The Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 remains the only watch that runs Wear OS 3, more than a year after Google and Samsung co-announced the new watch OS in spring 2021. In theory, other watches on this list will receive it soon, and the Pixel Watch obviously will this fall. But right at this moment, it’s the only watch that isn’t stuck in the past, waiting for that crucial update.
In our Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 review, we praised the performance, design, health features, and battery life, but had a complicated view of the Wear OS integration. On the one hand, it gave the Galaxy Watch series some excellent tools, starting with Google Maps, Messages, and Google Pay access. You also get new tools like Tile widgets for quick information access, cool custom watch faces, and a customizable launcher. On the other hand, we noted that it isn’t a “massive reinvention” and often sticks closely to Samsung’s old Tizen OS; and a couple of health tools like ECG measurements are restricted to Samsung phones. So if you want a “stock” Wear OS 3 experience, you’ll have to wait for a non-Samsung watch.
Still, we’ve picked the Galaxy Watch 4 as the best Wear OS watch because, well, it’s the best. Samsung’s Exynos W920 SoC, combined with 1.5GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, gives it excellent performance. Its 3-in-1 BioActive sensor measures optical heart rate, electrical heart (ECG), blood pressure, and Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (BIA) for a holistic look at your health, including body water and fat percentage, skeletal muscle mass, basal metabolic rate, and more.
Its lightweight design, reliable battery life, IP68 / MIL-STD-810G protection, and future-proofed software ensure it’s not just the best for Wear OS; it’s the best Android smartwatch, period. Especially now that it finally added Google Assistant almost a full year after launch, so you don’t have to rely on Bixby.
The Mobvoi TicWatch E3 runs on the Snapdragon Wear 4100 chipset, which ensures it’s eligible for the Wear OS 3 upgrade sometime in the “mid to second half of 2022.” Generally speaking, if you see an affordable Wear OS watch running the Wear 3100, it’s not due to receive Wear OS 3, and may not get the best software support once developers fully move on. With the TicWatch E3, you’re getting the promise of support and longevity on a value-priced model.
Our TicWatch E3 review lays out all the simple perks of this model. For starters, you get a large and bright 1.3″ HD display. It is encompassed by a rather large and bulky bezel that you’ll either love or hate, depending on your preferences. Fortunately, the watch is compatible with 20mm interchangeable bands, so swapping it out for a new one is never an issue. It offers IP68 water resistance and is suitable for pool swimming.
Thanks to the Wear 4100 chip and 1GB of RAM, we found “little to no delay in opening apps or loading up the Play Store on the watch,” while the battery life lasts 1.5 days even with 24-hour HRM and SpO2 tracking, AOD, and sleep tracking. Or you can use Essential mode, which uses tilt-to-wake and still tracks heart rate and sleep, and extend your battery life to a full 20 days per charge (in our tests).
You get more than your share of features on the health and fitness side of things. The Mobvoi TicWatch E3 offers onboard GPS, activity tracking, heart-rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and more. There are a few extra perks, including Google Assistant and Google Pay. These are all fantastic perks, but the short battery life is a drawback. This is not unheard of for Wear OS watches, though. If you can live with that and the chunky bezel, this is an incredible value that’s hard to beat.
We could have easily included the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Classic with the standard version as the co-winner for best Wear OS watch. Comparing the two models, the Galaxy Watch 4 is much lighter, more affordable, and better for petite wrists, making it our recommended pick. But the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic is “better” in that the rotating bezel makes navigation so much easier than with the base model’s capacitive touch bezel. It also has a more classic smartwatch look, where the cheaper version is more of a Galaxy Watch 4 Active without the branding.
Both models support an optional LTE upgrade, but the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic LTE is the fully enhanced model if price is no object. With it, you can make calls, stream music or videos, or receive your Android phone notifications while leaving your actual phone at home. Some people have had issues with LTE overheating, but it seems to vary depending on your carrier, as others haven’t had this issue. It’s a handy setting if it works, but you may want to keep your receipt just in case.
There are a few other Wear OS watches with LTE upgrades: The Fossil Gen 5 LTE, TicWatch Pro 4G, and TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra LTE, for example. But the first two run on Wear 3100 and have outdated performance by now, while the latter is hard to find, and frankly doesn’t match the Galaxy Watch 4 series for daily use.
Skagen has a knack for delivering stylish wearables, and the Scandanavian-inspired Falster Gen 6 design is no exception. It comes in a sleek 41mm stainless steel case and works with 20mm bands. The 1.28-inch AMOLED display is accompanied by two push buttons on the side and a rotating home button. Thankfully, the updated Snapdragon Wear 4100+ processor doesn’t just offer smooth performance; it ensures the Skagen Falster Gen 6 will upgrade to Wear OS 3 sometime in mid-to-late 2022.
Our Skagen Falster Gen 6 review broke down the many perks that come with this Fossil spin-off. We like the Fossil Wellness app that showcases data from automatic sleep tracking and the new SpO2 sensor, with the results broken down into daily, weekly, and monthly stats. Thanks to the processor, we found it has “smooth navigation and relatively quick app startups,” even with the older Wear OS 2.3. And the watch can go from zero to 80% charged in about 30 minutes, which compensates somewhat for the strict one-day battery life.
This smartwatch comes with both a microphone and a speaker, which means using Google Assistant is more enjoyable, and you can take Bluetooth calls on your wrist.
While the Skagen Falster Gen 6 is nearly identical to the Fossil Gen 6 in every way, the design is where the two differ. Some users want a subtle yet stylish design, which Skagen is all about. When you’re headed to the office after an intense workout at the gym, you’ll be glad to know your watch is made for both occasions. We’d love to see an improvement in battery life, but fast charging helps soften the blow.
The name TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS should clue you in that Mobvoi designed it as a premium smartwatch, with all the bells and whistles. It lasts a full three days in smartwatch mode — including HRM, SpO2, GPS, and sleep tracking — or 45 days in Essential mode, about double that of the TicWatch E3. And the Wear 4100 coupled with 8GB of RAM gives you reliable performance, along with the promise of Wear OS 3 at some point.
You might wonder why it isn’t the 4100+, but as we explained in our TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS review, Mobvoi actually paired the 4100 with an in-house co-processor that, like the Plus, handles less power-intensive tasks to preserve battery life. In fact, this co-processor clocks at a higher speed than the Snapdragon (2.0GHz vs. 1.7GHz) and works with a newer Bluetooth standard (5.0 vs. 4.2). So you’re definitely getting the best available until the Wear 5100 arrives.
The TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra GPS doesn’t make too many changes over the standard TicWatch Pro 3, but Mobvoi redesigned the casing to make the display flush with the stylish two-tone bezel, and added a MIL-STD-810G rating and built-in GPS, making it equipped to handle your intense workouts and rugged adventures. But both models offer a new customizable backlight feature, with 18 different vibrant color options.
Another improvement is the launch of new software features for the TicHealth suite. The Pro 3 Ultra GPS assesses your fatigue via heart rate variability (HRV), the same metric used by fitness brands like Garmin and Fitbit. If you’re a frequent health and fitness tracking user on your smartwatch, you’ll appreciate this upgrade.
If you’re a fitness buff, you’re probably looking for more features than a typical Wear OS watch provides. Not to worry: the Suunto 7 fits the bill. It comes in a large, durable case, but it’s also packed with fitness features that will likely meet all of your tracking needs. It might not be as popular or well-known as some of the other options on this list, but our Suunto 7 hands-on impressed us with the amount of fitness tools on display, in addition to classic Wear OS tools like Google Assistant.
Not only do you get built-in GPS, NFC, altimeter, and compass with full-color accurate mapping software, but you also have access to more than 70 sports modes. We should also mention that with the apps available from Suunto, you can view helpful metrics that go into further detail than what’s available on Google Fit, such as training load, training recovery, and much more. This watch is 5 ATM water-resistant.
These features are undeniably great, especially if you’re a hardcore fitness buff. However, make sure that you’re content with only two days of battery life in smartwatch mode. At 70g, it’s nearly twice the weight of most fitness smartwatches, in exchange for more advanced software and apps than you’d typically get. And unlike the other picks on this list, the Suunto 7 won’t receive Wear OS 3 because it used the Wear 3100 chip.
Perhaps you’re interested in finding a wearable that blends stunning design elements with a solid set of smartwatch perks. If so, the Fossil Gen 6 may be what you’re searching for. This latest release from Fossil offers improved performance, fast charging speeds, accurate health tracking, and more. Keep in mind that this smartwatch is one of the lucky Wear OS devices that will upgrade to the new platform later this year. Gamers may want to consider the limited-edition Razer X Fossil Gen 6 variant, which offers all the same features plus exclusive Razer watch faces.
One of the most notable improvements to the Fossil Gen 6 is that it’s equipped with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 4100+ chipset, so performance is smooth and seamless. Additionally, the 1.7GHz co-processor allows this watch to use always-on health metrics without negatively affecting performance or draining the battery life. You’ll get more detailed heart rate readings, more precise sleep tracking, and better health statistics all around.
While the Fossil Gen 6 is an excellent lifestyle smartwatch, there’s one thorn in this wearable’s side that has yet to go away. If you’re familiar with Wear OS watches, battery life has always been an issue. The Fossil Gen 6 is estimated to last around 24 hours on a single charge. While smart battery modes can help a bit, there’s nothing groundbreaking. Fortunately, Fossil offers ultra-fast charging on the new Gen 6 models. Users can charge their watch up to 80% after only 30 minutes on the charger.
Choosing the best Wear OS watch for you
As you can see, Wear OS covers quite a bit of ground in the wearable market. While it might be slightly different from the Wear OS experience you’re used to, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 (or Galaxy Watch 4 Classic) is the best option for most people. Whether you opt for a physical bezel or a digital one, or whether or not you add LTE connectivity, you’re still getting the latest Wear OS features and apps from Google. Add in Samsung’s distinct Tizen spin, and a bevy of health tools for an in-depth look at your body composition, and no other Wear OS watch can match it.
Still, if the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 isn’t quite what you’re looking for, you’ll have several other options that should update to Wear OS 3 within the next few months. If you can wait that long, you’ll have more options if you’re looking for different features or don’t own a Samsung phone. Whether you’re a serious athlete, a budget shopper, or someone who wants to stay connected with LTE, you’ll be able to find the best Wear OS watch for your needs.