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19 October 2020

Most reliable smartwatch brands

Unique Which? reliability data can help you choose the best smartwatch for you. We've surveyed owners of Apple, Fitbit, Garmin, Huawei and Samsung smartwatches to find the brands that develop the least faults.
Smart watch reliability
CW
Christina Woodger

A broken strap is the most common fault you're likely to experience with your smartwatch. In fact, 20% of all faults reported in our latest smartwatch survey were strap breakages – and that rises to 30% for fitness trackers. 

Smartwatches can be expensive, and they're intended to live on your wrist day and night. So it would be reasonable to expect them to be pretty sturdy. 

Knowing how long a brand will last you, and which brands develop the most faults, and how long before you can expect to see problems, is invaluable to making a smart buying decision. That's why each year we ask more than 15,000 Which? members to tell us about the problems and experiences they've had with brands over the past eight years. 

Our unique survey data reveals when popular brands developed a fault, how serious this fault was and the reasons why products are replaced. We also look at brand loyalty to find out who you turn to time and again, and, crucially, reveal how long you can expect smartwatch brands to last. 

How long do different smartwatch brands last?

To find out how long you can rely on your smartwatch, we calculated an average estimated lifetime for each brand, based on how long respondents were able to keep a product before having to replace it because of an issue that was out of their control. 

Estimated lifetimes should only be used as a guide – there's nothing to say your smartwatch will suddenly stop working when this time period is up. But, as a comparative indicator between brands, it's a useful way to get an idea of how a product you own or are shopping for compares to others.

Average estimated lifespan

Brand Estimated average lifespan
M 5
M 5
M 6

The above data is based on a survey of Which? members in July 2020 covering 2,019 smartwatches.

How quickly do different smartwatch brands need replacing?;

The graph above shows how the brand that stays fault-free for longest compares with the brand that stayed fault-free for least time, as well as the overall average. That said, we were only able to gather this data for two brands. So the worst brand featured above isn't by any means a bad brand: on the contrary, it's a brand we often recommend. So you'll see there aren't huge differences immediately, and 100% of smartwatches from both brands were replaced after five years. This may be partly because owners of these brands love to have the latest features, and won't be happy with a five-year-old model. 

Which? members can see how brands compare for faults over a five-year period in the table below.

Smartwatches replaced due to fault

Brand One year Two years Five years
M 13% 37% 100%
M 23% 58% 100%

The above data is based on a survey of Which? members in July 2020 covering 2,019 smartwatches. 

How satisfied are customers with different smartwatch brands? 

Our survey also reveals how satisfied people are with a brand overall – we use this to calculate a ‘customer satisfaction’ score, based on how likely people are to recommend it. 

As you can see from the graph above, the brand with the highest customer satisfaction score also has a higher average test score than the brand with the lowest customer satisfaction score – which makes sense. It doesn't look as if the average test score is much higher, but it's worth knowing that the scores for that brand are more clustered together, and more spread out for the other brand. In other words, one brand performs consistently very highly, whereas the other brand has more of a range of scores, with the higher-scoring models boosting the overall average. 

Loyalty is also an important factor. Some brands have what it takes to keep customers coming back time and again. Our loyalty score is based on whether people stuck to the same brand when they upgraded. We didn't gather enough responses to be able to report loyalty scores for all brands.

Customer scores for smartwatch brands

Brand Customer loyalty score Customer satisfaction score
M 91% 86%
M 73% 74%
M 68% 68%
M n/a 65%
M n/a 77%

The above data is based on a survey of Which? members in July 2020 covering 2,019 smartwatches. 'n/a' for loyalty score means we did not get a large enough sample size for that brand.

Common smartwatch problems

Strap breakages are the most likely fault to occur with smartwatch, adding up to 20% of reported faults. That's fewer as a percentage of overall faults than with related area fitness trackers, where 30% of all faults reported were broken straps. But it's still not good – arguably, it's worse, seeing as smartwatches are generally more expensive purchases than fitness trackers. 

Broken straps was also the most common smartwatch fault in our 2019 survey. We're disappointed to hear that this is still the case – and this year we've decided that no smartwatch or fitness tracker can be a Best Buy if it doesn't have a removable strap. At least if a strap is removable, it can be replaced. If it can't, you'll have to send the whole watch off for repair, or in a worst case scenario, buy a whole new watch. 

There are a number of steps you can take to look after your watch strap. 

  • clean it with water if it comes into contact with chemicals, sweat, dirt, dust and mud
  • don't use soap, hand sanitisers, cleaning wipes or household cleaners as these can be too harsh
  • avoid getting insect spray, alcohol, makeup, sunscreen or other lotions onto your strap

Battery problems, including issues with charging, were also commonly reported, with 11% of faults relating to the battery. While we don't know exactly what problems people experienced here, our tests do include a test of the battery life, under typical usage conditions, so you can at least avoid a model that needs constant charging from the get-go. We also tell you how much charge you'll get from a quick blitz if you only remember to charge your smartwatch in the morning before work. 

In our tests, we’ve noticed some devices taking a while to transfer data on to the dashboard on the app, so check our reviews to make sure you don’t buy one that has this problem from day one. The two should sync every time you open the app. If that’s not happening, check your Bluetooth or wi-fi connection. If you’re still experiencing problems, check the manufacturer’s website for advice or contact them directly.

Other problems reported – although far less likely to crop up – were heart-rate monitors no longer tracking accurately, touchscreens no longer working and physical buttons no longer working. Again, our tests include accuracy of heart-rate monitoring and ease of navigating the interface using touchscreens and physical buttons, so we can at least tell you which ones will give you problems right from the start, let alone five years down the line. 

Smartwatch brands rated

Choose a brand from the list below to find out more detail about its performance in our survey.

Apple smartwatches overview table
Number tested in the past three years 7
Number of Best Buys
Member icon
Estimated lifetime
Member icon
Customer score
Member icon
Loyalty score
Member icon
Table notes Customer score and loyalty score based on a Which? member survey of 2,019 smartwatch owners conducted in July 2020. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and loyalty is based on whether a member would stick with that brand again. Table last updated October 2020.
  • Find out how well Apple smartwatches score for reliability, and how Apple fares against rival smartwatch brands.
  • Find out what the most common problems people have with their Apple smartwatches are.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Fitbit smartwatches overview table
Number tested in the past three years 4
Number of Best Buys
Member icon
Estimated lifetime
Member icon
Customer score
Member icon
Loyalty
Member icon
Table notes Customer score and loyalty score based on a Which? member survey of 2,019 smartwatch owners conducted in July 2020. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and loyalty is based on whether a member would stick with that brand again. Table last updated October 2020.
  • Find out how well Fitbit smartwatches score for reliability, and how Fitbit fares against rival smartwatch brands.
  • Find out what the most common problems people have with their Fitbit smartwatches are.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Garmin smartwatches overview table
Number tested in the past three years 19
Number of Best Buys
Member icon
Estimated lifetime
Member icon
Customer score
Member icon
Loyalty score
Member icon
Table notes Customer score and loyalty score based on a Which? member survey of 2,019 smartwatch owners conducted in July 2020. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and loyalty is based on whether a member would stick with that brand again. Table last updated October 2020.
  • Find out how well Garmin smartwatches score for reliability, and how Garmin fares against rival smartwatch brands.
  • Find out what the most common problems people have with their Garmin smartwatches are.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Huawei smartwatches overview table
Number tested in the past three years 4
Number of Best Buys
Member icon
Estimated lifetime
Member icon
Customer score
Member icon
Loyalty score
Member icon
Table notes Customer score and loyalty score based on a Which? member survey of 2,019 smartwatch owners conducted in July 2020. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and loyalty is based on whether a member would stick with that brand again. Table last updated October 2020.
  • Find out how well Huawei smartwatches score for reliability, and how Huawei fares against rival smartwatch brands.
  • Find out what the most common problems people have with their Huawei smartwatches are.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.
Samsung smartwatches overview table
Number tested in the past three years 6
Number of Best Buys
Member icon
Estimated lifetime
Member icon
Customer score
Member icon
Loyalty score
Member icon
Table notes Customer score and loyalty score based on a Which? member survey of 2,019 smartwatch owners conducted in July 2020. The customer score is based on whether members would recommend the brand to a friend, and loyalty is based on whether a member would stick with that brand again. Table last updated October 2020.
  • Find out how well Samsung smartwatches score for reliability, and how Samsung fares against rival smartwatch brands.
  • Find out what the most common problems people have with their Samsung smartwatches are.
  • Only logged-in Which? members can view our exclusive reliability ratings and verdicts. If you're not yet a member, join Which? to get instant access.

How we calculate the best and worst brands

Which? has a wealth of information on Britain's favourite computing brands. Every year we ask Which? members to tell us about the technology products they own – from how likely they would be to recommend a brand, to how reliable the products are once they get them home. This year more than 15,000 Which? members told us about nearly 100,000 devices. We calculate a brand's reliability and its customer score based on the results of our annual survey.

Our brand surveys, combined with our extensive lab tests, mean we can recommend the best smartwatch you should buy.

This data is crucial for our testing, too. If a brand falls far below the category average, we take away the manufacturer’s Best Buy awards and won’t recommend any of their products unless a marked improvement in the longevity of its products is shown.

View all Smartwatches