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The best smartwatches, according to fitness experts and marathon runners

These best smartwatches recommended by experts feature long battery life, health metrics, skin temperature sensors, app notifications, and more.

The first modern smartwatch, the Fossil Wrist PDA, was launched in 2003 from Palm. Microsoft then followed up with its unique SPOT watch collection powered by MSN Direct services running over FM radio waves. Motorola, Pebble, Samsung, Suunto, and others then provided options as wearables advanced with smartphones. 

Today's smartwatches offer more advanced features, such as detailed 24/7 health and wellness tracking, voice assistants, call and text message support, and a variety of apps and services that extend the power of your smartphone to your wrist. Some models have cellular support and can serve your needs independently from your phone for limited functionality.

In 2023, there are several powerful options available to help you get work done through a wearable device. The latest Apple Watch is the best smartwatch overall -- especially for Apple users. The Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 is the best option for Samsung phone owners, and there are a few others that some consider best for both Android and iOS.

Experts in athletics, fitness, and the medical field share why they love their smartwatch of choice. Learn more about the best devices for your wrist, and why you might choose one over another.

Also: The best smart rings

Pros & Cons
  • Temperature sensing for sleep and ovulation estimates
  • Crash detection contacts first responders when you're in a crash
  • WR50 water resistance
  • New advanced workout metrics
  • Less than two-day battery life
More Details

Apple Watch Series 8 specs: Display: 396 x 484 pixels OLED | Battery life: 18 hours | Dimensions: 45 x 38 x 10.7mm | Weight: 38.8 g (Al) | Water/Dust resistance: 50m with IP6X | LTE cellular option: Yes    

In 2015, Apple released its first Apple Watch, and over the next seven years, it secured its place as the best smartwatch available. No other watch has such vast application support while also getting the smartwatch essentials nearly perfect. It may be debatable if an iPhone is the best smartphone or not, but it is clear the Apple Watch is the wearable to beat.

Review: The Apple Watch 8 is a sleeper hit, even if it doesn't match Samsung's sensors

For daily use, the Series 8 has even won over serious athletes. Former University of San Diego track athlete Emma Clark replaced her Garmin Forerunner with an Apple Watch Series 8 when she retired from competition.

"For someone who lives an active lifestyle but is no longer competing competitively, it makes the most sense to have a watch integrated with important things on my phone, like my calendar and messages," she said.

Released in 2022, the Series 8 model builds upon the Apple Watch legacy. New for this version is temperature sensing. It reads your temperature as you sleep. Combined with the Sleep app, you receive a more complete picture of your sleeping habits. 

Also: Apple Watch Series 8 vs. Apple Watch Series 7: Which is best for you?

Also new is Cycle Tracking, which estimates when ovulation occurs -- essential for couples looking to start or add to their families. The system can also detect deviations, such as prolonged or irregular periods. 

Then, there's Crash Detection, also new for the Apple Watch Series 8. It can detect when you're involved in a car crash and connect you to emergency services. Overall, the new Apple Watch Series 8 continues the legacy of setting the bar high. 

Pros & Cons
  • Gorgeous, refined hardware
  • Excellent price for a powerful smartwatch
  • Broad support for health and fitness features
  • Extensive third-party application support
  • Less than two days of battery life
  • Limited sleep details
More Details

Apple Watch SE specs: Display: 368 x 448 pixels OLED | Battery life: 18 hours | Dimensions: 44 x 38 x 10.7mm | Weight: 36.5 g (Al) | Water resistance: 50m | LTE cellular option: Yes

Apple made an interesting move in 2020 and released a lower-priced Apple Watch designed to expand the use of an Apple Watch to other family members. The newest version of Apple Watch SE starts at just $249 and if you are an iPhone user, it's an easy wearable to recommend.

Emery Wright, a ZDNET associate editor who contributed to this article, wears her Apple Watch to track her steps, check notifications, and stay mindful of how she spends her time. She said it helps her accurately track running distance and pace while she trains for her next half-marathon.

With an Apple Watch, iPhone users can answer phone calls, receive notifications, and send messages from the convenience of their wrist. That's why Dr. Richard Newman, MD, Head & Neck Surgical Oncologist prefers wearing Apple Watch over Garmin during his everyday routine.

Now retired, 75-year-old Dr. Newman is training for his 75th marathon, and he appreciates the convenience of smartphone connectivity: "For daily running, I use the Apple Watch. As a physician, sometimes I get a call and so I like being able to answer. It also monitors my heart rate," he said.

The next generation of the Apple Watch SE contains many features from the Apple Watch Series 8. You gain Crash Detection technology, so the watch can detect if you've been in an accident and contacts first responders. 

Also: Apple Watch SE (2022) vs Apple Watch SE (2020): Should you upgrade?

It also features the enhanced Workout app, giving you access to custom workouts, and advanced metrics like heart rate zones, stride, length, and vertical oscillation.

Ultimately, the newest version of the Apple Watch SE proves great things can come in small packages. 

Pros & Cons
  • Lightweight titanium casing
  • Sapphire glass AMOLED display
  • Large capacity battery
  • Google Wear OS 3 app support
  • Limited, manual GPX process
  • Large size not suitable for smaller wrists
  • Blood pressure certification taking much longer than advertised
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 1.4 inch, 450 x 450 pixels Super AMOLED | Battery life: Two to three days | Dimensions: 45.5 x 45.5 x 15.0mm | Weight: 46.5 grams (without strap) | Water resistance: 5 ATM+IP68 | LTE cellular option: Yes

Samsung is clearly not standing by as Apple continues to update and improve the Apple Watch. Samsung's latest Galaxy Watch 5 Pro offers many of the same advanced health tracking features, such as blood oxygen monitoring, ECG, and sleep tracking, with longer battery life than the Apple Watch.

I also see the addition of body composition measurements in the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, skin temperature sensor, and materials typically found in high-end GPS sports watches priced at twice the cost of the Watch 5 Pro. I spent a few weeks with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro conducting our full review and prefer using it over the Apple Watch Series 7.

The Watch 5 Pro runs Google Wear OS 3 powered by Samsung. This means it still looks like a Samsung smartwatch but also supports Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Wallet, Google Play Store, and more Google apps.

It has an operating system optimized for the round watch design with a virtual rotating bezel. Fall detection, messaging, phone calls, and more are available on the watch, with advanced fitness data such as VO2 Max and advanced running dynamics data also supported.

Pros & Cons
  • Advanced activity sensors
  • Extended battery life
  • Comfortable
  • Compatible with iPhone and Android
  • No phone calls
More Details

Tech specs: Display: 218 x 218 pixels, sunlight-visible, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP) | Battery life: Up to 12 days in smartwatch mode; up the 26 hours in GPS-only GNSS mode| Dimensions: 41 x 41 x 12.4mm | Weight: 39 g; 1.4 ounces | Water resistance: 5 ATM | LTE cellular option: No

Garmin is the industry leader in activity-tracking sensors, and the Garmin Forerunner smartwatch line is a prime example. Compared to the Apple Watch, the Forerunner 255 battery life is a game-changer, lasting up to 12 days in smartwatch mode and 26 hours in GPS mode. 

The activity sensors are the most advanced on the market -- it would be easier to list the features it doesn't have. With this device on your wrist, you'll receive a morning report of your sleep, daily workout suggestions, recovery levels, advanced heart rate tracking, running metrics, and race time predictors. You can also easily switch between activities for triathlon and multisport training. The list of data it provides is endless.

It's no surprise that many athletes choose Garmin to level up their training. Ultramarathoner and triathaloner Jess Baerg says she always goes back to Garmin, whether she's training for an Ironman or casual marathon.

"I love the app and all the data it gives you. I love looking at numbers and stats, so it's perfect for me. Battery life has gotten so much better, and they last forever," said Baerg.

Before she retired from USD's division 1 track team, Clark also used a Garmin Forerunner to track her runs. 

"I would 100% recommend a Garmin Forerunner! It has a better GPS, doesn't need to sit flush to [the] skin (so you can wear a long sleeve and the watch over), and it has an easier-to-read watch face."

Also: I compared the best Garmin watches

The Garmin Forerunner 255 is one of the most recent models, and it comes in two size options: 41 or 46 millimeters. It's compatible with iPhone and Android, so you can enjoy contactless payments, notifications, and custom widgets just like with other smartwatches.

You can also opt for a Forerunner 255 Music, which allows you to download up to 500 songs and connect to headphones for phone-free listening. 

Review: The Garmin Forerunner 255 Music is a runner's watch fit for the masses

It's clear that Garmin has a unique fanbase among runners and athletes.

Pros & Cons
  • Bright and clear AMOLED display
  • Light and comfortable for 24/7 wear
  • Google Assistant and phone call support
  • Smart alarm support
  • Extensive health and wellness support
  • Solid state button isn't as reliable as physical button
  • Limited third-party support
More Details

Fitbit Sense specs: Display: 1.58 inch, 336 x 336 pixels AMOLED | Battery life: Six days | Dimensions: 40.5 x 40.5 x 12.35 mm | Weight: 48 grams | Water resistance: 5 ATM | LTE Cellular option: No

The Fitbit Sense has a stainless steel ring around the watch face and additional sensors on the back so that it offers support for ECG, skin temperature, and a few more advanced health metrics. If you want to save $70 then you can buy the Fitbit Versa 3 and lose out on a few advanced wellness metrics.

I tested the Fitbit Sense for a few weeks, and I was impressed by the device's ease of use and capability as a health and wellness device. A significant improvement in this watch compared to previous Fitbit watches is the integrated GPS receiver that will help you more accurately track your outside activities.

Review: The Fitbit Sense has advanced health and wellness tracking, GPS, and more

The Fitbit ecosystem is well supported, with many people on the platform to help motivate you toward achieving your daily activity and fitness goals. The smartphone app is fantastic and offers a ton of insight, recommendations, and understanding of the data collected by the watches. 

Android smartphone users enjoy a better experience with support for quick text message replies, but these new Fitbit watches work well with Android and iOS for most functions.

What is the best smartwatch?

Our pick for the best smartwatch is the Apple Watch Series 8. It may be debatable if an iPhone is the best smartphone or not, but it is clear the Apple Watch is the wearable to beat -- especially for Apple users. 

If you're an Android user, you may prefer a Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro. I picked up the LTE model that provides cellular connectivity independently from my phone, but when paired with the Galaxy Z Fold 4, it's a perfect combination of elegance and power. The battery life even exceeds the Apple Watch.



Battery life

Watch face size

Apple Watch Series 8


18 hours


Apple Watch SE


18 hours


Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro


72 hours


Garmin Forerunner 255


12 days


Fitbit Sense


18 hours


Which is the right smartwatch for you?

If you own an iPhone, I highly recommend the Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch Series 8. Honestly, most people will be perfectly happy with the less expensive Watch SE and not even see much of a difference for decent cost savings. Nothing beats the Apple Watch for its third-party apps, seamless connectivity, Apple Pay, and much more.

With the move from Tizen to Google WearOS, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 models are amazing smartwatches that may soon top Apple with the ability to work with both Android and iPhone devices. There is a lot of potential here with this new partnership and I look forward to more developments. The Galaxy Watch 5 Pro has better materials than the Apple Watch Series 8 and is built to withstand the elements.

Eric Potter, USA weightlifting Level 1 Coach and Performance Coach at Future fitness, encourages people to choose a smartwatch based on compatibility, recommending an Apple Watch for iPhone users and Samsung Galaxy Watch for Android fans. Both smartwatches are capable of tracking steps, heart rate, and exercise, but there are also a few key differences, he notes.

"The Apple Watch has a larger interface allowing for easier viewing," he said. "On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Watch is cheaper than the Apple Watch, and the battery life tends to last longer."

However, finding the best smartwatch for you can be more complicated, especially if you're looking for a smartwatch that fits a specific use case. Check out my expert recommendations below.

Choose this smartwatch...

If you need...

Apple Watch Series 8

A well-rounded smartwatch for fitness and communication. There's also Crash Detection, which can detect when you're involved in a car crash and connect you to emergency services. 

Apple Watch SE

A more affordable option for Apple ecosystems. It also features the enhanced Workout app, giving you access to custom workouts.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Pro

A reliable Google Wear OS watch for your Samsung phone. It supports Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Wallet, Google Play Store, and more Google apps.

Garmin Forerunner 255

A smartwatch for advanced health tracking. You can see your recovery levels, advanced heart rate tracking, running metrics, and race time predictors. 

Fitbit Sense

A simple smartwatch for beginners. It has an integrated GPS receiver that will help you more accurately track your outside activities.

How did I choose these smartwatches?

I have spent weeks, sometimes months, with most of these wearables while connecting them to the Apple iPhone and various Android smartwatches. I have run, walked, hiked, biked, slept, worked, traveled, played, and more with these watches on my wrists. I also read other reviews and reviewer guides provided by the smartwatch makers to make sure I have explored all of the available features. 

Experts in various fields, like athletics, fitness, and medicine, also revealed why they love their smartwatch of choice. 

Can you use a Samsung Watch with an iPhone?

Google Wear OS watches and the Fitbit work with both Android and iPhone devices, but Samsung's new Galaxy Watches do not work with the iPhone. iPhone users should stick with the Apple Watch while Samsung phone users should seriously consider a Galaxy Watch 5 model.

Can I text from a smartwatch?

You absolutely can! However, most of their screens are too small to type on, so you'll compose messages with speech-to-text or other dictation functions or by choosing from several generic, auto-generated responses. 

Can you use a cellular Apple Watch as a standalone device?

While you can leave your iPhone at home while you run, go to the store, or stroll on the beach, you must have an iPhone turned on and connected to the internet at this other location. This is one reason why connecting to an iPhone and then switching to an Android then makes the Apple Watch basically useless to use with an Android phone.

A cellular-enabled Samsung Galaxy Watch can indeed act as a stand-alone mobile device after initial setup. With the latest Galaxy Watch 5 running Wear OS powered by Samsung, there are many more apps that can be used on the go so you can leave the phone behind in most cases.

What are the hot new features in the latest smartwatches?

Health and fitness tracking have been the areas with the most innovations and improvements in the last couple of years. While these watches are not medical devices, they have sensors, algorithms, and applications that help you track trends in your heart rate, stress levels, and blood oxygen levels, even helping you detect when ovulation occurs. You can use it as a basic ECG to check if further investigation is needed. The latest Galaxy Watch 5 can also measure your body composition and testing indicates it matches other methods fairly well.

All of these smartwatches can also serve as capable GPS sports watches to track the details of your outdoor activities. Exercise guidance is provided on the watch with connected health applications on your smartphone so you can keep track of your progress too.

Can a smartwatch track blood pressure?

There are a few models out there that are capable of measuring health stats like blood pressure, which are great for giving you a general idea of how your health journey is going so you can keep your doctors up-to-date with your healthcare plans. However, they're not as accurate as an actual blood pressure monitor, so you shouldn't solely rely on your smartwatch to monitor your heart or general health.

Are there alternative smartwatches worth considering?

There are lots of options out there if you're looking for a smartwatch to pair with your phone to keep up with calls and messages or track your workouts and morning jogs. Here's a short list of alternative choices that I thought were great:

Garmin smartwatch showing health metrics on its screen


Garmin Fenix 7S - Another Garmin option

This smaller-sized multi-sport GPS watch features an always-on 1.2-inch display, long battery life, and 24/7 health monitoring.

View at Amazon
Apple Watch Ultra on wrist


Apple Watch Ultra - A rugged Apple Watch

Apple made a rugged device with premium materials that actually does hold up well under tough conditions.

View at Apple
Three Fossil smartwatches next to each other with different bands and watch faces


Fossil Gen 6 - A smartwatch with built-in Alexa

Easily access the Amazon Alexa app to check the weather, set timers and alarms, control smart home devices, and more with the sound of your voice.

View at Amazon

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