Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about ourreview process here.We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.The RundownBest Overall:Apple Series 3 GPS Watch at Walmart"Get most of the best features from the Apple Watch, for less."Best for Android Users:Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle at Amazon"The Gen 5 Carlyle operates on Wear OS, allowing Android users to experience full functionality across their devices."Best Minimalist:Samsung Galaxy Fit at Microsoft"This bracelet-style watch is slim with an ultra-light 23-gram build that won't weigh you down."Best for Wellness:Fitbit Versa 2 Fitness Smartwatch at Amazon"The Versa 2 provides a full wellness picture by monitoring all-day activity and calorie burn, heart rate, sleep quality, and more."Best Battery:Amazfit Bip at Amazon"If you want the essentials, this affordable wearable obliges while also boasting up to 45 days of battery life."Best for Kids:VTech Kidizoom DX2 at Amazon"All apps and games revolve around learning opportunities that encourage movement and play."
Smartwatches are versatile wearable devices that can do a bit of everything, but the best cheap smartwatches accomplish many of the same feats as their costlier competitors without breaking the bank. Most affordable smartwatches deliver hallmark traits such as fitness tracking and smartphone notifications, though some smart features such as LTE connectivity may not be available. Still, it's not impossible to find other top-tier features including music storage and NFC pay.
As with any wearable technology, finding the right smartwatch depends on your biggest priorities around functionality and fit. That means compatibility with your phone's operating system as well as matching your expectations for wellness monitoring, customization with additional apps, and comfort and versatility for daily wear.
Well-roundedness is the name of the game with any of the best smartwatches. One of the most wallet-friendly versions of the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Series 3, is our top pick for bargain hunters based on its unbeatable versatility. If you're an iPhone user and you want a companion smartwatch, this sophisticated wearable is hard to beat. We've considered and reviewed top fitness-oriented, hybrid, and full-blown smartwatches from other well-known brands to help you find your first or next smartwatch for less.
Best Overall:Apple Series 3 GPS WatchBuy on WalmartBuy on AppleWhat We Like
Supports Apple Pay
Loaded with fitness features
Works seamlessly across Apple devicesWhat We Don't Like
Battery life maxes out at 18 hours
Lacks the latest watchOS technology
No cellular connectivity
For iPhone users considering a smartwatch, the Apple Watch is a natural choice. If you'd rather not pay the premium of the flagship's most recent versions, the Apple Watch Series 3 offers an appealing compromise.
You'll enjoy the same sleek styling that's a mix of sporty and contemporary along with basically all of the smartwatch features you could ask for—including onboard GPS and a swim-proof build for detailed workout tracking, all-day heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, Apple Music access, and contactless Apple Pay. As an Apple device, this watch also works seamlessly with your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
While you won't get to enjoy the latest Apple Watch innovations such as an onboard ECG monitor, the blood oxygen app, or the ability to make phone calls and send texts with cellular connectivity, battery life is similar to the newest version of this watch at about 18 hours. That will get you through most of the day, but this device still requires a daily charge. Considering the rich array of features at your disposal, though, this isn't unreasonable for dedicated iPhone and Apple users interested in adding a compatible wearable to their routines.The 12 Best Apple Watch Apps of 2021
Best for Android Users:Fossil Gen 5 CarlyleBuy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on Kohls.comWhat We Like
Bluetooth phone calls
Built-in Google Assistant
Fast to charge
Onboard GPS and heart-rate monitoringWhat We Don't Like
Battery limited with smart features enabled
Lacks detailed fitness data
If you want a feature-rich smartwatch that blends in with your lifestyle, the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle combines traditional timepiece looks with innovative wearable tech. The Gen 5 Carlyle operates on Wear OS, which is compatible with both iOS and Android, but Android users will feel right at home with this device—and experience full functionality.
A speaker and microphone combination make Google Assistant accessible with a simple voice prompt and allow for convenient smart home device control and Bluetooth calling when your (Android) phone is near. Connectivity also includes Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS.
In addition to connected features, this watch includes sensor technology to support activity tracking, including swimming, workouts, and sleep. Personalization is also easy, thanks to thousands of watch faces to choose from. The Gen 5 Carlyle also has enough memory to support your favorite fitness and productivity apps from the Google Play store. For detailed fitness data, an alternate app could be preferable since metrics are limited in the Google Fit app.
And while there are several battery modes that can help extend battery life, the use of smart features diminishes the battery after about one day. Luckily, this watch recharges quickly: 50 minutes will restore the battery to 80 percent.Check it Out: Our Favorite Wear OS Features
Best Minimalist:Samsung Galaxy Fit4.5 Buy on MicrosoftWhat We Like
Week-long battery life
Accurate activity trackingWhat We Don't Like
Unresponsive touchscreen at times
Band fit can be awkward
Lacks onboard GPS
If you care about staying active but don't want a lot of hardware on your wrist or a huge dent on your wallet, the Samsung Galaxy Fit could be an ideal wearable. This bracelet-style watch is slim with an ultra-light 23-gram build that won't weigh you down. While it's great for smaller wrists and users who want a minimalist accessory, the close-fitting band closure could be awkward for some. Plus, the small 1-inch display doesn't offer a lot of surface area to interact with, which sometimes results in misfires with swiping and tapping motions.
As an exercise tracker, the Fit lives up to its name. Despite the lack of onboard GPS, workout metrics are generally accurate for casual daily exercising tracking. Plus, the handful of useful smart features (including canned text replies with a Galaxy smartphone), the stellar week-long battery life, and military-grade durability for just around $100 make this watch a steal for the right user.Samsung Galaxy Fit Review
“The Samsung Galaxy Fit is an appealing option for those who want a bit of smartwatch functionality and a heavy emphasis on exercise monitoring—without shelling out too much money.” — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester
Best for Wellness:Fitbit Versa 2 Fitness Smartwatch4.3 Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like
Lightweight, premium design
Good battery life
Many advanced fitness/health featuresWhat We Don't Like
Music storage limited to Pandora and Deezer
Spotify playback only
Canned text reply limited to Android phones
Wellness enthusiasts will find a lot to love in the Fitbit Versa 2. Design-wise, the Fitbit Versa 2 takes a page from the Apple Watch's playbook, with an upscale, square-shaped display and plush silicone band that looks and feels great. In addition to an aesthetically pleasing form factor, the Versa 2 monitors virtually everything you could think of to provide a full wellness picture. That includes all-day activity and calorie burn, heart rate, sleep quality, blood oxygen saturation, stress, and menstrual health.
Sophisticated wellness and fitness tracking aside, the Versa 2 also comes with advanced smart features including NFC payment, Alexa integration, and the ability to reply to text messages—if you have an Android phone and it's nearby. This device is also capable of storing music (up to 300 songs with a premium Deezer or Pandora account), but limits Spotify users to playback functionality. To top it off, the watch comes with a pretty impressive battery life of over six days.Fitbit Versa 2 Review
“All of the workout and tracking functionality kicks in exactly as it's supposed to, and the accompanying Fitbit-specific parts of the software are fluid and fun to use.” – Jason Schneider, Product Tester
Best Battery:Amazfit Bip4.4 Buy on AmazonBuy on EBayWhat We Like
Excellent battery life
Durable but lightweight buildWhat We Don't Like
No music storage or playback
Lacks advanced smartwatch features
No option to customize with other apps
The Amazfit Bip is another smartwatch that proves you don't have to pay a premium for the convenience of a wrist-based wearable. This affordable and lightweight smartwatch offers a slim design that weighs in at just 32 grams and a bright, 1.2-inch always-on display that's protected by IP68 dust and splash resistance. This comfortable introductory wearable also supports popular smartwatch features including text and phone notifications, fitness tracking, as well as heart rate and sleep monitoring, though accuracy may vary.
While heart rate monitoring and built-in GPS sensors are thoughtful touches that rival more expensive models, the Bip can't really compete when it comes to customization power with adding additional apps or widgets, responding to texts, or other advanced wellness features. It also lacks music playback control on your connected smartphone. That being said, if you want the essentials, this affordable wearable obliges while also boasting up to 45 days of battery life.Amazfit Bip Review
"If you never want to worry about charging your smartwatch, then the Bip is unbeatable."— Emily Ramirez, Product Tester
Best for Kids:VTech Kidizoom DX2Buy on AmazonBuy on Best BuyBuy on WalmartWhat We Like
Fun, durable, kid-friendly design
Helpful learning games and features
Motion sensor encourages activity
Affordably pricedWhat We Don't Like
Charges via micro-USB cable
Even young ones can enjoy wearable tech, thanks to approachable and age-appropriate devices like the VTech Kidizoom DX2. This inexpensive watch comes with a pedometer and is available in bright colors that kids will love.
Parents won't have to worry about durability or a secure fit since the manufacturer reports that the band is designed specifically for children and is splashproof. Beyond fit, all apps and games revolve around learning opportunities with time-telling lessons, brain teasers, and activity-based games that encourage movement and play.
While the feature set is limited beyond these learning tools and charging requires using the provided micro-USB cord, the benefit of limited connectivity is that adults can protect young ones against potential vulnerabilities from online content. These details help make the Kidizoom DX2 a safe, gentle way to introduce smartwatches and wearable technology to children ages 4 and older.The 9 Best Electronic Toys for Kids in 2021Final Verdict
The Apple Watch Series 3 offers many merits at an affordable price point, which is why we consider it the best cheap smartwatch for iPhone users. Much of what it offers—from a stylish and intuitive design to seamless iPhone connectivity, health monitoring and fitness tracking, and conveniences such as Apple Pay—serves as an example to other big players in the smartwatch field.
For Android users, we recommend the Fossil Gen 5 Carlyle, which offers great classic watch looks with convenient smart features such as NFC pay, Google voice assistant, and Bluetooth phone calls.
How We Tested
Our expert reviewers and testers evaluate cheap smartwatches the same way we evaluate most smartwatches. We start by taking a look at design, style, durability, and how easy it is to change straps. For budget smartwatches, we pay particular attention to quality and aesthetic appeal, since those two factors are often compromised on. We evaluate the screen size and resolution focusing on how legible the text, complications, and other information is, particularly outdoors and in direct sunlight.
We look at overall user experience (UX), by seeing how easy to the smartwatch is to setup, how many apps it's compatible with, how well it syncs to your phone, and the general fluidity of the operating system. We also consider any additional features that are included like heart rate monitoring, GPS, and fitness tracking.
To test battery life, we charge the smartwatch up to full, and then use it over the course of a day to see how much it drains. To make our final judgement, we look at the competition, and see how the smartwatch stacks up against rivals in a similar price range. The majority of the smartwatches we test are purchased by us; sometimes newer releases are provided by a manufacturer, but it has no bearing on the objectivity of our evaluation.
About Our Trusted Experts
Yoona Wagener is a technology writer and an avid smartwatch and fitness tracker user. She has tested a variety of wearables for Ach5 from brands including Samsung, Garmin, Amazon, Amazfit, and Withings.
David Dean is a writer who specializes in consumer and travel tech. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and other major publications.
Emmeline Kaser is an experienced product researcher and reviewer in the field of consumer tech. She is a former editor for Ach5's product testing and recommendation round-ups.
Emily Ramirez has written for Ach5 since 2019. She specializes in wearable technology, VR, and gaming, and has been previously published in the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute and MIT Game Lab. She liked the Amazfit Bip for its affordable price and useful suite of features.
Jason Schneider has almost a decade of experience writing for tech and media companies. Specializing in audio, wearable, and other devices, he's previously been published in Greatist and Thrillist. He praised the TicWatch Pro 4G for its always-on connectivity and ability to track runs and other fitness activity.
What to Look for in Smartwatches
Platform/Compatibility - Smartwatches require a solid working relationship with a smartphone, so make sure your model is compatible. Many models are iOS- and Android-friendly, but be sure that you have the most current operating system so you won't miss out on features that are restricted to one particular OS over the other. Some smartwatches, for example, offer canned text replies for Android but not iOS.
Fitness and Wellness Features - In addition to smart features for daily connectivity and productivity, smartwatches are also known for their fitness tracking traits for a variety of indoor and outdoor workouts. Ensure that the model you choose offers the detail and technology you're looking for, such as wrist-based heart monitoring and the ability to track extras such as sleep data, VO2 max, and blood oxygen saturation.
Battery Life - The best smartwatches should last at least one day, if not two, before requiring a charge. If multi-day longevity is important, consider models that lack smart features and a lot of extras, which can drain the device. Alternatively, models that offer battery-saving modes could help you enjoy the features you'll use most while also extending battery power.