Smartwatches are yet another way technology is becoming further integrated into our daily lives. While most current smartwatches are designed to work in tandem with your smartphone, others can function as standalone devices with their own data and calling capabilities. This market is still emerging, but competition is already heating up with new technologies and innovations constantly being released.
Although these early devices aren’t fully polished yet, we've compiled a list of some of the best options currently available to consumers. While the Apple Watch has created big change in the market, there still remain only a select few options for iPhone users, with the majority of smartwatches being for Android devices only.
When choosing the best smartwatches for this list, we looked at their design, both in terms of appearance and in terms of comfort. Since a watch is to be worn, it's important it fits the image you want to portray while being comfortable enough to keep on for many hours at a time.
We looked at their battery life as well, an area where smartwatches are still lacking, with just about every single mainstream model requiring charging every one to two days. Fortunately, all of the following watches should last a minimum of one day of typical use before needing a recharge.
We also chose to include smartwatches with full user functionality, as opposed to more fitness-oriented models; this means the ability to run a variety of apps and perform a range of functions beyond just fitness tracking. As features are currently fairly standard across most of the leading models, we've placed less emphasis on features than overall performance and user experience.
Pebble Brushed Stainless Steel Smart Watch
LG Electronics G Watch R Smart Watch
Samsung Gear S Smartwatch
Motorola Moto 360 - Black Leather Smart Watch
The most anticipated smartwatch out there may not be without faults, but it is certainly one of the best available on the market. If you’re seeking the fashion statement that wearing a smartwatch makes, the Apple Watch should be your first choice. The looks of the Apple Watch live up to the hype although not everyone is going to be a fan of non-traditional watch faces. However, Apple has made an extremely compelling case for the “smartphone inspired” look.
This well-built device looks great and also available in three different configurations, with the least-expensive Watch Sport, the regular Watch, and the exorbitantly-priced Watch Edition; the only difference is design, as all three configurations share the same internal components. Setup is reasonably simple, although an iPhone 5 or newer is required to work with the Apple Watch.
There is somewhat of a learning curve for the interface which many users may not expect from an Apple product. The interface is not as similar to an iPhone as one might expect, with many of new features such as Force Touch which allows the watch the detect the difference between light and hard touches on the screen. Plenty of features are included such as a solid set of fitness apps but one of the compelling aspects of the Apple Watch is its access to a diverse app ecosystem. Unfortunately, this is somewhat hampered by the problems that the device often has while running third party apps.
The device includes Siri support, the ability to send and receive calls via your iPhone, as well as Apple Pay. Like most other smartwatches, the Apple Watch uses vibrating alerts which feel higher quality instead of just feeling buzzy. One of the weakest points of the Apple Watch is its battery life, which lasts for a day depending on your usage. Pairing the device to an iPhone also drains the phone’s battery faster, and the Watch is quite slow to charge.
Overall, the Apple Watch lives up to the hype and offers a game-changing device, being comfortable to wear, versatile in its applications, and well-designed. Although smartwatches will continue to need refinement before they become “must-have” items, new features such as Apple Pay have a lot of potential for this devices future growth in the marketplace.
Despite being an older model at this point, the attractive Pebble Steel still represents one of the better smartwatch options available especially if you aren't interested in necessarily having all the latest technology. If you’re using an iPhone, it’s also one of the only mainstream smartwatches currently compatible with your phone although it works with Android phones as well.
This smartwatch came out as the more stylish update to the original Pebble, offering an updated design that’s attractive and discreet with a screen that’s easy to see even in bright light. The Pebble includes a built-in pedometer, but lacks a heart rate monitor or other more advanced fitness features usually found in other smartwatches.
The watch buzzes your wrist when a notification comes through, and although the Pebble Steel doesn't allow response to notifications directly on the device, it’s reliable when letting you know to check your phone. The Pebble Steel can support a variety of apps, but is only capable of storing up to eight at a time. Battery life lasts for about two to five days, depending on your usage
The Pebble Steel shines as an accessory to your smartphone but unable to provide much utility as a standalone product since it doesn’t use a touchscreen, nor does it include a microphone or speaker. However, if you're looking for something simple, functional, and relatively affordable, the Pebble Steel is an excellent choice.
While Android Wear technology might have several kinks left to be ironed out, for now it remains the undisputed leader of the smartwatch market. The waterproof LG G Watch R is one of the better looking Android Wear smartwatches, although it may not be the best choice for individuals wanting something small and sleek. Its round watch face, black metal body, real leather strap, and disguised home button make for a handsome design closely resembling a regular watch.
Included features and performance are about the same as to be expected from any smartwatch with Android Wear software such as a heart rate sensor, a decent 4GB of storage, and an OLED panel screen which offers excellent picture quality. You can store music on the device, but the G Watch R has no headphone port so Bluetooth headphones would be required. It also includes a microphone, but no speaker.
The battery life is better than much of the competition, but still not good enough to make the average user take these devices seriously as this watch will generally need to be charged every day. Overall the LG G Watch R is relatively easy to use, sports an attractive design, and includes most of the features a buyer would want. This smartwatch may be a bit expensive but it’s currently one of the better options on the market.
The Samsung Gear S might have a square face, but it stands out immediately thanks to its vivid, curved OLED display. The curved design makes this smartwatch more comfortable to wear, while the display remains large and bright enough to see easily. This does make the Gear S a bit large to be able to appeal to everyone, but its large range of features and capabilities may tip the scales back in its favor.
Unlike most current smartwatches, the Samsung Gear S can work as a standalone device; it has its own SIM card slot, and can be set up with its own 3G data plan. However, it still requires a recent Samsung phone to pair with in order to install apps and use full notifications. If you choose to set your Gear S up with its standalone capabilities, the battery life also shortens considerably.
This smartwatch is loaded with features, including WiFi as well as both a speaker and microphone. There’s also a gyroscope, compass, heart rate monitor, and ambient light monitor; many of these features are used in conjunction with the built-in fitness apps included with the watch. The Samsung Gear S is generally easy to use since the devices large screen making swiping simple; however, the pop-up keyboard can be difficult to use.
All in all, this smartwatch may be too much of a commitment for many buyers waiting to see how these devices will develop. Paying a monthly data plan in order to take advantage of all its features on top of the relatively high purchase price may be too much for some consumers.
Motorola's Moto 360 offers a unique and attractive design many consider to be one of the best-looking smartwatches currently on the market. The lightweight devices round design and high-end materials are complemented by surprisingly comfortable despite appearing rather bulky in appearance.
Although attractive, the LCD screen of the Moto 360 is not as vivid as the OLED displays seen on many other Android Wear models, and can also be somewhat prone to smudging. This smartwatch includes a heart rate monitor, but its fitness features are somewhat lacking. It includes no speaker, but the microphone is outstanding and allows you to whisper commands even in a loud room without problems.
Like most current smartwatches, the Moto 360 battery life could be better as it requires charging almost daily; however charging is accomplished with a unique inductive back allowing for contact-free charging. Like most smartwatches using Android Wear software, the Motorola Moto 360 offers a glimpse into the future of this technology, but there are still many technical and usability kinks that have yet to be ironed out.