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Google has announced its first Android smartwatch, the Pixel Watch, which could be a worthy rival for Samsung’s new Galaxy Watch5. We will try both to see which one is better for Android users.
Update Top Rated Smartwatches Review
Smartwatches let you check who’s calling, reading a text, or dozens of other types of notifications you get every day — even though most people don’t. After reviewing dozens of Android-compatible smartwatches, we recommend the Samsung Galaxy Watch4. It’s one of the fastest and most responsive wearables we’ve tested, and the round screen makes it look more traditional than the competition.
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Available in 40mm and 44mm sizes, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is the best smartwatch for Android phones because it has Google’s latest Wear OS 3 software, which most other Android watches don’t have. It uses Samsung’s One UI interface, but you get access to all the apps and watch faces on the Google Play Store. The Galaxy Watch 4 offers impressive health monitoring with automatic motion detection, ECG, SpO2 and stress analysis. The Watch4 lacks the Watch4’s classic rotating bezel and it just comes with a minimalist style that may or may not suit your aesthetic preferences. You can swap out the bands to customize the look of the Watch4, but that’s about it.
The Watch 4 Classic has everything that makes the Watch4 great, plus a more durable stainless steel case and rotating OS navigation.
Samsung’s Watch4 Classic has the same specs and features as the Watch4, but the design is more traditional. It’s also on the heavier side for a smartwatch thanks to its more durable stainless steel case. It is available in 42mm and 46mm sizes. The Watch 4 Classic also retains the rotating bezel of older Samsung watches, making it easier to switch operating systems. If you don’t mind the larger size and $100 price increase over the Watch4, this is a better smartwatch.
The Fossil Gen 6 range is capable and comes in many styles and sizes to fit your aesthetic, but they run an older version of Wear OS that isn’t scheduled to be updated until late 2022.
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Fossil’s latest Android smartwatches come in a dozen different case styles, but all use the same internals with the top-of-the-line Snapdragon Wear 4100+ “platform” (a pair of processors designed to work together). Performance is excellent, and Fossil still has a full suite of health sensors, as well as access to the Play Store for apps and watch faces. But now Fossil Gen 6 runs an older version of Wear OS that lacks the latest apps and features. The Gen 6 is set to get the new Wear OS later this year and integrate with Google apps and services on your phone, while the Watch4 will let you download a range of Samsung apps to non-Samsung phones.
Wirecutter writers have been researching, testing, and writing about smartwatches since early 2013, right after the first Pebble watches shipped to Kickstarter backers. Ryan Whitwam has worn smartwatches almost every day for the past decade and has written about them for several publications including Android Police and ExtremeTech. He also maintains Wirecutter’s guides to the best Android phones, best budget Android phones, and best Android tablets.
Getting notifications from your phone on your wrist can help you avoid pulling out your phone for annoying alerts. Photo: Sarah Kobos
If you have a smartphone, you probably don’t need a smartwatch, but the added convenience can often justify the cost (and the hassle of charging another device). For most people, smartwatches are great for sending notifications to your wrist so you can check without having to pull out your phone and wake up. This is useful for people who can’t take out their phones in a professional setting, but still want to be alerted to important calls or see messages at a glance. A smartwatch can still distract you with its beeping, but it’s easy to quickly see if something’s important. Most smartwatches also allow you to acknowledge, decline, or respond to notifications from the watch and provide ways to control smart devices around your home.
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Most smartwatches have a fitness component. Most smartwatches are great for counting steps, encouraging exercise, and tracking the occasional long walk, run, or bike ride. You can also find sports and fitness-focused smartwatches on the market, but each has drawbacks not found in devices like running watches and fitness trackers, which we recommend (and if you have health insurance, you might get a discount or incentive use one for that).
The range of styles for smartwatches has evolved significantly – today most Android-compatible smartwatches are a far cry from traditional watches, often with round displays and available in many styles. However, smartwatches are still thicker and wider than most traditional watches, which can make them feel uncomfortable on the wrist. Some models come in more than one size, but the smaller watches often have lower battery capacities and are still much larger than traditional “women’s” watches.
Some smartwatches offer many apps that are either pre-installed on the watch or available for download from the App Store. These apps can be as simple as a timer or stopwatch, or they can control your smart home devices, change your music, or provide turn-by-turn directions for walking or driving. However, in our testing and everyday use, with a few exceptions including some fitness apps and those that track things like water or food intake, tracking apps have never had a good experience.
For those who prefer the Apple ecosystem, the Apple Watch is the best option and we’ll go into more detail in our Apple Watch guide.
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Since the dawn of modern smartwatches, we have wanted to test as many related models as possible and recommend the smartwatches that are the most convenient and useful.
In order of importance, these are the things that matter most when recommending a smartwatch:
We tested Wear OS, Tizen and other operating systems in conjunction with Android phones. Whenever possible, we ask other people to test our potential choices to see how other people react to a watch’s size, style, interface, and features.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is the best smartwatch to pair with an Android phone, even if it’s not made by Samsung. It is available in 40mm and 44mm sizes so you can choose the one that suits you best. Unlike previous Galaxy watches, the Watch4 runs Android-based Wear OS. This means you get access to the Play Store and Google services, along with Samsung’s familiar One UI interface. The Watch 4 range is the only way to get Wear OS 3, which fixes several glaring bugs in older versions. However, the setup process can be fiddly on non-Samsung phones, and the smaller 40mm model’s battery life is only acceptable.
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The Watch4 has a minimalist design with a simple aluminum body with a circular OLED touchscreen and comes with a few different color and band options. mm, and the brightness is enough to make it fully readable outdoors. The screen blends seamlessly into the case, and around the edges is a touch-sensitive bezel that mimics the Watch4 Classic’s rotating ring. However, we didn’t find it reliable enough to bother with this feature. When gliding isn’t enough, you want a classic.
The buttons are firm and tactile, and nothing gets irritated when the watch’s powerful vibration motor kicks in. It’s not as powerful or as accurate as the Apple Watch, but it’s the best you can get on Android. The watch comes with a quality (but boring) black silicone strap if you buy it from most retailers, but if you buy direct from Samsung you can customize the watch with one of their other strap options. The watch is made from a curved aluminum case and has standard lugs, so you won’t be stuck with the same style forever. Samsung accessories are molded into the case of the watch to look polished, but if that’s not important, you have a whole world of beautiful watch straps to choose from.
Samsung has switched from its Tizen software to Google Wear OS on the Watch4, although you wouldn’t tell by looking. Google has had Samsung create a UI skin for its new Wear OS. So if you have or have had a recent Samsung phone, you’ll feel right at home. Even if it doesn’t, we’ve long preferred Samsung’s wearable UI to previous versions of Google’s Wear OS. A UI for Wear OS retains many of the things we love from Samsung’s Tizen-based Galaxy Watch3, like notifications.
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