Buying your first Android wearable? Here’s what you need to know

Buying your first Android wearable? Here’s what you need to know

The Apple Watch is ubiquitous among iPhone owners: it’s the go-to for iOS devices. Android, on the other hand, doesn’t have any such singular, easy-to-recommend smartwatch — we’ve got all kinds of options from tons of different manufacturers. Here’s a quick guide to some of your best options across categories.

Wear OS

Wear OS is sort of the de facto wearable platform for Android phones. Formerly known as Android Wear, the operating system is made by Google, which means watches running it have access to a relatively healthy selection of third-party apps through the Play Store, as well as the Google Assistant. It’s known to go long stretches without any meaningful development, and the watches that run it are all pretty similar. But they’re not identical! Here are a couple of your best options.

Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3

The Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3 is currently the high water mark as far as Wear OS devices go. It sports Qualcomm’s Wear 4100 chip and a full gigabyte of RAM, which means it’s got the best performance you can currently find in any Wear OS watch. It’s also got excellent battery life thanks to its dual-screen design: when the LED display is off, a low-power LCD takes over to show the time. It doesn’t have a rotating crown to navigate menus the way a lot of smartwatches do, but that’s a worthwhile concession to get a Wear OS watch that’s hardly ever frustrating. You’ll pay a lot for the privilege, though: the TicWatch Pro 3 starts at $300. Check our full review for more.

Where to buy the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 3:

Skagen Falster 3

skagen falster 3 review 5

The Skagen Falster 3 is still rocking the older Wear 3100 chipset, but unlike many Wear OS devices, it’s got the full gigabyte of RAM Google’s wearable platform needs to function without many hiccups. It’s more than a year old now, but when it was released, our review called it “one of the best options available” in the Wear OS space. That still holds true today, and it’s significantly less pricey than the above Mobvoi — you can find one for $200 or less pretty frequently lately.

Where to buy the Skagen Falster 3:

Fitbit

Fitbit is one of the more storied players in the wearable space, having released its first device way back in 2009. Google entered into an agreement to buy Fitbit in 2019 and started selling Fitbit products through its own storefront this year. The acquisition is still facing legal hurdles, though, and so far, Fitbit devices haven’t changed much relative to how they were before the company became a part of Google.

Fitbit Sense

sense 10

The Sense is Fitbit’s best smartwatch. It tracks all kinds of health metrics: steps, sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and even stress (supposedly). It can even take ECG scans. It has a very nice stainless steel case, its battery can last up to a week on a single charge (if you don’t use the always-on display, anyway), and it’s got Google Assistant and Alexa integration. In our review, we dinged it for its high price: its MSRP is a whopping $330. It’s often available for less anymore, though, and if you can find it for $250 or so, you’re getting a very fair deal.

Where to buy the Fitbit Sense:

Fitbit Versa 3

fitbit versa 3 aod pocket

The Fitbit Versa 3 is extremely similar to the Fitbit Sense: same shape, same display, same battery life. The only differences are that the Versa 3 can’t take ECG scans or stress readings, and the case is made of aluminum instead of steel. If those things don’t matter to you, you can save a significant chunk of change going with the lesser watch — the Versa 3 retails for $230 and can often be found for less. Read our full review for more.

Where to buy the Fitbit Versa 3:

Fitbit Charge 4

fitbit charge 4 1

The Charge 4 is a simpler tracker from Fitbit. It monitors most of the same stuff as both the Sense and Versa 3 — steps, pulse, sleep, SpO2 — but unlike those smartwatches, the Charge 4 lacks voice assistant access. It’s smaller and cheaper, though, at an MSRP of $150 (and a street price that’s often lower). In our review, Manuel called it “a reliable, full-featured fitness tracker that also offering some advanced smartwatch features like solid notification management and NFC payments.”

Where to buy the Fitbit Charge 4:

Samsung

Samsung makes some excellent smartwatches and fitness trackers that are compatible not only with the company’s own phones, but any Android device. Compared to Wear OS, the user experience on Samsung’s Tizen-based devices is generally smoother — but Galaxy wearables lack access to the Play Store and Google Assistant. Still, if those aren’t features you expect out of a smartwatch, these are a great way to go.

Galaxy Watch3

Samsung Galaxy Watch3 review charging

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch3 is currently its best wearable. In our review, Corbin praised the Watch3’s hardware design and software finesse: in addition to a touchscreen, the watch has a rotating bezel used for navigation, which is both fun and intuitive. Its MSRP starts at an astronomical $400, but you can grab one for as low as $250 lately.

Where to buy the Galaxy Watch3

Galaxy Watch Active2

samsung galaxy watch active2 review 6

The Watch Active2 shares most of the Watch3’s benefits with the exception of its more refined design (the Active2 is, if you couldn’t guess, positioned as a sportier device) and rotating bezel. For giving up those pleasures, though, you’re saving a bunch of money. The Active2’s MSRP starts at $270, and you can find them closer to $200 more often than not. For more, read our full review here.

Where to buy the Galaxy Watch Active2:

Galaxy Fit2

galaxy fit 2 angle

Being a fitness band, the Galaxy Fit2 is smaller and simpler than either of the above smartwatches — but it still delivers notifications and tracks fitness metrics like steps and sleep. It’s also cheap, with an MSRP of $60 and a street price that’s often even lower.

Where to buy the Samsung Galaxy Fit2:

Other

But wait, there’s more! Some wearables run custom software we didn’t touch on above. These devices are sometimes more niche and often less expensive than options like Wear OS watches and Fitbits. Here are a couple of our favorites.

Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR

Skagen Hybrid review 3

The Jorn Hybrid HR is a traditional analog watch with a low-power e-ink display under its hands. The result is a simpler, less customizable smartwatch that still delivers notifications and tracks fitness metrics, but with battery life measured in weeks, not hours. Our reivew called it “a great not-smartwatch,” perfect for folks who want a smart-ish experience without much hassle. It’s a handsome sucker, to boot. You can get one for about $200.

Where to buy the Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR:

Xiaomi Mi Band 5

Xiaomi MI Band 5 hero

Xiaomi’s Mi Band 5 is dirt cheap — it’s not uncommon to see it on sale under 30 bucks. In our review, Manuel noted that while it “lacks elaborate automatic exercise tracking options, mobile payment options, voice commands, and onboard GPS,” it’s “good enough to give you a broad overview of how you’re doing on a given day or during your workout.” If you’re looking to dip your toe in the wearable water for the smallest investment possible, you’re not gonna do much better than this.

Where to buy the Xiaomi Mi Band 5:

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