Smartphones have revolutionised our digital lives. Now wearables are taking the centre stage, and smartwatches are leading the charge in the once-niche technology. Big players like Google, Sony and Samsung as well as small businesses and start-ups are rolling out new models of intelligent wrist-wear. So are smartwatches the next big thing? Will we all …
Smartphones have revolutionised our digital lives. Now wearables are taking the centre stage, and smartwatches are leading the charge in the once-niche technology. Big players like Google, Sony and Samsung as well as small businesses and start-ups are rolling out new models of intelligent wrist-wear. So are smartwatches the next big thing? Will we all end up talking to our watches like Michael Knight in Knight Rider? We’ve looked behind the trend and rounded up the current crop of smartwatches for you.
Tech fed or tech necessity?
Smartwatches are designed to make our lives easier by giving us quick and easy access to apps and notifications. Use a smartwatch to connect to the internet, read emails, answer calls or write messages, all without the hassle of taking your phone out of your pocket or bag. Some models act as a remote control for your MP3 Player, while others feature a pulse tracker and pedometer, turning your arm into a powerful personal trainer.
Manufacturers have chosen different paths to incorporate smart features into wrist watches. Pebble‘s smartwatch boasts a simple e-paper screen, whereas Samsung, Sony & Co. opt for touch sensitivity in their displays. Some smartwatches work properly only when connected to a phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, while others can be operated independently from a mobile device.
But the smartwatch technology is far from perfect. Bulky designs, excessive battery drain and a lack of third-party support might keep novices at bay for the moment. Moreover, accurate touch input is more difficult due to the smaller size of the screen, creating a number of usability issues in terms of accessibility, readability and interaction.
So, do we really need a smartwatch or do we simply must have one because they are so stylish? The smartwatch technology is still in its infancy and the models currently around are nothing more than input/output devices for smartphones. They don’t offer anything you can’t ultimately do with a smartphone, making them unlikely to change the way we interact with information.
However, that doesn’t mean we should write them off completely. Smartwatch technology can be practical and capable, especially in a business environment where you don’t want to spend the whole day with your face glued to a phone display. Like the first-generation iPad, early devices tend to be slow and prone to crashes. But time will fix these problems and the second generation of wearables already looks promising. Smartwatches may not be a must-have for everyone, but don’t be surprised to see way more people ditching their old wrist-wear for a smart package.
The best smart watches
Motorola Moto 360 – a look as smart as its features
Featuring a stainless steel case and genuine leather wristband, the Motorola Moto 360 looks and feels like a real watch. With its unique round design and Android Wear operating system, Motorola set a new standard for smartwatches to come. It’s not perfect but probably the best smartwatch on the market so far.
Motorola enters the smartwatch race with a 1.5-inch diameter LCD display that boasts a resolution of 320 x 290 pixels and a pixel density of 205ppi. At a total weight of 49 grams, the Motorola Moto 360 is one of the most lightweight and comfortable smartwatches to date.
The Motorola Moto 360 works with Android phones (version 4.3 and higher) and displays your incoming texts, calls, emails and even allows you to reply to them by using your voice. Motorola’s flagship also comes equipped with an array of unique features including an ambient light sensor and wireless charging. It’s also the first smartwatch that constantly monitors your heart rate, meaning battery life is the Moto 360’s biggest weakness.
Pebble Steel – functionality at its best
The second generation of the Pebble e-ink smartwatch blends great features with an elegant design. Pebble has finally cracked the design formula by crafting a beautiful waterproof smartwatch with stainless steel design that just looks like a proper watch. Rebooted in metal and leather, the Steel will surely go better with your suit and is more discreet than its predecessor. Some, however, might be a bit disappointed by the lack of attention it’s been getting.
The Pebble Steel does not only look stylish, it also benefits from a recent explosion in apps. Pebble’s new store offers a huge range of apps, most of which are exclusive to either Android or iOS devices. Track your workout, check bus times, remotely manage your music or access the internet. But choose wisely, as the Pebble Steel can only hold eight apps at once.
Like its first-gen counterpart, the Pebble Steel is compatible with Android and iOS phones. If functionality is the most critical factor for you, the Pebble Steel is the best option at the moment. There is still room for a bigger and better ecosystem, but it’s a significant step in the right direction.
Samsung Gear S – best for connectivity
Gear, Gear 2, Gear 2 Neo, Gear S – Samsung has released more smartwatches than any other manufacturer. The Samsung Gear S is the South Korean company’s latest attempt to conquer the wearable market. And it’s an impressive one. Unlike its competitors, the Samsung Gear S tries not to be a ‘portal’ to your phone but one that stands alone.
The Samsung Gear S is the world’s first smartwatch that does not rely on a phone in order to make calls or exchange data. It includes a SIM slot, meaning it can operate independently, and comes with an in-built GPS chip that turns your wrist into a tiny sat-nav.
Samsung’s latest smartwatch features a stunning 2-inch Super AMOLED display with a 320×480 resolution. The display is slightly curved to allow for a richer view and better fit. Like other smartwatches on the market the Gear S can also be connected to a phone or tablet vie Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
You can place and receive calls through the integrated speaker and microphone as well as track messages and notifications over mobile data. Other features include an ambient light sensor, fitness apps and S Voice for voice commands.
The Samsung Gear S is a beautiful piece of design. But it’s fairly chunky and wearing it is a statement that you have joined the smartwatch frenzy.
Sony SmartWatch 3 – best for fitness fans
As a major contender in the wearables battle, Sony announced the third generation of its smartwatch range at IFA 2014. The Sony Smartwatch 3 is the company’s first to come with Android Wear, Google’s operating system dedicated exclusively to wearable devices.
Sony’s third generation of the SmartWatch offers significant step ups from its predecessors, including a sleeker design, a more powerful processor and a higher resolution 1.6-inch display. The main watch unit can be removed, allowing users to easily swap bands which come in different colours. The strap itself is made of silicone to ensure that the smartwatch is comfortable enough to wear all day.
According to Sony, the SmartWatch 3 doesn’t rely on an internet connection and offers a range of stand-alone functionality that allows for a more accurate and intensive Lifelog experience, Sony’s own health and fitness tracking application.
Apple Watch – the most anticipated wearable
The Apple Watch is considered to be one of the hottest wearables around, even though it hasn’t even been launched yet. Forget new releases like the LG G Watch R or Asus ZenWatch, Cupertino’s late entry to the world of wearables comes overloaded with features meant to kickstart the industry’s long-awaited revolution.
Apple’s smartwatch combines an iPhone, iPod and fitness tracker into one single device. Unlike its competitors, the Apple Watch is more than a simple fitness tracker by using onboard sensors to measure your heart rate and movements throughout the day. It is also the first smartwatch to support mobile payments via Apple Pay.
The Apple Watch will be available in two different sizes and three different finishes, all boasting a highly customizable watch face. It requires an iPhone 5 or later to be connected, while also offering a range of stand-alone features including playing music that has been downloaded to the watch. Set to release in early 2015, can the new Apple Watch redefine the smartwatch category and finally convince people to give wearable tech a try?