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What to know before buying a smartwatch (and where to find the best deals)

Alex Sadler December 7, 2016
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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.

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.

Read more: Online Shopping Guide: How to get the best price possible

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 deals on popular smartwatches

1. Apple Watch

what to know before buying smart watch best deals

The Apple Watch is meant to be a companion to an iPhone — so it only functions in connection with an iPhone, but it does give you access to most of the same features — right from your wrist. Just a few of the capabilities: Send and receive texts and emails, make phone calls, control your music using only your voice, instantly pay with Apple Pay, access yor calendar and more. The Apple Watch also doubles as a fitness and health tracker. Another popular feature is the band, which can be easily swapped out — plus, there are deals on all types of bands everywhere.

Regular price: The price ranges from $200 to $1,000, depending on the size, face and other added features.  

2. Motorola Moto 360

what to know before buying smart watch best deals

Consumer Reports calls the Moto 360 the “coolest smartwatch of the year.” One of the most popular features of the Moto 360 is the ability to design your own — choose your size, color, materials, strap and more. Made by Motorola, this smartwatch is compatible with Android Wear and the Apple iPhone5 and above. According to CR, the 360 “does the usual smart-watch tricks, alerting you to incoming e-mails, texts, and calls, social site updates, and weather information. It also contains a heart-rate monitor and a pedometer for fitness tracking. And the watch charges wirelessly: Just drop it into its small cradle.”

Regular price: $249.99

3. Fitbit

Fitbit Charge

The Fitbit Charge goes beyond just the traditional Fitbit health-tracking features. The Charge has a small LED display and can receive notifications and alerts from a connected smartphone, as well as display caller ID. It will vibrate for silent alarms, as well as track your sleeping patterns and wirelessly sync to connected devices.

Regular price: $129.99

Fitbit Charge HR

This is the higher-end model, which comes with a heart-rate monitor.

Regular price: $149.99

Fitbit Surge Fitness 

According to Nerdwallet, the Fitbit Surge Fitness Watch is the top-selling GPS watch in the U.S. In addition to the regular Fitbit features of tracking steps, calories burned, hours slept and displaying caller ID, the Fitbit Surge also has GPS location data and tracking for other activities like cycling and cross training. It also has the ability to play music you have on your smartphone.

Regular price: $249.99

4. Garmin Forerunner 15

what to know before buying smart watch best deals

The Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS watch is a great, and more affordable, option for a fitness guru looking to track distance, pace and speed. The watch will alert you with notifications from your alarm and calendar, and can sync with Windows and iOS devices. This smartwatch is more about the fitness-tracking features — compared with other smartwatches that are more about the convenience of taking everyday tasks from your smartphone to your wrist. See an in-depth review here.

Regular price: $119.99

5. Huawei Watch

what to know before buying smart watch best deals

The Huawei Watch is a more traditional, classic looking watch than other smartwatches like the Apple Watch. It’s powered by the latest version of Android Wear and comes with a variety of different watch faces, as well as the option of a leather or stainless steel band. This watch is Android and iOS (iPhone) compatible and comes with built-in Wi-Fi, voice command features, text/email features and more. Plus, it’s also a health and fitness tracker and comes with a built-in heart rate monitor.

Regular Price: Typically priced from $349 to $449, depending on the band and bezel style. 

6. Samsung Gear S2

what to know before buying smart watch best deals

This Samsung smartwatch is compatible with most Android smartphones. And the unique thing about this smartwatch is that it works with most major wireless carriers to offer 3G connectivity — which means you don’t have to have a phone to sync it to. You can get calls, texts, emails, and other notifications right to this smartwatch without needing a companion phone to do it. But, if you do sync it with a Samsung device — which is available via Bluetooth connection — the watch can do a whole lot more. Check out the review on CNET for more details about specific features.

Regular price: Ranges from about $299 to $349.

7. LG Watch Urbane

what to know before buying smart watch best deals

This watch has a stylish, professional look, making it great for everyday wear. It runs on the latest Android Wear system. According to CNET,  the bottom line is “the LG Watch Urbane is the best-looking Android Wear smartwatch and adds Wi-Fi-to-phone connectivity,” however, the watch face is bigger than many other smartwatches and this model is more expensive than other Android Wear options. Check out the full review on CNET here.

Regular price: $349

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

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About this Deal Digger About this Deal Digger
Alex Thomas Sadler is the Managing Editor of and Clark Howard Digital Products. Alex is also the host of Common Cents, a series that makes money simple, so you can better understand and take control of your own financial life. .
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