In the past, almost all smartwatches in the market relied heavily on Bluetooth pairing with a smartphone to work but with the continuous advancement in wearable technology, a good number of smartwatches can now work separately without having to rely on smartphones to do anything and everything.
There aren’t actually many standalone smartwatches in the market right now, and most people (especially those who haven’t used a smartwatch before) have issues choosing the right one so I decided to test out most of the top ones in the market and in the article, I will be sharing my top picks on the best standalone smartwatches available right now.
If you’re looking to get a smartwatch that will give the flexibility of leaving your smartphone behind at home while going out or exercising, then this article will help you in choosing the right standalone smartwatch for your budget.
In a hurry? Below is a quick rundown on my top picks.
What Is A Standalone Smartwatch & Why Should You Consider It?
In simple terms, standalone smartwatches are smartwatches that can work without a smartphone. It’s as simple as that.
Standalone smartwatches come with their own cellular and WiFi capabilities and you can make calls, send text messages, stream music, send emails, and basically, almost everything you can do on your smartphone directly on the watch.
So Why Should You Buy A Standalone Smartwatch When You Already Have Your Phone?
Yeah, I know you might be asking questions like “should I even get a standalone smartwatch when I already have my smartphone?”, “Is a standalone smartwatch even worth it?”. Well, these are valid questions and I will try to give some of the advantages of owning one of these standalone smartwatches as an Apple Watch user myself for almost 3 years now.
First, standalone smartwatches unlike other smartwatches can work without having to be connected to your smartphone or any smartphone at all. They offer you the flexibility of using all their features directly on your wrist without having to take your phone along.
Standalone smartwatches unlike other Bluetooth-only smartwatches allows you to stream music, send & reply text messages, make to-do lists, and even make/receive calls directly on your wrist. This is great if you don’t want to have to carry your smartphone along with you all the time especially when working out.
Smartwatches (not necessarily standalone smartwatches) are great fitness companions. They can help you monitor your heart rate, calories burned, sleep rate, and more. All smartwatches on this list come with these features out of the box.
These smartwatches can also stand as an exact replica of your smartphone – meaning you can use the same email address, network carrier, phone number, and more if you link the watch with the same phone number and network carrier you use on your smartphone. Great stuff if you ask me!
7 Best Standalone Smartwatches Of 2021 (LTE + WiFi)
1) Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS + Cellular) – Best Overall
While the new Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS + Cellular) might not be the best budget-friendly smartwatch out there, it is hands-down the best standalone smartwatch you can find in the market right now.
Like the older version of the Apple Watch with cellular connectivity, the Apple Watch Series 6 can also make calls, send text messages, receive notifications, and more directly thanks to the LTE capabilities which ships with the watch.
The Apple Watch Series 6 also has excellent support for music streaming as normal smartphones do. You can stream music directly from Apple Music, Pandora, and just lately, Spotify. If you’re going to be needing to play music all the time without access to your iPhone, then the Apple Watch Series 6 is your best bet.
Also, like the older Series 5 model, the Apple Watch Series 6 is a fitness tracking beast and unarguably the best smartwatch out there for fitness tracking. The watch can continuously monitor your heart rate (via the optical HR sensor), count steps, measure your blood oxygen, measure workouts (like running, yoga, swimming, and more) + the upgraded ECG app and sensor which allows you to seamlessly take ECGs directly on your wrist.
The Apple Watch Series 6 also comes with the fall detection feature which can detect when you have a hard fall and notify emergency services and family members on your behalf. It is also water-resistant up to 50m and runs on Apple’s latest watchOS 5.
On its downsides, first – the Apple Watch Series 6 like most Apple Watch models is not doesn’t really offer long battery life and this is due to the many features which the watch comes with. According to Apple, the Series 6 offers up to 18 hours of battery life before it will need to be recharged again.
The watch also isn’t compatible with non-iOS smartphones so if you’re on the Android ecosystem, you might want to check out other smartwatches on this list.
Overall, the Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS + LTE) is the ideal standalone smartwatch for iPhone users. It comes with all the features expected of a good standalone smartwatch + loads of extra fitness features too.
2) Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (GPS + LTE) – Best For Android
The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 (GPS + LTE) is the closest contender to the Apple Watch Series 6 and the best standalone smartwatch to buy if you use currently an Android smartphone.
Thanks to the LTE connectivity which is available on the new Galaxy Watch 3 (GPS + LTE model), you make/receive calls, send text messages, get notifications, and more directly on the watch just the way it’s done on LTE-enabled Apple Watches. Direct music streaming is also really easy with the Galaxy Watch 3 via Spotify, and you can also upload MP3 files directly to the onboard storage.
The Galaxy Watch 3 is also one of the most stylish smartwatches in the market right now. It comes in a variety of colors and sizes and also features over 50,000+ watch faces you can choose from depending on your personal preferences.
Additionally, like the Apple Watch, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 also features many impressive fitness tracking features. On this watch, you can monitor your heart rate continuously, track steps, track your sleep, take ECGs, track workouts, and more directly on the watch..
On its battery life, the Galaxy Watch 3 offers a pretty decent battery life but it’s not the best watch in the market in terms of battery life. Samsung claims the battery lasts for more than a day on a single charge and I was able to get around 16 – 17 hours of battery life when I tested it with full LTE usage and minimal music playback.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 – although not the best standalone smartwatch right now – is a very impressive standalone smartwatch and the best smartwatch you can get right now as an Android user. It is compatible with both Android & iOS smartphones so that’s a plus too unlike Apple Watches which only work with iPhones.
3) Apple Watch SE (GPS + Cellular) – Best For iPhones
The Apple Watch SE is a cheaper version of the Apple Watch Series 6 which was released just recently and the good thing is that it comes with all the noticeable features available on the Series 6 except the ECG and blood oxygen monitor.
On the Apple Watch SE (Cellular + GPS) you can make/receive calls, send messages, read emails, view notifications, and more directly on the watch just like on the Apple Watch Series 6. Music streaming also works the same way it works on the Series 6 and you can stream music directly from Apple Music, Pandora, and just recently, Spotify directly on your Apple Watch SE.
Like I mentioned earlier, fitness tracking is where you will begin to see noticeable differences between the Apple Watch Series 6 & the SE. Like the Series, the Apple Watch SE comes with most of the popular fitness tracking features like heart rate monitoring (via an optical sensor), step tracking, GPS tracking, workout measurement, and more.
The Apple Watch SE however does not come with the ECG feature and Apple’s new Blood Oxygen monitoring feature so these are the few tradeoffs.
Battery life on the Apple Watch SE is also pretty much the same as what you would get on the Series 6. The average battery life you would be getting on this watch is around 17 – 18 hours and might be slightly less depending on what you use the watch for.
Overall, the Apple Watch SE is Apple’s gift to Apple Watch lovers who are on a budget. There are a few trade-offs though – like the ECG & Blood Oxygen monitoring functionalities – when compared to the Series 6, but if you’re on a budget and you need one of the new generation Apple Watches, you could probably live with these trade-offs.
4) Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (GPS + LTE) – Best Stylish
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a slightly older model in Samsung’s Galaxy line of smartwatches, but it is still a very impressive standalone smartwatch you can get in 2021.
Like other standalone Galaxy smartwatches, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (GPS + LTE) can also be used to do things like making/receiving calls, sending text messages, checking emails, payments (via Samsung Pay), and more. Music streaming is also available via Spotify & Youtube and they both work quite well when I tested.
The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is also a sleek-looking smartwatch and very comfortable to wear, unlike most smartwatches I have personally tested including the newer Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. It is also compatible with both Android & iOS smartphones so compatibility issues are almost non-existent on this watch regardless of which OS you use.
Fitness tracking is also one aspect when most Galaxy Watches don’t fail to deliver and the Galaxy Watch Active 2 is not an exception. With this watch, you can track your heart rate continuously, track sleep, monitor your stress levels, and more. ECG was also enabled with the latest TizenOS update on the watch so you will also be able to take ECG readings just like in most Apple Watch models.
On battery life, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 doesn’t really impress but this is an issue with feature-packed smartwatches like this especially the ones with LTE capabilities. Samsung says you will be getting more than a day of battery life from a single 2-hour charge and I was able to get around 16hrs+ of battery life when using LTE for quite some time during the day.
Overall, I would say the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 (GPS + LTE) is an impressive smartwatch to get most especially if you can’t afford any of the latest Galaxy or Apple Watches. It’s surely not the best smartwatch out there, but it’s well worth the money if you ask me. It is also a good Apple Watch alternative for Android users.
5) Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular) – Best Budget
The Apple Watch Series 3 although an older model in the Apple Watch Series is still one of the best standalone smartwatches to get even in 2021 if you use an iPhone. It was the first Apple Watch to feature support for direct cellular connectivity and it still receives regular (and official) software updates from Apple.
Like other standalone smartwatches on this list, the Apple Watch Series 3 also has the ability to make or receive calls, send messages, read emails, store/stream music, and more. Since it runs on Apple’s watchOS, music streaming apps like Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, and Apple Music are fully supported by default.
The Apple Watch Series 3 doesn’t come with all of the latest fitness tracking features, but it comes with some of the most important ones. Some of these fitness tracking features available on the watch include heart rate monitoring (via an optical sensor), activity tracking via the activity trends app, step tracking, and more. Sleep tracking doesn’t come by default so if you need that, you can get any of the sleep tracking apps on the app store.
Battery life on this watch is pretty decent and I was able to get around 2 days of battery life while testing it out. If you use most of its features all day (most especially the cellular connectivity), the watch will need to be charged every day.
Overall, the Apple Watch Series 3 might be an older model of the Apple Watch but it is a very strong contender when it comes to standalone smartwatches even in 2021. As expected, it doesn’t work with non iOS smartphones so if you’re on Android, take a look at other Android-compatible smartwatches I’ve outlined in the article.
6) TicWatch Pro LTE – Best wearOS
If you’re a fan of wearOS (Android) smartwatches, the TicWatch Pro LTE is probably the only impressive standalone wearOS smartwatch in the market. The watch is Mobvoi’s entry into the world of LTE smartwatches and it’s an interesting watch.
The watch features a premium stylish design with a round display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 anti-fingerprint for additional protection. It runs on Google’s wearOS so you have access to thousands of third-party apps available on the play store + Google Assistant and Google Pay for contactless payments.
Unlike other standalone smartwatches that work with a wide variety of carriers, the TicWatch Pro LTE only works for Verizon phone plan users. With the LTE connectivity available on this watch, you can make calls, send texts, stream music via Spotify, Deezer + more, download apps from the play store, and more directly on the watch without needing your smartphone.
On fitness tracking, the TicWatch Pro LTE like most smartwatches also comes with quite a number of fitness tracking features. On the watch, you can track your heart rate continuously, get notifications when your heart rate is abnormal, track sleep (via the TicSleep app), track steps, and more. There is also an emergency SOS feature that notifies emergency services in your area/country in case of an emergency.
The battery life on this watch is also impressive when compared to most wearOS smartwatches in the market. Mobvoi claims that the watch offers a battery life of around 2 days in normal mode and 18hours (or more/less) when LTE is turned on and used continuously.
Overall, the TicWatch Pro is an impressive LTE-enabled smartwatch offering from Mobvoi and one of the best standalone wearOS smartwatches in the market today if not the best. It is compatible with both Android & iOS smartphones but works super well with Android devices since the watch itself is powered by Android under the hood.
7) Samsung Galaxy Watch
The Samsung Galaxy Watch is also an old model in Samsung’s Galaxy smartwatches, but it’s still a good standalone smartwatch to buy in 2021 if you can’t get an Apple Watch or any of the newer Galaxy smartwatches.
Just like any other standalone smartwatch on this list, the Samsung Galaxy Watch (LTE version) is capable of making/receiving calls, sending texts, contactless payments, notifications, and more. Music streaming via Spotify also works smoothly on this watch and you can also play local music files directly on the watch.
It also comes with some of the most popular fitness tracking available on most smartwatches including heart rate monitoring, automatic workouts tracking, sleep tracking, calorie tracking, and more. The watch also has guided meditation, 39+ workout modes, and GPS tracking capabilities when you go for a run.
On its battery life, the Samsung Galaxy Watch comes with a 270mAh battery which can last up to 2 days or more on a single 2-3hr charge. The battery life may however be reduced to around 16-18hrs if you use LTE and music streaming continuously on the watch.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Watch might not be the latest in the world of smartwatches, but it’s still a very viable option to consider if you’re planning on getting a standalone smartwatch especially for Android users. It features a durable design, LTE, water-resistance up to 60m, and direct music streaming!
Q. Can I use a standalone smartwatch without a data plan?
A. Yes you can but you won’t be able to use all the features which require LTE without a data plan. Your standalone smartwatch would essentially be a normal smartwatch without a data plan.
Q. Will any SIM card work with a smartwatch?
A. Most smartwatches use eSIMs so you don’t actually need to get a new SIM card to get the watch to work. For additional information on this, take a look at this article.
Q. Can standalone smartwatches answer & make calls?
A. Yes, standalone when configured properly can make and receive phone calls just the way your smartphone can.
Q. How far can a standalone smartwatch be from your phone?
A. A standalone smartwatch works on its own without depending on your smartphone so there is no specific distance you need to be from your phone for it to work. You can be near or far away from your smartphone and it will still work.
There you have it – my top 7 picks on the best standalone smartwatches you can find in the market right now. Standalone smartwatches are not as popular as expected and this is because they are often more expensive to produce and purchase when compared to other GPS-only smartwatches in the market.
Apple & Samsung are the leading giants in both the smartphone and smartwatch industry and it is not surprising to see their producers taking a huge part of this list.
As of the time of writing this article, Apple Watches are only compatible with iPhones while other smartwatches on the list are compatible with both Android & iOS devices. If you’re on Android, then make sure to take a look at the impressive standalone watches offered by Samsung & Mobvoi.