The latest smartwatches are here to enhance your health and wellbeing. Here’s our guide to living smarter
Welcome to the new age of smartwatches – brilliant tech you wear next to your skin all the time. As well as letting you know when a text, email or call arrives, they also keep a watchful eye on your health and wellbeing. This goes far beyond just counting steps and calorie burn – some of these multi-tasking gadgets can even check your heart rate and oxygen levels and give you a running commentary on your cardio fitness.
The latter is proving particularly important. There are multiple cases of smartwatch wearers who have been warned by their watch that they should contact their doctor. This has often led to unnoticed medical conditions being discovered before they became serious.
A smartwatch usually needs your phone nearby for some features but there are models with their own direct cellular connections so you can make calls or receive messages without your phone in range. Many have GPS built-in too so you don’t need to take your phone running with you.
As for other fitness options, there are workouts built into some watches. Apple Fitness+, a brilliant new subscription service for Apple Watch users, has hundreds of high-quality video workouts, designed to be welcoming to all. Sessions range from high-impact interval training to yoga, core workouts to dance. You watch the videos on iPhone, iPad or via Apple TV and your heart rate, taken by your watch, appears on screen so you can see how you’re doing.
Smartwatches are gadgets which grow on you. The convenience of getting your notifications, the usefulness of fitness data and even the split-second accuracy of the timekeeping all make a difference. Try one for a while and you may find it hard to go back to a regular watch.
Apple’s smartwatches match immaculate build quality to eye-catching design and stunning ease of use. They also have Apple’s voice assistant on board, so you can raise the Apple Watch and speak a command – say, ‘Give me walking directions home,’ and your Watch will guide you. It’ll even vibrate to let you know when you need to turn left or right.
Apple Watches only pair with iPhones, so you will need one of those to get full use from one. Most of the other smartwatches featured below work with both Android and Apple phones.
“Apple matches immaculate build quality to eye-catching design and stunning ease of use”
All models of Apple Watch come in two sizes and can track your activity, including swimming and sleep, and monitor your heart, letting you know if there are unexpectedly high or low heart rates.
Apple Watch Series 3 is the most affordable, but Apple Watch SE and Apple Watch Series 6 and 7 have a snazzier design as well as features such as fall detection (if you fall down hard and don’t move for 60 seconds it can be set up to call friends or the emergency services). The latest top-flight models additionally let you take an ECG or measure blood oxygen levels, and have always-on displays.
On all models, the battery lasts more than a day, so you won't need to worry about taking it off to recharge it when you’re out and about.
Fitbit is known for accurate fitness monitoring, and the lightweight Versa 3 has GPS built in so you can run without your phone. It has plenty of fitness activities to choose from, it measures blood oxygen levels and its sleep tracking is in-depth. The Versa 3 also has a heart-rate monitor and boasts a battery life of up to six days.
The Garmin Venu is a handsome timepiece which also has GPS, sleep monitoring and blood oxygen measuring built in. Featuring animated workouts on board, the Venu has a large, high-resolution display, and can prompt you to do a breathing exercise when you’re stressed.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is the latest in a long series of trackers and smartwatches from the brand. The classic edition is also one of the only smartwatches to feature a rotating bezel, making navigation a breeze. The first models from the brand to use an operating system built in collaboration with Google, the latest Galaxy watches have access to a vast array of apps.
The Galaxy Watch 4’s health and fitness capabilities are strong (GPS, health monitoring and sleep tracking are among the many things built in), but it has cute extras too: take a photo of your clothes on a compatible phone, for example, and it will show you watch faces in matching colours. Like the Apple Watch, it has a model with cellular connectivity so you don’t need to take your phone everywhere with you.
“Samsung’s fitness capabilities are strong”
Is swimming your go-to fitness activity? Then the Galaxy Watch 4 might well be the watch for you. It's waterproof to 5 ATM, so it's more than capable of handling a session in the pool. Just start swimming and it'll automatically detect what you're doing and start tracking your laps for you. Just give it a quick rinse in fresh water after your session to keep it in top shape.
Some smartwatches are defiantly rugged, but the Fossil FTW6073 is elegant and classy. The rose gold bracelet is peppered with crystal and – despite its smart display – looks entirely like a regular watch. It runs Google WearOS software, so advanced activity tracking is on board as well as reminders, heart-rate measurements and more.
The new Garmin Lily Sport Edition is also a very attractive option. It’s small, light and slim, with a monochrome screen that helps its battery last up to five days. It has blood oxygen monitoring, relaxation exercises and, like many of the latest smartwatches, menstrual-cycle tracking software.
There are also smartwatches from dedicated fashion brands to consider. The Gen 5E Darci smartwatch from Michael Kors offers a bit more glam to go with your smartwatch needs. It features a built-in speaker for Bluetooth-enabled calling, heart-rate tracking and NFC payment methods.