Best Smartwatches of 2015
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.
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...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 24 Nov 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Best Smartwatches of 2015 (Posted: 24 Nov 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved