Which Android smartwatch is the best? There’s now an absolute barrage of connected timepieces on the market that aren’t made by that fruit company and they are products you’ll actually want to wear.
Tech companies and designer brands like Skagen and Diesel have tapped into Google’s Wear OS software know-how and wrapped it up in watch designs that will appeal to the fashion-conscious, as well as gym lovers.
Below you can read what we liked and disliked with all the smartwatches we tested but, for clarity, the best smartwatch for value we tested was the Ticwatch E2. The best smartwatch overall was the Fossil Explorist HR.
We tested 10 of the best after checking out every major Wear OS smartwatch you can but. These made the cut.
Chinese tech company Mobvoi’s smartwatch might be lacking in the looks department, but it makes up for that by including big sports tracking features, such as the ability to jump in the pool with it on and record your swimming stats.
Fossil’s smartwatch is, in our opinion, the best-looking Wear OS device that most resembles a traditional timepiece. It’s also packed to the rafters with big features, including the ability to make contactless payments, track runs and keep tabs on your heart rate.
Best Android smartwatch
With a playful colour design that’s also built to be knocked around in the gym, the Fossil Sport is a well-priced smartwatch packing key sports tracking features which will let you pay from the wrist when you’re done getting sweaty and need a protein shake.
The Scandi-chic makes this a real looker, but the Falster is more than just a pretty face. Skagen also includes payment support, built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor and you can even take it for a swim. Just make sure you slap on a pool-friendly strap first.
One of the priciest watches on the list, it’s also the only model truly built for the great outdoors. You’ll get some nice Casio software, the ability to push the battery life further to cover those longer treks, and it’s built to withstand some serious rough and tumble.
Its big, brash look might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Watch 2 Classic includes pretty much everything Android smartwatches aim to pack in. Plus, its 25-day battery life mode when you’re running low on juice is a life saver.
The LG Watch Style might be one of the oldest smartwatches we tested and offers a simplified experience, but if you want the basics wrapped up in a sleek design, it’s one worth considering.
The C2 is a more attractive option to the clunkier E2 but includes many of the same features. Just don’t expect big things when it’s time to get sweaty and burn those calories as the sports tracking features can be lacking
If you don’t want to spend big, the TicWatch E2 earns our shout. It’s got a decent sporty look, includes heart rate and GPS to track your workouts and a waterproof design. It also throws in some some nice software extras, too.
Diesel’s offering channels that signature industrial look, while including big features like payment, sports tracking skills and a swim-proof design. Just be mindful of the laggy software.
Another sporty option, the Vapor 2 looks the business and comes in two size options. It might not blow you away as a watch to track gym sessions, but it does a decent job and look the part in the process.
The Fossil Explorist HR is the smartwatch we’d recommend over everything else here. It looks great, comes in a host of different models and the software runs smoothly. Throw in proper sports tracking, contactless payment and the price point and this is a winner in our eyes.
The expert's view
We’ve spent some time getting to know the latest Google-powered smartwatches and, in our opinion, the best one to go for is the Fossil Q Explorist HR. It has the right blend of attractive design and useful features. While pricier than some we tested, it represents the best overall package.
If the Explorist HR is a bit beyond your budget, Mobvoi’s TicWatch E2 is a feature-packed alternative available at a very competitive price.
How we selected the Android Wear OS smartwatches to test
It’s taken a few years, but it finally feels like smartwatches are desirable devices. They can now comfortably replace a sports watch, keep your hands off the phone in your pocket and even let you leave your wallet behind.
For a while it was tech companies like LG, Huawei and Sony leading the charge with smartwatches running on Google’s Wear operating system. However, things have evolved and a Wear OS watch from a designer brand can now set you back big bucks.
It’s also important not to get confused or sucked in by smartwatches running on basic Android as opposed to Google’s Wear OS. An Amazon search for best Android smartwatches will serve up a lot of different results. While there might be some lesser-known brands that come up in the results, it’s the ones that include ‘Wear OS by Google’ in the description you should look out for. Those relatively unknown brands may be OK performance-wise, but you’ll miss out on any fancy new features Google rolls out to smartwatches running its software.
It’s those carrying Wear OS we’ve put to the test to find out which ones are best and which ones you should avoid. You’ll find some big tech brands covered here, but also names from the watch and fashion world. Huawei and LG have been making smartwatches for a few years now, while Skagen, Diesel and Misfit belong to the Fossil Group’s umbrella of watch brands and have gone through a series of iterations.
We tried chose timepieces at prices that don’t exceed the average cost of a smartwatch from rival brands like Apple, Samsung and Fitbit. Yes, you can pay more for a luxury Android smartwatch but, generally, features will be the same for considerably less. So we’ve tried to save you some money here and still land you with a watch you can be proud of. Brands we have included are Fossil, Mobvoi, Skagen, Huawei, Casio, LG, Diesel and Misfit.
We lived with our chosen models for several weeks, paired with Android smartphones and iPhones (Wear watches are compatible with Apple devices, too), tried out every feature and also just let them get on with their jobs to see how well they performed in order to help us decide our top ten.
So, what were we looking for in a standout smartwatch? Well, it needed to look good, otherwise why wear it? It needed to offer smart features that not only proved useful on a day-to-day basis, but also worked seamlessly and intuitively without bugs. Most Android smartwatches offer a familiar software experience, but we were also looking for any golden added extras that made them feel unique.
How we tested the Android Wear OS smartwatches
Putting these watches to the test was a very straightforward process. Once we were able to successfully set up and pair the devices to their respective companion smartphone apps, it was about living with them on our wrist until battery life dictated we had to power them up again.
We wanted to know how their core smartwatch features performed. This included how they handled the notifications that normally appear on your phone. Were they well presented and easy to read? Could you respond to notifications simply and easily?
Smartwatches are supposed to be great at replacing our phones, so we wanted to know how easy it was to communicate from the wrist, considering whether you could make calls or simply respond to text messages.
We tested other core features, too, such as Google’s smart voice assistant, to find out how well it was able to answer any random queries. We also checked how it handled the music features we use on our phone, such as streaming, playing and controlling what we listen to.
Features like the quality of watch faces and the ability to customise and personalise the device were also scrutinised. All of these smartwatches can download apps, so we wanted to know how well those apps performed and functioned.
Performance is also a key area. There’s no point having loads of features on board if they are slow to operate, laggy, or just not as slick as promised. This also extends to the battery life – how long it lasts and what features seem to drain it the most.
Many of these smartwatches boast features like built-in GPS to track sporting activities such as running and cycling without the need for your phone. Some are waterproof and offer dedicated swim tracking, so we tested them in the pool, too.
One of the most desirable features on a smartwatch is contactless payment. We wanted to know how easy that was to set up and, in practice, whether it felt easier to pay for something with your watch as opposed to going old school and reaching for your wallet.
Above all, we wanted to find a smartwatch that would seamlessly fit into our daily lives. A device that interrupted us when it needed to and became a useful companion rather than a nuisance.
After several weeks of testing, and switching up those watches on our wrists, we were able to decide which ones we wanted to keep on wearing and those we couldn’t wait to take off and put back into the box.
Android smartwatch reviews: The test results
Of all the Wear OS smartwatches we tested, the one that stood out from the rest was Fossil’s Q Explorist HR. It wasn’t necessarily the leader in all areas but, crucially, it offered the best all-round performance.
For starters, it’s very easy on the eye and, screen aside, it looks every bit a normal watch. Despite packing in all that tech it manages to maintain a slender profile, and our metallic blue casing against a brown leather strap was very on-trend. The appearance of a watch is subjective, so if you want something bolder or more subtle there are different models available and the straps ares interchangeable, too.
The Skagen Falster 2 is also a great looker with its minimalist design, and if you’re a fan of Diesel the industrial look on the On Full Guard 2.5 doesn’t disappoint.
The Explorist HR has a lovely touchscreen display that responds well to swipes and taps, and is bright enough to make it easy to view at day or night. It also includes sporty features like built-in GPS, a heart rate monitor and a waterproof design that brings swim tracking to the party. Those active lifestyle features aren’t the best we’ve used, but its more core smartwatch features really do perform well. Contactless payment is easy to set up, and it’s a simple process using it when it’s time to pay your way.
While you might not have heard of Chinese brand Mobvoi and its TicWatch range, it offers some of the most competitively priced options out there and the TicWatch E2 gets our nod as best value choice.
It might not be a looker in the same way as the Fossil, Skagen or Diesel, but there’s still a lot to like here. It has a fantastic display and all the same sporty features as the pricier watches we tested, plus there’s also some nice TicWatch software extras on board that we really appreciated. We could’ve selected the slightly more expensive and larger TicWatch S2 that offers some military-grade toughness over the E2, but we preferred the smaller, cleaner look of the more affordable model.
Across the board, with all of these watches there were some things that felt very similar. Sports tracking, for example, feels best suited to the more casual fitness fan, although Casio’s ProTrek Smart WSD-F30 does offer some outdoor-centric features you simply don’t get on the slimmer, more stylish options. Battery life, too, is around a day to a day and a half on the majority of these models. How far it goes depends on a variety of factors. Those could be whacking up the screen brightness or using the sports tracking features on a regular basis.
The best Android smartwatch reviewed:
Fossil Q Explorist HR, £249
The Fossil Explorist HR was our standout smartwatch for a host of reasons. What constitutes an attractive device is always going to be subjective, and there are certainly some really good looking watches on this list. The Skagen Falster 2, the Diesel On Full Guard 2.5 and the TicWatch C2 spring to mind, but the Explorist HR, for us, feels like the one that will appeal to most watch fans.
It comes in multiple designs with different finishes, but all feature a premium metallic watch case, stainless steel bezel and a high-grade strap. It’s also waterproof and the strap can be easily swapped out for a different one, which makes switching from gym mode to night out mode a doddle.
It stands to reason that the software experience on all of these watches will be largely the same because Google is running show. You’ll get notifications, the ability to store music and the option to fire off responses to messages. Fossil adds in some extras, but they’re nothing to write home about. More importantly, though, swiping and tapping your fingers on that screen is satisfyingly slick. Features like Google Assistant perform well, but not brilliantly, although core business, like seeing notifications and controlling your music, work without issue.
Fossil has managed to include GPS, heart rate and Google Pay for contactless payments. They’re easy to set up and use, although you’re not going to get exceptionally accurate data from the added sports tracking.
Battery life is in line with the majority of the smartwatches we tested. You’ll get a day as long as you remember to charge up overnight. The good certainly outweighs the bad here, and that’s why the Explorist HR is our top pick.
The best value Android smartwach reviewed:
TicWatch E2, £145.99
When it comes to aesthetics, the TicWatch E2 isn’t in the same league as the Fossil. It’s plastic and fantastic, but just not the sleekest. If you can live without a shiny bezel and metallic body, and prefer your smartwatch sporty, then there’s a lot to like about the E2.
It’s a smartwatch that keeps things simple on the design front, but you do have the option to change up the strap and replace it with something more attractive. For the price, though, you’re getting the kind of sharp display you’d usually find on more expensive models, and it’s rare to find a smartwatch costing so little that’s suitable for the pool, too.
Google’s software is front and centre and all the usual features – such as notifications, the ability to download apps and mix up those watch faces – are catered for. The maker, Mobvoi, throw in some of its own software to take advantage of the on-board sports sensors. You’ll need to download more apps to your phone to use them, but they’re nice additions.
Swim tracking is a standout feature here, but the support for big health and fitness apps like Strava make it a solid workout companion. If you like hitting the gym while tracking your heart rate, the E2 does a solid job, as it does with mapping your runs and rides with the built-in GPS.
Battery life can be anywhere from one to two days, edging more towards one day if you make regular use of all its features. But we have to go back to the price – a smartwatch for less than £150, that delivers as much as the E2, is well worth considering.
Comparing the rest on test
Those are two of our faves, but there are other great smartwatches here if you don’t like the sound of the Explorist HR or the TicWatch E2.
The Skagen Falster 2 was in contention to be our top pick. It stays true to the design of the brand’s non-smart watches and keeps things looking minimal. You also get all of the features as the Explorist HR, so it’ll let your pay your way and track workouts indoors and outdoors.
The Fossil Sport is more suited to workouts. It’s comfortable to wear throughout the day and is equipped with GPS and heart rate trackers, plus it’s waterproof.
The Huawei Watch 2 Classic is big ol’ smartwatch that likes to be on show – and it doesn’t scrimp on features, either. Unlike most of the watches we tested, the Classic is a standalone device that can operate without being connected to your smartphone, with the ability to make and receive calls, for example.
The Casio Pro Trek Smart WSD-F30 is the most expensive device we tested, but it’s a seriously rugged smartwatch built to brave the elements. Casio has also included a clever suite of apps equipped for outdoor pursuits.
What the LG Watch Style lacks in features it makes up for in looks. It won’t let you make payments or track outdoor workouts, but it keeps things simple giving you that core Google experience, which runs nice and smoothly.
Diesel’s On Full Guard 2.5 is another good looking, nicely designed model – assuming you like the designer label. It’s packed with impressive features, too, but we felt a little let down by some sluggish software.
The Misfit Vapor 2 is a stylish smartwatch that’s all about sport tracking and, whether that’s on land or in the water, it’s got you covered. It’s not without its faults, but this is a solid, value-for-money smartwatch.
The TicWatch C2 is a classier-looking alternative to Mobvoi’s TicWatch E2. It looks the part with a smart shirt and even manages to squeeze in a heart rate monitor and GPS. Just don’t expect dazzling results from the sportier features.
Any Android smartwatches to avoid?
We wouldn’t necessarily say there is one watch on this list to avoid, and we didn’t have a disastrous experience with any of them, but there are a few things to be wary of.
The Diesel was a little buggy and laggy at times in comparison to the other watches we tested. The LG Watch Style, while a slick option, is a little on the older side now and lacks some of the more desirable features found in others we tested.
If you’re hoping that any of these smartwatches will become fantastic gym or running companions, you might be left a little disappointed. On the whole, they all do a good job of tracking workouts, but heart rate monitoring will be hit and miss, and while some will track your outdoor activity without leaning on your phone, the more fashionable watches offering this support can lack accuracy.
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