Smartwatches can help you track your fitness goals, encourage you to incorporate more movement into your daily routine, keep you connected with communication capabilities right on your wrist, and allow you to celebrate milestones along the way. But not all of them are created equal, and if you’re shelling out the big bucks for this specialized device, it’s wise to weigh your options carefully. We tapped fitness experts to learn what to look for in a smartwatch and the best brands to consider.
How to choose a smartwatch
A smartwatch is a device that tracks your movements and workouts and also connects to your smartphone, allowing you to text, call, and use third-party apps from your wrist. Smartwatches are similar to fitness trackers, but they offer more features given their ability to sync with your phone. If you’re interested in trying one out, keep the following factors in mind when determining which device is right for you.
Compatibility: You’ll want to make sure your watch is compatible with whatever smartphone you have so that you can effectively sync the two devices.
Intended use: Your health and wellness goals will influence which wearable is best for you. For example, if your main focus is training for a half marathon, you’ll probably want a watch with GPS capabilities, a good battery life, and heart rate tracking, Kaila DeRienzo, CPT, a certified run coach in South Carolina, tells SELF. If you’re an avid swimmer or diver, you’d likely gravitate toward a waterproof watch that tracks metrics like water temperature and depth. If you’re simply looking to incorporate more movement into your day-to-day life, a watch that keeps tab on the basics like step count and exercise minutes may be all you need. And if you want something that tracks your workouts and provides text and calling options even when your phone isn’t nearby, then consider a watch with cellular capabilities.
Ultimately, it comes down to “what kind of athlete you are, what kind of training you like to do, and what you do on a daily basis,” Teddy Savage, CPT, a national lead trainer for Planet Fitness in Baltimore, tells SELF.
Style: Though aesthetics aren’t everything, they do play a role when selecting a smartwatch. For instance, if you have smaller wrists, you may feel more inclined to wear one that doesn’t feel too bulky, says Savage. Beyond that, it really comes down to personal style preferences, and factors like customizable watch bands and color can help you find one that fits with yours.
Accuracy: Since watch data can help guide training decisions, you want a device that provides accurate measurements. For instance, you may opt to slow your pace on a run based on heart rate metrics, or squeeze in another walk after work depending on your current step count tally.
Battery life: Long-lasting battery life reduces the chance of your watch dying mid-workout, and helps consistently track your progress. Keep in mind: Smartwatches tend to have shorter battery lives compared to regular fitness trackers, so be prepared to charge them more regularly.
The Best Smartwatches
Based on expert recommendations, SELF Certified reviews, and happy shoppers, here are the best smartwatches to support all your exercise goals with specs on water resistance, GPS tracking, and battery life.