The Best Smartwatches for Android – October 2018
As a people, we’ve never been more connected than we are today. After Apple reinvented the concept of a smartphone in 2007, the adoption rates skyrocketed, and more than three quarters of American adults now own and use a smartphone as part of their daily life. In many ways, this constant source of connection is a good thing, allowing users to receive breaking news alerts, weather warnings, directions to nearby areas, and of course, messages from users all around the world. On the other hand, the constant connection means we’re never fully aware of the world around us. Even in places where it should be easy to take in our surroundings, like when waiting in line at a store or walking down a city sidewalk, you’re likely to see people with their phones out, checking up on their Twitter feed or looking through their collection of Snapchat stories. It feels nearly impossible to escape the barrage of notifications and the continuous feeling of being connected to the internet at all times. Something as simple as having a conversation with someone becomes a challenge to avoid looking at your smartphone.
Luckily, a problem created by gadgets can also be solved by gadgets. Smartwatches have been a product on the market for a few years now, and while there is no singular perfect smartwatch, it is an incredibly interesting product lineup. There are watches for all different kinds of people and interests, from smaller, more fashion-focused watches to sport watches designed to track your personal fitness, to watches that mix and match both types of devices. And while a smartwatch might seem like an unnecessary gadget, using it as a utility throughout your day can help you keep your phone in your pocket in social situations or in important meetings, only pulling it out to look at a specific notification when absolutely necessary.
If you’re tired of interrupting conversations with your smartphone, or you’re looking for something to keep track of your physical activity throughout the day, there’s really nothing better you can grab than a smartwatch to help you through your day. They may not revolutionize your world like the smartphone did, but when used correctly, they can make your day just a little bit easier. Let’s take a look at the best smartwatches for Android users.
The first Huawei Watch was a homerun by most standards. Despite the brand lacking a sense of clout in the United States, the watch took what worked from watches like the Moto 360 and improved on both the design and the featureset. With a fully round display (without the flat-tire design that plagued Motorola’s series of watches) and a gorgeous design that made plenty of Wear OS users upgrade to the device. When it came time to refresh the watch, Huawei followed Samsung’s lead, splitting their watch into two distinct categories. The first, the Huawei Watch 2 Sport, is perfect for anyone looking for a great fitness watch—we’ll discuss that more below—but it’s the Huawei Watch 2 Classic that takes after its older brother. With a great design, a gorgeous AMOLED circular display, and incredible battery life, the Watch 2 Classic is the way to go if you’re looking for a fashion-focused watch that can do it all.
Outside of cellular connectivity, which is offered in the Watch 2 Sport but not this model, the Classic has nearly everything you could ever want in a smartwatch for Android devices. With support for NFC and built-in GPS, it’s easy to use the Huawei Watch 2 in pretty much any scenario, including for tracking your runs and for paying for groceries with the Android Pay app through Wear OS 2.0. The device features Bluetooth support as well, which allows for a pair of Bluetooth earbuds to be connected to the device in order to properly allow for listening to music playback while on the go. With 4GB of storage and an included 10 week subscription to Google Play Music, you can easily store both local and streaming music to the device for playback without your phone’s connection, making it ideal for anyone looking to run or exercise with the app.
Of course, this is a fashion-focused watch, so while it’s great that it can do all of the fitness things one would look for in a smartwatch, it’s also perfectly designed to fit into any number of outfits or styles you might find. This is a big watch, measuring in at 45mm compared to the smaller 38mm and 42mm sizes of the Apple Watch, which means you’re looking at a large device taking up much of your wrist. This, unfortunately, may make it difficult for those with smaller wrists to wear comfortably, though you can take some pride in the fact that larger watches are indeed in vogue right now.
Compared to larger watches like the 2015 Moto 360, the watch still manages to come out larger, thanks to the chronometer bezel around the device that, unfortunately, is the only portion of the design we don’t much care for. Still, the titanium-colored metal and leather bands (available in brown and, in our opinion, a much better-looking black) wrapped around the device feel great, and the rubber underside of the leather band helps make it viable for exercise and fashion equally. It’s a great, versatile watch that can be used for basically any activity.
In terms of software, Wear OS 2.0 is a bit of a mixed bag. After being delayed for months, the update rolled out earlier in 2017, and while the platform still has its fair share of fans, we’d argue there’s a lot wrong with the operating system that Google has left unfixed between devices. The addition of features like Android Pay or Google Assistant are nice, but the whole ecosystem feels like a mess, and browsing for apps on the watch display still feels a bit rough.
There are improvements here though, with everything from new watch faces to improved gestures making the watch a little easier to browse, but these aspects come at the price of complicated notifications that occasionally don’t work well (for example, bundling is completely removed here, which is disappointing considering that’s one of the main draws when it comes to Android’s own standard operating system. Overall, Wear OS 2.0 is a better version than the original operating system, but it’s still seems unfocused overall. It’s certainly usable for sending texts, checking the weather, or tracking your activity, but you should adjust your expectations accordingly.
Overall, the Huawei Watch 2 Classic is the best Wear OS device on the market today, and the best smartwatch that can sync with your Android device. The flexibility offered by the device, from its classy leather-and-metal appearance to the rubber underside of its band that allows for the watch to be used without ruining the leather with your sweat, makes it the ideal crossover device. At $271, the Watch 2 Classic doesn’t come cheap. For anyone looking to experiment with smartwatches without dropping nearly $400, you’ll want to look elsewhere on this list. That said, the device occasionally goes on sale for up to $80 off, and the original Huawei Watch can be found for around $200 on eBay. The Sport version of the Huawei Watch 2 didn’t quite earn the critical acclaim we originally saw with the first Watch, but the Watch 2 Classic more than makes up for it, and manages to score our top recommendation.
- Solid design
- Wear OS 2.0
- Leather/rubber combination
- Minor software bugs
- May not fit small wrists
Samsung is, full stop, the biggest name in Android manufacturing today outside of Google. The South Korean giant is perhaps the only tech company that has found any kind of major success in manufacturing Android device, and they do deserve some recognition for that fact. Outside of Apple, only Samsung has really dominated the conversation around normal smartphone consumers, creating a full name-brand recognition that has led to tens of millions of devices sold each year. It’s only natural that Samsung would expand their smartphone line to include smartwatches, and the company hasn’t disappointed. After a few ill-thought-out attempts at creating Android-based watches prior to the release of Wear OS, Samsung transitioned to using their own Tizen operating system to create their Gear line of devices. Despite the lack of Wear OS support, Samsung’s smartwatches have been some of the best released to the market, able to work with any device Samsung or otherwise. Let’s take a look at what makes their newest release so special.
In many ways, the Gear Sport is similar to a cross between 2016’s Gear S3 Frontier and the Gear S2 from 2015. The former was lambasted for losing the sleek, slim body of the latter, despite being a solid watch in its own right. The Gear Sport looks to be something of a cross between the two, reducing the size from the Gear S3 while still retaining some of the fitness features that were added into that device. It hasn’t fully returned to the sleek profile we originally saw from the Gear S2, but it has certainly slimmed down while retaining most of the features we expect from Samsung’s smartwatch line.
The display is fully circular, without any cutouts or flat-tire display sensors along the bottom of the device, and though it’s still fairly large, it should fit most wrists without a problem. Surrounding the display is a black or blue metallic body that looks phenomenal and understated. As a sport-focused watch, it uses a rubber watch band as opposed to leather, which does make the device look cheaper than it is, but thankfully, the band can be swapped out with any other 20mm band. The rubber band exists to allow for swimming with the watch, but if you plan on keeping the device dry, a rubber-coated leather band like what we saw on the Watch 2 Classic may be the better choice.
As we mentioned above, the Gear Sport doesn’t run Wear OS Though Samsung briefly flirted with Wear OS watches in 2014, it quickly reverted back to using Tizen as the operating system of choice for its Gear-branded devices, which it’s continued to do ever since. Tizen isn’t the kind of operating system you would want powering your flagship smartphone—there’s a reason that the manufacturer still uses Android as its platform of choice on all its smartphones sold in the United States. If you’re worried about app support on your smartwatch, you’re better off springing for an Wear OS-based device, like the Huawei Watch 2 Classic.
That said, Samsung’s own Tizen-based app store for their smartwatch lineup is surprisingly healthy, with thousands of apps available to choose from for download. The biggest drawback to using Tizen comes from the limitations imposed by Samsung. This watch works with any Android device, but you’ll have to download several partner applications to use it on a non-Samsung device. Likewise, you won’t find Android Pay or Google Assistant here, and S Voice simply doesn’t compete with Google’s own smart AI service.
This is a sport-focused device, of course, so most of the watch faces are built around activity tracking rather than style. Whereas the Watch 2 Classic includes plenty of analog and style-based faces, along with any of the third-party watch faces you can grab from the Play Store, you’ll mostly find digital and fitness-based watch faces here. The device is controlled with a rotating bezel that puts basically every Wear OS device to shame. We’ve largely seen static bezels on most of the Android-based watches put out by Google’s partners, and it’s an absolute shame. This is the way to control smart watches, especially ones with smaller displays like the 1.2″ OLED panel on this particular model. Like most modern smartwatches, the Gear Sport includes 4GB of internal storage that can playback music to your headphones. Spotify works here as well, and with the built-in GPS, you can likely use this as a perfect running companion—just keep your running playlists below 1,000 songs or so.
Overall, the Gear Sport is another strong step forward for the Samsung Gear line, even if it isn’t a perfect smartwatch. For many, the Gear S3’s chunky design was a step back from the understated, sleek profile of the Gear S2, and the Gear Sport manages to combine both of these designs into something that resembles a middle ground between the newer and older designs. We still think the Huawei Watch 2 Classic beats this out, offering nearly the same level of fitness functionality in a watch that syncs with Google Assistant and Google Fit and offers a more professional appearance, but the Gear Sport is cheaper and includes a better overall smartwatch experience thanks to Tizen optimization and the inclusion of the rotating bezel. As more and more companies begin moving their smartwatches towards the fitness market, it’s good to see Samsung making a solid product for any phone on the market.
- Tizen's come a long way
- Syncs with all modern smartphones
- Great display
- Not as many apps as Wear OS
- Smaller size
- S Voice isn't great
Garmin’s own smartwatch lineup seem to be more focused on taking on the Fitbit series than Wear OS devices, but they remain solid picks for any athletes looking for a quality device. The company once well-known for the GPS systems have smartwatches priced up and down the market, but you’ll find their Fenix line to be some of the best watches on the market for anyone truly interested in tracking their fitness and workout regimen. These are not cheap watches—the Fenix 5S recommended here is prices at $599, and the 5X is even pricier—but the devices are incredibly powerful for the cost.
With its basic LCD display, it can last up to a week on a single charge and can be seen in direct sunlight. You won’t find a full app market on the Fenix line, but it can display notifications from your device, and its rugged design means you don’t have to worry about dropping it and destroying your investment. The size of the newer Fenix devices have been significantly reduced, and with a built-in GPS, barometer, altimeter, compass, and the option to track your heart rate and your sleep schedule, it’s ideal for anyone focused on training. If you want a watch that will focus primarily on athletics over everything else, you’ll want to consider one of Garmin’s specific fitness watches. They’re expensive, but should be considered an investment in a great piece of tech. Definitely check them out.
- Perfect for fitness nerds
- Understated "smart" design
- Very expensive
- Doesn't have a full app store
Asus’ first ZenWatch was released back in 2014 as a cheaper option for those looking to jump into the smartwatch game without dropping $250 or more on the Moto 360. The display was bulky and square, though not all that unfamiliar compared to we would eventually see from the Apple Watch a few months later. The ZenWatch 2 continued this tradition, complete with the standard square design, but the ZenWatch 3 has finally evolved, offering consumers a fully-circular watch that still manages to look premium. A 1.39″ AMOLED display is surrounded by a thin metal bezel, offering three buttons along the right side of the device for easy use throughout the day. The buttons can be customized, and offers a crown on the middle button, and the leather strap matches the brushed aluminum coating of the actual device well. It’s not a perfect device—with over 60 watch faces, many of them appear rushed, and the watch band isn’t a standard, which means you’ll have difficulty finding a way to replace it—but it has been praised as one of the best Wear OS devices on the market today, and with the device readily available for under $200 brand new, it’s a great budget option. Asus has reportedly cancelled its plans to continue the ZenWatch line. While this would be disappointing, the ZenWatch 3 is a great device, and an even better way to end the line.
- Solid design
- Questionable software support moving forward
- Difficult to replace the band
We mentioned the Gear S2 quite a bit in our review of its successor, the Gear Sport, largely because it’s one of our favorite smartwatches of the past two years. Samsung’s original Gear smartwatches were rightfully criticized by consumers and reviewers alike for their poor design language, but the Gear S2 manages to make a smartwatch look nearly identical to any number of traditional watches on the market today. Despite its age—the watch is over two years old now—you can still grab them in “New (Other)” states from eBay for under $150, making them ideal for anyone looking to pick up a fantastic watch on the cheap without dropping a few hundred dollars on the Huawei Watch 2 Classic. The Gear S2 runs Tizen, and though it doesn’t have access to quite as many apps or features as the newer Gear S3 or Gear Sport, it’s still a solid offering for the price. Don’t expect much by way of updates or new applications, but with support for notifications, a fantastic AMOLED 1.2″ display, and an IP68 water resistant body, you’ll be all set for whatever the day holds for you.
- Cheapest device on this list
- Great design
- Over two years old
- No major future software support
The past year has seen the majority of traditional Android manufacturers leave the smartwatch game behind. Motorola, Asus, and more have no definitely plans to return to creating smartwatches, and companies like HTC never even began. To fill that void, fashion and jewelry brands have begun creating devices of their own, and Michael Kors is no exception. The famous fashion brand has created two different devices, the Grayson and the Sofie, developed for men and women respectively. Both devices feature the standard Snapdragon Wear 2100 that powers nearly every Wear OS devices these days, with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. The only major differences in terms of specs comes from the size in display and the capacity of each watch’s battery, though both devices last about a day through use. These devices both run Wear OS 2.0, with all the support included by that operating system, but the metal-and-jewelry-focused builds of both devices mean these aren’t meant for wearing out on your morning jog. Still, if you’re looking for a designer watch that is able to access your notifications on your device or play music back over Bluetooth earbuds, the Michael Kors lineup constitutes some of the best “fashion”-focused watches we’ve seen yet.
- Luxury-style branding
- Two different sizes
- Not made for fitness
- Questionable support
The Samsung Gear Sport might be the newest smartwatch out of Samsung, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect for every user. Though we prefer the slightly-more compact build of the Gear Sport, last year’s Gear S3 from Samsung is a great device for anyone looking for a large watch with the signature rotating bezel we’ve seen from other Tizen-based devices like the Gear S2 and Gear Sport. The S3 comes in two different builds, Classic and Frontier. The Classic model is similar to the S2, albeit with a flashier bezel ring surrounding the display and an overall larger build that allows Samsung to include a bigger battery. The Frontier leans into its size, creating a more rugged body that is designed to flesh more with the outdoors than anything else. Neither watch is particularly ugly nor good looking, though it’s worth noting that the Frontier is pretty huge. Both devices support Spotify offline, like the Gear Sport, which make them excellent additions to your workout regimen. Despite their age, both devices are still sold at higher prices than the newer Gear Sport, so the device that’s right for you will likely factor in how much you want to spend. Overall, the Gear S3 is a quality device, but considering the improved looks of the Gear Sport and the much-lower price of the Gear S2, your money might be better spent elsewhere.
- Every tech standard you could imagine, including LTE
- Two different models
- Big and bulky
- Some might find the Frontier model gaudy
Originally just known as the Watch 2, the Sport version of the Huawei Watch 2 garnered a fair amount of criticism when it first launched. While the device added NFC, GPS, LTE capabilities, and featured an upgrade to Android 2.0 over the original, it also included a smaller display, moved to a plastic build in its body that made the device feel cheaper than the original, and made it more difficult to swap the bands for something a bit more premium-feeling. Though the Watch 2 Classic was later released to fix some of the complaints of the original device (and indeed, it’s on the top of this list for a reason), the original Watch 2, now sometimes listed as the Watch 2 Sport, is still available for sale at a reduced price. The plastic, sport-like model can now be picked up for under $200, making it ideal for anyone looking for a great smartwatch at a reduced cost. That drop in price doesn’t fix the build issues or the performance problems that occasionally plague the original Watch 2 model, but when the Classic edition still sells for twice the same cost, it’s easy to discount those small errors.
- Durable plastic body
- Cheaper price
- Middling design
- Performance issues
The LG Watch Style is Google’s smaller reference device for Wear OS 2.0, a watch similar to the Gear S2 from 2015 in both size and appearance. The watch is a bit plain, lacking something that made the Gear S2 stick in our minds, but it’s certainly small and watch-like in appearance. A rotating crown similar to the Apple Watch allows you to view notifications without having to touch the 1.2″ P-OLED display, but with the size of the bezel surrounding the screen, you’ll wish that LG and Google had decided to implement a rotating bezel similar to Samsung’s devices. This is the smaller of Google and LG’s reference watches, and unfortunately, it’s missing the biggest enhancement brought to devices with Wear OS 2.0: Android Pay. Without a built-in NFC chip, you can forget about paying for your groceries with your watch. Same goes for the lack of GPS built into the device: something as vital for fitness as GPS makes the Watch Style a wash when it comes to proper fitness tracking without your phone. Though the larger LG Watch Sport does include both of these features, it’s also more expensive and contains unneeded wireless LTE capabilities. At $250, we’d recommend spending that money elsewhere on this list.
- One of Google's reference gadgets
- Small size
- Boring design
- No NFC for Android Pay