Three best smartwatches
Smartwatches allow you to put the functionality of your smartphone on your wrist. These watches can be as simple as a fitness tracker that's used to count steps or as complicated as a device that offers its own WiFi connectivity and the ability to keep tabs on your favorite apps.
Before you choose a new smartwatch, consider what you need it for, including how much freedom you want to have from your phone. The following shopping guide has some tips and recommendations to help you decide.
Considerations when choosing smartwatches
Compatibility: Before you purchase a smartwatch, start by making sure the device will be compatible with your phone type and service. If you have an iPhone, you will need an Apple Watch. If you use an Android phone, find one compatible with Android apps.
Use: Also think about what you need out of the device. A good fitness tracker should be able to at least transfer information to an app on your phone. It might also be able to alert you when messages and calls come in even though you'll still need your phone to respond. More advanced smartwatches can serve as a mini version of your smartphone, with LTE capability.
Battery: Generally, the more functionality, the shorter the battery life. Fitness trackers can last for several days on a single charge. Smartwatches with more abilities use more power, sometimes lasting only a day or two on a charge.
Style: You can find smartwatches that look more like a traditional watch or ones that enable you to make the face look like an analog watch.
Smartwatch prices: While many lower-priced fitness trackers that cost between $100 and $200 offer the ability to receive notifications, text messages, or social media alerts, you might have to pick up your phone to respond. For a slightly higher price, $200 to $400, smartwatches should be able to connect to your favorite phone apps. They still require you to have a smartphone to work properly. For a smartwatch designed to function on its own without a phone connection, plan to spend more than $400.
Q. Should I buy the insurance?
A. While it may not seem worth the money to purchase the performance plan on most electronic devices, smartwatches should be the exception. These devices have a glass face and, due to the nature of wearing them, can't be covered or protected by a case. Your watch could easily get scratched or broken.
Q. Can a smartwatch serve as a phone?
A. Some smartwatches have microphones and speakers so you can use them as a phone. Most need a smartphone for the connection and need to be near your smartphone to work in this way. Some smartwatches can work independently of your device, but they have to be registered on your service plan as a separate device and paid for accordingly.
Q. What else can a fitness tracker do besides track my steps?
A. Simple fitness tracker watches now offer a wider functionality than simply counting steps. They can serve as a GPS tracker. They can notify you when texts, calls, or other messages come in to your phone. They can also send fitness information directly to your favorite fitness app.
Smartwatches we recommend
Best of the best: Samsung Gear S3
Our take: We like this watch for its functionality as well as its sleek design and ability to run for several days on a single charge.
What we like: Both Bluetooth and WiFi capable. A speaker and microphone allow you to answer calls. Includes GPS and Samsung Pay.
What we dislike: It's a little big, but the trade-off is a lot of functionality.
Best bang for your buck: Fitbit Versa
Our take: Updated and sleeker than previous versions.
What we like: Waterproof and WiFi capable. Long battery life. Includes call, text, and calendar alerts.
What we dislike: It could be easier to sync. Takes a while to update.
Choice 3: Apple Watch Series 4
Our take: A nice, low profile and sleek design. An improvement in both screen size and speaker volume over earlier models.
What we like: The processor is fast and it can do a lot.
What we dislike: Haptic feedback (watch vibrates a little to confirm your touch) isn't universally liked by users.
Karen Roth Ridder is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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