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Everything you need to know about buying a smartwatch, and where to find a great deal

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Alex Sadler |
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If you’re considering giving someone a smartwatch and don’t know a lot about these devices, it can be a little trickier than buying other electronic gifts.

When it comes to buying a smartwatch, there’s more to consider than just looking for the best of the best. Smartwatches offer a wide variety of features and you will need to know which ones the recipient will want or need. Plus, some types of smartwatches are meant to be a fashion statement, so having a sense of the person’s fashion will help you narrow down your choices. You’ll also need to know what type of smartphone (if any) the recipient will want to sync to the watch — Android, iPhone, etc.

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What to know before buying a smartwatch

The basics

A smartwatch is a wearable-technology device — basically a minicomputer you wear on your wrist — that can do a whole lot more than just tell you the time. Smartwatches notify you of calls, texts, other chats/messages, social media updates, and any other alerts or notifications you have synced from your smartphone via wireless Bluetooth connection. Some smartwatches also allow you to actually hold phone conversations right on the watch.

Operating systems

Smartwatches work like smartphones in that they run on operating systems. Two main systems available are Android Wear (developed by Google) and OS (created by Apple for the Apple Watch). Some smartwatches have their own operating system, which comes with available apps specifically for that device, so make sure to check out what apps and features are available for each one you consider.

Some smartwatches are only compatible with certain types of smartphones (for example, the Apple Watch only works with an iPhone) — so make sure to find out what type of device and operating system you need the watch to be able to sync to.

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Features to consider

Here are a few features to consider when picking out a smartwatch:

  • Should it be able to host phone calls?
  • Does it need a touchscreen?
  • How much does style matter? (And is that on you, or should the smartwatch just have the capability of swapping out the band?)
  • Does it need to sync to other devices? (For example, does the recipient want an Apple Watch that can sync to his/her iPhone — or an Android Wear device that can sync to an Android phone? Or does he/she not need the watch to sync to any other device?)
  • Should it have a traditional watch face?
  • Is it more about convenience, the smartwatch-to-smartphone syncing features or fitness?
  • Fitness features: A few health features may include heart rate monitor, GPS, sleep tracker
  • Mobile payments

There are tons of brands out there making smartwatches and other wearable technology. First figure out what matters most to the recipient, and then look at different brands and options available that fall into your budget. The smartwatches made by traditional tech companies will connect to your smartphone and allow you to do a variety of everyday tasks right from the watch, including make phone calls, look at photos, send and receive emails and texts, use your apps, plus a whole lot more. Some of the fitness wearables are really more about fitness than the convenience of syncing with a smartphone — so knowing which is more important is crucial to choosing which one to spend your money on.

Where to find the best deals

Typically, retailers like Best Buy and Amazon are go-to stores for finding smartwatches. However, you can find great prices on smartwatches at other retailers like eBay, Newegg and B&H Photo and Video. Additionally, buying a smartwatch used is another great way to save! But, you’ll want to make sure the retailer that is selling a used smartwatch has a decent return policy and warranty just in case.

When buying from eBay, be sure to check the seller’s feedback rating, in addition to the return policy, since it varies based on the seller. A seller rating of 98% or above is preferred, and you’ll want to note that it may be risky to buy from a seller who has a feedback rating lower than 96%.

For more tips on buying a smartwatch, check out Consumer Reports’ buying guide.

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