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The Best Cheap Smartwatches

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Looking for a smartwatch that doesn't cost the earth? Then this selection of devices offers some fantastic features for a great price

These days, the very best smartwatches on the market can pack all manner of features onto your wrist. Fitness tracking, phone notifications, contactless payments and other apps have all become commonplace on modern wearable technology. It would be logical to assume, therefore, that these top-end features would be accompanied by a top-end price.

Not necessarily. If you’re looking for a smartwatch on a budget, there are plenty of options. They may not feature all the bells and whistles of their more expensive counterparts – but, for the most part, they offer the same key features and perks without breaking the bank.

The best cheap smartwatches to buy

1. Mobvoi TicWatch E2

Although the brand’s TicWatch E3 is now widely available, the E2 remains our favourite budget smartwatch. Although it hasn’t significantly built on the features of its predecessor, there’s no denying that the TicWatch E2 gives you unbeatable value for money.

You’ll get features normally found on wearables that retail for double its price. There’s an attractive AMOLED display, Google Assistant integration, swim tracking, built-in GPS and more. Pair those features with excellent build quality and respectable battery life, and you have yourself a cheap smartwatch that is unrivalled in today’s market.

Key specs – Operating system: Wear OS; Screen size and type: 1.39in 400 x 400 AMOLED; Battery life: 2 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Built-in; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No

2. Garmin Vivoactive 3

The Garmin Vivoactive 3 can now be found for less money than its launch price, since it has now been superseded by the Vivoactive 4, which comes with the added bonus of Spotify playback from your wrist.

If you can go without built-in tunes, you still have one hell of a fitness-based smartwatch on your hands. The Vivoactive 3 pretty much ticks all the boxes in this respect: it’s easy-to-use and accurate, featuring built-in GPS, an altimeter, swim tracking, a heart-rate sensor and more.

As far as smart features go, you can control your phone’s music playback from your wrist, receive notifications and benefit from NFC payments via Garmin Pay. The latter system isn’t perfect, but if Garmin can sort out bank support for its contactless payments, the Vivoactive 3 would be the perfect all-rounder.

Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 1.2in 240 x 240 transflective MIP; Battery life: 7 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Built-in; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: Yes

3. Huawei Band 3 Pro

Do fitness bands qualify as smartwatches? They might when they're as good as the Huawei Band 3 Pro, which manages to pack in an awful lot of value into a budget wearable.

Not only does it tell the time, track sleep and count steps as with every fitness tracker since the original Fitbit, it also manages to pack in both GPS and heart rate sensors. On top of this, it also receives crystal-clear notifications on a seriously bright 0.95in touchscreen. The three-week battery life is very much the cherry on an already delicious cake.

Key specs – Operating system: Proprietary OS; Screen size and type: 0.95in 120x240 AMOLED; Battery life: Up to three weeks; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No

4. Huawei Watch GT 2e

It might not be that smart – it lacks an app store and features such as NFC, for instance – but the Huawei Watch GT 2e is a great option for runners. 

After its Watch 2, Huawei said goodbye to Google’s Wear OS in favour of its own Lite OS software. This explains the lack of some smart features, but it’s also the reason the Watch GT2e boasts an impressive two-week battery life.

Coupled with excellent sports tracking, with 100 workout modes available, it’s an all-round solid exercise companion. Runners are best catered for, however, with a range of preset workouts to choose from including training plans for events from 5K to marathon distance. Huawei has also partnered with Firstbeat (which provides training analysis for Garmin’s products) to offer insights such as VO2 max, training effectiveness and recovery times.

If you’re a runner in need of a smartwatch for your workouts, the GT 2e is an absolute steal. Just bear in mind that it’s better paired with Android devices, as you’re able to load it with music. At present, it’s also not possible to sync the GT series of smartwatches with Strava.

Key specs – Operating system: Lite OS; Screen size and type: 1.39in 454 x 454 AMOLED HD; Battery life: Up to 20 days; Replaceable strap: Yes; GPS: Yes; Heart rate: Yes; NFC: No

How to choose the best cheap smartwatch for you

What sensors do you need?

When buying cheap smartwatches, cost savings have to be made somewhere, and typically that will be in the number of built-in sensors. Think carefully about what you want and need, because the chances are you'll have to make a series of trade-offs. Do you need built-in GPS, or are you happy to run with your phone? Do you want to be able to pay for things with your wrist? If so, you’ll need NFC.

Does the operating system matter?

As with smartphones, the majority of smartwatches run Google’s own operating system – in this case Wear OS. That, as you might imagine, plays nicely with Android, but has some teething problems when talking to iPhones.

Generally, though, the OS doesn’t matter too much. Samsung watches use the company’s own Tizen software, while smartwatches by Fitbit use the company’s own code. With most of the smartphones in the world running iOS or Android, compatibility shouldn’t generally be a problem, but for best results it always helps to match company to company (i.e Apple Watches work best with iPhones, and Samsung watches love to be matched to a Galaxy.)

How long should the battery last?

To keep smartwatches slim, the battery tends to be small – often as little as 200mAh. To put that into perspective, most smartphones have batteries that are 3,000mAh or more.

That’s okay – they do a lot less – but battery life varies hugely, with some smartwatches requiring a charge every night and others lasting a week or more. Why the huge difference? Well, it tends to be down to their design: as a rule of thumb, the more beautiful and feature-packed a smartwatch, the shorter the battery life. Ones with black-and-white reflective displays will last a lot longer than those with bright, always-on OLED displays and built-in GPS.

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