When it comes to putting tech on your wrist, you’ve got a lot of options to choose from. The modern smartwatch landscape can be a bit difficult to engage since it’s a nexus of style and functionality, so we thought we’d take a look at the pros and cons of three consumer favorites and see how they stack up against each other.
By now, the TicWatch E, Apple Watch, and Fitbit Versa have been in play long enough for users to get a good handle on their feel and practicality. Choosing the smartwatch that’s best for you takes a little bit more digging than picking out an analog watch, so let’s dive into the deets.
For this Battle Royale of savvy wearables, we’ve taken a more day-to-day approach rather than cracking open the hood of each device to check the nuts and bolts. It’s all about how these devices slide into your budget and routine here, but we’ve provided links to more technical content if you want the nerdy nitty gritty before you make your call.
Contender #1: TicWatch E
TicWatch has been making a name for themselves by making the Wear OS ecosystem available on essentially any budget. Just three years ago, smartwatches seemed like a luxury item, but makers like TicWatch targeted the mainstream consumer rather than just Android enthusiasts with disposable income.
Nowadays, mobile tech has advanced to the point that you can pack quite a punch in an impressively small package. It’s gotten to the point where many are thinking, as they are when it comes to smartphones, why should I shell out big bucks when I can get solid specs on a budget?
This is where the TicWatch E shines. It’s one of the most affordable truly smart smartwatches on the market, and with its sleek matte design and understated circular face, it’s a device that matches almost any style.
The TicWatch E clocks in at around $159, notably less expensive than its sportier sister product, the TicWatch S. While the TicWatch S is clearly for more outdoor-focused individuals, the TicWatch E delivers essentially all the same features in a more subdued aesthetic.
This watch ticks off all the main things we look for with a device like this. It’s the full Wear OS experience with GPS, heart rate monitoring, smartphone synchronization, workout tracking, sleep tracking, notifications, apps… the works. The 350 mAh battery is a bit small, but unless you’re a heavy power user, it should last you all day long and through the night.
- Very low cost
- Minimalist style
- Full smartwatch functionality
- Build quality may see wear and tear over extended time
- Mid-tier battery life
The TicWatch E is everything you need in a smartwatch without making a show of it. Its low price makes it absolutely ideal for anyone new to smartwatches.
Contender #2: Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is a ubiquitous entry to this lineup. For many iPhone users, it remains the only smartwatch in their line of sight because of its natural sync with other Apple products.
The lozenge design is undeniably sleek and recognizable. If you’re looking to make a statement about your brand loyalty, there’s no other option.
The Apple Watch has made significant improvements to the OS as of late. Users will find a far less clunky experience, and the integration with the iPhone is so seamless that you’ll nearly forget about it during everyday use. It simply becomes a natural part of interacting with your smartphone.
All the expected features are here, of course. GPS, activity tracking, notification display, heart rate monitoring, and App Store support. Coming to it from a long time living in the Android world might be a bit unfair, however, as the app availability feels bare-bones compared to those available to Wear OS devices through the Play Store.
The rectangular face can be polarizing. Many users find the classic round shape to be more intuitive for a wrist-mounted device, but others feel the shape makes interacting with the touch screen more natural.
Battery-wise, the Apple Watch is still a hog with average use sapping it dry in about 18 hours.
The primary drawback for this device is the price tag. The most recent iteration, the Apple Watch 3, sells for a whopping $330 for base models. For many, this makes it more of a luxury device or expensive novelty than practical purchase. Still, if Apple is your go-to brand, the Apple Watch will be your go-to smartwatch.
- Stylish, recognizable design
- Significant improvement over previous software
- Easy integration with other Apple products
- Very expensive
- Lackluster battery life
- Not as much app support as one might expect
An expensive but seamless extension of your iPhone that rocks your wrist with style.
Contender #3: Fitbit Versa
Ditching round and rectangular alike comes the squarish Fitbit Versa: the quick fix for the recovering Pebble addict.
Fitbit’s first foray into full-blown smartwatch territory disappointed many, but they’ve clearly learned from their mistakes with the Versa. Software-wise, they’ve made tons of improvements over their initial try, making this a comfortable, no-hassle option for someone who isn’t necessarily looking to be on the absolute cutting edge.
The Fitbit Versa is everything you expect from a standard Fitbit, plus a few extra perks that edge it into smartwatch territory. It has fitness tracking (duh) which includes a heart rate monitor and GPS tracking for activities. It also has 2.5 gigs of storage for music, but moving songs over is a little bit of a hassle that reminds us of the days of the iPod.
This device is right on the edge between “fitness tracker” and “smartwatch,” because it doesn’t quite have everything you’d expect from a full blown smartwatch. You’re not going to be getting phone notifications on it, for instance (although it’s supposed to gain support for that in the future), and although it has some quite useful features and apps from Fitbit’s app store, you don’t have the full inventory of the Play Store like you would get with a Wear OS device.
Although this may seem like a killing blow to some, what it lacks in versatility it makes up for in longevity. The lean Fitbit operating system lets the Versa keep trucking for up to 4 days on a single battery charge.
The price tag is fairly reasonable at $200, so if your main focus is fitness tracking without any extra razzle dazzle, the Fitbit Versa is a tempting offer.
- Killer battery life
- Decent price
- Excellent workout tracking
- No Play Store access
- No notifications or messaging
- Music transferring is a hassle
Rather than a smartphone on your wrist, the Fitbit Versa is a fitness tracker with a bevy of extra features that push it into smartwatch territory.
The bottom line is that this is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ stackup. The kind of smartwatch that you need hinges heavily on your priorities and sense of style.
If you’re just looking for a fitness tracker with some pizazz and an array of band options, the Fitbit Versa is going to be a device that will keep you active and well documented for the better part of a week.
For iPhone users who want something intelligent on their wrist and don’t mind forking over some dough, the Apple Watch is a natural choice.
For the full smartwatch experience without breaking the bank, it’s hard not to choose the TicWatch E for its lightweight design, access to the Play Store, and understated style.
This content is brought to you by Mobvoi.