10 coolest smartwatches of 2017

Don’t listen to the naysayers. Smartwatches are alive and well — and yes, cool. Here are 9 that would make great gifts for just about any occasion, plus a sneak peek at what Fitbit may be planning.

  • Apple Watch Series 2

    $369.00 MSRP $369.00
    on Apple
  • NB RunIQ Smartwatch Black, One Size

    $111.95 MSRP $299.99
    on Amazon
  • Fitbit Surge Fitness Superwatch, Black, Large

    $203.00 MSRP $249.95
    on Amazon
Cool smartwatches intro slide
Apple, Asus, Casio

Cool smartwatches? Yes, really.

“Smartwatches are doomed,” claims Mashable. TechCrunch warns: “If I had to give companies looking to enter the smartwatch space in 2017 one piece of advice, it would be, simply: don’t.” Guiding Tech asks: “Will smartwatches ever catch on?”

I get it: The smartwatch category hasn’t exactly taken off. But as someone who regularly reviews wearables, I’m bullish. Apple Watch, the gold standard, was a solid product two years ago and was made even better with Series 2. Fitbit is getting into the game. Most importantly, there’s a greater variety from which to choose, including hybrid smartwatches that look like analog watches.

Don’t let the naysayers turn you off, here are some of the latest smartwatches worth considering.

Apple Watch Series 2

Apple Watch Series 2

Series 2 Apple Watches improve upon the first generation with built-in GPS and a brighter screen that’s easy to read even in bright sunlight, unlike many other wearables. Plus, you can wear it for swim workouts in pools and open water. Series 2 is a top smartwatch choice for people who want to track a variety of exercises and get motivation from friends by sharing activity stats with them; appreciate the Apple aesthetic and app ecosystem; and want an easy-to-use device. Don’t buy it if you don’t want to spend $369 or more, or if you want to track sleep (Apple Watch’s battery won’t last 24 hours). Tip: Apple’s website sells refurbished Apple Watches for less than new models cost.

New Balance RunIQ
New Balance

New Balance RunIQ

Earlier this year, athletic wear maker New Balance released its fitness smartwatch, the Android Wear-based RunIQ. As the name implies, the $300 watch is aimed specifically at runners, and it earned a ‘Runner’s World Editor’s Pick’ mention at CES 2017. The watch also works with New Balance’s PaceIQ wireless earbuds ($110), to provide on-demand running stats in audio. Worth noting: RunIQ is big and has a distinctly masculine look. It doesn’t offer anything like Apple Watch’s choice of watch bands and case materials. And in my tests earlier this year, the watch had limited functionality for iPhone users. But the Android-using runner in your life may love it.

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
Tag Heuer

Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45

The Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 is a  sporty, stylish smartwatch that costs $1,550 and goes way up from there. Still interested? The watch is highly customizable — nearly every element of can be configured to your tastes. It’s got a lot of features, including built-in GPS and NFC for payments, and you can wear it in the pool. The Intel-based watch uses the Android Wear OS. And, as is befitting the Tag Heuer brand and the price tag, the watches have a distinctively luxe look.

Samsung Gear S3

Samsung Gear S3

Samsung’s follow-up to its Gear S3 smartwatch includes two different designs. Frontier is the more rugged version, while Classic has a more urbane look. Both watches (currently $300) use Samsung’s Tizen operating system and pair with Samsung phones, most Android smartphones and iPhones, though iOS users will experience some limitations. (That’s typical of non-Apple smartwatches that connect with iPhones.) Gear S3 is big, with a 46mm frame, so it’s not for petite wrists. The watch face’s bezel lets you access and toggle between apps, and reviewers have noted that the battery lasts about three days (which is good for a smartwatch). Built-in GPS can drain the battery more quickly, however.

LG Watch
LG Electronics

LG Watch Style and Sport

LG Watch is Google’s chosen Android Wear 2.0 flagship smartwatch platform, available in two different models: Style and Sport. Style’s base price is $250; it comes in titanium, silver, and rose gold editions. If looks are a top priority, go with Style, which gets credit for being one of the best-looking Android Wear smartwatches around. But if you're athletic and feature-hungry, consider Sport ($350). Unlike Style, Sport offers built-in GPS, NFC mobile payments, even LTE support for AT&T and Verizon Wireless users, enabling calls without the need for a nearby smartphone.

Polar M600
Polar USA

Polar M600

Polar has made a name for itself in fitness tracking, and its M600 smartwatch (recently upgraded to Android 2.0) is worth consideration. The waterproof watch includes Smart Coaching that provides ‘actionable insights’ based on activity and training data. M600 tracks swimming metrics, such as strokes per minute. The watch comes with built-in GPS; promises a two-day battery life when connected to Android devices (1.5 days if connected to an iPhone); and includes heart rate tracking but will also connect via Bluetooth to Polar’s chest straps, which are more accurate than wrist-based heart rate tracking. You won’t get many style options, though; the $330 watch comes in black or white. Polar M600 tracks sleep, but like most smartwatches, it’s a bit big to wear to bed.

Find it on Amazon ]

Asus ZenWatch 3

Asus ZenWatch 3

Asus’ Android Wear-based ZenWatch 3 gets kudos for style, with a rounded OLED screen; an Italian leather strap; a bezel in gunmetal, silver, or rose gold; and three buttons for accessing features. It comes with six watch face themes, enabling you to create more than 50 watch faces on your own. Plus, at only $209, it’s affordable. But ZenWatch 3 isn’t for fitness buffs, as it lacks heart rate monitoring, built-in GPS and other goodies. Also, as of this writing, ZenWatch 3 hadn’t yet been updated to Android Wear 2.0, though it’s reportedly coming soon.

Find it on Amazon ]

Casio Pro Trek Smart

Casio Pro Trek Smart Outdoor Watch

Remember those cheap Casio watches of yesteryear? The company has joined the Android Wear crowd with its Pro Trek Smart Outdoor Watch. And guess what? At $500 on Amazon, it’s not cheap. Also, the watch is huge, at 61.7 x 56.4 x 15.7mm. Still, it has some features you may find cool. The ‘dual-layer display’ is color but also has a battery-saving monochrome mode. You’re limited to seeing date and time with the monochrome screen, but that may be all you need at times. The rugged watch meets the MIL-STD-810G durability standards established by the U.S. Department of Defense. Serious hikers can get their current location on full-color offline maps, too. The watch comes in orange and black.

Misfit vapor
Misfit, Inc.

Misfit Vapor

If you’ve got a Misfit fan on your gift list, you might want to write him or her an I.O.U. for the upcoming Vapor. Due in late summer for $199, Vapor is Misfit’s first significant smartwatch. It will use Android Wear 2.0 and, will have built-in GPS, heart rate tracking and wireless music playback. Plus, you can wear it for swim workouts. Vapor doesn’t appear to bring anything revolutionary to the smartwatch category, but those who’ve used other Misfit devices before will likely dig it.

Fitbit Surge

Fitbit smartwatch?

If you’re thinking of buying a Surge, Fitbit’s $250 fitness watch, there are a couple of reasons you might want to hold off: 1. Unlike Blaze and Charge 2, Surge was conspicuously overlooked when new Fitbit features were delivered recently via firmware updates. 2. In January, Fitbit CEO James Park said the company will deliver “what consumers are looking for in a smartwatch: stylish, well-designed devices that combine the right general purpose functionality with a focus on health and fitness.” While no official details have been forthcoming, Yahoo Finance recently leaked images of an upcoming Fitbit smartwatch. It’s expected to cost about $300 when released this fall.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.