Best smartwatch: what's the best wearable tech for you?
7th Oct 2014 | 09:27
Top iOS and Android watches for 2014
Best smartwatch #8 - 6
The best smartwatch may be in the offing, but that doesn't mean there aren't good options to weigh down your early adopter wrists in 2014.
Dozens of choices are available. A third are made by startups like Pebble, a third from rebounding firms like Motorola, and a third are from Samsung alone ... in the last 30 seconds.
All of them deliver important information closer than "at hand," from texts messages to email alerts. Notifications and apps are the big difference between smartwatches and the best fitness trackers.
But, so far, here are the best smartwatches to strap to your naked wrist that, for more than a decade, has been relying on a mobile phone to check the time.
8. LG G Watch
The LG G Watch was the very first Android Wear smartwatch we donned at Google IO 2014, and we continued to wear it for months even with its square-shaped design and plastic build. That's mostly because the battery life gave us a solid day and a half between charges.
That made it easier to swipe through all of the contextual Google Now notifications, texts and email alerts beamed to our wrist. It also eased the battery usage of our Android-connected LG G3 because we could see these messages and the current time via the always-on display.
LG G Watch gave us the best insight into Android Wear in July, but it's very much a device for wearable diehards. It looks like a computerized plastic wristwatch and the default rubber strap is a real dust collector. We're also not a fan of the the buttonless design and proprietary charging cradle to turn it back on.
Of course, all of those faults should be corrected with the LG G Watch R this autumn, making this the first Android smartwatch fit for early adopters.
7. Sony SmartWatch 2
Before there was Android Wear, the Sony SmartWatch 2 beamed all of the same notifications to our wrists from Google-powered phones. Its 1.6-inch LCD handled is large enough to read all of our texts, email snippets and even Twitter feed without taking out the Sony Xperia Z2.
Best of all, the very literally named Sony SmartWatch 2 is compatible with all Android phones that run Android 4.0 or greater - something we can't say about most Samsung smartwatches.
To boot, it uses a normal micro USB charger, has an aluminum body and a variety of silicon or stainless steel straps, with third-party 24mm bands compatible.
It'll be overshadowed by the Sony SmartWatch 3 in a few months. Hopefully by then, some of the 250 Google Play Store apps and watch faces make the jump to Android Wear.
6. Razer Nabu
Even in beta form, there's a lot to like about the Razer Nabu smartband. Its privacy-friendly 128x32 OLED screen is meant to sit on the underside of your wrist. That keeps notifications like texts, emails and tweets away from prying eyes.
The thin wristband is tricked out with an accelerometer, altimeter and vibration motor that tips you off about incoming messages. These specs make it ideal for tracking personal goals too. Metrics include calories burnt, steps taken, floors climbed, distance traveled and hours slept.
Social discovery is the breakthrough feature that we want to explore in the final version. Like the popular Bump app that shut down this year, it lets you exchange information with Razer Nabu wearers with a simple high-five. Right now it's only splash proof and compatible with the iPhone 5 and greater and Android 4.3 and greater.
There's certainly more testing to be done and features to roll out in full. However, the Nabu is a solid entry from Razer that we weren't expecting but are liking with every new update.
Best smartwatch #5 - 3
5. Samsung Gear Live
Samsung recycled its boxy smartwatch design when it made the Samsung Gear Live, but that was enough to make it our favorite Android Wear watch early on. That's because it conformed to the wrist with curves lugs, making it better than the black slab that is the LG G Watch.
Gear Live also sneaks in a so-so heart-rate monitor, a smaller (though still proprietary) travel charger and a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display with a superior 320 x 320 resolution. Intelligent Google Now notifications made it worth owning over non-Android Wear watches if you couldn't wait for the more stylish Moto 360.
Of course, now that Motorola's circular smartwatch has launched, it only serves as the boxy alternative if you have something against rocking the iconic round design of the Moto 360.
Samsung is known for outdating its own products with quick refreshes, but this may be its only Android Wear smartwatch for some time. The South Korean electronics giant is busy working on its own Tizen watches like the Samsung Gear S.
The Kickstarter favorite that started it all is still relevant among its smartwatch imitators. That's because the plastic Pebble watch has functionality that's identical to the Pebble Steel and a lot of the same specs too. It's just in cheaper, bulkier plastic housing with more color options.
Offloading texts, email alerts and every other smartphone notifications to the wrist has never been easier thanks to Pebble's black-and-white 1.26-inch e-paper LCD. It's also both iOS and Android compatible. Any Apple or Google smartphone with Bluetooth 4.0 syncs just fine. Water, at a shallow enough depth, is also compatible with this 5ATM resistant smartwatch.
It's never been easier to slip on a smartwatch. Pebble's new price is $99 (£99, about AU$114), making it one of the cheap among computerized watches. No one is going to mistake it for the classic timepiece, but Pebble delivered on its Kickstarter promise and is up to 4,000 apps, something that gives Android Wear and Apple Watch a real challenge.
3. Samsung Gear 2 Neo
It comes down to weight, really. The still-sturdy Neo is 1.94oz (55g) vs the all-metal Gear 2's 2.39oz (68g), easing constant reminder that a dumbed-down mobile phone is strapped to your wrist. A wearable shouldn't wear you out with heaviness. The Neo is also missing a camera, though it's hard to say anyone is really going to be missing such an unnecessary component.
There's not much trade-off. The Gear 2 Neo has pretty much the same specs and semi-stylish design as the Samsung Gear Live. Heck, even the original Samsung Galaxy Gear has most of the same components. There's a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED with 320 x 320 resolution, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage.
Both second-generation smartwatches have a 1GHz dual-core processor that's bumped up a smidge from the Galaxy Gear's 800MHz dual-core CPU, and it lasts longer between charges, ranging about 2-3 days before you have to scramble back to its proprietary pogo connector.
It really comes down to whether or not you like the newer Tizen operating system of the Gear watches and actually own a Samsung device. While the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo offer wider compatibility with Samsung devices vs the Galaxy Gear, its still limited to about three dozen Samsung-made smartphones and tablets.
Best smartwatch #2 - 1
2. Moto 360
This is the only Google watch of the three on sale right now that can pass itself off as a stylish designer timepiece. Everything else so far has been square and plastic. Moto 360 doesn't come off as an overt computer strapped to your wrist. It analog watch faces really blend in.
Its Google Now integration seamlessly beams SMS, email alerts and every other smartphone notification to your wrist. Sure, Moto 360 has an inefficient processor that sometimes stunts swiping through these Android Wear menus and battery life is a day at best. Worst of all, if you just bought a new iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, it's not compatible. It's Android only.
On its face - it's beautiful, beautiful face - Moto 360 is the best-looking smartwatch and comes with a nifty Qi wireless charger to make up for those all-too-frequent charges.
1. Pebble Steel
The best smartwatch you can strap to your wrist right now is the Pebble Steel. It's the more grown-up version of the plastic original that gained fame on Kickstarter a year ago. The 2014 edition sports a smaller, less boxy face and a stainless steel frame for the 1.26-inch LCD.
Pebble Steel's silver or matte black casing choices comes with a matching metal band to complete to sophisticated look and, if ordered from Pebble.com, a leather band is included.
You get all of the same texts, emails and notifications at a glance, all for the new price of $199 (£179, about AU$228). Missing, however, is the brilliant color display that makes Moto 360 shine and a way to get around Pebble's annoying eight installed apps limit.
Of course, Pebble Steel doesn't have the battery life issues of the Moto 360. It can last up to seven days between charges and is compatible with both iOS and Android phones. It's for everyone and, with swappable bands, for every stylistic situation.
It's also for pretty much everywhere you go considering its 5ATM water resistant rating. This means it's waterproof enough for swimming in shallow water and even has real-time swim tracking software among its list of 4,000 apps. That's something you won't find on rival smartwatches, which typically top out at IP67.
Pebble's second iteration of the smartwatch is very much focused on being a watch first and a smartwatch second. That's the proper order many others smartwatches manufacturers fail to realize and Pebble has successfully delivered on twice.