Smartwatches have been around for a while now. Most of them still need to connect to a smartphone — and then stay within a certain proximity of that phone — in order to access the internet, receive calls and notifications, or otherwise function properly.
Unfortunately for some teens, a number of parents don't want their children to have a phone yet, making the possibility of owning a smartwatch seem near impossible. But parents still want to be able to communicate with their teens while they're out and about. So what's the solution?
Luckily, there have been a number of standalone smartwatches released recently that don't need to connect to a phone to function. They have the ability to communicate via WiFi, or even over cellular data networks, making them a perfect choice for parents against smartphones.
Standalone smartwatches — no phone needed
How do these standalone smartwatches work, you ask? There are a couple of ways.
One way is to sign up for service with a wireless carrier, such as AT&T or Verizon, the same way you would a phone.
Another way is to simply take the SIM card out your phone and place it into the smartwatch, and voila! You've got a standalone smartwatch with the functions of your phone. Let's explore what's out there and you can see which types appeal to you and your teen!
Through our research, we've determined these to be the best of the standalone smartwatch options in the following categories:
- Best for athletes/hard-working/busy teens: Apple Watch 3, Samsung Gear 3 Frontier LTE, and Huawei Watch 2
- Best innovation: Blocks Modular Smartwatches
- Best resolution: LG Watch Urbane 2nd Gen
- Best wristband selection: Samsung Gear 3 Frontier LTE
- Best face selection: Lemfo Lef2
- Best for preteens/young teens: LG GizmoGadget (new arrivals set to hit stores shortly!)
Without further ado, let's get started with our reviews of the best standalone smartwatches for teens without phones.
Apple Watch Series 3
The Apple Watch Series 3 makes a great smartwatch for teens who don't want to carry a phone as it maintains many useful functions without any iPhone nearby.
Of course, the Series 4 is out now, however with an unpredictable teen, you may want to go for an older (read: cheaper) model to start.
You can do everything from tracking your workouts to mapping your jogging routes to connecting with friends via text or voice with the Apple Watch Series 3, all conveniently right at your wrist.
One reason Apple makes such a good smartwatch for teens is its versatility. It can do plenty of stuff, with or without a phone, and even with or without cellular or WiFi. We'll tell you how! Follow along on Apple's support pages below or here.
Connect your Apple Watch to a cellular network by following the steps here. Apple recommends contacting your wireless carrier to make sure your account is eligible to use this feature (some older accounts and pre-paid accounts may not be.)
You can also use WiFi to access many of your Apple Watch's features, including talking to Siri, sending and receiving texts, making and receiving phone calls, checking the weather or your stocks, and controlling your home's smart features. Additionally, you can set reminders for yourself, listen to podcasts or the radio, stream music, use WiFi supported apps, or use the Walkie-Talkie feature.
But wait — there's even more! If you can't connect to WiFi, cellular, OR your iPhone, you can still do several things with the Apple Watch 3. These include making purchases with Apple Pay, tracking your workouts or goals with their respective apps, listening to saved podcasts, monitoring your heart rate, viewing and displaying photos, playing music from a synced playlist, checking the time, or using the Alarm, Stopwatch, Timer, or other apps.
Find a physical Apple store near you here to try the Apple Watch Series 3 or other products out in person.
More about the Apple Watch:
Price: Starts at $279 at the Apple Store. Find Apple discount codes here.
Is there GPS tracking built in? Yes.
What networks is this available on? Conceivably most major carriers, but Apple recommends contacting your carrier to make sure your account is eligible to add this before purchasing.
Are there interchangeable wristbands? Most Apple wristbands are interchangeable with each other. See here for details. Look for new wristbands here.
- Built-in LTE connectivity allows users to leave their iPhone at home
- Make calls, send texts, stream music, look up map directions, check the news/weather, and make payments - all without your phone
- Sleek design
- Can be worn in the water (waterproof up to 50 meters)
- Can track stairs climbed, heart rate, and several other fitness-related functions
- GPS compatibility helps with mapping jogs, hikes, etc.
- Some reported that GPS tracking and phone calls drain the battery fast
- Some had sporadic difficulty with cellular connectivity
- You'll need an Apple Music subscription if you plan to stream music, (but Apple Music streaming is said to be fast and easy)
The Apple Watch Series 3 can do plenty without a phone, and even without WiFi or cellular — which might make this the best smartwatch for a teenager who gets bored easily. Just keep in mind they'll need a subscription for music streaming and adding the watch to your cellular plan will run about $10 extra per month.
LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition
The LG Watch Urbane has an attractive, modern, brushed metal design, is water and dust-resistant (IP67 certified), and has LTE connectivity which allows you to make calls and text on the watch without needing your phone. There's also a photo viewer and MP3 player.
It has a 480 x 480 resolution display, making for sharp visual contrast and nice colors, even when outdoors. It also runs Android Wear 2.0, and has a hypoallergenic wristband.
The battery lasts about one full day without the need for re-charging (although some have been able to stretch it to 1.5 days or longer, as it partly depends on usage.)
More about LG Watch Urbane:
Price: Starting at $484.32 for brand new, $157.49 for used, and $229.00 for refurbished on Amazon. Find Amazon promo codes here, and LG coupons here.
Is there GPS tracking built in? Yes, it has built-in GPS for tracking your runs, etc.
What networks is this available on? Available via Verizon and AT&T services, the prices vary according to plan and carrier.
Are there interchangeable wristbands? No.
- 4GB storage
- Has push-to-talk
- Can use voice dial/commands
- Can use SIM card with this watch
- Compatible with Apple and Android OS (in case you want to set it up with phone)
- Some felt the wristband is uncomfortable, but cannot be removed as it contains essential antenna for the watch
- Some reported charging cable included in their package was not the best quality
- May have trouble with wristband's stiffness if you are large-wristed
This could be a nice starter standalone smartwatch for your teenager if you don't mind the price or opt for a used/refurbished model. They can still keep in touch with you even without a phone connected, while also exchanging texts, enjoying photos, playing music - and, of course, keeping track of the time.
Zeblaze THOR 4
One of the best standalone smartwatches for teens we could find available currently is the Zeblaze THOR 4.
Is your teen sick of carrying their phone around or do they just want to be more 'hands-free' in their life? Just pop your SIM card out of your teen's (or your) phone and pop it into the Zeblaze THOR and they're good to go!
The Zeblaze THOR has numerous features including a pedometer, phonebook, heart rate monitor, music player, alarm, message notifications, weather function, GPS tracking, remote camera (yes, there's an actual camera built into the watch — so you can take sneaky pictures (or regular pictures) anytime), maps, a sound recorder, a calendar, a file manager, WiFi, and more.
Side controls include a microphone, speakers, remote camera, and multi-function button.
Here's a fun unboxing and demo of all its features.
More about the Zeblaze THOR 4:
Price: $138.99 on GearBest, and $130 on Aliexpress.com. Find GearBest discount codes and AliExpress coupon codes here.
Is there GPS tracking built in? Yes.
What networks is this available on? Although its manual says it's 'unlocked for worldwide use', some reviews indicated problems with Verizon. It's best to check with your carrier prior to purchase to make sure.
Are there interchangeable wristbands? The wristbands are not replaceable, but they're made of silica gel and most found them durable and comfortable.
- Maintains 4.6 stars out of 5 on GearBest
- Magnetic charging dock with USB makes charging easy
- Innovative design
- Prompt delivery
- Not waterproof
- Some felt it was expensive (but others disagree, considering all the features)
If you want a nice-looking, feature-rich watch with a pleasant design and arguably the best display among most of the standalone smartwatches, the Zeblaze THOR 4 is for you.
Samsung Gear S3 Frontier LTE
The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier standalone smartwatch is one of our favorites for the teens of 2018, as it's perfect for the active young person. Among its many impressive features is its military-grade resistance to extreme temperatures and physical shocks, as well as its IP68 certified dust and water resistance rating.
With its Touch Sensitivity, you can use your device while wearing gloves or with wet hands.
Rotating the steel bezel clockwise will allow you access apps anytime, while counter-clockwise scrolls through the widgets you've added.
Less than 1.5 hours fully charges your battery, even when it's completely drained, and a single charge lasts 3-4 days, allowing busy students to focus on their studies, athletics, clubs, or other more important things.
The best part is you can make calls, text, listen to music, track fitness goals, send emails, pay for whatever you like with Samsung pay, and more with your Samsung Gear S3 Frontier LTE - with no phone necessary.
More about the Samsung S3 Frontier:
Price: $299.99, or $50.00/month if you qualify for financing. You can get this at the Samsung site, and be sure to check for Samsung promo codes before shopping.
Is there GPS tracking built in? Yes.
What networks is this available on? It's available on AT&T and Verizon, but it's recommended that you contact your carrier prior to purchase to make sure your account is eligible to add this.
Are there interchangeable wristbands? Yes, a nice selection:
- Great battery life
- Easy to use
- Many features work perfectly without a phone
- Pay easily with your Samsung Gear S3 Frontier LTE Smartwatch using Samsung Pay
- Gorilla glass display coating
- Some feel it's too big (there's a Classic version for smaller wrists, but it's also sparse on features)
- A bit pricey
With its durability, numerous features, superb battery life, and convenient Samsung Pay capability, this one holds its own as one of the best standalone smartwatch options for 2018 teens. You may want to try one on first if you can to see if you like how it feels on your wrist (it's kinda big).
If you're looking for a smartwatch for a teenager boy or girl, and you like customizable options, you may want to have them try a BLOCKS Modular Smartwatch.
The best standalone smartwatch for a teenager would likely be one with all the stuff they like, and none of the stuff they don't — which BLOCKS Modular Smartwatches can uniquely offer with their swappable modules.
Starting with their Core, BLOCKS Smartwatches are already fully featured with many essentials we've come to expect from smartwatches: the ability to make calls, exchange texts and emails, listen to music, utilize fitness tracking, and more.
In this case, even the Alexa personal assistant is included.
Then you can add modules as you like, which attach as the part of the strap of the wristband.
If you're wanting a standalone smartwatch, be sure to select from the features in Phase 3, which include a Sim Card, explained below.
More about BLOCKS:
Price: The Core starts at $259, and prices range based upon which blocks you choose. A pack of 4 modules is around $140.00 more. You can get yours on the BLOCKS website, and you can find BLOCKS promo codes here.
Is there GPS tracking built in? If you choose the block featuring GPS, it is. Here it is highlighted as the 4th feature in Phase 1:
What networks is this available on? This information was not located, but it's ideally used with the SIM card module provided for standalone.
Are there interchangeable wristbands? The modules are added to the wristbands, or you can just use the one that came with it if you don't wish to add any modules. Other than that, you can choose Gunmetal Black or Sunrise Red.
- Lots of customization options
- Includes Alexa personal voice assistant
- SIM card module makes it a standalone smartwatch
- Can track activities without phone integration
- Attractive touch screen display with many colors
- Voice commands can controls apps and other services
- 1.5 day battery life on average
- Not much available for customer reviews since it's a very new product
- Expensive when you add on the modules (up to appx $400.00 with a 4-pack)
It sounds pretty fun to add to the watch's functionality by adding blocks onto the wristband and waiting for the magic to kick in, but keep in mind a 4-pack is $140.00 - on top of the price of the Core smartwatch. If this doesn't bother you, we say go for it. Let us know if you buy it and if it's as great as it looks!
Huawei Watch 2
Our next stop on our quest to find the best standalone smartwatch for teenager is Huawei, which offers several smartwatches. Our favorite, for standalone purposes, is the Huawei Watch 2.
Huawei Watch 2 users can enjoy calls on the go with no phone to weigh them down, as well as heart rate monitoring, live GPS mapping, real-time support, workout data reports, offline music, and more.
The Huawei Watch 2 is offered in classic or sport styles, each with 4 GB of storage, Android Wear 2.0, and full with application sensors like NFC, Bluetooth, GPS, a heart rate monitor, and more.
Receive notifications to your Huawei Watch 2, make NFC mobile payments, enjoy various apps and features including Google Assistant, and relax knowing you've got a remarkably long battery life.
The Huawei Watch 2 is available in Classic Gray, Sport Gray, Sport Black, Classic Brown, Carbon Black, Concrete Gray, with wristbands in either Titanium Gray Black Strap, and Titanium Gray Brown Strap.
More about Huawei Watch 2:
Price: $219.99 on Amazon, more at Best Buy and other stores listed on the Huawei website:
You can find Huawei promo codes here, or Best Buy discounts here.
Is there GPS tracking built in? Yes.
Are there interchangeable wristbands? You can choose from a Titanium Gray Black Strap or a Titanium Gray Brown Strap. (Some report you can swap them out with any properly sized silicone activity band.
- Has one of the best smartwatch displays available
- Light, flexible wristband
- IP68 dust and water resistant
- Wide range of activities on fitness tracker
- Superb speed
- Huawei Watch 2s kept on Watch Mode offer 25 days of battery life without recharging (maybe even more on 'Battery Saving' Mode)
- Workout data doesn't always sync
- Fitness sensors do not always reflect results accurately
- Some have rumoured that the Huawei Watch 2 is not available for purchase with LTE in certain parts of the U.S.
If you can get it with LTE where you live and the price doesn't scare you off, this is one of the best smartwatches for teens. A follow-up to the widely adored Huawei Watch 1, this model is sportier, has a little more plastic to it (still very well-made), and its raised bezel protects the display screen from damage (but frustratingly, doesn't rotate like some other smartwatches.) All in all, this is a comfortable, quality, standalone smartwatch, and we recommend it for anyone with active teens.
Another favorite among our standalone smartwatch treasures, the LEMFO LEF2 offers a 1.3 inch round touch screen display of 240x249 pixels with a camera, heart rate monitor, pedometer, two power-saving modes, and bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi support.
With easily scrollable apps, a built-in SIM card slot and 3G independent communication mode, the LEF2 has standalone capability as a smartwatch with Android 5.1 MTK6580 quad core. The LEF2 also has a 2.OMP HD camera for high quality pictures and videos, taken by your smartwatch.
The smartwatch also monitors and shares your heart rate on the go anytime.
You can choose to be in Smartwatch mode and use the LEF2 smartwatch as an independent smartphone, or opt for Smartband mode and only use the clock and pedometer to save battery.
The LEF2's GPS doesn't require a phone either; you can access it from anywhere when you need to find your way or locate your spot on a map.
The LEF2 supports a nano SIM card, WiFi, and more, when your teen wants to be able to get calls, check messages, browse the net, and more anywhere — without the need for a phone nearby.
More about the LEMFO LEF2:
Price: $84.99 on the LEMFO website. You can also find LEMFO discount codes here.
Is GPS tracking built in? Yes.
What networks are this available on? This is not mentioned, but the smartwatch's standalone capabilities are best utilized via SIM card, 3G WCDMA, or WiFi.
Are there interchangeable wristbands? No, the strap cannot be changed, but there are many different faces available:
- Great battery life - long lasting
- Excellent customer service
- Good tracking capabilities
- Very attractive watch with different face options
- HR monitor and pedometer work great
- Display can get very bright when needed
- While the round face is attractive, it makes reading some things more difficult where a square face would have been optimal
- Some of the tiny buttons are tricky to press
- Some had trouble pairing it with their phones (but our teens don't want that anyway, so no biggie!)
- Some said heart monitoring was fine to check at a glance, but when set for continuous monitoring throughout the day would sometimes stop and reset itself
This is an excellent option for a standalone smartwatch for your teen. You'll find GPS tracking optimal, great battery life, and superior standalone communication via SIM card or WiFi. If you're worried, it comes with a 1-year warranty; read details here.
For a younger teen or a preteen, a fantastic standalone smartwatch option can be found with LG's GizmoWatch from Verizon.
The GizmoWatch's battery is long-lasting, offering up to 2 days usage time and 8 days on stand-by without the need to recharge.
Once set up, your teen can make and receive calls from up to 10 contacts programmed into the watch. GPS is also set up to work within set boundaries, sending automatic text alerts when your teen/pre-teen steps outside of them. Parents can also check their teen's location via the GizmoHub app.
Generally, setup will require the Gizmo Hub be downloaded to a caregiver/parent's phone, but once completed the functions of the smartwatch work without the phone. Texts/calls can be then be exchanged with the parent's phone, or with the other contacts stored on the smartwatch.
Your teen can get started with fitness tracking using the LG GizmoWatch, too:
The GizmoWatch display is a touch screen, on which your teen/preteen can swipe right to get the menu. Choices on the menu include the stopwatch, timer, texting, activity tracker, and others, but the smartwatch stores no games or social media - which keeps it useful and prevents unnecessary distraction.
Overall, we feel this is one of the best smartwatches for teenagers/preteens you can find, especially for kids who aren't interested or ready to carry a phone with them. This one keeps the phone in the hands and supervision of the parent.
More about the GizmoWatch:
Price: $149.99, plus $5 per month, with a 2-year contract. You can pick one up on the Verizon website, or use their store locator for a physical location near you. You can find Verizon Wireless promo codes here.
Is there GPS tracking built in? Yes, and you can set your own GPS boundaries, sending alerts to your teen/preteen when they step outside of them.
What networks are this available on? Verizon.
Are there interchangeable wristbands? Original wristbands come in pink or blue, but cannot be exchanged with other bands due to the smartwatch antenna being stored in part of the wristband.
- Easy to use touchscreen
- Parents can track teen/preteen's location via the app on their phone/smartwatches function without the phone
- Monthly wireless fee is reasonable
- Program up to 10 contacts, customize preset messages, adjust volume, theme and activity goals, etc., onto the smartwatch
- Initial product purchase price is a bit high
- Although it may give parents peace of mind, it cannot truly be considered a "safety device" as it's removable and can be turned off externally
The GizmoWatch is ideal for young teens and preteens who want to use a smartwatch and enjoy the fun functions, but don't want the bother or responsibility of carrying a phone along.