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The easy guide to buying a smart watch

Published 23rd December 2022
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Are you ready to take your tech game up a notch? Smart watches are the latest and greatest in wearable technology, and they do more than tell the time. With smart watches, you can stay connected, track your fitness progress and monitor your health.

There are lots of smart watch models around today, and this kind of tech has something for everyone. But that variety makes finding the perfect watch quite difficult. That's where this buyer’s guide comes in. We’ll take a look at the different types of smart watches available to help you choose the right one.

What is a smart watch?

A smart watch is a type of wearable technology that takes the body of a regular watch and adds smart features such as activity tracking, message notifications, contactless pay, voice assistants and the ability to stream music. The front plate of a smartwatch is a touch screen, letting you tap and swipe to control apps like you do on a mobile phone.

They connect with your phone, letting you do many of the things you'd use your mobile for without forcing you to pull it out of your pocket. Some smartwatches even allow you to leave your phone at home and still take calls - pretty handy when you're out for a run.

The top smartwatch features

Without a smart watch's features there's nothing to separate it from an ordinary wrist watch. Here are some of the most popular:

GPS

Some smart watches have a GPS chip inside. Activate it and you'll be able to see exactly where you are, anywhere in the world. This lets you track runs and hikes more effectively, as well as let you navigate an unfamiliar city with a maps app.

A smart watch's GPS feature can be used for your personal safety, too. Some models detect sudden drops and falls, automatically sending an SOS alert with your location to one of your contacts, or the emergency services, depending on which settings you choose.

Fitness sensors

Some of the most popular features in smart watches are the fitness sensors, which can help you exercise more effectively. Which sensors are included depends on the model, but all the leading watches have a heartbeat sensor, step counters and workout apps with different exercise programs.

Many smart watches have other wellness features, like sleep scores and stress level monitoring. We go into more detail on smart watch health features in our blog post on how smart watches could improve your health.

Wireless payments

Buy a smartwatch with this feature and you can pay for all sorts of things from your wrist! Watches with this feature can be paired to a debit or credit card through a payment system like Apple Wallet or Google Pay, and they'll then act like a contactless card.

App stores

Like smartphones, many smart watches allow you to download new apps from an app store. There are thousands of apps out there, from weather apps that give forecasts for your area to purely visual apps, like customisable watch faces. The most popular stores are the Google Play Store for WearOS devices and the App Store for Apple watches.

Waterproofing

Most smart watches have some protection from rainwater or random splashes. Many premium waterproof smart watches have a certified ATM water resistance rating which has been tested in a lab - an essential feature if you want to swim with your smart watch.

For a deeper dive into the best smart watch features, you can read our blog post on smart watch features.

Best smart watch brands

There are plenty smart watch brands to choose from, with a good variety of both premium and budget-friendly options to choose from. Many of the best smart watch brands are companies with successful smartphone lines, while others come from the wearable fitness tech world.

Kids' smart watches

The most famous smart watches are designed for adults, but there's a growing market of tech products for children, and you can buy a smart watch for your little one as well as for yourself!

Kids' smart watches share many of the features of adult models, like activity tracking, SOS alerts and reminder apps. They often come with fun extras like built in games or cameras for taking photos and videos. They're a great way of encouraging your child to be more active and more independent. For more information on kids smart watches, read our blog post on choosing smart watches suitable for all ages.

Smart watch vs fitness trackers

Smart watches and fitness trackers are very similar - you wear both on your wrist; they're both filled with smart sensors to track your health goals. So what's the difference between them?

You can think of smart watches as 'fitness trackers with extra features'. While a fitness tracker will tell you the time, they often miss out some of the more advanced features found in smart watches. You won't be able to install new apps on a fitness tracker, for instance.

Another big difference between the two is screen size. Smart watches normally have a 40mm or 45mm screen, while a fitness tracker's screen will be around half that. That makes tasks like reading messages harder to do.

Fitness trackers can still be a great choice, since they're smaller and less expensive than smart watches, they're just more focused on helping you exercise. Many brands, like Fitbit, make both smart watches and fitness trackers. We go into the differences between them more in our smart watches versus fitness trackers blog.

Luxury and hybrid smart watches

Smart watches from Apple, Samsung and others may be popular, but their designs are a bit too plain and 'techy' for some people. If you want a fancier kind of smart watch, luxury and hybrid smart watches are for you.

These devices offer some of the core features of smart watches in a stylish package, ditching silicone straps for leather, stainless steel and even silver or gold!

A luxury smartwatch keeps the touch screens of an ordinary smartwatch, while a hybrid uses a traditional watch face with real second and minute hands. Hybrids look the most like a traditional watch, but they leave out some of the features you get with a touch screen.

Hybrid and luxury smart watch brands include:

We hope that this guide has given some insight into what type of smart watch is right for you! Whether you’re looking for something sophisticated yet functional or just want to stay connected while on-the-go - there’s sure to be a model that suits you!

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