Android Wear had a shaky start in the smartwatch game, with watches coming up short against competitors like Apple, Fitbit and Samsung in size, style, and spec. But a recent re-branding to Wear OS could be a game-changer.
The name upgrade has broadened the appeal of Android products for Apple and Tinzen users, while the platform has seen an uptake of high-profile fashion brands producing compatible watches. With more choice than ever of the Google-powered platform, here are the best Android and Wear OS watches currently available.
The Functional Ones
Samsung Gear S3
For many people, Samsung is the alternative to Apple. When it comes to phones, the usual question is, are you an iPhone guy or Galaxy guy? Similarly, the South Korean tech giant’s is a big enough brand name to compete big hitters like Fitbit and the Apple Watch. While the Samsung Gear S3 doesn’t run on Wear OS itself – instead, using its own Tizen OS – it is compatible and can be paired with most Android phones on an up-to-date OS.
Consequently, the Gear S3 has fewer apps, but is great for music lovers – you can control music playing on your phone from the watch, blare music out of its own tiny speaker, or download offline Spotify playlists for when you want to run and leave your phone behind.
Casio Pro Trek Smart
Casio has a rep as the go-to brand for a cheap watch – a purely functional timepiece. But it’s a rep that does Casio a discredit – it has plenty of watches in its expansive range that push the envelope in terms of fashion and technology. Assuming you’re not an investment collector, there’s almost certainly something for you, from a standard digital to a multi-purpose chronograph.
The Pro Trek is one of the few proper outdoorsy smartwatches available. As you expect, there are features tailored for rough and tumble adventuring – GPS, sensors for measuring altitude and air pressure, an accelerometer, gyrometer, and compass. It’s also sturdy enough to take a better battering than you are.
Mobvoi Ticwatch E
Though not exactly a giant of the smartwatch game, Mobvoi is carving out a niche reputation for itself. It’s a fast-growing brand that specialises in unflashy-but-still-very-decent tech at affordable prices – a welcome addition with so many big name brands charging big prices across the platform. It’s also a great brand if you’re an Android newbie. The Ticwatch E is a nice looking minimalist product that packs in all the features you want – GPS, heart rate monitor, water resistance – and boasts a day’s worth of battery.
After launching in 2011, Misfit has made itself a player in the fitness watch market with innovative features and the kind of premium designs that will appeal to most wearers. Misfit has since moved into smartwatches, with both straight-up smart and hybrid versions available.
The Vapor is the company’s first fully smartwatch – a handsome effort that does everything you need it to do, with standard features such as GPS, heart rate monitor, calls, texts, and music. It’s also water resistant, if you prefer swimming to running.
Huawei Watch 2
The Chinese tech firm is probably better known for laptops and phones, so its range of watches are perhaps for the more technically minded than the style-conscious wearers. But Huawei made a promise to load up on features to make its smartwatches more than just a novelty – and it’s done just that.
The not-so-imaginatively-named Huawei Watch is a complex gadget, packing in GPS, NFC, a rotating bezel and crown for scrolling, 4GB of storage, a pre-installed workout app, and compatibility to all the standard apps. A wrist-sized supercomputer.
Garmin Forerunner 935
With almost 30 years’ experience of developing advanced GPS tech for automotive, aviation, and marine industries, Garmin is a natural for the highly competitive sports watch market. It now rivals the fitness tracking of Apple and Fitbit, and specialising in multi-sport watches – especially good for triathletes and serious running.
Among Garmin’s best Android watch is the Forerunner 935, which not only records your run – from speed work to marathon training – but gives back insights on progress, measuring acceleration, cadence, distance, and even air pressure and temperature. It also boasts a battery life of up to two weeks.
The Fashionable Ones
Tag Heuer Connected
The Swiss powerhouse is one of the world’s foremost luxury watch brands, but has a storied history of technical innovation too. The original incarnation of the company – founded in 1860 – pioneered precision timekeeping in sports. It’s still known for technical brilliance, but also robust, reliable watches. Classic models – including the Carrera and Monaco – remain icons of the watchmaking game.
Tag Heuer’s foray into wearable tech has been described as among the best (and priciest!) watches on Wear OS, packing a decent smart package into a shining example of quality craftsmanship. The second-gen 45 model is a modular design, so every aspect of the watch, including software, can be customised.
Though Montblanc dates back over a century, it’s a relative newcomer to watchmaking. Originally, Montblanc produced luxury pens, before moving to jewellery, leather goods, and eventually watches. Some have doubted its technical expertise when it comes to traditional watchmaking, but the Montblanc smartwatch has received excellent reviews, even if it is another costly addition to the Wear OS range. The Summit lacks some basic features, such as GPS and NFC, but it’s an attractive, lightweight piece, with customisable watch face and plenty of storage for apps.
You wouldn’t immediately think of Nixon as one of the major players in watchmaking, but the US company isn’t trying to compete with the big boys. Instead, Nixon has been doing its own thing since starting up in the late 1990s. It’s a youthful brand, with an emphasis on combining smart and sporty – particularly for surf and snow enthusiasts.
The Mission is an appropriately gnarly beast – a chunky watch with plenty of weight, built to withstand the waves and slopes. It packs in Google Maps, Fit, and Music and between customisable strap, case, bezel, and watch face artwork options, it boasts up to 4,000 variations.
From Italy’s top producer of jeans and denim to one of the most famous fashion labels in the world, Diesel has been expanding in recent years – new colours and textures, homeware, and even collaborations with AC Millan. Now it joins one of many fashion brands to develop its own smartwatch range, including a hybrid – the On DZT1006, which pairs with the OS for limited smart features – and the Full On Guard, a proper smartwatch with a touchscreen. Features-wise, it’s a standard Wear OS watch, but this is all about the design, with a rugged and masculine look that matches the Diesel image.
Louis Vuitton Tambor Horizon
Expensive luggage and shoes might spring to mind when discussing Louis Vuitton. But a luxury fashion label just isn’t a luxury fashion label these days without a smartwatch. LV has form for traditional high-end timepieces, some of which you can snap up for a cool five figures.
The Tambor Horizon continues that mindset. It’s a watch for literal high-flyers, geared towards jet-setting travel instead of wearable tech’s usual go-to of fitness tracking. It scraps GPS and heart rate monitoring in favour of apps such as LV Guide, a kind of digital tourist guide for major cities, and My Flight, which helps regular travellers get to their flights on time.
This Swiss watch brand has been making watches since the 19th century. It’s not as well known as some of its neighbours, but deserves credit for some very well-made timepieces and design icons – chiefly the Museum Watch, with a single dot on the face in place of the 12. A masterstroke of minimalism.
The Movado Connect pays homage to that design with the iconic dot, but also has 100 customisable dial variations and all the smart features you need from a decent smartwatch: GPS, NFC, Google Fit, music, apps, email, and messages.
Hugo Boss Touch
You’d need to have been living under a rock for 20 years to not know what Hugo Boss is (or at the very least, nowhere near the aftershave counter). We all know what it essentially is: good-looking gear for discerning gents.
The Touch smartwatch is no exception – a beautiful design that’s ironically timeless. It doesn’t include many fitness features, though this watch is far too attractive to sweat all over at the gym anyway. It’s a fashion item, first and foremost. It does have step tracking and all the usual Wear OS features, and – perhaps most appealing – it’s very affordable compared to competing smartwatches.
Emporio Armani Connected
The Italian fashion house is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. Emporio represents the more accessible (by which we mean a bit cheaper) end of the range, aimed at a slightly younger demographic – but it remains a staple and is well loved by popular celebs. Both David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have been the face (well, six-pack) of Emporio Armani.
Like other fashion brand smartwatches, the Connected puts design before tech. It’s an incredible looking model with scaled back features. It still has access to the Google Play store and – unlike most other smartwatches – has a decent speaker, so you’ll find yourself chatting away to Google Assistant all day.
Timex IQ + Move
With a history that dates back over 160 years, affordable watch brand Timex is a staple of reliable, no-nonsense American watchmaking. It also covers a broad range of tastes, from dress and casual watches to more technical and sporty timepieces. It’s no surprise then, that Timex’s hybrid range that also boasts a range of styles and colourways.
The IQ + Move is basically a real watch that doubles up as a fitness tracker. It has step tracking that will actually out-track more established fitness brands for accuracy, plus very reliable trackers for monitoring sleep and your calories burned.
Fossil Q Venture
American watchmaker Fossil combines Swiss-inspired craftsmanship with American vintage designs, making it a forward-thinking but timeless brand. Fossil’s aim with OS Wear watches is to prioritise the quality of the timepieces – it’s all about bringing the technology to sophisticated watchmaking, rather than putting tech ahead of craft.
The Venture is Fossil’s third generation Android watch and – despite the lightweight, compact (not to mention stylish) design – it packs in plenty of features: Google Assistant, Google Fit, notifications from your phone, and some unique games (think the smart-watch version of Snake).
This Danish brand has been in the watchmaking game for 30 years, with a rep for simple, clean-looking designs and classic Scandinavian craftsmanship. Indeed, Skagen is a company that prides itself on putting practicality first. So much, in fact, that its hybrid range – including the Signatur – looks like regular timepieces, making them perfect for anyone who doesn’t like big techy screens.
The company has recently released its first full smartwatch, the Falster, which is a slick looking design, with equally slick navigation and an eye-popping AMOLED display.
Michael Kors Grayson Access
Michael Kors is a fashion brand first and foremost. Its watches are made by fellow US staple Fossil, so it’s no surprise that Michael Kors also puts style ahead of spec. The Grayson is the manly addition to its smart Access range (there’s a ladies’ version called the Sofie).
It’s a dashing looking timepiece. Standard smartwatch features such as GPS, heart rate, and NFC are noticeably absent (no great loss on the fitness side – this isn’t a running watch), but has a speedy interface, plus a rotating crown for scrolling and access to both Google Play and Kors’s own selection of apps.