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Best Budget Smart Watches (Apr 2017) – Buyer’s Guide and Review

By Walter J. Farrell | GEAR

After more than 50 hours of research and correspondence with our test users, we think the Asus Zenwatch 2 is the most affordable smartwatch on the market. Considering its price, it’s a great deal for a smartwatch to possess a strong build (it has an IP67 water and dust resistance rating equal to the iPhone), a decent design, and a number of features. It’s highly functional and is more likely to last for years to come.

Smartwatches, a.k.a wearables, are devices that function as a regular watch but with additional features such as a notification push system. Wearables now come handy with features such as push notifications, fitness apps, GPS, and other things. They are a burgeoning trend, with companies such as Apple, Samsung and Google releasing their own smartwatch products. A swarm of cheap smartwatches is also flooding the market.

In line with our commitment to save you time and resources from cheap yet unreliable smartwatches which are flooding the market, this article provides you with a buyer’s guide, a review of the top ten best smartwatches and our recommendations to make it easier for you to decide which smartwatch to buy.

"What Should I Consider?"

There’s a lot of cheap smartwatches out in the market so it’s definitely a tough and a tedious task to filter out the best ones for yourself.

Without further ado, here are the 7 key things you should examine when buying a smartwatch:

#1. Compatibility

Since most smartwatches are designed to be a companion device to your smartphone, it is of great importance that you should check whether your prospect smartwatch is compatible with your phone. A little caveat about this list: most smartwatches that are sold at a lower price operate on an Android Wear OS. Furthermore, while some of these smartwatches using an Android Wear OS can be linked to your iPhone device, the functionality is quite limited as compared to using an Android smartphone. Compatibility should definitely be your first priority.

#2. Build Durability

You surely would want to buy something that is durable enough to last for at least a few years. Luckily, some smartwatches already have a water- and dust-resistance feature even at an affordable price.

#3. Design

Smartwatches come in different designs. Some smartwatches have a square screen that looks really like a techie gadget while others maintain the classical regular wristwatch look. It’s something you would be wearing on your wrist, so you definitely have to consider what type of design you are looking for.

#4. Battery Life

Battery life also varies for different smartwatches. Most smartwatches last for about 1-2 days while a few outliers, such as the Pebble models, can last without charging for about a week.

#5. Features and Apps

For the most part, almost all smartwatches have a push notification feature. A few smartwatches allow you to receive and take calls directly without the need to use your phone’s speaker. Built-in features such as agenda, calendar, and alarm clock are also very common. The differentiating factor, though, lies in the smartwatch’s ability to run applications either by directly downloading it from an app store or by linking it to your smartphone through Bluetooth connectivity or Wi-Fi.

#6. Wi-Fi Connectivity

Bluetooth is the primary means of synching your smartphone to your smartwatch. However, not all units have a Wi-Fi connectivity that allows you to communicate with your phone even if you are outside the Bluetooth range.

#7. Fitness Features

For fitness junkies, you may want to consider a smartwatch with a GPS, a heart rate monitor and a reliable gyro and pedometer. Some smartwatches are more tailor-fitted to cater to these needs, while others seem to ignore it.

 CompatibilityWater/Dust ResistantDisplay and DesignBattery Life*
Asus Zenwatch 2 –(Editor’s Pick) Android 4.3+
iPhone (limited functionality)
 AMOLED,1.63” Square Display48 hours
Martian Notifier (runnder-up) Android 2.3+
iOS 6+
 OLED, 1.5” Round Display5-6 days
LG Watch Urbane Android 4.3+
iOS 8 (limited functionality)
 OLED, 1.3” Round Display48 hours
Sony Smartwatch 3 Android 4.3+
iOS 8.2+
 Transflective,
1.6” Square Display
48 hours
Mariba MSRM Android 4.3+
iOS 7
  Touchscreen, 1.54” Square Display14-15 hours
Peble Time Steel Android 4.0+
iOS 8+
 Color ePaper
1.25” display
 7 days
Garmin Vivo Active -  Android 4.3+
iOS 7.0+
 Sunlight-readable, 1.13” Square Display 3 weeks (10 hours in GPS use)
Vallen Sweatproof Android 4.3+
iOS units (limited functionality)
 Touchscreen, 1.54” square display  14-15 hours
Bluetooth Smartwatch Android 4.3+
iOS units (limited functionality)
Touchscreen, 1.54” square display14-15 hours
Motorola Moto 360 (runner-up) Android 4.3+
IOS 8.2+
 LED screen, 1.56” round display  24-48 hours

*Battery life may vary on wearer’s usage.

How Did We Access the Smartwatches?

Deciding which budget smartwatch to buy from a plethora of cheap smartwatches is a common dilemma for anyone considering to buy a smartwatch. No doubt, most of the e-mails we get from our readers are either questions like, “Is the product reliable?” or whether it too expensive considering its specs. Consequently, we decided to gather the available budget smartwatches from various websites, techie friends, and actual users of these smartwatches. To get an actual experience, we also hand-tested some of the products to make sure that we get a deeper look at some of best smartwatches on our list.

Our standards for ranking smartwatches are clear-cut: compatibility, built, design, price, and functionality. We personally found out that most budget smartwatches are operating using an Android Wear OS, and share common features such as the push notification and basic built-in apps such as agenda, calculator, alarm etc. Moreover, what makes certain smartwatches stand-out from the others are unique features such as a GPS system and a reliable fitness app which are rare to come by for budget smartwatches. Like most average consumers, we also gave awards to smartwatches that possess a strong build since we don’t want to spend a lot on something disposable. Lastly, the design or simply the degree of attractiveness was one of the key characteristics that we considered in picking our editor’s choice and runners-up. Overall, we carefully considered these characteristics and weighed its price to see whether it’s a great deal or a flop.

Here’s our top ten smartwatches:

1. ASUS Zenwatch 2 – The Best Smartwatch at a Low-End Price in 2017

It may not be as fancy as the Apple Series 2, but the Asus Zenwatch might be the best smartwatch choice for you if you're looking for something at a low-end price. The Asus Zenwatch 2 shares a considerable number of features that are present in more expensive smartwatches in the market.

Let’s have a quick look at the best features of the ASUS Zenwatch 2:

  • It’s highly functional, with tools that allow you to send text messages, make and reject phone calls, and interact with email and social media notifications.
  • It has a downloadable FaceApp Designer which allows you to customize your watch face.
  • It runs an updated Android Wear OS.
  • Charging is also very fast. Within 15 minutes, you can charge an empty battery up to 60%. Battery life can last up to 48 hours.Enter your text here...

More than its functionality features, what I love about this smartwatch is its impressive built and display features. A few things that’s awesome about it:

  • It has an IP67 water and dust resistant rating, similar to the iPhone 7. It’s impenetrable by dust and can endure being soaked in static water that is 1 meter in depth.
  • Its screen is made up of a Corning Gorilla Glass 3. If you’re not familiar with Gorilla Glass 3, it’s actually a special glass designed to be scratch resistant. It’s also incredibly strong and light.
  • It uses an AMOLED display, an upgrade to the OLED display used in other smartwatches.
  • It has a handsome and stylish design and you can choose from 18 different strap designs and colors.

There are caveats though which can indicate that this might not be a perfect fit for your lifestyle:

  • Limited functionality for iPhone users
  • Pedometer is inaccurate and it doesn’t have a heart rate monitor so it’s not built for fitness-conscious customers.Enter your text here...

Nevertheless, the Asus Zenwatch 2 is strongly built, functional and stylish. It’s a great choice for first time smartwatch users and for those looking for a highly functional smartwatch but are not willing to spend a fortune. Considering its price and its specs, this may be the best deal for you.

What We Liked

  • Affordable
  • Strong Built and Looks Good
  • 48-hour battery life and fast charging time
  • Highly functional with various apps

What We Didn't Like

  • Lack fitness features
  • Limited functionality with iPhone
  • Low blue- tooth range

2. Martian Notifier – The Most Chic Not-so Smart Smartwatch under $50

There are smartwatches that are screaming with tech-geekiness and then there’s the Martian Notifier. This smartwatch is great for those who are looking for a more classic and chic look in a watch. But truth be told, there’s nothing much to be excited about this semi-smartwatch when it comes to its functionality. It’s basically your regular analog watch with an additional push notification feature.

Martian Notifier’s notification push system is simple and smart. Notification alerts come in the form of a text displayed in its rectangular OLED display, a blink from its color notification LED or a vibration. It can receive and filter notifications from a thousand different apps in your smartphone. But other than that, there’s nothing much that this smartwatch can do.

There are a few things to I like about its specs though:

  • Different vibration patters which distinguishes notification types
  • compatible to Android 2.3.3 and up and iPhone 4s and later versions
  • Has a separate battery for the analog watch which last up to two years. Battery life for the smartwatch last for 5-6 days.
  • Has voice activation feature, battery life display, Bluetooth status display and a whether update feature.

Users as well had logged a few things not to like about this smartwatch:

  • Not water-resistant
  • Has an annoying charger instead of the USB cable.

The Martian Notifier clearly lags behind other models in app functionality. However, considering its price, this might be a great deal for those who are looking for a semi-smartwatch that works more like a regular watch than a smartwatch.

What We Liked

  • Extremely
  • Affordable
  • Efficient
  • Notifying System
  • Long Battery Life
  • Compatible to Android and iPhone Smartphones

What We Didn't Like

  • Not Water Resistant
  • Lacks Functionality Features

3. LG Watch Urbane – Fashionable and Highly Functional

What I like most about the LG Watch Urbane is its elegant and fashionable design. It’s chic enough to be mistaken as an Apple Watch. Like most other smartwatches in the $100-range, the LG Watch Urbane is highly functional and is well-built. As usual, we’ll take a look at the best features of this stylish smartwatch:

  • It runs an updated Android 5.1.1 OS
  • Has a push notification system
  • It has a Wi-fi support which connects automatically to any available network.
  • It has a battery life that runs up to 48 hours. It’s still a far cry from Pebble’s 1-week long battery, but considering its functionality, a shortened battery life might be a reasonable trade-off.
  • Like the Asus Zenwatch 2, it also has an IP67 water and dust resistant rate.
  • Music lovers can also store and play music from this smartwatch. Just a reminder, though, that you’ll need an external Bluetooth device to really play the music.
  • Fitness buffs can also use this smartwatch’s heart rate monitor, which readily connects with Google fit to track your calories and steps.Enter your text here...

There are a few hiccups though to look after:

  • It does not have a speaker. Moreover, you will be notified when you have a call but still need to pick up your phone to receive the call.
  • Only supports Android users
  • Occasional crashing.

However, it’s completely undeniable that the watch is gorgeous. Overall. The LG Watch Urbane combines a perfect balance of functionality, design and product durability. It’s still a great smartwatch you might want to consider.

What We Liked

  • Very Attractive
  • Fitness Features
  • Decent Battery Life

What We Didn't Like

  • Does not support iPhone devices
  • Lacks a speaker
  • May crash or freeze sometimes

4. Sony Smartwatch 3

If you’re looking for a smartwatch with a decent fitness feature, the Sony Smartwatch 3 may be a good match for you. Its greatest strength, which happens to be absent in most smartwatches under $150, is its built-in GPS system. It has a built-in step tracker which provide you with stats such as calories burned or hours slept when linked with a phone that has the Sony Lifelog app in it.

Let’s look further what’s in it apart from its fitness features.

  • Highly functional and has apps found in most smartwatches such as agenda, calendar, alarm, push notifications, gyro, accelerometer, etc.
  • IP68 water and dust resistant rating, the highest possible rating
  • Battery life of about 48 hours
  • Easily removable from its battery strap to facilitate a more convenient charging using a micro USB chord.
  • Syncs perfectly with Google’s My Tracks so you can navigate your route easily.
  • 1.6” reflective display which works well when you’re checking it in the sunlight.Enter your text here...

Overall, it’s a highly functional and a strongly-built smartwatch. But the greatest downside is that it doesn’t look fashionable. It prioritizes functionality over aesthetics. Its square interface and its rubber strap looks a lot more like a techie device attached to your wrist than a regular wristwatch. But, if you’re not really into the classical looking smartwatches, we recommended this smartwatchfor you.

What We Liked

  • Highly functional
  • Water and dust resistant
  • 48-hour battery life
  • Screen visible in the sunlight

What We Didn't Like

  • Not so fashionable
  • Watch strap can only be acquired in Sony Stores

5. Martha MSRM Smartwatch

The Martha MSRM Smartwatch may resemble the Sony Smartwatch 3 design but it’s actually a lot cheaper than the Sony model. The best feature this smartwatch has is its GSM Sim Card slot. In other words, you can make and receive phone calls and text messages without linking it to your smartphone.

As usual, let’s have a quick look at what this smartwatch is capable of:

  • It has the basic features most smartphones would have: push notifications, alarm clock, calendar, call sync, pedometer, calculator and music player
  • It supports Android 4.2 or higher versions of smartphones and iOS 7 or higher.
  • Decent battery life that could last for about 14-15 hours
  • A sufficiently sized 1.54” square screen, the usual screen size for most square smartwatchesEnter your text here...

Pretty much like other square smartwatches, it’s not really as fashionable as the other brands. But Martha MSRM is a smartwatch you might want to consider if you’re looking for something that has decent built-in features. If you’re on a very tight budget but are looking to experience the smartwatch craze, the Martha MSRM might be good product to start with.

What We Liked

  • Very Affordable
  • Can receive/make phone calls and texts without a phone
  • Highly Functional

What We Didn't Like

  • May not be as durable as other expensive models
  • Not very attractive to look at

6. Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch

Pebble Time Steel Smartwatch’s greatest asset is its battery life. This smartwatch can last for as long as a week. This smartwatch, carrying the Pebble brand, is one of the most popular smartwatches on the market. If you are in a rush, here’s a brief summary of its specs:

  • Has the usual features- push notification feature, calendar, text messaging, alarm clock, pedometer, gyro
  • Strongly built with a dustproof, shockproof and waterproof frame
  • Compatible with Android 4.0+ and iOS 8+
  • Has its own microphone which you can use to dictate messages

There are a few hiccups you should take account of in case you’re considering to buy this Pebble smartwatch:

  • Heavily reliant on a smartphone. There’s very little that you can do with it on its own.
  • Screen size is relatively small with just 1.25” screen. It also lags behind other smartwatch screens in terms of brightness and resolution.
  • Lacks important features such as Wi-Fi connectivity and GPS.
  • Has the capacity to track steps using its accelerometer but you can’t really rely on it if you’re looking for precise stats.
  • You may not be able to receive product support after a year or two from now since its parent company was acquired by Fitbit. Fitbit decided to continue this specific smartwatch model.

Overall, the Pebble Time Steel is a decent smartwatch with basic features. Its battery life and its strong built are enticing offers but it might not suit your taste if you’re gaga for techie apps. But if you’re looking for a simple smartwatch to get by with, this smartwatch is worth considering.

7. Motorola Moto 360

Released in 2014, this smartwatch is one of the most popular among tech enthusiasts. Fast forward to 2017, it’s still considered one of the sweetest deals for those who are looking for a reliable smartwatch at an affordable price.

Here’s the shortlist of this smartwatch’s best assets:

  • It’s highly functional with all the basic apps such as push notifications, calendar etc. It also works with almost any Android app.
  • Cool enough to charge wirelessly using a Qi wireless charger
  • Water resistant rating IP67, pretty common for most standard smartwatch units
  • Has a useful health tracking app which provides you with stats on your heart rate, body activeness rate, number of calories burned, etc.
  • Designed by the manufacturer to be comfortable and fashionable. It’s fashionable enough to be worn with a suit and tie.
  • It has a 1.56” round display and employs a LED screen that has a bright display with bright colors.Enter your text here...

It’s a very functional smartwatch since it can run almost any app with its 4-gigabyte storage and 512 RAM. Most of our test users, however, complain about its battery life. With a maximum usage of the smartwatch, its battery can only last for about a day. Anyways, you might consider its excellent functionality as a consolation prize.

If you’re looking forward to wear a smartwatch that is cool without looking geeky, this might be a perfect fit for you. The Motorola Moto 360 harmoniously combines functionality, comfort and elegance.

8. Garmin Vivoactive

Some smartwatches prioritize app functionality while others place a premium on achieving a fashionable look. But for the Garmin Vivoactive, the priority goes to its fitness features. This smartwatch is definitely marketed to smartwatch users who are athletic.

When it comes to its fitness features, it has a built in app for running which includes a heart rate monitor, a pace alert feature and a calorie computation feature. It also has a step counter, a sleep monitoring feature and a move bar feature which alerts you to move after a period of inactivity. Impressively, it also has a golfing feature which calculates yardage for the shots you made. More importantly, it has an accurate GPS system. It really looks tailor-fitted for fitness junkies.

Its battery life is also unbelievably great. It’s longer than Pebble’s 1-week battery life since this smartwatch’s battery can last up to 3 weeks. It only lasts for 10 hours though if you use it with the GPS feature 100% of the time.

All looks well for this smartwatch but there are a few drawbacks:

  • It looks like a mini calculator attached on your wrist because of its square design. Its rubber strap also looks cheap. It’s not so attractive to look at.
  • It’s compatible to Android 4.3+ and iOS 7.0+ users, but there isn’t really that much that you can do with this smartwatch apart from its push notification feature andits rich array of fitness features.Enter your text here...

Overall, you might want to consider buying this smartwatch if you are really deeply committed to your fitness pursuits and if you’re willing to let go of other app features. Otherwise, you should consider other smartwatch units if you’re not into sports.

What We Liked

  • Extensive fitness features
  • 3-week battery life

What We Didn't Like

  • Not fashionable

9. Vallen Sweatproof Smartwatch

It looks like the Sony Smartwatch 3 but you can actually buy it at a lower price. It’s very affordable and it’s probably because it’s an innocuous smartwatch that has basic features. For starters, it has a push notification feature alongside the normal set of features most smartphones have: a calendar, alarm clock, music player, remote camera, calculator, web browser and other common apps.

What I love about this smartwatch is its micro sim card slot. This means you can actually use it as a phone for calling and texting even without the Bluetooth connection with your actual smartphone.

So far, there’s nothing impressive nor anything that’s deplorable about this smartwatch except that most of our testers found that it is useless for iPhone users. If you’re using a smartwatch for simple tasks such as receiving notifications or looking at the calendar, this smartwatch will do the job.

Honestly, there’s nothing to be excited about with the Vallen Sweatproof Smartwatch. But if you’re just trying out the smartwatch experience, you could give this smartwatch a try.

What We Liked

  • Looks a lot like other expensive smartwatches
  • Basic functionality
  • Micro sim card slot

What We Didn't Like

  • Mediocre apps
  • Very limited functionality with iOS

10. Bluetooth Smartwatch

It’s one of the newest releases in the market. It looks a lot like the Vallen Sweat Proof Smartwatch and it’s really hard to differentiate the smartwatches from each other. Like the Vallen Sweatproof, it has a 1.54” square display and an innocuous set of features.

The Bluetooth smartwatch has the basic features of a regular smartwatch: a push notification system, call reminder, Bluetooth, NFC, sedentary reminder, pedometer, calendar and other peripheral features. The “it doesn’t really work well for iOS users” caveat also happens to apply for this smartwatch.

This smartwatch also has its own Sim Card slot so you can use this as a stand-alone phone for calling and texting contacts without actually linking it to your phone. Texting, though, can be a tedious task if you’re doing it on an 1.54” screen.

Like the Vallen Sweatproof, there’s not too much to be excited with this smartwatch apart from its low price. But, if you’re looking for something that can do basic tasks such as calling or receive push notifications, this smartwatch will suffic. It’s a good deal considering the price.

Our Recommendations

Editor’s Pick: ASUS Zenwatch 2

Among all the affordable smartwatches (anything under $150), the Asus Zenwatch 2 appears to be the greatest deal you can get if you’re looking for a smartwatch that balances functionality, style, and durability. Given its price, it’s rare to find something that’s impressively built, considering that it has an IP67 water and dust resistant rating, a Cornilla Gorilla Glass 3 screen and a strong build. It’s pretty close to the specs of your average iPhone. Plus, its charges faster than most smartwatches (60% in 15 minutes) and has a decent battery life that can last up to 48 hours. Its square screen is thin and it pairs up with a leather strap and voila, it looks fashionable enough. Functionality is also not an issue since it works with most apps. It’s a great deal worthy of your consideration.

Runner-ups: The Motorola Moto 360 and the Martian Notifier

It’s a tough choice between Asus Zenwatch 2 and the Motorola Moto 360. Both are strongly built and are highly functional. The Motorola Moto 360 might have a minor glitch when it comes to battery life but its aesthetic quality is really irresistible. The Motorola Moto 360 is pleasing to the eye. However, while both are equally great smartwatches, I have to place a higher rank for the Zenwatch 2 because of their price difference.

Lastly, the Martian Notifier is worthy of recognition for its uniqueness and simplicity. Unlike other smartwatches that try to cram as many apps as it can in its system, the Martian Notifier is unique, since it has only one important feature which qualifies it as a smartwatch: a notification system. For a price under $50, it’s a great catch to have something that looks like a chic, traditional wristwatch that can notify you when an email, a text or a call is coming in. I have so much love for its elegance and simplicity.

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