Best fitness trackers and smartwatches of 2023: What to buy now and what to wait for
Here are some wearables worth your money today, and others to wait patiently for
Here are some wearables worth your money today, and others to wait patiently for
Wearable technology has evolved massively over the last half-decade. In that time, we have seen smartwatches running software by Apple and Google mature from simple devices with poor battery life through a brief stage of being pitched as fashion accessories and into the fully-fledged health and fitness trackers of today.
The Apple Watch now outsells the entire Swiss watch industry. At the same time, Samsung has a couple of feature-packed wearables of its own, and Google recently completed its blockbuster $2.1 billion takeover of Fitbit. There are also brands like Garmin to consider when it comes to a smartwatch built to survive the harshest outdoor environments, the Tag Heuer Connected for luxury Swiss watch fans, and a range of stylish hybrid options from Withings.
This article will look at what's available to buy in 2023 and what to expect next year. In some cases, it is safe to buy a new smartwatch now, but in other cases, we recommend waiting out for either a new model or a price drop on current offerings.
Apple Watch 9 comes with many of the same features found in the Apple Watch 8 Apple
The wearable market is less predictable than the smartphone market, but there are at least a couple of annual product launches you can set your smartwatch by. The most reliable is the new Apple Watch 9, which arrived alongside the latest iPhone at a launch event in September. The current model is the Watch Series 9, and you might not see much difference compared to the Apple Watch 8 unless you are a serious athlete or fitness enthusiast who enjoys the most advanced health and fitness tracking features in a smartwatch.
If you want the latest and greatest, then, by all means, purchase the Series 9. But of you are on a tighter budget and don't need every feature, then we recommend either looking for a Series 8 or going for the Watch SE (2nd Gen). This updated version of the SE was introduced by Apple alongside the Series 9 in the fall of 2023 and is a cut-price version of the Series 9 but without its ECG and blood oxygenation sensors. It still has the same design, plus a heart rate monitor, dual-core S8 processor, fall detection with emergency calls, optional 4G connectivity, and runs the same watchOS 10 software as all other models of Apple Watch.
At just $249, we think the Watch SE is excellent value for the money.
Alternatively, you could wait for the Series 8 to drop in price or wait until next September (2024) for the next-gen Apple Watch. It's too early to say what might be featured on that smartwatch. We will keep you posted. In the interim, we reckon buying the SE (2nd Gen) or Series 8 now or during the holidays when prices drop for both devices. This makes the most sense, as so far, there is nothing to suggest users will not see a major upgrade between the Apple 8 and 9 series except a few major health monitoring features like non-invasive glucose monitoring. And the Series 8 will be around $75 to $100 cheaper.
Galaxy Watch 5Samsung
Samsung launched its Galaxy Watch Active 2 alongside the Galaxy S10 smartphone in February 2019. It had a great design, ran the company's Tizen operating system, and (unlike the iPhone-only Apple Watch) worked with both iOS and Android smartphones. The Samsung smartwatch also had an ECG feature and was controlled using a clever touch-sensitive bezel. It was a great fitness tracker, but the company no longer sells the Active 2 smartwatch. It focuses on moving Active 2 users over to the Galaxy Watch 4.
At around $199, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 significantly undercuts the current Apple Watch SE or Series 9, and we think it represents good value for money. This is available in two sizes, with cases of 40mm and 45mm, with or without 4G, and in black and pink gold. The Watch 4 features ECG monitoring, advanced sleep tracking, and continuous SPO2. It also comes with Auto Workout Tracking to keep you informed every step of the way during your workouts.
Samsung also sells the Galaxy Watch 6 This is available in two sizes with cases of 40mm and 45mm, with or without 4G, and in two different colors. Like the Active 2, the Watch 6 features industry-standard lug bars, so it is easy to swap out the straps for any other you like the look of. As with Apple, there are rumors that Samsung's next smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch 4, will feature glucose monitoring for the first time.
Samsung normally announces a new smartwatch alongside their new smartphone. This year, it was the Galaxy S23 smartphone family and the Watch 6. Based on this timing, it's tricky to say what features will be in the next watch in August 2024. It's too early to tell. So, if you are keen to buy one now, we suggest buying the Galaxy Watch 6 or Watch 4 if you can find one instead of waiting until the summer.
Garmin Venu 3 Series smartwatchGarmin
Garmin might not be your first port of call when it comes to buying a new smartwatch. But if you want a wearable designed from the outset to be used outdoors and in harsh environments, the company's Venu 3 Series is well worth a look. Available in a few different configurations, this watch is unapologetically chunky but with good reason, as it has a huge battery life of up to 10 days when used as a regular smartwatch. It also has many of the sports and fitness tracking features you see on other smartwatches, along with apps for hiking, expeditions, skiing, golf, and more.
At $450, the Venu 3 isn't cheap, but if you need a smartwatch to perform in any situation and stand up to abuse, it should be worth a consideration. Also, coming from Garmin instead of Apple or Samsung means it isn't subject to a relentless annual update cycle. Hence, buying now is no bad thing, and a new model is unlikely to make the current generation feel out of date immediately.
Garmin also sells the fashion-forward Vivoactive 5, Fenix 7 Pro, and Forerunner series, good alternative smartwatches for fitness geeks, and the more feminine Lily is designed for the fashion-conscious who want to continue tracking their health when out for the night.
Withings ScanWatch 2 is only hybrid smartwatch to provide temperature readings.Withings
French fitness tech company Withings offers a wide range of hybrid smartwatches with health and fitness features. There's the entry-level $70 Move, which is little more than an activity tracker that looks like a watch. Upping your budget will take you to the Steel range, which includes a heart rate monitor and, in the case of the most expensive versions, a seriously classy design with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal instead of glass. We're big fans.
At GearBrain, we have tested two Withings watches, ScanWatch and the Move ECG. These smartwatches were announced in 2019 and 2020, respectively, both have the hardware to take an ECG and have been clinically tested.
Withings offers a range of new stylish hybrid smartwatches focusing on health and fitness tracking. These new watches include heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and long battery life. Their new ScanWatch 2 is an excellent choice. It is the company's most advanced hybrid smartwatch and the first one to offer temperature tracking as well as ECG and SPO2 tracking.. It comes in two sizes, 38mm and 42mm along with several new vibrant colors. Other popular Withings hybrid smartwatches include the ScanWatch Horizon and Steel HR.
Withings also sells the ScanWatch Light which has 30 day battery life and offers excellent health tracking capabilities.
Fitbit Charge 5 Fitbit
Having acquired Fitbit for over $2 billion, we expected many wearable and smartwatch news to come from Google over the past few years. And now, the news has arrived – the Google rumor for the past three years was they were making its first own-brand smartwatch, potentially called the Pixel Watch. This rumor came true when their new smartwatch finally arrived in October 2022. This month the company announced the second generation of their new smartwatch, the Google Pixel Watch 2. The second-generation Pixel Watch has a more powerful processor, more RAM, more storage, a newer version of Wear OS, and more health and fitness tracking features, including ECG monitoring. The second generation Google Pixel Watch is a significant improvement over the first generation. It is faster, has more features, and can track your health and fitness. And it costs $349.99.
Fitbit's range of excellent fitness trackers and smartwatches remain on sale. The Charge 5 is a reliable fitness tracker and the most capable fitness tracker/smartwatch. The Charge 5 has GPS, constant heart rate tracking, automatic exercise and sleep tracking, a battery life of up to seven days, smartphone alerts, contactless payments, and interchangeable straps. The Charge 5 arrived in September 2021, so it is a lightly order model but still a good buy.
The Fitbit Sense 2 smartwatchFitbit
The Sense 2 has a similar feature set – and is similarly improved by subscribing to the $10 a month Fitbit Plus service – but resembles a smartwatch with a larger touchscreen. It has up to six days of battery life and can track your heart, activity, exercise, and sleep, as well as blood oxygenation, ECG, skin temperature (which can indicate a fever when raised), and even your stress levels. The Sense was only launched in September 2022, so it would make a good buy now, as it is unlikely to be replaced for a good while yet.
Check out The GearBrain, our compatibility find engine to find the perfect smartwatch that meets your needs and works with your smartphone.
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