Thankfully you can get a great deal of smartwatch for your money right now. As new generation smartwatches release the older models drop in price. This leads us to a time in the life cycle where you can pick up big brand names like Sony and Samsung, at budget prices. Below, we have provided recommendations for what we believe to be the best cheap smartwatches in 2016; many are last-generation products, but remember - you get 80% of the speed and features of a latest-gen product, for sometimes 50 per cent less, when you opt for something released a year or so ago. It’s a win-win.
So without further ado, let’s go through the top 10 cheap smartwatches in 2016, these are the pick of the bunch, flag ship smartwatches that won't break the bank.
What’s good: The round display looks the part; excellent build quality.
The 1st generation Moto 360 was released in 2014. Two years later, it’s still a great smartwatch, with a bright round display, stainless steel case, responsive performance and good battery life overall, thanks to a 320mAh battery. Available for $80-$110 from various retail outlets, the Moto 360 has an all-day battery life and runs Android Wear, coming pre-installed with useful apps and Motorola’s sleek clock faces; the screen itself is a 1.56” unit with a resolution of 320 x 290, which is perfectly acceptable for a screen of this size and best of all, the 1st gen Moto 360 still looks like a latest-gen product on the wrist.
What’s good: An excellent all-rounder with snappy performance.
There are two ASUS ZenWatch models to consider: The GB1, and the ZenWatch 2. These models retail for $80-$110 and $130-$150 respectively. The GB1 is the 1st generation model, and in our opinion it’s the best. It was recently updated with Android Wear 6.0 bringing along new gesture controls and other features, and the watch looks and feels the part. One of the main selling points of this watch is the fact that it has a rectangular watch face, as opposed to a round one. This gives it a more traditional appearance, with the 1.63” 320 x 320 (278 ppi) OLED screen offering a sleek Android Wear experience.
What’s good: Colour e-paper display pushes battery life to a week.
Released in 2015, the Pebble Steel is a second generation smartwatch. It’s a big upgrade over the original Pebble, launched in 2014, and it retails for around $100 online. You have a choice of a matte black or brushed stainless steel finish, and a leather or metal band. One of the best features of this watch its battery life; it’ll last for 5 to 7 days, thanks to the unique 1.26-inch e-paper display, which sips power compared to LED and OLED displays. This is also one of and if not the best Android Wear alternatives, running Pebble’s own OS, yet it’s still compatible with both Android and iOS devices.
Sony SmartWatch 3
What’s good: GPS and NFC built-in, which is rare for a 2014 device.
Also known as the SWR50, the Sony SmartWatch 3 was first announced at IFA 2014. It’s a very fast smartwatch with a good screen and the battery life will last for around two days, which is more than any other smartwatch with a 1.6-inch 320 x 320 display. The SmartWatch 3 is also IP68 rated, so it’s waterproof, and it runs Android Wear with access to a wide range of excellent applications. Unlike many other Android Wear smartwatches from this generation, the SmartWatch 3 has GPS and NFC built-in and it also has a useful 4GB of internal storage, to store your apps and music. It retails for around $130 online.
Samsung Gear Fit
What’s good: More of a wristband than a wristwatch; ideal to replace a fitness band.
The Samsung Gear Fit isn’t like the other smartwatches on this list; it’s more like a wristband than a wristwatch, courtesy of a widescreen display. That display is actually very good, with deep, rich colours, and scrolling on the screen is a slick experience. It connects to your smartphone by Bluetooth, and it will last for around three days on a single charge, thanks to a 210mAh battery. We recommend this device for people who’d like to combine their fitness band and a watch into one. The Gear Fit is rugged and durable and automatically senses what activity you are performing. It can be picked up for around $120 online.
What’s good: Retro design and Pebble’s acclaimed battery life.
The Pebble Time was released in 2015. It was the first Pebble to have a colour e-paper display, as well as a microphone. It has a geeky but fun design; it has been compared to a GameBoy Colour in that sense, and we can see why. You control the watch through four buttons on the side, and it connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. In terms of battery life, you are looking at a week. This was the successor to the original pebble; it has a sleeker design and it’s faster. This watch retails for around $90 online, which isn’t bad at all, and the apps available - while limited in number compared to Android - are fun and functional.
What’s good: Unbeatable battery life and fitness tracking capabilities.
Not too bothered about having a touchscreen? Then consider the Pop. The Withings Activité Pop was launched in 2015 - it retails for $150-$150 online, and has held its value well since launch. Unlike the other smartwatches on our list, the Activité Pop has an analogue clock face with fitness tracking sensors built in. It runs off a regular coin cell battery, lasting around 8 months’ in-between battery charges. It’s well made and very stylish, with the ability to track your walks, runs, swims and sleeping patterns. It automatically senses what activities you are performing, and has an analogue dial to show your daily step progress.
What’s good: Stylish, well-made and affordable.
The ALCATEL OneTouch smartwatch is the best-looking smartwatch you’ve never heard of; launched in 2015, it covers the smartwatch basics well, with a 2-day battery life, excellent build quality and a very handy integrated charging cable. It comes preinstalled with fitness apps and music apps, and connects to your phone via Bluetooth. The caveat? It runs bespoke software, so it lacks the range of apps offered by Android Wear devices. However, it looks every bit as good as smartwatches which cost three times as much and if you can look past that caveat, $100-$130 will nap you a very well made and stylish smartwatch.
LG G Watch R
What’s good: Everything – this is an excellent all-rounder.
The LG G Watch R retailed for over $300 when it was launched; now, you can pick one up for around $200 and sometimes cheaper online. In 2014, this was one of the best smartwatches on the market - and it still is in our opinion. It actually looks like a traditional watch with its angled bezel, and the bright and round 1.3” P-OLED display is excellent, with a 320 x 320 resolution. The battery life is rated at around 2 days, and you get access to loads of applications with Android Wear. This model also has a low-power ‘always-on’ display mode, which shows you the time all day long without eating into battery life.