6 sharp smartwatches ready to shatter their struggling stigma

6 hot smartwatches
From Samsung’s Gear Live to LG’s G Watch, the tech world is awash with smartwatches right now. However, none of them have exactly dazzled consumers. Aside from examples like the Martian Notifier, most smartwatches have either compromised on functionality or style; and you’re not going to pay upwards of $250 for a fancy wristwatch that doesn’t have both.

Apple’s Watch, along with those fully revealed at IFA 2014 — the largest consumer electronics show outside the States — are seemingly different, though. The newly-announced Asus ZenWatch, for instance, merges the elegance of a classic wristwatch with the connectivity of Android Wear, while Samsung’s Gear S works almost entirely without a smartphone at all. The Apple Watch on the other hand, looks to redefine smartwatches as we (barely) know them. It’s by no means the pinnacle of style and design we all hoped it would be, but the forthcoming device will serve as the most robust extension of any smartphone on the market, offering a bevy of styles and tight integration with iOS 8.

Below are a few of our favorite smartwatches coming soon, one or more of which could end up kickstarting the smartwatch revolution.  You’ll have to add them to a wishlist for now, though; because you can’t purchase then until the tail end of 2014, or early next year.

Asus ZenWatch — $260

Release date: Fall 2014

Asus ZenWatch Front

With more than a 100 different design combinations, Asus’ first foray into the realm of smartwatches looks to be a promising one. The elegant device borrows from classic wristwatches of yesteryear, focusing on high-end build quality comprised of stainless steel and genuine Italian leather. The body’s slight curve is designed for a comfortable fit, while the curved glass and 320 x 320-pixel resolution ensures ample room for viewing a variety of notifications and other information delivered via Android Wear.

The sleek device has a batch of unique functions, such as the ability to make your smartphone ring with a double-tap of the display, and the option to mute calls by covering the watch’s face. It’s powerful too, with a high-spec 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and 512MB of RAM. The ZenWatch is also a fitness tracker and will measure your heart rate, and total steps taken. Other interesting features include a remote control system designed for use during a presentation, a remote for operating your smartphone’s camera, and the ability to unlock your phone without swiping the screen. Not too shabby for a first attempt, and with the added bonus of wearing one of the lowest price points we’ve seen yet.

Related: Asus ZenWatch offers high-end design and Android Wear at a low price

Sony SmartWatch 3 — $300

Release date: Fall 2014

Sony SmartWatch 3

Sony has been churning out smartwatches for some time, but the recently-unveiled SmartWatch 3 is the first to make use of Android Wear. It’s sleeker than the previous generation, offering a 1.6-inch LCD with 320 x 320-pixel resolution, and boasts an admirable 4GB of built-in storage. This space can be used for music, which can then be streamed to a Bluetooth headset, meaning you can leave your phone at home when out for a run. All your activities, memories, and achievements can be stored in Sony’s Lifelog app, a key feature on all Sony’s wearable devices.

The SmartWatch 3 comes with a microphone for activating various voice commands, and it has an IP68 dust and waterproof rating — helpful if you want to hop in the shower and check your email, messages, and fitness stats without ruining your device. The wearable touts a bevy of on-board sensors, from an ambient light sensor and an accelerometer, to a gyro and a GPS. The SmartWatch 3 is equipped with a 1.2GHz quad-core ARM A7 processor and 512MB of RAM, plus it’ll be sold in a number of colors ranging from black to lime. We’re not sure if third time is a charm for Sony quite yet, but it’s certainly closer than before.

Samsung Gear S — TBA

Release date: October 2014

Samsung Gear S

Samsung hasn’t really impressed with its previous smartwatches. The lackluster Gear Fit, Gear 2, and Gear Live quickly followed the equally-disappointing Galaxy Gear, making us question whether the company was ever going to hit its stride. The Gear S, the first of Samsung’s offerings designed to work independently of a smartphone, is a step in the right direction. Resembling a large bangle with a beautiful 2-inch, curved Super AMOLED screen, the stylish device is designed to do almost anything your smartphone can. It’ll even make calls if you slot in a 3G SIM card.

The 360 x 480-pixel resolution is sharper than all Samsung’s other watches, making your emails look great on the large display. Samsung opted to use its own Tizen OS instead of Android Wear, which is run by a dual-core 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM. Several strap options allow you to personalize the device. When it eventually goes on sale, you can expect a hefty price tag given the aforementioned 3G connectivity.

Sony SmartBand Talk — $210

Release date: Fall 2014

Smartband

The use of an E-Ink display isn’t a novelty among e-readers and similar electronic devices, but it certainly is one among smartwatches. Sony’s SmartBand Talk will capitalize on the long-lasting battery life that goes hand-in-hand with E-Ink technology, allowing you to utilize the device for several days before recharging the 70mAh battery. The thin device also sports a 288 x 128-pixel, black-and-white display, and features an IP68 water and dust-proof casing.

Available in a slew of color options from standard black and white to blue and lime, the SmartBand Talk can deal with calls and respond to a variety of voice commands via the built-in microphone and HD Voice support. It comes equipped with an accelerometer and altimeter sensor for fitness tracking, allowing you to view your overall fitness stats directly on the 1.4-inch display, using a companion app. While it carries out many functions expected of a smartwatch, the SmartBand Talk will be at its best when used as a fitness tracker.

LG G Watch R — $300

Release date: October 2014

lg g watch r

The much hyped Motorola Moto 360 has some competition. LG’s G Watch R, its second Android Wear watch, flaunts a stainless-steel frame and an interchangeable calf skin leather strap, along with a unique, circular 1.3-inch Plastic OLED (aka P-OLED) display. The elegant device will utilize LG’s own fitness app, allowing you to quickly check your heart rate or view your steps thanks to the embedded sensor.

As you’d expect from an Android Wear watch, the LG G Watch R features all the standard connectivity we’ve come to expect, including voice controls, email notifications, weather forecasts, and turn-by-turn navigation, along with an assortment of cool watch faces. The 320 x 320-pixel resolution display is also said to remain visible in bright sunlight from nearly all angles, while the water-resistant exterior guarantees to keep the device safe in depths of up to a meter for as long as 30 minutes.

Apple Watch — $350

Release date: Early 2015

Apple Watch Close

Apple’s first wristwatch was as eagerly anticipated as any iPhone, if not more so. Available in either a 1.49- or 1.65-inch display and wealth of customization options, the forthcoming Apple Watch will seemingly set the bar for what’s to come. Apple built the rectangular device from the ground up to be more than a mere notification hub on your wrist. Of course, you can quickly check your emails, the weather, calendar events, and other information using the pressure-sensitive display, but you can also respond to text messages via the device’s Digital Touch feature.

The touchscreen is joined by the Digital Crown, a modified, modern day winder that allows users to quickly zoom in and scroll through information. Apple Pay will use the watch’s NFC capabilities for wireless payments. It’s also a motivational fitness tracker built to work in harmony with HealthKit, so you can track your steps, calories, and pace depending on whatever sport you choose. We may not have spent much time (sorry) with it yet, but we like what we see so far.

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