You should buy a smartwatch if the notifications that come up on your phone—some or all of them—are important to your daily life or work. If you think you could have a better, more focused life by seeing your notifications on your wrist and responding to them, a smartwatch might be worth the cost.
I have worn a smartwatch almost daily for three years. Some of those days, I’ve been happy my smartwatch let me keep my phone in my pocket or bag all day. Other times I have felt rude, distracted, or ridiculous looking at my wrist to see that somebody replied to a text with “Thanks.” If you don’t look at your phone more than 10 times a day, you don’t need a smartwatch. If your day involves messages from multiple apps, (text, email, Hangouts, Slack, Hipchat, Basecamp, Snapchat, Twitter, or Instagram, for example), a smartwatch can show you the most important pings without requiring you to pull out your phone. If you often dictate your messages and searches to your phone, a watch can be easier to talk to. And if you want to know how much you move around all day, in addition to your notification-wrangling, a smartwatch could be a great purchase.
Does a smartwatch really help you stay fit? Although those who want to track regular workouts or exercise can (and should) buy a dedicated device like a fitness tracker or a GPS running or biking watch, it’s important to note that smartwatch manufacturers seem to be leaning more and more toward fitness-tracking features and further away from notifications. But because smartwatches often make you bring your phone along with you on your runs and bike rides, their touchscreens aren’t as easy to use during activity, and they often ship with leather or metal bands that aren’t ideal for exercise use, we recommend seeking a fitness band more suited to your everyday needs than investing in a smartwatch for the time being.
In early 2017, the smartwatch business, especially the Android segment, is in turmoil, and the outlook is nowhere near as strong as it once was. Early mover Pebble has shut down after a sale of its assets to Fitbit (more on that in What to look forward to). The maker of our top pick, Motorola (part of Lenovo), along with LG and Huawei (the latter the maker of our other pick), confirmed they would not make a new model in late 2016 or early 2017. And some analysts indicate that the Apple Watch, perhaps the leader of the category in critical appreciation and media attention, may be seeing declines in shipments, though Apple claims Apple Watches are selling better than ever. All of that is to say: Better Android smartwatches could be coming, and perhaps they’ll be better looking and have built-in cellular, but we don’t know—and no purchase right now is guaranteed to be as relevant in a few years.