The best smartwatches of 2017
While it's fair to say smartwatches have yet to really hit the mainstream and become a must-have accessory for the masses, these wrist-based mini computers are making solid strides forward with each passing year. In 2017 we've seen some compelling new products appear and here are our picks for the best smartwatches of the year.
1. Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch isn't for everyone, but it is one of the best smartwatches in the business – as long as you own an iPhone, because it doesn't work with anything running Android. The big feature added in the Series 3 edition in 2017 was 4G LTE connectivity, so you can make and receive calls even if you've left your phone at home. Standalone Apple Music streaming is also now available after a recent software update.
Apart from that big improvement, the Apple Watch continues to get more powerful and more useful. The Series 3 has a processor that's 70 percent faster than its predecessor, and now includes full two-way conversations with Siri. Battery life remains steady at 18 hours (so you'll still need to charge it every night), and the whole package can be yours from $399 with cellular or $329 without. If that's too rich for your blood, check out the Series 1, which is still on sale.
2. LG Watch Sport
It's not been a stellar year for Android Wear, with a paucity of new devices and a delayed roll out of Android Wear 2.0, but the LG Watch Sport stands out as one of the best Android alternatives to the Apple Watch Series 3. It has 4G LTE connectivity of its own, adds a very useful rotating crown button (which many Android Wear watches lack) and actually looks reasonably stylish too – though some may find it a bit on the chunky side.
Thanks to the on-board Android Wear 2.0 software, the watch can pair with an Android phone or an iPhone, though you get a more integrated experience when you've got two Google-powered devices working in tandem. Google Assistant is built in too, and getting smarter all the time, and the sharp and crisp 348 ppi resolution display means notifications are always visible. What's more, the watch has dropped quite considerably in price during the year, making it even more appealing: Prices online now start at around $250.
3. Samsung Gear Sport
You'd be forgiven for getting slightly confused by Samsung's approach to wearables, but while the Gear S3 might still be considered the flagship model in the line, it came out in 2016. The cheaper, simpler-looking Gear Sport was Samsung's main new smartwatch entry for 2017, and we reckon it's an excellent value option, particularly if you're rocking a Samsung phone as well (though it works with any Android or Apple handset).
Among the headline features of the watch are integrated GPS, so you can get a lock on your position without a connected smartphone, and full waterproofing (down to 50 m/164 ft), so you can take it in the pool with you. As an added bonus, it's the first smartwatch to offer offline Spotify playlist syncing. Unfortunately, the app selection isn't particularly strong, as Samsung's own Tizen OS is on board, but it ticks all the boxes for key smartwatch functions. Prices start at $300.
4. Huawei Watch 2
If the LG Watch Sport is just about the best Android Wear wearable out there at the moment, then the Huawei Watch 2 unveiled at Mobile World Congress at the end of February runs a close second. Again, you get integrated GPS, and independent 4G LTE calling capabilities, and it's all wrapped in a rather distinguished-looking package that harks back to more traditional, mechanical watches.
With a 1.2-inch screen, it's not quite as big as the LG Sport Watch, which is its main rival in this list. A rotating bezel or crown would've been nice, but the Huawei Watch 2 still manages to pack in just about everything else you could want from a smartwatch. Android 2.0 is on board, which means Google Assistant, a smart keyboard, and a polished menu system that makes jumping around the various screens very intuitive. At the time of writing, you can get the watch from around $300.
5. Garmin Forerunner 935
It might not be as big a name in the world of tech as Apple, LG, or Samsung, but Garmin has quietly been building up a strong portfolio of smartwatches that should appeal to the dedicated athlete with a bit more money to spend, and who wants the very best functionality that smartwatches can offer. For the fitness fanatics, there's the Forerunner 935, which can pair with a chest strap or waistband clip to give you access to a whole host of extra training statistics.
In other words you get more detail on your activities and how much good those activities are doing your body (you can see whether you're working too hard, or not hard enough). It can track swimming and cycling in detail too, and it works with both Android and Apple phones. To get all of this extra functionality though, you'll have to pay a little extra than normal – the price of the watch starts at close to $500.
6. Garmin Fenix 5
Also from Garmin is the Fenix 5, which packs in even more features than the Forerunner 935, and aimed at hikers and fell runners as well as runners and cyclists. It's a chunky watch, but it can measure just about anything you need it to, from your sky dives to your ski runs to your long-distance marathons, and an integrated heart rate reader leads the long list of sensors that are built into the device. It can also measure your VO2 Max levels, essentially a measurement of how fit your body is.
On top of all tracking capability, it's water-resistant, offers simple notification support for a connected Android phone or iPhone, and can even have walking routes programmed into it. If you're looking for the ultimate outdoors smartwatch then we reckon this is it, though be prepared to pay for the privilege of using all of those features: Prices online currently start around the $500 mark.
7. Fitbit Ionic
The line between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker isn't always a clear one, but Fitbit is certainly labeling the Ionic a smartwatch, so we're including it here. It's quirky looking and available in a host of color combinations, and it has enough going for it in the features department to make it worth a spot on our list: integrated GPS, swimming tracking, a heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, support for mobile payments, and water-resistance down to a depth of 50 m (164 ft).
The device runs Fitbit's proprietary smartwatch software, but it will work with either Android or iOS to ferry your notifications over – what you don't get (for now, at least) is full support for big name apps like Spotify and Google Maps. However, it excels in the fitness tracking department (as you would expect from Fitbit), and the price is very competitive, coming in at around $300 and up if you scour the web.