Smartwatches are now some of the hottest digital items on the market. With many more affordable than they were just a few years ago, this is especially true in 2022. Lots of people own smartwatches these days. Their features are convenient and practical — such as pay-as-you-go, streaming music straight to wireless earbuds, or even using the watch as a phone.
But smartwatches began as fitness accessories. Indeed, the original smartwatches were thin fitness trackers that could measure your heartbeat, tell you the time, and maybe perform a few extra services as bonuses. These days, smartwatches are now much more advanced – some of them are practically smartphones in and of themselves!
Yet it is sometimes helpful to go back to the root of a device and find the best of the best for that category. The best fitness smartwatches, for instance, ought to be far and away better than the original thin smartwatches we were stuck with a few years ago. But I was curious to see what the best fitness smartwatches really were for myself since I prefer smartwatches for their more versatile uses.
The results? Well, you’ll have to read on to find out! But suffice it to say that most of the best fitness smartwatches are also great all-around smartwatches, offering fantastic connectivity, better than average GPS tracking, and some of the most high-tech and unique features that this device category has offered to date. Some of them are getting good enough that they can even check your heart for irregular rhythms or signs of issues — cool, huh?
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s dive in and check out the best fitness smartwatches of 2022.
- Top 10 Fitness Smartwatches – At a Glance
- Best Fitness Smartwatches of 2022
- 1. Apple Watch 6 – Best Overall Fitness Smartwatch
- 2. Garmin Vivoactive 4 – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Details
- 3. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Sports
- 4. Fitbit Versa 2 – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Sleep Tracking
- 5. Fitbit Charge 4 – Best Fitness Tracker for Women
- 6. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Daily Life Fitness Tracking
- 7. Apple Watch Series 5 – Best Apple Watch 6 Alternative
- 8. Apple Watch SE – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Fitness Tracking on a Budget
- 9. Sunnto 7 – Best Fitness Tracker for Daily Exercise
- 10. Garmin Forerunner 245 – Best Heart Rate Monitor Watch
- Buyer’s Guide
- Final Verdict
- Top Rated Fitness Smartwatches
Top 10 Fitness Smartwatches – At a Glance
- Best Overall Fitness Smartwatch – Apple Watch 6
- Best Fitness Smartwatch for Details – Garmin Vivoactive 4
- Best Fitness Smartwatch for Sports – Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
- Best Fitness Smartwatch for Sleep Tracking – Fitbit Versa 2
- Best Fitness Smartwatch for Women – Fitbit Charge 4
- Best Fitness Smartwatch for Daily Life Fitness Tracking – Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
- Best Apple Watch 6 Alternative – Apple Watch Series 5
- Best Fitness Smartwatch for Fitness Tracking on a Budget – Apple Watch SE
- Best Fitness Tracker for Daily Exercise – Sunnto 7
- Best Heart Rate Monitor Watch – Garmin Forerunner 245
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Best Fitness Smartwatches of 2022
1. Apple Watch 6 – Best Overall Fitness Smartwatch
I’ve reviewed the Apple Watch and its many iterations multiple times already, and for good reason; this is easily one of the best smartwatches in the world right now, especially for fitness fanatics. That’s why it’s the number one best fitness smartwatch on the market right now by my estimation.
Let’s break it down. It includes an excellent GPS system to help track your location around the world, plus help measure your steps and distance traveled every day. This excellent connectivity is used once again with its ability to pair with iPhones (unfortunately, Android phones are not compatible — after all, it is an Apple Watch!).
You’ll be able to take calls and reply to texts all from the same wrist-bound device. Phone call quality is crisp and clear at all times. But you’ll also really like the extra fitness-focused features included here, like the ability to measure your blood oxygen with a special sensor and app you can barely find anywhere else.
Since this step tracker can measure your blood oxygen, it can also help you determine how far you should run at a high elevation and give you extra data when analyzing your overall health. You can measure your heart rhythm using the ECG app that comes with your purchase. I also found that viewing all this data is pretty easy since the always-on retina display is about 2.5 times brighter when you step outside — no need to worry about the sun glare preventing you from enjoying your digital smartwatch.
Everything can be controlled and reviewed using the proprietary app on your iPhone device. You’ll be able to track dozens of different exercise activities, including many popular activities like dancing, cycling, yoga, and more. It’s swim-proof, of course, so feel free to take this with you to the pool or the ocean! You’ll be able to listen to your favorite music while you work out thanks to its excellent connectivity.
But I also really like that the watch comes in a few different colors, two different sizes, and with a durable rubberized band that keeps the watch safe and secure on your wrist without sliding around. As you can see, this Apple fitness watch literally has it all — there isn’t any major feature that it’s missing or that I’d rather it have.
The downside? It’s definitely a fitness smartwatch first and foremost, and it’s not as stylish when combined with business ensembles or casual outfits. This being said, if you’re an iPhone user in the market for a watch that can help you meet your fitness goals above all else and price isn’t an object, this ought to be your first choice in my opinion.
For more Apple watches check out my top 10 picks for best smartwatch for iPhone.
- Has all the fitness features you would expect from a top-of-the-line smartwatch
- Can track your sleep, heart rhythm, and even your blood oxygen using a special sensor and app. The sensor is located at the bottom of the watch face
- Comes in a few different sizes and colors
- The wristband is rubberized and comfortable, even if it isn’t the best for pairing with more formal clothing
- Has excellent GPS and phone call connectivity and will allow you to respond to texts instantly
- Not the best for non-fitness outfits or aesthetics
- The price is definitely a little high for some
2. Garmin Vivoactive 4 – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Details
Some fitness smartwatches, like the Apple Watch 6, provide a bunch of general data to help you plan your fitness routine or meet your fitness goals. But others let you dive deep into your data in crazy ways, making these watches perfect pairings for folks who like to analyze their performance using spreadsheets and other mathematical methods.
Enter the Garmin Vivoactive 4: a high-quality fitness smartwatch in its own right that also blows the competition out of the water in terms of data detail. Let’s start with the other features — this watch allows you to customize the face with thousands of free widgets, apps, and even whole watch face themes all from the Connect IQ store.
The watch also comes with a proprietary Garmin Pay app to let you pay for things on the go without keeping your wallet on hand: a perfect feature for folks who go on a run without pockets.
But this Garmin fitness tracker also comes preloaded with tons of indoor sports apps to let you track your fitness metrics and performance across plenty of activities, including yoga, swimming, and running. GPS tracking is enabled as well, of course, and you can even monitor your current fitness level using additional apps. This activity tracker is even great for helping you determine how well your body handles stress over time!
Once your data is collected, the watch allows you to dive deep into the stats it’s gathered, presenting them on the colorful watch face or allowing you to transfer them to the mobile app. You can then input that data into other apps or computer programs for greater analysis if you like.
Since the app has a decent battery life of up to seven days in smartwatch mode or 13 hours in a more simplified, battery conserving GPS mode, you’ll be able to gather a lot of data with each charge.
It’s a great smartwatch for its other features, as well. You can track your location in real-time, enable automatic uploads with Garmin Connect, and even get smart notifications as soon as you pair this smartwatch with a regular smartphone.
While the watch technically comes in multiple colors, it’s really only black, white or rose gold for the watch face border. Still, the watch’s aesthetic is general enough that I could easily see this fitting with a variety of aesthetics or outfits. All in all, it’s a high-quality smartwatch with barely any downsides and a lot of excellent features for exercise enthusiasts.
- Comes with tons of trackers for different fitness activities
- Collects lots of data, including markers for your stress levels, and allows you to dive deep into the data later
- Has good battery life, especially if you disable certain smartphone features
- Has great GPS connectivity and smartphone connectivity
- Built to last with waterproofing and a durable band
- Only available in a couple of colors/styles
- There has been complaints about the pre-packaged charger cord breaking easily
3. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Sports
Want to boost your sports game thanks to analysis from your smartwatch? The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is the perfect choice.
Let me break it down for you. It utilizes a series of advanced sensors that can help you keep pace with your exercise goals as you work out. This also allows the watch to offer built-in pace coaching. Engage this feature and the watch will coach you as you run or workout to make sure that you meet your fitness goals progressively rather than through over-exercising.
It also comes with a built-in sleep tracker that will give you excellent information about your sleep quality and length. Stress-level monitors are built in, too, and an integrated calming app is included to help you de-stress after a workout or a long day at the office. All of these features run on a relatively long-lasting battery that can go for over five days on one charge.
But since it’s a Samsung smartwatch, you can also give the watch an extra boost of power from your compatible Galaxy phone in a pinch. Aside from this aspect, the Active 2 is compatible with all other smartphones and devices.
Honestly, the coaching aspect is what really solidifies this watch as an excellent smartwatch for sports enthusiasts or folks who really want to do better next season. If you don’t have a coach looking over your shoulder, the next best thing is to have a digital coach on your wrist.
The activity tracker watch overall is a sleek, slim piece of equipment that’s extremely light and comfortable. You can also purchase the watch with either an aluminum or stainless steel face — the former is a little lighter in weight while the latter is corrosion resistant. It comes in several colors and two sizes as well, so you get to choose how well the watch goes with your aesthetic, although it never quite gets formal enough to go with formal clothing.
You might find the right samsung smartwatch for your needs in my top 10 picks for best samsung watch.
- Comes with a Samsung digital coach feature to help you meet your exercise goals and give you encouragement/correct you on your form from time to time
- Has lots of other fitness features and apps, and can track your performance with most major exercise activities
- Also includes a sleep tracker and a stress level tracker to make sure you perform your best on game day
- Can be charged with extra battery if you have a Samsung Galaxy phone
- Very lightweight and durable, and you have two different choices of metal
- Not great for formal clothing — pretty specifically a fitness smartwatch above all else
- The battery life can fluctuate dramatically based on the features you’re using
4. Fitbit Versa 2 – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Sleep Tracking
Want something a little slimmer or ideal for tracking your fitness levels throughout the day? What about when you sleep? If your answer is yes to either of those questions, the Fitbit Versa 2 might be a perfect fitness smartwatch for your needs, especially since it’s significantly more budget friendly than some of the other options on this list.
For starters, it’s a comfortable and stylish watch with a basic rectangular face. But you can purchase the rubberized band in a number of different colors and materials, so there’s room to match the smartwatch with your clothes or other accessories. It’s also a great all-around smartwatch since it can pair with Amazon Alexa. This built-in functionality will let you get quick alerts and information, as well as control all your smart home devices right through the smartwatch or with the sound of your voice.
But let’s get into the fitness aspects of this watch. Like most other fitness accessories, it’ll be able to monitor your heart rate, your restlessness, and how long you sleep. But when it comes to sleep monitoring, this watch is a tracker like no other. It boils all of your information down to a sleep score so you can see how well you’re sleeping every night. But it goes even deeper into that even; the watch can track how much time you spend in sunlight, and even the length of different sleep stages.
All of this is accompanied by personal insights to help you tailor a more effective and healthy sleep schedule over time. Add to that the fact that you get a free 90-day trial of Fitbit Premium with the purchase, and it’s safe to say that this smartwatch offers a lot of value right out of the gate. Just remember to unsubscribe from the Premium subscription if you don’t want to pay for it after the 90 days are up!
The display is also one of my favorites as well, offering plenty of space to display all of your apps and controls. You can link the smartwatch to Spotify and other music apps to play your favorite songs while you work out or exercise. Speaking of exercise, you can track over 20 workouts in real time with goal-based exercise modes. The watch is, of course, swim-resistant down to 50 m, as is typical in this industry.
It’s also a great watch for pairing with your smartphone or other mobile devices since you can call or respond to texts. However, this pairing aspect is strangely limited to Android phones, which is a small downside for any of my iOS readers.
But all in all, the Fitbit Versa 2 offers a ton to like as one of the best budget fitness trackers in the industry. It also doesn’t lack any major smartphone features that might significantly lower its value. It’s a stellar piece of fitness equipment through and through, but is a particularly nice choice if you want to track your sleep schedule and adjust it over time to become healthier.
For other budget friendly smartwatches, check out my top 10 picks for the best cheap smartwatches.
- One of the best sleep tracker watches in the industry, including the ability to track your sleep cycles and how much time you spend in sunlight
- Also includes a 90-day free trial of Fitbit Premium
- Comes with a large display and an option to always have the display on
- Has excellent exercise and activity tracking apps and goal-oriented modes
- Comes in lots of different colors for customization purposes
- Lets you make wireless payments and receive calls and texts if you have an Android device
- Some of the features don’t work with iOS phones
- When using it with Alexa, expect one sentence answers. Not much more use than for getting weather updates
5. Fitbit Charge 4 – Best Fitness Tracker for Women
Fitbit caught my eye again for fitness smartwatches when I saw the Charge 4: a distinct-enough smartwatch that you’d be surprised it was part of the original Fitbit brand. It offers a much slimmer rectangular interface that displays its information vertically, offering a simplistic display that I found to be great in terms of aesthetics (though your mileage may vary).
There’s a lot to like here, especially for women, even if it isn’t a fitness tracker for women, per se. The small size goes well with those with thinner wrists, and it even comes in an off-red color called “Rosewood” if you don’t want to stick with regular black.
Like many recent Fitbit models, this fitness band comes with a 90-day trial of Premium that can be unlocked through the Fitbit app. Altogether, it comes with a bunch of extra features and exercise modes. Again, just remember that you have to cancel before the free trial ends if you don’t actually want to pay the full price.
More importantly, the Charge 4 comes with lots of special features to make it worth your while. A built-in GPS will keep track of your location and the distance you’ve traveled as you run, ride a bike, or hike. This can also be useful if you want someone to be able to track your location if you go for a sunset job.
The “Active Zone Minutes” feature I found actually buzzes the fitness tracking band when you reach a target heart rate zone during your exercise routine. This allows you to burn a specific number of calories or meet your other exercise goals a little more regularly without having to manually pause and measure your heart rate from time to time. A 24/7 heart rate tracker is included with this watch by default, of course.
Also nice is the ability to make wireless payments using Fitbit Pay — lots of people lament the fact that their workout clothes don’t always include pockets for their credit cards. Of course, you’ll also be able to sync the smartwatch to your phone and get calls, texts, or other smartwatch alerts and real-time. Over 20 different goal-based exercise modes are included so you can gather valuable fitness data no matter what your routine calls for.
This fitness tracker with GPS also has a pretty good battery life, even when you engage those features. For instance, it’ll last for seven days without GPS and five hours with GPS tracking enabled.
I think I really like this Fitbit since its screen style and size prevents you from wasting too much time at the gym staring at the screen (as if we all don’t do that all collectively enough already). Ultimately, it’s a customizable, well-made smartwatch with excellent GPS connectivity and great passive fitness tracking features. Women everywhere should find it to be a great pick.
For other great picks for women, check out our top 10 picks for the best smartwatch for women.
- One of the best GPS fitness trackers, even considering the battery life compared to other fitness smartwatches
- Has good exercise features and modes, plus sleep trackers. One of the best heart rate monitor watches around
- Can tell you when you have reached your target heart rate
- Allows you to pay on the go without a credit card
- Comes in a few different colors and features a lightweight, refined aesthetic perfect for anyone with thin wrists
- Doesn’t have quite as big a screen as you may be used to — some apps might be a little hard to control
- Has a little trouble connecting to smartphones at times
6. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Daily Life Fitness Tracking
Some folks like fitness watches that blur the line between a regular watch and a techier aesthetic. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 is definitely that, as its leather-like strap gives it a little more elegance and everyday use than fitness watches with more rubberized straps. But the interface is still totally digital and can be changed with the turn of your wrist or the touch of a button.
It’s an excellent smartwatch all in all but it has a lot of fitness-focused features that make it a good choice for frequent exercisers despite the aesthetic. For instance, the Galaxy Watch 3 can track up to seven different popular activities automatically and passively. As it collects data, it’ll offer unique insights thanks to its built-in coaching on the fly.
This can help you make and meet exercise goals as your standards shift and you become more fit over time. This passive and active fitness tracking returns once again with sleep tracking, as the watch can give you personalized insights about how to get a better night’s sleep. Also included are a stress level monitor and associated apps, plus breathing guides — talk about in-depth tracking!
Of course, it includes all the other staple smartwatch features you would expect, including voice functionality so you can make or receive phone calls or even have a smartwatch read your own texts to you. Samsung Pay allows you to pay at POS systems without having to bring a wallet or credit card and you’ll be able to link the watch to either iOS or Android devices.
Samsung Galaxy phones can boost the watch’s battery in a pinch, which is a good thing since the watch’s sole downside is its low battery life. It usually only lasts for a little more than a day on a single charge, which is somewhat short when many other smartwatches’ batteries will last for multiple days on one charge.
Still, I think the Galaxy Watch 3 is one of my favorite smartwatches to date, and it’s a great pick for fitness fanatics due to the sheer depth of its different trackers and built-in coaching assistance that comes with its OS. Add to that a versatile aesthetic that works for both running and for going on a date and you have one of the best smartwatches for sale right now.
- Has some of the most in-depth fitness trackers and analysis apps in the market, including built-in coaching for running and other activities
- Can automatically and passively track some exercise activities as well as work as a sleep tracker and step counter
- Even includes extra trackers and monitoring apps, like stress level monitoring and breathing guides
- Has an excellent aesthetic that works both at the gym and in regular clothes
- Also allows you to receive and make phone calls or texts, or pay without your wallet on hand
- The battery life only lasts for a little more than a single day
7. Apple Watch Series 5 – Best Apple Watch 6 Alternative
What if you want an Apple Watch but don’t want to spend quite as much money as the pricier, newer one? In that case, why not just go back one generation?
That’s why I chose the Apple Watch Series 5. It includes many of the same features as its more recent iteration, but this particular model comes with an aluminum casing to keep the weight low in either white or black colors depending on your preferences. It also comes with an excellent GPS tracker that’s always on, so tracking the steps you’ve walked or your current location is pretty easy.
It also features an always-on display that’s about 30% larger than other Apple Watch varieties. This could be a big selling point if you really like larger displays since they’re easier to read.
Also included with the watch is a built-in compass, plus electrical and optical heart sensors. These do a great job of tracking your resting and active heart rates. After gathering enough data, the watch can provide you with special insights and help you meet your exercise goals or caution you about stressing yourself out too much. The ECG app will help on this point as well.
But this watch is also great due to the monitors that I didn’t find anywhere else in this price range. For instance, the Series 5 comes with a built-in fall detection monitor. When combined with the excellent GPS tracker, this makes the watch a pretty good emergency device, as well as a great day-to-day fitness tracker watch. The emergency SOS beacon you can engage doubles down on this focus.
Of course, it also includes all the major Apple Watch features you would expect, including the ability to sync to your iOS device to accept phone calls and text messages or stream music right from your phone. All this is to say that the Series 5 is an excellent alternative if you want an Apple watch but don’t want to pay quite so much as the 6 demands.
- Comes with emergency SOS and fall detection apps
- Also has excellent GPS tracking, so it’s a good watch for exploring new hiking areas
- Comes with a lightweight but durable aluminum casing
- Also links well to iOS devices to accept phone calls and texts, or stream music
- Has a slightly larger screen than average, which makes reading all of its information a little easier
- Only good for iOS devices
- The aesthetic is pretty firmly fitness-focused, and it’s a little “Apple-y” in a way that more recent Apple Watches aren’t. This isn’t a downside in and of itself, but does limit what clothes you can pair it with
8. Apple Watch SE – Best Fitness Smartwatch for Fitness Tracking on a Budget
The Apple Watch line, for all of its narrow focus, has one more excellent offering for fitness fanatics. The Apple Watch SE is even a little cheaper than the Series 5, and it’s a really good choice for folks who want to keep track of their exercise stats and progress without spending too much money.
Let’s dive in. For starters, it has the same large retina OLED display that I described above, so it’s another good choice if you like larger screens rather than smaller ones. But it also boasts expanded fitness tracking apps and measurements for popular activities like dancing, running, walking, and more. You can even take this into the water thanks to its swim-proof design.
Regardless, you’ll passively monitor your heart rate over time, and even send you notifications if it detects high or low heart rates or any irregular heart rhythm. It’s not foolproof, per se, so you don’t necessarily want to run to the doctor’s if you get an alert. But it could help you determine if there’s a pattern in your heart rate that needs some investigation.
Like the Series 5, this watch also comes with a built-in compass and real-time elevation readings. Add to that the same excellent GPS tracking mentioned earlier and you have an excellent watch for off-road hiking or trailblazing, even in unfamiliar environments.
As before, it also only links with iOS devices, but you’ll be able to pay securely and instantly from your wrist using Apple Pay, which is bolstered by digital defenses to prevent your personal information from being scooped. You can sync your phone to the watch and stream your favorite music, videos, or phone calls and texts.
The downside is that this watch is pretty limited in its aesthetic. It only comes in black and with a rubberized band. But ultimately, I think it’s a great fitness watch overall, especially for folks who want something a little more affordable.
- Comes with excellent and in-depth fitness trackers for most major exercise activities
- Is one of the best fitness trackers with heart rate monitors, and can notify you about irregular heart rhythms
- Has good GPS connectivity and tracking
- The watch face is pretty large and easy to read
- Connectivity to iPhones is quick and stable
- The battery life could certainly be a little better, as it only lasts up to 18 hours, which is beaten by many other competitors in the market
- Only good for iOS users
9. Sunnto 7 – Best Fitness Tracker for Daily Exercise
Some fitness enthusiasts like smartwatches that can help them with targeted exercise goals or meet benchmarks so they can compete in events or join a sports league. The Suunto 7 is a little different in that it’s focused on daily exercise routines and data collection. This makes it a great long-term fitness smartwatch or a perfect pairing for folks who work out just to stay healthy rather than for a specific goal.
It’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices and it can track up to over 70 different sports modes. This includes even niche sports rather than just the basics like running and swimming. All of these apps can then connect to the proprietary Suunto app, which you can download on your phone.
Once there, you’ll find access to a bunch of different sports communities and even specific training guides and analytical tools. All of this makes it easy to engage with your exercise in a way that’s hard to match.
The watch is powered by Wear OS from Google, so it’s no surprise that it’s an excellent Wear OS smartwatch in its own right. Excellent GPS tracking and heart-rate tracking are included as well, plus additional connectivity goodies. Using the Wear OS, you’ll be able to control certain wireless devices right from your smartwatch or use Google Assistant in other ways.
It’s all wrapped up in a pretty stylish Scandinavian design. The watch is made with durable materials for the band and face. While it definitely looks the part of the fitness smartwatch, it’s also rugged enough to work in other areas or with other aesthetics as well. The battery is good enough if not the best of the best, as it lasts for 40 hours by default or up to 12 hours in GPS mode.
All in all, it’s an excellent daily use smartwatch that can serve in a variety of situations. It may even be the best fitness tracker watch for folks who want to be able to track their fitness stats across tons of different sports at once.
- Has a rugged and attractive Scandinavian design made with excellent materials
- GPS mode battery life is among the best of the best at 12 hours even if general battery life could be better
- Can track metrics for over 70 different sports
- Also includes access to a proprietary app for additional sports analytics and community discussions
- Has Wear OS, so it’ll work with a variety of mobile and wireless devices and let you use voice functionality
- Quite pricey, even when you compare fitness trackers on this list
- The battery life when not using GPS is mediocre at best
10. Garmin Forerunner 245 – Best Heart Rate Monitor Watch
Last but not least is this stellar fitness watch from Garmin, the Forerunner 245. It’s among the best of the best when it comes to one particular task: monitoring your heart rate and providing actionable feedback.
It all starts with the advanced sensors located on the bottom of the watch face. This allows the smartwatch to passively measure your resting and active heart rate, plus alert you if there are any irregularities you should be aware of. But the heart rate tracking continues and even adapts based on your current exercises, so the watch provides you with useful feedback as you run or perform other exercises.
The in-depth fitness exercise feedback goes further from there. The watch can offer advanced running dynamics data. For instance, it’ll tell you how long your feet are in contact with the ground, how good your balance is, and much more. You can even set the watch to detect incidents or falls during certain activities. If the watch believes you to be hurt, it’ll send your location to emergency contacts through whatever smartphone you have synced to it.
This all works with a seven-day battery mode that operates for up to six hours in GPS mode or if you use a lot of music. You can, of course, sync the smartwatch to various music streaming services and pair it with your smartphone to accept calls, texts, and other notifications.
More important and unique are the free adaptive training plans that come straight from Garmin. These offer excellent coaching advice for various exercises and fitness goals. If you’re more independently minded, you can even create your own custom workouts — I found this feature to be pretty useful when I fiddled around with it for a day. It’ll let you adapt your workout routine to your specific needs or your body as it adjusts to different challenges.
All in all, it’s a solid smartwatch in general but a particularly nice pick for those who want to keep excellent track of their heart rate or benefit from in-depth training advice and coaching plans.
- Has excellent safety features, including incident detection and the ability to send your signal via GPS to emergency services
- Has pretty good battery life overall, except when you play a lot of music
- Offers adaptive training plans from Garmin, or you can make your own training plans
- Has an excellent heart rate tracker, both passively and as you do different activities
- Can sync with most mobile devices and streams music pretty well
- Music drains the battery life really quickly
- Only one real aesthetic, not great for pairing with casual clothes
Anyone who’s read this site for a while already knows that I really like my smartwatches. I have a few (some of which are even on this very review… can you guess which ones?) for myself, but there’s a limit to how many smartwatches a man needs in his life.
Plus – let’s be honest – smartwatches aren’t necessarily the most affordable gadgets to buy.
With all this being said, I took it upon myself to at least physically try each of the above smartwatches once before giving them a verdict. Fortunately, my coworkers here at the office have most of the smartwatches that I don’t own personally. The others I was able to test out thanks to my connections in the industry. It’s usually pretty trivial to get a hands-on examination of even new smartwatches if you promise to be careful with it and have some journalistic reputation.
Bottom line: my methodology always involves (as it has before) hands-on testing and examining each watch, even if it was only for a few minutes with some units. I also write my fitness tracker reviews by checking online reviews from other verified users, measuring their own feedback against my own.
In the end, I’m satisfied with the above judgments and think you’ll find each fitness tracker review to be accurate and useful when determining whether a given watch is a great pick for your needs.
Finding the right fitness smartwatch for your needs depends on knowing what aspects to look for and what factors to prioritize.
Size and Comfort
You should definitely think about the size and comfort of a given fitness smartwatch before purchasing. Some smartwatches will slide up and down your wrist as you run or work out, which may or may not be annoying depending on your preferences. Most people prefer smartwatches that fit snugly to their wrists, especially when they work out.
Most smartwatches come in sizes of either 40 or 44 mm. The smaller may be more aesthetically to your taste but at the cost of a smaller battery that the larger watches usually sport.
Either way, fitness smartwatches also usually come with rubberized bands which are fairly comfortable, even when your wrists get sweaty. Others might come with leather bands — think about this carefully before you buy since leather can be seriously uncomfortable if you sweat up a storm during your workout.
Material and Durability
On a related note, the materials and durability of a fitness smartwatch can significantly affect its overall value. Any fitness smartwatch should last for several years before you need to get an upgrade or replacement, so be sure that you get something built to last.
Fortunately, the rubberized bands are usually pretty tough and can withstand significant wear and tear, even if you sweat around them frequently. Most smartwatch faces are made with aluminum or stainless steel. I’d personally recommend stainless steel if you have the choice between the two since it’s anti-corrosive. As you might know, sweat can easily corrode metal over time due to the salt content.
Stainless steel watch faces are resistant to this unfortunate side effect.
Don’t make the mistake of purchasing a smartwatch that isn’t compatible with your chosen mobile device’s operating system. The two big and popular choices are iOS and Android, but some smartwatches also run on Wear OS: a special operating system for smartwatches developed by Google.
Wear OS smartwatches can work with either type of smartphone or tablet, but smartwatches that run on Android or iOS operating systems will be one or the other. I’ve listed what each smartwatch above is compatible with so you don’t get confused, but double check before purchasing just to be sure.
In my mind, Android and Wear OS watches are usually (but not always) better since they seem to have better exclusive features or more pairing versatility instead of being limited to just iOS phones.
Of course, the available features for a given fitness smartwatch will affect whether it’s a good choice for your needs. Practically all fitness smartwatches will include trackers for common exercises such as running, swimming, and weightlifting.
These basic exercises should be covered by default, but some fitness smartwatches will include dozens of other niche sports or exercise trackers. Those smartwatches might be a good choice if you want every type of exercise you perform to be tracked and accounted for.
But you should also see whether a given smartwatch has an excellent heart rate tracker, sleep tracker, or other trackers. All of these can combine to provide a holistic and detail-filled picture of your health and fitness habits.
Think about what you want a smartwatch for and then go from there. For instance, do you want to fix your sleeping cycle? Go for a smartwatch that has one of the best trackers in the industry. Vice versa if you want a smartwatch that can help you boost your workout routine’s effectiveness — try to find one with a built-in coach.
LTE or Bluetooth?
Lastly, be sure that you purchase a fitness smartwatch with LTE or Bluetooth connection options or both depending on your needs.
LTE-only connectivity means that the smartwatch won’t be able to connect to your phone via Bluetooth. Instead, it can be connected to your wireless phone network or provider. This does have an advantage in that it doesn’t need to be connected to your phone to stream music or take calls or texts. But this usually does a number on your battery and your phone bill.
In contrast, Bluetooth-only connectivity means that the smartwatch needs to be connected to your phone before you can access any of its wireless features. But this is easier on the battery and doesn’t cost as much.
Some smartwatches can do either or. Just be sure to check with your provider if you do decide to go with an LTE fitness smartwatch. Some providers, such as Verizon, have difficulty recognizing smartwatches as legitimate wireless devices if you try to bring them into your cellular data plan.
When all was said and done, I actually found the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 to be the best overall fitness smartwatch on the market. There’s just too much to like for me to ignore it as my overall favorite, even if I still think that the Apple Watch 6 will be the preferred choice for the majority of Apple enthusiasts.
Basically, I really fell in love with the watch’s slim design and built-in coaching functionality. Speaking as someone who has trouble sticking with workout routines without someone telling me to keep going, the coaching seems to be a really excellent feature that can also help you adjust your routine as it becomes a little too easy to guarantee long-term fitness growth.
The other features that come with this watch just solidify my choice. The excellent sleep tracking, high-quality sensors to detect your exercise habits and motion, and the stress level monitors all combine to create a smartwatch that should be a favorite for anyone interested in learning as much about their body as possible. I’d highly recommend it if you don’t already have a fitness-focused smartwatch already.
But remember — that’s just my opinion! Any of the above smartwatches will serve as a great fitness accessory overall.
Q: Are there differences between fitness watches for men and women?
A: Not really, aside from aesthetics. And understandable larger watches will be able to hold larger batteries.
Mostly, it comes down to your preference of size, weight, and look.
Q: What’s the best smartwatch for weightlifting? What about the best smartwatch for running?
A: That depends on what you’re looking for. Great smartwatches for weightlifting will probably have coaching to help you with form and to make sure that you follow good advice when going up reps. One good example is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2. Otherwise be sure to check if your favourite apps work on a particular watch well.
On the flip side, excellent running smartwatches should be able to track your location with high-quality GPS and have good calorie trackers to see how many you burn on a given session. The Garmin Vivoactive 4 is a perfect example.
Q: Are fitness smartwatches better than “general” smartwatches?
A: No. Fitness-focused smartwatches more often than not just have extra features dedicated to exercise tracking or coaching. They’ll also usually be able to connect to smart devices like regular smartwatches, allowing them to take phone calls, respond to texts, and more.
However, some general smartwatches may be a little better for streaming music or for responding to texts.
Q: Should you always use GPS tracking with a fitness smartwatch?
A: No. No matter which fitness smartwatch you purchase, GPS tracking takes a lot of power to remain active and accurate. Even if you have one of the most accurate fitness trackers in the industry, GPS tracking should only be engaged when you actually want your location to be tracked, such as if you go hiking in an unfamiliar area, or if you want to track your steps and calories for a particular stretch of time. Not to mention cycling and swimming tracking.
Leaving the GPS function on permanently will drain your smartwatch’s battery extremely quickly.
Q: Are iOS or Android fitness smartwatches better overall?
A: From my point of view, it all depends on the devices you want to pair with them. For instance, Samsung Android watches are usually better with Samsung Android smartphones. This combination allows you to charge your smartwatch with your smartphone in a pinch. In contrast, iOS smartwatches are better paired (and can sometimes only be paired) with iOS devices, giving you access to special apps or features.
So I guess my answer is really this: both can work, but you should strive to keep your pairing in-brand as much as possible to get the best bang for your buck.
Top Rated Fitness Smartwatches
Last update on 2023-03-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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