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These Smartwatches Make Great Father's Day Gifts

CR's picks for Dad include budget models that deliver on performance and price, and a pricey Apple Watch Series 4

An Apple Watch on a dad's wrist

Still struggling to find the perfect Father’s Day gift for your techie dad? A smartwatch can be a great choice if you know what to look for.

Consumer Reports can suggest some excellent options for Apple fans, Android fans, and others. While it's easy to find models with top-shelf prices (does Dad really need an Hermès band?), we’ve uncovered a few that combine great test scores with low prices.

And for the truly budget-crunched, a fitness tracker can offer many of the same features as a smartwatch but at an even lower price. If your dad prefers simple, a device that's focused on counting his steps and tracking his heartrate, a simple tracker may be a better fit anyway.  

Whether you're buying online or at a physical store, it never hurts to shop around. Many retailers put even the most expensive smartwatches on sale this time of year.  If you’re a Consumer Reports member in the market for a top-of-the-line smartwatch, you can check out our full ratings before you buy.

For the Apple Aficionado

Apple Watch Series 4 (44 mm) Aluminum Case GPS
Anyone who appreciates Apple’s flair for fashion and function will find this watch appealing. But before you buy it, note that it pairs only with Apple iPhones. If Dad is an Android user, skip down to the next watch on this list.

For those in the Apple family, the Series 4 watch grants you access to many of the apps available on your iPhone, serving up not only emails and text messages but also the latest news headlines, sports scores, and restaurant reviews.

More on Smartwatches

And if your dad is constantly on the go, you can buy him a $530 model that comes with cellular service. Once he signs up for a compatible plan with a wireless provider, the watch will let him go out for his daily jog and leave his iPhone behind without the fear of missing a call.

But if you’re looking to save money, think about buying him an Apple Watch Series 3. Apple is selling them for as low as $310 for the larger 42 mm model, and you might find them for less at your favorite big box store. They don’t look a whole lot different from the Series 4 and they did nearly as well in our testing.

What are they missing? The Series 3 displays are slightly smaller and they don’t have the extra sensor needed for Apple’s DIY electrocardiogram feature. (Some experts question whether this feature is a good idea.)

Quick Take

Apple Watch Series 4 (44mm) Aluminum case GPS

Price: $400

Ease of interaction
Ease of pairing
Ease of use
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For the Android Devotee

Samsung Galaxy Watch
This is our top-rated model that isn’t just for iPhones. It earns top marks for being simple to use, quick to pair with a phone, and easy to read in both bright and low light.

Like the Apple Watch, the Galaxy Watch features built-in GPS to measure distance and they have automatic workout detection, which will track your workout even when you forget to.

The watch also scores points for durability, scoring a Very Good in our scratch test and passing our water immersion test by surviving a dunk equivalent to 164 feet for 10 minutes.

Technically, it works with iPhones, but you’re going to need an Android phone to get full functionality.

And this is another instance where it will pay to do some bargain-hunting homework before buying. For example, Samsung is offering $50 off these watches for Father’s Day.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, you might want to think about the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. While it didn’t do quite as well as the Galaxy Watch in our testing, it has a starting price of just $200, providing a lot of bang for your buck.

The Active version is also lighter and thinner than the more expensive model. And Samsung’s currently offering $20 off, if you buy from its website.

Quick Take

Samsung Galaxy Watch (42mm)

Price: $330

Ease of interaction
Ease of pairing
Ease of use
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For the Fitness Tracker Fan

Fitbit Versa, $200
This is a great choice for fitness buffs looking for something that will work with either an iPhone or Android device. And while it doesn’t have as many features as the flagship Apple and Samsung devices, you get a lot for your money.

The Versa receives Very Good scores from Consumer Reports for step counting and heart-rate tracking. It’s also exceptionally easy to read in both bright and low light.

The watch survived a dunk in our tank and is safe to take swimming, and it boasts a manufacturer-claimed battery life of four days.

What’s it missing compared with the more expensive models? There’s no speaker or microphone. And, instead of building in it’s own GPS, it piggybacks off the one in your smartphone. You can’t take calls with it, either.

On the upside, the Versa works with Fitbit’s app and online community, which will let you compete in fitness challenges against other users, even if they’re still using Fitbit’s cheaper fitness trackers.

For those looking to save a few more bucks, check out the Fitbit Versa Lite, which launched this spring. It’s a paired-down version of the Versa that starts at $160.

A simplified design might make the Versa Lite a good choice for a dad who currently uses a fitness tracker, but is interested in moving on to something that looks and acts just a bit more like a watch.

Quick Take

Fitbit Versa

Price: $200

Ease of interaction
Ease of pairing
Ease of use
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How CR Tests Smartwatches

From tracking workouts to keeping an eye on texts and emails, people are using smartwatches for everything. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports’ expert Bree Fowler explains to host Jack Rico the scientific methods CR uses to test these popular devices.

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