Smartwatches are on the up and starting to find their place in the mainstream. The question “Why would I want a smartwatch if I have a smartphone?” still exists, but as the owner of a smartwatch (or 5) the value of that old question has been erased from my Temporal lobe.
There are still only a small number of Android Wear smartwatches available, although a few more are set to be released in 2015, and 2016 onwards is going to see plenty more.
If you’re thinking about getting yourself a smartwatch, but Android Wear is not your OS of choice there are several alternatives, the most obvious being the Apple Watch.
Best Smartwatch Alternatives to Android Wear
The Apple Watch is the best-selling smartwatch out there, and it just got better with the WatchOS 2. There are three Apple Watch variations to choose from: Watch, Watch Sport and Watch Edition, each one comes in His and Her’s sizes. The Watch straps are interchangeable and there are plenty of different styles and colors to choose from.
The Apple Watch’s displays vary between the two sizes: The 38mm vesion has a 1.3 inch 272 x 340 (326ppi) AMOLED touchscreen. The 42mm version has a 1.5 inch 312 x 390 (326ppi) AMOLED touchscreen.
There is no shortage of apps available – both by Apple and third-party developers. If fitness tracking is your thing you can take advantage of the onboard heart rate monitor, Apple Health and plenty of other Quantified Self and training apps. You can use your Apple Watch to pay for goods in stores with Apple Pay, use Siri, the onboard digital assistant to interact with voice commands, and use the innovative Digital Crown to navigate the Watch.
The Apple Watch brings smart notifications from social apps aswell as the ability to make and take calls thanks to a built-in mic and speaker. You can reply to emails straight from your wrist, customize watch faces, connect to a wi-fi network independently from your iPhone, and plenty more.
The Apple Watch battery life isn’t Muhammad Ali (The Greatest) as it only lasts for around 1 day.
The Apple Watch is compatible with the iPhone 5 and above, running iOS 8 and above.
• Apple Watch
Samsung Gear S2
Like the first Samsung Gear S, the new circular Gear S2 brings an impressive feature set. See the difference between the Gear S and Gear S2
The Samsung Gear S2 comes in three models: Gear S2, Gear S2 Classic and Gear S2 3G. The S2 and S2 Classic have already been released, the S2 3G is set for a release in early November complete with a data plan from Verizon and T-Mobile.
The Gear S2 and S2 Classic don’t differ much in specs. Although the cases are slightly different in size and shape, the S2 being slightly larger than the S2 Classic , the screen size is the same. The Gear S2 3G is the largest of three – more room needed to accommodate the GPS chip and e-SIM.
The other difference between the S2 and S2 Classic is the strap and color options. The S2 comes in gunmetal/dark grey strap, or silver/white strap. The S2 Classic is an all black number with a leather strap. All the models feature the excellent rotating bezel that can be used to navigate the apps, scroll, zoom and adjust levels.
All the S2 models feature a 1.2 inch Super AMOLED touchscreen display with a 360 x 360 resolution (302 ppi). The display is vibrant and doesn’t have a pork chop (flat tyre) like the Moto 360 2, plus AMOLED is more suitable for smatwatches than the Moto’s IPS LCD as it offers higher contrast and wider viewing angles, and in theory is kinder on the battery. That’s not to say the Moto 360 2nd-gen display isn’t beautiful.
You won’t be short of fitness tracking features with theGear S2, as it’s packed full of sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, barometer, heart rate sensor, ambient light (GPS with the S2 3G).
Connectivity options include Bluetooth 4.1, wi-fi, and NFC so you’re ready to use Samsung Pay when it arrives in 2016. The S2 3G also supports 2G and has a built-in e-SIM so it can be used to make and take calls as a standalone device.
See also | Original Samsung Gear s
It’s worth mentioning that to use the GPS on the Gear S2 3G you will need an internet connection – either wi-fi or mobile data.
Samsung opted to use their own Tizen operating system for the Gear S2. Tizen is an ecosystem on the rise with some big gun partner apps and the S Voice digital assistant, plus, 1,000 apps were specially designed for the release of the round-faced Gear S2.
The Samsung Gear S2 is compatible with Android 4.4 + and unlike its rectangular predecessor it’s not limited to Samsung Galaxy smartphones, although your smartphone will need to have at least 1.5GB of RAM.
Both The Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic have a 250mAh battery which can run for 2 – 3 days between charges (if you don’t use it much). The pending 3G version has a 300 mAh battery and has a claimed battery life of around 2 days with average use – if you’re using the 3G calling and GPS features expect less, much less..
• Samsung Gear S2
Pebble Time & Pebble Time Steel
In 2015 the Pebble Time the most successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $20m which is twice as much as original Pebble raised in 2012. Since their birth, Pebble smartwatches have earned the following of a loyal community who would argue until blue in the lips that they own the best smartwatch on Earth.
With its mammoth sized bezel the Pebble Time isn’t as kind to the eye as the likes of the Apple Watch, and it’s not packed with as many features. However, if you think a smartwatch should be less of a smartphone accessory and more of a watch then the Pebble Time may be the wearable to rev your engine.
If you want a good-looking Pebble Time you’ll need to pay a bit extra and go for the Pebble Time Steel. The Steel has less bezel but it’s slightly thicker. It has a metal chassis unlike the regular plastic Time.
Unlike the original Pebble’s display which was black and white, the Pebble Time brings a 1.25 inch 168 x 144 (180 ppi) 64-color e-paper display. The display isn’t as impressive as the Apple Watch or Android Wear smartwatches and it’s not touchscreen, but the Pebble Time makes up for the inferior display as it gives you four times the battery life as the others.
There’s an onboard microphone for voice notes and quick replies which work with apps such as SMS, Gmail, Whatsapp, Hangouts, Facebook and more. If you’re an iPhone user, voice features are coming with a future update.
See also | Pebble Time Round
There are plenty of watch faces available along with apps from some big names such as TripAdvisor, Uber, PayPal, GoPro, Dominos Pizza and many more. All the basic features, such as vibrations and alarms come with the Pebble Time along with fitness and sleep tracking capabilities and compatibility with popular fitness apps such as Misfit, Movable and Runkeeper. If you are upgrading your home into a smart home – you can cook up recipes and trigger devices from your Pebble Steel with the IFTTT Launcher app.
The Timeline feature, which is similar to the Time Travel feature that recently came to the Apple Watch with WatchOS 2 – makes it easy for you to access information in a chronological order without having to constantly open different apps.
The Pebble Time/Steel is water-resistant up to 30 meters and can be used in the pool. It’s available in three different styles, and the Steel is available in six.
The Pebble Time/Steel is compatible with iOS and Android. The battery life of the regular Time is up to 7 days, and the Steel up to 10 days
Look out for Smart Straps coming to Pebble in the future.
• Pebble Time
Martian Voice Command
Martian are one of the pioneers of the smartwatch industry. Their most recent addition is a collection of voice command circular smartwatches: Envoy G10, Aviator B10, Alpha T10, Electra E10 and S10.
Each model is equipped with Martian’s award-winning technology, including Dual Mode functionality which offers voice command controls using Bluetooth Classic while using Bluetooth LE for hands-free messages from popular apps.
The Martian Voice Command smartwatches reflect the aesthetics of a traditional timepiece – in others words they look pretty damn good. They have a solid build quality – crafted from stainless steel and a strong resin composite and come with a leather, silicone, or resin strap each with a stainless steel clasp. The Martians are water-resistant, have strengthened anti-scratch crystal protecting the display, and use Japanese Quartz movement to ensure precision.
The Martians allow you to use your voice for control, hence the name. This means hands-free texting, and taking and making calls. Speak Siri or Android voice commands, but unlike most smartwatches you’ll get a spoken reply.
Along with text, email, calls and social notifications, the smartwatch features music control (iOS only), camera control, Phone Finder, weather reports, dual time zones and more.
The Martians feature a 96 x 16 pixel graphic OLED display, a 3-axis accelerometer so you can keep tabs on your activity tracking stats, vibration alerts, a directional speaker and noise-cancellation microphone.
There are two batteries inside the Martians, a coin cell watch battery that lasts up to two years to keep the clock ticking, and a lithium polymer battery that lasts up to five days – charged via Micro-USB.
These extra slick smartwatches are compatible with iOS (iPhone 4S or later), and Android 2.3.3 or higher.
• Martian Voice Command
Born in London, Vector are gaining traction in the smartwatch domain with their Core Collection which consists of the round-faced Vector Luna and rectangular Vector Meridian.
In contrast to many of their competitors, the Core Collection watches don’t have touchscreen displays, instead Vector opted in favor of using three buttons on the side and the companion app for user control.
The Vectors have a solid build quality, crafted out of high-grade stainless steel with either premium leather or stainless steel chain-link straps, and hardened mineral glass protecting the monochrome LCD display. They have a water-resistance rating of 5ATM (50 meters).
Both smartwatches run a homegrown operating system. You can personalize the look with a variety of watch faces available from the online Vector Store. Information is easily accessible when streams such as events, weather and time zones are added. In addition, IFTTT integration allows you to create your own connections between apps and devices.
The Vectors bring notifications, calendar alerts, RSS feeds and activity tracking essentials like steps, distance, calories and sleep monitoring thanks to the onboard accelerometer and gyroscope.
The Vector app works with iOS, Android and Windows Phone. At the Vector Store you’ll find apps from big names, including BBC, ESPN and The Economist. More apps are on their way to Vector, such as British Airways, Uber and Facebook. When the Vector Store opens to developers in 2016 the number of apps will almost certainly increase.
Currently, the biggest drawback with smartwatches is battery life, especially Android Wear and the Apple Watch. Vector on the other hand offer up to 30 days with their Core Collection.
Olio Model One
The Olio Model One is a Luxury smartwatch with a unique user interface geared up to make sense of the daily assault on our smartphones by incoming notifications. Using a cloud-based system, the Olio Model One attends only to notifications defined as important, based on frequency of interaction by the user.
The Model One has a stainless steel case with the options of a black or silver finish. There is also a choice between a premium leather or stainless steel chain-link strap. The smartwatch’s 1.3 inch (216 ppi) IPS LCD color touchscreen display is protected by high-impact Ion-Exchange glass, and it’s water-resistant up to 50 meters.
Olio also introduced 24-karat gold-plated, and 18-karat rose gold-plated versions of the Model One. Underneath the gold-plating are the same high quality materials as the original. The gold versions come with a precision cut sapphire crystal lens, chain-link straps to match their color, or an alligator grain leather strap.
There’ s an onboard cloud-based personal assistant that learns the user’s habits over time. Only user defined important messages are displayed on the main screen, a swipe to the left shows upcoming events, right shows the events you have missed.
Olio uses an innovative home-grown operating system designed from the ground-up, and the guys behind it are formerly of Apple, NASA and Pixar. The OS is designed to be efficient, so every task can be responded to with a simple Yes, No or Tell Me More. The onboard digital assistant is smart enough to make suggestions, such as ordering a taxi if you’re running late for an appointment. The Olio companion app is compatible with iOS and Android.
The Olio Model One has a battery life of around 2 days between charges, but there is a power-reserve mode which turns off Bluetooth allowing it to function just as a standard watch.
• Available now from oliodevices.com
Garmin Fenix 3
There is a bit of a fine line between sports watches, fitness tracker/smartwatch hybrids such as the Garmin Vivoactive, and smartwatches. Generally, a smartwatch should have a color display – preferably touchscreen, and Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity so it can deliver notifications, download apps and watch faces and transfer data.
The Fenix 3 is Garmin’s flagship watch and it can do all of the above, apart from the touchscreen. The Fenix 3 brings a rich feature set for sports along with the aesthetic appeal of a fashionable lifestyle accessory.
It has more sports and fitness modes than you could shake a stick at, including steps taken, calories burned, distance, elevation, auto sleep monitoring and of course it’s GPS-enabled. You’ll find multiple bike profiles and running dynamics, such as speed, pace, cadence, Vertical Oscillation, Ground Contact Time, auto lap, race predictor, recovery time and more. There is also a Ski/Board mode with an Electronic compass, and advanced swimming modes with the ability to recognise different strokes.
The Fenix 3 features a 1.2-inch 218 x 218 Technicolor display, but unlike most of the others it isn’t touch-enabled.
The sports orientated smartwatch will deliver text, call, email and social notifications. It also features VIRB remote, Music control, Find My Phone and vibration alerts.
The Fenix 3 uses Garmin’s in-house operating system. It has support for Garmin Connect IQ – Garmin’s new wearables platform where you can download apps and watch faces. Garmin Connect app is compatible with Android, iOS and Windows.
The Fenix 3 has a battery life of up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode, 16 hours in GPS mode and up to 3 months in watch mode.
Just in case you were planning on some deep-sea diving, the Garmin Fenix 3 is waterproof up to 100 meters.