Smartphones, smartwatches, GPS watches, and fitness trackers have become invaluable to runners and other athletes.
We store our data on them. We download all our favorite fitness apps onto them. Some of us map our running routes on them too.
One of the more convenient features is the ability to send and receive text messages from your watch. This means you don’t have to constantly have your phone nearby, so you can have a distraction-free run or workout.
Our top pick is the Apple Watch Series 7. Not only can you track and monitor your runs with GPS, but you can receive and even reply to text messages right from the watch.
We’ve reviewed the best GPS watches with text messaging that we recommend for runners who’d like to leave their phone at home but still get all the stats, data, and incoming messages.
Top 3 Best and Favorite
Apple Watch Series 7
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
Garmin vivoactive 4
Best Overall For iPhones
1. Apple Watch Series 7
Apple fans rejoice, for the Apple Watch Series 7 is here. It’s touted as the most durable ever, with the largest screen, too. It’s also fully packed with new health innovations, so you’ll be covered from all angles.
If you thought the screen was big on the Series 6, think again. Surprisingly, Apple has managed to increase the screen size by close to 20% over the Series 6.
To make the most of this extra space, the touchscreen buttons have also been redesigned, aimed at making your app usage easier and more intuitive.
You’ll be able to view incoming messages right on your wrist, and reply by typing or dictating a response. You can change notification and reply settings in your Watch app on your iPhone.
The larger-than-life display makes it possible for Apple to incorporate a full QWERTY keyboard on this watch. Ideal for texting, it studies your typing/swiping habits and uses AI to predict your next word.
The Scribble feature is also a nice one to have, which allows you to literally write out your messages on your watch screen with your finger.
The improved health features also get a thumbs-up. A robust ECG app offers you the benefit of a full heart rhythm checkup at any time – something that’s ideal for athletes who do suffer from heart problems. You’ll also be able to get an on-demand blood oxygen reading.
Sleep tracking is also comprehensive and helps you to create healthy sleep habits. An interesting new function, called Reflect, helps you to calm down in the moment and center yourself, and guided Meditations keep you at peace throughout the day.
As for exercise, Apple Fitness+ is jam-packed with workouts of all kinds. Whether you’re in the mood for HIIT, weight training, Tai Chi, yoga, or another form of cross-training, you’ll be able to track and see everything at a glance on the sizable screen.
And as a final bonus, the Series 7 charges up to 33% faster than its predecessor! Just 45 minutes of charging with a USB-C cable will take you from 0 to 80%.
- Bigger display than Series 6
- New QWERTY keyboard
- Very fast-charging
- Improved health features
- Always-on display can’t be turned off
Top Watch For Android
2. Samsung Galaxy Watch 4
If you’re an Android user, then the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 is as close as you’ll find to the Apple Watch.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to have a Samsung smartphone to use their watch (because it runs on Google), but you’ll miss out on some features if you have a different Android device.
With a larger AMOLED screen and more discreet frame and strap design, this watch is in your face in a good way.
For all intents and purposes, the Galaxy Watch acts like a smartphone. Everything on your phone syncs to your watch (this may not happen fully with other Android devices) and the watch itself features apps like Samsung Pay, Samsung Health, and Bixby, their voice assistant.
The Google integration makes it even more fully-featured, allowing you to download from the Google Play Store too.
For text messaging, we recommend downloading Google voice-to-text through an app like GBoard, to make responding easier. You can reply to texts on the watch, but it must either be connected to a Galaxy phone or it must be an LTE model and connected to Wi-Fi.
Improved sleep tracking and health metrics include blood pressure measurements, an ECG, blood oxygen readings, and even snore detection. Some of these will require a Samsung phone to work.
When it comes to fitness, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of different forms of exercise to track, and the watch itself includes more than 90 different exercises.
Another unique feature is the ability to measure body composition, which will give you a rough idea of your body fat percentage, how much water you’re retaining, and how much your skeletal muscle weighs.
The one downside we find with the Samsung is that its battery life isn’t quite up to the same standard as others. 40 hours is less than many other watches offer, but it’s up to you whether this is a true con or not.
- Measures body composition
- Can use Google voice-to-text engine
- AMOLED display
- More than 90 exercises
- Battery life is short in comparison to others
Best Value Android
3. Samsung Galaxy Active 2
If you like the sound of the Samsung Watch but would prefer to start with something a little more affordable than the above, the Galaxy Active 2 is an excellent choice. It’s an older design, but still offers plenty of high-end features.
The watches look extremely similar. There’s a slight difference in resolution, with the above watch being 396 x 396, and the Active 2 being 360 x 360. This is still a fantastic resolution, though, so no worries there.
There’s no Google integration with this watch, but do you really need it?
If you’re connected to Wi-Fi, you can receive calls and texts. Make sure you set up your watch correctly using your Samsung phone app so that you can easily send and receive texts.
You can send a voice note, a pre-loaded quick text (one or two words), or type in a full message, which can be difficult depending on the size of your fingers. Or, you can use Bixby to dictate a text reply.
You still have almost exactly the same fitness tracking options. Although this is more like a budget watch, it manages to pack in an ECG feature, blood pressure reading (may not be available in certain countries), and sleep analysis.
To help you get better rest, the watch also features a Goodnight mode, which turns off notifications that could wake you before morning.
A stress tracker with breathing exercises and a heart rate alert also help keep you calm during stressful times.
Choose from multiple different workout modes when it’s time to get active with the Active 2, seven of which have built-in auto-detection. Runners will enjoy the Running Coach function.
A fun feature that no other smartwatches have is an automatic watch face chooser. Snap a pic of your outfit, and the watch will select a matching face for the day.
As for the battery, it offers a longer battery life than that Galaxy Watch 4, which is a big pro.
Although the manufacturer states that the watch is waterproof enough for swimming, should something go wrong and it’s been in water, the warranty is invalidated.
This is a little concerning, so if you plan on swimming, another watch may be a better choice.
- A touch bezel
- Health monitoring
- Bixby smart assistant
- Decent battery life
- Warranty voided if the watch gets wet
4. Garmin vivoactive 4
This list wouldn’t be complete without an offering from Garmin, and the vivoactive 4 comes out on top of their range. Although it’s been 2 years since it was released, it remains one of their most popular watches.
One of the best things about the vivoactive 4 is that it’s a middle-of-the-range watch, both in price and features. It covers most of what most people want, at a price that most people can afford.
A 1.3-inch touchscreen display of 260 x 260 pixels may sound quite a lot lower than the more modern watches, but it’s perfectly adequate.
The screen is also protected by Gorilla Glass 3 technology, making it more durable. An always-on display is easy to see in both darkness and bright sunlight.
When paired to your phone, you can receive texts and emails on your watch. If you have an Android, you can use your watch to respond to texts as well.
Take note, though, that you’ll only be able to send quick replies using pre-written messages. If you want to send a personalized message, you’ll need to do that in the Garmin Connect app.
The watch comes with more than 20 sports modes built-in. There are also easy-to-follow exercise videos preloaded onto the phone, which is an excellent idea.
As well as a full fitness suite, you can keep track of other health metrics with sleep tracking, stress tracking, or use Garmin Connect to track your nutrition, women’s health, and other things.
Take note that the vivoactive starts off with good battery life, but it seems to deteriorate as time passes.vvPROS:
- Gorilla Glass 3 technology
- Always-on display
- Improved touchscreen
- Track your fitness
- The battery life deteriorates as time passes
5. Fitbit Sense
Fitbit is another big name in the fitness tracker space. If they’re your brand, we recommend the Fitbit Sense if you want a watch with text messaging and a host of other features.
You may need to download an extra app in order to be able to reply to texts on your Sense. Even then, chances are you won’t be able to send long-winded replies – short, sweet, preloaded messages or quick voice notes will be it.
Featuring Fitbit’s classic square face, the Sense isn’t a new watch. It’s been around for a couple of years, but it’s been well-received and continues to be a popular choice.
The biggest disadvantage is that you need a subscription to Fitbit Premium to access many of the best tools the watch offers. You’ll get a free 6-month trial when you purchase the Sense, though.
The Sense got a firmware update in late 2021 that modernized it a little and bumped it up to match some of the newer watches out there. It included the addition of Google Assistant notifications, milestone celebrations, and a beta test of a snore detection function.
It offers everything you need to keep a close eye on how your health is going. An ECG, stress monitoring (with meditation and mindfulness for subscribers), and a large variety (20+) of activity training and tracking choices.
Other thumbs-up features include an onboard GPS, built-in speaker, and a cumulative activity tracker where you earn Active Zone Minutes when you reach your goals.
- Built-in speaker
- Onboard GPS
- Alexa or Google Assistant voice control
- 20+ exercise modes
- Need Fitbit Premium to access many tools
Top Battery Life
6. COROS APEX
COROS has become well-known lately for their exceptional battery life, so it’s no surprise that they win this title in this review.
The APEX is designed for outdoor athletes, and it’s packed with features. You can select sports modes of the usual types, but it also includes more adventure sports like skiing and snowboarding, as well as a triathlon mode.
It’s robust and durable, designed to be worn while doing rough stuff. A 10ATM water rating and lack of a touchscreen support that.
With more than 200 preloaded exercises and the ability to monitor and show advanced exercise metrics, you’ll never need another watch.
You’ll be able to track whatever metrics you need with widgets, and the screen is clear and bright enough for spotting them at a glance. The watch also syncs effortlessly with most third-party apps.
Take note that the APEX offers on-screen message displays, but there’s no way to respond on the watch. You’ll need your phone to do so, but if you’re looking for a watch that just keeps you up to date with what messages are coming in, this could be the one for you.
- On-screen message display
- Excellent battery life
- Advanced fitness metrics
- 200+ preloaded exercises
- Can’t change display brightness
Unsure about the best GPS watches with text messaging? Here are some questions we hear often that may help you to make a decision.
Can You Text on a Smartwatch Without a Phone?
Most of the latest smartwatches offer the capability to send text messages directly from the watch, without needing your phone.
Depending on the model, your phone may need to be paired to your watch and within a certain distance range, or it may not need to be nearby but you’ll need to have the appropriate app on your watch.
Again depending on the model, your watch may allow SMSs, push notifications, emails, or instant messages from other applications. Some will allow you to reply on the watch too, but others won’t.
What Features are Important for a GPS Watch with Text Messaging?
The features you need on a text message-enabled watch will really depend on your needs.
Obviously, the watch needs to have connectivity to your device and decent battery life so that incoming texts don’t run your battery flat.
If you want to reply to text messages on the go, a voice assistant function can be helpful.