[Update: We’ve included a few new smart watches in the list to reflect some new releases in 2020. The newer additions might not be under $100, but we felt like they belonged on the list because of their value-for-money, not to mention the fact that some people have slightly more budget now because of lockdown]
Smartwatches fast transitioned from a novelty item into an essential accessory for everyday use. With a host of features like, heart rate monitoring, fitness tracking, GPS, and more, smartwatches are adding a surprising amount of value to people’s lives.
Unfortunately, with all these features comes a hefty price tag; specifically, around $300 and up. Recently, however, many third-party manufacturers have started offering smartwatches that –while not carrying a prestigious brand name –offers many of the premium functions that more expensive smartwatches have, but for a cheaper, more cost-efficient price.
Of course, these functions might not work as well as the branded version, although it’s worth noting that, for smartwatches running Android, the functionality can sometimes be comparable, especially if the hardware is of good quality.
With features like heart rate monitoring, waterproofing, GPS tracking, and many others, these are some of the best smartwatches under $100 that are just as good (maybe even better?) than branded versions.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
Despite best efforts from the competition, Samsung remains the ‘premium’ brand for all Android devices, and their Galaxy Watch Active is no exemption. Even the first-generation Galaxy Watch Active looks and feels premium: sleek design coupled with smooth and elegant interface, the Galaxy Watch Active is the entry point for people looking to up their wearable game.
Samsung’s Galaxy Watch Active runs on Google’s Wear OS platform and it runs plenty of Samsung’s proprietary fitness-focused apps. The Galaxy Watch Active 2, which is slightly more expensive (about an extra hundred dollars more), comes with LTE connectivity and an ECG sensor.
The Ticwatch Express –or Ticwatch E –is everything you want from a smart watch: simple OS, fitness-focused, with a built-in GPS and GLONASS, and a fairly large 1.4 inch display with 400×400 pixel resolution. Priced at a little over $100, it offers a whole lot more value-for-money than other smart watches in its price range.
Of course, because it’s in the $100 price range, it does have limitations: it doesn’t have LTE so any calls and texts you receive still go through your phone, with the watch simply acting as a relay. It’s a small downside though, especially considering you can also interchange the Ticwatch E’s outer shell so you can switch between sporty and casual in no time.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
As of 2020, the best smart watch out in the market right now has to be the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3. It took every design element that made the 2018 Galaxy Watch Active such a hit and refines it considerably: rotating bezels, a gorgeous display, and a sleek, expensive-looking design.
It offers all the premium Samsung fitness apps and more, although your Wear and Watch OS options are greatly limited. Functionality is also limited if you use this on an iPhone, but the bottom line is: it’s compatible with an iPhone.
It looks pricey, because it is: at $399, this is not a budget smart watch; this is the smart watch for people who want to track their fitness, have a wearable smart device, and look good while you’re at it.
At 1.22 inches, the MyKronoz ZeRound2 is fairly standard, although a bit heavy at 2 ounces. Never the less, this sleek and stylish smartwatch remains comfortable on the wrist thanks to its soft, silicone strap and broad underside ridges.
The MyKronoz runs a proprietary OS that’s displayed on a TFT 240×204-pixel face for amazing contrast and addressability. It’s capable of a lot of premium functions mostly found in premium smartwatches: custom alerts, receive emails, as well as make and receive calls via Bluetooth. It also has a fairly reliable fitness tracker that monitors your sleep quality, calories, steps taken, and distance walked. It also carries an IP67 rating, which means it can survive going underwater up to 3 feet for 30 minutes. Battery life is pretty impressive: 3 days on a full charge with pretty regular usage to boot.
A few downsides, however: the base model doesn’t come with a heart-rate monitor, which is disappointing considering that its standard for most smartwatches in its league. It also has a strange design approach to the watch face wherein a sizable portion of the bottom dial interferes with the layout. The MyKronoz ZeRound2 also has some issues connecting to the iPhone’s contacts list, although the same problem is absent for Android.
Despite its shortcomings, however, the MyKronoz ZeRound2 is a decent starter smartwatch for those looking to get premium features at the most budget price. Of course, quality does suffer, albeit in small doses.
See it on Amazon
The first generation of Sony’s smartwatch is also the brands first foray into the industry, and for a first-timer, it did pretty well for itself.
The 1st gen Sony Smartwatch comes with a 1.3 inch OLED touch screen, and it packs in as many built-in features as it can like remote camera, music player, weather apps, fitness tracker, and a whole lot more.
The smartwatch comes with NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity which allow you to connect to your other smart devices. Once connected to your smartphone, the Sony Smartwatch instantly becomes an extension of your phone, providing you with call handling, text messaging, notifications, and all the other phone essentials. You can also download different watch faces via Sony’s Smartwatch store.
A few downsides, however: the watch design is very much, well, boring, with many users remarking on its dull, rubber-stamp-like design. But for less than 70 bucks and for all the features it has, who cares what it looks like?
Fitbit Charge HR Wireless
When it comes to workout monitoring, the Fitbit reigns supreme: with its extremely accurate (not to mention extensive sub-features) heart-rate monitoring and activity tracking, the Fitbit is necessary for people who take their gym time seriously.
Whether you’re walking to work, at the gym, or even just hanging out in your living room, the Fitbits optical sensors in the back where it touches your skin can monitor and track your pulse, displaying all relevant data on an OLED screen display in the front.
Aside from the fitness tracking, the Fitbit Charge HR also has other features like Caller ID, auto sleep, and a silent alarm. It also syncs your health stats wireless to either your computer or to Fitbit-compatible smartphones. If you’re the competitive type, you can upload your stats through a Fitbit leaderboard to earn achievements like a video game.
Apple Watches are probably one of the coolest looking smartwatches out there. Unfortunately, they also have a pretty cool price tag of around $400. Yikes!
Luckily, the Amazfit Bip brings the same aesthetic and a slew of premium features, but at a fraction of the cost. For 1/5th of the price of an Apple Watch, the Bip provides a stylish smartwatch with a touch screen, smartphone connectivity to receive notifications, GLONASS for workout tracking, GPS, and a very respectable battery life. Its built-in heart rate monitor is also fairly accurate, a rare feat considering many heart-rate tracking devices are pretty unreliable.
The Bip’s battery life is pretty impressive: even with GPS, heart rate monitoring, and work-out tracking turned on and used every day, it still took us two weeks to get the battery below 50%. This is made even more impressive considering that the Bip’s always-on display consists of a 1.28-inch, 176×176-pixel color screen that would drain any other smartwatches battery in a matter of a couple of days.
Despite its upsides, the Bip isn’t perfect: one of its most glaring shortcomings is its lack of an app store. Unlike first-party providers like Samsung, Fitbit, or Apple, the Amazfit Bip doesn’t have a native app where you can download external apps. But, at less than $80, it’s not the worst thing to give up for a third-party manufactured smartwatch that can compete in the big leagues.
Our Top Pick: Pebble Time Smart Watch
Since its humble beginnings as a Kickstarter project way back in 2012, Pebble has led the smartwatch/wearable tech industry ever since, breaking record after record in crowdfunding history and selling millions of smartwatches in the market.
Pebble has always relied on its unique look and proprietary OS to outsell its competition, and so far, they’ve been wildly successful. The Pebble Time is no exception: the watch is very smooth and slim, consisting primarily of matte plastic, save for its metal bezel. Round corners give the Pebble Time a very accessible, casual, and smart look that doesn’t try too hard to be en vogue or sporty: it’s just right.
The Pebble Time uses a 1.25-inch ePaper display and is the first Pebble smartwatch to have a color screen. Through the Pebble App store, which has an impressive 8000++ apps in its library, you can download any external apps you might need, whether it’s weather or fitness tracking, or even customized alarms.
It can be synced with your smartphone so the Pebble Time can display most notifications like text messages, event reminders, calls, emails, and others. The Pebble Time also has a sleep and activity tracker that can monitor sleep quality and steps taken throughout the day.
It’s not a perfect watch, however: the Pebble Time doesn’t come with heart-monitoring nor GPS. The ePaper display, while providing amazing contrast, is worlds apart from OLED or LCD’s image quality. However, these downsides pale in comparison to the amount of other things the Pebble Time is capable of.