Best smartwatch 2021: top wearables reviewed and rated

All the advice you need to choose the best smartwatch for you

Best smartwatch 2021
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(Image credit: Future)

The best smartwatches are about three things: style, features and functionality. It's easy to be overwhelmed by smartwatches available today, whether it’s the latest and greatest watch from Apple to rivals attempting to steal their thunder like the gorgeous Samsung Galaxy Watch line. There are even premium-tier smartwatches, like the TAG Heuer Connected that just scream style (while burning a hole in your pocket).

Finding the best smartwatch is more than just getting the most popular or the priciest, however we have included always cutting edge Apple smartwatches and the elegant Tag Heuer that fit those descriptions perfectly. It’s also about finding the one that fits your needs.

For Android users, the Samsung Galaxy Watch range should be a very attractive alternative to the Apple line, and the Casio and Garmin smartwatches included here are perfect for outdoorsmen who need something a little different.

But there can only be one 'best smartwatch', and the best smartwatch in the world right now is the Apple Watch Series 6. Of all the wearables available, the Apple Watch has the most developed platform. It's also the most attractive, and, arguably, more technologically advanced than its competitors.

iPhone users might also want to check out the Apple Watch Series 3 for those who want an Apple Watch without breaking the bank, and the Apple Watch SE which splits the difference between the two other options. It’s no wonder that so many of their watches are on this list since they have the most developed platform and are always pushing the limits of what a smartwatch can do.

If you're after a rundown of the best smartwatches for iPhone users, then we'd suggest you read T3's guide to the best Apple Watch, because while Samsung and Wear OS smartwatches do work with iPhones, the Apple Watch is much better integrated with iOS.

However, you can’t go wrong with any of the alternatives on this list, especially if you need something that works with an Android phone or the best cheap smartwatches. If battery life is your highest priority when you should read T3's guide to the best hybrid smartwatches, which blend on-wrist notifications and fitness tracking of a smartwatch with the traditional design of a mechanical watch. These have battery life measured in days and weeks rather than hours.

The best smartwatches you can buy in 2021

Best smartwatch 2021T3 Award

(Image credit: Apple)

1. Apple Watch Series 6

Simply the best smartwatch money can buy

Specifications
Works with: iPhone only
Size: 40mm / 44mm
Battery life: 18 hours
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: watchOS
Reasons to buy
+Amazing design+Potentially life-saving+Always-on display+Comfortable size+Number of fitness features+Faster performance
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life is just okay-No Android support

There's no doubt Apple is king when it comes to smartwatches, but how has it achieved such meteoric success? Let's take a look…

First off, it's the only smartwatch that generates a ton of interest, and not just from tech addicts, but from the general public. That interest hasn't exactly helped Apple's competitors, but it has helped Apple's smartwatch survive six generations. 

Next is the big focus on health and fitness. The Apple Watch can monitor your heart rhythm and suggest you see a doctor if it detects something irregular, it can call the emergency services you've fallen over, and it will keep you healthy by tracking your run. These potentially life-saving features are a major reason people are ditching their traditional watches for an Apple Watch.

Finally, the design is almost perfect. The two size options are fit a majority of wrists, and they're also incredibly comfortable. It's the only device that has straddled the line between tech and fashion. It's simply the best-looking smartwatch available.

Every generation has seen minor improvements that have gone a long way to perfect the Watch. The Series 2 added waterproofing and adding GPS, and the Series 3 improved on that by adding Cellular, so it can use data without your iPhone present, but again, remaining loyal to the original design.

The Series 4 improved the design, with a stunning new screen that stretches to the edges of the device. The Series 5 has kept the excellent design of the Series 4, and added more customization options (including a desirable titanium option) and an always-on display.

The Apple Watch Series 6 (the smartwatch we're recommending here) adds a pulse oxygen sensor to its range of health systems, makes its always-on display 2.5 times brighter when its in its dimmed mode, tweaks some other aspects (such as adding an always-running altimeter), steps up to the new S6 processor, and throws in all the new features of watchOS 7.

Put simply, the Apple Watch Series 6 impresses us greatly. The design is well-considered and sleeker, the screen, in terms of PPI and color depth, is perfect, and the number of third-party apps and accessories is unrivaled. 

That last point is important because, if you're buying a personal device such as a watch, you actually want it to be unique.

It does have a few negative points, the UI is fiddly (although greatly improved with watchOS 6 and 7), especially compared to more simple rivals such as Android Wear. Of course, it's iOS only, so if you have an Android phone, you're going to want to continue reading this guide.

Read our full Apple Watch Series 6 review

Best smartwatch 2021: Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2T3 Award

(Image credit: Samsung)

2. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

The best smartwatch for Android users

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 40mm / 44mm
Battery life: 48 hours approx.
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Tizen
Reasons to buy
+Light and comfortable+Great design+Intuitive UI+Health features to match Apple (almost)
Reasons to avoid
-Limited app support

Okay, so the Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch for iPhone, but if you have an Android phone then the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 is a very worthy competitor too. This is the best smartwatch if you're an Android user, with a sleek design and powerful hardware.

Let's start with the circular screen, which is certainly on par with the Apple Watch. So too is the gorgeous, streamlined design. It comes packing some neat abilities as well, such as blood pressure monitoring, the ability to take ECG readings and water resistance. 

A collection of new, information-filled watch faces give it a modern edge, and while it lacks quality third party apps we think you'll find the built-in apps sufficient. Overall, it's a very compelling package, and one we would definitely recommend.

Best smartwatch 2021: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3T3 Award

(Image credit: Samsung)

3. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

The easiest smartwatch to use

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Screen size: 41mm / 45mm
Battery life: 48 hours approx.
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Tizen
Reasons to buy
+Bezel and UI+Excellent battery life+Stress-tracking and fitness features+Two sizes
Reasons to avoid
-Not many apps-Lacks premium feeling

If you're not interested in the sleek, compact design of the Galaxy Watch Active 2, then the more traditional looking Galaxy Watch 3 is probably more up your alley. It’s available in two sizes, so that will definitely help it appeal to more people. It also helps that it has a very good battery life (we're talking multiple days here).

It's more attractive than previous incarnations and comes packed with some nice, new fitness-tracking abilities. It's the innovative rotating bezel that is the star here, though, as it is, without a doubt, the best way to control a smartwatch.

The Galaxy Watch 3 works with most Android smartphones, and even iPhones, but it's not perfect, however, as the Galaxy Watch 3 isn't as comfortable to wear as the Apple Watch, and its app and accessory ecosystem pales in comparison.

The pros far outweigh the cons though, and you won't be let down by the Samsung Galaxy Watch. If you want to know more, read our full Galaxy Watch 3 review

Best smartwatch 2021: Apple Watch SET3 Award

(Image credit: Apple)

4. Apple Watch SE

The 'affordable' Apple Watch is still a knock-out smartwatch

Specifications
Works with: iPhone only
Screen size: 40mm / 44mm
Battery life: 18 hours
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: watchOS
Reasons to buy
+Faste+Comfortable+Clear and large screen+Excellent health and fitness tracking
Reasons to avoid
-No always-on display-It's 'the affordable' Apple Watch

If you've got an iPhone and don't want to spend lots of money on the Apple Watch Series 6, then the Apple Watch SE is a great alternative. Despite being 'the affordable' smartwatch from Apple, the SE is a truly excellent smartwatch. 

You won't notice where Apple has made cutbacks in general use, making it feel like a full Apple Watch experience, with all the advantages that brings in, like convenience, fitness tracking, and health and safety features.

For those who can spend the extra over the cost of the Apple Watch Series 3, you'll be very glad you did – it's better in every way. From screen to design to sensors to being more future-proofed thanks to its faster processor. It's also important to note that these translate into better health features, including more accurate heart sensing (important for detecting irregularities) and fall detection.

Read our full Apple Watch SE review

best smartwatch 2021: Garmin VenuT3 Award

(Image credit: Garmin)

5. Garmin Venu

The best smartwatch for runners and fitness tracking

Specifications
Works with: iOS and Android
Size: 1.2-inches
Battery life: 5 days
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Garmin OS
Reasons to buy
+Vibrant AMOLED display+Comfortable+Full suite of fitness features+Offline music support
Reasons to avoid
-Somewhat boring design-Touchscreen can be fiddly

As a stylish lifestyle smartwatch, the Garmin Venu can't really compete with the market's more established wearables smartwatches, like the Apple Watch Series 6, but it excels where these devices don’t – through some impressively detailed fitness and health tracking features, performance and battery life. This, coupled with a brilliant and vibrant display that no other Garmin watches have, makes it one of the best smartwatches you can get your hands on right now, especially if you're tracking multiple sports.

Best smartwatch 2021: TAG Heuer Connected (2020)T3 Award

(Image credit: TAG Heuer)

6. Tag Heuer Connected (2020)

The best luxury smartwatch

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 41mm
Battery life: 20 hours
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Wear OS by Google
Reasons to buy
+Premium brand+Looks great+TAG Heuer apps
Reasons to avoid
-Battery life-One size option

TAG's latest attempt at a smartwatch, the TAG Heuer Connected, is a gorgeous looking wearable, mimicking a traditional mechanical watch, with its fully circular display and sporty-looking case. The new model improves on previous generations with enhanced sports tracking, thanks to its GPS and a built-in heart-rate sensor.

The Connected is undeniably a class above its Android Wear siblings, and aesthetically preferable to the most expensive Apple Watch variants, which are the only rivals in the 'luxe smartwatch' market. It feels more 'watch-like' than any other smartwatch we've tested, too.

If you're looking for the most premium smartwatch look no further than the Tag Connected. If you really like watches and you really like tech, it's the only game in town outside of the Apple Watch.

Read our full TAG Heuer Connected review

Best smartwatch 2021: Fitbit SenseT3 Award

(Image credit: Fitbit)

7. Fitbit Sense

Fitbit's best smartwatch has taken some inspiration from Apple

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 40.5mm
Battery life: 6 days
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Fitbit OS
Reasons to buy
+Mood and stress logging+GPS for workouts+Extremely comfortable
Reasons to avoid
-Some features require Fitbit Premium-Step counts not 100% inaccurate

Despite coming from two very different companies, the Fitbit Sense is actually very similar to the Apple Watch Series 6. They both offer a near-comprehensive suite of health and fitness tracking features, covering everything from heart rate to sleep. They also both stream music and handle calls and notifications from your smartphone, and they have interchangeable straps to change up their look.

Of course, the Fitbit Sense works on Android as well as iOS, whereas the Apple Watch is iPhone-only, and the Fitbit destroys the Apple Watch when it comes to battery life, with an impressive six days.

Best smartwatch Fitbit Versa 3T3 Award

(Image credit: Fitbit)

8. Fitbit Versa 3

Affordable fitness tracking with GPS

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 40.4mm (1.59in)
Battery life: 6 days
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Fitbit OS
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly capable fitness tracker+Onboard GPS+Long battery life+Great big display
Reasons to avoid
-Haptic side button needs improvement-GPS could be faster-Some features require a subscription

The Fitbit Versa 3 shares many of the features seen in the flagship Fitbit Sense (above) but comes in at a more affordable price. This is a great device for fitness tracking, thanks to the addition of GPS, waterproofing and fitness goals. It also offers sleep tracking and blood oxygen monitoring.

If you opt for the monthly subscription, you can also access a series of guided programs, special challenges and advanced metrics. This is a real challenger for the iPhone SE, especially with its six-day battery life. However, serious fitness fans may want to pay a little more for the Sense. 

Discover more in our full Fitbit Versa 3 review.   

Best smartwatch 2021: Fossil SportT3 Award

8. Fossil Sport

A sporty smartwatch for Android users

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 41mm / 43mm
Battery life: 24 hours
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Wear OS by Google
Reasons to buy
+Light and compact+Attractive design+Large app store
Reasons to avoid
-Feels plasticky

Fossil is now on its fourth generation of smartwatches, with the company learning from and improving on each new iteration. As a result, the Fossil Sport is probably the best Wear OS smartwatch available to buy today.

It's a premium smartwatch that features GPS, a lightweight design, and the Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip inside, which offers a greatly improved experience over older smartwatches.

Since it runs Google's Wear OS, there are a plethora of apps and watch faces to choose from, so it's better than the Samsung smartwatches in that respect.

You can expect around two days of battery life, and, while the Sport doesn't feature any unique features, it is still a very capable, wearable, smartwatch.

Best smartwatch 2021: Garmin MarqT3 Award

(Image credit: Garmin)

9. Garmin Marq

A great premium Wear OS smartwatch

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 46mm
Battery life: 12 days
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Garmin OS
Reasons to buy
+Some of the best fitness-tracking tech out there+Luxurious+Extremely well made+No expense spared
Reasons to avoid
-Disappointing screen for a dress watch-Software doesn’t quite match the design

While the MARQ boasts all the features that make Garmin watches the most comprehensive fitness tracking devices out there, its large price tag will be too much to swallow for most. 

There’s no denying that this is a luxurious watch packing some damn right gorgeous, high-quality materials, but we just don't think that’s enough to justify its price given what else is available. Especially since a Fenix 6 offers pretty much the same software for a third of the cost. 

Don’t get us wrong, there’s definitely nothing majorly wrong with the MARQ Athlete, it’s just not a product many people are going to be genuinely interested in buying.

Still, most opinions about this watch will be split into two camps: you’ll either think it’s a ridiculous waste of money, or you think it’s a beautiful object that you just have to own. And to be honest, either is fair. If you’ve got the dosh and want to treat yourself, go ahead: you’re likely to be disappointed (well, maybe except for the display).

Best smartwatch 2021: Skagen Falster 3 SmartwatchT3 Award

(Image credit: Skagen)

10. Skagen Falster 3 Smartwatch

One of the most stylish Android Wear smartwatches

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 42mm
Battery life: 24 hours
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Wear OS by Google
Reasons to buy
+Smaller design+Design options+Elegant
Reasons to avoid
-Not ideal for activity tracking

If you're looking for something a little smaller, then try the Skagen Falster 3 smartwatch. It's probably one of the best all-around WearOS smartwatches you can buy.  Not many Android smartwatches can be described as elegant, but Skagen is a Danish brand known for creating simple, timeless timepieces.

The Falster 3, just like a few other smartwatches on this list, is powered by Google's WearOS, which includes Google Assistant, smartphone notifications, activity tracking, world time, weather and more. 

A battery-efficient dial design provides up to 24 hours of use on a single charge, and interchangeable straps allow you to customize your look. 

We love the simple watch face designs which come preinstalled, and each watch comes with an inductive magnetic charger.

Best smartwatch 2021: Moto 360 (3rd Generation)T3 Award

(Image credit: Motorola)

11. Moto 360 (3rd Generation)

A great premium Wear OS smartwatch

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 43mm
Battery life: 24 hours
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Wear OS by Google
Reasons to buy
+Attractive design+Good fitness tracking functionality+Battery life
Reasons to avoid
-No in-built speaker-Some health metric discrepancies-Priced on the higher side

The Moto 360 was, at one time, one of the hottest smartwatches around, long before Apple announced the Apple Watch. Those taken in by the nostalgia of the name and shape will feel right at home – the iconic design has been updated with more accurate sensors, and improved software, courtesy of Google.

The design, while bold, isn’t big and bulky, with the slick, stainless steel and choice of colors letting the user look and feel like they’re wearing a mechanical timepiece. 

Read our full Moto 360 (2020) review

Best smartwatch 2021: Garmin 6X ProT3 Award

(Image credit: Garmin)

12. Garmin Fenix 6X Pro Solar

Perfect for backpackers

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 51mm
Battery life: 21 days
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Garmin Watch OS
Reasons to buy
+Lots of sensors+Can do just about anything+Amazing battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Complex to use

The Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar is not cheap. Not by a long shot. But it more than justifies its price by offering a whole lot of functionality. Packed in the smartwatch are a ton of features like a Vo2 max and Pulse Ox sensors, and altimeter and barometer for elevation and weather respectively, to list just a few. 

It’s not the easiest smartwatch to use - it’s not a touchscreen for instance. And it’s more than double the price of a flagship Apple watch. But with all its features, as well as amazing battery life - It sports a tiny solar array to give you up to 24 days of battery life - this is a great option for anyone who needs a smartwatch for a long trek into the mountains.

Read our full Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar review

Best smartwatch 2021: Huawei Watch GT 2T3 Award

(Image credit: Huawei)

13. Huawei Watch GT 2

Great battery life but a basic operating system

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 46mm
Battery life: 14 days
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Lite OS
Reasons to buy
+Battery life+Screen
Reasons to avoid
-Few apps-Very basic

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is different from every other smartwatch on this list – it's a mix between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker. 

It looks like a smartwatch, and it has a great, high-resolution screen. It can even run basic system apps (like a calendar) and notify you about calls and messages. It can't run third-party apps, however, and you can't personalize the watch faces (although there is a selection to choose from).

Its main focus is on fitness tracking, with the Watch GT 2 keeping tabs on your lifestyle and exercises. It has a heart-rate sensor and GPS. Of course, without the integration of Strava or other fitness apps, this is more likely to appeal to fitness novices rather than road warriors.

What's most impressive is that the battery life lasts around two weeks, meaning, theoretically, you'll only have to charge it 27 times a year.

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is a weird sell, but if basic fitness tracking, notifications, and a long battery life are key, then this could be the smartwatch for you.

Read the full Huawei Watch GT 2e review

Best smartwatch 2021: Samsung Galaxy Watch ActiveT3 Award

14. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active

A great smartwatch for Android users at a great price

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Size: 40mm
Battery life: 45 hours
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Tizen
Reasons to buy
+Light and comfortable+Great design+Intuitive UI
Reasons to avoid
-Limited app support

This is the first generation of the Samsung Galaxy Watch and, while it's not the latest and greatest from Samsung, it's still an excellent smartwatch for the money. You get a similar, slim design, and excellent software, but you don't have the ability to take ECG readings (not exactly a deal-breaker). Most importantly of all, it's much more affordable than the Galaxy Watch Active2, so this is an excellent bargain.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Watch Active review

Best smartwatch 2021: Apple Watch Series 3T3 Award

15. Apple Watch Series 3

Not as expensive as the Apple Watch Series 4

Specifications
Works with: iPhone only
Size: 38mm / 42mm
Battery life: 18 hours
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: WatchOS
Reasons to buy
+Fashionable waterproof design+Leading ecosystem
Reasons to avoid
-Last generation-iOS only

Money can't quite stretch to the Apple Watch Series 4? The Apple Watch Series 3 is still a good option, and now it's more affordable than ever.

The Apple Watch Series 3 introduced a cellular connection, meaning you can continue to receive phone calls and notifications away from your iPhone.

It also runs the latest software with all the latest features, it just misses the more futuristic design of the newer Series 4.

Read our full Apple Watch Series 3 review

Best smartwatch 2021: Huawei Watch 2T3 Award

(Image credit: Huawei)

16. Huawei Watch 2

A comfortable, everyday Android Wear smartwatch

Specifications
Works with: iPhone and Android
Screen size: 45mm
Battery life: 2 days
Heart rate sensor: Yes
Operating System: Wear OS by Google
Reasons to buy
+Very comfortable+Great specs
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Plasticy

Watch 2 has a bright screen and everything runs smoothly and speedily. It's incredibly comfortable and the look is, if not great, then at least acceptable. It's unfortunate that Huawei hasn't included any rotary controls on this, especially as the bezel is a big old thing and as such probably quite easy to grip 'n' twist.

Despite that, it's a very competent Android Wear 2 watch. What's more interesting, however, is the concentration on fitness. While it features all of the necessary sensors to track running, cycling and swimming, our initial testing has revealed the Huawei Watch isn't the stellar performer we hoped it would be. This is a shame because emphasizing the fitness element was exactly the right thing for Huawei to do, and hopefully, the company can improve its fitness tracking software updates.

One final note we'll say about the Watch 2, something we're having trouble putting our fingers on. While the screen is small, the UI cramped, and the fitness tracking poor – we really enjoy wearing the Huawei Watch 2. It's incredibly comfortable, and just has a certain 'wearability' factor that makes us keep coming back to it.

Read our full Huawei Watch 2 review

Best smartwatch buying advice

If you're struggling to choose a smartwatch, here are a few things to consider:

  • Compatibility: Apple Watches only work with iPhones. Smartwatches running Wear OS, Garmin and Fitbit are compatible with both Android and iPhone.
  • Price: Smartwatch prices can range from very affordable to pretty expensive. Paying more will get you enhanced health and fitness tracking and build quality. Anything more expensive than an Apple Watch and you're paying for prestige branding and exclusivity. 
  • Battery life: Most smartwatches last around two days, if that's not enough for you, then opt for Huawei, Fitbit or Garmin, which offer slightly impaired functionality for vastly improved battery life.
  • Fitness tracking: All smartwatches will do basic tracking, but if you're training for a marathon or triathlon then you'll want a more serious running watch from Garmin or Polar.
  • Communication: All smartwatches have Bluetooth – that's how they connect to your smartphone. Some have a 4G/Cellular connection as well, which means you can stream music, receive messages and calls, even if you've left your phone at home. It costs extra, and probably isn't worth it for most.
  • Size: Size is important. If you've got slender wrists you're going to want a smaller smartwatch, this is not due to looks, but due to comfort.

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