Best Smartwatch for iPhone 2021


Here is everything you need to know about the Apple Watch Series 6, its many characteristics and why it is considered as the best smartwatch for iPhone users.

Apple Watch Series 6 main screenThe best smartwatch for iPhone users is undoubtedly the Apple Watch Series 6

The logic is simple. Apple makes smartwatches for its iOS phones and those smartwatches pair with the iPhone the best. One of the most distinct differences between the iPhone when paired to an Apple Watch and another smartwatch is that the Apple Watch will be able to reply to messages, make and answer calls, and integration is also excellent.

In addition, Apple also released a cheaper version of the latest Apple Watch Series 6, the Apple Watch SE, which they market as being “a lot of watch for a lot less than you expected.”

Apple Watch Series 6

The latest and greatest Apple Watch. The Apple Watch Series 6 is a really amazing smartwatch that I would love to use 24/7 but I can’t because I am primarily an Android user.

That said, the Apple Watch Series 6 has real appeal because of how it looks and how it performs.

For one, when you buy an Apple Watch Series watch, you will have a smartwatch that performs excellently. The most amazing part about the Apple Watch is really that everything works and everything is so smooth.

All of us smartphone users have a certain level of expectation as to how much time we can wait before we consider that something has gone wrong. With some smartwatches, particularly the Wear OS smartwatch lineup, poor performance can sometimes lead to long hangs.

In fact, the Apple Watch Series line of smartwatches has been the only smartwatch out there that doesn’t require a little pause before its voice assistant is ready to take questions. I really love that.

Apple Watch Series 6 blood o2 app

The new stuff that the Apple Watch Series 6 has is pretty minor as compared to the Apple Watch Series 5. The most noticeable change from the Apple Watch Series 5 is that it has Blood O2 measurement capabilities. So that you can know how saturated your blood is with oxygen.

Other less noticeable improvements include a newer processor and a screen that’s supposed to be brighter than the Apple Watch Series 5. I haven’t really noticed these two differences because they were both very good in Series 5.

The Apple Watch Series 6 comes with a pretty reliable heart rate monitor and also acts as a very good all-rounded fitness tracker. Data gets channeled into the Fitness or Health apps on iOS.

Apple’s watch face designs are also very good. They provide you with a lot of information that can be customized such as activity levels, a solar map, and cute designs featuring Mickey Mouse and other movie characters.

Battery life is OK at a day and a half which means that this is a smartwatch that requires a daily charge (unless you don’t mind having half a day’s battery life on the second day).

Apple Watch Series 5 watch face

Maybe even consider the Apple Watch Series 5

It’s hard to get these days but the Apple Watch Series 5 is actually a very good watch that you can consider. While you can’t get them from Apple or big-box retailers, I noticed that one telephone company here in Canada still bundles it with their services.

Including the Apple Watch Series 5, there are four options that you can get choose from if you want an Apple Watch. You can get the Apple Watch Series 3, the Apple Watch SE, or the Apple Watch Series 6 and if you are lucky, the Apple Watch Series 5.

If you get the Apple Watch Series 5 at a good price, there’s little reason to buy the Apple Watch Series 6. The difference between them is so minor and almost imperceptible that you’ll better off keeping the savings.

I wouldn’t buy the Apple Watch SE or Apple Watch Series 3 because I really care for the always-on screen that those two do not have. But I have a colleague who actually doesn’t mind not having an always-on screen, so each to their own.

fitbit versa 3 watch face

Fitbit Sense or Fitbit Versa 3

Another smartwatch that’s worth considering is the latest Fitbit smartwatches.

Now, let’s be clear that if you leave the Apple smartwatch lineup, you will lose your ability to reply on your watch. That really sucks but it’s manageable.

The Fitbit Sense and the Fitbit Versa 3 are very good watches that you should consider because they have smartwatch features that surpass what the Apple Watch Series 6 can offer.

The Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3 all offer GPS tracking which its predecessor didn’t. This is great because no longer would you need to carry your phone around for GPS data.

Both watches also have fantastic battery life. They can last for at least half a week even if you wear them 24/7. The fitness tracking capabilities of these smartwatches are also pretty good but this is an especially important point if you’re comparing these two watches with the Apple Watch.

As stated above, fitness features on the iPhone are very well integrated into two apps. With the Fitbit, all your fitness information goes into the Fitbit app. One of the best things about the Fitbit Sense or Fitbit Versa 3 is that it can be worn multiple nights for sleep tracking and heart rate monitoring without having to take it off to charge. It’s also one of the most comfortable smartwatches to wear day and night.

As an iPhone owner, I would still go for the Apple Watch if I could, but the Fitbit Sense and Fitbit Versa 3 offer great value for money and a host of features that will help you improve your life if you paid earnest attention to it.

Garmin Fenix 6

I love the Garmin Fenix 6. It’s one of the best smartwatches out there.

If you decide to consider the Garmin Fenix 6, you are basically saying you want the best in sports smartwatch technology. Its fitness tracking feature lists are very extensive. Sleep tracking, SpO2, compass, altimeter, GPS, offline maps, music, training features, and a lot of exercises to choose from. Its battery life is also legendary, lasting over a week in my tests while being worn 24/7.

But at the same time, it doesn’t have a touchscreen and all interactions go through one of its five buttons. It’s also very expensive, especially if you want the upgraded version with either solar charging or offline maps and music.


Heart rate chart on home screen of the Apple Watch Series 5

Best Smartwatch for iPhone 2020

The best smartwatch for the iPhone is… the Apple Watch Series 5.

Did I hear a groan? Did someone call me “predictable”?

It’s true, that was probably the most predictable answer, especially if you are aware of the vast differences in compatibility between the iPhone and the Apple Watch Series 5 versus the iPhone compared to other non-Apple smartwatches.

It’s a massive gap, in fact, so much so that the Apple Watch Series 5 just makes it worth your while to fork out the premium.

But be aware that if you ever decide to leave the iPhone (how dare you!), your Apple Watch will not be able to pair with an Android.

That said, keeping it in the same bloodline really helps. The Apple Watch Series 5 is the smoothest, most integrated experience you will ever have.

Everything runs smoothly. Pairing is easy (just bring it close to your iPhone).

I think it’ll be good to start the conversation by discussing the experience with non-Apple smartwatches.

Fitbit Versa 2 notifications

Apple iPhone with Wear OS, Fitbit

Wear OS and Fitbit smartwatches have a major challenge to deal with when paired to an iPhone — integration.

Apple doesn’t play friendly with anything non-Apple. Apple iPhones will forward notifications to Wear OS and Fitbit devices, but you won’t be able to reply to these notifications.

Vice-versa is true too. You can’t connect Android smartphones with the Apple Watch Series 5. That’s a real pity because the Apple Watch Series 5 is one of my favorite smartwatches, but I prefer Android smartphones.

But these incompatibilities or protectionism, however you want to interpret it, really add to the Apple Watch Series 5’s strength when paired to an iPhone.

No Country for Old iPhones

The Apple Watch Series 5 is no friend to old iPhones. 

I had an iPhone 6 that Apple has decided will not receive the iOS 13 update.

Apple Watch requires you to have iOS 13.

OK. Fail. Now I have an iPhone 8 just so I can test the Apple Watch Series 5.

Bang, Bang, my bank account!

The base Apple Watch Series 5 cost a lot of money. Way more than most Wear OS watches or Fitbit watches.

But that’s not all. You can bling it up if you’d like.

It’s not a modder’s paradise like a Honda Civic. It’s more like buying coffee at Starbucks, you start with something basic, then you swap out stuff, add features, and then swipe that credit card.

For example, you can double the cost of the Apple Watch by swapping out the straps. The base model comes with a simple silicone strap but you can get leather, textile, or stainless steel band.

On my initial tests, I said I didn’t like the stock Sport Band because it doesn’t have a buckle. Instead, it has a push-pin fastener. I still do find it a bit precarious to have such a tenuous hold on the watch while I fasten it, but I have become quite the fan given that it’s a good waterproof strap.

You can also add LTE functionality onto the Apple Watch, making it much closer to a smartphone. Great when you are out kayaking and don’t want to bring that fragile iPhone out to sea. Rice won’t save it nor will it float if it ever takes a dip.

Just be aware that you should check whether your mobile phone carrier supports smartwatch LTE functionality. It didn’t for me because I was on a discount carrier.

Compared to its competition, the Apple Watch Series 5 offers many more customization options. Really, it’s like going to Starbucks and wanting venti cappuccino with a shot of cappuccino, salted foam on top, and an extra espresso shot.

The Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle offers some customizability. Different watch cases and different straps, but there aren’t as many customizations available.

Apple Watch Series 5 timer start

Beautiful watch faces

The big, black screen can be bought in 40mm or 44mm sizes. They come with a beautiful curved edge, reminiscent of high-end Samsung smartphones.

The screen also takes up the majority of the watch’s surface area and I am glad that Apple has made some of the most beautifully designed watch faces. 

There are some really beautiful and informative watch faces that I have never seen before on other smartwatch systems. 

For example, a watch face that tells you the alignments of the solar system. Really rekindles all the memories of the Kerbal Space Program. Rotate the crown and you can see how the planets will revolve over time.

There is also a really cute Mickey Mouse watch face. If you are a fan of Mickey Mouse, this is the only smartwatch with this character as a watch face.

The widgets that are available on the Apple Watch, which Apple calls “Complications”, are also rather interesting. No other smartwatch platform tracks noise, for example. You can get a complication that tells you the noise level in your surrounding area. 

apple watch series 5 workout

Sports

One aspect I really love about the Apple Watch Series 5 is its sports capabilities.

I really love how the Workout app is designed. It can also track swimming which is something that Wear OS devices cannot do without installing a third-party app.

The Workout app is just more elegant in design. Its cheery lime green color scheme is very encouraging, unlike Wear OS’s Google Fit which has a duller cyan color scheme.

Most of all, what I really like about the Workout app is that it’s very well integrated with the Health app on the Apple iPhone.

The Health app is the one-stop app for all things including your workouts, noise exposure, and other aspects. This contrasts with the Wear OS’s disjointed experience where you have Google Fit for workouts and then you need another app for sleep tracking and nutrition tracking.

The closest experience you can get is with the Samsung Galaxy line of smartwatches. Samsung Health is a very close competitor. The only reason why I haven’t talked much about it is that it really isn’t meant to be paired to an iPhone.

Siri

I love Siri. I love his Australian accent. But if you would rather stay in the northern hemisphere, you can choose a British or American accent. 

Amusements aside, Siri is probably the BEST voice assistant out there. I say this because while the Wear OS offers Google Assistant which is a true powerhouse too, the experience with Google Assistant can be dampened depending on the hardware you buy.

The Apple Watch Series 5 offers an excellent experience. Long-press the crown and you will summon Siri. Siri answers immediately. Google Assistant can sometimes take a bit longer before it’s ready to hear you out.

The results you get from querying Siri is also excellent. It can help you find directions with Apple Maps, it can tell you the weather and start a timer. It really reduces the tedium involved.

Its other competitor is Alexa, available on Fitbit smartwatches. “Alexa” might start and end with an “A” but I’d only give it a B rating because it just falls short of what Google Assistant and Siri can do.

garmin fenix 6 main screen

Alternatives? How about a Fenix?

There are other smartwatches that you can go for. They won’t be the “best” in terms of all-around performance, but they offer much more than the Apple Watch Series 5 can offer.

One of my favorite watches to wear is the Garmin Fenix 6. Specifically, I have Fenix 6 Sapphire which is a Fenix 6 with a map and music app in it. It also has a hardier glass coating that Garmin terms “Sapphire”.

Now, what’s so special about the Fenix 6? Why pay even more when you can get music and maps on the Apple Watch Series 5 for free?

The answer is because Fenix 6 is a sports smartwatch powerhouse. The benefits you get from the Fenix 6 from this watch outstrips what Apple can offer in the domain of sports and lifestyle tracking.

I remember traveling on a cross-continent road trip. On a road trip, you just have too many things you need to handle and you are tired at the end of the day.

The Garmin Fenix 6 makes it easier. On one charge, it can last 10 days with some sports tracking used. On the Apple Watch Series 5, you just can’t get this kind of battery life.

Fenix 6’s integrated maps also really helped me a lot. On the Apple Watch Series 5, you will need to be connected to the phone in order to be able to get Apple Maps to work.

I went canoeing and I found that I was in unfamiliar territory, looking for a beach on an island away from the mainland. If I used Apple Maps (or Google Maps on Wear OS devices) all I will be seeing is a grey grid of disappointment — because I didn’t bring my phone onto the canoe in fear of it getting wet.

In my opening paragraphs, I talked about compatibility. Does the Garmin Fenix 6 not have the same issues with compatibility with the iPhone?

Honestly, it does have the same issues all non-Apple smartwatches have. You can’t reply to messages, although the messaging function is limited to sending pre-composed messages that you don’t lose much.

I’m just going to conclude it like this. If you need a general-purpose smartwatch, you’d want an Apple Watch Series 5. If you want a specialized smartwatch meant for sports and lifestyle, the Garmin Fenix 6 would be the best in this regard.

Special mention: Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle

Fossil’s Gen 5 Carlyle has all the problems of the Wear OS when paired with the iPhone.

Its advantage is that it’s more affordable and is a full-featured premium watch.

One major difference between the Carlyle and other Wear OS watches is that you can answer calls on the Carlyle.

This is an amazing feat by Fossil. No other Wear OS smartwatch that I’ve reviewed has been able to do it.

Verdict

Just get the Apple Watch Series 5. End of story.

BUT…. do you plan to migrate away from an iPhone soon? Remember that your Apple Watch will become a fancy, expensive and ostentatious timepiece because it won’t pair with anything but iPhones.

If so, then perhaps what you need is a Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle. It’s just a more dynamic smartwatch with no qualms as to who it’s paired to.

Then it’s also worth considering the Garmin Fenix 6 if you think sports, maps, and super-long battery life is important.