Your wrist is due an upgrade. Smartwatches are capable of so much more than just telling the time; they'll alert you to new messages, and some are compatible with a variety of apps, just like your smartphone. From fitness trackers to understated hybrids, this guide will help you find the most suitable smartwatch for your lifestyle and current tech setup.

Types of smartwatches

First, you'll want to think about which of the three basic forms of smartwatch you're most interested in.


Straightforward smartwatches are notification centres on your wrist. While many have a high-tech design, other designer smartwatches look just like traditional analogue watches from a distance. Up close, however, you’ll see that their display is really a screen which shows pop-up messages from your phone.

Hybrid smartwatch

A hybrid smartwatch is a classic analogue watch with a twist. While they don’t have a screen, they do connect to your phone via Bluetooth. You'll receive alerts through the watch’s vibration and alarms. It’s even possible to programme them to point their hands to different numbers when you get messages from certain contacts, so you know to check your phone if it's someone important. If your watch suddenly points to six o’clock, it might mean your boss is on the line; half past four and your spouse is calling. Hybrids combine analogue style with tech sophistication.

Fitness tracker

Fitness trackers have much of the functionality of smartwatches – they all tell the time, for one thing – but their main focus is on keeping you healthy by tracking your activity and pushing you to achieve your goals. We’ll talk more about them later.

Man resting arms whilst on bike wearing a fitbit.

Using a smartwatch is simple; you can have yours up and running in moments. Here are the basic set-up steps that most models follow.

  • Charge your new smartwatch and turn it on.

  • Connect it to your phone via Bluetooth.

  • Download the apps and features you want to use, just as you would on a smartphone.

  • If it’s a hybrid, programme the watch to notify you about new messages.

  • Keep your smartwatch battery topped up by charging it overnight.
Two women talking about a smartwatch

It can be a tad overwhelming deciding which smartwatch you want. Before you jump on board the tech train, consider these factors to find the gadget that’s right for you.

Find a compatible device

The first thing to do is find out which watches your smartphone is compatible with – you don’t want to buy a new wearable only to find you can’t sync to it. Whether it’s iOS, Android or another kind of operating system, look for a watch to suit your phone’s software. You should also make sure your phone is sufficiently up to date to work with your new kit.

Check battery life

The many invaluable functions of smartwatches eat battery faster than a normal wristwatch. This is especially the case if you’re using your watch’s LCD display to view photos, read messages and respond to notifications. Some smartwatches require charging overnight, while hybrid models may last longer.

Shop for specific features

Nearly all smartwatches are designed to alert you to any notifications, diary appointments, calls and texts you may receive with a small noise or vibration. This can help you be more discreet about checking your messages without looking at your phone. Others offer extra functions, so shop around for the features you want.

Find your style

Watches have always been a subtle way to improve the look of an outfit. The size, colour and style of the piece is still just as important as the improved functionality. Luckily, smartwatches are as varied as standard watches, from ultra-modern digital displays to sleek metal and rugged leather.

Look for replaceable straps

To stand out from the crowd, look for models which allow you to change the strap. Stick to one which makes a personal statement, or swap it up depending on your mood.

Athletic woman running outdoors wearing a smartwatch

The majority of smartwatches include basic fitness features like pedometers and step target notifications. But if staying healthy is your main priority, you might want a dedicated fitness tracker. These specialised bits of kit include heart-rate monitors, calorie counters and much more. They can track a range of different activities based on your motion throughout the day and help you meet your goals.

The most well-known fitness tracker is the Fitbit. These devices are designed to help you exercise, eat, sleep and live better. They'll track your heart rate constantly throughout the day, observe your sleeping patterns, count your steps and tally up how many calories you've burned. You can monitor your progress on your watch, phone or online through the Fitbit dashboard. Then, compare your stats with friends and family, and create group challenges to inspire each other to get active together.

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