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A wrist wearing a smartwatch that displays the user's BPM or heart rate on the screen

Smartwatch Buying Guide

Smartwatches bring the technology of a smartphone or tablet to the comfort of your wrist for everyday use. This guide will walk you through smartwatch features to look for and how these devices can simplify your lifestyle.
Smart Watch Buying Guide For Beginners Video
Smart Watch Buying Guide For Beginners
Smart Watch Buying Guide For Beginners Video Smart Watch Buying Guide For Beginners Video
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Smart Watch Buying Guide For Beginners
10 months ago

What Is A Smartwatch?

A smartwatch is a wearable device that resembles a classic wristwatch. The big difference? They don't rely on winding mechanisms or gears, but WiFi-enabled computing technology instead. Rather than featuring a glass bezel with hands to tell the time, a smartwatch is designed with a display screen that can tell you much more than the hour of the day. These devices extend the capabilities of your smartphone so you can stay connected wherever you are at any time. Just look down at your wrist and enjoy access to your text messages, email, weather, music, smart home and much more. Wearing a smart watch is a lot like wearing a computer as an accessory and they offer a variety of benefits that can make your daily life and routine far easier. Before shopping for your own wearable technology, let us tell you what features they have to offer and how to pick the right smartwatch for you.

Smartphone & OS Compatibility

Just like every smartphone has its own operating system (OS), every smartwatch has its own as well. Not every watch is designed to work with every cellphone, so it's important to choose a model that is compatible and supports the OS you're already using. The two most popular operating systems for cell phones these days are Android and iOS. The basic rule of thumb for choosing a smartwatch model is this:
  • If you own an iPhone, pick an Apple watch (iOS)
  • If you own a Samsung cellphone, pick a Galaxy watch (Android)
  • If you own a Google cellphone, pick a Pixel watch (Android)
As of right now, Apple watches work only with the iPhone. Because both Samsung and Google watches use the same OS, you can try mixing and matching these products if you'd like. You will notice, however, that certain features will only be available on one or the other. While the rule of thumb above may be helpful in your buying journey, Apple, Samsung and Google are not the only brands in the smartwatch game either. There are plenty of other high-quality brands available at Abt and outside of the OS, choosing one of these models is often dependent on what you plan on using your smartwatch for.
Someone holding a smartphone with a variety of different apps on the home screen

App Availability

Now that you've narrowed down your search by the operating system, you can begin exploring the apps that are available to each watch model. These days, smartwatches have hundreds or even thousands of apps to offer. Picking a model with this in mind is especially important if you own other smart devices or have a smart home system. You'll want to make sure the watch you choose has access to the apps needed to control your smart home. Tip: Make a list of the devices you use daily so you know which apps to prioritize. As of 2022, the Apple Watch offers over 20,000 apps, all of which can be installed from the Apple Watch app store on your iPhone for immediate downloading onto your watch. Google smartwatches also provide thousands of apps optimized specifically for their platform, although they can be directly downloaded on the device first, rather than a smartphone. Enjoy access to popular apps like Google Maps, Shazam, Uber, Spotify and more, all on your wrist whenever you want.

Fitness Features & Trackers

Customers who are exercise fanatics and in the market for a new smartwatch may also be interested in fitness trackers. Fitness tracker wristwear from brands like Fitbit are different products from smartwatches altogether, although they do share some capabilities. If you're seeking less and mostly looking for your device to be an exercise companion, a fitness tracker may be the best option for you. That being said, many smartwatches as of today have integrated activity-monitoring and so many other fitness features to keep up with the competition. The most basic fitness feature you can find on these watches is a built-in pedometer for step tracking and step counting. If you're a runner or biker, you can also get a smartwatch with GPS, which helps track your pace and distance. If you're a swimmer, perhaps you should look into a device with an IP-rated water-resistant design.
A person looking at their exercise statistics on their smartwatch and their smartphone
Many watches also come with a built-in heart rate monitor that uses a sensor to detect your heart rhythm when you're both active and inactive. If heart health is important to you, you may want to invest in a smartwatch that also has an ECG sensor. ECGs, or electrocardiograms, measure how well your heart is working and can detect if you have atrial fibrillation. This is a condition that causes an irregular heart rate, which can sometimes even lead to strokes. Some smartwatch models also have O2 sensors, which monitor your blood oxygen levels. Having this information available to you can alert you to signs of sleep apnea or serious pulmonary medical conditions. These and other health features like calorie counting or menstruation monitoring are just the beginning of what these devices have to offer. Keep in mind though, that the more advanced fitness features and health data you want in a device may call for a larger, premium price tag or a shorter battery life.

Battery Life & Charging

As smartwatches continue to upgrade and evolve, you'll often see the battery life expand and get better as well. Generally, one of these watches, depending on a variety of factors, can hold a battery life between a day or even seven days. If you're buying a smartwatch based solely on battery capacity, hybrid watches tend to have the best lifespan, although you'll have to sacrifice the luxury of a touchscreen. Most devices with color touchscreens need charging every one to two days. Ultimately though, for any tech device, the fewer features you have, the better battery life you can expect. So what kinds of smartwatch features or habitual activity affect the battery? GPS and cellular use, apps downloaded, music playing, voice assistance and more. After considering what you plan on using your watch for, we urge you to consider how often you'll be willing to take off your watch for charging purposes. Your routine plays a strong role in helping you choose the perfect wristwatch for you. How do you charge a smartwatch? Most models can accomplish this with a wireless accessory. Just lay your device down on your charging block or puck and leave it until it's ready for use again.

Display Type

When it comes to screens on your smartwatch, there are two different ways to shop. The first is by going the route of an LCD display or an OLED display. LCD displays tend to be brighter, provide richer colors and they're easier on the wallet. Unfortunately, this also makes for a shorter battery life. If you want greater efficiency and stamina, you can also opt for a black-and-white display. OLED displays, on the other hand, are more expensive, but they allow for a thinner design and better battery life as they do not rely on backlighting. The second way to shop by display is choosing between a touchscreen or a touchless model. If you're depending on your smartwatch for the very basics or for fitness-focused support, touchless may be a viable option. In fact, different apps or items can be difficult to select on such small touchscreens. As of late, brands have combatted these struggles with card-based notifications that can be swiped away and different tap or gesture-based interfaces. If this sounds too advanced or technical for your liking, it's important to note that many touchscreen smartwatches also come with digital crowns, bezels or side buttons to make your navigational experience much easier.
A person wearing a smartwatch tapping it against a credit card terminal

Mobile Payments

Smartphone owners have been enjoying the luxury of mobile payment for a while, but now, smartwatches are starting to catch up. Many models have built-in NFC chips which allow you to pay for purchases without having to carry your wallet. You won't even need your phone nearby. The NFC chip can save your credit or debit card information for you. When the time comes to pay, just hover your smartwatch over the card terminal (so long as the terminal is compatible with Tap). Each brand has its own mobile payment system. Apple watches support Apple Pay, Wear OS watches support Google Pay, Fitbit watches support Fitbit Pay and Garmin watches support Garmin Pay. If making your daily in-person purchases simpler sounds appealing, this is a feature to look out for.
A line of smartwatch wrist bands in different materials and colors

Design & Personalization

While smartwatches are almost like small computers or mini smartphones we get to wear on the go, they are also accessories, meant to add some sort of style to your everyday look. That's why many models on the market feature replaceable bands. This allows the wearer to invest in additional band colors, patterns or materials from their watch brand or from third parties. Replaceable watch bands give you the power to personalize and customize your device to your unique aesthetic. Just make sure that the band is comfortable around your wrist and that the buckle or clasp is easy to use and fasten. Other brands like Fossil and Apple may even offer smartwatches in different face colors, finishes and sizes. Today, smartwatch faces can come in both square and circle shapes, depending on the manufacturer. Some are even releasing smaller designs for slimmer wrists, so any user can fit into these accessories with ease.

Shop Smartwatches at Abt

As the demand grows for easier access to your personal technology on the go, smartwatches are getting more and more popular among smartphone and computer owners. They offer all the capabilities of a typical smart device but in a small, portable package. Whether you're texting, calling, scrolling social media or paying for lunch, the smartwatches at Abt are capable of handling all your daily tasks right on your wrist. Now that you know all the features they have to offer, you're ready to pick the perfect model for your lifestyle. If you think you would get more use and benefit from a watch built for exercise, check out our fitness tracker buying guide instead to learn more. Ready to bring a smartwatch home? Give our experts a call at 800-860-3577 so we can answer all your questions before the shopping begins.