Technology, Upcoming

Best hybrid smartwatch 2019: great hidden tech in the watch on your wrist

So you want a smartwatch… but you don't want one of those gadgets that looks like a smartphone strapped to your wrist, and which is constantly lighting up and pinging you notifications.

You're in luck: a trend over the past couple of years has seen manufacturers making 'hybrid' smartwatches, which include some tech but stick with a design that looks like a traditional watch.

These are devices that look like a regular watch you'd pick up in a jewelry store, but which also feature smart tech such as step tracking, sleep monitoring and even notifications from your phone.

We've tested lots of the big-name hybrid watches you can buy, and below we've put together a list of our favorite devices, ranked according to the features on offer, price, design, how well they work with your phone and much more.

We'll be updating this list as we review more hybrid watches, but for now here are our favorite watches with added tech that you can pick up.

  • Don't want a hybrid? Our best smartwatch guide may be for you
  • Looking for something active? Check out our list of the best fitness trackers
  • Have an iPhone? Our guide on the best smartwatches for iPhone
  • Perhaps you'd prefer our full guide to the Apple Watch
  • Prefer Wear OS? Our selection of the best Wear OS smartwatches

The top hybrid smartwatch we recommend right now is the Misfit Phase, which offers a sleek and stylish design paired with some genuinely useful functionality when it's connected to your phone.

Misfit's Phase is thick, but the design looks classic and no one will immediately realize you're wearing a smartwatch when you've got this wrapped around your wrist.

The battery life is impressive – it'll last around six months with a single watch battery inside – but the fitness features here are limited, as there's no heart-rate tracker or GPS.

Misfit's true highlight here, though, is the price: the Misfit Phase is one of the cheapest hybrids money can buy, so you'll want to get this if you're looking for an affordable watch that can buzz when you've got notifications and look great too.

Read our full Misfit Phase review

Image Credit: Withings

Looking for a small hybrid watch that looks fashionable but can track your heart rate and has a comfortable strap for the odd jog? The Withings Steel HR (sometimes known as the Nokia Steel HR) may be the perfect watch for you, and it sits in second place on our list of the best hybrids.

It has a small second dial so you can see your daily step count (your target can be set in the app), and there's a small screen above it to show other stats.

If you want to know your heart rate it'll appear on the screen along with your step count and notifications such as incoming calls, messages and events coming up in your calendar.

There's a single button on the right of the watch that's sort of disguised as a crown, while the watch is waterproof, so you can wear it in the shower without ruining it.

Read our full Withings Steel HR review

A year of battery life, notifications and some basic fitness-tracking tech are the highlights of our third-place watch: the Misfit Command.

At first you may think this watch looks complicated to use, but it's actually quite easy once you know how it works. The days of the month are displayed on the right of the face outside the time markers, and the days on the week on the left.

When you get a notification through to your wrist the watch will vibrate, and the sub-dial will display the notification type – text message, alarm or calendar notification; this dial also displays your daily step count.

You can create contacts in the app and assign a number from 1 to 12 to each one, and the clock hands will point to the corresponding number when you get an incoming call. The two buttons on the right-hand side of the case enable you to play and pause music, among other things.

The Misfit Command also looks great – we reckon it's one of the most attractive hybrid watches you can buy.

Read our full Misfit Command review

The Withings Steel HR Sport is very similar to the Nokia Steel and Nokia Steel HR on this list (the company has recently been renamed Withings) and while the design looks similar there are some important differences.

It comes with better notifications as well as VO2 Max monitor that will be able to give you an overall fitness score that you can improve over time.

The battery is meant to last for around a month, and it has connected GPS and heart rate monitoring that means this is suitable for more fitness activities than a lot of other devices on this list.

Read our full Withings Steel HR Sport review

The Misfit Path is one of the most simplistic devices on this list, and while it does track some fitness stats this is much more designed to be an elegant timepiece than a flashy smartwatch.

We love the long battery life – it should last around six months – and the fact you can customize one of the smart buttons for whatever you want from your phone.

The Misfit Path isn't as affordable as some other hybrid smartwatches, but if you're looking for a trim piece of wristwear that'll look good this would be a great choice.

Read our full Misfit Path review

The Withings Move is one of the cheapest devices on this list and you've got a great variety of different designs to choose from too. This is a good choice from you if you don't need many fitness features and you'd just like a way to track your daily step count and sleep with an attractive watch on your wrist.

You've got 18 months of battery life, according to Withings, and while the watch doesn't come with top-end features like a heart rate tracker it is capable of tracking lots of your basic stats.

The design and price are the key highlights here though, and while it won't suit fitness fanatics it may be your perfect idea of a simple hybrid smartwatch.

Read our full Withings Move review

While this is perhaps the sportiest device on our list, don't be fooled by the fact that it carries the Garmin name. The Vivomove HR isn't going to give you high-end running watch features like the brand's Fenix 5 range.

It does, however, offer a heart rate monitor and step tracking, and there are also gym tracking features for when you're doing indoor cardio or recording reps during a weights workout.

The Vivomove HR will also work in the pool as it's waterproof, but it's not particularly great at tracking your swimming, so don't buy it specifically for that task. There are stress-monitoring features, which is something you won't get on any other hybrid watch, and we found that these worked well.

If you're after a good-looking watch with some hidden fitness features, the Vivomove HR from Garmin may be the perfect device for you.

Read our full Garmin Vivomove HR review

The Withings Steel is very similar to the Steel HR higher up our list, but there are a few key differences you'll want to know about.

First off, it's a touch smaller than the Steel HR, making it a great option if you want a lighter and smaller device on your wrist. It also doesn't have a heart rate tracker, but there are features such as step counting and sleep tracking.

There's also no screen on this watch, so you'll be relying on the smaller step count dial and the app to view your stats.

The biggest difference between the two Withings (sometimes called Nokia) is the price – the Steel is quite a bit cheaper than the Steel HR, and that may encourage you to go for the smaller and more limited watch.

Read our full Withings Steel review

One of the most stylish hybrid smartwatches available right now comes from Fossil, and it's called the Q Commuter.

Fossil specializes in hybrid watches (although it makes Wear OS watches too), and this is one of the best-looking of the bunch, with a vast array of finish and strap combinations to match your look.

The Q Commuter can give you a variety of notifications – although these are sometimes hard to notice as the vibration isn't particularly strong – and there are some limited fitness features here too.

One of the real highlights is the battery life, which can run to a year or more.

Read the full Fossil Q Commuter review

  • Best smartwatch 2019: the top choices you can buy

Photo illustration: TechRadar; Misfit; Garmin; Withings

Everyone knows what a watch is and nowadays most of us can identify a smartwatch too. But what’s a hybrid smartwatch and why are so many brands making them?

Put simply, a hybrid smartwatch blends a traditional, mechanical watch design with modern smartwatch technology that can track fitness, send notifications, monitor your heart rate and much more.

That’s why it’s called a hybrid, because it sits somewhere between a regular watch and a smartwatch. Although, some are more smart than others.

For example, the Garmin Vivomove HR is a hybrid smartwatch with a discreet display, activity tracking sensors and a heart rate monitor packed into a minimal design.

In contrast, the Fossil Q Accomplice looks much more like a regular, high-end watch. Although it has some fitness tracking, it’s basic and much more aimed at those who want a vibrating notification sent to their wrist rather than much else.

The Fossil Q Accomplice could be mistaken for a traditional, mechanical watch rather than a hybrid smartwatch.

As you can tell, just because a device is a hybrid smartwatch, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily packed with tech. Some devices have just one or two smartwatch features, whereas others might resemble smartwatches more than their hybrid equivalents.

One of the biggest differences between a hybrid smartwatch and a regular smartwatch is in the design. Generally, a hybrid smartwatch doesn’t have a bright touchscreen and looks much more like a regular watch than all-out smartwatches like the Apple Watch 4 or the Fitbit Ionic.

There’s no denying the Apple Watch 3 is a smartwatch through and through. See the difference?

The other big difference is battery life. Without a whole host of smart features and a screen that’s throwing out 1,000 nits of brightness whenever it's on, hybrid watches tend to last much longer than their smarter counterparts before they need charging – and some don’t even need charging at all.

Some people are bound to miss the bright screen, super modern design and added smarts of a smartwatch. But for many others, the longer battery life, traditional watch face and, more often than not, way more stylish design is very appealing.

Meet the Misfit Command, a subtle and stylish wearable with notifications, fitness tracking and a battery that lasts a whole year.

Why are hybrid smartwatches good?

One of the biggest differences between a smartwatch and a hybrid smartwatch is in their design. Because most resemble traditional watches, they tend to be more stylish and less obviously a piece of tech.

This is really appealing to some, especially those who want to try out some smart features but love a traditional watch design and buying their wrist candy from traditional watch manufacturers.

For example, Fossil, a brand that’s been creating traditional watches for decades, has been creating a number of smartwatches and hybrids over the past few years. Many people are likely to feel more at home with a Fossil-branded hybrid watch and trust its accuracy and design more than a tech company that’s new to them.

The design is appealing to those who like their watches to strictly look like watches, whether that’s because they’re used to that design or feel they better compliment their outfits or lifestyle.

There are also plenty of other benefits to a design that resembles a regular watch. For example, most hybrid smartwatches are water resistant, the standard size means you can pick and choose from a huge range of straps and often the designs are more appealing to those with smaller wrists.

Next up, the biggest pro of a hybrid smartwatch over a smartwatch is the battery life. Because hybrid smartwatches are packing less tech and don’t have a bright touchscreen, their battery life is way more impressive.

The Fossil Q Commuter is a great-looking watch with subtle smarts

For example, the hybrid Misfit Command and Fossil Q Commuter have batteries that should last a year. Whereas another hybrid with HR tracking, like the Garmin Vivomove HR has a battery that will last 4 days with all its smart features on and around 2 weeks with them off.

There’s a big difference between how smart the hybrid smartwatches are, and therefore how long their battery is likely to last. But regardless, they still fare better than more standard smartwatches.

For example, in our review the Apple Watch 3 had a battery that lasted 2 days without LTE and some fitness tracking, just over 24 hours with LTE and some fitness tracking. The Fitbit Ionic smartwatch lasted about 4 days.

That means hybrid smartwatches, on the whole, win in the battery stakes. But it really does depend on how much you’re using your device.

For example, using all of the Garmin Vivomove HR’s features and taking it for long runs will see you use a similar amount of battery life to the Fitbit Ionic if you don’t take it for long runs. There’s a difference, but it’s not always big, depending on which watch you go for.

Another benefit is that the notifications you receive to a hybrid smartwatch are often subtle. The method differs depending on which watch you go for. For example, some Fossil hybrid smartwatches notify you by moving the hands round to a specific number and other hybrid smartwatches may have another small LCD screen specifically for alerts.

This is appealing to those who are happy to be alerted of a notification, but might find a WhatsApp message displayed on their wrist on a smartwatch too intrusive. Essentially, it's for those who want to be alerted, not bombarded.

Finally, because hybrid smartwatches aren’t packing as much advanced tech as standard smartwatches, they can be cheaper. Although given some are focused on high-end design, that’s not always the case.

The Nokia Steel hybrid is an achingly simple hybrid that’s perfect for those who want just a few smart features.

What are the negatives of hybrid smartwatches?

Put simply, they’re not smartwatches. If you’ve been toying with the idea of investing in a smartwatch because it’s jam-packed full of features and apps, a hybrid smartwatch may fall short for what you need.

This is particularly the case if you’ve been after a bright screen, you’re serious about fitness and want best-in-class tracking or you’d like to actually read notifications from your wrist rather than just being alerted with a vibration.

The Garmin Vivomove HR has solid gym tracking features, despite being a hybrid.

Of course design plays a big part too. Many hybrid smartwatch fans boast about how they’re better designed and resemble traditional, mechanical smartwatches. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll appeal to everyone.

The Apple Watch 3’s super modern, minimal design has already had mainstream appeal. And for those who don’t like the fact it’s rectangular can opt for a whole host of other circular smartwatches, such as the Ticwatch E and the Misfit Vapor.

It really all comes down to a matter of taste and what matters to you.

  • Ready to buy? Check out our guide to the best hybrid smartwatches

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