Is it too hard for you to reach all the way down into your pocket to pull out your phone? Do you need a piece of wearable tech that will vibrate disconcertingly against your flesh each time you receive a text message? Were you worried you would never again be able to find something as awkward and geeky as your 80’s Transformer’s watch? Well, then you are in luck, because smartwatches are taking the world by storm and making everything old new again!
For those that aren’t in the know, a smartwatch is a device that usually syncs with your smartphone and gives you a set of stripped-down features you can access without having to actually take out your phone. Some of them aren’t even that sophisticated and instead are just really ugly digital watches with equally ugly internal apps. Others try to also be GPS watches or they moonlight as fitness trackers. To help you comb through the morass of options we’ve compiled a list of the 5 best smartwatches. These have the best features, the best apps, the cleanest interfaces, and don’t make you look like Data from the Goonies.
Samsung Gear 2
Everything in One Place: Samsung has an advantage since they are one of the current leaders in the smartphone industry. They didn’t really need to reinvent the wheel, they just needed to shrink their existing devices down to fit on your wrist. That is basically what the Gear 2 does. It carries a 2MP camera built into the face, voice commands that use the S-Voice system already present on their phones, and works as a fitness tracker using S-Fitness.
While all of that should add up to a bulletproof experience, it doesn’t. The apps are few and far between, and while that will almost certainly change in the future, the current truth is the functionality is limited. The fitness tracker doesn’t always sync properly with S-Fitness, and the huge design is – we’ll just say it – dorky instead of impressive. Add in a weighty price tag and the fact it only syncs with Samsung phones and you have a watch just for the Samsung crowd. [Purchase: $299]
Sony Universal SW2
App Happy: As any serious tablet user can attest, there are some devices that live and die by the power of their apps. The SW2 is one such device. Even though Sony usually doesn’t lead the pack when it comes to offering impressive software, the SW2 shows that they are testing new waters. Operation is done entirely by touchscreen, which is more in line with the original smartwatch ideal. The screen is easy to use and easy to lock so that your sleeve doesn’t accidentally tweet out something offensive.
The SW2 comes with two problems. First, it only works with Android devices, so iOS users are getting no love from the electronics giant. Secondly, there really isn’t anything you can do to make the SW2 look good. You can swap out bands until your wrist chafes and alter the display a thousand times and it is still going to appear less than stylish. The lower price covers up some of these sins, and anyone that enjoys pure function will be pleased, but expect to catch some hell the first time anyone sees it. Never, ever bust it out on a first date. [Purchase: $175]
Dapper Gent: The Passport is easily the smartest looking of all the options on the list. It has the classy, uncompromising style of an upscale analog watch which could be found on the wrist of any number of Wall Street sharks – as well as more than a few Portland hipsters. Martian was on the forefront of voice operated watches, and it shows with the Passport. It works almost exclusively using voice commands, so while you will look like either a Secret Service Agent or a lunatic as you talk to your wrist, the operation is much simpler than using a miniscule screen to touch and tap your way around.
The scrolling display will tell you when you are receiving a call, a text, or will update you on stock prices and other information depending on the settings. You can even place calls directly from your wrist or control your phone’s camera. It doesn’t have quite as many features since the display is minimalist, so whatever you gain in style you lose in functionality. It works with Bluetooth so the integration to almost any smartphone is fairly simple and not brand specific. [Purchase: $300]
Versatile Simplicity: The Steel improves on the original Pebble by adding maturity and gravitas. It works with both iOS 5+ and any Android system beyond 2.3. It has its own dedicated app store with a growing number of products being offered that will give you directions, change the face of the watch, offer basic fitness tracking, and almost anything else you can think of.
As the name suggests, the Steel is not a breakable toy. The band is stainless steel and the face is pure Gorilla glass so it won’t shatter through encounters with everyday life. The customizable display lets you decide whether you want it to appear as a smooth analog watch, or something more “zany” or artistic. The issue with the watch is you must operate it entirely with the buttons mounted on the side. It lacks a touch screen or voice commands. [Purchase: $249]
Impressive Affordability: If you are looking for a bargain, or you require iOS functionality on the cheap, then the OG Pebble will probably suit you. Unlike the steel, you will get a plastic screen and a cheaper band, but it will carry many of the same basic features as well as all of the apps of its newer, better brother at a fraction of the cost. The body is completely waterproof, so you can go for a swim without missing one #FML tweet.
The buttons will feel a little mushy but it will otherwise work responsively and easily with both the Pebble apps and use with third party features like music from Pandora. The battery will run between 5 and 7 days, which is longer than nearly anything else currently available. If nothing else, it can act as a smartwatch placeholder until the next big one comes out. [Purchase: $150]
Meta by Frank Nuovo
Coming Soon: The new Meta watch that was previewed at the 2014 CES was extremely striking in that it acted as a true satellite to a smartphone that helps web junkies and the perpetually connected actually step back from reliance on their devices. Their philosophy is known as “Art of the Glance” and gives users all the information they need – tweets, emails, texts, calls, etc. – without the need to go digging through their phone every few minutes. In addition to being informative, it also promises to be stylish and to work with both Android and iOS devices. [Details]
Rumor: The Unicorn of smartwatches, the iWatch has been long a legend in the tech community, but it may be more than just smoke and mirrors. The Japanese newspaper has reported that an iWatch is likely in development and will be released in October of 2014. The device is said to run iOS 8 and will feature a curved display as well as health tracking options. It is unclear whether or not the iWatch will work with devices other than Apple’s own, but given their hermetic history, don’t expect much in the way of cross-platform compatibility. The iWatch should be released about the same time as the iPhone 6, so it may not even be backwards compatible with older version of the iPhone.
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