Updated: T3's smartwatch guide now includes the Fossil Q Founder. Head to page 10 to see what we think about it.
It's 2016 and wearable tech is now undeniably a 'thing'. The first generation Apple Watch launched last year (and wasn't a complete disaster), Android Wear is on its third generation, and indie developers are popping up on KickStarter every day.
Whether they’re keeping you updated with notifications, feeding you information from apps, making sure you don’t spend too long sat down or just, y’know, simply displaying time, this latest crop of smartwatches is far improved over the previous generations and we'd feel underprepared if we left the house without wearing one.
- Looking for a more traditional timepiece? Check out our favourite watch
- If you're looking to splash the cash have a read of the best luxury watches
Google's Android Wear now works with both iOS and Android headsets, although its functionality is reduced on iOS. The Apple Watch is only compatible with iOS (of course). Samsung's Tizen-powered Gear S2 works with Android (and iOS compatibility is imminent). Pebble works across both Android and iOS. Nothing works with Windows Phone. Sorry about that.
- Don't want any kind of crap on your wrist? What's wrong with you?
13. Pebble Time Round
The Pebble Time Round is a stylish device, it's unbelievably thin, and feels great on the wrist. There are several pleasant design options, and custom watch faces designed by the Pebble developer community are some of the best available.
There are several drawbacks to the Time Round however. If you're looking for the most advanced smartwatch around, high-res screen and powerful apps - this ain't it!
Everything's quite basic, the e-ink display is pixelated and not very bright, the apps are even more basic, there's no touch screen. Most annoyingly the small round screen doesn't display much text at one time.
But in a way, that's the charm of Pebble devices.
Battery life is around two days. The battery capacity is tiny, but the low-powered screen and guts don't suck up too much juice. It also means the battery charges very fast - 80-percent in just 15 minutes.
Verdict: Flawed, very flawed. But charming, and very wearable.
Price: £200 | Pebble
12. Sony Smartwatch 3
The third iteration of Sony’s Smartwatch is the first to ditch the proprietary software and run with Android Wear, making it much more likely to attract a larger audience.
The display is 1.6-inches, it is IP68 rated for water resistance, there’s 512MB RAM and 4GB of internal storage and it’ll connect to your device through Bluetooth LE and NFC. GPS is also a bonus, in fact, it's the first (and one of the only) Android Wear watches capable of tracking your run without a phone connection.
It's getting old now, but performance is still on par with new, more expensive Android Wear watches.
Verdict: The Sony Smartwatch 3 is a very capable device. Is it especially powerful, fully featured or sexy? Erm, no. But it does most things adequately, for not much, and makes a surprisingly good running watch.
Price: £115 | Sony
11. Vector Luna
The Vector Luna is a wearable straight out of left field, it's not made by a well-known tech brand, instead it's from a start-up company from former Timex big-wig Joe Santana.
The Luna's best incarnations (there are numerous options, both round and square) are quite handsome devils, made from stainless steel and sporting metal and leather straps. We think it looks stylish and sophisticated.
The monochrome LCD display won't win awards for vibrancy or pixel counts, but visibility is acceptable even in direct sunlight, and it's always on. Its low resolution and lack of colour also mean the Vector Luna can manage an impressive 30 days battery life on a single charge.
The brand's slogan is 'What matters', and that seems to be "not a lot". The smartwatch functionality is stripped back to the absolute core here, with message notifications, step counting and diary appointments, which are shown around the outer edge of the Vector's faux-analogue watch faces.
It's deliberately simple, and you can forget about fripperies such as voice control, touchscreens, GPS navigation or anything of that ilk, although there are basic RSS-type apps to keep you informed.
As noted, there are a number of different Luna design options, but our favourite is the matte black case with dark brown leather strap.
Verdict: The sophisticated Vector Luna is an impressive watch, especially if you value battery life over anything else. Its functionality is limited to just the essentials, however: message and calendar notifications plus step counting.
Price: £230 | Vector
10. LG Watch Urbane
LG's newest Android Wear toting smartwatch comes packing a circular face, classic good looks, and top of the range specs. It's a chunky device, there's no getting away from that, but the LG Watch Urbane is one of the most powerful smartwatches you can buy. It runs the latest version of Android Wear, so it's iOS compatible and has the latest, slickest UI.
Battery life is merely okay, at around 1.5 days, which is a shame for such a chunky device.
Verdict: The LG Watch Urbane is alright, it's got a great screen and impressive performance. Would we be seen dead wearing it? No. But hey, you knock yourself out.
Price: £200 | LG
9. ASUS Zenwatch 2
Entering the wearable market for the second time, the Asus ZenWatch 2, a features a sleeker design, premium(ish) build and a couple of nifty software additions.
First of all, it comes in two sizes (42mm and 38mm) so it can fit wrists big and small. The AMOLED display is bright and colourful, but it does have a rather large and hideous bezel, which ruins the appearance somewhat.
The Zenwatch 2 comes with a load of customised watch faces and apps, plus a set of more unique 'wellness' features. Obviously in this context by 'unique' we mean 'pointless crap for your aunt who does yoga', but that aside, it's a generally very solid device.
Verdict: We like the Asus Zenwatch 2, and it's perfectly priced for a smartwatch, but the large bezel lets it down and it just looks a bit wrong - neither masculine nor feminine, neither stylish nor techy.
Price: £125 | ASUS
8. Moto 360
Just like the first generation, the new Moto 360 is easily the best looking Android Wear smartwatch we've seen so far, it manages to be both futuristic but also traditional.
Motorola's newest wearable retains the (almost) circular face and more customisation options than ever thanks to the Moto Maker.
Running the latest version of Android Wear, it takes many aspects of Google Now and puts them on your wrist, even working with iOS (partially).
The Moto 360 doesn't suffer from a lack of power like the original did, now with top of the range specs.
Battery life is around one and a half days, and the watch is available in two sizes (plus a 'Womens' edition, which is great not only if you're a woman but also if you're a man, but don't have the wrists of a lumberjack).
The only thing that hasn't been improved from the original the 'flat tyre', which remains at the bottom of the screen.
Verdict: The Moto 360 is a truly desirable smartwatch, and powerful with it. Arguably the 360 Sport is the more complete device, however.
Price: £155 | Moto 360
7. Pebble Time Steel
The Pebble Time is a big step up from the original Pebble smartwatch. Now with a colour e-ink display and a slimmer design.
The 'timeline' UI allows you to easily see both past and future events, and the large developer community have created an impressive number of applications and watch faces for it.
It's water resistant (we took it white water rafting), and the battery life lasts around five-days.
The regular Times comes in a plastic shell, while the Time Steel adds a premium metal finish.
Verdict: We really love the Pebble Time's geeky, retro vibe. It's got unmatched battery life (on this list), but it just doesn't feel as futuristic as other watches we've included.
Price: £179 | Pebble Time
6. Tag Heuer Connected
The Tag Heuer Connected is a handsome looking device, it mimics a traditional mechanical watch, has a fully circular display, and is made from grade II titanium.
We're big fans of mechanical watches here at T3, so to see an established Swiss watch brand wade into the wearables segment is very exciting and this one undeniably is a class above its Android Wear siblings, and aesthetically preferable to the most expensive Apple Watch variants, which are its only rivals in the 'smartwatch luxe' market.
There are two things that jar about the Connected, however.
First up, the screen is lower resolution than cheaper rivals. That's not to say it's a bad screen, but for the money, we'd expect it to be best in class.
Perhaps more importantly given its exclusivity and price, the Connected is functionally identical to any other Android Wear watch, aside from a few bespoke watch faces. So while the hardware feels like a luxury product, the software does not. What you'd ideally want is to somehow get Apple watchOS 2 on here, as that does feel glossier and slicker than Google's wearable OS. But clearly that's not gonna happen.
Watch collectors will be interested to note that you can trade it in for a mechanical Tag Heuer Carrera after two years, although you will have to pay a further £1,100.
Verdict: The brand name really carries this device. The screen is a bit of a letdown, and Android Wear doesn't feel very 'luxe', but if you're looking for the most premium smartwatch, look no further than Tag's Connected timepiece. If you really like watches and you really like tech, it's the only game in town outside of Apple Watch.
Price: £1,100 | Tag Heuer
5. Fossil Q Founder
The Q Founder, from traditional watch brand Fossil, is a surprisingly good smartwatch.
As with all of the devices from watchmakers on this list, it's very well made, it feels like a watch, or a piece of jewelry, rather than a piece of technology.
It's quite large, and chunky. By far the heaviest smartwatch I've tried. Which isn't necessarily a bad point. But it's clearly designed for more masculine tastes.
It runs Android Wear, so functionality is identical to most other entries on this list. Although Fossil has included some pleasant, inoffensive, traditional-looking watch faces.
There's no heart rate sensor, but that's not a problem as you're not exactly going to take this watch exercising.
Battery life is pretty standard, with a full days use no problem. The wireless charger, which is also part of the packaging is probably one of the worst throughout pieces of the design. It's difficult to get the watch sitting in the correct position, and it doesn't look particularly attractive.
Verdict: Fossil is putting a lot of money into connected watches, and its first range of 'Q' devices demonstrate it's paying off. The Q Founder is a real rival to more traditional tech brands like Motorola and ASUS. The design is great, and Android Wear is what it is.
Price: £200 | Fossil
4. Moto 360 Sport
The Moto 360 Sport is a really solid smartwatch, the design isn't offensive, the AnyLight screen works really well, and it's comfortable.
Of course, it's not perfect. The device has both GPS and a heart rate sensor, because Motorola designed this to be running watch - it's certainly not good enough as a running companion. Although, most people won't worry about that (it's still a good smartwatch).
It's like a Baby G or Casio, rather than an imitation luxury dress watch - which most other manufacturers have chosen to design.
It's also a lint magnet, which does ruin the aesthetic somewhat. The black bar at the bottom of the screen is carried over from the previous design, but it's somehow less noticeable on the Sport. Slightly.
It seems like the perfect vessel for Android Wear, which is improved here with some dedicated fitness tracking apps.
Verdict: The Moto 360 Sport isn't the running watch we were expecting, but it's still a very good smartwatch. Especially if you want to wear your smartwatch with more casual clothing, rather than a suit.
Price: £230 | Motorola
3. Huawei Watch
The Huawei Watch is one of the best smartwatches in the market, and one of the more expensive Android Wear releases, and the extra money does bring you more premium materials, build, and specs.
There's no question the impressive circular screen is one of the best on any smartwatch.
As with the TAG Heuer Connected, the OS is an issue. Android Wear has improved a lot recently, but it's identical on all devices, so that price isn't really buying you any more functionality.
Like the rest of the current crop of Android Wear watches, it's compatible with iPhone, but functionality is so limited, iPhone owners would be crazy to consider this a better option than buying either an Apple Watch, or an Android phone. But still…
Verdict: If you want the best Android Wear device available right now, the Huawei Watch is the one.
Price: from £299 | Huawei
2. Samsung Gear S2
Samsung officially went smartwatch crazy in 2014, releasing countless wearable items running all manner of operating systems, none of them particularly good.
But IFA 2015 saw the introduction of the Samsung Gear S2, with a circular screen, innovative rotating bezel, and an attractive design.
The OS is perfectly suited to a small smartwatch display, and impressively intuitive. The lack of compatible apps is a disadvantage however.
Battery life is good, at between two or three days usage, and the screen is among the best we've seen on a smartwatch.
It's a tough fight between the Gear S2 and the Apple Watch, both have their unique advantages and disadvantages, with the Gear S2 more than rivalling Apple's popular wearable.
Verdict: It's more a gadget than a piece of jewellery with personality and intangible desirability, but fact is that the Samsung Gear S2 is the best smartwatch you can buy for Android phones. Which is a bit of a diss on Android Wear, really.
Price: £249.99 | Samsung
1. Apple Watch
What has Apple added to revolutionise the smartwatch? Well, let's take a look. First off is the Digital Crown - a twisty button on the side that acts as the main mode of navigation. It's smooth, and it works well.
There are numerous customisation options too, with three models in two sizes and a load of straps to give you that personal watch feeling.
The Apple Watch will run apps, show notifications, track your fitness levels and it'll charge wirelessly with a MacBook style Magsafe charger. Protecting that Retina display is sapphire glass, so scratches should be few and far between. It also works remarkably well as a fitness/running watch, considering it looks and feels nothing like one.
Overall, it's the most thought-out, premium smartwatch you can get.
Here's the thing, however: like every other entry on this list, it's still by no means perfect as a piece of tech, and there's a hung jury on whether it works as a statement-making watch, in the traditional sense. Mainly, it's a very nice second screen for your mobile.
Verdict: Apple's first smartwatch impresses. The design is unique and considered, the screen amazing and the support from big-name apps impressive. But although it's the best out there, it still doesn't definitively answer the questions, 'what should a smartwatch be' or, more importantly, 'why do I need one?'
Price: from £299 | Apple