Best Smartwatch: Tech Awards 2023 Editor's Choice series
The wearables category has seen a consolidation over the past year. We saw more entry-level and mainstream fitness trackers enter an already over-saturated market, than a continued push into full-fledged smartwatches. The last truly new entry into the smartwatch space was the Huawei Watch 3 series back in 2021, which introduced Harmony OS and App Gallery onto our wrists. Since the Watch 3, Huawei has scaled back, content at releasing the 'Lite' variants of Watch GT 3 throughout 2022.
It's much easier to make really good smart fitness trackers than a really good smartwatch. And the crux is that you need an app ecosystem that people actually want to use. And this strength has been the mainstay of the Apple Watch. Even Samsung, after years of faffing around with Tizen, only became a serious contender after adopting WearOS. This was a move that killed two birds with one stone, creating the ultimate Android smartwatch and giving WearOS the polish it desperately needed.
- Apple Watch Series 8
- Apple Watch Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy Watch5 series
Apple and Samsung were the only true contenders last year for the reasons described above. And if you're wondering why we split the Watch Series 8 and Ultra into two separate entries while the Galaxy Watch5 is combined is because the two Apple Watches are clearly designed for different segments, with the Ultra being a brand new product, while the Galaxy Watch5 and Watch5 Pro are essentially the same devices with different case and battery life.
Last year, Samsung took the win in this category by basically being the most improved product of the year. The Galaxy Watch4 Series was practically a complete upgrade and overhaul of hardware and software. It felt like a completely new experience, and in essence, that's precisely how we feel about this year's winner as well.
And the winner is...
Apple regains the crown from Samsung with the Apple Watch Ultra, finally breaking the mould of the Apple Watch after eight generations and creating a brand new, exciting addition to the Apple Watch family of devices. The Ultra is the first Watch since 2015 to have a new design, yet still iconic and recognisable. At 49mm, the Ultra is the largest Apple Watch made, but it feels luxurious and never too bulky or awkward looking. It is brighter, tougher, and has more sensors tailor-made for an active lifestyle.
The Ultra isn't just a fitness smartwatch for use in the gym or your neighbourhood HIIT training session; it is made for the rugged outdoors, trail hikers, marathoners, and even recreational divers. In fact, some of these features have been enabled over WatchOS updates (and companion apps) since launch, making it even more versatile beyond just the marketing spiel and as such, we've revised its features score upwards to better align how well the Apple Watch Ultra fares in the realm of a really capable, top-tier smartwatch segment for the masses.
I'll be honest with you, if it wasn't for the Apple Watch Ultra, we would be having a really hard time with this category because both the vanilla Apple Watch Series 8 and Samsung Galaxy Watch5 series do not have enough upgrades from last year's models to make them stand out as a generational improvement.
The Apple Watch Series 8 is essentially the Series 7 with a new temperature sensor, which is used for advanced female health tracking, plus other general WatchOS feature improvements.
Similarly, the Galaxy Watch5 Series is essentially the Galaxy Watch4 Series with a bigger battery and updated One UI. The Watch5 Pro does have a new body design and updated materials like sapphire crystal and titanium casing, but does not actually have any new or improved functions like the Apple Watch Ultra. Also, it loses the physical rotating bezel, which in my opinion is a loss for Samsung. To make matters worse, the Watch5 Series also features a new temperature sensor, but even at this time of writing, does not seem to be enabled yet, more than six months after its release.
|Apple Watch Series 8||8.5||8.5||9.5||8.0||8.5||From S$599|
|Apple Watch Ultra||9.0||8.5||9.5
(adjusted from 8.0)
|Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro||8.0||8.0||8.0||8.0||8.0||From S$655|
For more details on how we rated our nominees and to find out our usage experience of each device, check out the full reviews and articles listed in the References section below.
Meanwhile, check out our other Tech Awards 2023 Editor's Choice winners from the team behind HardwareZone and HWM.
- Apple Watch Series 8 review
- Apple Watch Ultra review
- Samsung Galaxy Watch5 Pro (coming soon)