best smartwatch overall – but only for Apple users

Specifications
Works with: iPhone
Sizes: 40mm, 44mm
Software: watchOS
Processor: Apple S6
Reasons to buy
+Great feature list+Lots of design options+Super-slick iPhone integration
Reasons to avoid
-Apple only

The Apple Watch Series 6 offers an excellent mix of features and user experience, whatever you want from a smartwatch, although only for iPhone users. If your priority is the ‘smart’ part of the equation, the integration between Watch and iPhone (and other Apple products) is pretty much unmatched. If it's fitness and health features you're after, it’s packed with class-leading stuff there too. It also has a nice flexibility when it comes to design, with a wide range of faces, an always-on screen, easily interchangeable bands and different casings and sizes.

A big part of the Apple Watch is how it functions as a kind of remote control for your iPhone, displaying notifications (and only the ones you want to be bothered by), and making it easy to call people or respond to messages without needing to touch your phone. As for health, it has fall detection (with automated emergency services calling), heart rate monitoring (including irregular heartbeat detection and an ECG) and sleep monitoring (though this is rather basic). For fitness, there's all kinds of workout and activity monitoring, a pulse oxygen sensor and a heart rate sensor.

You can easily get 4G connectivity built-in so you can leave the phone at home, though not all networks will support it. The watch also has Apple Pay contactless payments. Battery life is variable depending on how you use it, but expect to charge it for a few minutes every day. The Apple Watch Series 6 has a premium price tag, but that's justified by the sleekest experience around at the moment. 

Best smartwatch: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3CB endorsed

(Image credit: Samsung)

02. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

The best smartwatch for Android users

Specifications
Works with: Android, iPhone
Sizes: 41mm, 45mm
Software: Samsung Tizen
Processor: Samsung Exynos 9110
Reasons to buy
+Very slick software+Good-looking design+Great feature list
Reasons to avoid
-Limited for app support

The Galaxy Watch 3 avoids the computer-like square shape of the Apple Watch and instead goes for a more traditional circular watch. It looks smart and comes in two sizes. The vivid screen offers a range of watch faces, and we love the, uh, twist that you can actually rotate the bezel to scroll through menus.

That software is very smooth – the Samsung Tizen platform is one of the best around for easy, seamless movement between different screens. It works with both iPhone or Android, but integrates better with Android, and better still with a Samsung phone. On iPhone, its smart functions are more basic – but you'll be able to receive notifications, which is the crucial thing.

The main issue with this smartwatch is that it's very light on app support. While we don't think a watch needs a huge range of obscure apps for every need, one good example of a missing app is Google Maps. However, Samsung does provide alternatives to anything vital and big-name that's missing, and there's a great range of fitness features. As an overall package, it's a great smartwatch.

Best smartwatch: Fitbit Versa 3CB endorsed

(Image credit: Fitbit)

03. Fitbit Versa 3

The best smartwatch for fitness

Specifications
Works with: Android, iPhone
Sizes: One size
Software: Fitbit OS
Processor: Not listed
Reasons to buy
+Great for health and fitness+Google or Alexa voice assistants+Good wellness features too
Reasons to avoid
-Not as smart as the competition

The Fitbit Versa 3 is a great smartwatch for either platform if your main interest is fitness, with some extra smartwatch bonus features thrown in. The Versa makes full use of Fitbit's knowledge to surpass most rivals when it comes to data on workouts, whether you're doing light exercise or training. Features include ‘active zone minutes’ during more intense workouts, a pulse oxygen sensor and a heart-rate monitor (for a much lower price than, say, the Apple Watch Series 6). You also get an always-on screen, despite the low price.

It’s not quite as slick a smartwatch experience as others. You can get notifications on your wrist, but with less rich options, and there are fewer apps for the Versa 3 than for some other smart platforms (we don’t think apps are the most important part of the smartwatch experience, but they can still be important). 

The watch does offer both Google Assistant or Alexa as voice assistants, which is something other options don’t, although the integration is limited. The watch's side button is also quite awkwardly designed, again just making the experience feel less slick. It’s still pretty much unbeatable for fitness at this price, but this smartwatch isn't quite as smart as some of its rivals.

Best smartwatch: Skagen Falster 3

(Image credit: Skagen)

04. Skagen Falster 3

The best Android Wear OS smartwatch

Specifications
Works with: Android, iPhone
Sizes: One size: 42mm
Software: Wear OS
Processor: Snapdragon 3100
Reasons to buy
+Great design+Full Android/Google integration+Really good range of features
Reasons to avoid
-Just one size option

The Skagen Falster 3 uses Google's Wear OS for its software, which means you get a better range of apps than what the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 offers, with some useful integration with Android. Wear OS isn't quite as obvious and easy to use as the Apple Watch or Samsung, but everything runs very well here, offering a sound smartwatch experience overall.

This watch is made by Fossil, who also sell nice-looking smartwatches under their own name and under licence with Michael Kors, but we think the Skagen brand looks best. In fact, it's a strong contender for best-looking smartwatch overall. Although it's fairly bulky (and hardly suited to being a full-on sports watch), the Falster 3 is able to make full use of great fitness features available through Google Fit, so it's a good companion for light exercise. Support for Google Pay wireless payments is also very welcome.

Best smartwatch: Apple Watch SE

(Image credit: Apple)

05. Apple Watch SE

The best lower-price smartwatch

Specifications
Works with: iPhone
Sizes: 40mm, 44mm
Software: watchOS
Processor: Apple S5
Reasons to buy
+Just as slick as the Apple Watch 6+Great features overall+Good design and size options
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks some health hardware

The Apple Watch SE offers the same design as the Apple Watch Series 6 (though only in aluminium cases) and the same outstanding software experience but with a few features cut down to lower the price. 

You lose the always-on screen, ECG and pulse oxygen sensor, and the watch's processor is a generation behind the Series 6’s (though this makes no real impact on use in our experience). We're okay with losing these in terms of the overall experience, but it's worth noting that other options such as the Fitbit Versa 3 give you some of these for a still cheaper price.

In every other way, it’s the full Apple Watch experience and the perfect companion to your iPhone. It’s an excellent fitness watch, whatever level you're training at, and it has great health support features including high and low heart rate notifications, irregular heart rate warnings, and fall detection. Again, it offers Apple Pay, and it's available with or without 4G built in.

Best smartwatch: TAG Heuer Connected

(Image credit: TAG Heuer)

06. TAG Heuer Connected

The best ultra-premium smartwatch

Specifications
Works with: Android, iPhone
Sizes: One size: 45mm
Software: Wear OS
Processor: Snapdragon 3100
Reasons to buy
+Proper TAG Heuer design and construction+Full Android/Google integration+Great customisation of Wear OS
Reasons to avoid
-Costs TAG Heuer money

For some, this could be the best smartwatch available, but then there's the price! The TAG Heuer Connected is easily the nearest that smartwatches have come to classic Swiss luxury watch design – for some that will be a plus in its favour, while others will prefer a smartwatch to break the mould. There's no doubt, however, that it looks and feels great to wear.

Its software uses Wear OS, and Google now enables watchmakers to highly customise the system, which is exactly what's been done here – there are unique watch faces made for an authentic TAG Heuer feel, and the overall software has been tweaked, adding in classier fonts and other details to give a more coherent and high-end look. TAG Heuer has also added its own apps, and they really stand out when it comes to sports and fitness, making great use of the physical design of the watch's button layout. It's surprisingly comfortable for fitness, though we won't pretend the lighter Fitbit isn't the more comfortable.

With integration of Google Pay and other useful Google services, and the option to use with iPhone (though without the same level of integration as you get on Android), this is a tempting option for those with luxury tastes.

best smartwatch

(Image credit: Mobvoi)

07. Ticwatch Pro 3

A dual-display smartwatch with incredible battery life

Specifications
Works with: Android, iPhone
Sizes: 48mm
Software: Wear OS
Processor: Snapdragon Wear 4100
Reasons to buy
+Big battery+Fast chipset
Reasons to avoid
-Bulky design

The TicWatch Pro 3 uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset with 1GB of RAM, and it turns out to be one of the most powerful Wear OS devices. Apps load super fast, and you shouldn't find yourself left waiting for anything to boot up. The watch also stands out when it comes to battery use, offering a solid three days of battery life from a single charge, and more than a month in Essential mode. 

It also boasts some great intuitive functions, with its dual AMOLED/FSTN display making it one of the most versatile smartwatches. It allows access to key information without you needing to launch the main interface or place unnecessary strain on the battery. The main drawback for some will be the big and bulky design.

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