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Best Smartwatch for Android 2021 (Budget and Premium Choices)

Android users are in for a treat because of the large number of smartwatches that you can choose from. How do you choose one that fits you?

The best Android smartwatch is really much more difficult to pick than the best iPhone smartwatch. The reason for that is because you can pick from so many.

Where iPhone users are most likely just going to have to go straight for the Apple Watch in order to enjoy all the benefits that come from having a smartwatch, Android users can buy smartwatches from Samsung, Fossil, Mobvoi and many other manufacturers that differ in fitness features, operating system (Tizen OS or Google’s Wear OS for example) and designs.

Apple Watch Series 6 incompatible with Android

The Apple Watch Series 6 and any other Apple smartwatch will not work with your Android. Apple smartwatches just won’t pair with anything but the iPhone, so if you want to use one of those smartwatches, you are really out of luck.

What to look for in the best smartwatch for Android

If you are an Android users, that means you probably care about getting smart features at a great price and you also like the fact that Android smartphone manufacturers have made smartphones that are extremely dynamic in price and features.

The good thing is that there are smartwatches out there that mirror this philosophy — none other than Google’s Wear OS. The Wear OS is a really common operating system on many smartwatches. Chances are that if you are not buying a Fitbit, a Garmin Fenix, a Polar or a Samsung smartwatch, you are very likely to get a watch with Google’s Wear OS.

The Wear OS system is actually very good but only if it’s paired up with one of the higher end hardware specs. There are two watches that I feel fulfill these requirements.

ticwatch pro 3 dual layer screen

Ticwatch Pro 3

The Ticwatch Pro 3 is Mobvoi’s best attempt at making a truly efficient, sleek and useful smartwatch. They have succeeded even better and this Wear OS smartwatch has taken the crown over last year’s recommendation, the Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch.

That said, the Fossil Gen 5 smartwatch is really good so don’t dismiss it yet. It still manages to perform very well despite it having hardware that’s a little older.

The Ticwatch Pro 3 is a really good smartwatch because it has the latest and greatest Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100. The Ticwatch Pro 3 also comes with 1GB of RAM and this means that things run fast. For example, Google Assistant is really quick. Summon it and it will appear. Most other Wear OS smartwatches require a pause of a few seconds before Google Assistant appears.

The Ticwatch Pro 3 is also on point with its fitness tracking capabilities. It has noise monitoring, stress tracking and SpO2 level tracking. The last one has been all the rage this year and if you care about this metric, then you should be glad the Ticwatch Pro 3 has it.

The Ticwatch Pro 3 has the dual layer screen first introduced in the original Ticwatch Pro. That’s a really nice feature to have for a watch because it really extends battery life. The older Ticwatch Pro wasn’t meant to be a 24/7 smartwatch because it didn’t have sleep tracking, but the Ticwatch Pro 3 does, and what’s surprising is that even when worn 24/7, the newer Ticwatch Pro outperforms its predecessor.

All in all, the Ticwatch Pro 3 is a very impressive smartwatch.

fitbit sense main screen

Fitbit Sense or Fitbit Versa 3

The Fitbit Sense or Fitbit Versa 3 is actually a very good smartwatch that I could wear for days and days without really noticing it being there.

It’s like a fitness tracker that’s much more advanced but still retains a very compact form.

The Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3 really don’t differ that much so you will do fine with either smartwatch. The Fitbit Sense is the flagship smartwatch that Fitbit has and compared to the Versa 3, the Sense can measure your skin temperature and EDA response (for stress tracking). They’re really quite minor differences — which really summarizes 2021 as it relates to innovations in smartwatches’ health tracking features.

What I like about the Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3 is that they both have really good battery lives. They last for at least half a week even if you wear them 24/7 for sleep tracking and use its internal GPS to track your workouts.

Having an internal GPS is a major improvement over the Fitbit Versa 2 which didn’t have one, which meant you’re always chained to your smartphone for GPS tracking. That really sucks.

The watch is also one of the prettiest smartwatches out there. If it were a real person, it would be called “woke.” It’s trendy with all the latest design features such as curved edges, rounded edges and a silicone like Infinity Band that is just such a delight to wear. Sleeping with it is also very comfortable because it doesn’t put significant pressure points on your wrist like some bigger smartwatches do.

Suunto 7 main screen

Suunto 7

The Suunto 7 is a really nice smartwatch that deserves some consideration if you want a sports smartwatch that is also a Wear OS watch.

It’s a huge, chunking smartwatch whose main attraction is its sports suite. I really like the Suunto app because it’s a much more advanced exercise tracker and what I also love is the offline maps feature that is actually very good.

Running on the Wear OS system also allows you to use Google Assistant and reply to texts and emails. That makes it a really convenient smartwatch to have when you’re out doing sports and need to send a quick reply without taking your phone out.

The combination of the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor and 1GB of RAM makes it one of the most efficient and smooth functioning Wear OS smartwatches out there. Everything is pretty quick and lag free and that’s great.

Unfortunately, the Suunto 7 is a pretty expensive smartwatch that isn’t able to make or take calls which makes it a lesser watch than the Ticwatch Pro 3. So, this smartwatch is really for people who need the offline maps and advanced fitness tracking features.

garmin fenix 6 main screen

Garmin Fenix 6

The Garmin Fenix 6 is still one of the best smartwatches out there despite it being really bad at productivity features.

I chose it as one of the best smartwatches of 2020 and it continues to be a great pick in 2021.

It’s definitely not a smartwatch for everyone. You can’t take calls, you can’t send custom replies and it doesn’t even have a touchscreen.

But it has a super long battery life of 10 days and it has a great suite of exercise tracking features and offline maps. This smartwatch continues to be a great contender for 2021 because it’s just so reliable, long lasting and tough.

Best Smartwatch for Android 2020

fossil gen 5 carlyle dog watch face

Economists say that variety is beneficial for consumers. The more choices you have, the better your quality of life.

Now’s your chance to laugh at Apple users who really don’t have much choice because of the incompatibilities between non-Apple smartwatches and the Apple iPhone.

Except the Apple Watch Series 5 is probably the best smartwatch out there. But let’s gloss over it since Android users can’t have it.

In writing about smartwatches, I have pondered many times why I like certain watches.

garmin fenix 6 main screen

Ever since becoming more of an outdoorsman, I have also become deeply drawn into the Garmin Fenix 6. It offers the best sports data and analyses, but it’s really not the best overall smartwatch.

So why do I wear it that often, even if I’m not doing sports? Well, I think it’s because it has really good battery life. I remember when I was travelling on the road. I wanted to know whether I was sleeping well as it has a sleep tracker. I also didn’t want to be digging through my luggage to find the charger. Most smartwatches require daily charging if not a charge every two days.

But I really missed the ability to send custom texts and the ability to make calls on my wrist. I didn’t miss the touchscreen as much as I thought I would, though I would really rather have a touchscreen than five buttons that require some guessing sometimes.

Ticwatch C2 vs Ticwatch Pro google assistant

I severely missed the ability to use a voice assistant such as Google Assistant on the smartwatch. The Garmin’s app store is also quite lacklustre.

My Fenix 6 also has maps and music controls, but this requires you to upgrade to the Pro or Sapphire versions. The Fenix 6 also offers offline maps and a music player. While most smartwatches offer a maps app, few offer offline maps but music players can be found on almost all smartwatches.

OK, so from the Fenix 6, I learned that I care about good battery life, sports data and analysis, dynamic replies to texts, answering calls, maps and music controls.

Wear OS

The most common operating system on smartwatches is the Wear OS by Google. It’s a great operating system because it can do many things.

Most of all, it fills in the weaknesses of the Fenix 6. Let’s talk about it’s excellent Google Assistant.

Google Assistant is fantastic at helping you with mundane and tedious tasks such as starting a timer, checking the weather and finding random bits of information.

But some Wear OS watches are really slow. They take a while before you can start using Google Assistant.

As I am an entitled millennial with no appreciation of delayed gratification, I want Google Assistant to provide me service NOW.

Another thing I love about the Wear OS system is the ease of replying to messages. Google offers one of the best speech-to-text systems out there and you can really get by with just replying on your smartwatch. There’s also the keyboard and handwriting features, but they’re there in case of emergency. No other smartwatch platform has that many choices to reply so it’s great.

App selection is great too. The Wear OS offers one of the largest app stores for smartwatches, rivalled only by Apple’s.

What I really liked is the ability to download Google apps such as Google Maps for your smartwatch. Google Translate comes by default which is great when we can get back to travelling to exotic places and there’s also Google Keep for ease of keeping notes.

Wear OS vs the rest

What I am trying to establish here is that the Wear OS platform is superior to any other alternative out there. I truly believe it is.

Samsung Galaxy Watch samsung health

Let’s talk about Samsung smartwatches when paired to a Samsung smartphone. On the surface, it might seem like a match made in heaven. After all, Apple iPhones pair the best with Apple Watches, right?

To some extent, true. What I really enjoyed is the ability to access my email and SMS logs right on the smartwatch. That’s not possible with Wear OS smartwatches.

I also preferred the watch faces, design and styling of the Samsung Tizen OS, which looks much better than the Wear OS. The Wear OS’s user interface, to put it nicely, looks very utilitarian.

Samsung also has another strength which is that it has a much better workout app and a health stats tracker. The integration into Samsung Health on the smartphone is also excellent. You also get a pool swimming tracker by default, unlike on Wear OS devices.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Bixby

But Samsung smartwatches just have a poorer voice assistant, Bixby, which can do less and interprets your speech less accurately which also affects replying to texts.

Other than that, Samsung smartwatches are also limited in their range of apps. The Tizen OS has a smaller app store as compared to Google’s Wear OS.

But wow, are their watches stylish. The curved glass on the Galaxy Watch Active2 and the rotating bezels for scrolling on other models are just great innovations.

Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle main screen

So which Wear OS smartwatch?

The best smartwatch is the Fossil Gen 5 series. I currently own a Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle and I love it.

It’s the most unique smartwatch I’ve seen in that it has a metal band and clasp rather than a leather/silicone/textile strap. What I love about it is that it’s not fiddly like a strap and you can get it on and off in one second.

I love how fast it is. One of the biggest complaints from Wear OS users and pundits is that the Wear OS is very slow and sluggish. I have noticed significant improvements in 2020 and even the weakest smartwatch that I own is now performing at a decent level.

That said, when the going was tough in early 2020, only the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle could pass the bar. It offered a comfortable level of performance that consumers have come to expect such as instantaneous response (rather than a lag of several seconds).

It has the latest Snapdragon Wear 3100 and 1GB of RAM, making it one of the best processor-memory configurations out there.

Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle bracelet modification links

The Fossil Gen 5s also come with a standard 22mm quick-release so you can swap the band or strap out easily. The band and clasp isn’t for everyone — it required me to find tools and pins to hammer out the links of the band  before I could set it to the correct length.

In the end, it was half-an-hour of work. It was OK and it has paid off over time since the strap is always perfect for my wrist (surprisingly, I didn’t get fatter during the COVID-19 lockdown).  

One final thing I’d like to write about is the crown. I mentioned above that Samsung watches have rotating bezels and that is honestly the best way of scrolling through menus. The next best thing is a crown.

Rotating a crown is so much better than all the finger swiping you would have to do watches without it such as all Mobvoi Ticwatch smartwatches.

fossil carlyle sport workout

Gen 5 Carlyle as a sports watch

My opinion of the preloaded workout and health software, Google Fit, has improved a lot over this year (2020).

The updates that it received made it much better in all aspects. For example, it finally got a step counter. Previously, it measured exercise minutes and Heart Points (intensity of exercise). While I am not very concerned about my steps, this is a feature that comes standard on many smartwatches.

Fossil’s August 2020 update gives it a sleep tracker, a cardio fitness metric and an activity tracker. Apple, with its WatchOS 7 also received certain upgrades including a sleep tracker. I don’t know what took Apple and Google so long when Fitbit, Garmin and Polar had all of these features from long ago.

In order to refresh myself about the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle, I took it out on the water. I was paddling and found that the Carlyle couldn’t acquire my GPS coordinates. It turns out that my phone was in power saving mode, so it wouldn’t pass the data along to the watch. I lost 27 minutes of exercise data.

Still, what I really appreciated is how I could read and reply to messages without reaching for my phone, which would then be in a precarious position a few metres from the water.

Google’s speech-to-text system was excellent in composing my replies. I thought about how if I had a Garmin Fenix 6, I would not be able to do any of this.

However, later on, a call came in and I accepted it, thinking that I would be able to chat on my wrist. It turns out there’s some glitch or bug, but I am asked by the Carlyle to use my phone to chat.

This is very annoying and disappointing. Unfortunately, Wear OS will always have some bugs here and there. But I remember when it worked, it was fantastic.

ticwatch e2 main menu

Looking for a budget smartwatch?

I have established my liking for the Wear OS smartwatch and I understand not everyone is willing to splurge money on the fancist, most premium Wear OS smartwatch.

But it’s possible to save a lot of money and sacrifice just a little. The Wear OS’s functions comes standard across all smartwatches so it’s only the hardware that differs.

I’d recommend the Ticwatch E2 if you want something budget-friendly. I love the E2 because it’s lightweight and affordable. You get all the best features from Google including Google Assistant, the great speech-to-text system, Google Fit and the big app store.

It’s not as polished as the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle with its stainless steel body, but it’s a lightweight plastic watch case and silicone strap. I don’t mind it that much.

One difference is that the Ticwatch E2 is chunkier than the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle, and you might or might not like it.