Whether we want one or not, a lot of companies are trying to sell us a smartwatch. It started with smaller, unknown brands using crowd-funding campaigns to get their products noticed, and now everyone from Apple to Sony is in on the act. This means there’s already a bewildering choice of smart wrist wear from which keen early adopters must choose.
The trouble is, the choice is not only wide, but it’s also slightly confusing for the newcomer. After all, it’s not just about how the watch looks on your wrist — you’ll need to ensure you buy a smartwatch that works with your phone of choice. Smartwatches that run Google’s Android Wear software only work with Android phones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and HTC, while the Apple Watch — unsurprisingly — only connects to an Apple iPhone. Finally, there are a few cross-platform watches that can connect up to any smartphone by way of a dedicated app.
Related: Android Wear tips and tricks
We’ve gathered together the five smartwatches we consider worth checking out at the moment, and made sure it’s clear which phones each one supports. Keep watching (sorry) though, because there are plenty of exciting smartwatches on the horizon, and we’ll be updating this article regularly.
Apple Watch — From $350
While it’s hard to choose a ‘best’ smartwatch at the moment — there isn’t a universal standout — the Apple Watch comes close to matching the criteria many will have for such a thing. It’s beautifully made, comfortable to wear, comes in a trio of different materials to suit most pockets, and there’s a choice of straps that should ensure it can fit in with most people’s style. Plus, it comes in two different sizes — 38mm and 42mm — so it’ll look equally at home on male and female wrists. These are key features, and personalization is an important consideration for watches in general.
We love the unusual, fun messaging features, such as being able to send haptic taps directly to another Apple Watch, and although the software has its problems, it’s pretty to look at and has potential for the future. Add in fitness tracking, an array of apps, and a solid notification system, and the Apple Watch sets the overall standard for current smartwatches
The downside is it’s expensive, particularly if you choose anything but the Watch Sport, and it only works with the iPhone. However, Android Wear watches only work with Android phones, so all’s fair.
Available at: Apple
Pebble — $90
Pebble is the upstart company that has taken Kickstarter by storm twice, launching the original Pebble smartwatch last year, and then its sequel this year. There are three Pebble models, two of which can be purchased right now, and what sets them apart is they will work with Android or iOS smartphones.
The Pebble Classic, as it’s now known, is a cheap way of getting started with a smartwatch. What’s more, it could end up being the only one you’ll ever want, thanks to its easy to use software and healthy app developer community. It’s not the best looking watch, and it’s certainly not the most technically complex, but it does what all the rest do just as well, if not better, in some cases.
Pebble Steel — $150
The Pebble Steel has the same software as the Pebble Classic, but has a more premium metal body and a metal link strap. Internally things are almost identical, but the Steel has 8MB of memory rather than 4MB inside the Classic. If that sounds a little feeble, don’t worry, the Pebble operates without a problem.
The price is now more reasonable than at launch, and is cheaper than almost all its Android Wear counterparts. Like the Classic, it’ll connect up with your Android or iOS phone through a special app, so you won’t have to worry even if you decide to swap phone OS in the future.
LG Watch Urbane — $350
This is the priciest Android Wear smartwatch on the market right now, but arguably, it’s also the classiest and closest to what would be viewed as a ‘traditional’ classic timepiece. LG took its already excellent G Watch R, pulled out the internal workings and the bright, colorful 1.3-inch P-OLED screen, and stuffed them into a redesigned body.
The result is a big, bold, and if you’re so inclined — gold smartwatch. Did we mention big? The Watch Urbane isn’t for the small of wrist, but provided it fits, you’ll get the very latest version of Android Wear before anyone else, and the best screen/battery life combo available, all wrapped up in a stylish package.
Sony SmartWatch 3 — $200
Sony’s first Android Wear smartwatch is something of a dark horse. It’s one of the few that comes with a GPS chip inside, which may not be fully exploited by developers yet, but will only get more popular. Plus, while the black model may not be all that visually exciting, Sony has recently released a version with a metal strap. It’s considerably better looking and very light.
What’s more, Sony has said it will be updating the SmartWatch 3 to the latest version of Android Wear soon, which is currently only available on the Watch Urbane. Otherwise, Sony’s offering is as strong as any other Android Wear device, providing everything from handy notifications and fitness tracking (through Sony’s cool Lifelog app here) to wrist-based music controls.
Next page: Smartwatches to look out for soon