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Monday, October 29, 2018

The Best Hybrid Smartwatches

Smartwatches are getting more popular, thanks mostly in part to the Apple Watch and various Fitbits. But they have some downsides, like being bulky, sometimes unsightly, and having relatively poor battery life. A “hybrid” smartwatch might be a better option.

A hybrid smartwatch is a watch with electronics on the inside—and by that I mean electronics complex enough to connect to and interact with your phone via Bluetooth—and a conventional watch face on the outside. These gadgets either omit an interactive screen entirely, or else make it much more subtle and easy to ignore. Without the touchscreen and a big battery to power it, hybrid smartwatches can also last much longer on a battery charge and/or be a lot thinner than current smartwatch designs, too. Simplified components allow for a much wider variety of styles in some cases.

We’ve chosen the best hybrid designs among an admittedly limited field at the moment. Our selections cover the best overall model, the best choices for those who want to focus on style or exercise data, and one for those who need to buy their watches on a more strict budget. Check ’em out below.

The Best Overall Hybrid Smartwatch: Withings Steel HR ($180)

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Withings was a startup making some of the very first hybrid smartwatch designs. The Steel HR model is actually pretty close to the watch they made for Nokia during their brief time as a subsidiary. It’s a neat little package, including a heart rate monitor on the bottom, a dedicated step goal sub-dial, and a little display at the 12 o’clock position that helps show current heart rate and more complex notification info.

The Steel HR includes both 25-meter water resistance and a rechargeable battery (not a given for this class of device on either count) that lasts for several weeks. But the best part of the Withings design is the software: the iOS and Android app can sync time and notifications, but it also includes an excellent health tracker that keeps track of your steps, sleep cycles, and continuous heart rate during workouts. The Withings API allows it to connect to pretty much any other tracking service, too.

The Steel HR comes in 36mm and 40mm sizes with various case and band options. If you don’t like the screen, the regular model Withings Steel drops it, but unfortunately, you’ll have to do without the heart rate monitor, too.

The Best Fashion Hybrid Smartwatch: Fossil Q Hybrid ($155+)

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