Smartwatches have been growing in popularity over the years due to the ability to help people get the information they need without pulling out their smartphones. The features they have been gaining as of recently, or nothing short of fantastic but not all watches are made equal, so what are the best ones you can buy today for GPS and text messaging?
The 3 best GPS watches with text messaging among our picks are the Apple Watch Series 5, Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, and the Samsung Galaxy Active 2. All three of these are excellent and showcase what a smartwatch can really do.
We think you’ll be very pleased with either of these choices. In this article, we will be going over these three best smartwatches on the market, and to ensure that everyone can find a smartwatch that is right for them, not all of the mentions will have a high price attached. If you are in the market for a new smartwatch, we encourage you to read on!
The 3 best GPS watches with text messaging:
1. Apple Watch Series 5
When the Apple Watch debuted in 2015, it garnered a lot of hype. Smartwatches were done before but not quite as sophisticated as this new watch. It provided an intuitive UI, fantastic build quality, and various fitness features. It was like wearing an iPhone on your wrist—in a good way.
Fast forward five iterations of the product later, and the Apple Watch Series 5 is widely considered the best in the smartwatch game ignoring platform debates—but what makes the Apple Watch so special? It comes down to the tight integration with iOS, cutting edge technology, and overall attention to user experience.
What makes the Series 5 so special in particular are these distinct features:
- Watch OS 6
- Dedicated App Store
- Fall detection
The screen on a smartwatch is one of its most important factors. It needs to be big enough for you to see what’s going on at a glance and bright enough to where you can see it in sunlight.
The Apple Watch does both of these things very well. The screen is big, but not too big to the point it starts to look goofy on your wrist, and with 1,000 nits of screen brightness, you won’t have any trouble with seeing the display outdoors even on the brightest of days.
The real killer upgrade with the Series 5 over prior models in the screen department is the always-on display. An always-on display is a term used for OLED displays that display information while consuming the least amount of energy possible. Instead of tapping the screen or lifting your wrist to turn on the display, you simply glance at it like a mechanical watch.
When the watch is in AOD mode, it can display time, weather, your steps for the day, or anything else depending on your watch face. It may seem like a minor thing at first, but it is a quality of life improvement that makes a big difference when you are checking your watch many times a day.
The core of the magic with any Apple Watch is, of course, Watch OS. Prior versions of the software always felt like it needed to be tied to an iPhone to be truly functional on its own, but Watch OS 6 has turned a mere smartwatch into a tiny smartphone in a way—particularly if you opt for a cellular model.
The biggest addition is the dedicated app store. Prior to this, you needed to use an iPhone to download apps to your watch, which is generally fine, but being able to have this functionality on the watch itself is incredibly convenient and makes the device quite independent.
So, what can you do with an Apple Watch without an iPhone nearby? Many of the same tasks you use a smartphone for:
- Apple Pay
- Listen to music and e-books either streamed or downloaded
- View photos
- Play games
- Browse Twitter
With the Apple watch continuously becoming more independent from an iPhone, there have been questions circulating around if an Apple watch can replace an iPhone entirely for some people. You do need to set up the watch with an iPhone, but beyond that, you could technically leave your phone behind if you don’t feel like bringing it with you if you have a cellular model.
In addition to the built-in app store, watch OS brings great built-in apps that are useful:
- Noise app. Measures decibel levels around you and lets you know when you’ve been exposed to loud noises for too long.
- Calculator app. If you’ve ever heard your teacher say, “you won’t always have a calculator on you,”—this is it. It even has a tip calculator to let you know how much you should tip at restaurants, including how much each person owes when in a group.
- Cycle app. For helping women keep track of their menstrual cycle. It can predict flow and other details based on what you put in. You’ll need to enter this information in the iPhone health app.
With watch OS 7 around the corner bringing even more features, such as sleep tracking, handwashing, hearing protection, cycling directions, hearing protection, and watch face sharing, the Apple Watch will continue to get even better.
Compared to everything else we’ve talked about thus far, this might seem boring, but having a functional compass on your wrist shouldn’t be underestimated. The built-in magnetometer on Series 5 provides an accurate compass for quickly finding your way if you happen to get a little bit lost in an unfamiliar area. Furthermore, the compass API can be implemented with other apps to increase its versatility.
Overall, a compass is a welcome addition for a watch we’ve been saying you can use without a Smartphone for a short period of time.
One neat and possibly life-saving feature of the Series 5 is fall detection. If the watch detects that you’ve taken a nasty fall, it will send an SMS message to emergency contacts. Don’t worry if you are concerned about it calling emergency services during an intense workout; you can disable this feature at will.
If you are curious how this feature works in action, here is a video demonstrating the feature on an Apple Watch Series 4.
Fantastic software, hardware, and features have made the Apple Watch one of the best purchasing decisions you can make as an iPhone user.
The kicker is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy the benefits of Watch OS. The Apple Watch Series 3 is a steal of a deal, and you can enjoy the vast majority of the things that make the Series 5 so great at a much lower price.
2. Samsung Galaxy Watch 3
The Galaxy Watch 3 is the direct rival to the Apple Watch for Android users, and it is the best on that particular platform. Samsung has been chasing after Apple for a while now in the premium smartwatch landscape. Many reviewers would agree that they have done an excellent job with their newest smartwatch.
The watch’s design is more akin to a traditional watch; it is round and comes with a physical dial around the display to control navigation.
Many people note that the physical control on this smartwatch is more intuitive than swiping the screen. It’s a minor thing, but any quality of life improvements on something you are constantly using every day is going to make a difference.
Like the Apple Watch Series 5, the Galaxy Watch 3 has a top-class display for a watch. Being a Samsung product, it has an always-on-display (this feature is also on their Galaxy Phones).
The screen is an OLED panel that boasts vibrant colors, and it gets bright enough to see in direct sunlight. The top of the line displays Samsung is known for applies here—if you have a Galaxy Phone, you will feel right at home.
The Galaxy Watch 3 runs on Tizen OS, Samsung’s own operating system based on Linux. You’ll be happy to know that the software Samsung uses is able to do many of the things that the Apple watch can. In fact, it is targeted at the same demographic: people who want the most capable smartwatch on their smartphone platform of choice.
Customization is the name of the game with Tizen OS. You can install third-party watch faces to make the device personalized to your liking. And speaking of installing things, you can install apps on the watch without pulling out your phone.
The cutting edge features you expect are all there, such as GPS, texting, calling, music streaming, and fitness. One feature that Samsung has emphasized with the Galaxy Watch 3 is sleep tracking.
With sleep tracking, you can see if you are getting a good night’s rest by the app detecting when you are asleep, waking up, entering deep sleep, and more. It’s quite a marvel how serious and accurate it is. If you are concerned about your sleep health, this is currently the smartwatch to buy.
Here are the Galaxy Watch 3 packs new features over older models:
- Fall detection. As Samsung and Apple battle it out to become the best smartwatch on the market, ambitious features will make their way to both platforms. Like the Apple Watch, the Galaxy Watch 3 has fall detection where it will ring for 60 seconds before sending your location to emergency services.
- Hand gestures. The company has a history of implementing hand gestures into their products, and so it was only a matter of time before the Galaxy Watch got this treatment. With hand gestures, you can answer calls by clenching and unclenching your fist. If you’d like to ignore a call, you simply shake your hand.
- New built-in watch faces. Even with the Galaxy Store having tons of downloadable face watches, it is still nice to have a variety to choose from built-in. Chances are you’ll find something you like, but if not, that’s why third party options are great to have.
Ditching the Phone
Like the Cellular Apple Watch, the Galaxy Watch 3 LTE can be used independently from a smartphone after you have set it up. You can text, call, use GPS, listen to music/audiobooks, and pay with Samsung Pay—it is essentially a scaled-back smartphone on your wrist.
Smartwatches with LTE, in general, are excellent for fitness and cutting back on distractions, and we think the extra premium is worth it if you feel you are going to utilize a separate data plan.
The Galaxy Watch 3 has a lot going for it, and it is clear Samsung wants to be a true competitor to the Apple Watch rather than just an alternative for Android users. With so many useful features, a classy design, and an ever-expanding app selection, this is the top smartwatch for Android users.
3. Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2
Samsung makes another appearance on this list and for a good reason. The Active 2 comes in at a more affordable price point than the two watches we’ve talked about thus far while retaining many of the things that make them so great.
It was difficult choosing between the Active 2 or the Fitbit Versa 3, but in the end, the Active 2 has a larger focus on communication, and you can buy an optional LTE variant, which we feel is important for this list given the subject matter of text messaging and GPS features.
With the Active 2, you are getting an excellent smartwatch experience, and you get desirable features such as:
- Text messaging
- Built-in GPS
- Audio streaming
- Sleep tracking
- Always-on display
- Robust fitness features
If this sounds like the Galaxy Watch 3 above, that just shows how great of value the Active 2 actually is. In fact, it runs on the same OS as the GW3 (Tizen), so features such as deep watch face customization can be done here as well. But what are the real differences, and most importantly, what are you giving up?
What’s immediately noticeable about the Active 2 is that it is noticeably smaller than the Galaxy Watch 2 being a fitness smartwatch. But you don’t have to be a fitness guru to enjoy the lighter, smaller presence on your wrist. Like with mechanical watches, there will be people who prefer a large watch and prefer smaller ones.
Samsung is known for putting excellent displays on its more affordable smartphones, and the same applies here. You are getting a bright, colorful, always-on OLED display that is impressive at this price point.
The difference here is that you are getting a smaller display at 1.2 inches ( 3.048 cm) on the Active 2 rather than the 1.4 inches (3.556 cm) display on the Galaxy Watch 3. This ties into the physical size differences between these two watches.
Things You Don’t Get With the Galaxy Watch Active 2
The Active 2 is a steal for the price, but what are you giving up exactly?
- Trip detection sensors. This technology is still exclusive to the Galaxy Watch 3—the feature that can contact emergency services if the watch detects a fall. Depending on the person and what they are doing, this can be a handy feature, especially if you are doing dangerous activities.
- Storage. The Active 2 has 4gb of storage while the Galaxy Watch 3 has 8gb. Having local storage is excellent for downloading offline music for when you won’t have a connection or simply don’t want to be at the mercy of a connection.
- Rotating bezel. Once again, this is a minor thing, but it is something that is nice to have. You can still interact with the Active 2’s bezel for navigation, but it is touch-sensitive rather than the physical feedback the Galaxy Watch 3 provides.
You cannot go wrong picking up the Galaxy Active 2 if you are an Android user. It is an excellent smartwatch all around and comes at a price point that won’t make your eyes water. We could have also placed the Apple Watch Series 3 here, but the kicker is that Galaxy watches work with both Android and iOS while the Apple Watch only works with iOS.
If you do have an iPhone, we recommend going with an Apple watch, they work wonderfully with iOS, and we think you’ll love the experience. But ultimately, it is your choice; if the features of the Galaxy Active 2 appeal to you, then that is the correct decision.
Based on the features, user experience, and overall quality, these are our favorite smartwatches in the industry right now. If you value communicating right from your watch without digging out your phone, both Samsung and Apple have you covered.
The Samsung watches are IP68-rated for water and dust resistant and support wireless charging. The Apple Watch Series 5 is 50m water resistant and also has wireless charging.
All 3 of these watches have LTE models, making them excellent for those who want to ditch their phone at home from time to time, but even if you go with a GPS-only model, these watches will allow you to spend less time shuffling on your smartphone—after all, that is the point of a smartwatch at the end of the day.
Up Next In Watches:
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.
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