Person wearing Apple Watch SE
Framesira/Shutterstock.com
Update, 01/24/2022: We’ve reviewed our recommendations and have updated our best budget Apple Watch pick with the second-generation Apple Watch SE.

What to Look For in a Budget Smartwatch in 2023

As the smartwatch market has matured, budget smartwatches have gone from glorified pedometers to smart gadgets with reasonably decent features. However, you must keep a few things in mind while buying a budget smartwatch.

The most important thing to consider is compatibility. Unfortunately, not all smartwatches can be paired with both Android and iOS. For example, the Apple Watch SE only works with iPhones. Similarly, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 4 is only compatible with Android. So, make sure the smartwatch you are buying is compatible with your smartphone.

Battery life is another crucial detail. This can range from one day to several weeks, but it’s typically dependent on the feature-set of a smartwatch and how much you use it. Unless you have no issues charging your smartwatch daily, ensure you are comfortable with how frequently you may need to charge your purchase before pulling out the credit card.

Although premium smartwatches usually have a fairly robust set of health and fitness tracking options, budget smartwatches can sacrifice some tracking features to keep the cost down. Therefore, it’s prudent to check whether your smartwatch can track the activities and exercises you participate in.

Additionally, depending on your usage and budget, you may also want to check for water resistance, GPS, and cellular connectivity in a smartwatch. Lastly, the design and build quality are also important. You want something that you are comfortable and happy to wear.

With the basics out of the way, let’s dive into our recommendations.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you wear a smartwatch with a pacemaker?
The FDA recommends keeping smartwatches “six inches away from implanted medical devices.” You should also “not carry consumer electronics in a pocket over the medical device.” As a safe bet, you should not wear a smartwatch if you rely on a pacemaker. Otherwise, it may enter “magnet mode.”
Can you text on a smartwatch?
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Some smartwatches, like the Apple Watch SE, allow you to compose, send, and receive text messages. Others, like the Amazfit GTS 2e, notify you of incoming texts and allow you to view them without the option of replying.
How do you charge a smartwatch?
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Most smartwatches will come with their own proprietary charging cable. The Fitbit Inspire 3, for instance, comes with a charger that you can hook up to the watch and connect to any USB-A port. Many smartwatches offer wireless charging compatibility, meaning you can use multi-surface chargers to power your phone, Bluetooth earbuds, and wearable all at once.
Does a smartwatch track blood pressure?
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No. The only truly accurate way to track blood pressure is to use a cuff that temporarily constricts blood flow through the brachial artery in your arm. You can, however, find several home blood pressure monitors from trusted brands like Garmin, Greater Goods, and Omron.
Are all smartwatches waterproof?
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Most smartwatches that offer fitness tracking modes have some level of water resistance or swim proofing. Every smartwatch featured in this roundup has a water resistance rating of 5 ATM, meaning they’re water resistant at up to 50 meters (165ft) of water, allowing for a dip in the pool or safe shower usage.

Best Budget Smartwatch Overall: Amazfit GTS 2 Mini

Amazfit GTS 2 on table with phone
Amazfit

Pros

  • Blood oxygen and heart-rate monitoring
  • Long battery life
  • Bright and vibrant display
  • Built-in GPS

Cons

  • No support for third-party apps
  • Trouble locking in GPS signal

The Amazfit GTS 2 Mini is the reigning champion of budget smartwatches. It’s packed with tons of features and costs only a fraction of the premium options in the market.

This smartwatch comes with a titanium alloy and plastic combo construction that feels well made. It has a safe design that won’t stand out but looks good nonetheless. That said, the removable 20mm silicone strap gives you the option to play around with the look of the watch if you want to try another watch band.

The 1.55-inch AMOLED display is bright and vibrant. In addition, the watch is rated 5 ATM for water resistance, allowing you to take it for a swim with you.

There is a comprehensive array of tracking options in the GTS 2 Mini. For example, you can monitor your heart rate, blood oxygen level, sleep, stress levels, and menstrual cycle. Additionally, you get almost 70 sports modes for tracking various indoor and outdoor workouts and activities.

Battery life is also excellent, and the smartwatch will last almost five days with an always-on display and heavy usage. If you are a light user, you may be able to get even more out of the battery.

The company has also included GPS in the smartwatch, which, although quite helpful in tracking your runs or walks, can often take a long time in locking in your location. Unfortunately, support for third-party apps is also missing, but it’s a sacrifice you will have to make with most budget smartwatches.

Best Budget Smartwatch Overall

Amazfit GTS 2 Mini

The Amazfit GTS 2 Mini offers an ideal middle ground between cheap activity trackers and premium smartwatches.

Best Budget Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Inspire 3

Fitbit Inspire 3 on blue and purple background
Fitbit

Pros

  • Up to 10-day battery life
  • Tracks Active Zone minutes, heart rate, SpO2, and sleep score
  • Always-On display
  • Under $100

Cons

  • Need to pay for the premium subscription after the first year
  • No built-in GPS

If you’re looking for an affordable fitness tracker, the Fitbit Inspire 3 is a perfect workout companion to track your exercise and monitor your health stats. Unlike the Fitbit Inspire 2’s monochrome OLED display, the Inspire 3 features a color touchscreen with Always-on capabilities for text, call, and app notifications.

While the AMOLED screen may be small, it contains a wealth of information about your sleep, mindfulness, heart rate, and activity. Whether you’re going for a walk, hike, or swim, you can keep tabs on your calories burned, average heart rate, and blood oxygen levels at a glance.

Another highlight of the Inspire 3 is its long battery life. It can last up to 10 days on a single charge, so you don’t need to worry about charging it constantly. Wear it through the night for a sleep report in the morning without it dying on you halfway through your snooze.

Fitbit also bundles one year of its premium subscription with the tracker, but it will cost you $10 a month after the free period. The subscription fee is less than ideal for a budget fitness tracker, but at least you have a year to decide if the features are worth the price.

Unfortunately, the Inspire 3 lacks a built-in GPS, so you’ll have to keep your smartphone with you to track your runs, bike rides, or hikes. If you need built-in GPS, you might want to go with our best overall pick.

Best Budget Fitness Tracker

Fitbit Inspire 3

The Fitbit Inspire 3 is an excellent activity tracker with a slim design, long battery life, and a solid selection of fitness features.

Best Budget Apple Watch: Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen)

Grid app drawer on the Apple Watch SE 2022
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

Pros

  • Bright enough for outdoor viewing
  • Comfortable all day
  • Features Car Crash detection
  • Updated processor means it feels fast

Cons

  • No always-on screen
  • Thicker bezel than other models

While it may be tempting to splurge on the highest-end Apple Watch, it isn’t the best choice for most people. The key aspects that make the Apple Watch so popular are just as present in the Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen) as in any other model.

Instead of comparing all the ways the SE is just as good as other models, we’ll mention the downsides. The main issue for most people will be that the SE doesn’t feature the always-on screen used in the Apple Watch Series 8. The other point of comparison is that the back of the SE is a nylon composite, not metal.

The bezel is larger than the Series 8, but only slightly, and the OLED display looks great. It’s capable of 1,000 nits of brightness, meaning you’ll have no problem seeing the display outside, even in bright sunlight.

While you don’t get the oxygen sensor you’d get in the Series 8, there are still sensors aplenty. Motion sensors track movement and fall detection, a pulse sensor tracks your heart rate, and noise detection warn of potential damage to your hearing. Apple’s new car crash detection is here too, thanks to an improved accelerometer.

Apple claims up to 18 hours of battery life, similar to the company’s other watches. A new Low Power mode helps you get some extra life out of the battery if you start running out.

The Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen) is available in 40mm and 44mm sizes, with Midnight Aluminum, Silver Aluminum, and Starlight Aluminum color options.

Best Budget Apple Watch

Apple Watch SE (2nd Gen)

It may not be the latest and greatest, but the second-generation Apple Watch SE offers everything that makes the Apple Watch great at a price that means it's the best choice for most people.

Best Budget Smartwatch for Battery Life: Amazfit GTS 2e

Amazfit GTS 2e being worn by person
Amazfit

Pros

  • Lasts up to 10 days with heavy usage
  • Bright and vibrant display
  • 90 sports modes for tracking
  • Heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring

Cons

  • Limited smartwatch features
  • No support for third-party apps

Battery life is one of the crucial features many consumers look for while buying a new smartwatch. So if you want a budget smartwatch that can last more than a couple of days, there is no better option than the Amazfit GTS 2e.

The GTS 2e can easily last seven to ten days on heavy usage. And, if you are a light user, you can even extend the backup to two weeks, which is fantastic.

Battery life isn’t the only good thing about this Amazfit watch. The GTS 2e features a 1.65-inch AMOLED screen that provides inky blacks and vibrant colors. It also gets bright enough to get good under-sun visibility.

Activity and health-tracking options are solid, as well. You get around 90 workout modes, covering the most common workouts and sports. The smartwatch can also automatically detect some of these activities. Additionally, it has heart-rate monitoring, stress monitoring, sleep tracking, and blood oxygen monitoring.

Unfortunately, being a budget smartwatch, the GTS 2e has some limitations. For example, while it can show notifications from your smartphone, you can’t use the watch to reply to texts or answer calls. Also, like other GTS-series watches, the 2e doesn’t support third-party apps.

Best Budget Smartwatch for Battery Life

Amazfit GTS 2e

The Amazfit GTS 2e can last up to two weeks on a single charge and has many health and fitness features.

Best Budget Smartwatch for Kids: Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3

Garmin vivofit jr 3 on blue background
Garmin

Pros

  • Durable and water-resistant
  • Steps and activity tracking
  • Replaceable battery with year-long backup

Cons

  • No cellular connectivity or built-in GPS
  • Activating backlight can be tricky for children

The Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3 ticks many of the right boxes if you are looking for a smartwatch for your little one. For example, it is durable, features a color display, and is water-resistant. The smartwatch also comes with a replaceable coin battery that can last up to one year.

The Garmin smartwatch can track steps, sleep, and activity time in terms of features. It also encourages kids to remain active by unlocking games, adventures, quizzes, and more when they reach a certain activity level. Plus, parents can schedule reminders for chores and other tasks for kids using the smartphone they paired with the watch.

Although the color screen of the tracker is easy to read in good lighting, kids may find it difficult to activate its backlight when needed as it requires multiple steps. This is something to keep in mind if your child needs to look at the watch often in low light.

Unfortunately, as the Garmin smartwatch lacks cellular connectivity and GPS, it does not help track your child’s location. Some parents may want such a feature to ensure their child’s safety—thankfully, there are other options with main mobile carriers that offer alternative smartwatches.

For cellular connectivity and GPS, we recommend going for Verizon’s GizmoWatch 2. It’s a fantastic smartwatch that supports activity tracking, GPS tracking, geofencing, and voice calling.

However, if you prefer a smartwatch that can work on T-Mobile’s network, the Xplora X5 Play is a good option. In addition to most features found on the Verizon watch, it has an interactive game platform that encourages kids to be active.

For AT&T users, the Angel Watch Series R is the best option. Apart from the usual smartwatch features for kids, it supports video calling and can track your child’s body temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen level, and heart rate.

Best Budget Smartwatch for Kids

Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3

The Garmin Vivofit Jr. 3 is an excellent kids smartwatch with basic activity tracking, a durable build, and a color display.

The Best Smartwatches of 2023

Apple Watch Series 8
Best Smartwatch Overall
Apple Watch Series 8
Amazfit GTS 2 Mini
Best Budget Smartwatch
Amazfit GTS 2 Mini
Garmin Venu 2
Best Fitness Tracker
Garmin Venu 2
Fitbit Versa 3
Best Smartwatch for Battery Life
Fitbit Versa 3
TickTalk 4
Best Smartwatch for Kids
TickTalk 4
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Best Android Smartwatch
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5
Apple Watch Series 8
Best Smartwatch Overall
Apple Watch Series 8
Profile Photo for Gaurav Shukla Gaurav Shukla
Gaurav Shukla is a technology journalist with over a decade’s experience reporting and writing about consumer technology. His work has appeared in Android Police, XDA Developers, and NDTV Gadgets 360.
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Profile Photo for Marcus Mears III Marcus Mears III
Marcus Mears III is the Reviews Editor for How-To Geek and Review Geek. He’s a lifelong technology enthusiast with over four years of experience developing prose that keeps readers in the know. With hundreds of articles across a number of tech publications like MakeUseOf and iGeeksBlog, Mears’ work helps readers around the globe learn to make the most of their devices and software.
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