Smartwatch shopping 101

Nafisa Akabor Cache This, Latest

Judging by the number of messages in my inbox seeking advice, choosing a smartwatch can be a daunting task.

The most important consideration lies in the reason you want a smartwatch – and only you will know the answer.

Do you want a smartwatch with fitness features or a fitness tracker with some smart functionality? All smartwatches available today offer some form of fitness tracking, and some fitness watches offer basic smart features, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s executed well.

Will you use it mainly for fitness training?

One could consider a smartwatch for an introduction to fitness, like calories burned and tracking steps, before moving on to more specialised routines. This could be for working out, training for a big race, or if you take up something more specialised like trail running or swimming.

Will you use it to monitor your health?

Another major reason is health. The majority of smartwatches offer blood oxygen monitoring (which, for example helps COVID 19 patients) and the ability to monitor your heart through ECGs that are sent to your doctor. You can also track sleeping patterns, cardio fitness levels, or menstrual cycles.

Do you want it to stand-in for your phone?

Smart features are powerful if used properly. You can choose which apps to push to your watch, like receiving notifications for appointments or responding to anything urgent directly from your wrist. It’s an excellent filtering system that helps you cut back on the use of your smartphone. It also  lets you seamlessly ‘tap to pay’ once you’ve uploaded your bank cards.

As a general rule, stay with the same brand as your smartphone. Some manufacturers tie unique features of one product to others within the brand. Because of this, your smartwatch will work best if it’s from the same stable as your smartphone.

Apple Watch

There’s a reason why the Apple Watch took +/-30% of the global market share in 2021. It has a perfect balance of smart features and fitness, and they’re both done well. The watch alerts you if your heart rate is too high or low, takes ECGs on your wrist and measures blood oxygen. It’s also swim-proof, and it records a wide range of different workouts. In addition to this, you can pair it to AirPods so that you can take calls and play music while running, independent of an iPhone (LTE model). If you have an iPhone, this should be your first option unless you really want something more on the fitness front.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Samsung has finally adopted Wear OS with this year’s Galaxy Watch 4. Wear OS (formerly called Android Wear), is arguably the best option to pair with Android smartphones. In the past, Samsung wearables ran on their own Tizen OS. This restricted users to Samsung-only default apps.

Wear OS offers more apps and a better experience that works seamless with Android. This means that you don’t have to own a Samsung smartphone – you can pair it with any Android smartphone. However, you need a Galaxy phone to access unique features like ECG, blood pressure monitoring and camera controls. You also need a galaxy phone to make or receive calls over Bluetooth, without actually carrying your phone.

Fitbit or Garmin

When it comes to third-party offerings, Fitbit and Garmin are similar. They’re both leaders in the fitness space, with devices across the spectrum including smart fitness watches. These brands are more suited to sports enthusiasts, with different designs and styles, unlike the Apple Watch.

For runners, Garmin has a Forerunner range, a Fenix range for multiple sports, and a rugged outdoors offering called Instinct. Offerings in Fitbit’s range include Sense (aimed at mindfulness and wellbeing), and Versa (for fitness). Fitbit also has a selection of trackers designed for kids, which is great for families who want to compete on a leaderboard and take part in challenges together.


Cache This

Technology is an ever increasing part of our lives and let’s be honest, many of us like gadgets. There is also an abundance of new online services and apps taking over the traditional services we use. Nafisa Akabor has been covering everything tech for well over a decade and she’ll be writing on how we can do tech within a budget and reviewing some of the new online services. Cache This is published on the last Tuesday of every month.