Best Budget Smartwatches for 2022 – Consumer Reports

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These value-priced models from Apple, Fitbit, Fossil, Samsung, and more offer solid performance at a bargain price
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In the world of smartwatches, like the world at large, every dollar you spend isn’t equal.
The first couple hundred are the most important. The next couple hundred buy you some cool but nonessential features like a blood oxygen sensor. After that? You’re likely paying for a fancy strap and a designer name but little, if any, additional smartwatch functionality.
The models in this roundup hit the sweet spot between price and performance. They’re packed with the key features you want and need in a device, and do it at a price that comes closer to being an impulse buy than a major investment.
Our trained technicians have evaluated each of the watches in our labs, testing them for everything from ease of interaction to the accuracy of heart rate monitoring and step counts. And as always, we bought the test samples through normal retail channels—no freebies for us.
What it is: Apple’s meat-of-the-market smartwatch.
What’s to like: The SE represents the best value in the Apple Watch line. The display is a tiny bit smaller than the one on the new Series 7, and the device lacks a few features like a blood oxygen sensor, which is useful for sleep tracking. But for most people the SE looks and works just about the same as the top-of-the-line Series 7 for significantly less money.
Our testers find that the SE outperforms the Series 7 by a slim margin in ease of interaction—how quickly and accurately the watch responds to a command—as well as in heart rate and step-count accuracy.
What’s not to like: As with all Apple watches, the SE’s 18-hour battery life is a bit of an issue. You’ll probably find yourself charging the watch on a daily basis. And while it’s not a drawback per se, Apple Watches all but require you to use an iPhone for the most seamless integration.
What it is: The latest smartwatch aimed squarely at consumers who use Samsung’s smartphones.
What’s to like: The Galaxy Watch4 has a bright, round, 1.3-inch AMOLED display that can showcase a variety of interesting watch faces. The model also has a mic and speaker for handling phone calls. From a features point of view, the Galaxy Watch4 offers a robust suite of health and fitness options, including a blood oxygen sensor, ECG monitoring (that could detect irregularities in heart rhythm), and even a sensor that is claimed to measure body fat.
What’s not to like: If you have an Android smartphone not made by Samsung, you won’t be able to tap the Galaxy Watch4’s full capability, including that array of fitness features under the Samsung Health umbrella. The Galaxy Watch4’s claimed battery life of two days is also relatively short.
Bottom line: The Galaxy Watch4 is an attractive option if you have the right phone.
What it is: A versatile, inexpensive smartwatch designed to please Fitbit fans.
What’s to like: If you own a Fitbit fitness tracker, you’re likely to feel at home with the Versa 3, especially if you see the benefit of this smartwatch’s larger display. The model works with Android phones and iPhones, although it’s probably a better option for the Android user.
Unlike earlier Versa models, the Versa 3 has built-in GPS, which allows you to go for a run or a ride without hauling your smartphone along, plus a blood oxygen sensor, which enhances its sleep-tracking capabilities. It also has a mic and a speaker, allowing you to take calls via a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone. Our testers find that it’s a solid performer when it comes to counting steps and tracking heart rate.
What’s not to like: The Versa 3 still looks a bit like a fitness tracker, so it might not be your first choice for an important meeting or a first date. It also lacks the stress-tracking features found on Fitbit’s higher-end Sense smartwatch.
Bottom line: A fitness tracker at heart, the Versa 3 adds enough smartwatch features that you’ll be happy to wear it all day.
What it is: An attractive, budget-priced smartwatch that won’t break the bank.
What’s to like: Compatible with both Android and iPhone smartphones, the GTR2 has two big things going for it: The price is very low, and the battery life is really good, at a claimed 14 days. The case design is sleek, channeling some higher-end analog watches, and the touch screen display is bright and easy to read. The model also features standalone GPS.
What’s not to like: As you might expect for the price, the fitness features of the GTR2 are pretty basic. The model also lacks connectivity with third-party apps like Spotify.
Bottom line: The Amazfit GRT2 is legitimately cheap but doesn’t look it and, despite the price, is a solid performer.
What it is: A petite, pared-down version of Fossil’s Gen 5 smartwatch.
What’s to like: The 5E’s strongest points are its modest price and its styling. Fossil’s budget model comes in a smaller 42mm case size, and rose gold and blush colors designed to appeal to women. The 5E also has a mic and a speaker that allow you to take phone calls.
What’s not to like: The 1.2-inch screen is a bit on the small side, while its bezel is a bit too big. The model also lacks the standalone GPS that would allow you to leave your phone at home during a run or a ride and its other fitness features are a little thin for a fitness tracker substitute. Looking ahead, the Wear OS 2 operating system has been superseded and, unlike the Fossil Gen 6, the 5e won’t get an OS3 upgrade this year. The 5E’s claimed battery life of 24 hours is a minus, too.
Bottom line: A decent choice for a consumer who’s both style- and price-conscious.
Allen St. John
I believe that technology has the power to change our lives—for better or for worse. That’s why I’ve spent my life reporting and writing about it for outlets of all sorts, from newspapers (such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times) to magazines (Popular Mechanics and Rolling Stone) and even my own books ("Newton’s Football" and "Clapton’s Guitar"). For me, there’s no better way to spend a day than talking to a bunch of experts about an important subject and then writing a story that’ll help others be smarter and better informed. 
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