Top Pick: Apple Watch Series 6 | $320+ | Amazon
Smartwatches are handy devices that not only track fitness activities and metrics, but put a lot of the most common features of a smartphone on your wrist. But it’s easy to overlook one of the simplest features you need: texting. Not every smartwatch handles texting properly, so you should be sure to pick the best one to suit your needs, from messaging to step counting.
Best for iPhone Users: Apple Watch Series 6
Got an iPhone? Great. Get an Apple Watch. While many other smartwatches work with iOS, they don’t have quite the same kind of smooth, seamless functionality because of Apple’s OS limitations. But on top of that, truth be told, the Apple Watch is a more polished and capable all-around device than just about any rival you can think of.
The current Series 6 packs in a GPS, blood oxygen sensor, and other health and fitness perks, plus there’s a version with LTE connectivity so you can text without having your phone near. There’s also the more affordable Apple Watch SE, which cuts a couple premium elements but still can send and receive text messages like a champ.
Best for Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
You might think that the best smartwatch for Android users is one that’s running Google’s Wear OS, but that wearable platform has been oddly under-appreciated by its master. Instead, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 is the best option in the space, even though it runs Samsung’s Tizen OS. Even so, it works very well with Android phones and comes with the full array of health tracking features and more. Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant is used for reading and responding to texts, and while Bixby isn’t the best AI ally around, this is still one of the best non-Apple smartwatches available today.
Best Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Versa 3
The Fitbit Versa 3 is one of the better dedicated fitness trackers that still comes with the ability to send and receive texts. It piggybacks off the notification system in Android so it can reply to messages from any app, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Discord, or Slack. If you want a fitness tracker but don’t want a full-fledged smartwatch, this is a good option for you.
The Best Watch With a Classic Design: Fossil Gen 5
If you’re not a fan of the modern, square design many smartwatches have, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are plenty of smartwatches that have a more classic design, like the Fossil Gen 5. With the right watch band and face, it can almost pass for a traditional watch, right up until you get a text message and speak a reply into your wrist.
Best for Reading Texts Under $100: Amazfit Bip U Pro
It’s really hard to find a good smartwatch for under $100 at all, and one that’s capable of texting is even harder. That’s why the Amazfit Bip U Pro strikes such an awkward middle ground. It can show you notifications, so you don’t have to pull out your phone to read your messages, but it’s not capable of replying (which would require voice transcription). It’s a pretty hard limit to live with, but it also only costs $70, and looks just a little bit like an Apple Watch if you squint hard enough. It’s not the most powerful thing around, but if you need to be able to keep up with your messages and don’t want to spend a ton of money, it’s a workable compromise.
This story was originally published by Eric Ravenscraft on 03/11/2021 and updated by Andrew Hayward with new information on 06/18/2021.