Black Friday is always a good time to look for a good deal on a wearable – but resist the temptation to snap up the first ‘bargain’ you see.
All smartwatches and fitness trackers are not made equal – so a cheap price or a big discount is far from the only thing you need to consider.
Read our buying advice below so you can do your research in advance, and check back regularly as we’ll be adding deals as they appear over the sales period.
Best Black Friday 2020 deals on smartwatches and fitness trackers
Fossil Gen 5 The Carlyle HR – £149
We liked: It’s elegant-looking and well-built, unlike some watches that look great from afar but cheap up-close.
We didn’t like: Its fitness tracking isn’t accurate for some activities.
If you’re looking for a workout tool, or a lightweight watch, this isn’t the watch for you. However, if you’re looking for a stylish men’s watch (the women’s version is the ‘Julianna’) with classic Wear OS features – and you’re an Android user – you’ll probably be more than happy.
It has NFC for contactless payments, assuming your bank is compatible, the ability to send texts and make phone calls when your connected phone is nearby, and it has Google Assistant and music streaming options. If you’re an iPhone user, be aware that some of these features won’t be available to you.
It’s currently being sold on Amazon for £149, which is the cheapest we’ve ever seen it. It’s the version with a black bezel and black silicone strap, but you can switch up the strap at a later date if you fancy a change.
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How to pick the right smartwatch or and fitness tracker in the sales
If you’re in the market for a new wearable, do your research in advance to make sure you find a model that suits your needs.
Should you buy a smartwatch or fitness tracker?
For some people, this will be the first consideration; for others, it’ll be the final one, once you’ve weighed up how much you’re willing to spend and what features you’re after.
There’s a lot of overlap between them but here are the differences in a nutshell.
- Smartwatches tend to offer more in terms of staying connected (sending messages, taking and making phone calls) and have bigger screens which makes this sort of thing easier. They also come in a greater range of ‘looks’, including rugged styles, watches that look more traditional, watches that look like jewellery and everything in between. And you can buy specific smartwatches for certain activities, such as the Garmin Forerunner range for runners.
- Fitness trackers tend to look much more similar to each other (although you’ll still find attractive ones and ugly ones). Their prices go much lower than smartwatches, with some available for as little as £12. And, while fitness trackers are getting increasingly sophisticated, you’re less likely to find a sports-specific tracker than you are smartwatch.
Our guide to choosing between a smartwatch or fitness tracker goes into more detail.
Features and performance are important, but so is how long a product will last. Read more about how unique Which? estimated lifetime data can help you pick the right brand.
What features do you need on a wearable?
It’s not worth paying for features you won’t use. Maybe you primarily want a wearable for running, for sleep-tracking, for staying connected or for counting your steps while you’re doing household. Here are some key things to consider:
- Step tracking. All wearables will do this, but don’t assume they all do it accurately (more on this later).
- Heart rate monitoring. Increasingly, even cheap trackers offer this (as with step tracking, some do this more accurately than others). Some wearables offer sophisticated heart health tools.
- GPS. Important if you’re a keen runner but don’t want to take your phone out running with you. Those that don’t have in-built GPS will use your tethered phone’s GPS, or, if your phone isn’t nearby, will base it on step count, which is often less accurate.
- Sports tracking. Some come with millions of sports modes, but only really track the basics, while others offer a detailed analysis of particular sport, such as running, hiking, or swimming, or of several sports.
- Sleep tracking. Many wearables can track your sleep, but some in much more detail than others. You’ll need to consider weight, comfort and battery life on a good sleep tracker. For more, read our guide to sleep tracking.
- Smart features. Most will give you the basics, such as notifications for messages, while others let you craft messages from scratch, make calls, stream music, make contactless payments and more.
- LTE. Also known as cellular connectivity. This allows you to use all the smart functions (such as making calls) even when your phone isn’t to hand, effectively turning your watch into a mini phone on your wrist. Bear in mind there will be monthly carrier fees.
- Advanced healthcare features. Some can take ECGs (electrocardiograms), make an emergency call if you fall over, remind you to wash your hands properly, alert you to the fact that you’re listening to dangerously loud music and much more. These are cool features, but they’re more like toys for conscientious healthy people: if you’re genuinely worried about your health, speak to your doctor.
Will it be compatible with my phone?
Many wearables are compatible with both Android and iOS, but Apple Watches are only compatible with iPhones, and a handful of other models also work exclusively on Android. Quite a few models, including all watches running Wear OS, will generally work on both, but some features won’t be available to iPhone users.
Check our reviews before buying so you can find out what the differences are between iOS and Android for the watch you’re looking at, so you can make up your mind if you’re happy to skimp on certain features.
Fitness tracker or smartwatch accuracy
There’s no point you monitoring your stats assiduously if those stats are actually wildly inaccurate, and give you a skewed idea, or not the foggiest idea, of your progress. The more seriously you take your training, the more accurate you’ll need your wearable to be.
If you’re not a serious sportsperson, you might be thinking that it doesn’t matter too much if your stats aren’t exact, but you’ll still want your wearable to give you the right overall picture.
Check out our page on smartwatch and fitness tracker accuracy to find out more.
Ease of use
Some wearables offer a lot, but are a real pain to use, meaning they’ll swiftly be retired to the back of a drawer.
Every year we survey wearables users to find out about their experiences of using their smartwatches and fitness trackers. Broken straps were the most common complaint that came up this year – and it’s not the first time we’ve heard about it.
That’s why, as of this year, no wearable can earn our Best Buy recommendation if its strap isn’t removable. A broken strap is annoying, but it’s far worse (and bad for the environment) if this effectively means you need to replace the whole thing.
We rate trackers and watches for comfort, so you can get an idea of which ones have stiff, uncomfortable straps or feel bulky and heavy on the wrist. Everyone’s different, though, so check the returns policy of the site you’re buying from, especially if you’re buying for someone for Christmas.
This story was originally published on 10 November 2020. We’ll continue updating it when we spot new deals on wearables that truly impress us.