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Smartwatches have revolutionized what we can do on the go and there are many models to choose from with different exciting features.
Smartwatches have been around for a number of years, but with the third generation they are really coming into their own. Wearable tech is a big section of the tech market, so if you’re ready to upgrade or enter the world of smartwatches, here’s all you need to know to choose your favorite option.
When you’re on the lookout for a smartwatch, the first and most important consideration is whether it’s going to work together with your existing smartphone. The choice between Android and iOS doesn’t put any real limits on your options, though. Both Apple and Android watches offer a full range of tech and designs, while many of the best smartwatches support both operating systems. One great example is the Samsung Gear S3, which supports both Android and iOS. It’s full of features as well as being compatible with both main smartphone operating systems, offering Samsung Pay for contactless payments, a full app store for both operating systems, fitness features, and GPS. It’s also got a neat design that uses a rotating bezel to navigate the interface instead of a lot of tiny icons. You can use your Samsung Gear S3 to respond to calls and read messages and activate the S Voice controls to make a call or send a text, among other options.
If you’re an Apple user, then you’re most likely to be interested in one of the three series of Apple smartwatch. All three have their pros and cons, depending on what you’re looking for in a smartwatch. The Series 2 is becoming harder to find thanks to its having been discontinued and usurped by the Series 3, but for any Apple fans looking for a full Apple app store, basic fitness features and GPS, it’s a good option.
The central core of any smartwatch is the fitness features it can offer, because that’s really what you’ll be using it for the most. Some basic fitness features include a heart rate tracker, accelerometer, and steps measurement, but you can also find smartwatches that are fully kitted out with tools to measure your blood oxygen level, elevation, and sleep measurement tools as well. Other basic features that are not fitness related but are pretty important include GPS, voice controls, and contactless payments.
Not surprisingly, one of the best smartwatches for fitness tracking is the Fitbit Ionic. It fields a full range of fitness monitoring options including step tracker, heart rate tracker, blood oxygen level sensor, and accelerometer. The Fitbit Ionic offers very good sleep analysis tools as well as presenting dedicated bodyweight coaching sessions. There’s also NFC payments capability and a full app store with compatibility with Android and iOS, although you need to load your music on from another device and there’s no capability to make calls, send texts, or use voice controls. It’s water resistant to a high degree so that you can keep tracking your fitness in all environments, even when swimming.
The nearest competition to the Fitbit comes from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 1 doesn’t have all of the connectivity options that accompany the Series 2 and 3, but it is a reliable fitness tracker. The Apple Watch Series 1 provides contactless Apple Pay and Siri voice controls along with the standard accelerometer, heart rate monitor, and intuitive fitness tracking apps. It’s not waterproof, so you won’t be able to swim in it, and there’s no GPS so it’s not for anyone who gets lost on long runs.
It’s a mundane aspect to consider when choosing a smartwatch, but just stop to think about how frustrating and annoying it is to have to recharge your watch in the middle of the working day. Battery life is something that still varies hugely between different smartwatches, with the best lasting for up to and over 4 days in between charges while the most power-hungry need to be charged every few hours. The smartwatch with the longest battery life is certainly the Samsung Gear S3, which can last for up to four days before it needs recharging even though it contains a lot of powerful tools and apps. The Fitbit Ionic rivals it with a battery that can also last for up to four days.
Most other smartwatches will last you through the day and into the next one, although the Apple series deserves a mention for running out of power remarkably quickly. The Apple Series 2 can run down after just 5 hours if you’re using the GPS, although without that it can last for 18 hours. The Series 1 and Apple Series 3 both have battery lives of 16-18 hours.
Smartwatches have served as the mouthpiece for your phone via Bluetooth connectivity for a while now, but many of the latest generation of smartwatches boast about their independence from your phone. Smartwatches that can take a sim card connect with the cellular network on their own, so that you can make and answer calls and send text messages even when you’ve left your phone at home. The Huawei Watch 2, compatible with both Android and iOS systems, can take a second sim card to operate without your phone. The 4G function lets you make and receive calls, send text messages, and view app notifications directly on the smartwatch without needing to have your phone anywhere nearby. However, it won’t have the same number as your phone so it relies on all calls being forwarded. The Huawei Watch 2 is also fully loaded with fitness features, has a standard app store, and offers Google Assistant voice controls and Android Pay contactless payments.
Another top smartwatch with cellular connectivity is the Apple Watch Series 3, which uses 4G connection to deliver phone calls and text messages and internet access away from your phone. Unlike the Huawei Watch 2, the Apple Watch Series 3 uses your existing phone number so you aren’t reliant on call forwarding. The cellular connectivity kicks in automatically when you get a certain distance from your phone, but the call quality isn’t the best. You can use the Series 3 for NFC payments and fitness monitoring, including better workout-options.
A fully-loaded smartwatch app store is the foundation of the flexibility of your smartwatch. Android and Apple both field extensive app stores and you’ll find that all the best smartwatches access these stores. The LG Watch Sport is a good smartwatch that supports both Android and iOS, so whichever system you prefer, you can access a full app store with plenty of options. It also has its own LTE connection so that you can make and receive calls and text messages when you’re away from your phone. GPS, Android Pay, and Google Assistant are all available too. The Apple Watch Series 3 fields the extensive Apple app store, while Samsung Gear S3 presents plenty of Android and iOS apps through its smartwatch app store.
When it comes to a smartwatch, the way it looks is really important. This isn’t just tech, this is tech you’re going to be wearing. You need to look for a smartwatch that succeeds at combining the features you want into a stylish package. There are plenty of chunky, rugged, and sporty looking watches out there, because of the heavy software needed for a smartwatch. Finding a slimmer, more feminine smartwatch is more of a challenge, but they do exist. One great option is the Fossil Q series. The set of women’s smartwatches offered by Fossil Q is delightful, with plenty of strap options to choose from, different watch designs, and the opportunity to choose your own watch face. It’s still a bit chunky for a women’s watch, but it’s far slimmer than many others on the market. Despite the stylishness of the design, the Fossil Q series does all that a smartwatch should do, including providing a fitness tracker, alarm, calendar alerts, and Google voice controls. You can answer texts and respond to notifications, as well.
Another stylish smartwatch option is the LG Watch Style. It’s slimmer and with a more modern design, but unfortunately it compromises on fitness features with a rather unreliable fitness tracker. It’s a simple smartwatch without any cellular connectivity which rules out using GPS, calls, or texts through it, but for those who value style in a smartwatch, it’s a reasonable choice. One other simple yet good-looking smartwatch is the Asus Zenwatch 3, which offers a wide range of watch strap options. It fields good fitness monitoring tools and a phone mouthpiece so that you can answer calls through your phone, although there’s no cellular support for making or receiving independent calls or text messages. You can use Google Now voice controls with the Asus Zenwatch 3, but there’s no option for NFC contactless payments, GPS, or heart rate sensor.
Wear Your Phone on Your Sleeve
Whether you want a smartwatch primarily for fitness monitoring, for the convenience of contactless payments, or to field calls and texts, you can find one that suits your lifestyle. Features, power, and good looks can all be yours – in a smartwatch, at least.