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Best Smartwatches to Buy
To choose a good smartwatch to buy we will first have to find out which operating systems are used on these portable devices, then take a look at the technical characteristics that we can find on the new-generation devices. Only after having seen this can we throw ourselves headlong into the guide to smartwatches, so as to choose the right model for us.
Smartwatch operating system
One of the most important features, to the point of devoting a separate chapter to it, is the operating system used on smartwatches, which can make the difference between a good product and an incomplete or poor product. Currently, there are two complete operating systems on the market that can be well integrated with smartphones:
- WatchOS: the most complete operating system for development and compatibility is undoubtedly WatchOS, which moves the Apple Watch (not surprisingly the best-selling smartwatches). As often happens with Apple, this system is 100% compatible only if there is an iPhone connected and it is not possible to use it with an Android smartphone (except for very few functions). If we decide to focus on an Apple Watch, make sure you have a modern iPhone (at least iPhone 8 or later) available to be able to initialize it and be able to use it every day, otherwise, we will have made an unnecessary expense.
- Wear OS (formerly Android Wear): the best alternative to WatchOS is without a doubt Wear OS, developed by Google and therefore in perfect harmony with Android systems. This system is fast and beautiful to look at, as well as offering seamless integration between wearables (e.g. fitness apps) and any modern smartphone, including iPhones (in this case with limited functionality). Android Wear is a free, customizable system (both in the screens and in the clock theme), it allows you to use many functions of the Android smartphone even when we keep the latter in our pocket and we can give voice commands to the integrated Google Assistant.
Unfortunately, not all smartwatches have such complete operating systems as those seen above: on cheap and Chinese smartwatches we often find a closed and proprietary operating system, in many cases a very simplified version with few features available. Watches with these nameless systems are always super cheap and offer very little from a smart point of view, maybe they are just good for receiving notifications from SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook. But not all alternative operating systems are the same – some Samsung smartwatches are equipped with the system Tizen OS, compatible with Samsung Galaxy phones, any other Android mobile phone, and iPhone even if with several limitations and do not have the same flexibility as Google’s Wear OS.
Smartwatches almost all work the same, as wearable interfaces of the mobile phone, always connected via Bluetooth (although in some cases Wi-Fi can be used for connection). The Bluetooth connection must therefore always remain active between the phone and the watch, at least when going around, especially on a motorbike or car: those used to wearing a watch will find it convenient to be able to view notifications on the smartwatch screen without having to pull out phone from your pocket or purse; in addition, there is also a certain convenience to launch voice commands on the phone by speaking on the microphone of the smartwatch.
Below we have collected the other technical features that a good smartwatch must-have. so that we can carefully evaluate the purchase (especially if we want to make it in the store):
- GPS and heart rate monitor: thanks to the presence of these sensors we can use the smartwatch also as a fitness tracker, that is also as a meter of competitive activities, therefore pedometer, calorie counter, heartbeat, and tracker of the paths taken. In fact, we must remember that if the intention is only to buy a fitness watch, perhaps those that measure the heartbeat as well as the steps and sleep, it is not necessary to buy a smartwatch, but we can focus on another type of wearable like smart bands, as described in our dedicated guide Get back in shape with the App and fitness bracelets to monitor physical activities.
- Screen: it is important to know that screen type may have a smartwatch. In fact, we can find smartwatches with a round or square screen, with round ones that always cost a little more because they are more elegant to wear and less sporty. On smartwatches, we can find a square screen, which is more comfortable to use with the touchscreen. While the screen can present itself with different strengths and weaknesses, it is preferable to focus on smartwatches that have a type display AMOLED, where the black is not illuminated and, therefore, have greater autonomy. The only problem with the AMOLED screen is that you see less well under the sun than an LCD screen, but a lot depends on the type of screen produced (SuperAMOLEDs can be seen discreetly in almost any light condition). The Apple Watches feature a Retina-type screen, which is seen very well in any light condition and is also well illuminated, so as to offer very high contrast.
- Battery and autonomy: About the battery of a smartwatch, if we are talking about traditional smartwatch Android Wear or Apple Watch, the battery will hardly last more than two days, therefore it is better to put it on charge often, in particular at the end of the day (so as to always have it charged for the next day). In some smartwatches, the time is always visible on the screen, albeit with a low consumption mode that has little impact on the autonomy of the watch battery. Crucial is the presence of the brightness sensor so that the brightness of the screen is automatically adjusted according to the ambient light. Monochromatic screens or cheaper smartwatch screens can guarantee greater autonomy (such as the 20 days of the Xiaomi Mi Band), but obviously, the information provided is much more limited than the large screen of the flagship products.
- Cellular data network connection: some are equipped with a SIM card and LTE antenna to connect to the data network of any operator. This type of watches with a SIM card also allows you to make phone calls and send SMS without the need for a smartphone, they are less common and, often, they are cheap and poor models that are not Android or even Apple Watch
Among other technical features, let’s not forget to check the water and dust resistance: a modern smartwatch must have IP68 certification so that you can use your smartphone outdoors even if a sudden storm or shower catches us (they resist several meters underwater for a variable time). Processor, RAM, and internal memory space are also characteristics to consider since smartwatches are computers in which applications that generate files to keep can be installed. Modern smartwatches have 64bit multi-core processors, able to run all apps and interactions with your phone at maximum fluency.
After a nice roundup of technical features, let’s see together the best smartwatches that we can buy based on the operating system present in them.
If we want to focus immediately on the best products on the market we must buy an Apple Watch SE, available on Amazon for less than 350 €.
On this smartwatch we find a Retina OLED display, advanced fitness monitoring system, recognition of the type of activity carried out, notifications in case of heart rate too high or too low or irregular rhythm, GPS tracking system, and system to answering calls and notifications directly from the watch.
If we are looking for the top of the range of smartwatches, we advise you to focus directly on Apple Watch Series 6, available on Amazon for less than 500 €.
On this wearable device, we find the same advantages seen on the Watch SE to which an ultra-fast S6 SiP chip is added, 5GHz Wi-Fi connection, U1 Ultra Wideband chip, blood oxygen measurement (pulse oximeter), heart rhythm control, and an enhanced Retina display to increase battery life and to offer perfect viewing even in broad daylight.
If, on the other hand, we have an Android smartphone or want to focus on a Google product, we recommend that you take a look at the Fossil Smartwatch GEN 5, available on Amazon for less than € 200.
On this smartwatch, we find an activity and heart rate monitoring system, integrated GPS for distance detection, a speaker to listen to acoustic alerts, Google Assistant responses and to receive voice notes and calls, a quick payment system with Google Pay, steel case resistant to water and marine depths and Wear OS operating system.
Another Wear OS smartwatch that we can consider is Ticwatch E2, available on Amazon for less than € 200.
On this wearable device, we find a waterproof case up to 5 ATM, a mode to monitor swimming exercises, an integrated GPS, a heart rate monitor, Google Assistant voice commands, a sport mode with continuous and automatic monitoring, and a Wear OS operating system.
Are we looking for a smartwatch compatible with both Android and iPhone? In this case, we can consider the Amazfit GTS, available on Amazon for less than 150 €.
Behind a simple design we find a smartwatch with a proprietary operating system but usable on any smartphone and able to offer 12 training modes, pedometer, waterproof up to 5 ATM, sleep monitor, control system for physical activity, GPS connection, and up to 14 days of autonomy.
If we are looking for something produced by Samsung we can take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Watch3, available on Amazon for less than 400 €.
On this smartwatch, we find a 45mm stainless steel case, a leather strap, blood oxygen monitoring system (oximeter), fall detection system, advanced monitoring for sports and fitness, 340 mAh battery, IP68 waterproof certification, and system operating Tizen OS (compatible with Android and iPhone).
Smartwatches can be a good gift idea for holidays or birthdays, as they now come with a shape that resembles old watches but with many additional functions, so you can check notifications, get weather information and monitor physical activity in a precise and detailed manner.
If we are looking for something to monitor physical activity but at a lower cost, we can always rely on smart bands, such as those seen in our guide Best SmartBands, economical and functional like a smartwatch.
If we have Wear OS but we don’t know which app to install, we can find the answers we are looking for by reading the article Best Apps for Android Wear OS Smartwatches.