Best Smartwatches of 2015

Category: Mobile

Smartwatches comprise a very young product category, but already it’s becoming crowded and confusing. Here is a beginner’s guide to smartwatches, what features are important to look for, and some best-of-breed examples. Read on…

What's the Best Smartwatch For You?

The image that always pops into my head when I think of smartwatches is Maxwell Smart and his watch. But the first thing to know is that a smartwatch won’t replace a smartphone - yet.

Recently LG Electronics released a watch that it claimed could make and receive calls, texts, and other data transmissions via its built-in LTE cellular connectivity; but after only six days in the market, the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition LTE was abruptly pulled due to unspecified hardware issues. It won’t be back for several months, says LG.

The current crop of smartwatches communicate with smartphones via Bluetooth or WiFi. The watch acts as a sort of "dumb terminal" slaved to the phone’s more powerful computer. But a smartwatch can also store and run offline apps on its own when the phone is out of range or switched off.

Best Smartwatch 2015

A smartwatch can save you time (in addition to telling it). When your phone rings, you can glance at your watch to see who’s calling; text and email notifications are also displayed on your wrist. You can also use apps running on your smartphone via a smartwatch’s interface. The alternative is to dig your phone out of pocket or bag and unlock its screen. How many times a day do you do that? It adds up.

The smartwatch you buy must be compatible with your smartphone. The Apple Watch works only with an iPhone, of course. Android Wear watches work with phones running Android 4.3 or higher. (Using your phone’s browser, check here to see if your phone is compatbile with Android Wear.) Finally, there are smartwatches that work with either Android or iOS, such as those made by Pebble and Martian.

Screens and Controls

Pebble smartwatches use e-Ink displays. A black-and-white display may seem lame, but e-Ink is much easier to read in bright light and much easier on batteries; a Pebble watch will run for days between charges, while an Apple Watch must be charged every day. You’re not going to like watching videos or playing games on a watch’s tiny screen, anyway.

Color displays use so much power that many color smartwatches turn off their screens while the watch is asleep. Look for a smartwatch that at least displays the time when it’s sleeping!

Touch-screens on smartwatches can be problematic for people with large fingers or shaky fine motor control. Pebble and LG watches provide physical buttons for navigating menus and switching apps. The latest version of Android Wear lets you switch between “cards” with a flick of your wrist. One example is the Sony SmartWatch 3. The popular Android-powered Samsung Gear S2 has a rotating bezel that provides access to many functions.

The Apple Watch has a physical crown for zooming and scrolling, and “Force Touch” knows the difference between a tap and a prolonged press. The Voice Martian looks like a sports/diver watch but is controlled by voice commands.

The availability of apps optimized for a smartwatch is important. Apple has more than 3,500 apps available for its Watch. Pebble’s app store boasts over 4,200 apps in its store, but Apple seems to have cornered more high-end brands’ apps. Android Wear had about 4,000 apps as of September, 2015

Prices of smartwatches range from the very affordable ($69.95 for a very ugly basic Pebble Black) to the utterly ridiculous ($10,000-17,000 for an 18k gold Apple Edition) With dozens of competitors, the Android Wear market probably delivers the most bang for your buck.

It's a Young Market

Dedicated health-and-fitness monitors like the FitBit or Microsoft Band may be replaced by smartwatches with built-in sensors and specialized apps. The second-generation Apple Watch will include Apple Health, a nebulous array of features designed to monitor heart rates, calories burned, blood oxygen concentrations, and who knows what else. The Google Fit ecosystem is here now - it simply uses the accelerometer built into Android Wear watches to monitor your movements, and a Web site to keep track of your exercise progress.

Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak isn't sold on the utility of smartwatches. He owns an Apple Watch, but recently said that when he forgets to wear it, he doesn't miss it. Woz no longer works for Apple, but he's dropping hints that future models and/or improved apps for the Apple Watch will make it more appealing.

I can’t see myself spending more than $100 for the capabilities of the current generation of smartwatches. To me, the need to carry two devices kind of misses the point. When a smartwatch can replace a smartphone for calls and text, I will be more enthusiastic. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Best Smartwatches of 2015"

Posted by:

24 Nov 2015

I agree unless it can stand alone why do I need it. It's concept is good and like the iPod,iPad,iPhone it will take time to get it there but not until then do I need or want one.
Thank You

Posted by:

Francis Reilly
24 Nov 2015

It's hard enough to keep a cell phone safe,I can't imagine wearing an expensive watch/ersatz computer on my arm and subjecting it to damage all day.

Posted by:

JM Rivest
24 Nov 2015

Why the title of Best Smartwatch? You are not giving any test results, any users poll results etc.

I have a LG Watch R that works perfectly, I am more than happy with it, WiFi connectivity added in the last firmware upgrade.

Hoping to see more about the present and future of smartwatch market. Thanks.

Posted by:

24 Nov 2015

"To me, the need to carry two devices kind of misses the point." Exactly my feelings! That, plus the cost and having to charge it almost as often as a phone -- no thank you.

Posted by:

24 Nov 2015

Your link to "check here" for the Android wear compatibility does not work.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Try again, it's seems fine now.

Posted by:

24 Nov 2015

As a woman, my smartphone is always in my handbag, which makes notifications hard to hear when I'm out. It also makes it impossible for me to feel vibrating notifications. So I'd love a smart-watch to save me missing calls and texts while I'm out!

The biggest problem for me is that almost all smart-watches are man-sized and I like to wear feminine jewellery. The only one I've seen that is slim and narrow is the Samsung Smartband Talk SWR30 - but that has other drawbacks! Like the screen scratches easily, the silicon strap is a lint magnet and worst of all, you cannot see the display in the dark!

I have been looking for a ladies style smartwatch that you can make and receive calls on for a couple of months, with no luck. But hopefully, manufacturers will eventually realise that a lot of women would like a more feminine looking smartwatch ;-)

Posted by:

24 Nov 2015

"To me, the need to carry two devices kind of misses the point."
It only misses the point if you don't normally wear a watch anyway.
I have a Pebble Time and 75% of the 'time' I use it for that simple purpose, yet it's truly convenient to be able to set your phone to vibrate and when you get a call or text, you don't have to pull out your phone, especially in restaurants, movies, etc... You can even send a canned response to a text or call with the simple push of a button.
If I stray too far from my phone, it gives me an alert, which saves me from having to backtrack more than 20-30 feet looking for it. That feature alone is worth it's weight in gold.
The battery life is around 3-4 days too, so to me it's worth every penny.

Posted by:

24 Nov 2015

I agree, why spend so much money, for a watch that isn't a Smart Phone?

I am still, one of those who really do not believe in the Smart Phone. And yes, I do have a Smart Phone. I only use it to make calls and play a couple of games, when I am at the doctor's office.

I do get messages that are important and I really like that. Messages to remind me of doctor appointments or upgrades to my phone or messages from my retail stores that I shop at, letting me know of discounts and savings. Yes, I would get them, even with a Flip phone, but, I really don't like Flip phones. They are too hard to type replies.

I definitely, do not want or need a SmartWatch!!! My new Smart Phone is a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and it has some health apps on this phone. Where I can take my pulse rate. That's enough for me. :)

Posted by:

25 Nov 2015

Probably too small a screen for my 65 year old eyes to get much use from; I think my Seiko mechanical watch will have to do for now.

Posted by:

25 Nov 2015

I am the owner of a "very ugly basic Pebble Black" and it works just fine for me.

Posted by:

Jim S
25 Nov 2015

Well, I have to say the Moto 360 was a good investment for me. Im always getting in and out of my car with my phone in the car. As long as Im within 30 feet of the phone (which most of the time I am) I can see who is calling or texting and respond. The addition and WIFI on the watch has been a great addition for the times I'm at home and not walking around the house with my phone. I have the first gen Moto 360 but can't justify the up cost just yet.

Posted by:

Monte Crooks
30 Nov 2015

I think of Maxwell Smart every time I see one of these obtrusive devices. Max and the current smart watch people seem to have the same confused expression whenever their watch starts making a funny noise. Someday, we'll have it all figured out. About the time something "new" comes out, I'm sure.

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