A smartwatch purchase guide? We might have a few ideas for what you need to consider before making your next big purchase. It is entirely too easy to get caught up in the hype of a new release and sign up the moment pre-orders open, but within days it becomes clear that the shiny new device was not meant for you. Flooded by the specs and floored by the design, impulsive buys can weigh you down for days afterwards, which is why it’s important to create a checklist before making a smartwatch purchase. Let’s wade through some tips for buying a new smartwatch that might help you put your money where your wrist is.

Smartwatch Purchase Guide: The Battle of the Bests

A watch used to have one job and one job only—telling the time. We eventually decided to make them smart and now we’re in an era where a smartwatch purchase guide is necessary to consider all your options. With every passing year, these devices get smarter and more versatile, but the new features are often those you don’t end up using. 

Despite their lack of use, buying the latest smartwatches with the most number of features has become the primary criteria in our smartwatch purchase considerations. This leaves us with a super gadget that does everything but pair with your phone correctly. Let’s look at some questions to ask yourself before buying your next smartwatch.

tips for buying new smartwatch

Image: Garmin Instinct 2X, Apple Watch Ultra 2, and Google Pixel Watch 2

Smartwatch Purchase Checklist—Is It Compatible with My Smartphone?

Most smartwatches work by pairing with your smartphone via Bluetooth and showcasing the majority of its data on its own app on your device. Samsung watches work best with Samsung phones, but most often, the compatibility does extend to other operating systems as well. It’s good practice to check just in case to ensure that your device compatibility will not be an issue once you receive your new watch.

Apple watches work best with iPhones and while you can force your way into getting some of the features with an Android device, it won’t be convenient. Similarly, the Google Pixel watch runs on the WearOS and so do many other brands that borrow the technology from Google to build their devices. Other watches using this operating system are compatible with an iPhone but the Google Pixel is not. You cannot use the Pixel watch comfortably if you’re an iPhone user, which could make it a redundant purchase for you.

Understanding the OS of the device also gives you insight into the device itself. The WearOS is popular for a reason but many brands choose to skip paying Google and borrowing its tech and choose to develop their own OS instead. Innovation is usually a good thing, but it does sometimes get in the way of a product’s performance. The first version of the OnePlus Watch used a proprietary OS that gave them more freedom to design their hardware but it had multiple limitations the public did not like. Before you get into any further smartwatch purchase considerations, take a second to check the OS and compatibility.

Display: What Are You Looking At When You Raise to Wake?

When it comes to beginning with your actual smartwatch purchase checklist, the first thing you might want to check is the display quality. An OLED display is usually better than an LCD display, but it’s reserved for the pricier smartwatches. An LCD display is quite sufficient for the small smartwatch screen and it allows your device to have a better battery life. So unless you’re very particular about having a world-class display, it’s okay to get a smartwatch without an OLED screen. 

Other smartwatch purchase considerations for the display include:

  • Brightness: If you spend a lot of time outdoors, the screen brightness will be an essential factor that determines its useability.
  • Screen size: If you’re someone with clumsy fingers, a square/rectangle dial on the larger side might serve you better than the smaller, rounder dials. These can look very big on narrow wrists though, increasing the chances of damage to it, so balance the pros and cons carefully while choosing.
  • Touchscreen: A smartwatch primarily works via a combination of touch and button/dial control. Watches like the Garmin Fenix 6 work exclusively with buttons to make it easier to use in wet environments or with more bulky hand accessories like gloves on. Depending on where you want to use it, you might find a non-touch watch to be more suited to your needs.
  • UI: Half the charm of the smartwatch’s appearance lies in the user interface it promotes in its marketing. It’s easy to fall prey to this and pick the watch that looks best but most smartwatches have the option to select what you want the display to look like. Read about the customization options and to what degree you can edit the display. This way, a more affordable smartwatch might give you the perfect screen instead of spending big dollars on a watch that only has that one theme you really like. 

Trackers and Features—Smartwatch Purchase Considerations

As you scroll through the smartwatch purchase guide, ask yourself what you intend to use the smartwatch for. If you just want a watch that accurately counts your steps and lets you know to move every once in a while, you don’t have to be wowed by a watch that also has a blood oxygen monitor. If that’s a metric you don’t foresee yourself checking very often. you shouldn’t be bothered by the fact that the Apple Watch Ultra 2 no longer includes it—it’s still a worthwhile purchase. 

Understand what you need the smartwatch to track for you and find a smartwatch that hits most of the targets while staying within your budget. Some examples of features include:

  • Voice assistant integration
  • Calculators, alarms, stopwatch, and timers 
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Cycle tracker
  • GPS
  • Sleep monitor
  • Notifications from third-party apps
  • Music player and integrated storage
  • Range of exercise modes
  • Find my phone feature
  • Blood oxygen monitors
  • Camera controls
  • Temperature monitor
  • Call feature
  • SOS alerts
  • Fall detection sensors
  • Water resistance rating

These are some of the top smartwatch features but very rarely will you find a watch with all of them. Prioritize the most useful ones on your smartwatch purchase checklist so you have a clear idea of what you’re willing to compromise on. 

Battery Life—How Long Can You Go?

A smartwatch you need to charge every day can get a little inconvenient if you live a hectic life. Sportspeople, journalists, avid campers and hikers, and those who need to travel around frequently may get limited downtime to charge their devices. This may result in carrying out a lifeless device that does not serve its purpose, so one of the questions to ask yourself before buying a smartwatch is whether you will have enough time to charge it. 

Some smartwatches can guarantee a week of battery life while others like the Google Pixel 2 or Apple Watch Ultra 2 can last a little over a day. If a long recharge cycle is a top priority, the Garmin Instinct 2X is one of the best you can consider, with 40 days on a single charge, supported by solar power. The Forerunner 965 offers 23 days of life in the smartwatch mode. 

All of these categories provide more than enough food for thought in this smartwatch purchase guide but the final boss before you make a decision is the price. There are smartwatches available for every budget but whether they meet all your criteria or not is uncertain. Create a smartwatch checklist that holds all your purchase considerations and keep them in mind when the impulse to buy a new one strikes.