The best budget smartwatch is a strange bird - first, we have to define what “budget” means and agree upon the definition. Then there’s the “smart” problem. How smart exactly should a smartwatch be? There are many devices that have the “smart” part in their names but in reality, they’re just glorified fitness bands. What to do?
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume everything priced below $200 to be “budget”, and in order for the gadget to classify as “smart,'' it should be able to control/interact with your smartphone to a certain degree. Let’s take answering calls and getting notifications as the basics.
Granted, most of these gadgets have a bunch of sensors that can track body vitals such as heart rate, SpO2 saturation, and more. But that doesn’t really count as smart, because these measurements don’t actively make your day easier.
Mobile payment options should also be on the list as the ability to pay without taking out your phone or credit card is an amazing life improvement. So, armed with this information it’s time to see what’s the best budget smartwatch you can get in 2021.
The best budget smartwatches at a glance:
Amazfit BIP U Pro
The first Amazfit Bip watch was quite successful, and one of the main reasons for that success was its 45-day battery life. The original BIP also came equipped with some core smart features normally reserved for much more expensive devices.
The Amazfit Bip U Pro takes on where the original Bip left off. It's even lighter - only 31 grams - and still very comfortable to wear. The built-in GPS is present, alongside the heart-rate sensor, and you can monitor your blood oxygen saturation levels, stress levels, breathing, quality of sleep, and sleeping patterns.
Get your Amazfit Bip U Pro here:
You get smart notifications, Alexa integration, 50 watch faces, 60+ workout modes, plus 5ATM water resistance. The only thing that's not up to the original Bip is the battery life. The 9 days on a single charge still sound pretty amazing, especially compared to other premium one-day smartwatches, but the Bip U Pro is nowhere near the 45-day battery life of the first model.
Fitbit made a bold move with the original Versa, which turned out to be pretty successful. The company decided to offer premium design and features in an affordable package. Now, the Fitbit Versa 2 takes that idea a step further, bringing the price under $200, and offering one of the most affordable smartwatches on the market.
The Versa 2 looks great and can deal with notifications - it offers short customizable answers, so you can actually get away with using only the watch. On top of that the watch offers WiFi, onboard music storage and great battery life.
Get your Fitbit Vesa 2 here:
The Versa 2 also sports NFC, which means you can use it to pay your bills. This smartwatch offers hundreds of apps and watch faces, some of which are pretty useful. It’s far from a full-fledged smartwatch, but at $179 we can’t complain much about it.
Amazfit BIP S
Here it is. The original Amazfit Bip! Wait a minute, what's that S in the name? We'll come back to it in a minute. When it first came out this watch was in a league of its own, due to its reflective LCD screen. It’s old tech but very clever - the display lets ambient light pass through and the brighter the light is, the more readable the display becomes.
This means that you don’t need a backlight to keep the display visible under direct sunlight, and the implications on battery life are tremendous. The Amazfit Bip S is advertised to last up to 40 days on a single charge! And even if these numbers are a bit exaggerated, you can get a solid month out of this watch. Now about that S - the original Bip has been discontinued and the S is its spiritual successor. The screen is better, there are more workouts, the water resistance is now 5ATM, it's a better version altogether.
Get your Amazfit Bip S here:
There are some drawbacks though - when there’s not enough light the display is quite dim, and the resolution is not the highest out there, to begin with. And yeah, the build is a bit plasticky and the watch looks like a cheap Apple Watch
imitation but it's really lightweight and comfortable to wear. Plus, you get a dedicated GPS chip inside, smart notifications, heart rate monitoring, and the watch works equally well with iOS and Android. The price is also really good, you can find it well under the $100 mark.
The TicWatch E2 is your budget gateway to Wear OS - Google’s powerful wearable operating system. It’s the future - many manufacturers are moving toward Wear OS with the latest example being Samsung and its new Galaxy Watch
So, back to the TicWatch E2. It’s not the best budget smartwatch on the market, nor is it the best-looking. What you’re getting for your $150 or so is a smartwatch with some pretty decent hardware specs - a Snapdragon 2100 chipset, 4GB of onboard storage, WiFi, GPS, Google Assistant
Get your TicWatch E2 here:
This covers all the basic smartwatch functionality but unfortunately, the TicWatch E2 lacks NFC and this mobile payment option. The battery life is decent for this hardware, it’s a powerful watch with a great display, after all. The design is a bit bland and the watch itself - a bit bulky, but you won’t find a better Wear OS deal out there.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Now, here's an unusual face in the budget smartwatch category. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 has been overthrown and overshadowed by the Galaxy Watch 4 but this only means that there are some crazy deals on the Watch Active 2 available. It's a great smartwatch, stylish, comfortable, pretty powerful, and sporting an amazing Super AMOLED display - Samsung's bread and butter.
Even though the watch is literally called “Active”, it can serve two masters and be your stylish, formal dinner device, as well as a comfortable and lightweight sports watch. The design is really ambivalent, and it can fit different styles and occasions - just put on a leather strap, and you’re good to go for that business dinner. Slap a rubber band on, and you can sweat in the gym all you want.
This watch has some serious features on board. Smart notifications, GPS, onboard storage, NFC for mobile payment, all kinds of fitness and health tracking features and apps. The whole package! The only problem is the price. Normally, this watch goes for about $300, which is way above our budget threshold. If you click on the Amazon link above though, you'll find the watch at just a couple of bucks more or sometimes below our budget cap. And at that price, it's a real bargain!
Apple Watch Series 3
The good old Apple Watch is bound to appear on this list. It's the Series 3 iteration, which sells for $199 at the moment, making it eligible for our best budget smartwatch competition. The Apple Watch Series 3 is quite old now but at the aforementioned price, it's a good deal. You're getting all the bells and whistles of an Apple device, and frankly, this is one of the best budget smartwatch choices if you have an iPhone.
This is also the only smartwatch on the list to offer cellular connectivity at this price point (the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is much more expensive outside deals). You also get your familiar WatchOS experience with notifications, WiFi, camera shutter controls, music streaming, and more.
Get your Apple Watch Series 3 here:
The battery life is 18 hours, which is kinda the standard that Apple aims for, even on newer models like the Apple Watch 6 and SE, so there's no real drawback here. The only actual drawback is the fact that this model is about to be dropped from the ecosystem next year with the WatchOS 8 being the final update.
Honor MagicWatch 2
The Honor MagicWatch 2 is the dark horse on our list. Yes, Honor was a Huawei brand not that long ago but both brands make some top-notch wearables. In the case of the MagicWatch 2 you get a unique blend of classic and modern - the watch is very stylish, very elegant.
Like all Huawei/Honor smartwatches and fitness trackers, the MagicWatch 2 is a stamina champion, which comes at the price of features, at least to some degree. If you're coming from an Apple Watch of any model, or a Galaxy Watch, you'll feel a bit limited with the MagicWatch 2. Some people even call these watches fitness bands in disguise. Of course, it's not fair.
Get your Honor MagicWatch 2 here:
The MagicWatch 2 has cellular connectivity baked in (although it's a bit tricky making it work), there are smart notifications, a great health and fitness suite, and the price of this watch is just insane, considering the premium materials and build quality.
The OnePlus Watch is the company's first attempt at wearables and in this regard it's a success. There are three main factors that OnePlus had taken into consideration when designing this watch. The first is pure aesthetics - the OnePlus Watch looks much more premium than it really is. Clean and stylish lines meet to form one of the best-looking devices in this price range.
The second is battery life. Tired of charging your smartwatch every day or even twice a day? The OnePlus Watch can last 10 solid days on a single charge, and even if you squeeze everything out of it, the watch will go through a whole week easily. The third pillar is the price. This thing costs fitness band money. Sadly, in order to achieve all this, OnePlus had to make some compromises.
Get your OnePlus Watch here:
For starters, the watch is not very smart. You have the basics - notification support (although pretty limited), you can take calls but you need your phone connected, and there's limited space for widgets, or Cards, as OnePlus calls them. At the end of the day, though, the biggest advantages of the OnePlus Watch are its looks and its battery life.
The best budget smartwatch is a strange bird indeed. What was once premium-priced can now be considered budget (the Apple Watch Series 3 being a great example). On the other hand, smartwatch technology is evolving at a great pace, and today for a hundred bucks you can have all the smartwatch features that a $300 watch had yesterday. Figuratively speaking, of course. This list will be updated with great care and attention. So stay tuned for new and fresh budget smartphone entries soon!
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