Included in this guide (click to skip down):
Best overall fitness watch Best Apple watch Best fitness watch for Android Best premium fitness watch Best value and budget fitness watch
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to enjoy the benefits of modern health and fitness technology. Whether you’re swimming laps, pounding pavement, pumping iron or just on your feet and on the go, fitness watches have become an essential accessory that provide significant value far beyond simply counting steps.
In fact, there are so many fitness watches available it can be difficult to nail down which may be the best for various uses. Everyone has different fitness goals and health situations which means the ‘one size fits all fitness watch’ simply doesn’t exist!
The fitness watch is synonymous with the more general smartwatch in a lot of ways, and things like streaming music access, calendar notifications and text messaging, and even fashion statements are plenty of reason to consider a fitness watch.
If you’re in the market for a new watch or perhaps thinking about making a change, you’ve come to the right place. Reading onward you’ll find the best fitness watches for a number of different uses. Models from Samsung’s Galaxy Watch lineup will be there, as will a couple of Apple Watch models. You’ll even find several reasons to slap a Garmin or a Fitbit on your wrist before your next run.
Here are SN’s top picks for the best fitness watches on the market right now.
Best fitness watch overall — Garmin Forerunner 265
Personalized daily workouts Fitness coaching AMOLED touchscreen display 13 days of battery life
All fitness watches have the basics covered when it comes to fitness and health tracking, but Garmin’s Forerunner 265 is capable of doing much more with the data it tracks. The Forerunner 265 acts simultaneously as a training assistant and a training coach. With it on the wrist you can plan a strategy and receive personalized suggested workouts every day. These adapt after each workout to help match recovery to performance, and vice versa. The Forerunner 265 will even factor in things like sleep quality and training load and let you know if the day is best spent pushing yourself or taking it easy.
Additional features of the Forerunner 265’s Plan mode include free 5K, 10K, and half marathon training plans. Courses are also available with the Garmin Connect app. Stepping into the smartwatch’s Prepare mode opens up running dynamics tracking. In short, the Forerunner 265 will measure cadence, stride length, and ground contact time to help you develop an efficient run. Performance mode taps into more than 30 built-in activities, including cycling, open-water swimming, and strength training.
In all, the Garmin Forerunner 265 has some unparalleled fitness tracking, processing, and observations to offer. Its intent really is to get you from here to there with your fitness goals, and it does so with more common smartwatch features like streaming music access, smart notifications, and smart phone pairing along the way.
Best Apple watch — Apple Watch Series 9
New Apple S9 chip Advanced health features Apple software ecosystem Super stylish
The previous few generations of Apple Watch have been slight upgrades over one another, but the Series 9 manages to carve out more of a name for itself. It features the most powerful chip an Apple Watch has ever utilized, and while any amount of bragging about processing power in a fitness watch may seem like overkill, these devices are little multitasking monsters, and Apple puts its S9 chip to good use. The S9 enables new tap gestures that can answer calls, play and pause music, and open notifications, among a slew of additional actions.
The Series 9 should be the top fitness watch consideration for anyone who enjoys the Apple software ecosystem. Access to things like Apple Music, Siri, HomePod controls, calendar and contact syncing, and Apple Fitness+ are some of the top draws across the Apple Watch lineup. Onboard with the Series 9 and not found in lesser models is Apple’s new Blood Oxygen app and the ECG app. Additionally, fitness enthusiasts within the Apple ecosystem can count on advanced health features and a range of health and fitness notifications with the Series 9.
The Apple Watch Series 9 can reach up to 18 hours of battery life on a single charge. This will be plenty for most users, but the Series 9 will need to hit the charger more frequently than a lot of other fitness watches out there.
Best fitness watch for Android — Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic
Samsung’s flagship watch Available in multiple face sizes Syncs with other Galaxy devices
While the Apple name alone is often what draws many buyers to an Apple Watch, it’s also the very thing that pushes others away from one. Apple haters can rejoice, however, as there’s a best fitness watch for Android users to shop.
With the Galaxy Watch 6 Samsung offers an Android alternative to everything Apple is doing, and with the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic it scales things up a bit. The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic comes in two different face sizes, each of which offer more screen real estate than their smaller counterparts. It has a classic watch design and a rotating bezel like watches of old, except with the Watch 6 Classic a turn of the dial gives you access to all of your apps.
This has become a good smartwatch for people with a daily workout routine, as Samsung has upgraded the tracking features with this model. The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic keeps track of steps, calories burned, and sleep habits, but it’s also capable of tracking more than 100 specific types of workouts. The Watch 6 Classic will go a long way for standard Android users, but it has a lot to offer if other Samsung Galaxy devices are part of the picture. It’s capable of syncing with Galaxy smartphones to play music, make calls and texts, and even control its camera for more professional-looking selfies.
Best premium fitness watch — Apple Watch Ultra 2
Advanced activity metrics Great battery life Large, bright screen Beautiful titanium design
The Apple Watch Series 9 may make the best fitness watch option for the masses, but Apple has an even more capable option up its sleeve. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 really is the ultra Apple Watch. It outperforms its fellow Apple Watches in a number of ways, particularly in regard to battery life, with the ability to reach up to 72 hours on a single charge. This extended life will be nice to have if the Ultra 2 is the best fitness watch for you, as it’s designed to go truly anywhere. It’s meant to be the ultimate training partner, whether by way of its advanced running metrics, its precision dual-frequency GPS system, or its advanced map details.
Premium means premium, however, and when purchasing a smartwatch at the price point of the Apple Watch Ultra 2 one might hope it to be as wearable on the sidewalk as it is in the back country. Apple’s design chops certainly chip in here, as the Ultra 2 has a beautiful titanium build that draws from the flat-faced design of current-model iPads and iPhones. The large display has customizable views that can be tailored for almost any activity. The general look of the Ultra 2 is customizable, too, with watch bands of various colors and materials readily available.
Best value budget fitness watch — Fitbit Versa 4
More than 40 exercise modes Pairs with Android and iOS devices Built-in GPS
Fitbit hit the market as one of the original fitness trackers, and it has since packaged that know-how into a smartwatch lineup known as the Versa. The Fitbit Versa 4 is the newest Fitbit Versa on the market. It’s a more affordable option than you can find among Apple’s, Samsung’s, Google’s, and Garmin’s current fitness watch lineups, yet it offers many of the same health and fitness features. It has 24/7 heart tracking, high and low heart rate notifications, and irregular heart rhythm notifications. It’s also capable of tracking more than 40 specific kinds of workouts.
And though the Versa 4 is designed for fitness tracking, it is a smartwatch and is capable of behaving as such. Amazon Alexa is onboard for voice assistance, checking news and weather, and setting reminders and alarms. The Versa 4 can pair with both Android and iOS devices over Bluetooth to make calls and texts, as well as receive notifications for calendar events and the like. One of the more premium features — and a big win for such an affordable device — is internal GPS. This contributes to tracking runs, hikes, and other adventures, but also functions more practically with apps like Google Maps.
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