The best smartwatches in 2023: our 11 favorite ones
Smartwatches allow us to live like Dick Tracy by giving us notifications and tracking health and fitness. They also provide the ability to send and receive calls and messages, play music, set timers, perform various tasks via voice command, and so much more — all on our wrists. Smartwatches just keep getting better and better, but what are the best smartwatches?
For most people, we think the Apple Watch Series 8 is the best smartwatch, but only if you own an iPhone. But we know there are just as many Android phone fans out there, and the Apple Watch only works with an iPhone. If that’s you, then you’ll want the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.
The varied world of smartwatches goes far beyond these two models, so take a look at all our top recommendations before buying, as you could find one that’s better for your lifestyle. Without further delay, here are our picks for the best smartwatches in 2023!
Apple Watch Series 8
Best smartwatch for the iPhone
- Sleek, comfortable design
- Display is big and gorgeous
- Excellent health features
- Fast charge speeds
- watchOS 9 is better than ever
- Car crash detection
Why you should buy this: It’s the best smartwatch available.
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a beautifully made, feature-rich, easy-to-use smartwatch.
Why we picked the Apple Watch Series 8: The design of the Apple Watch Series 8 may not be any different from the Apple Watch Series 7, but that doesn’t stop it being instantly recognizable — and also supremely comfortable to wear. This is essential, as all the Apple Watch’s benefits come when you’re wearing it, and preferably all the time. The Series 8, with the right Band, can be worn 24 hours a day without a problem.
Do this, and you get all the health monitoring benefits, ranging from heart rate and blood oxygen measurements to an electrocardiogram, along with fall and crash detection. Plus, the Apple Watch Series 8 tracks your movement and workouts too. Notifications show up on the sharp, colorful, and bright screen, and touch sensitivity is spot-on. The Digital Crown on the case makes navigation simple.
There are two case sizes — 41mm and 45mm — so it’s suitable for all wrist sizes. There are dozens of bands available that are quick and easy to change, the battery can last for two days with normal use, plus you can buy it with an LTE connection for use without your phone. The latest watchOS 9 software is reliable, and the Series 8 will receive updates for years to come.
What makes the Apple Watch Series 8 such a winner is the way all the features, functions, accessories, and software come together. It’s by far the most pleasing and rewarding to use, the simplest to learn, and the most logically and thoughtfully designed smartwatch you can buy.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Best smartwatch for Android
- Lightweight, comfortable design
- Robust health tracking
- AMOLED screen looks excellent
- Easy access to Google apps
- Very fast charging speeds
Why you should buy this: It looks great, is easy to use, has a lot of unique health features, and is even reasonably priced.
Who it’s for: Android phone owners who want the best smartwatch available.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5: Despite abundant similarities to its predecessor and fairly iterative improvements, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 features a larger battery, faster charging, a durable design, and enhanced health tracking. The only difference is the larger 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor at the bottom, designed for more accurate health data. The Watch 5 is a bit heavy but is so comfy it almost disappears on your wrist and is especially fitting for smaller wrists.
The 40mm model’s always-on Super AMOLED display measures 1.2 inches with 396 x 396-pixel resolution, while the 44mm is 1.4 inches at a 450 x 450 resolution. It has an easy button or swipe interface and bright colors, with an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts brightness and is easy to see in direct sunlight. It’s powered by Samsung’s Exynos W920 chipset, 1.5GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. It runs Wear OS 3.5 and Samsung’s One UI Watch 4.5 interface.
The Galaxy Watch 5’s battery life is respectable, with around 24 hours of use with all the health features active before it needs a recharge. There’s also a great fast charging system where 30 minutes adds 60% to the battery. It’s also very comfortable to wear, comes in several colors, and the Wear OS software with Samsung’s customizations is fast and easy to use. There are two case sizes, 40mm and 44mm, so it suits most wrists.
Health tracking on the Galaxy Watch 5 includes step tracking, auto workout detection, manual workout tracking, and sleep tracking — all accompanied by 24/7 heart-rate monitoring, SpO2 tracking, an ECG app, and a Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis sensor for viewing body fat, skeletal muscle, body water, and more. It’s right up there with the Apple Watch in terms of ability, software, and design. It’s the smartwatch to buy if you have an Android phone.
Apple Watch SE 2
Best budget smartwatch for the iPhone
- Comfortable to wear 24 hours a day
- Comprehensive, yet simple-to-use fitness tracking
- Excellent smartwatch software and support
- Latest processor provides all the power needed
- Two-day battery
Why you should buy this: It’s almost the Apple Watch Series 8, but for less money.
Who it’s for: Anyone who doesn’t mind not having an always-on screen on their smartwatch.
Why we picked the Apple Watch SE 2: Do not make the mistake of underestimating the Apple Watch SE 2. It has the vast majority of features found on the Series 8, the same S8 processor, and it operates on the latest watchOS 9 with the W3 wireless chip for a flawless connection to your iPhone. But it will cost you less than the Series 8.
The big functional difference between the Series 8 and the Watch SE 2 is the lack of an always-on screen. It means the SE 2’s screen is black until you raise your wrist, while the Series 8’s screen always shows the watch face and time. Other differences include the nylon composite case back, the sensor array from the original Watch SE (so it doesn’t track blood oxygen levels or take an ECG), and slower charging.
But what you do get is everything else. The wonderful easy-to-use software, the extensive health and fitness tracking, fall and noise detection, crash detection, the usual notifications, plus all the customization using different bands. It comes in two sizes, 40mm or 44mm, and several color options. The health tracking features it misses out on won’t affect everyone, and if you can live without the always-on screen, the Apple Watch SE 2 will serve you just as well as the Series 8.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
Best budget smartwatch for Android
- Comfortable fit and size
- Excellent fitness and health-tracking features
- Seamless pairing with Samsung devices
- Two-day battery life
Why you should buy this: It’s not all that different from the Galaxy Watch 5, but it can be found at a cheaper price.
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a cheaper smartwatch for your Android phone that still looks modern, and doesn’t compromise on features.
Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4: The Galaxy Watch 4 may have come out in 2021, but don’t pass it by thinking it’s out of date. There aren’t all that many differences between it and the Galaxy Watch 5, and because it can be found for a great price, that makes it a very sensible purchase if you want a smartwatch that’s almost as good as the latest model.
It’s worth noting that although we’re recommending the Galaxy Watch 4, Samsung also released the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic alongside it, which has a more watch-like design and a physical rotating bezel for easy navigation. You’re more likely to find the Watch 4 at a good price, but if you spot the Classic, do take a look as the rotating bezel is more precise than the Watch 4’s touch-sensitive version.
The Galaxy Watch 4 comes in two sizes, 40mm and 44mm, and is IP68 water and dust resistant. The battery life is great, with two days possible with average use, including sleep tracking. Unfortunately, charging is slow at almost two hours to reach 100%. It has a similar biometric sensor on the back to the Galaxy Watch 5, and will measure body composition just like it, along with all the other expected health tracking.
If you don’t have to own the latest tech and prefer to find a bargain that doesn’t have many compromises, the Galaxy Watch 4 is definitely for you.
Apple Watch Ultra
Best premium smartwatch for the iPhone
- Highly durable build
- Luxury materials
- Three-day battery life
- Expertly judged special features
- Characterful design
- Does everything the Series 8 does
- LTE as standard
Why you should buy this: It’s the ultimate smartwatch for the iPhone, and astonishingly capable too.
Who it’s for: Adventurers, divers, hikers, runners, and anyone who wants a no-compromise, statement-making smartwatch on their wrist.
Why we picked the Apple Watch Ultra: Apple may promote the Apple Watch Ultra as an adventure smartwatch, suitable mostly for those who enjoy all kinds of outdoor pursuits. But if that’s not you, don’t ignore this superb smartwatch. It does everything the Apple Watch Series 8 does, with a 49mm titanium case, sapphire crystal over the screen, ceramic on the case back, and a battery that can last multiple days on a single charge. It’s big, tough, and bold, but also supremely capable.
What does it do beyond the Series 8? The screen is bigger and brighter, there’s the customizable orange Action button on the side of the case, LTE comes as standard, it has an emergency alert siren to attract attention, and it’s suitable for dive use. The Low Power battery mode extends use to more than 60 hours, and the case meets MIL-STD-810H standards and is IPX8 dust resistant, and has a 100-meter water resistance too. It comes with your choice of unique Ultra Band, designed to suit your activity of choice, but works with any Apple Watch strap too.
All the additional features have been well thought-out, right down to the design and choice of materials, and while it is twice the price of the Series 8 and has otherwise very similar functionality, there’s something very special about the Ultra. It has some character to it, and that’s rare to find in a smartwatch. Most people will be fine owning the Series 8, which is more wearable overnight, but if you’re tempted by the Ultra and think you’d make use of its adventurous credentials, we say go for it. You won’t be disappointed by this very special smartwatch.
Garmin Vivomove HR review
It may not have the fitness tracking of a classic Garmin runner’s watch but the way the Vivomove HR incorporates low-leg smarts almost invisibly is ingenious.
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The Garmin Vivomove HR is a hybrid watch that pushes the worlds of Smart and “dumb” watches closer together than most.
It has a little semi-hidden screen on its front that lets you read notifications, check your exercise stats and even stress levels. Sure, it doesn’t have apps like a Vivoactive 3, but is far smarter than other hybrids that try to look like an analogue watch.
The main rival is the Nokia Steel HR, which looks a little more elegant but has fewer fitness and Smart features.
Garmin Vivomove HR price and release date
You can buy the Garmin Vivomove HR now around the world after it was announced at IFA 2017. The RRP for the cheapest version is set at £169.99 or 199.99 (about AU250), but you may be able to find it for a little bit less.
If you want the more expensive metal and leather version of the watch it will cost £249.99 or 299.99 (about AU380). That one isn’t available in all markets right now though. For example, in the UK you won’t be able to buy that version until Q2 of 2018 so that’s probably set for the end of June this year.
The Garmin Vivomove HR’s main design goal is to pass for an analogue watch. And it’d pull it off if it wasn’t for the Garmin name on the front. We all know Garmin doesn’t make plain old watches, right?
Its face is a flat circle with a reactive finish, sending beams from its centre when it catches the light. There are little “minute” pips around the face’s edge and normal-looking minutes and hours hands.
Until you look a little deeper there’s no obvious sign this is a smartwatch. Garmin makes a Premium version, but this is the more affordable standard Vivomove HR, which has a slightly sporty yellow minutes hand. You can also get it with a pink and gold face, and white strap.
Both of these standard models look Smart, but not super-expensive. The edge of the glass covering is not perfectly finished. You can see it too much, where we should really see just the metal bezel and the face below.
However you can upgrade to the altogether classier-looking Vivomove HR Premium models. These get rid of the colorful parts to the face and switch a silicone strap for a leather one.
Their construction also appears to be slightly different. The standard Vivomove HR we have here has a steel surround, but the part below that forms the underside and the strap mount is hard plastic. Premium models use more metal.
It feels like the kind of hard plastic you might find on one of Garmin’s higher-end runner’s watches, not cheap and flimsy stuff. Not as classy or expensive-feeling as steel, though, is it?
Plastic does help keep the weight down. This watch is very light, and the silicone strap has a good bit of give to it. You can do it up fairly tight without it feeling too tight. Wearing it 24/7 is viable.
Screen and features
So how is this a smartwatch? The Garmin Vivomove HR has an LED screen below its facia. It’s a two-line monochrome display that pops up when you double tap on the little display area or flick your wrist.
Look closely in a well-lit room at the right angle and you can perceive the screen’s border when the screen is not active. But you do need to try.
The Garmin Vivomove HR has no buttons, no crown. You interact with it through the touchscreen. This highlights one of the watch’s few real issues. Using the touchscreen can often feel fiddly.
On occasion a double tap doesn’t seem to register, particularly in the first few days as you get used to the Vivomove HR. It’s a strange issue as flicking through the actual pages of the watch’s micro interface is fast and responsive. Only the double tap gesture trips things up.
The screen is also not that clear outdoors. Inside it’s very bright and reasonably sharp. However, the more ambient light it has to deal with, the less bright and sharp it appears.
Some have all-but written off the Garmin Vivomove HR because of this. Reviewing it in London, though, where the sun is an infrequent visitor, we actually found it entirely usable while out on the street.
Let’s get a little deeper into what this screen part does.
Double tap on its window and you’ll see the home screen display. You choose what this shows: we picked the date and our step count. Flick right-to-left and the Vivomove HR scrolls through pages of exercise stats and Smart features.
On the smarts side you get the weather, music controls and your notifications. You won’t want to pore over the day’s messages on a Vivomove HR. It can only fit a word or three on the screen. However, it’s surprisingly effective at relaying quick SMS and WhatsApp messages.
Checking quick notifications lets you avoid getting your phone out.
The Vivomove HR’s screen uses software very similar to Garmin’s small fitness bands. This watch is a bit like an analogue model with a Vivosmart 3 crammed in under the surface.
Garmin Vivomove HR review
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Garmin carefully treads the line between fitness tracker and stylish timepiece, and the results are mostly good. The hidden screen is a useful and unique addition, even if it’s not great for handling notifications and suffers in sunlight. Serious athletes will still want to look to the Forerunner and Fenix lines, but as far as hybrids go, Garmin has definitely raised the bar.
Garmin has bombarded us with fitness trackers and running watches this year, but the Garmin Vivomove HR might be the most exciting of the lot. The first Vivomove was essentially a fitness tracker in traditional watch form, but the Vivomove HR is a full hybrid of style and smarts, layering features like notifications on top of better fitness tracking and a heart rate sensor.
Most intriguing of all is the hidden display. The Vivomove HR gives nothing away when idle, but on the lower half of the face is a display that illuminates with notifications and menus; Garmin‘s baked an entire operating system into its new watch.
It’s much more ambitious than the first Vivomove, and arguably the best-looking wearable Garmin has ever made. Of course, we’ve seen a lot of hybrids this year, so Garmin isn’t just competing with fitness trackers but the fashion powerhouses as well.
Can Garmin strike a good balance between those two worlds? We’ve been living with Vivomove HR to find out whether this is the hybrid to beat. Here’s our comprehensive verdict.
Design and wearability
Garmin has a lot of strengths, but design has never been one of them. With the first Vivomove a rare exception, Garmin’s sports watches, and trackers have relied on rich workout features to carry them without much of an eye for style. So yes the bar is a little lower here, but the Garmin Vivomove HR really is a nice-looking watch, a hybrid that fully conceals its Smart identity in an attractive timepiece you won’t mind being seen with.
Measuring 43mm across, smaller wrists should be able to get away with it too. The Vivomove HR comes in either a Sports version, with black and rose gold finishes and silicon straps, or what Garmin calls the “Premium” options, which are more expensive and come in either silver or gold-toned finishes with leather bands. All of these can be mixed with any 20mm quick-release Band if you want to accessorize, however.
The clock face is quite bare, with just two hands and no complications. At 11.6mm thick it’s just a smidgen slimmer than its predecessor, but that might still be a bit too much for some tastes. It weighs a perfectly reasonable 40.8g, though.
Which brings me to the device’s most interesting idea: the display. A glance at the watch and you wouldn’t think it’s there, but raise a wrist or tap on the lower half of the watch face and that touch-sensitive display will light up, showing you information on everything from the date to the weather to your day’s calorie burn.
When you’re reading the screen, the clock hands move to ten-t0-two to keep them from obstructing your view. Still, I’ve found that display becomes almost unreadable when under sunlight. You can adjust the brightness in the watch’s settings, but the problem seems to lie in the glare from the glass rather than the display itself. On a few occasions, I’ve found myself having to awkwardly angle my wrist to see if a vibration meant I’d received a new message or whether it was just another move reminder. The time itself is still visible, so it’s not exactly an earth-shattering problem, but it’s not ideal either.
Garmin’s hybrid walks that tricky line between a fully-functioning smartwatch and a nice timepiece and can claim to be only the second hybrid to include a heart rate sensor (the Nokia Steel HR was the first).
There are no buttons on this watch as all interactions are done through the screen: swiping left and right will scroll through the different faces, and some you’ll be able to tap on to show more information. The operating system is almost identical to the one you’ll find on the Vivosport and Vivosmart 3, so if you’ve used those trackers then you’ll be familiar with the interactions, except you’re swiping across just the bottom of the watch face here.
Having a display opens up the ability to read messages on the screen, and like other Garmin wearables the Vivomove HR supports every notification coming through your phone. Annoyingly you can’t filter these, so you can only choose to have them all off, all on, or so that you’re only alerted when a phone call is coming through. Alerts will pop up with the name of the app, which you then tap to open, but for some, like Messenger, you’ll just see a speech bubble.
As we know all too well here at Wareable, notifications on hybrids are never perfect, and in the case of the Vivomove HR, it just can’t fit enough on the display at one time to make these anywhere near as good as they are the Samsung Gear Sport or Apple Watch Series 3. While you can scroll through the entirety of each message that comes through, the Vivomove HR can squeeze so little on the screen at one time that it’s often going to be faster to just reach for your phone. It’s good for calls and urgent notifications, but otherwise, it’s not the best medium for reading messages. It’s the same issue that we’ve seen on Garmin’s fitness trackers, and sadly the Vivomove HR doesn’t give you any more space for messages to live in.
Some Smart features, like the music playback control, I’ve found more useful. The Vivomove HR doesn’t have any onboard storage so you won’t be able to load on any songs, but you can control what’s playing from your paired phone.
Garmin’s also taken advantage of its heart rate sensor to include some better wellness features, including stress tracking, which it introduced in the Vivosmart 3 earlier this year. This works by tracking heart rate variability and giving you a score – of 0 to 100 – on how stressed you are. And then of course you have your step tracking, calories burned, flights of stairs climbed, and current heart rate – all of which you can view by swiping along that little screen.
If you’re big on the outdoors, you’ll be happy to know that there’s also support for Garmin’s VIRB action camera and LiveTrack. Your data, as always, will live on Garmin’s Connect app platform.
Workouts, tracking, and battery life
While it now packs in a heart rate sensor, the Vivomove HR still feels angled more towards the all-day wellness category than harder fitness workouts, making use of 24/7 HR tracking for a more wholesome picture of your overall fitness.
That said, you can still launch running, elliptical and strength training sessions with a long press of that hidden display, and for all of these the watch will track your heart rate. We’ve seen Garmin’s heart rate tech improve this year, and running with the HR had pretty good results. In the below run, the Polar H7 chest strap had an average heart rate of 166bpm and a maximum of 177bpm, while the Vivomove HR read 167bpm and a maximum of 179bpm.
I was also able to see my pace for my runs in the app, but note that there’s no built-in GPS here. To me it’s a bit of a shame as we’ve seen Garmin manage to squeeze it into the Vivosport, but I also appreciate that cramming that in as well as the display might not have been doable.
This omission won’t be a deal breaker for many, but when Garmin doesn’t let you tether this from your phone, it does limit the Vivomove HR’s capabilities as a running watch. It tracks distance using accelerometer data and its own algorithms, but these are never going to be as good as using GPS. Sure enough in testing it was a little off. Nothing crazy, but if you want something that meticulously tracks distance, this is not it.
You’ve also got strength training, letting you count reps for upper body and weight workouts, as well as elliptical workouts – nice extras for gym goers. The strength training mode doesn’t account for everything, but we’ve still found it to be pretty comprehensive.
Sleep tracking is about what I’ve experienced on Garmin’s other devices, and I assume it’s exactly the same tech working inside. Garmin’s sleep tracking does use heart rate tracking to detect sleep (a correction here: we previously stated it wasn’t using that info), however it doesn’t leverage it to offer the same level of insight that Fitbit’s tracking does, though it is getting better.
Where Garmin’s sleep tracking tech tends to get it wrong with me is my wake-up time, often telling me I woke up a bit later than I actually did.
This seems to be especially the case when I wake up but don’t get out of bed for a while, and it thinks I’m still asleep when I’m really checking my phone or trying to grab an extra 10 minutes of snooze time. Overall, it’s fine, but I wouldn’t read too much into the graphs of light and deep sleep, and don’t expect consistent accuracy.
Garmin claims you’ll get about five days of battery life on the Vivomove HR, which is a little less than we were expecting when this was first revealed. A lot of hybrids run longer – some up to years – but with the Vivomove HR you’re paying for that screen in battery juice.
For the sake of the review I’ve been using the watch more intensely than you probably will, but I’ve still been getting four to five days. You can stretch that battery out to two weeks when just in watch mode, however, so you have fair warning before you end up with a dead weight on your wrist.
Garmin Vivomove HR Review
The Garmin Vivomove HR boasts Smart features in an attractive analog watch package for fashionable daily wear, but it earns the most points for general wellness support rather than training or sport workout accuracy.
Garmin Vivomove HR
We purchased the Garmin Vivomove HR so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full product review.
If you’re interested in moving more and monitoring daily activities with the help of a chic fitness-tracking watch, the Garmin Vivomove HR is worth a closer look. The is an accessory aimed at those who like to be active and stylish too. I wore and used this watch for over a week and was impressed with the look of it, level of wellness data captured, and the overall support it offers for general well-being.
Design: Looks like a polished regular watch
Some people enjoy the sporty design of an Apple Watch or Samsung smartwatch. But if you feel like you’re compromising utility over personal style with those options, the Garmin Vivomove HR offers a happy middle ground.
The watch I tested was fitted with a brown leather Band and gold stainless steel case. If you were to glance at it, you wouldn’t be able to tell that there’s a lot going on underneath the surface. With a simple turn of the wrist the OLED, placed discreetly in the bottom center of the watch face, illuminates for at-a-glance access to step count and other data. The watch hands also conveniently move out of the way for better visibility and return to reflect the current time when not in use.
The overall size of the Vivomove HR is 43 x 43 x 11.6 millimeters (HWD) and the display measures 0.38 x 0.76 inches. On larger wrists, this won’t be a big deal, but smaller wrists like mine could face a fit challenge since the face is on the larger side. But the device as a whole only weighs 56.5 grams, which won’t weigh you down. It also comes with a 5 ATM water-resistance rating, which means you’re good to use this for lap swimming and other water sports, and won’t need to worry about rain and snow exposure. I wore this watch in the shower and when washing dishes and found it to be effective against repelling water and always dried quickly.
In terms of design quirks, in lieu of a typical micro USB charging cord, this watch features a charging clip with a USB connection. The clip opens easily and must be placed directly onto the charging contacts on the back of the watch face in order to charge/transfer data. This charging method is a bit of a quirk of some Garmin watches, but it eliminates the need for charging ports that could be at risk when exposed to moisture.
Setup: Fast pairing with Garmin Connect
Setting up the Garmin Vivomove HR is easy through the Garmin Connect app. I already had the mobile app downloaded on my iPhone, which made the fast setup process speedier. The app immediately detected the Vivomove HR and then presented on-screen instructions for calibrating the watch hands, setting the wrist placement (right or left), widget preferences, and touring basic functions. This took a matter of minutes since the Garmin Vivomove HR was nearly fully charged out of the box.
Comfort: Comfortable for all-day wear, but the screen can be finicky
I wore the Garmin Vivomove HR during waking and sleeping hours and never experienced discomfort while I slept. If I did experience any issues, it was during the day when conducting routine tasks—especially typing. Invariably the watch would shift and the larger face made contact with my wristbone.
The wellness data, especially with consistent daily wear, was helpful and motivated me to move more.
During sleeping hours, though, I wasn’t disturbed by any shifting of the timepiece. And since sleep mode is on by default, I wasn’t bothered by notifications or the screen illuminating. When trying to fall asleep or during waking moments, I was occasionally startled by the green light from the heart-rate sensor on the back of the watch face. If you get a tight fit against your wrist, this shouldn’t be an issue.
In terms of overall ease of use, the only actions you’ll need to master are touching and swiping the screen: there are no buttons or bezels to deal with. Touch prompts sound like a no-brainer and an appealing way to interact with the watch, but I found the screen to be fussy and slow to respond at times. If I didn’t tap the screen in just the right way, I had to repeatedly tap until I could stop or start a workout timer. And if I failed to complete a full sweeping motion through the widgets, the screen wouldn’t advance to the next item. Instead I ended up just drilling down further into that particular category.
For example, if I didn’t fully swipe past the weather widget information for the day, the screen would take me to the weekly forecast. Then I had to press the back button to get to the general widgets screen. With continued use, I became savvier with touch and swiping actions, but it was still a consistent issue when trying to start/stop workout timers. This was an even bigger issue outside and in bright sunlight, which made the screen virtually undetectable.
Performance: A cheerleader for wellness rather than training
The Vivomove HR is a well-rounded device. Not only does it look fashionable as an everyday accessory, but it also offers stopwatch functions, monitors heart rate (resting and active), automatically tracks activities such as running, walking, and even using an elliptical machine, and tracks steps, calories, and other fitness data such as VO2 max.
The wellness data, especially with consistent daily wear, was helpful and motivated me to move more. The Move Bar, while annoying, ultimately encouraged me to avoid prolonged periods of sitting or standing by simply reminding me to move if I hadn’t been very active in the last hour. But when it comes to accuracy as a fitness tracker, I wasn’t wildly impressed.
On a few short 1 to 3-mile runs, the Vivomove HR recorded my speed as up to 1 minute faster than my Garmin Forerunner 35 running watch. Heart rate was also considerably more elevated according to the Vivomove. And when I launched a strength training activity, the counter was always behind by about five reps. The Move IQ technology that auto-detects workouts didn’t always get it right either. Frequently when I was walking, the watch logged that stretch of movement as a running or an elliptical machine session.
Software/Key Features: Options, options, options
Fortunately, saving workout information and viewing any activity from the watch is easy and foolproof through the Garmin Connect app. If you prefer to set this watch up and sync data using your computer, the Garmin Express software allows you to complete the same steps for setting up and configuring the device along with syncing data with your Garmin Connect account and checking for software updates.
It’s entirely possible to choose between either setup, despite the quick-start instructions that indicate everything should be done through the mobile app. But using the app alone and syncing regularly helps send automatic software updates directly to the device when not in use. At any point you can log in to the Garmin Connect web app, regardless of which way you decide to sync data, to view your information on a larger display and download it.
The key features of the software revolve around basic activity tracking from climbing flights of stairs to monitoring all-day stress levels (based on heart rate) to breaking down hours of deep versus light sleep. While this is information you can glance at on your watch, the app distills all of this general wellness into daily, weekly, and monthly reports.
There’s also plenty of customization power when it comes to organizing the activity tracking data you see on your watch display and in the app itself. You can choose the widgets displayed such as music controls to control music on your smartphone and the number of intensity workout minutes you’ve reached for the week. And if you prefer to shuffle the way that data is arranged in the mobile app, there’s a simple drag and drop feature that helps you do that.
This complementary software also places the control in your hands when it comes to social media sharing and integrating with outside fitness-tracking platforms such as Map My Run and Strava—which you can easily do from the Garmin Connect mobile and web apps.
In terms of design quirks, in lieu of a typical micro USB charging cord, this watch features a charging clip with a USB connection.
Battery: Solid performance for five days
Garmin says that this watch can last for over two weeks in watch mode and up to five days in smartwatch mode—which I can confirm. This claim tracked even with frequent glancing at the display and toggling through the widgets as well as receiving regular text and email updates throughout the day. I didn’t see the battery drain in any consistent way until the fifth day. And recharging the watch was fast: it took about only one hour.
Price: Expensive, but it has a touchscreen
The Garmin Vivomove HR ranges in price from around 200 for the Sport version that comes with a silicone Band to 350 for Premium leather-Band alternatives. There are certainly cheaper hybrid smartwatch options on the market. Both the Withings Move Steel HR and Fossil Smartwatch HR Collider retail for less than 200. And while they offer similar features such as message previews, heart rate, weather and sleep data, and even GPS, neither offers a touchscreen display and unique health data like stress level readings based on heart rate patterns.
Garmin Vivomove HR vs. Withings Move Steel HR
The Withings Move Steel HR (180 MSRP) also occupies a similar space. It matches the Vivomove HR by offering optical wrist-based heart-rate monitoring, sleep tracking, water-resistance up to 50 meters, and smartphone notifications. The Withings Move Steel HR also has a stylish analog watch look, but if you prefer a flat over curved face and a touchscreen you can interact with, the Vivomove HR takes the prize. Heart-rate tracking inconsistencies plague both watches, but the Withings does come with connected GPS compatibility.
While this is a boon for distance tracking during workouts, the downside is that you’ll need to have your smartphone with you. The Withings Move Steel HR battery longevity is supposed to be 25 days and an additional month without Smart mode turned off. But if you prefer the touchscreen interaction rather than the dual displays—one dial that monitors step count progress by percentage and one LCD that displays notifications—the Vivomove could be worth the extra money.
A quality hybrid watch that’s best for general wellness tracking and basic Smart features.
The Garmin Vivomove HR isn’t the watch to reach for when you want to accurately log running or cycling workouts, but if you want a larger bird’s-eye view of your wellness, this is worth considering. It’s stylish enough for work and everyday wear and possesses thoughtful design details and health tracking features other hybrid smartwatch competitors don’t.