Best smartwatch for 2021

You’ll want to consider many factors when shopping for the best smartwatch for your needs — especially since it will probably be strapped to your wrist 24/7. Some of those factors include whether you want a model with an emphasis on fitness (sleep tracking, a heart-rate monitor) versus other smart features (like working well with third-party apps), your preferred watch shape face and which operating system you want (Android versus iOS).

But that only scratches the surface. A smartwatch should be able to offer everything, from heart-rate monitoring and activity tracking to GPS tracking and smart notifications. Some smartwatches can even be used for contactless payment. They should work seamlessly with smartphone notifications. And, regardless of whether you’re an Android or iOS user, you should be able to make the most of your wearable device.

We’ve rounded up the best smartwatches based on function, price and compatibility to help you decide which one is right for you.

Read more: The best budget smartwatches under $100

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

The Apple Watch Series 6 may be the most expensive one on our best smartwatch list, but it’s the gold standard when it comes to smartwatches. It has all the smartwatch features we loved about its predecessors plus a few new perks like a brighter alway-on display and a new sensor that measures blood oxygen levels. It’s now also the only Apple smartwatch with an electrocardiogram (also called ECG or EKG) app. 

The biggest downsides to the Apple Watch: It’s iPhone-compatible only, and it has shorter battery life than most of its competitors.

Read our Apple Watch Series 6 review.

If you’ve never owned an Apple Watch, this is the one to get. The Apple Watch SE is a cheaper alternative to the Series 6 with a lot of the same great features plus a slightly longer battery life. Aside from the extra health sensors (ECG and SpO2), the most notable difference between the two is that the SE doesn’t have an always-on display watch face. But you probably won’t miss it if you’ve never had this feature.

Read our Apple Watch SE review.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Versa 3 is compatible with both iOS and Android phones and lets you choose between Alexa or Google Assistant as your go-to voice assistant. It doesn’t offer all the apps and smart features as some of its competitors, but it’s a well-rounded smartwatch with plenty of health and fitness features to keep you on track like onboard GPS and live heart rate zone notifications. It has the best sleep tracker feature on this list and even gives you a breakout of your SpO2 and body temperature data overnight (Fitbit Premium users). Battery life is also better than most other smartwatch options: I got about four full days (and nights) of battery life use with the screen always-on.

Read more about the Fitbit Versa 3.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Active 2 offers almost all of the same features as the new Galaxy Watch 3, including an ECG app and fall detection, for about half the price. Its watchface is not as flashy as the Watch 3 wearable with its physical rotating bezel and thicker frame, but it’s less bulky and more comfortable to wear at night and during workouts. The Active 2 handles calls, texts and app notifications, and it offers Spotify support as well as all the basic sports tracking fitness features you’ll need. You can also get an LTE edition of this smartwatch, which also acts as an Android smartphone and can receive calls on the go without your Android phone nearby.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

If you’re looking for a fitness-focused watch without too many distractions, that works with both Android and iOS, the Garmin Venu Sq is the watch to get. It has a built-in GPS, plenty of workout fitness tracking options to choose from, and lots of data about your workout like heart rate zones and running dynamics in the mobile app. 

It also doubles as a health tracker with high and low heart rate alerts, a comprehensive sleep analysis and SpO2 tracking. This smartwatch measures blood oxygen levels on demand, or automatically throughout the day and night just like the latest Apple Watch Series 6, but for half the price. But you do compromise on design. The watch has a plastic frame, and the screen isn’t as big or as vibrant as the watch face on some of the other watches on the list.

Read our Garmin Venu Sq review.

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

If you’re looking to get more value for money, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better smartwatch deal than the Amazfit Bip S. This $70 smartwatch is compatible with both Android and iOS wearable devices and checks most of the boxes when it comes to features: heart rate sensor, always-on display, built-in GPS tracking and the best battery life of any device on this list. You can get up to 40 days of use on a charge, or about two weeks of heavy usage with the GPS on and brightness up (a time that’s still above and beyond the rest). 

You may have to make some sacrifices when it comes to aesthetics, though, as it has a plastic casing and the screen isn’t as bright or responsive as the ones on the Galaxy and Apple Watch.

Read more about the Amazfit Bip S.

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