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Smartwatch buying guide: How to choose your smart wristwear

Confused over the type, brand and model to go for? Our rundown wastes no time getting you to the answers

Nicholas Fearn
Wednesday 02 June 2021 11:27 BST
<p>Classic models are the most advanced, but fitness trackers and hybrids may provide you with all you need</p>

Classic models are the most advanced, but fitness trackers and hybrids may provide you with all you need

Watches have been around for hundreds of years, and mostly, they’ve served as a way to tell the time. But in the last few years, watches have progressed significantly and are more capable than ever.

Now, many people are shunning traditional analogue watches in favour of new-fangled smartwatches.

These not only tell the time and date, but also allow users to make and receive phone calls, send and read text messages, use applications, track their health and fitness, pay for things on the go, receive phone notifications, and so much more.

While smartwatches offer a wide range of capabilities and benefits, choosing one isn’t the most straightforward task when you consider all the different types, makes and models available today.

But to help you, we’ve put together this guide on everything you need to know when buying a smartwatch.

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Different types of smartwatches

Before choosing a make and model of smartwatch, it’s important to understand the different types of smartwatch available on the market and to decide which one would best suit your needs. There are three main categories: classic smartwatches, hybrid smartwatches and fitness trackers.

Classic smartwatches

Classic smartwatches link up to a smartphone via its Bluetooth connection to notify you of incoming calls, text messages, emails, social media updates, calendar events, alarms, and other types of notifications. This information is typically displayed on a touchscreen display, which you can also use to navigate a compact interface and use smartwatch-friendly apps.

Many classic smartwatches will also enable you to make and receive phone calls and send and read text messages. In fact, some classic smartwatches can be purchased as part of a contract and have their own mobile connection, allowing you to use online apps, ring people, and send text messages without being connected to a smartphone.

Classic smartwatches often sport fitness and health tracking capabilities too, and of course, they tell the time and will let you change the style of the watch face.

Hybrid smartwatches

Hybrid smartwatches are a combination of classic smartwatches and analogue watches. They look like any standard analogue watch, with mechanical arms instead of a touchscreen display. However, they can be connected to a handset via Bluetooth to provide phone notifications, fitness metrics, and other important information.

Read more: 9 best smartwatches for kids that have games, cameras and trackers

Hybrid smartwatches can differ in how they work, but often, they’ll use mechanical watch arms, vibrations or a tiny screen for alerting users to new notifications on their phone.

Compared to classic smartwatches, hybrid smartwatches may be more durable in terms of design and sport a battery life that can last for weeks on end. Hybrid smartwatches are an excellent option for those who want a traditional watch that also offers some of the features provided by classic smartwatches with a touchscreen display.

Fitness trackers

If you’re a health and fitness fan, you’ll no doubt love fitness trackers. These are smartwatches that put health and fitness first. The best fitness trackers not only monitor your steps, calories, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep, breathing, and other metrics, but also offer a wide range of fitness modes and many other features to help you to stay healthy.

Considering they’re a type of smartwatch, fitness trackers provide the time and date. What’s also great about fitness trackers is that they tend to be cheaper than classic smartwatches, although this is often because they have fewer features overall.

Main smartwatch brands

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of smartwatches out there, you’re probably wondering which make and model to choose. We’ll now discuss the main smartwatch brands and models.

What type of smartwatch do I need?

For the vast majority of people, classic smartwatches will suit all their needs. They are more advanced than any other type of smartwatch, allowing users to ring and message people, keep fit and healthy, access their calendar entries, use smartwatch-friendly apps, make mobile payments, and so much more.

But of course, not everyone will need a watch that essentially performs all the functions offered by their smartphone. If you’re interested in purchasing a smartwatch for health and fitness reasons, then a fitness tracker will do the job fine and save you more money at the same time. And for anyone who wants a traditional analogue watch with some smart capabilities, then a hybrid smartwatch will be perfect.

Which make and model should I choose?

Another question you might have is which make and model of smartwatch to purchase. Well, you should really base your decision on the smartphone you want to use the smartwatch with. If you own an iPhone or a different iOS device, we’d recommend sticking with the Apple watch. And, in our opinion, the best smartwatch for Android users is the Samsung Galaxy watch 3. Naturally, any Fitbit wearable will be the best option for fitness and health buffs.

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But something to bear in mind is that, apart from the Apple watch, most smartwatches and fitness trackers are universal in terms of compatibility. So if you were to buy a smartwatch from a company like Samsung, Fitbit or Huawei, it’d work fine with both iOS and Android phones.

The verdict: Smartwatch buying guide

When shopping around for a smartwatch, you’re definitely spoilt for choice. But in order to choose a model that’ll suit all your needs and work well with your smartphone, it’s essential to conduct plenty of research beforehand.

Most people will be happy with a general smartwatch that lets them make phone calls, send text messages, stay up-to-date with their phone notifications, and perform other helpful functions from their wrist. Models like the Apple watch and Samsung Galaxy watch sit in this category, and overall, they’re two of the best smartwatches available today.

But there are also niche options like fitness trackers and hybrid smartwatches, which suit people who need something more specific. If you’re looking for a fitness tracker, we’d recommend checking out Fitbit’s extensive range of health and fitness-focused smartwatches. Meanwhile, the Withings scanwatch is one of our favourite hybrid smartwatches because it combines classic analogue watch style with cutting-edge technology.

Either way, smartwatches are a must-have accessory for anyone who loves their gadgets. And buying one will introduce lots of benefits to your everyday life, whether it’s ensuring you never miss any important notifications from your phone or tracking your health and fitness right around the clock.

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For more help finding the right model for you, take a look at our review of the best smartwatches

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