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With advanced features such as voice assistants, crash detection, call and text support, and long battery lives, modern smartwatches are more than just an accessory. And thanks to powerful sensors and extensive app suites, they've become one of the most popular health and fitness trackers, too.

ZDNET went hands-on with all of the best smartwatches on the market, testing their battery life, durability, features, and more. We also interviewed athletes, fitness experts, and medical professionals to ask what features they loved most about their smartwatches to help you get a better idea of the top health and fitness tracking features, too.

Also: The best Apple Watches we've tested

Based on both our hands-on testing and insights from experts, we named the Apple Watch Ultra 2 the best smartwatch overall due to its new processor, long battery life, storage capacity, high-quality titanium materials, sleep-tracking capabilities, women's wellness features, and advanced workout metric feature suite. If you're not an Apple user, read on to see how watches from Samsung -- including its newest Galaxy Watch 6 Classic -- Google, Garmin, and Amazfit compare, to find the best smartwatch for your needs and your wrist. 

Apple Watch Ultra 2 tech specs: Display: 49mm, 410 x 502 pixels OLED sapphire glass | Battery life: 36 hours | Dimensions: 49 x 44 x 14.4mm | Weight: 61.3 g | Water/Dust resistance: 100m with IP6X | LTE cellular option: Yes    

The Apple Watch maintained the same form factor and basic design for eight years, but all of that changed in 2022 when Apple released the radical new Apple Watch Ultra, built and optimized for the outdoor adventurer. The Ultra 2 builds on the Ultra with a new processor, a much brighter display, twice the storage capacity, and the use of recycled titanium materials.

Also: Apple Watch Ultra 2 vs. Watch Ultra: Is it time to upgrade?

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is the most rugged and capable Apple Watch to date and offers a bright, flat 49mm display made of scratch-resistant sapphire glass and 3000 nits maximum brightness. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is larger than the Series 9, but the titanium case helps keep the weight down, and it is far lighter than competing sports watches. 

Apple's WatchOS 10 launched with APIs for custom workouts and we are starting to see third parties release new versions of applications to support this advanced training functionality. We tested the TrainingPeaks integration and this capability is a serious shot across the bow of dedicated GPS sports watches.

Apple Watch Series 9 tech specs: Display: 396 x 484 pixels OLED | Battery life: 18 hours | Dimensions: 45 x 38 x 10.7mm | Weight: 38.8 g (Al) | Water/Dust resistance: 50m with IP6X | LTE cellular option: Yes    

Released in 2023, the Series 9 model builds upon the Apple Watch legacy. Similar to the Ultra 2, the Series 9 supports a double tap gesture that allows you to control your phone by simply tapping your index finger and thumb together. With this feature, you can do everything from answering calls, snoozing your morning alarm, playing or pausing media, ending timers, and more.

\With the new Series 9, you no longer need an active connection for Siri, since the watch can now process requests without it. Not to mention, due to Crash Detection, the watch can also detect when you are involved in a car crash and will connect you to emergency services. 

Also: Apple Watch Series 9: Top 4 features that warrant the upgrade from Series 8

Among other features, the Series 9 is excellent for daily users, and athletes looking to track their health journey. Former University of San Diego track athlete Emma Clark replaced her Garmin Forerunner with an Apple Watch when she retired from competition. 

"For someone who lives an active lifestyle but is no longer competing competitively, it makes the most sense to have a watch integrated with important things on my phone, like my calendar and messages," said Emma Clark

Google Pixel Watch 2 tech specs: Display: 320ppi AMOLED | Battery life: 24 hours with AOD | Dimensions: 41 x 41 x 12.3mm | Weight: 31 g (without band) | Water/Dust resistance: 5 ATM | LTE cellular option: Yes    

Google's second generation Pixel Watch 2 improves in one key area with longer battery life than the original Pixel Watch. This is achieved through a slightly larger capacity battery, but even more of this improvement is due to the modern Qualcomm processor found at the core of the watch. 

Fitbit development includes improved stress tracking thanks in part to the cEDA measurements, stress management score, and skin temperature sensor. We also now have pace and heart rate zone alerts that can be set prior to the start of your exercise. 

Also: Google Pixel Watch 2 review: In one key area, it surpasses every other smartwatch

Another part of the stress management aspect is logging your mood and completing mindfulness sessions. I appreciate this focus on mental health as it helps me take a break during the day and evaluate my physical and emotional state. Slowing down and reflecting is always important to do.

One of the best functions of the Pixel Watch 2 that even beats out the Apple Watch is the focus on safety. The Apple Watch can appear in your Find My application, and you can share your location with family and friends, but that's a passive setting that requires people to physically check the app to find you. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic tech specs: Display: 1.5-inch 480x480 Super AMOLED (47mm) and 1.3-inch 432x432 (43mm) | Battery life: Up to 40 hours | Dimensions: 46.5 x 46.5 x 10.9 mm (47mm) 42.5 x 42.5 x 10.9 mm (43mm) | Weight: 59g (47mm) and 52g (43mm)| Water/Dust resistance: 5ATM/IP68/MIL-STD-810H | LTE cellular option: Yes  

Samsung's latest smartwatch, the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, was unveiled along with the Galaxy Watch 6 at its 2023 Unpacked event last summer. Both watches in the 6 Series offer the One UI 5 software update, focusing more on sleep tracking, fitness, and safety features. However, the 6 Classic offers the most extensive Samsung Watch display (1.5 Super AMOLED), bringing back the Samsung-unique rotating bezel. 

After testing out the Galaxy Watch 6 Classic, the rotating bezel became one of ZDNET reviews editor Kerry Wan's favorite features -- it's "intuitive and seamlessly designed," and "there's more precision when setting timers and sifting through settings, as you always know that the next value or tab is a tick away," he writes. Wan adds that the watch's longer battery life and new sleep-friendly settings make it a great choice, too.

The Galaxy Watch 6 Classic comes in both 43mm and 47mm sizes, with the 47mm being the largest option of any Galaxy smartwatch the company has released. 

Also: Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic v. Watch 5 Pro: Which smartwatch is best for you? 

Galaxy Watch 5 Pro tech specs: Display: 1.4 inch, 450 x 450 pixels Super AMOLED | Battery life: Two to three days | Dimensions: 45.5 x 45.5 x 15.0mm | Weight: 46.5 grams (without strap) | Water resistance: 5 ATM+IP68 | LTE cellular option: Yes

As Apple continues to update and improve the Apple Watch, Samsung is clearly not standing by. While it's not the newest Samsung wearable on the block anymore, the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro offers many advanced health tracking features, such as blood oxygen monitoring, ECG, and sleep tracking, with longer battery life than the Apple Watch.

The body composition measurements in the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, skin temperature sensor, and high-end materials are typically found in high-end GPS sports watches priced at twice the cost of the Watch 5 Pro. I spent a few weeks with the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro conducting our full review and continue to use it a year later.

Review: Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: The best wearable for Android fans

The Watch 5 Pro runs the Samsung-powered Google Wear OS 3, meaning it still looks like a Samsung smartwatch but also supports Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Wallet, Google Play Store, and more Google apps.

It has an operating system optimized for the round watch design with a virtual rotating bezel. Fall detection, messaging, phone calls, and more are available on the watch, with advanced fitness data such as VO2 Max and advanced running dynamics data also supported.

Apple Watch SE tech specs: Display: 368 x 448 pixels OLED | Battery life: 18 hours | Dimensions: 44 x 38 x 10.7mm | Weight: 36.5 g (Al) | Water resistance: 50m | LTE cellular option: Yes

Apple made an interesting move in 2020 and released a lower-priced Apple Watch designed to expand the use of an Apple Watch to other family members. The newest version of the Apple Watch SE starts at just $249, and if you are an iPhone user, it's an easy wearable to recommend.

Emery Wright, a former ZDNET associate editor who contributed to this article, wears her Apple Watch to track her steps, check notifications, and stay mindful of how she spends her time. She said it helps her accurately track running distance and pace while she trains for her next half-marathon.

With an Apple Watch, iPhone users can answer phone calls, receive notifications, and send messages from the convenience of their wrist. That's why Dr. Richard Newman, MD, Head & Neck Surgical Oncologist, prefers wearing an Apple Watch over a Garmin one during his everyday routine.

Also: Apple Watch SE (2022) vs. Apple Watch SE (2020): Should you upgrade?

Now retired, 75-year-old Dr. Newman is training for his 75th marathon. He appreciates the convenience of smartphone connectivity: "For daily running, I use the Apple Watch. As a physician, sometimes I get a call, and so I like being able to answer on my watch. It also monitors my heart rate, which is nice" he said.

The next generation of the Apple Watch SE contains many features from the Apple Watch Series 8. You gain Crash Detection technology, meaning the watch can detect if you've been in an accident and contact first responders. 

It also features the enhanced Workout app, giving you access to custom workouts and advanced metrics like heart rate zones, stride, length, and vertical oscillation. Ultimately, the newest version of the Apple Watch SE proves great things can come in small packages. 

Garmin Venu 3S tech specs:  Display: 390 x 390 pixels AMOLED |  Battery life (GPS): 21 hours | Dimensions: 41 x 41 x 12mm | Weight: 27 grams (40 grams with band) | Water resistance: 5 ATM | LTE Cellular option: No 

Garmin's watches are GPS sports watches focused on helping you improve your health, fitness, and performance. There are some features that rival smartwatches, but the Venu 3/3S is clearly the best Garmin to take on the Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch.

The Venu 3/3S is extremely well built, has a brilliant AMOLED display, lasts for more than a week, lets you accept and make calls from the wrist, and supports voice assistants via a connected smartphone.

In addition to its smartwatch functions, the Venu 3/3S supports all of the amazing Garmin functions and vast ecosystem. This includes subscription music support, Garmin Pay, Connect IQ app support, and the superb Garmin Connect smartphone application.

Review: Garmin Venu 3S

Amazfit GTR 4 tech specs: Display: 1.43-inch, 466 x 466 pixels AMOLED | Battery life: 14 days | Dimensions: 46 x 46 x 12.4 mm | Weight: 34 grams (w/o strap) | Water resistance: 5 ATM | LTE Cellular option: No

One company that continues to push the limits of what you can buy for less than $200 is Amazfit. The Amazfit GTR 4 offers an elegantly designed smartwatch with Amazon Alexa support and the ability to answer calls via a Bluetooth connection to your watch, just like all other non-cellular smartwatches.

It's tough to beat the low $170 price, and I continue to push the watch to see where the flaws are that could justify such a low price, but they don't exist. The GTR 4 has a brilliant AMOLED display, integrated mic and speaker, GPS, various advanced health/wellness sensors, and a battery life that lasts up to two weeks between charges. The battery life alone is something modern smartwatches cannot match and if you want to charge your watch just twice a month rather than every other day, then you might want to consider this watch.

Review: Amazfit GTR 4 hands-on review: An industry-first GPS system for $199

Amazfit provides the Zepp smartphone application that provides an exhaustive experience to track every detail of the data captured by the various sensors. The one flaw is that the application may be overwhelming for some users and thankfully, Amazfit continues to refine and simplify the application to make it more useful for GTR 4 owners.

Phone calls sound good and it is convenient to make and accept calls from your wrist when your phone is secured in a pocket or your backpack. There is support for more than 150 sports and the available watch faces look awesome.

Garmin Vivomove Trend tech specs: Display: 254 x 346 pixels | Battery life: Five days | Dimensions: 40.4 x 40.4 x 11.9 mm | Weight: 43.3 grams | Water resistance: 5 ATM | LTE Cellular option: No

Garmin's Vívomove line is known for blending the natural mechanics of a traditional analog watch with its latest digital features. This makes models like the Vívomove Trend ideal for users who prefer a subtle and timeless smartwatch design. 

ZDNET's reviews editor Kerry Wan tested the latest Vívomove Trend and found it to strike a good balance of in-app health and fitness features, battery life, and charging tech. Speaking of which, the Trend is the first Garmin watch in general to support wireless charging. That means you can plop the wearable on any Qi-enabled charging pad and it'll power up nicely. (There's also a wired option included in the box if that's more of your cup of tea.)

Review: Garmin's new Vívomove Trend fixes my biggest issue with its smartwatches

With a hybrid design, the Vívomove Trend's motorized hands will adaptively rotate around the watch face as you interact with it, from swiping through fitness metrics to changing sound and vibration settings to starting a workout. Auto workout detection is still a thing, as is Garmin Pay and the slew of data that the companion app provides for any other model, so you won't miss out on every Garmin feature by going with more style here.

"In ways, I appreciated the focus on digital well-being here, with the lack of bright, distracting, and colorful screen animations, alongside my daily health metrics," Wan wrote about the watch.

Our pick for the best smartwatch is the Apple Watch Ultra 2. It may be debatable if an iPhone is the best smartphone or not, but it is clear the Apple Watch is the wearable to beat -- especially for Apple users. The Ultra 2 is lauded by athletes and members of the press as the best Apple Watch ever made. 

If you're an Android user, you may prefer a Samsung Galaxy 6 Classic -- the newest of the company's smartwatch lineup. I picked up the LTE model that provides cellular connectivity independently from my phone, but when paired with the Galaxy Z Fold 4 (or the newest Flip 5 model), it's a perfect combination of elegance and power. Plus, the battery life even exceeds that of the standard, and comparably priced, Apple Watch Series 8. 

Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 Classic 

If you're in the Apple ecosystem, we highly recommend the Apple Watch Ultra, Apple Watch SE, or Apple Watch Series 8 due to the easy connectivity and convenience of features like Apple Pay and Apple Music.

The Google Pixel Watch 2 is the prime option for Pixel owners and for those Android smartphone users who want the best available from Google. It doesn't have the battery life of a Samsung Galaxy Watch, but there are other compelling features that stand out.   

The Samsung Galaxy Watch Classic and Watch 5 Pro are great smartwatches built to last with stellar sensors and the ability to work with Android and iPhone devices. 

However, finding the best smartwatch for you can be more complicated, especially if you're looking for one that fits a specific use case. Check out my expert recommendations below.

The best, longest-lasting smartwatch with buttons to quickly launch your favorite apps or perform critical functions. It's a durable, rugged watch that can be your iPhone companion in all situations.      

A well-rounded smartwatch for fitness and communication. There's also Crash Detection, which can detect when you're involved in a car crash and connect you to emergency services. 

Google is fully engaged in providing compelling smartwatches for Pixel and Android smartphones. The Pixel Watch 2 also serves as the best Fitbit available, along with possibly the best watch for helping keep you safe.

Samsung's newest Galaxy watch series has upgraded sleep tracking and health insights, a bigger and brighter display that works seamlessly with a rotating bezel. 

A more affordable option for Apple ecosystems. It also features the enhanced Workout app, giving you access to custom workouts.

A reliable Google Wear OS watch for your Samsung phone. It supports Google Assistant, Google Maps, Google Wallet, Google Play Store, and more Google apps.

A smartwatch for advanced health tracking. You can see your recovery levels, advanced heart rate tracking, running metrics, and race time predictors. It also supports calls and your voice assistant.

An affordable smartwatch that punches far above its price. Its powerful smartphone application provides access to a wealth of health/fitness data while supporting calls and Amazon Alexa. 

A hybrid watch that looks like a standard watch with analog hands, but underneath this elegant exterior is the power of the Garmin health and wellness ecosystem. Wireless charging is also supported, so you can use a wireless charging pad or even your compatible phone to keep it running.      

Based on our own testing, we selected watches that ZDNET experts have run, hiked, walked, biked, slept, worked, traveled, and played in. We also turned to athletes, fitness instructors, and medical professionals to get a better sense of health tracking. 

With both our testing and research in mind, we ultimately selected these watches based on the following: 

Google Wear OS watches used to work with both Android and iPhone devices, but the new Wear OS 4 and later watches from Samsung and Google only support Android smartphones. iPhone users should stick with the Apple Watch, while Android phone users should seriously consider a Google Pixel Watch or Samsung Galaxy Watch model.

Garmin and Amazfit watches work flawlessly with both Android and iPhone devices.

You absolutely can! However, most of their screens are too small to type on, so you'll compose messages with speech-to-text or other dictation functions or choose from several generic, auto-generated responses. 

Garmin watches support quick-response text messaging via a connected Android smartphone. Apple restricts third-party text messaging on the iPhone.

While you can leave your iPhone at home while you run, go to the store, or stroll on the beach, you must have an iPhone turned on and connected to the internet at this other location. This is one reason why connecting to an iPhone and switching to an Android makes the Apple Watch useless with an Android phone.

After initial setup, a cellular-enabled Samsung Galaxy Watch can act as a stand-alone mobile device. With the latest Galaxy Watch 6 or Watch 5 Pro running Wear OS powered by Samsung, many more apps can be used on the go, so you can leave the phone behind in most cases.

Health and fitness tracking have been the areas with the most innovations and improvements in the last few years. While these watches are not medical devices, they have sensors, algorithms, and applications that help you track trends in your heart rate, stress levels, and blood oxygen levels, even allowing you to detect when ovulation occurs. You can use it as a basic ECG to check if further investigation is needed. The latest Galaxy Watch 5 can also measure your body composition; testing indicates it matches other methods reasonably well.

These smartwatches can also serve as capable GPS sports watches to track the details of your outdoor activities. Exercise guidance is provided on the watch with connected health applications on your smartphone so you can keep track of your progress, too.

There are a few models out there that can measure health stats like blood pressure, which are great for giving you a general idea of how your health journey is going so you can keep your doctors up-to-date with your healthcare plans. However, they're not as accurate as a blood pressure monitor, so you shouldn't rely solely on your smartwatch to monitor your heart or general health.

Samsung provides blood pressure monitoring via its Galaxy Watch models in countries outside the US, with rumors that Apple may launch watches supporting this functionality in 2024.

Eric Potter, USA weightlifting Level 1 Coach and Performance Coach at Future Fitness, encourages people to choose a smartwatch based on compatibility, recommending an Apple Watch for iPhone users and a Samsung Galaxy Watch for Android fans. He notes that both smartwatches can track steps, heart rate, and exercise, but there are also crucial differences.

"The Apple Watch has a larger interface allowing for easier viewing," he said. "On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Watch is cheaper than the Apple Watch, and the battery life tends to last longer."

There are many options if you're looking for a smartwatch to pair with your phone to keep up with calls and messages or track your workouts and morning jogs. Here's a short list of choices that I thought were great options.

This smaller-sized multi-sport GPS watch features an always-on 1.2-inch display, long battery life, and 24/7 health monitoring.

A Samsung Galaxy Watch is likely the best smartwatch for most Android phone users, but the Mobvoi TicWatch Pro 5 may arguably be the better choice for some people. It has a unique dual-layer display, long battery life, and extensive health/wellness support.

The best smartwatches of 2024: Expert tested and reviewed | ZDNET

Smart Watch Oxygen Level Quickly access the Amazon Alexa app to check the weather, set timers and alarms, control smart home devices, and more with the sound of your voice.