Are Smartwatches Worth It In 2021? (An In-depth Look)

Smartwatches are pretty much one of the most popular (and leading) devices when it comes to wearable technology with over 20 Million+ units sold in the United States alone since its launch some years ago.

While many people see the average smartwatch or fitness tracker as an average fancy device for gadget freaks and simply a waste of money, others who know the real importance of these smart devices have now incorporated them in their daily activities and are enjoying their full benefits.

That leaves us with questions like “are smartwatches really worth it?” “what are the advantages and disadvantages of an average smartwatch?”

If you’re looking to purchase a smartwatch for yourself or as a gift to someone or maybe you’re simply searching for answers to the kind of questions listed earlier, then youre reading the right article as i will be discussing all about that here.

Before going into the specifics of smartwatches and whether they are worth it or not, there’s a popular confusion surrounding what makes a smartwatch different from a fitness tracker so i will be discussing that first.

Smartwatches & Fitness Trackers, What’s The Difference?

Many people believe fitness trackers and smartwatches are the same but they’re not. This is a popular misconception amongst many who are new to wearables in general. 

In simple terms, the major difference between a smartwatch and a fitness tracker is that a fitness tracker (as the name implies) is a wearable piece of tech which is meant for tracking fitness while a smartwatch is a more complex wearable device capable of tracking fitness and can perform other actions like taking calls, reading notifications and app alerts, reading emails and many more directly on your wrist.

A smartwatch is generally a more feature-packed device than a fitness tracker which essentially does only fitness tracking. Fitness trackers are also often less expensive when compared to smartwatches. 

Now that you know the major differences between a fitness tracker and a normal smartwatch, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of smartwatches.

Pros/Advantages

Below are some of the advantages of owning a smartwatch.

1) Health Benefits

Health tracking is one of the major reasons why people opt for wearable devices. Smartwatches often come with many health tracking capabilities like we see on many fitness trackers and other wearable devices. 

Some health related benefits which you can get from smartwatches are heart rate tracking, sleep tracking, step tracking, fall detection, calories measurement and many more. Some of these features are discussed below. 

Heart Rate Tracking

Most modern smartwatches come with heart rate tracking sensors and apps which do a great job in tracking the rate of your heartbeat and alerting you when it’s abnormal.

Knowing your heart rate and ensuring that it’s on the right side helps in so many ways and these smartwatches makes it easier for you by tracking your heart rate at all times right on your wrist. Most smartwatches these days also come with inbuilt artificial intelligence platforms capable of accurately detecting an abnormality in your heart rate and this is a feature you can’t find on normal watches.

Some modern smartwatches like the latest Apple and Samsung Galaxy smartwatches now feature an ECG sensor over the older optical sensor for more accurate heart rate monitoring. I recently shared an article on the best ECG smartwatches so if your interested in smartwatches with that technology, make sure to check the article out.

Step Tracking (Pedometer)

Tracking steps is also almost impossible on a normal wristwatch, but with a smartwatch, tracking your steps can be done easily and you can even set daily step goals. This is exceptionally useful for people who want to keep fit at all times.

Sleep Tracking

Sleep tracking is also another unique feature that you can find in most smartwatches and fitness trackers. Modern smartwatches come with sensors that could almost accurately detect when you fall asleep and when you wake up and log the data.

The data gotten when tracking your sleep is then used to give you a score on how much sleep you’ve gotten and recommendations based on those values.   

Blood Pressure Measurement

Most people often overlook measuring their blood pressures and this could be bad at times but with a smartwatch which has blood pressure measurement capabilities, you can get your blood pressure measured easily from your wrist without even having to see the doctor of purchase blood pressure measurement devices.

Smartwatches with blood pressure monitors will often notify automatically when it detects an abnormal increase or fall in your blood pressure.

Fall Detection & Automatic Emergency Calls

Newer watches like the Apple Watch 4&5 are capable of detecting when you fall and if you’re unresponsive after falling, the watch could go a little bit further by placing emergency calls or notifying your emergency contacts. This feature is exceptionally useful for seniors or people with physical conditions who may be victims of a fall.

2) Notifications & App Alerts On The Go

If you’re like me who doesn’t like to check my phone all the time for notifications and alerts, then getting a smartwatch could be great for you. 

Seeing all your social media notifications, email notifications, calls and app alerts on your wrist is great stuff and although I’ve personally come across people who don’t like or use this feature on their smartwatches, I think it’s very nice. It could be of help when driving, exercising or doing other physical activities and you want to take a peep at your notifications and alerts without having to reach out to your smartphone all the time.

Some smartwatches allow you to reply messages and emails directly on your wrist after viewing them while others only allow you to view them and/or mark as read. In all, i think this is a good reason to get a smartwatch but then again, it doesn’t apply to everyone.

3) Reply Texts & Calls

Standalone smartwatches with SIM card and LTE capabilities often allow you to reply (and send) text messages, make/receive calls and even respond to messages from top social media platforms like Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and others.

This feature is exceptionally useful if you’re in a situation where you can’t use your smartphone (like in your workplace) and you really need to make calls or reply to messages.

4) Music & Entertainment On Your Wrist

Unlike fitness trackers, most smartwatches come with media playback capabilities which means that you can either play music directly from your smartwatch or use it as a form of remote in controlling the music playback on your phone.

This feature comes handy when you don’t want to carry your smartphone along but need to play music continuously. Most standalone smartwatches with LTE services allow you to stream music from music streaming platforms like Spotify & Deezer and sometimes, from the watch’s inbuilt storage.

5) Contactless Payments From Your Wrist

Image via Wareable

Many smartwatches now come with payment platforms like Google Pay, Apple Pay e.t.c and these payment channels or platforms allow you to make payments for anything at offline stores directly on your wrists without needing any credit or debit cards. As cool as that sounds, it’s real. Yeah.

Making payments on your Google Pay or Apple Pay enabled smartwatch is very easy. To do that, all you have to do is to add a supported card to your payment account on Google or Apple Pay (these are the 2 most popular ones) and when at the store, you will have to hold your smartwatch over the contactless payment reader until you hear a sound or feel vibration from your watch. You’ll also be asked for a PIN when making a debit transaction.

So if you forgot your card at home, you can still make payments directly from your smartwatch easily at supported stores in your locality.

To learn more about how this feature works, refer to this guide for Apple Pay and this guide for Google Pay. Also, note that these payment services don’t work with all smartwatches so be sure to get a smartwatch with either Google or Apple Pay when choosing your smartwatch.

Other contactless payments platforms for smartwatches include Garmin Pay (for Garmin smartwatches), Fitbit Pay (for Fitbit smartwatches) and Samsung Pay.

6) Fashionable & Customizable

Smartwatches are very fashionable when compared to normal watches. You can wear them anywhere, just name it. Schools, workplaces, dinner dates, important meetings and so on. 

They are also highly customizable as you can choose your preferred watch face from a huge list of watch faces which mostly come preinstalled on many smartwatches we have these days.

On Android Wear OS smartwatches, for example, you can download a watch face you like on the internet and install on your watch easily. You can even change the background, delete watch faces you dislike amongst other things.

7) Great Companion When You’re Not Allowed To Use Your Smartphone

In my workplace, using my smartphone during work hours is prohibited so my smartwatch is able to do all I will be needing during that time from taking calls to replying and sending texts, reading emails and many other things. Sure worth it for me.

8) Other Benefits

Some other benefits of owning a smartwatch which have not been mentioned earlier are listed below.

Alarms & Other Remainders

Most smartwatches come with special apps that let you set alarms and/reminders for specific events. Although most smartphones have apps that perform tasks like these, smartwatches just seem to do the job better (at least in my case).

Intelligent Voice Assistants

We all know how useful voice assistants can be from controlling your smart home equipment to setting reminders, reading notifications & emails, finding information online amongst others. Luckily, many smartwatches now come with voice assistants like Google Assistant, Bixbay, Siri (Assistant for Apple Watches), Alexa and many others.

Weather Checking

Many smartwatches have pre-installed weather apps that allow you to check the current (and future) conditions of the weather in your area. This feature is pretty handy in times when you can’t reach your smartphone but need to check the weather.

In a situation where apps that perform these tasks don’t come preinstalled, you can get them in the respective app stores of your device.

Offline Maps

Modern smartwatches now come with offline maps pre-installede and although most people claim they don’t use this, it could come handy when you’re travelling or doing activities like hiking, driving, walking, cycling e.t.c.

Find My Phone

The “Find My Phone” feature on many smartwatches is one of the most important features you can find on smartwatches and fitness trackers. It is basically a feature that can help you find your smartphone if you can’t remember where you left it or if it was misplaced/stolen. Great stuff is you ask me!

Cons/Disadvantages

1) Expensive

Smartwatches are seen as expensive by many but for the value you’re getting when purchasing one, i wouldn’t really tag it as expensive.

There are cheaper smartwatches however and you can get them for just under $50 while you can get mid-range one for less than $100. The high-end expensive smartwatches like the Apple Watch Series can cost anywhere between $300 – $700 (or more) depending on the specifications and build you choose.

Like in smartphones and other tech, there are cheap smartwatches and there are also expensive ones so this isn’t really much of a disadvantage if you ask me, 

2) Limited Battery Life

Feature packed smartwatches tend to have lower battery life and this is one of the major problems many people complain about. To be on the safer side, it’s advisable to get a smartwatch that is advertised with at least 7 days of battery life so you’re sure that the battery life you’re getting is able to power up your watch for at least 3-4 days before needing to recharge.

Most smartwatch brands like Garmin, Fitbit, Amazfit, Apple and many others have been working to solve this problem so newer smartwatches tend to have longer battery life. I have also compiled a list on the best smartwatches with longer battery life so make sure to take a look at those recommended watches if you’re searching for smartwatches that will give you value for your buck in terms of battery life.

3) Smaller Screen Size

Another thing most people don’t like about smartwatches is the small screen size but then again, they’re just wristwatches. Bigger screen size will be a nightmare for people with smaller wrists like me.

So if you really care about screen size and most especially if you have big fingers, make sure you check the screen size of any smartwatch you’re going for and know if it’s going to be a great fit for you.

Two smartwatches I personally recommend that have bigger displays are the Apple Watch Series 4&5 and the Samsung Galaxy Watch so if you care about screen size, make sure to check out those watches.

4) Will Almost Never Replace A Smartphone

Smartwatches are getting better every day in terms of performance, connectivity, features and many others but they’ll almost never replace our smartphones at least in my opinion so if you’re planning to get a smartwatch to replace your smartphone and expect it to do everything your smartphone does, then it’s not a good idea.

The small size of smartwatches affects many things like the screen size, battery size, typing speed and overall experience when compared to a smartphone and unless smartwatch manufacturers find a way to fit an entire smartphone on our wrist, smartwatches aren’t replacing our smartphones soon.

5) They Do Get Outdated

Like in other tech gadgets like smartphones, gaming consoles and laptops, smartwatches can get outdated and you will most likely want to upgrade to the latest trend in a few years so before picking up any smartwatch online or offline, make sure you get something that’s at worst released the year before so you can keep up with the trend in the coming years if you care.

Smartwatches are not like traditional watches you can wear for many many years but most brands offer updates for their software from time to time so you won’t be missing any new software features even if you’re using an older model.

So Are Smartwatches A Waste Of Money?

In my opinion, NO, smartwatches are not a waste of money. 

Smartwatches don’t only tell the time like normal watches but they help in tracking fitness, measuring your heart rates & blood pressure, general health monitoring, getting easy access to your notifications, calls, messages and a bunch of other useful features.  

When comparing the advantages of smartwatches with their disadvantages as mentioned in this article, the advantages greatly surpass the disadvantages showing that these devices are very well worth it even in 2021.

If you’re someone who is really conscious about your health and fitness, then getting a smartwatch can be of huge importance and i personally recommend you get one.

Over To You..

It’s now over to you. What do you think about smartwatches in 2021? Are they worth it in your opinion? Would you recommend a smartwatch to someone? Let me know in the comments down below.

You can also check out this thread on Reddit where people who have used (or are still using) smartwatches share their opinions on whether smartwatches are worth it or not. This will help you find out what people really think about smartwatches in general.

Don’t also forget to check out my older articles on this website where I share reviews on the best smartwatches for various purposes as this could help you make an informed decision if you decide to get a smartwatch.

John is a computer science graduate, programmer and wearable tech enthusiast. I love to write about gadgets, smartwatches and fitness trackers. I also use an Apple Watch ;-)