Every year, there are two resolutions that top lists all around the globe: get fit and lead a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately, without the proper motivation and guidance, these resolutions can often fizzle by right around now in mid-March, leaving plenty of expectant do-gooders with no viable way forward. To help you stay on track, we’re launching a limited series that will show you how to get physically and mentally fit with just an Android phone and a Wear OS smartwatch.
Why Android and Wear OS are the perfect fitness pair
Okay, I know what you're thinking: I love my Android phone, but why would I choose Wear OS when I could buy a cheap fitness tracker and be done with it?
For starters, Wear OS is still home to a burgeoning app store. Unlike a dedicated fitness tracker that may try to seal you into its ecosystem, Wear OS works with a variety of fitness software, including Google Fit, Strava, Runtastic, and many more. This keeps your data portable so that if you want to switch to a different fitness service, you can with relative ease.
Wear OS isn't just great for fitness tracking. As a full-fledged smartwatch platform, users can also tap their Wear OS watches to field notifications, talk to Google Assistant, and respond to messages from the convenience of their wrists.
Finally, Wear OS is poised to become one of the largest fitness platforms on the planet once the Fitbit acquisition is finalized. This makes Wear OS one of the most important operating systems of the new decade for fitness-conscious phone owners and tech enthusiasts, even if Google's and Fitbit's union hasn't been fully realized yet.
How to choose your Android phone
Your phone will serve as the connected hub for all the fitness data you'll be collecting over the next several months. Luckily, most Android phones running Android 6.0+ (excluding Go edition devices) can pair up with a Wear OS watch, so if your phone meets those requirements, you're in good shape. For me, I'm choosing our 2019 Smartphone of the Year, the Google Pixel 3a XL.
How to choose your Wear OS smartwatch
Your Wear OS watch will be in charge of collecting and monitoring vital metrics, like heart rate, step counts, burned calories, etc. Unlike the smartphone market that has matured to the point that even mid-tier devices can hold their own against the more expensive competition, smartwatches are still a mixed bag of capability and value.
As a general rule of thumb, a good fitness-oriented smartwatch needs to have a built-in heart rate sensor so that it can more accurately monitor your body's response to physical exertion, expended calories, and time spent within different heart rate zones during workouts. If you're a runner, you'll also want some form of on-board or connected GPS to map your excursions. Other than that, any smartwatch worth its time will be able to do the basics, like count steps, track calorie output, and deliver notifications.
I'll be using the Puma Smartwatch that I reviewed in December, mostly because it shares one large commonality with the other watches on this list. They all come equipped with the Snapdragon 3100 — arguably the only wearable processor capable of delivering usable performance on a modern Wear OS device.
Best overall: Fossil Gen 5
When we reviewed the Fossil Gen 5 in 2019, we called it the "best Wear OS smartwatch you can buy," and we meant it. Wear OS flies on the Gen 5's 1 GB of RAM. It comes equipped with a heart rate sensor, NFC for Google Pay, GPS, altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light sensor, and it can be safely submerged in up to 30 meters of water. It also includes a microphone and speaker so you can talk to Google Assistant and even field phone calls directly from your wrist. Bottom line: If you're looking to purchase your first Wear OS watch, or you're searching for a worthy upgrade to your current hardware, this is the best option.
The Gen 5 comes in two distinct versions. The more masculine Carlyle HR is $257.79 ($37.21 off), down from its MSRP of $295, while the feminine-styled Julianna HR is going for $291.99 ($3.00 off MSRP).
Best value: Fossil Sport
If you're not looking to spend a ton of money on a Wear OS watch that can still get the job done, look no further than the Fossil Sport. Before the Gen 5 landed, this watch was the best Wear OS option available. It features a dedicated GPS, heart rate sensor, NFC for Google Pay, gyroscope, accelerometer, microphone, altimeter, ambient light sensor, and it can be submerged in water up to 50 meters. The Fossil Sport only has 512 MB of RAM, so performance will be noticeably slower when compared to the Gen 5, but at only a fraction of the price tag, that flaw may not even matter.
Fossil recently added a new line of pastel colors to the series that will go great with Spring. If you act now, you can pick up a brand new Fossil Sport 43mm or a Fossil Sport 41mm for a measly $99 ($176 off MSRP).
Best in style: Movado Connect 2.0
Who says fitness hardware can't also be attractive? If you crave a unique visual aesthetic in your Wear OS smartwatch, you should check out the Movado Connect 2.0. This beautiful series is equipped with all the fitness tech you'd need, like a heart rate sensor, microphone, NFC for Google Pay, untethered GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, altimeter, and ambient light sensor. Performance will be smooth with a full 1 GB of memory under the hood, but the Movado Connect 2.0's added style means it can only be safely submerged in 10 meters of water.
The Movado Connect 2.0 comes in two sizing options. You can pick up the larger 42mm model and the smaller 40mm version starting at $495 each. Depending on the strap you choose to purchase with your watch, final prices can inflate all the way up to $695 per watch, but if style is just as important as performance, the Movado Connect 2.0 is a huge contender.
Best in fitness: Suunto 7
Suunto is known for packing serious fitness tech into its family of smartwatches. The new Suunto 7 is the company's first smartwatch powered by Wear OS. The Suunto 7 features a heart rate sensor, NFC for Google Pay, GPS, altimeter, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, ambient light sensor, and it can be safely submerged in up to 50 meters of water. Users will have access to more than 70 different sport models, as well as free offline outdoor maps for runs, hikes, and other on-foot excursions.
The Suunto 7 comes in three distinct colors, including Graphite Copper, Sandstone Rosegold, White Burgundy, with Black Lime and All Black models on the way soon. Each variation is equipped with a 50mm display adorned by a 24mm interchangeable strap, and they are available for $499.
Now that you have your hardware squared away, you're ready to start collecting data. In the next installment of our fitness series, we're diving into all the different Android and Wear OS apps you'll need to flesh out your health profile, track your metrics, and gauge your results. Stay tuned!