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Best hybrid and fashion smartwatches: new WearOS models on test

New models from Withings, Huawei, Fossil and Misfit have all been through our test labs - find out if style is matched by substance

If you want to stay connected, but you’re after something a bit sleeker and more subtle than a traditional smartwatch, you’re in luck – 2019 has already ushered in a number of models that are seriously turning on the style. 

Why choose between a ‘real’ watch and a smartwatch when you can have both? There’s more choice than ever this year, including devices that look like the traditional watches you might buy in a jewellery shop, and slim watches for women or men with smaller wrists.

Read on for new models that marry smart functionality with style. 

Just want to know which smartwatches score most highly in our tests? Head straight to our list of Best Buy smartwatches.

New Wear OS smartwatches

These new smartwatches run Google’s Wear OS, which offers a unique blend of watch faces, apps and features.

They’re compatible with both iOS and Android, but Android users will find they get more out of them. Features such as initiating phone calls, sending pre-set messages when rejecting calls, replying to social media notifications, browsing through music and using Google Assistant may be limited for iOS users.

Misfit Vapor 2, £215

A smartwatch from fashion brand Misfit – a subsidiary of Fossil, and a big improvement designwise on the bulky and cumbersome Misfit Vapor (£180).

You have a choice of two case sizes (41mm and 46mm) and various colour combinations for the bezel and band, from neutral black (pictured) to jazzy indigo and rose tone. We rather liked the faux-leather silicone band our watch came with, but it’s easy to detach if you get bored of it.

It has a colour touchscreen, Bluetooth, wi-fi, Google Assistant, Find my phone, messaging, calendar and social media notifications, 4GB for music storage, NFC for contactless payments (check your bank is compatible) and the option to download numerous third-party apps.

Fitness features include a heart-rate sensor, standalone GPS and water-resistance for shallow water swimming. You can access more than 100 activity tracking modes through the pre-installed Google Fit Workout app – though you’ll get fairly basic data from them. 

Head to our full Misfit Vapor 2 review to find out how it fared in our tests.

Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro, £215

This is the first premium smartwatch from Mobvoi, and it gets a serious boost in style. A range of strap options include orange or black silicone, brown leather or combined leather and silicone.

Unusually, the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro has two screens, although you’ll only see one at a time.  The bottom one is an OLED colour touchscreen, displaying time with hours and minutes. The top one is a transparent LCD display, which gets used when the watch needs to conserve battery.

You can choose to have the time displayed permanently as if it were a regular watch (although be aware that this will drain the battery faster). Otherwise you have to tilt your wrist or tap the watch to wake it up like you would with some other smartwatches.  

Smart features include texts, emails, call notifications, calendar and social media updates, Google Assistant and NFC for contactless payments. You can also download third-party apps onto the watch, though you can’t make or receive phone calls. 

For fitness, it has built-in GPS and heart-rate monitoring, but no waterproofing – don’t take this one in the pool with you.

Find out how the Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro compares with the cheaper Mobvoi Ticwatch E (£150) and whether the double screen means it really does have a better battery life than the other smartwatches on this list.

Skagen Falster 2, £299

As with the original Skagen Falster (£270), the Skagen Falster 2 could easily pass for a traditional watch. Straps come in silicone, leather or steel mesh, and with three watch faces available on the watch, another nine through Wear OS and hundreds more through third-party apps, there are plenty of ways to customise.

You can read and respond to texts, receive and reject calls and get notifications for social media, the weather and your calendar. If that all gets a bit much, you can choose to receive some notifications but not others, which is nice: with some watches it’s all or nothing. It also has wi-fi, Bluetooth, built-in GPS, music control, Google Assistant and NFC.

Again, you can use it to track more than 100 different types of exercise through Google Fit, albeit in a fairly basic way. It’s waterproof for swimming, and offers tracking for wheelchair users – a rare feature. 

Read our full Skagen Falster 2 review to find out all you need to know before you buy.

Fossil Sport, £250

A simpler-looking smartwatch than the others here, with a sportier design. You can pick between two sizes (41mm or 43mm), five colours (silver, rose gold, gold, blue or red) and 28 different silicone straps. It’s also compatible with standard third-party straps.

There are plenty of customisable watch faces available and a good range of features, including Bluetooth, wi-fi, NFC, Google Assistant and 4GB of music storage. You can receive texts and respond with pre-set messages, make and receive phone calls and get notifications for your calendar, emails and social media.

Throw in on-board GPS, a heart-rate monitor, and waterproofing, and this is one feature-packed wearable.

Find out whether we also found it comfortable to wear and easy to use by reading our full Fossil Sport review.

Fossil Q Venture HR, £270

The Fossil Q Venture HR is an updated version of the Fossil Q Venture, with, as you may have gleaned from the HR name, heart-rate monitoring. This model is aimed at women, but Fossil has also brought out a Fossil Explorist HR, an update on the Fossil Explorist, which is aimed at men.

It has a clear, sharp screen, which you can choose to have displayed permanently, so you won’t need to tilt your wrist to wake up the watch to see the time. The case comes in nine colours, from stainless steel to rose-gold with crystal embellishments.

There are three watch faces on the watch, and, again, many more available through the Wear OS app. You can customise these easily with your favourite contacts and apps.

It has Bluetooth, wi-fi, 4GB storage, NFC, onboard GPS, Google Assistant, Find my phone, the ability to download third-party apps and a small torch for lighting up the inside of a dark bag. You can receive and respond to texts, make and receive phone calls and receive calendar, email and social media notifications.

But is it all style over substance? Read our full Fossil Q Venture HR review to find out.

Michael Kors Access Runway, £339

This ultra-fashionable smartwatch follows broadly the same design as the standard Michael Kors Runway watch. It’s purposely oversized and comes in a wide range of colours and strap materials. One of the key selling points of this watch is the ability to pick and mix between options, and customise the watch according to your personal style. The watch we tested was £339, but different variations range from £190 to £450.

Its smart features include Google Assistant, call, messaging, calendar and social media notifications. You can control your music via the watch, it has NFC for contactless payments and 4GB of internal storage.

It’s not short of fitness features either: step count, distance and calorie-tracking and heart-rate monitoring, along with on-board GPS. Being water resistant to 30m you can take it in the pool, and additional functions like guided breathing and more than 100 activity tracking modes suggest the beauty of the Access Runway is more than skin deep.

Our Michael Kors Access Runway review reveals whether it really is a great combination of practicality and style.

Huawei and Withings turn on the style

The Huawei GT and Withings Steel HR are also back from our labs, and though they don’t sport WearOS, still offer plenty of features packed inside some pretty stunning exteriors.

Huawei GT smartwatch, £170

An expensive-looking watch with a colour touchscreen, the GT has a black stainless-steel body and silicone strap, or you can pay extra for a silver stainless-steel body and fancier strap.

It’s a successor to the Huawei Watch 2 Sport (also £170), now using Huawei’s own operating system instead of Wear OS.  It has Bluetooth, Find my phone, NFC, and notifications for texts, calls, social media, your calendar and the weather. You won’t be able to reply to notifications or download third-party apps.

It can track exercises such as running, jogging and rowing, it’s water-resistant for swimming in the pool (if you buy a specific waterproof strap) and it provides more detailed swim metrics than many smartwatches. It has sophisticated location tracking, with GLONASS and GALILEO as well as built-in GPS, sleep tracking, and heart-rate monitoring. It also offers Vo2 max predictions (a calculation of your body’s ability to consume oxygen), a feature more commonly seen on fitness watches.

Find out if all this adds up to a better watch by reading our full Huawei Watch GT review.

Withings Steel HR Sport, £190

A hybrid smartwatch in the truest sense, the Steel HR Sport has smart and fitness features concealed beneath a traditional, monochrome, analogue watch face.

The casing is matte black stainless steel, and Withings sells silicone and leather bands in a variety of colours, or you can use third-party 20mm bands. It’s compatible with Android 6 or later and iOS 10 or later.

This one’s not a touchscreen – you navigate the interface using a side button, though there are quite a few features to browse. 

You’ll get notifications of texts, emails, calendar updates and social media updates. You won’t be able to read these, though – each notification only shows the first few words of the message. You can also receive and make phone calls and control your music. It has Bluetooth, but not wi-fi.

It can track various sports, including obscure ones such as kite surfing, although not in detail. It’s waterproof for wearing in the pool, has a heart-rate monitor, can estimate your VO2 max, and it offers sleep tracking, though no built in GPS.

Read our Withings Steel HR Sport review to see how it fares.

How to choose a great smartwatch

Smartwatches range from £60 to more than £600. As with most things in life, paying more will get you more sophisticated features and better looks – for example, built-in GPS, so you can leave your phone at home when you’re out for a run, detailed sleep tracking, a colour screen, more options for customisation to reflect your personal style, or a 4G connection so you can make calls without your phone.

Some smartwatches are great for fitness tracking, and the line between types of wearable is becoming increasingly blurred. As a general rule, though, a smartwatch is an accessory offering smart notifications, which also provides a general overview of your fitness. Most – and certainly all the watches here – can track step count, distance travelled and calorie burn, but smartwatches aren’t usually specifically designed for sports. For more, read our guide on how to buy a smartwatch.

Are stylish hybrid smartwatches any good?

Smartwatches aren’t just for gadget-lovers – you can expect to see many more aimed at the fashion-conscious in the near future. Designers such as Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss, and luxury traditional watch brands such as Tag Heuer, are all getting involved with the hi-tech chic wearables trend.

But you need to shop carefully to make sure you’re not sacrificing function for form – we’ve seen mixed results in our tests, with smartwatch scores ranging from 44% to 76%. One of the brands here has produced several Don’t Buys with inaccurate tracking and poor smart functionality.

Many stylish smartwatches also have short battery life – some need charging every day, whereas others last as long as two weeks. Find out if a smartwatch is the best choice for you in our guide on whether to buy a smartwatch, fitness watch or activity tracker.

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