Samsung's Gear Sport Smartwatch is one wearable to rule them all, both smartwatches and fitness trackers.
WINNER: Samsung Gear Sport
Samsung's decision to not follow up on the Gear S3 Smartwatch lineup and instead commit all of its wearable focus to the Gear Sport was a bold one but it made a lot of sense in retrospect. Simply speaking, the South Korean tech giant was convinced that it has a universally appealing and incredibly powerful device on its hands and opted to launch it as its one true smartwatch offering in 2017 in hope that consumers and critics will be able to recognize true quality. As it turns out, there's a lot to recognize here.
The Samsung Gear Sport is essentially a combination of the best features supported by the Gear S3 and the vast portfolio of functionalities supported by the company's Gear Fit series of fitness trackers. Samsung's latest smartwatch is nothing short of formidable in every sense of that word, whether we're talking about its 5ATM water resistance that allows it to operate in depth of up to 50 meters (165 feet), its beautiful 1.2-inch AMOLED display, or its support for GPS, GLONASS, NFC, heart rate tracking, digital fitness coaching, offline music playback powered by Spotify, and a broad range of other functionalities that make it the most complete package in this product category. The fact that Samsung's latest smartwatch is also compatible with any standard 20mm band is yet another praiseworthy characteristic that's for some reason not always found in the ultra-premium segment of the market, whereas the company's signature wearable interface (literally) revolving around the rotating bezel still delivers by far the most intuitive user experience we're ever had with an intelligent watch. A plethora of features and a large display still don't detract from the Samsung Gear Sport's battery life that runs three days on average, with the device being fairly energy-efficient as far as smartwatches are concerned. The design itself is also both stylish and subtle, and many of the watchfaces offered by Samsung are incredibly pleasing to look at while not sacrificing functionality, which can also be said for this product as a whole - the Gear Sport is simply the ultimate blend of style and functions.
Impressively, the Samsung Gear Sport manages to be so many things at once while still running the Tizen OS which is far from a bad operating system but one that we certainly don't prefer over Android Wear. Yes, the selection of apps isn't as vast as what you'd find on a smartwatch running Google's OS, yet every single service you download from the Galaxy Apps store works as intended and feels like it's been made precisely for this particular device. Samsung's hardware paired with Android Wear would probably result in the best smartwatch of all times but until that happens, the Gear Sport is the next best thing and easily the most impressive wearable that hit the market over the course of this year.
Runner-up: LG Watch Sport
LG and Google have been working more closely in recent times, with the LG Watch Sport being one of the latest results of their collaboration which ended up absolutely dominating the competition in the Android Wear segment. This is a watch that first showcased the capabilities of Android Wear 2.0 and delivered a wearable experience with nearly no compromises, providing consumers with the very best of what Google's platform is capable of. Unlike too many smartwatches on the market, the LG Watch Sport is an extremely smooth performer regardless of what kind of tasks you throw at it, proving that we don't have to wait for wearables with 2GB of RAM to enjoy a maximally smooth experience.
The overall design of the LG Watch Sport is extremely stylish and equally suitable for both formal wear and fitness apparel, whereas its IP68-certified body provides you with a durable device that will easily resist the nature's elements. The rotating crown button may not be as elegant of a navigational solution as Samsung's revolving bezel is, but it comes a close second and still delivers a rather intuitive experience. Couple with standalone apps and everything else Android Wear 2.0 has to offer, it's cellular-enabled device is the most impressive 2017 smartwatch running Google's wearable OS, even if some consumers may find it to be just a tad too bulky.
Honorable Mention: Huawei Watch 2
While Huawei has yet to truly establish its brand in the United States, the company has been delivering high-quality consumer electronics for many years now and has also managed to make a significant contribution to the wearable segment with its Watch 2. Most great features of the LG Watch Sport are also supported by the Huawei Watch 2, with this particular device ending up being just an honorable mention primarily due to its lack of a rotating crown button. While it may not be as intuitive to navigate, the Huawei Watch 2 is still the best Android Wear-powered fitness smartwatch that hit the market in 2017. Its fitness tracking and analytics features can easily compete with the best smart bands on the market and apart from the regular array of sensors and connectivity options including GPS, NFC, and a heart rate monitor, it also ships with some niche yet potentially extremely useful functionalities like VO2 Max. The Watch Mode that essentially turns off Android Wear is also a great addition that allows you to extend the battery life of the gadget by weeks while retaining the ability to track your steps.
While its ease of use can't compare to the very best of what the wearable market can currently offer (i.e. the two aforementioned devices), the Huawei Watch 2 is still an extremely compelling offering and one that takes full advantage of Android Wear 2.0, thus giving more credence to the possibility that Google's OS is the future of smartwatches. Even though the experience provided by the device doesn't feel as refined as what the Samsung Gear Sport and LG Watch 2 deliver, the Huawei Watch 2 is a massive step forward for Huawei's wearable division and hopefully a sign of more great things to come from the Chinese tech giant.