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Smartwatches weren't exactly the next smartphone revolution that many hoped for, but for checking notifications and tracking health, they can be incredibly valuable tools. They're certainly not for everyone, but if you're looking for a new smartwatch, fitness tracker, or other wearable product, there are plenty of excellent options at every price bracket.
We've put together a small list of our favorite wearables, from the fitness-oriented Fitbit Inspire to Samsung's newest Tizen smartwatch. These devices are in no specific order.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2
The original Galaxy Watch Active was already excellent when it was released in early 2019, but Samsung already has a replacement that adds minor improvements in almost every area.
The Watch Active2 comes in two sizes (40 and 44mm) and three colors (silver, black, and gold), plus a more expensive Stainless Steel version with built-in LTE. The regular 40mm model goes for $280, the 44mm version is $300, the LTE 40mm is $430, and the LTE 44mm is $450. Not quite the bargain that the original $199 Watch Active was, but there are some upgrades to justify the price hike, like a new touch bezel and an updated software experience.
The Watch Active2 can track your workouts, manage notifications, and use a limited set of apps. While the health tracking on the Watch Active isn't quite as good as tracking from dedicated fitness wearables (like the Fitbit Inspire), it's still good enough for casual use.
Our review reads, "The Galaxy Watch Active2 is undoubtedly the best smartwatch you can use with an Android phone. It's faster and less buggy than even the recent fifth-generation Fossil watches, with better battery life than you'll find on any Wear OS device. [..] I'm not a fan of Samsung raising the price by $80-$100 from the original model, but now that the first Watch Active is already going out of stock at most retailers, there's not much of a point in comparing the two."
Fitbit Inspire/Inspire HR
If you're in the market for a fitness tracker without any of the added complexities (and reduced battery life) of a smartwatch, the Fitbit Inspire is probably the best option. It still has a touchscreen display, customizable clock faces, and the ability to display notifications — but with the all-day activity/sleep/exercise tracking and compact design that smartwatches usually struggle with. Battery life is estimated at five days, but that varies significantly; heavy use can bring it down to as low as two days.
There's also an upgraded model, the Inspire HR, which adds 24/7 heart rate tracking, 15+ exercise modes, guided breathing sessions, and more. The base model can be purchased for just $60, and the Inspire HR is $100.
Fossil Gen 5
If you prefer Google's smartwatch operating system, Fossil's lineup of fifth-generation smartwatches is as good as it gets. All models offer 5 ATM water resistance, Google Pay support, dedicated GPS, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a 1.28-inch AMOLED screen, and a speaker.
While the Fossil Gen 5 does offer some health tracking, it's not quite as good as the Galaxy Watch Active2's abilities, or the functionality you would get from a dedicated fitness tracker. Wear OS does offer more applications any other smartwatch platform, though — including Google Assistant.
Our review reads, "The Fossil Gen 5 is the best Wear OS smartwatch currently available, unless LTE connectivity is a requirement for you. It doesn't suffer from lag and major bugs, like many other watches, though there's still the occasional "Sorry, I didn't understand that" from Google Assistant. The battery life is enough for at least one heavy day of use, and if you're going to be away from a charger for a few days, the Extended or Time-Only battery modes can push the watch a bit farther."
Garmin Vivoactive 4
Garmin's smartwatches lean more into being a good fitness tracker than a good smartwatch, but the Vivoactive is the company's best attempt yet. It comes in two sizes, 40mm and 45mm, with 7 and 8 days of battery life in smartwatch mode, respectively.
The Vivoactive 4 includes GPS tracking, health monitoring, animations for workouts (so you can tell what exactly you should be doing), customizable watch faces, and the 'Garmin Coach' assistant to help you train. You can also download songs from Spotify, Deezer, or Amazon Music to play while you exercise.
While we haven't reviewed the Vivoactive 4 ourselves, the watch has received plenty of praise from other outlets. Wareable called it "a top notch sporty smartwatch where fitness comes first," while PCMag said it's "an attractive, durable wearable that hits the sweet spot between fitness tracker and smartwatch functionality."
Xiaomi Mi Band 4
If you're looking for a fitness tracker on the cheap, it doesn't get much better than the Xiaomi Mi Band 4. The $30-40 (price varies by region) wearable offers an AMOLED screen, health tracking, notifications, alarms, timers music controls, and so on. It lasts roughly 10 days on a single charge as well.
In our review, Rita wrote, "The Mi Band 4 is a no-brainer in terms of value for money." However, she noted that the swim tracking and companion app are both lacking compared to options from Fitbit, Garmin, and others.
The Mi Band 4 is only officially available in China, India, and parts of Europe. However, those of you in the United States can buy it imported via Amazon, eBay, and other online stores.
If you can't spend $200+ on a Fossil Sport and you really want a Wear OS watch, the TichWatch E2 and S2 are decent alternatives. The E2 is priced at $159, and includes 5 ATM water resistance and built-in GPS. The upgraded S2 model has a more durable design, but also costs $179. Neither watch has the latest Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor or NFC for Google Pay.
Huawei Honor Band 5
Another product in the I-just-need-a-cheap-thing-to-track-my-health category is the Honor Band 5. We haven't had a chance to review it ourselves yet, but it's already a popular option for its ~$25 price tag, AMOLED screen, and reliable tracking. Just like the Xiaomi Mi Band, it's only available in the US through third-party sellers.
No list of of the best wearable devices would be complete without mentioning the Apple Watch, but considering it doesn't work with Android phones, it's probably not a good fit for most readers of a site called Android Police. Still, if you rock an iPhone as your main device, it's the best smartwatch available.