Monday, March 9, 2020

Best smartwatch for iPhone 2020: Apple Watch, Wear OS, Tizen and more

If you want the best smartwatch for iPhone, it’s a myth that the Apple Watch is your only choice. There are tons of wrist-based wearable options if you have an iPhone from brands like Fitbit, Samsung, TicWatch and Garmin.

Some of these will run Google’s Wear OS software, Samsung’s Tizen, Fitbit’s OS or maybe even something else. There’s a lot of choice for iPhone users.

The best smartwatches are ones that pack in smartphone notifications, good battery life, fitness tracking and good software into an attractive design. All the watches we’ve listed below fit the bill, but some are stronger in some areas than others. 

Which one is best for you depends on your wants and needs. If you want the all-round seamless functionality of an Apple Watch but can’t afford the latest Apple Watch 5, there’s the Apple Watch 3 at a much lower price.  

What watch should you use with your iPhone?

If you’re really into fitness tracking then you might be better off with a dedicated fitness watch or one with several days battery life.

It might even come down to the fact you want a circular smartwatch - something no Apple Watch has. Just be sure to check the functionality of the smartwatch you choose, as sometimes watches designed for Android and iOS don’t always allow all the functions to work when used with an iPhone. 

We’ve tested every watch below extensively and recommend them all - but right now the Apple Watch 5 is the best all-round choice. We’ve grouped our other choices into Wear OS and Samsung, and a batch of alternatives to help you pick which smartwatch is best for you and your iPhone. 

Best Apple Watch: what are the choices?

Looking for the very best Apple Watch on the market? It probably won't be a huge surprise to learn that it's the newest one. The Apple Watch 5 is the device that offers the best selection of features within Apple's range, but it's not a cheap option.

It's currently the most expensive Apple Watch, and the biggest upgrade for that is the fact you'll get an always-on display.

This doesn't drain your battery life as much as you may expect as the watch will dim its screen to offer you notifications on your wrist at all times rather than you having to raise it and wake it up to see your stats.

WatchOS 6 is available on the watch, so you can downloads apps directly to your wrist and it comes with a compass feature for the very first time.

If you own an Apple Watch 4, there's not much reason to upgrade here but if you own an older Apple Watch or you're looking to get your first smartwatch this may be a solid option for you.

Read the full Apple Watch 5 review

The introduction of the Apple Watch 5 may have seen the Apple Watch 4 drop in terms of pure excitement, but it's not cheaper than ever and it's not all that disimilar to the latest device.

This was the first smartwatch from the company to increase the display size to a 1.78-inch OLED. That looks great on your wrist, and the device comes in either 44mm or 40mm versions.

We particularly liked that the speaker is louder, plus the ECG monitor tech was a big upgrade at the time too. 

You won't get the benefits of an always-on display, but if you want to save a bit of money you may want to look at the Apple Watch 4 over the latest addition to the range.

Read our full Apple Watch 4 review

The Apple Watch 3 was of course the best smartwatch to use with an iPhone... but it's not the best anymore. Even though you can now buy the Apple Watch 4 and 5, this is still a fantastic smartwatch.

The Series 3 has a bright, high-quality screen, built-in GPS, waterproofing, optical heart rate monitoring and well over a day of battery life, plus all the things that make the Apple Watch 2 great, like a stylish design, water resistance and enough fitness features to cater to most users.

It’s a great all-rounder then, with style and substance, suited to both the office and the gym. There’s even an LTE model – though at a higher price. And of course, being an Apple Watch, it works perfectly with iPhone.

Read our full Apple Watch 3 review

Image Credit: TechRadar

There's a lot going for the Apple Watch 2 - if you can find one, that is. Apple didn’t sell it for long and it’s much easier to find the Apple Watch 3 as Apple still sells it for a reasonable price.

If you’re really on a budget and want an Apple Watch though, then the Series 2 will still serve you well and gets software updates still. It's water-resistant so you won't have to worry about getting it wet in the rain when you're out for a jog.

With GPS onboard and watchOS 6 software running on it, if you own an iPhone 6s or later this is a great choice, and a touch more affordable than the Apple Watch 3 or 4. 

Apple itself has stopped selling it, so the Watch 2 is now hard to find and often if you do spot it at a third-party retailer it'll be around the same price or sometimes even more expensive than the watch just above this one so be sure to check first. 

Read our full Apple Watch 2 review

Wear OS and Tizen watches

You’re not just limited to the Apple Watch if you want a smartwatch for your iPhone. There are some great compatible options that run either Google’s Wear OS or Samsung’s Tizen software.

As you might expect, Tizen is only found on Samsung smartwatches but they are all excellent, offering attractive circular designs, top specs and good battery life.

Wear OS is used by several manufacturers including Fossil and TicWatch, two brands who tend to make the best of Google’s platform.

Along with their Samsung counterparts they have GPS, heart rate sensors and just as many tracking features as most Apple Watches. Some of them also cost a lot less than the latest Apple wearable, meaning you can save some money and still get the features you want, all running in harmony with your iPhone. 

The latest Samsung watch is our favorite money can buy right now, but it's not our favorite to recommend alongside an iPhone. We found the Galaxy Watch to work best with Samsung phones, but if you own an iPhone it'll still work really well and will offer top-end fitness features alongside its premium look.

We particularly like the design of the larger Galaxy Watch, but you have the choice of either a 46mm or 42mm build. Each will sit large on your wrist but also offer a big, bright display.

Opt for the LTE version and you'll be able to get phone calls and notifications when you're on the move too. The rotating bezel around the outside is one of the main highlights, and the 46mm version also comes with four days of battery life from a single charge.

It may not be the best smartwatch to work with your iPhone, but it is still a fantastic choice if you like the design and look of the Galaxy Watch from Samsung.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy Watch review

Our favorite Wear OS watch right now is the Fossil Sport, which is cheaper than a lot of the watches you've read about above. 

It features the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 3100 chipset that offers enough power to run any of the apps you'll find in Wear OS, and in our experience we found the whole interface to be notably smooth.

It'll last for around two days from a single charge, and the design here feels premium on the wrist when you consider how much it costs compared to other Wear OS watches.

There isn't much uniqueness to the Fossil Sport, but it's good at pretty much everything you'd expect a smartwatch to do and it'll work with your iPhone too.

Read the full Fossil Sport review

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a fine Tizen smartwatch with great battery life and solid performance. 

Its circular display might attract you compared to the Apple Watch’s squarish look, and the Active 2 has a clever digital bezel to navigate menus. Its fitness features are just as good as Apple’s but you’ll have to use the Samsung Health app for iOS instead of Apple Health.

It’s waterproof and can track tons of different workouts including outdoor runs using GPS. There’s even a 4G option. Just bear in mind that while it works with an iPhone, it won’t be as smooth an experience as an Apple Watch. 

Read the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 review 

The TicWatch E2 is one of the more affordable devices on this list, and it's worth noting that this isn't the most premium looking device. That said, it's still a fantastic Wear OS watch.

It offers solid battery life as well as built-in GPS, an accurate heart rate sensor and sleep tracking as well.

The latest Wear OS software is running on the watch too, but you won't be able to get contactless payments as there's no NFC on this watch.

Read the full TicWatch E2 review

Our favorite Wear OS watch is the TicWatch Pro, which you can use easily with your iPhone. TicWatch is a little known brand so far, but this watch comes with two different displays that helps it stand out from the rest of the crowd.

There's a transparent LCD display at the top with a full color OLED panel below it. That means you can get a full Wear OS watch experience with the TicWatch Pro, but when the battery dies off you can then still get some details like heart rate, date and time through the secondary display.

That's a great feature - but there's lots else to love here including GPS, NFC for Google Pay and the Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset we've seen in almost all the Wear OS watches on this list.

The best part is the lower price than a lot of other top-end smartwatches, which makes this one of the best Wear OS choices to use alongside your iPhone.

Read the full TicWatch Pro review

Other alternatives

There are quite a few devices you can use with your iPhone including some running Fitbit OS and others that you may not even refer directly to as a smartwatch. Read on about them all below:

A third attempt at the smartwatch from Fitbit has seen the brand create one of its best devices in years. The Fitbit Versa 2 is slimmer and smaller on your wrist than an Apple Watch and offers a lot of great fitness features including swim tracking as well as HIIT coaching.

The Versa 2 is also cheaper than Fitbit's other watch called the Ionic (which you'll find coming up in this list) making it an attractive option for your wallet as well as your wrist.

Fitbit OS isn't as fully fledged as the Wear OS or Apple Watch devices above in this list as there are still a limited amount of apps available to you, but if you want to have a watch as a fashion piece and focus on the fitness elements you'll enjoy the Versa 2.

It allows you to listen to music on the move, plus you have Fitbit Pay so you can do contactless payments if your bank supports it. Our main gripe with the Versa 2 is the lack of GPS, but if you plan to exercise with your phone in your pocket or strapped to your arm it won’t be an issue.

Read the full Fitbit Versa 2 review 

Fitbit’s answer to the Apple Watch’s fitness threat piles all of its best fitness-tracking features into a highly functional smart timepiece. 

There’s GPS, continued heart rate tracking, excellent multi-day battery life and the ability to track multiple activities. 

That being said, the Fitbit Ionic runs off the bespoke Fitbit OS so it doesn’t offer the full fat smartwatch features of watchOS or Wear OS.

There’s also a shortage of apps available right now, you can download around 300 songs and connect Bluetooth headphones for phone-free exercise. Also, the design’s a bit controversial and very much has the look of a first-gen smartphone.

Read the full Fitbit Ionic review

If you’re seeking a powerful fitness companion rather than a wearable extension of your smartphone, they don’t come much better than the Garmin Forerunner 735XT

The multi-sport GPS watch, designed with triathletes in mind, features an optical heart rate sensor and reams of deep data insights into your performance. 

Runners, for example, will glean metrics like ground contact time, balance, stride length, vertical ratio and much more. There’s a VO2 max estimator, race predictor and recovery adviser too.

Read the full Garmin Forerunner 735XT review

Withings Steel HR

Image Credit: Withings

This hybrid watch used to be called the Nokia Steel HR, but it has now been rebranded as the Withings Steel HR.

It features a built-in digital display that’ll show your heart rate in real time, as well as step progress and limited smartphone notifications. It has the neat analogue dial showing process towards a daily movement goal and can automatically track activities like running and swimming. 

There’s no GPS so you can’t expect hyper-accurate distance tracking, but the Steel HR is still a fantastic, stylish watch with great battery life that you can wear around the clock.

Read the full Withings Steel HR review

Looking for a smart running watch?

You should also check out our extensive range of devices to help you run - in our cunningly named best running watches round up - as many of these offer incredibly battery life as well as smart notifications from your wrist.

For instance, the Garmin Forerunner 935 will last almost 10 days on a single charge while running every day, allow you to take or reject calls and control your music - plus it's one of the most gifted exercise companions we've seen.

So if you're thinking of getting fitter - check out the burgeoning world of running devices to help you out.

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