The Radio Times logo
We may earn commission from links on this page. Our editorial is always independent (learn more)

Best smartwatch 2022: top wearables tested

From budget fitness trackers to top-of-the-line wearables, here’s our pick of the best smartwatches you’ll find online – tried and tested by our experts.

Best smartwatch
Published: Tuesday, 16th November 2021 at 10:18 am

The idea of a ‘smart watch’ is, in fact, decades-old, with early prototypes appearing on the market as far back as the 1980s. However, it was around the year 2013 when smartwatches, as we recognise them today, appeared on the market.

Advertisement

Back then, the tech was a little glitchy, and wearables were a hard sell, especially as phones seemed to be doing the job perfectly fine by themselves.

Fortunately, those teething issues have been by and large ironed out by manufacturers in the years since. That, plus a wise focus on health and fitness, means that smartwatches and fitness trackers are growing more and more popular.

But which one is right for you? Is a smartwatch essentially for your workout plan? We can assure you that seeing your stats and progress recorded and metricised on-screen is a major motivation to exercise regularly.

When synced to your phone, your smartwatch can make an essential companion for day-to-day tasks outside of fitness. While once it was hard to see where the gadget on your wrist could outperform the gadget inside your pocket, the best wearables now feel like the perfect complement to your smartphone.

But there’s a dizzying array of wearables out there – and you can spend anywhere between £50 and £500 on a smartwatch. Luckily, our experts have put a number of wearables to the test, and we’ve picked out our favourites below.

You’ll find one for every budget.

And if you see one you like, it’s always worth heading over to our pick of the best smartwatch deals – you might find it on sale right now. If you’re keen to keep spending minimal, be sure to take a look at our best budget smartwatch page and if you love health tracking here's our guide to the best Fitbit wearables of the year so far.

Jump to:

Best smartwatches and wearables at a glance

Here’s a quick run-down of our favourite smartwatches and fitness trackers that our experts have tested. You’ll find them listed in price order. Read on for more info on each of these A-class wearables and how they performed for our reviewers.

How to choose the best smartwatch

There’s a number of important criteria to keep in mind when you’re searching for a smartwatch. We’ve laid out each of them below.

  • Fitness vs day-to-day tasks: Smartwatches can be divided into these two broad functions, though most offer both to some degree. Are you thinking about your fitness routines, or do you want your smartwatch to act as a convenient extension of your smartphone?
  • Phone compatibility: Do you use an Apple or Android phone? If it’s the former, you’ll find that you can sync most wearables with your iPhone; sadly, the same can’t be said about Apple smartwatches, which only work with iOS.
  • Battery life: The more advanced the smartwatch, the more quickly it will run out of power. So while entry-level fitness trackers will last for as much as a fortnight, you’ll find that flagship wearables from major brands will need a nightly recharge.
  • Design: While cheaper fitness trackers tend to be simple one-component affairs, higher-end wearables have more customisation options. Their displays can be personalised, and you’ll also find a range of straps available to buy – something for the fashion-conscious to think about.

How much should I spend on a smartwatch?

We can’t give you a specific figure – but we can tell you what various price points will get you. The most basic fitness trackers start at around £50.

These will offer limited health and fitness metrics, like measuring your heart rate and counting your steps throughout the day, and may also offer simple admin functions when synced to your phone, such as call, text and email notifications.

Then, at around £100, you can expect more advanced metrics from your wearable like SpO2 (blood oxygen) monitoring, as well as music connectivity such as Spotify.

There’s a leap in price from about £200 to £250 for mid-range smartwatches. At this price point, you can expect built-in GPS, more detailed metrics that cover things like stress levels, and more complex UIs that make your wearable feel much more like a seamless extension of your phone. There are many fine wearables from dedicated fitness tracking brands like Fitbit that can be found in this price category.

But for some, they’ll want a smartwatch with the same logo as their phone – and that’s when you get to the flagship wearables from the likes of Samsung and Apple.

These are always exquisitely designed, run on high-power processors, and have ‘“always-on” high-resolution displays. These generally cost between £350 and £400 – and if you spend a little more on a cellular option, you can essentially treat your watch as a mini-smartphone, as it can both make and receive calls. In our round-up of the best smartwatches below, we’ve picked out options at every price point.

What’s better: Samsung (Tizen), Android (Wear OS) or Apple (watchOS)?

You’ll find three types of operating system across smartwatches on today’s market. WearOS – previously known as Android – is Google’s smartwatch OS. We’d say that it’s the winning platform in terms of access to apps since the Google Store has the widest range of apps. Both Fitbit and Garmin use Wear OS in their smartwatches.

Samsung has an OS called Tizen. We haven’t encountered them ourselves, but we’ve heard talk of hiccups when relaying Android devices’ notifications. That said, Tizen is also a highly intuitive operating system, and the rotating bezel that you’ll find in the Samsung Watch series – Galaxy Watch 3 – has won legions of fans.

This year, Samsung has partnered with Google to create a new wearable operating system, which recently debuted on the new Samsung Watch series.

And then there’s Apple’s watchOS. This is an incredibly high-powered and intuitive platform. But note that Apple’s OS is still only compatible with its own devices – an ongoing decision that has always been a source of controversy. Not that it’s likely to annoy the (reported) 900 million iPhone users across the globe, of course.

Best smartwatch to buy in 2022

Apple Watch Series 7, from £369 

Best overall smartwatch of 2022

Apple Watch 7

Pros: 

  • Larger screen than prior models
  • Fast charging
  • Smooth performance

Cons:

  • No shocking changes from Series 6
  • Lack of Android compatibility
  • Battery life is good, not great

The Apple Watch Series 7 is a fantastic smartwatch that not only looks great on your wrist but offers a slew of high-end health and fitness tracking features.

Yes, like all Apple wearables, it has a three-digit price tag, but we consider it the best smartwatch currently on the market today. The Watch 7 has faster charging and a bigger display than the prior model, alongside IP6X-rated dust resistance and a selection of new colours. Series 6 users won’t be too jealous as there’s not a lot that’s brand new this year, but anyone with an older model may be tempted.

As we wrote in our full Apple Watch 7 review: “The Apple Watch Series 7 earns the title of Apple’s best wearable, but it does so not by adding any new concepts or features – but simply by iterating on a product that was already pretty great.”

Buy the Apple Watch Series 7: 

Samsung Galaxy Fit 2, £42.99

Best wearable for battery life

Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 review

Pros:

  • Great price against a variety of features
  • Guide workouts with Coach feature
  • Built-in voice assistant

Cons:

  • Slight loading time between functions
  • Limited personalisation available
  • Fitbit Premium is an extra cost

Samsung doesn’t just create glitzy top-end wearables. With the Fit 2, the brand also proves it can make a fantastic no-frills fitness tracker too. This is a great shout for newcomers to those who want to track their workouts and gauge their fitness.

If you’re okay with Fit 2’s basic but reliable range of features – movement tracking, stress tracking, weather reports – you can’t argue against the £49 price. Plus, that 21-day battery life is impressive. Read our full Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 review.

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Fit 2: 

Huawei Watch Fit, £69.99

Best budget fitness tracker

huawei-watch-fit-demo

Pros:

  • Clear and easy to navigate
  • Straight-forward and accessible workoutsSleek, lightweight design

Cons:

  • Music control function not currently compatible with iOS
  • Set up process could be smoother

Huawei’s wearables continue to gain popularity in the European market – and this dedicated fitness tracker certainly impressed us when we put it to the test. The Fit Watch offers a range of guided workout and fitness programmes, accompanied by animated programmes, plus various metrics (heart rate, SpO2, sleep) – all wrapped up in a fetching, streamlined design. Read our full Huawei Watch Fit review.

Buy the Huawei Fit Watch: 

Fitbit Charge 5, £169.99

Best fitness band for workouts

Fitbit Charge 5

Pros:

  • Nice AMOLED screen
  • Very comfortable to wear
  • On-board GPS

Cons: 

  • No physical home button
  • Lacking music controls
  • Some features are paywalled

The Fitbit Charge 5 is a premium, feature-rich fitness tracker that’s close to perfect for gym fanatics, runners, and anyone still doing home workouts. We loved the bright colour AMOLED display, and the touch controls worked well during our time with the model. It’s a comfortable and neat band-style tracker that earns its place in the line-up. 

As we wrote in our full Fitbit Charge 5 review: “There are a lot of features bundled into this thin and lightweight little band, and they are surprisingly powerful.”

Buy the Fitbit Charge 5: 

Fitbit Versa 3, £190

Best mid-range fitness tracker

Fitbit Versa 3 watch review

Pros:

  • Great price against a variety of features
  • Guide workouts with Coach feature
  • Built-in voice assistant

Cons:

  • Slight loading time between functions
  • Limited personalisation available
  • Fitbit Premium is an extra cost

Mid-range wearables often get stuck in an awkward no man’s land between dazzling top-line tech and the obvious appeal of cheaper devices.

But this addition to Fitbit’s Versa line earns its stripes, with a host of reliable features and a built-in voice assistant. All the Fitbit Versa 3 lacks from the Sense is the ECG (electrocardiogram) and stress tracking features – which, frankly, doesn’t stress us out too much. Not with that £100 difference. Read our full Fitbit Versa 3 review.

Buy the Fitbit Versa 3:

Huawei GT2 Pro, £199.99

Best smartwatch for workouts

Huawei GT2 Pro

Pros:

  • Extensive sports tracking, including skiing and golfing
  • Looks sleek and expensive without being heavy
  • GPS, compass and weather warning features
  • Advanced heart rate, SpO2 and VO2max monitoring

Cons:

  • Music control incompatible with iOS
  • Battery life needs more alerts

With the GT2 Pro, Huawei builds on the features and design of the lower-end Watch Fit by offering built-in GPS, additional VO2 tracking, and over 100 different workout modes. These include golf driving range, skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and triathlon – and you can even add additional modes that will cover parachuting and belly dancing. iPhone users might want to proceed carefully: we encountered some iOS compatibility issues, so be sure to read our Huawei GT2 Pro review.

Buy the Huawei GT2 Pro: 

Apple Watch SE, from £289

Best-value Apple smartwatch

Apple Watch SE review

Pros:

  • A wealth of reliable features
  • Highly intuitive UI
  • No visual difference to Apple Watch 6

Cons:

  • Limited 18-hour battery life
  • No ‘always-on’ display
  • Still no Android compatibility

No snobbery, please: there’s nothing wrong with an ‘affordable’ Apple product. Especially not when it’s the Apple Watch SE, which was released at the same time as the stupendous but not-so-cheap Apple Watch Series 6. What don’t you get here? ECG (electrocardiogram) and SpO2 (blood oxygen) sensors of more flagship models. But in appearance, the SE is essentially indistinguishable, and it’s more than £100 cheaper than the new model. Here’s our Apple Watch SE review.

Buy the Apple Watch SE: 

Fitbit Sense, £279

Best all-round fitness tracker

Fitbit Sense review

Pros:

  • Six-day maximum battery life; super-fast charging
  • Features clear and easy to use
  • Impressive advanced metrics
  • Guided workouts included in the watch

Cons:

  • Glitchy setup and pairing issues
  • No customisable face options

All hail the Sense, Fitbit’s top-of-the-line wearable. You’ll find it very hard to want much more in terms of metrics from a smartwatch.

The jewel in the Sense’s crown is the innovative stress-tracking feature, which detects the spike in electrical activity on your skin that often happens in stressful situations. What makes us really attracted to the Sense is how markedly cheaper it is than Apple and Samsung’s flagship watches – and if fitness is your priority, we argue this is the wisest purchase of all three. Read our full Fitbit Sense review.

Buy the Fitbit Sense: 

Samsung Galaxy Watch4, £259

Best Android smartwatch

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Pros:

  • User-friendly WearOS interface
  • Compatible on both Android on iOS
  • Good selection of fitness activities

Cons:

  • Digital bezel won’t suit everyone
  • Only one style of strap available
  • Slow charging compared to rivals

In direct rivalry to the Apple Watch 7, the most credible Android alternative is Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4. Wisely, Samsung’s flagship boasts a more traditional rounded face style design that will appeal to those turned off from the Apple Watch’s more sleek and futuristic look, and it’s attractively priced at £259 (RRP). 

As we wrote in our full Galaxy Watch 4 review: “For those looking to use it to keep active and track your workouts, the smartwatch features over 100 fitness activities to track. This, combined with the new body composition analysis tool, makes the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 one of the best smartwatches released this year.”

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Watch4: 

Huawei Watch 3, £349

Best Huawei smartwatch

Huawei Watch 3 summary

Although we ran into a few issues when we paired it with our iPhone, the Huawei Watch 3 is an undeniably fabulous flagship watch, with a sumptuous, 1.39-inch AMOLED display and a classy build that improves upon that of its predecessor in terms of build quality. The Watch 3 ticks all the requisite boxes when it comes to fitness tracking and metrics and contains the services of Celia, Huawei’s voice assistant. Certainly, for Android users who are willing to spend, this should be high up their list of potential purchases. Read our full Huawei Watch 3 review.

Buy the Huawei Watch 3: 

How we tested smartwatches

Each of these wearables has been put to the exact same test by our experts. It’s easy to focus too much on a product’s good points and ignore the bad – or vice versa, for that matter. Each time our team reviews smartwatches, they ask the exact same questions and consider the exact same criteria each time.

In our full smartwatch reviews, you’ll see an overall star rating out of five. This is the weighted average of a number of criteria. We assess each wearable based on functions: the range of features they offer and how well each of those features perform. We also consider battery life and check how it performs in relation to the advertised maximum length of time. We also think about ease of setup and measure the entire process from unboxing the watch to putting it activated on our wrist.

On top of that, we rate the smartwatch design: if it feels well built and reliable, if it’s aesthetically pleasing, and the range of colour schemes and straps available. Lastly, we assess the watch in terms of value for money: after all, a watch might perform fantastically but is over-priced with it; conversely, a watch with a few flaws may still be worth it because it’s highly affordable.

We also likely to closely compare watches to their obvious competitors, such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and the Apple Watch 6.

The final result? Our list of the best smartwatches to buy this year, all tried and tested.

Advertisement

Looking for a present for someone? Check out our tech gifts guide. Or, try our Honor Band 6 review, an affordable option if you’re on a budget.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content