Which wearable is for you? We look at 4 smartwatches
New year, new gear?
The year 2015 saw the rise of the smartwatch, with even Swiss luxury watchmaker Tag Heuer entering the market when it announced the Tag Heuer Connected Android smartwatch in November.
If you're looking to kick off 2016 by trading in your traditional wristwatch for a wearable device, we've taken a look at four leading brands to help you decide which to get.
Price: From $518
While it wasn't the first into the market, Apple certainly made the world sit up and take notice of wearables with the Apple Watch when it was announced in September 2014.
It comes in three different flavours: the standard stainless steel Apple Watch, the lower-priced anodised aluminium Apple Watch Sport and the high-end luxury Apple Watch Edition which is comes with 18-carat gold cases.
The Sport version comes in four colours with Ion-X glass while the other two types feature sapphire crystal screens.
- Slick and responsive:
It's everything you might expect an Apple product to be. The watch is responsive, user-friendly and is well-integrated for use with the iPhone. The watch comes packed with tonnes of features with apps waiting to be discovered. You can take calls from your phone and send messages via pre-determined responses or dictation. If you have a friend who also has an Apple Watch, you can interact with them via Digital Touch, which lets you send doodles, taps and even a capture of your heartbeat.
- Classy construction:
As far as conventional smartwatches are concerned, the Apple Watch is a stunner with its looks and sleek design. It has a classic digital crown that lets you interact with your watch in various ways – like scrolling through your contact list – as well as a power button which acts as a shortcut to your friends list in normal operation.
- Straps galore:
If you include the designer bands from Apple's tie-up with Hermes, you're looking at a whopping 39 different watch straps to choose from. From the bright and casual sports bands to the easily-adustable Milanese loop and the metallic link bracelet, there's something for everyone. On top of that, swopping them around is as easy as detaching them with a press of a button and sliding the new strap in.
- Great personal assistant:
When it comes to personality, Apple certainly stands out. While other smartwatches have similar functions, the Apple Watch and its native apps go the extra mile to make you feel like you have a companion by your side. For example, the Activity app will keep track of your progress throughout the day and constantly encourage you to reach your goal. iOS users who love Siri will also feel right at home.
- Battery life:
All of the Apple Watch's great functions come with a price in reduced battery life. A full charge can be stretched to about two days.
- Only for iPhone:
Unsurprisingly, the Apple Watch is not compatible with other smartphones and is likely to stay that way.
Premium features come with a premium cost. The cheapest Apple Watch is the anodised aluminium Sport version priced at $518 while the designer Hermes models start from $1,688. The most expensive Apple Watches come from the Apple Watch Edition line featuring 18-carat gold cases which can cost as much as $25,500. Our review unit, the 42mm stainless steel Apple Watch with Milanese Loop, weighs in at $1,018.
Different straps for different folks.
WHO SHOULD GET THIS:
Fashionistas and anyone who has their heart set on a James Bond-style watch – with an iPhone of course
ASUS ZENWATCH 2
The successor to the ZenWatch, the ZenWatch 2 comes at a highly-attractive price point while not scrimping on features.
For navigation, it uses a touchscreen and a single home button.
The ZenWatch 2 comes in two different sizes – the 1.63-inch Sparrow model meant for men and 1.45-inch Wren for women. The Sparrow is slightly heavier at 60g and comes with a larger 400mAh battery compared with the 50g, 300mAh battery Wren.
The watch body comes in silver, gunmetal grey and can also be outfitted with different straps.
- Unbeatable price:
This is where the ZenWatch 2 dominates the pack. As of the time of this writing, no other smartwatch comes close in terms of pricing. If you're looking to get into the wearables game, the ZenWatch 2 is a great place to start.
- Rapid charging:
Forgot to charge your watch and you're out of juice? Fret not, the ZenWatch 2 has a rapid charging feature that can get your battery from zero to 50 per cent in about half an hour – that's more than enough power to get you to the end of the day.
The ZenWatch 2 can seamlessly pair with any smartphone as long as you have the Android Wear app installed on your phone. However, iPhone users should note that they won't have complete access to all of the ZenWatch 2's features.
- Bigger than necessary bezel:
The ZenWatch 2 looks like it has a huge watch face, but a good portion of it is actually bezel, which, in turn, means less screen space. While not so apparent with darker watch faces, the bezel becomes more pronounced when the screen is showing a brighter background.
- Battery life:
Sitting on the lower end of the battery life spectrum with the Apple Watch, the ZenWatch 2 has a similar battery life of around two days on a full charge.
Charge me up, Scotty – quickly!
WHO SHOULD GET THIS:
A smartwatch virgin looking to see what the fuss over wearables is all about
First brought to life in 2013 through crowdfunding site Kickstarter, the Pebble Smartwatch is now into its second generation with Pebble Time.
Pebble Time comes in three different variants – the standard Pebble Time which we received for reviewing, the round-faced Pebble Time Round and the premium Pebble Time Steel.
It is a no-frills smartwatch that is good at what it does – displaying notifications from your phone, keeping track of your fitness and has an outstanding battery life.
And while most smartwatches only activate when you flick your wrist to check the time, Pebble Time's backlit screen always remains on.
- Mammoth battery life:
If this was Survivor, Pebble Time would surely outlive and outlast its three competitors on this list on a full charge. During my test, it easily went beyond three days of use and finally ran out of juice around the fifth day. If you frown at needing to charge your watch on a daily basis, you will almost certainly love Pebble Time.
Like the ZenWatch 2, Pebble Time works regardless of where you stand on the iOS/Android divide. Plus, it has fewer restrictions.
Pebble has been around for a while now and this longevity is reflected in the amount of apps it has available. You can also choose from an extensive library of customised watch faces to suit your moods and personality.
- Fresh and lively:
Using its own operating system, Pebble Time's interface exudes personality with its quirky and lively display. It's a nice break from other systems derived from a parent smartphone OS and its simplicity ensures a smooth user experience.
- Water resistance:
Most smartwatch makers don't encourage you to submerge your fancy new gizmo in water, but not Pebble – they even dare you to get it wet. Pebble Time has a water resistance of up to 30m, meaning you can take it for a swim if you so wish.
- No touch screen:
Pebble Time operates solely on four buttons, which can feel a little strange since everything uses a touchscreen these days. The lack of a touchscreen limits the ways you can interact with your watch, although it is a bit of a throwback to a regular old watch.
- Display isn't razor sharp:
While the Pebble's E Ink display has a certain amount of charm to it, it is nowhere near as sharp as its modern contemporaries. Despite being always on, it can be a bit hard to read at times without the use of the backlight.
Quirky OS is a breath of fresh air. And of course, that battery life.
WHO SHOULD GET THIS: Outdoor and active types who prefer having old-school watch buttons to touchscreens
SAMSUNG GEAR S2
Price: From $448
Rounding out our smartwatch round-up is Samsung's sexy Gear S2 watch.
Featuring an innovative rotating bezel on a round watch face, the Gear S2 is made with stainless steel and comes in three flavours – the standard dark grey or white watches ($448) with matching rubbers straps and the $548 classic variant which is black and has leather straps.
With most smartwatches taking on quadrangular faces, there's something classical and appealing about a round watch face like the Gear S2's. If boxy watches aren't your thing, the Gear S2 will be a strong contender for your affections.
- Rotating bezel:
The Gear S2 isn't round just for aesthetical reasons. Similar to the Apple Watch's digital crown, the S2's rotating bezel is a functional yet elegant design choice that acts as a scrolling device for you to navigate through Samsung's propietary Tizen OS. Score one for design and functionality.
- Fast and responsive:
As with the Apple Watch, Samsung seems to have nailed down what it takes to make a good smartwatch OS with Tizen. The interfaces matches up with the watch's design and it looks and feels great to use.
- Typed replies:
While not completely perfect, the Gear S2 allows you to key in your own responses to text messages and e-mails with an on-screen keyboard. It's not the easiest thing to do given the real estate at play, but this is a feature missing from the Apple Watch and it is certainly a nice option to have.
- Doesn't work with iPhone:
Given the rivalry between Samsung and Apple, it should shock absolutely no one that the Gear S2 won't play with an iPhone.
- Lack of app support:
Tizen might be a great OS to use, but its major problem is that it's the new kid on the block and doesn't have the app support of more established interfaces at the time of this writing. Given Samsung's popularity in the market, this could change with time, but it's definitely something to note when adopting the device.
Just keep spinning.
WHO SHOULD GET THIS:
Those yearning for a round-faced smartwach and Samsung fans who have the patience to wait for more apps