Jewelry & Watches
Your guide to buying a smartwatch in 2023: Everything you need to know
Now is the time to upgrade your wrist wear to something smarter
Now is the time to upgrade your wrist wear to something smarter
It's shaping up to be a great year to splash out on a smartwatch, with excellent options available from Apple at a broader price range than ever before and healthy competition from Samsung and Garmin too.
This could also be the year we finally see the fruits of Google's blockbuster $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit, which was first announced in late-2019 and completed in January 2021. Meanwhile, hybrid watchmaker Withings is going from strength to strength, the Fossil group has a huge range to pick from across its many brands, and the Swiss have some luxury offerings too.
What follows is the GearBrain guide to buying a smartwatch in 2023. We have highlighted the major brands to consider and explained the differences between smartwatches and hybrids and how even some luxury Swiss watches are smarter than ever.
In our eyes, a watch becomes a smartwatch when it replaces its traditional face and mechanical hands with a touch screen. Some hybrids do a bit of both, putting simpler displays inside the face of a regular watch, but we'll cover those later.
When it comes to smartwatch operating systems, like with computers and smartphones, there are a couple of main players to consider. First, there is watchOS, which is the operating used exclusively by the Apple Watch.
Next, there is Wear OS, which belongs to Google and was called Android Wear until 2018. The name was changed to promote the fact that watches running Google's software work with iPhones as well as Android devices – a key differentiator, as all models of Apple Watch only work with iPhones.
Although Google doesn't produce a smartwatch of its own (those persistent rumors haven't come true just yet), Wear OS is found on smartwatches made by many brands, from Garmin and Montblanc to Fossil and Tag Heuer.
Early smartwatches suffered from poor battery life of no more than one day, uninspiring design, and middling performance. Since those formative days, there have been vast improvements in all of these areas, with some batteries lasting two or even three days, slimmer designs, and increased performance with better apps, connectivity, and features. That said, for some models (including even the latest Apple Watch), at least one charge every 24 hours is required to get the most out of them.
In most cases, smartwatches can double as fitness trackers and personal trainers, tracking walking, running, cycling, and other activities, sometimes with the help of an embedded heart rate monitor. Some specialize in certain areas, for example, the Tag Heuer Connected comes with a dedicated golf app for measuring distances and keeping scores on courses all over the world.
Some, like the Apple Watch Series 4/5/6/7 and now Apple Watch 8, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6, perform the equivalent of a single-lead ECG (electrocardiogram), which can alert the wearer to potential symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Some also offer fall detection, where contact and even the emergency services will be automatically called if the watch senses you have taken a hard fall and not get up.
Smartwatches also excel at notifications, subtly vibrating on your wrist when you receive a phone call, text, email, or other kind of message. Some can be purchased with a 5G connection and their own data plan, allowing them to make a receive calls and stream music without being connected to a smartphone.
Apple Watch 8 Series\u00a0offers 18 hours of battery life Apple
The first Apple Watch arrived back in 2015 and was pitched as a luxury accessory. Apple even tried to sell $20,000 gold versions, and one briefly appeared on the wrist of Beyonce. But Apple soon changed course, turning the Watch into a health and fitness device that owners wouldn't want to go a day without.
This move worked, as in 2019, the Apple Watch 5 outsold the entire Swiss watch industry, proving there is a huge demand for a wearable that tracks health and fitness but also carries enough Apple design swagger to not feel like a medical device.
Running Apple's new watchOS 9 software, the latest models for 2023 are the Watch Series 8 and the cheaper Watch SE (2nd Gen). (Note: watchOS10 is due out the latter part of 2023.) The Watch Series 4, 5, and 6 series also remain on sale, starting at just $213 at certain online retailers like Best Buy. The SE (2nd Gen), introduced in 2022, is $249, and the Watch Series 8 starts at $399. Hermes models with luxury leather straps and unique faces are the most expensive, reaching $1,499, but there are many mid-price options in-between too.
Apple Watch SE comes with Family Set feature which allows one iPhone to connect to multiple Apple Watches. Apple
All models have a heart rate monitor and can track activity, exercise, and sleep. But only the Series 6 and later can perform an ECG, record blood oxygenation, and alert its wearer to signs of atrial fibrillation. All are available with or without a cellular connection.
The Apple Watch 8 is offered in two sizes, 41mm, and 45mm, and all models have interchangeable straps. There are three case options, from cheapest to most expensive these are aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium.
Samsung Galaxy Watch6Samsung
Samsung has been in the smartwatch game for longer than Apple, having made its first Android Wear-powered devices back in 2014. The latest model is called the Galaxy Watch6, and it runs Samsung's own Tizen operating system. The Watch4 is available in two sizes, 41mm and 45, making it suitable for most wrists, and unlike the Apple Watch, it has industry-standard lug bars so that the straps can be swapped for almost any other. The Galaxy Watch6 starts at $299.99.
5G versions are available, giving the watch a data connection and the ability to make and receive phone calls and stream music when not connected to your smartphone. Speaking of which, Samsung Galaxy watches work with iPhones and Androids, whereas the Apple Watch only works (and has only ever worked) with iPhones.
A neat feature of the Galaxy Watch4 is how the bezel rotates to scroll through content, saving you from swiping the screen and smearing it with fingerprints. The watch also features a heart rate monitor and can take an ECG and measure blood pressure and oxygen level.
Samsung also currently sells the Galaxy Watch5 Pro, which is offered in 40mm and 44mm variants, but has a slimmer design due to the lack of a rotating bezel, which is instead touch-sensitive. It costs $449.50.
A huge range of smartwatches from various brans run Google's WearOSGoogle
Formerly known as Android Wear, WearOS is Google's smartwatch operating system. It is used by a range of manufacturers, including tech companies like LG and Huawei, but also watch and fashion brands like Kate Spade, Hugo Boss, Guess, Michael Kors, and Fossil, plus Tag Heuer.
Wear OS offers the same basic features as watchOS and Tizen. There are several customizable watch faces to pick from, apps to download and install, a notifications system, and varying degrees of fitness, sleep, and exercise tracking.
Where the Apple Watch has Apple Pay and Samsung wearables use Samsung Pay, WearOS watches make use of...you guessed it, Google Pay. Not all models have NFC (a requirement of Google Pay), but most do, and these can be used to make in-store purchases instead of using your credit card.
Prices for Wear OS watches start at around the $200 mark for a model from a fashion brand but climb to over $1,200, for examples from Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer.
Google Pixel WatchAmazon
New to the market is the 'Pixel Watch' by Google. Launched on October 13, 2022, this smartwatch is a welcome addition to the category. As we mentioned, Google paid $1.2 billion for Fitbit in November 2019 and completed the takeover in January 2021. After this acquisition, many expected to see the search giant become more involved in the smartwatch and wearable space soon. And the Pixel Watch is their first product. It has many similar features to Fitbit watches, and they share a lot of the same services, like Fitbit Premium (health features). It uses WearOS, and there are a ton of watchbands for your to choose from for our Pixel Watch. It lists for $349.99, but they are running sales of this watch on Google Store and other online retailers like Amazon and Best Buy.
Fitbit Versa 4 SmartwatchAmazon
Although best known for its exercise trackers, Fitbit also makes a smartwatch called the Versa. The latest Versa 4 runs the company's own Fitbit OS software, works with iPhones and Android, has a 1.6-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, and promises up to six days of battery life. There is also integrated GPS, water resistance, NFC, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. And Amazon Alexa is built-in in case you want to use voice commands with your smart devices.
In short, it's a fully-functioning smartwatch that also doubles as a top-notch health and fitness tracker from Fitbit. Available in a range of colors, the Versa 4 is priced at around $230. It also comes with a free six-month trial of Fitbit Premium, which costs $10 a month, and you can read more here.
Withings are among the most attractive hybrid smartwatchesWithings
Generally speaking, the hybrid watch is one which has a traditional face with physical dials but also includes a Bluetooth connection, accelerometers to track exercise, and a companion smartphone app. Some hybrid watches also have a vibration motor to deliver notifications or silent alarms to your wrist; most look like regular timepieces.
Although you can't write an email or hail an Uber with a hybrid smartwatch, you can wear them for weeks or even months at a time before they need charging or a new battery.
The step-counting tech of a hybrid watch is rarely more accurate or more detailed than what your smartphone can manage. But not everyone carries a phone in their pocket all day, and it's often more convenient to glance at your wrist instead of grabbing your phone and opening the step-counting app to check your progress.
Hybrid watches are popular among fashion houses, especially the many brands owned and managed by the Fossil group. As with smartwatches, hybrid watches are made by Skagen, Michael Kors, Fossil itself, and many others.
Technology companies have mostly steered clear of the hybrid market, apart from Withings. The French company, which was briefly owned by Nokia before buying itself back in 2018, sells a wide range of great-looking hybrids with classy designs, leather straps, and affordable prices.
The company also offers a hybrid with ECG functionality called ScanWatch Horizon, which is the most durable watch ever created by Withings. It is a feature-packed hybrid watch and boasts an attractive stainless steel case and ECG function. This new Withings hybrid also can seamlessly track all your activities, including intense sports sessions. It has smart detection, is connected to GPS, gives you precise insights, and is water resistant to 10 ATM (100 m). It costs $499.95 and is available on the company site as well as Best Buy and Amazon.
A good alternative to ScanWatch Horizon is Withings ScanWatch, the first Withings smartwatch with FDA Clearance for its oximetry and ECG features. It's perfect for the health-conscious who want a nice-looking, affordable smartwatch. The ScanWatch costs $299.95.
All of Withings' watches can be bought in the US, UK, and Europe.
Tag Heuer has regularly updated and improved the ConnectedTag Heuer
Not to be left on the sidelines, the Swiss watch industry is paying (at least some) attention to the rise of the smartwatch. Tag Heuer was an early mover, partnering with Intel and Google to release Connected in 2015.
This is a true smartwatch in that it has a touch screen and runs Wear OS. The latest model is the new TAG Heuer Connected Smartwatch Calibre E4 Edition. This new smartwatch boasts smart wearable technology and exceptional savoir-faire for an iconic design and maximum comfort. Launched in 2022, Calibre E4 larger crown, redesigned buttons, thinner bezel, and a new rugged sportier look than the previous Connected models. It also includes a heart rate monitor, along with GPS for accurate run tracking and NFC for Google Pay.
Priced from $1,800 to $2,350, the current model is available in sizes 42mm and 45mm and on the company website or online retailers.
Montblanc also jumped aboard the smartwatch bandwagon with the Summit, which runs Wear OS. Now in its third generation, the Summit 2+ is a thousand-dollar Swiss smartwatch with a stainless steel case, leather strap, heart rate monitor, integrated GPS, 8GB of storage, and a 1.3-inch display housed in a 43.5mm case.
The latest Swiss smartwatch is the Hublot Big Bang E, which also runs Google's Wear OS and features a 42mm black ceramic case with a rubber strap. It is priced at $5,800.
Finally, there are Swiss watchmakers who blend modern technology with their centuries-old craft. For example, Frederique Constant has a collection of four hybrid smartwatches falling into the circa-$1,000 sector. The collection includes quartz-driven men's and ladies' watches, which connect to the company's own smartphone app over Bluetooth to track your activity and sleep.
Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Blue Black Ceramic Chronograph 601.CI.7170.LR
When ready to buy your smartwatch, you can use The GearBrain, our compatibility find engine for smart devices. It will help you research, discover, buy, and learn how to connect and optimize smartwatches and fitness trackers.
How to Find Products in The GearBrain, Our Compatibility Find Engine for Smart Deviceswww.youtube.com