Despite the idea of blending a mobile phone and watch hovering around for a long period now, we are yet to see them really explode as a technological phenomenon. That said, all of the major players in the electronics business seem certain that consumers are ready to snap up the right product. As such, we are likely to see a boom in the market over the coming months.
Smartwatches as we know them now have been on the market for around a year, with the majority slipping under the radar amongst the girth of more popular tech like smartphones and tablets.
But with companies increasing their productivity on smartwatches, there is now a choice for any consumer looking to buy from the market. So, what is currently out there for you, are any of them any good and what’s on the horizon in the smartwatch market?
One of the most stylish smartwatches currently on sale, the Motorola 360 can offer you a well-built watch at a reasonable price.
With a clean, circular design, the 360 resembles most closely the versatile watch you might see worn both causally and more formally. The 360’s superb build quality is generated from a stainless steel frame and genuine leather strap. In spite of this, the lack of alternative front faces makes it less unique than the breadth of designs you might find elsewhere.
The Motorola does come with a few cool features, such as plane landing times, live Sport scores, maps and google fit. Plus, the Motorola 360 charges wirelessly and with the inbuilt Android wear software, it is compatible with all Android smartphones running 4.3 Jellybean and beyond.
Where the Motorola falls down is in the same areas as a lot of other watches on the market. The battery life will barely see out a day, caused by the poor processor, which struggles to deal with the software built on it. Couple this with the availability of watches that now surpass what the 360 does well, and it is hard to recommend.
Buy if you want: All good all-rounder (£200).
Samsung Gear Live
Released in August, Samsung’s latest attempt at the smartwatch is looking to follow up on what was the best on the market six months ago, the Gear Neo 2.
The Gear Live was the first to run the Android Wear software, and it shows. Watches such as the Motorola above has since surpassed the Samsung in looks and features. The Gear Live was a decent showcase of all that Google now had to give at its time of release, and was certainly an upgrade on earlier iterations of the watch.
So, the Samsung will give you all of the compatibility, apps and features that you get with the Motorola. Added extras such as a heart rate monitor and voice recognition do add a little incentive to choosing the Samsung if you’re the more fitness-minded or drive focused consumer.
But again, the Samsung is far from the definitive watch. The design and build quality are relatively uninspiring. And again, the battery life and processor are appalling. A glance over the horizon at what’s to come may be a more worthwhile bet.
Buy if you want: A slightly cheaper alternative (£170) to the Motorola 360.
LG G Watch R
LG are due to introduce their second attempt at cracking the smartwatch market with the October release of the G Watch R. With the fairly limited and cheap LG G preceding what is on offer here, they had little to improve on with the G Watch R.
LG have gone a little more upmarket with the upgrade to the G Watch. The design and build quality have been improved so considerably that it now comfortably sits at best in class based on looks alone. The idea of a circular frame with a bright, slick screen, as seen in the Motorola, has been carried over and improved on in the G Watch R.
Aside from that, you are essentially lumped with the same piece of kit as in the two watches above. The battery life will also extend out to a little less infuriating, but still disappointing, two days. The slightly improved spec does ensure the LG operates Android now better than what is above. Plus, the addition of a heartrate monitor does mean the fitness freak can consider this particular watch.
But, with few advancements made from earlier Android wear smartwatches, the price may be a little too much for most to stomach (£220).
If you’re after a smartwatch that’s a little more back to basics, you could join the raft of consumers taking the plunge and buying themselves a Pebble smartwatch.
Unlike any other smartwatch you’re likely to find in the market for some time, the Pebble is compatible with both the iPhone and Android phones. This unique selling point may well make it more accessible to the market, but it also brings the crutch of its downfall.
The Pebble is essentially designed for compulsive phone checkers who no longer want the impracticality of pulling their phone out of their pocket. The Pebble contains a basic interface that is navigated using direction buttons along the side. From here, you can set an alarm, change your watch face or check the notifications that are beamed from your phone.
The Pebble will display all your texts, tweets and snapchats, as well as change the song you’re currently listening to, thus saving you time and effort constantly fumbling around with your phone. Aside from this, the Pebble doesn’t really offer the consumer much in terms of features.
Buy if you want: A cheap watch (£130) that’s high on compatibility.
Sony Smartwatch 3
Sony have been in the game a while already, and the release of the 3rd edition of their smartwatch brand has been met with a considerably better response than the previous two.
Indeed, Sony have remarkably created what is currently the best use of Android Wear software. Not only does it have by far the most impressive spec, but the addition of GPS is one that smartwatches have been crying out for. For any user whose out for an evening run, the Sony smartwatch could offer you a device you could use without the need to lug around your smartphone as well. A further tick in the Sony box comes from the battery life, which is claimed to last from 2-5 days.
These extra plus points build on what is essentially the same piece of kit as the other contenders. With Android Wear still in its early stages, this would be the watch to have to get the best out of what is currently available. What it lacks in design and value (around £220), it makes up for in features and sheer power (the quad-core processor is more than what’s required for the job). Worth a strong consideration.
Buy if you want: The best smartwatch currently out there, especially if you like to run.
What’s Coming Up
The amount of players in the smar
twatch market is set to expand dramatically over the coming months, and biding your time before making a purchase may be the smartest move.
Both Acer and Asus are set to release their attempts before Christmas. If neither of those hit the spot, you may have heard of a small time company named Apple who are planning to hit the market.
The Apple watch is due out in the early part of next year. With a price point starting at around £220, it will unsurprisingly fit somewhere around the higher end of the market. The square iPod nano look doesn’t transfer as well to a watch than it did for the mp3 player, but the breadth of choice Apple are offering in terms of face and strap will place it towards the top end of the smartwatch lookers.Apple have pushed forward there marketing of the upcoming product, despite it’s release not until 2015. Largely done in the hope you will call off any purchase until you’ve seen theirs, Apple’s device seems to offer little extra to Android wear except the obvious, that it runs with iOS 8 devices.
Every single smartwatch available on the market today suffers from one potentially colossus issue that will no doubt continue to hamper potential suitors. The requirement that smartwatches are teamed with your smartphone at all times makes them nothing more than a largely pointless, yet expensive, accessory to your phone.
Aside from offering relief from the mild impracticalities of having a phone in your pocket or bag, these are counter balanced by the impracticalities of having to carry your phone alongside it at all times. This could become a major issue if, say, you’re out on a run and you own a phablet sized phone. You can rectify this to some degree with the Sony smartwatch, but that will only track you via GPS, not monitor any notifications from your mobile.
Alongside the dramatically limited set of apps that have currently been developed for the specifically created Android Wear store, my advice would be to play the long game. Smartwatches are going to be a tough nut to crack, and without 3 or 4G, the current crop of options are just plain unnecessary.
In conclusion, put something else on your Christmas list. But do so safe in the knowledge that when a product enters the market that allows you to use your smartwatch independently, rather than in conjunction with, your smartphone, then will be the right time to enter the market.