Looking for a smart watch that's for suitable for smaller wrists? Here are our favorite small smart watches.
Smart watches are ubiquitous. In a short time they’ve gone from tech novelty to commonplace every-day-carry, and for good reason.
The leading models are almost as capable as smartphones. They've got apps, notifications, GPS, and cellular connectivity. They can also track your heart rate during workouts and they have fully waterproof construction.
There’s no arguing that wearable tech can add real value to day-to-day life. But are there any small smart watches that work for people with slender wrists?
I set out to answer this question and review the top picks.
- Case diameter (or at least display size) of 40mm or less
- Smart capabilities: At least smart notifications
- Fitness capabilities: At least heart rate and GPS
- Models from reputable tech companies
Small Size and Fit
Fit is everything. Putting a large watch on a small wrist will never look good. A simple rule of thumb for smaller wrists is to stick to a watch size of 40mm or smaller.
There are plenty of options in that range for a traditional non-smart watch, but it turns out the selection of wearable tech is narrow.
Most smart watches are big and chunky. This criteria narrowed the field dramatically.
I needed to draw some boundaries around what I meant by “smart.” Heart rate monitoring and GPS covers the minimum for recording workouts or sports.
These help track intensity, distances/times, routes, etc. In addition to fitness tracking, part of the convenience of a smart watch is pairing it with your smartphone to get notifications on your wrist.
So heart rate, GPS, and smart notifications were the minimum requirements.
The last point is maybe the most important. We’re talking about tech. Although style is absolutely a priority, we want products made by companies that specialize in tech, not fashion. It may seem dogmatic, but we’re focused on quality and usability first.
Best Smart Watches for Small Wrists
Here are the finalists for the best smart watches for small wrists:
Honorable mention: FitBit Inspire HR
Price: $200 – $500+
Case Size: 38mm+
Display: (34mm+) Minimum OLED 272 x 340 pixels
Connectivity: Bluetooth, GPS, Wifi, LTE optional
Strictly speaking, the Apple Watch is the only full-stack flagship smart watch that offers a smaller size. More on that in a minute.
I used a 38mm series 3 LTE model with a Verizon data plan for $10/mo (optional.) With text and call ability, the LTE connectivity means your watch can basically act as a phone on its own, without needed into be within bluetooth range of your actual phone.
That's great for outdoor activities like biking, running, and definitely anything near water — this watch is waterproof.
Apple is onto the series 5 now, but the smallest option for the 5 is actually a slightly larger case size, although it is also slightly thinner which is nice.
The improvements between the series 3, 4, and 5 are meaningful but incremental. The most notable are a larger display, more computing power, and the same battery life but with an “always on” display (which I’d consider disabling anyways.)
Either way, the build quality is great, and the design is smooth and cool. I found it to go well with casual or smart casual outfits.
I felt the Series 3 LTE was a great value. You can absolutely go with a series 5 and still get a 40mm watch with all the improved tech that it comes with.
It's notable that the Apple watch has a same distinct rectangular shape. This may be polarizing, but it's also functional.
While the Apple Watch's rectangular case is less discrete, I found it to be much better for using almost all the smart capabilities.
The Apple watch is popular because the whole ecosystem just works. Even tech guru Marques Brownlee wore an Apple Watch in an interview with Bill Gates.
It also has the best selection of apps. My personal favorite is Strong. You can log a full weightlifting workout with this, and the Apple watch was the only smart watch I was able to do that with.
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 1 & 2
Price: Active $180, Active2 $250 – $400
Case Size: Active 39.5mm, Active2 40mm
Display: (Active 28.1mm, Active2 30.5mm) both 360 x 360 pixels
Connectivity: Bluetooth, GPS, Wifi, LTE optional on Active2 only
Samsung has their headliner Galaxy Watch, but the smallest size offered is 42mm, and it’s a bulky 42mm.
It may sound strict to omit it for those extra 2mm, but the fact is it’s just not a small watch. Try one on if you don’t believe me.
The original Active model a nice middle ground option for a compelling price, and it's the model I test drove. At only $180 (just lowered from $200) it has the build quality and sleek look of the most premium options.
It falls short of those top-of-the-line smartwatches by not offering full text and call capabilities, and also having no LTE availability.
Still, with GPS and heart rate I was able to track things like mountain bike sessions and runs.
Although not at the top of Samsung's lineup, the Active2 is quite competitive when compared to the Apple Watch, and it fills in the gaps left by the Active.
Garmin Forerunner 45S
Case Size: 39.5mm
Display: (26.3mm) 208 x 208 pixels
Connectivity: Bluetooth, GPS
In Garmin’s crowded lineup of options is a 40mm smartwatch called the Forerunner 45S. It's marketed as a runner’s watch.
Garmin has a good handle on the sports tech market, but as an overall smartwatch the Forerunner 45S claims the lowest specs in this lineup.
It has smart notifications when paired with your phone, but beyond that you're looking at just heart rate and GPS.
The display is low resolution and non-touch. Even the construction is a significant step below the others.
But the lacking specs don't tell the full story. The Forerunner 45S may not compete well as a general smart watch, but it's not trying to.
Garmin specializes in producing quality products that are hyper focused on sports. The Garmin Forerunner 45S is a purpose built serious runner's watch.
I'm not a serious runner, so I handed it over to my triathlete girlfriend. She picked up on several things that made this watch great runners.
First are the physical buttons. It turns out using a tiny touchscreen is difficult and annoying on a run. It's even worse if it's cold out and you're running in gloves. The buttons are easier and more reliable.
Second is the information displayed. Serious runners aren't concerned with calories burned. They're looking for pace, time splits, and other stats.
Finally, the always on display is simply more practical than having to turn your wrist just so or tap the screen.
So while you can certainly use the Apple and Samsung smartwatches on runs, the Garmin is markedly better at it.
You might be surprised to not see FitBit in the official lineup. FitBit has no smaller option that fits all of our criteria.
The Ionic comes close but the dimensions advertised are misleading. Their graphic implies dimensions for the case, but in fact the numbers listed are for the display.
I confirmed this in person, and after trying one on I concluded that it's just too big for a small wrist.
The Inspire HR is a solid budget option for a very basic fitness tracker — the price was recently lowered to $80 — but that's really all it's good for.
Let's hope Google's acquisition of FitBit mean their watches will improve, and that smaller options are part of that.
Specs are hard to compare because everyone has their own way of advertising them. And beyond that, specs never really tell the full story — software and design play a big role.
Still, we have some takeaways…
Apple vs. Android
The Apple and Samsung options overlap in specs and price. However Apple recently lowered their prices.
Impassioned Apple vs. Android fans will take to their sides of the aisle quickly. But don't jump to conclusions so fast. Consider this:
In terms of specs and value, there’s really no contest there. The base Apple Watch Series 3 offers significantly more functionality than the Active, making it the most compelling option on a $200 budget.
Then we have the Active2. It’s arguably competitive with any Apple Watch, and it’s where preference come in. While I find it hard to recommend the Active, the upgrades in the Active2 make it an excellent option and a compelling value. I also found the display to be the best looking of all the smart watches I tested.
The Samsung Active2 is the best option for Android fans.
Just like with smartphones, this battle comes down to preference. The good news is both offer some great smart watches for small wrists.
Garmin vs. The Rest
The Garmin only makes sense for runners. Compared to the shiny industry leaders of the smart watch world, the Garmin is like a trip back to the year 2000.
Everything about it is dated and lackluster. If I want a retro digital watch look, I'll just go with a much cooler $15 Casio.
If you're looking for an all around smart watch, this is not for you. But if you're training for a marathon, it is for you.
After all, there's a reason you see endurance athletes almost exclusively wearing Garmin watches.
For now, good smart watches for small wrists are limited. Luckily, the leading brands have options.
Depending on your budget and personal preferences, both Apple and Samsung have some great models that come in smaller sizes. They're refined, good looking, and high quality.
For the dedicated runner looking for a strict sports watch, the Garmin Forerunner is a capable and reasonably sized choice.