The best smartwatches, fitness trackers and wearables to gift

·Reviews Editor
·8 min read

What better way to show someone you love them than getting them a gadget that they can wear on their person all day? Okay, maybe there are plenty of better ways, but a wearable can not only convey how much you care, but it can also help the user take better care of themselves.

Our list of the best wearables includes not only obvious things like smartwatches and fitness trackers, but also a touch-sensitive backpack that will let the hiker on your list keep their hands free while trekking through the mountains. Though the typical price here of about $200 to $300 might be steep for some, it might be a good range for those looking for something that a few friends can all chip in on. But we’ve also included budget-friendlier options if you prefer.

Apple Watch SE

Apple Watch SE for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Apple Watch SE for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

A smartwatch is a great gift for anyone that’s trying to stay on top of their busy schedules, keep tabs on their health or remain connected without having to look at their phone every 30 seconds. The Apple Watch SE is a solid choice for any first timer — it has all of the core features of the more-premium Series 7, but costs significantly less. Your loved one will be able to use it to track their workouts and sleep while getting their iPhone alerts and messages on their wrist. The watch will also detect if they’ve fallen and alert the user’s emergency contacts, not to mention warn the wearer of any heart rate irregularities. Of course, no smartwatch is meant to replace a consultation with a doctor, so think of it more as a way to get some data than as a tool for diagnosis.

If you believe your friend could benefit from a bigger screen, longer battery life, ECG readings and an always-on display, the $400 Series 7 is a better choice. But you’ll have to decide if those main differences are worth the premium.

Buy Apple Watch SE at Amazon - $279 Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $399

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Samsung Watch 4 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Samsung Watch 4 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch around. Unfortunately it won’t work with Android phones. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for those over in Google-land, and the best of them is the Galaxy Watch 4. It runs the new Wear OS co-engineered by Samsung and Google, marrying an intuitive side-scrolling interface and great health-tracking with a plentiful third-party app library. That means your friend can reply to your texts from their wrist, get updates on their cab rides or takeout orders, track their calorie intake or log workouts through their favorite apps. Those who are into their physical and muscular composition will also appreciate the Watch 4’s body fat-scanning tool.

If the person you’re shopping for prefers a more classic-looking timepiece and doesn’t mind a chunkier device, they might enjoy the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. It features a spinning bezel that lets the user whiz through widgets quickly and easily, and the etchings on the frame lend a traditional look to the smartwatch.

Buy Galaxy Watch 4 at Samsung - $250 Buy Galaxy Watch 4 Classic at Samsung - $350

Fitbit Charge 5

Fitbit Charge 5 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Fitbit Charge 5 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Those looking for something with a lower profile will prefer a Fitbit band. Despite its relatively small size, the Fitbit Charge 5 packs a ton of hardware including a heart rate monitor, onboard GPS and an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor. Altogether, it can help your loved one track their pulse, fitness and even stress levels. Fitbit also has one of the more insightful sleep-logging tools around, using cardio readings to determine if they’ve entered deep, REM or light sleep zones.

The company also made its touchscreen full-color on the Charge 5, which is a vast improvement over the last model’s greyscale version. This does diminish battery life, but the Charge 5 still manages to last up to seven days (though, that drops to two with the display set to Always On).

Buy Charge 5 at Amazon - $180

Fossil Gen 6

Fossil Gen 6 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Fossil Gen 6 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

For the Android smartwatch user who wants a little more fashion cred on their wrist, the Fossil Gen 6 is a worthy option. These are the company’s first to run the new Wear OS, but with some custom watch faces and tweaks for health-tracking. They have bright, crisp 1.28-inch AMOLED screens and offer continuous heart-rate monitoring, as well as a blood oxygen sensor.

Battery life has always been a big shortcoming of smartwatches, and Fossil is attempting to make up for that by offering fast charging on the Gen 6. It promises you can get up to 80 percent in 30 minutes, so your giftee doesn’t have to spend too long waiting around for their watch to power back up. And since this is a Fossil wearable, there are plenty of attractive strap and case options that will suit your loved one’s tastes.

Buy Gen 6 smartwatch at Fossil - $299

Amazon Echo Frames

Amazon Echo Frames for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Amazon Echo Frames for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Not all wearables are watches: there’s been a recent surge in speaker-glasses hybrid devices. The Amazon Echo Frames are the most comfortable, though. Like the Bose Frames and Razer’s Anzu, they offer open-ear style speakers built into the arms of the eyewear so that the wearer can hear what’s playing on their computer or phone without blocking out the rest of the world. Amazon’s version also offers easy access to Alexa, so the user can get hands-free help with setting timers or turning on their smart lights.

The Echo Frames can be fitted with prescription lenses and come in an inoffensive style that should fit most faces (there’s only one size available). Those who don’t need glasses can also opt for blue-light filtering lenses or shades instead. If you know someone who wants to listen to music or their favorite YouTube livestream at work, while still being able to hear when their boss calls them into the office, the Echo Frames are a good option.

Buy Echo Frames at Amazon - $250

Withings Steel HR

Withings Steel HR for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Withings Steel HR for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Some diehard watch aficionados don’t like the idea of a black mirror staring up at them when smartwatch batteries die, but still want a timepiece that can track basic health metrics. For these folks, the Withings Steel HR is an attractive, well-rounded product. It has a traditional analog watch face with a tiny round black-and-white screen that shows step counts and small status indicators. A sub-dial displays progress towards the wearer’s daily move goal, and runners can link the watch to their phone’s GPS to map their routes.

The device’s onboard heart rate and blood oxygen sensors help the user gauge their cardio performance, and swimmers or divers will appreciate the water resistance of up to 50 meters. Best of all, since this doesn’t have a large, battery-draining screen, it can last up to 25 days on a charge.

Buy Steel HR at Withings - $180

Garmin Forerunner 55

Garmin Forerunner 55 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Garmin Forerunner 55 for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

The hardcore runner or marathoner in your life will most likely have heard of Garmin. The company is known for its GPS and heart rate monitors, and athletes swear by their running watches. The Forerunner 55 is a great device for those looking for something that excels at sports-tracking with long-lasting battery. It’ll last up to two weeks, while monitoring the user’s respiration, heart rate, step count and more. The wearer can also get basic notifications, music playback controls and apps on the watch.

But it’s Garmin’s robust sports features that will win your giftee over. These include comprehensive run coaching with cadence alerts, pace suggestions, estimated finish time and recovery guides. The Forerunner 55 also tracks stress and menstrual cycles and offers emergency contact tools when the wearer feels unsafe.

Buy Forerunner 55 at Amazon - $199

Samsonite x Google Konnect-i backpack

Samsonite Konnect-i Slim Backpack for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Samsonite Konnect-i Slim Backpack for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.

Who knew a backpack could be smart? The Samsonite Konnect-i bag features touch-sensitive fibers woven into its strap to enable Google’s Jacquard technology. This lets the wearer tap and swipe on the surface to do things like answer phone calls, play or pause music and more by connecting to their phone. For those who need to pay attention to their commute instead of fumbling around with a phone when they’re on the go, the Konnect-i backpack can keep their hands free and eyes alert. If you have the money to spare and want to give your friend a serious style upgrade, Google also teamed up with Saint Lauren on a $1,150 branded version.

Buy Konnect-i backpack at Samsonite - $199

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