The best Apple Watch alternatives
With its rounded rectangle build, multifaceted interface, iOS exclusivity and an aesthetic that's more "smart" than traditional watch, the Apple Watch is a rather distinct wearable. Here are the best alternatives if you're looking for a smartwatch with a different approach.
Samsung Gear S3
The Samsung Gear S3 is a strong contender if your gripes with the Apple Watch are primarily visual. It's especially worth considering if you have a Samsung phone – the two are designed to work together to offer specific benefits like Samsung Pay.
Instead of the glassy, minimal, characteristically iDevice look of the Apple Watch, the Gear S3 takes on a more traditionally inspired form factor – in a rather commanding size. The watch face measures 49 mm x 46 mm x 12.9 mm (1.9 in x 1.8 in x 0.5 in).
It has two variations, "Frontier" and "Classic" , the latter of which adds more aggressive styling and cellular data connectivity. It's hard to imagine too many women wearing either, due to their bulk and conventionally masculine appearance. If you want a watch that fits in the Samsung ecosystem that's not quite as enormous, you could opt for the earlier-generation Gear S2. It's only an incremental downgrade.
If ordered directly from Samsung, the Gear S2 and S3 share the same US$350 price tag. It's worth shopping around for a discount, however, especially if you're eyeing the older model.
If you haven't heard of Huawei (pronounced wah-way), that's because it's a Chinese manufacturing giant just beginning to creep into the US market. While we have generally yet to be impressed with its US smartphone flagships, the Huawei Watch (starting at $349) surprised us with its gorgeous classic approach. When you're not using its smart features, it would look right at home with its classy analog cousins.
It runs on the Android Wear operating system, so it provides all of the essential smartwatch functions you'd expect without manufacturer-specific gimmicks. However, Android Wear is getting an update; version 2.0 of the software is available in a limited preview mode at the time of this writing.
A second-generation Huawei Watch running Android Wear 2.0 will possibly be released soon, perhaps at the Mobile World Congress later this month. Consider waiting and seeing if the new model ushers in any features or discounts before plunking down the cash for this first generation model.
Moto 360 (2nd gen.)
The Moto 360 is a solid pick if you want an Android Wear-running watch with a more modern and casual look. Other perks? It's available in two sizes (42 mm and 46 mm), has decent battery life and a vivid always-on LCD display, and starting at $299, it's more affordable than some other options.
It's true that it might become outmoded as the Android Wear 2.0 operating system rolls out, but Motorola has not announced any plans for a new version in the near future.
Fitbit Charge 2
With its heart rate monitor, built-in GPS and preinstalled fitness tracking apps, the Apple Watch subtly positions itself as a premier fitness tracker. But if fitness tracking and phone/SMS notifications are all you need, consider the Fitbit Charge 2 instead. It provides many of those functions for $150, less than half the price of the $369 Apple Watch Series 2.
Unfortunately, the Charge 2 doesn't have its own built-in GPS, but you'll have to have a phone on you to map your workouts. But the Apple Watch isn't fully prepared to decouple from your iPhone, either, so that may not be a big deal.
It's true that another Fitbit model, the Blaze, looks and acts more like an Apple Watch than the Charge 2. But we hesitate to recommend it here due to its cheap-feeling build and lackluster software (which seems to show its limitations more on a larger, smartwatch-style screen).
Correction: The original version of this article stated that the Fitbit Charge 2 has swim-proof water-proofing. We regret the error.