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9 best Android smartwatches: From fitness trackers to stylish timepieces

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With so many to choose from, there’s a smart device to suit every need and budget  (iStock/The Independent)
With so many to choose from, there’s a smart device to suit every need and budget (iStock/The Independent)

The smartwatch has re-energised the watch market, with millions now sold in the UK each year. Is there any wonder? Alongside its plethora of benefits for health, with heart rate monitors, breathing exercises, workout regimes and mindfulness programmes, the smartwatch can help you organise appointments, take calls, see messages – and even tell the time. In fact, it’s very likely to be more accurate than your regular watch.

Smartwatches also provide the extra benefit of helping you leave your phone in your pocket, something we could all do with a little more of. The possibilities with smartwatches are growing all the time, to the extent that there’s now an argument for them becoming a vital part of our individual health needs.

Smartwatches run on various operating systems, the biggest of which are Apple’s iOS and the Android OS, which pretty much covers everything that isn’t Apple. Various smartwatch brands have developed their own OS for their wearables, but most are easily compatible with Android, working in tandem with your phone’s OS to provide a smooth service.

There are, of course, different types of smartwatch, from all-singing gadgetry with massive watch faces to more subtle timepieces that forgo some of the tech for style.

After more jogging than we thought strictly necessary, and a series of breathing exercises that have made us feel more centred than ever, we’ve put together a selection of the best Android smartphone options for any needs and budget.

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You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

The best Android smartwatches for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Samsung Galaxy watch3 : £369, Samsung.com

  • Best traditional looking smartwatch – Withings scanwatch: £208.29, Withings.com

  • Best for overall health – Fitbit sense: £249, Currys.co.uk

  • Best for Garmin users – Garmin venu 2: £349, Johnlewis.com

  • Best new smartwatch – Xiaomi mi watch: £89.99, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best for Bear Grylls – Garmin instinct solar: £269.99, Garmin.com

  • Best fitness tracker – Fitbit versa 3: £169, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best battery – Withings move: £56.75, Amazon.co.uk

  • Best budget Garmin – Garmin venu sq: £149, Johnlewis.com

Samsung Galaxy watch3

Best: Overall

  • Display size: 30.2mm

  • Battery life: Up to three days

  • Water-resistance: 50m water resistant

  • Health tracking: Accelerometer, electrical heart sensor (ECG), optical heart rate sensor (HRM), blood pressure monitor

Samsung has made a habit out of creating wearable tech at the forefront of the market. The Galaxy watch3 is another of its products to lead the pack. While there might be some better health trackers, the watch3’s overall offering is the best around: the breadth of features makes this the smartest watch we tested, leaving nothing out and presenting it all in a sleek, premium package.

The AMOLED screen is exceptionally bright, the fit is comfortable, and connectivity is seamless. The rotating bezel is a nice touch, giving you a tactical experience when scrolling through features. There are a few initial downloads to your phone, but they’re all designed to aid ease of use and don’t take up room. It’s the best smartwatch you can buy. You can also get this one in a smaller size (£349, Samsung.com).

Buy now £369.00, Samsung.com

Withings scanwatch

Best: Traditional looking smartwatch

  • Face size: 38.4mm/42mm

  • Battery life: Up to 30 days normal usage, extra 20 days in power reserve mode

  • Water-resistance: 50m water resistant

  • Health tracking: Heart rate, blood oxygen, ECG, step counter, automatic detection of running and swimming, sleep tracker, elevation tracker

Just because you want the benefits of a smartwatch, doesn’t necessarily mean you want the neon colouring, fake watch faces and modern stylings that sometimes come with this. Enter Withings and its French eye for style. The scanwatch does much of what the best health trackers can achieve, with an impressive partner app that gives users clear information, ranging from oxygen saturation to heart rate. Mental health is a focus of the app, with useful tips and tricks for reducing stress, and a stress tracker for you to keep on top of.

To look at the scanwatch, you wouldn’t expect there to be smarts underneath the face: during testing, multiple people noted their surprise that this was a smartwatch, thanks to the small smart screen switching off when not in use. This is the watch that bridges the gap between the beauty of traditional timepieces and the usability of a smartwatch.

Buy now £208.29, Withings.com

Fitbit sense

Best: For overall health

  • Display size: 40.5mm

  • Battery life: Up to six days

  • Water-resistance: 50m water resistant

  • Health tracking: ECG sensor, EDA scanner, SpO2 tracker, skin temperature sensor, guided mindfulness and breathing sessions, sleep tracker, menstrual health tracking

The Fitbit sense is the smartwatch for the 2020s, and a formidable piece of wearable tech. It’s a very handy smartwatch in general, but its comprehensive scope of health features is seriously impressive, and would be of use to anyone, especially in a time where a focus on health – both physical and mental – is more important than ever.

The sense comes with the usual health trackers, such as the ECG sensor and blood oxygen monitor, but it’s another tracking app that takes the sense’s usefulness up a level. The EDA scanning app tracks your electrodermal activity: that is, a way of noting stress through small electrical changes in the sweat level of your skin. We don’t quite understand the science behind it, but tracking stress levels certainly helped us remain aware of the dangers of daily stress. Some features need a subscription to Fitbit premium, but each sense comes with a free six-month subscription for new users. It’s the perfect smartwatch to help you make the changes you might need for a healthier, happier life.

Buy now £249.00, Currys.co.uk

Garmin venu 2

Best: For Garmin users

  • Display size: 33m

  • Battery life: Up to 11 days, up to 12 days in battery saver mode

  • Water-resistance: 50m water resistant

  • Health tracking: Heart rate, blood oxygen, fitness age, body battery energy monitor, stress, sleep, hydration, women’s health

The Garmin venu 2 is one of the most impressive smartwatches you can buy right now, especially when it comes to the sport sector. Garmin’s body battery energy monitor analyses your activity patterns, along with heart rate and various other activity metrics to suggest optimum times for exercise and rest. The tech inside the venu 2 caters to all manner of sporting pursuits, including accurate data on your golf game, something that usually demands a dedicated golf wearable.

It feels light on the wrist while retaining a premium aesthetic, and its AMOLED screen is gloriously bright and clear, finding space for more information than other watches at a similar price point. The mixture of super-advanced fitness tracking, incredibly accurate GPS (it is Garmin, after all) and wide range of non-sport features means it runs the Galaxy watch3 close for best Android-compatible smartwatch.

Buy now £349.00, Johnlewis.com

Xiaomi mi watch

Best: New smartwatch

  • Display Size: 35.3mm

  • Battery life: Up to 16 days, up to 22 days power saving mode

  • Water-resistance: 50m water resistant

  • Health tracking: Heart rate, 24-hour heart rate monitor, blood oxygen, breathing, stress, sleep

For a smartwatch at this price, Xiaomi’s mi watch has some impressive features: in-built GPS, GLONASS, Galileo and BDS positioning systems mean you can leave your phone at home when exercising, and can enter 117 workout modes, automatically detecting when you’re about to run around like a headless chicken. Mi’s firstbeat algorithm, used by over 1000 sports clubs, analyses 30 key metrics to make your workouts more efficient, sending the data to your phone for further analysis.

It’s certainly a smartwatch that focuses on health, but other features are available and work well, such as message alerts, event reminders and music controls. All in all, a solid, attractive smartwatch with a big screen from a brand that’s starting to make more waves.

Buy now £89.99, Amazon.co.uk

Garmin instinct solar

Best: For Bear Grylls

  • Display size: 23mm

  • Battery life: Up to 54 days with solar charging, practically unlimited in battery saver mode

  • Water-resistance: Yes, along with military-grade thermal and shock resistance

  • Health tracking: Heart rate, blood oxygen, body battery energy monitor, stress, sleep, hydration, women’s health

Garmin has a range of extra-rugged smartwatches that would feel right at home in all manner of active situations. The instinct solar is almost the survivalist’s dream: not only does it give you a wide range of features for fitness and everyday life, but its solar battery gives you plenty more juice – up to 54 days, in fact. It’s built to US military standards for thermal, shock and water resistance, and Garmin’s body battery energy monitor uses all the watch’s smarts to gauge when you’re ready to get going and when you need to rest.

The instinct solar also supports multiple global navigation satellite systems (GPS, GLONASS and Galileo), to track you more accurately than the rest of the smartwatch market. The screen might be a little simplistic, but it does pretty much everything you need from a smartwatch, and its rugged feel pulls you towards your next adventure. It feels indestructible. Bear Grylls probably wears one.

Buy now £269.99, Garmin.com

Fitbit versa 3

Best: Fitness tracker

  • Display size: 40.3mm

  • Battery life: Six days+

  • Water-resistance: 50m water resistant

  • Health tracking: ECG sensor, SpO2 tracker, guided mindfulness and breathing sessions, sleep tracker, menstrual health tracking

Originally marketed as the “mass appeal smartwatch”, the third edition of Fitbit’s wildly successful versa model still offers more than enough to hold the title. A built-in GPS is the biggest and long-awaited improvement over the versa 2’s “connected GPS” that ultimately resulted in an imperfect link to your phone’s GPS. No such issue with the versa 3.

The versa 3 is a worthy successor to the versa 2, developing its positive aspects and adding some much-needed features. For those who want a sophisticated fitness tracker that can double as a decent smartwatch, the versa 3 is a solid choice, especially for the highly competitive price.

Buy now £169.00, Amazon.co.uk

Withings move

Best: Battery

  • Face size: 38mm

  • Battery life: 18 months

  • Water-resistance: 50m water resistant

  • Health: Step counter, automatic detection of running or swimming, sleep tracker

Bringing the traditional look to the budget market, Withings has a knack for creating great-looking timepieces that provide you with the stats you need and an outrageous battery life of 18 months.

While the Move is mainly an activity tracker in terms of smarts, it does that well, with the third hand on the watch face showing you the highlights, such as how many steps you’ve done or lengths of the pool you’ve managed. It connects to your phone via the health mate app, providing you with information about your activity throughout the day, and offering advice on how to optimise your exercise, both physical and mental. Its sleep tracking works well, monitoring your sleep patterns to wake you up at a suitable time. A lovely-looking watch that gives you bonus smart capabilities.

Buy now £56.75, Amazon.co.uk

Garmin venu sq

Best: Budget Garmin

  • Display size: 33.1mm

  • Battery life: Up to six days

  • Water-resistance: 50m water resistant

  • Health tracking: Heart rate, blood oxygen, Body Battery energy monitor, stress, sleep, hydration, women’s health

It feels unfair to describe the Venu Sq as a budget smartwatch. It’s half the price of the venu 2, and you can see a difference between the two in terms of premium feel, screen resolution and number of features: there’s no altimeter, and for many fitness results you have to open your phone, for instance. Judged in isolation, however, and when looked at in terms of an overall smartwatch, the venu Sq is a solid, attractive option that performs at a much higher level than its price would suggest. It’s a legitimate alternative to the venu 2, with a more modern shape.

Buy now £149.00, Johnlewis.com

The verdict: Android Smartwatches

There are so many Android smartwatches on the market that your needs are guaranteed to be catered for. In terms of an overall smartwatch, the Samsung Galaxy watch3 is the model to beat. It has everything you want in a smartwatch in an attractive package, and pips the Garmin venu 2 to the finish.

For fitness, Fitbit still leads the way, with the Fitbit sense providing a holistic approach to wellness. For those who want a more traditional-looking watch, the Withings scanwatch is a beautiful timepiece with impressive smart capabilities underneath.

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For more gadgets that monitor your workout, we tried the best fitness trackers, from Fitbit to Apple