It’s been an exciting year in the smart wristwear space, with Google finally releasing the much hyped Pixel Watch and Apple catering to weekend warriors with an adventure wearable. Let’s have a look at our picks for the top smartwatches of 2022.
Apple Watch 8/SE/Ultra
Apple has been at the top of the smartwatch food chain for an absolute age, and though an evolutionary step forward rather than a revolutionary one, the latest batch of wearables have enough going on to keep them at the top of the tree. Plus there’s now an adventurous twist to the story. T
The Watch Series 8 is available in cellular and LTE variants and comes in two always-on OLED display options – 41 mm or 45 mm. Either way you’ll get up to 18 hours of battery in regular use, but Apple has added in a new low power mode to extend up time.
Along with an electrical heart sensor that’s used in conjunction with an ECG app and a blood oxygen sensor, Apple’s latest smartwatch comes with dual temperature sensors for measurement accuracy. Also new is a crash detection tool that makes use of multiple onboard sensors to check the status of the wearer after a car accident, and will contact emergency services if unresponsive.
With the launch of the Watch Ultra, Apple has extended its reach beyond the average consumer and burst into the territories of outdoor enthusiasts such as hikers, runners and the divers.
It shares much of its feature set with the Series 8, but boasts a brighter screen and chunkier build, benefits from dual-frequency GPS for accurate route tracking, comes with a triple microphone array, and promises 36 hours of battery in normal use or up to 60 hours in low-power mode.
There’s a depth sensor for avid divers and the Ultra is water-resistant to 10 ATM. And a built-in siren can be used to alert passers-by to your location if you get into trouble while out and about.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to either of those wearables, the Watch SE is a great alternative and it got an update for 2022. It features the same S8 chip and operating system as its pricier stablemates, wears a similar look, and matches them for fitness-tracking sensors too. It lacks always-on display, can’t measure blood-oxygen saturation and it doesn’t include ECG capabilities though.
The Watch Series 8 is priced at US$399, the Watch Ultra will set you back $799, while the 2022 Watch SE comes in at $249. However, if your smartphone of choice is anything other than an iPhone, you’re going to need to look elsewhere for your stylish wrist candy.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5/Watch 5 Pro
For Android phone users, Samsung’s latest Galaxy Watch models are the best smartwatches available. The Watch5 retains the same processor and storage/memory as the Watch4, but has been upgraded to the latest Wear OS Powered by Samsung for an improved user experience – particularly for those with a Samsung phone.
The 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor is also present, which can keep tabs on the wearer’s heart rate, blood pressure and ECG (though this will only work with Galaxy phones), and combines with other onboard sensors – including the new IR temperature sensor – to supply the user with key health metrics.
It’s built to MIL-STD-810H durability standards, and is water-resistant to 5 ATM. The 40-hour battery life for basic usage may seem quite respectable compared to other top smartwatches, but that will go down when GPS and workout features are active – it does benefit from 10-W charging though, plus Qi-compatible wireless.
The Pro variant is essentially a chunkier, heavier version of the Watch5, but boasts a titanium build instead of armor aluminum and includes a larger battery for more time away from the charger.
The Watch5 starts at $279 for the Bluetooth version and $329 for the LTE model. The Watch5 Pro Bluetooth version starts at $449, and it’s $499 for the LTE flavor.
Google Pixel Watch
Google officially joined the smartwatch party this year with the long-awaited Pixel Watch. This high-style smartwatch is arguably the best looking Android-compatible wearable in our selection, though the rather thick bezel and one-size-fits-all approach might not please everyone.
Its AMOLED display supports the DCI-P3 color gamut, and Wear OS 3.5 runs the show for the promise of smooth software integration, allowing users to check Gmail, pay for goods with Wallet and navigate with Maps. Google has been relatively generous with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, but the processor is not the latest and greatest available and the battery is only good for 24 hours per charge.
Usefully, the wearable is ready to rock Fitbit Premium health and fitness tracking chops, with a six-month trial included in the ticket price. Features like SpO2 measurement and automatic workout detection are missing though, and fall detection isn’t coming until next year.
It’s a good first effort from Google, and has clearly been priced to compete with Apple – at $349 for the Bluetooth Pixel Watch and $399 for the LTE model.
Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Instinct Crossover
Next up is a double helping of Garmin goodness. Though perhaps not as slick as others here, Garmin smartwatches do excel for detailed fitness and health tracking.
The Venu 2 Plus marries a stylish everyday use design with all of the fitness and health tools expected of a Garmin, including heart-rate monitoring, activity and sleep tracking, SpO2 monitoring, workouts and more, plus it works with iOS and Android handsets.
It boasts a vibrant touch display plus buttons for ease of use, is the first Garmin wearable to feature a microphone and speaker for answering calls or chatting with digital assistants over a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, features onboard GPS, and has a battery that lasts up to 9 days between charges.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of the Venu 2 Plus is the price of entry, though at just shy of 500 bucks it’s not as pricey as some other Garmin sportswatches.
The Instinct Crossover is included here as an honorable mention of sorts, and caught our eye for its combination of an analog timepiece and smart wearable.
The adventure smartwatch part of the equation includes all of the usual Garmin training, fitness and wellness features such a monitoring heart rate and blood oxygen as well as offering sports apps, GPS-tracked activities and navigation aids – all served up on a monochrome display.
But instead of displaying digital copies of watch faces, this Instinct sports an analog timepiece with luminous hands and hour markers.
Though already built for life outdoors and coming with a 28-day battery (in basic smartwatch mode), a Tactical edition is even more durable and is compatible with night-vision headgear, boasts a stealth mode and the wearable’s memory can even be wiped by activating a kill switch.
The Instinct Crossover starts at $499, models with solar-charging lenses are also available to potentially extend battery life.
Amazfit GTR 4/GTS 4
Both the GTR 4 and GTS 4 models are essentially the same, one round and the other square. They each come packed with most of the sensors you’d expect to see in a modern smartwatch, including a new heart-rate sensor that also monitors blood oxygen saturation (though it can’t detect body temperature).
They both run Zepp OS 2.0 and come jam-packed with health and fitness features, including alerts when abnormal heart rates, SpO2 or stress levels are detected (an over-the-air update adding fall detection at some point).
Normal-use battery life for the GTR 4 is reported to be 14 days, and it’s about a week for the GTS 4. Users can talk to their wrists too, as these smartwatches each sport a speaker and microphone for taking calls from a paired phone, or getting help from Alexa.
Possibly the biggest surprise for a budget smartwatch is multi-band GPS, for more accurate activity tracking (particularly in built-up areas like cities or out-of-the-way forest trails) and turn-by-turn route guidance.
Having said all that, the ticket price of $199 is by far the most compelling aspect of the Amazfit GTR 4/GTS 4 smartwatches.
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