What a time to be alive. First there was IFA, which brought with
it a whole bunch of smartwatch launches; then there were some new
announcements made about Android Wear and what it will be capable
of in the near future. Finally, there was the
announcement we have long been waiting for — the iWatch was
here; it was real; it lived. Except, of course, it wasn’t called
the iWatch, it was called the Apple Watch, with no silly sniglets
or irregular capitalisation in site.
In case you’ve missed all the excitement, here is the current
state of play at this crucial moment for the wearable world.
First up, Google’s operating system Android
Wear. On Friday the search giant published a blog post detailing some new features
including offline music playback and GPS support. Both of these
will optimise Android Wear watches for fitness activities. Also on
the cards is an update that will enable downloadable watch faces
that will allow for better powers of customisation over your
But preceding this announcement, out sashayed four tech-equipped
timepieces that brought Android Wear to life.
We’ve known about the Moto 360, the first Android Watch with a
round face, for a while now, but we finally got to try it on last
week ahead of it officially hitting the shelves in the US, and in
all honesty, we were quite impressed. We liked the leather strap,
the decent viewing angles and the fact that it was feather light,
despite looking chunky.
What we weren’t so impressed with was the price, which at £199
is probably still far more than Average Joe or Middle-class Maud is
going to want to spend on a tech-cessory — but then the same goes
for most smartwatches on the market.
The SmartWatch 3 is Sony’s attempt at third time lucky, and
while it’s nailed picking the right operating system, the design
could still do with some work. Despite this, we found it relatively
comfy to wear and can see those who prefer a sporty style and are
seriously into lifelogging and very precise organisation finding a
firm friend in this device.
LG’s gone down the traditional route when it comes to its latest
smartwatch, the G Watch R. The look it has gone for is both very
distinctive, which is good, and very niche, which is brave.
Like the Moto 360, we found that the round face was more
comfortable to wear, but with its bulky fake dial running around
the rim, it looked a lot like many of the men’s watches already on
the market. We’re not saying smartwatches necessarily have to be
unisex, but the appeal of the G Watch R will obviously be
Asus’ ZenWatch is perhaps the device that rivals Motorola’s Moto
360 the most in terms of looks. Asus has failed to wow the world
with its smartphones, but if this design is anything to go by, its
smartwatches could be a hit.
Samsung be Tizen us
Samsung has one Android Wear watch, the Gear Live, but last week it unveiled a smartwatch running its
own Tizen operating system, rather than opting for Android Wear
Samsung Gear S
With its curved screen, the Gear S is a dramatic improvement on
the original Gear that Samsung introduced last year at IFA. This is
the watch to go for if you’ve got a Samsung smartphone (to pair it
with) and you want to be able to also use the watch independently
from your handset.
Inside the Gear S, you will find a 3G SIM card, meaning that you
will be fully connected to the world even when you leave your phone
at home. The teeny tiny keyboard on it was surprisingly accurate
and easy to use, meaning that there is no reason why you shouldn’t
be able to reply to messages on the go if you really want to.
Digital + Analogue = Smart + Stylish
Despite digital watches being around for many years now, many
people choose still to wear analogue watches. The two companies
that have produced perhaps the best-looking smartwatches we’ve seen
so far — Apple and Withings — appear to have taken inspiration
from this fact.
The Withings Activité smartwatch doesn’t have a digital display,
which is why it can last a whole year before you’ll need to attend
to the battery situation. And as if that weren’t enough, it
is French-designed and Swiss-made, so you won’t feel
embarrassed to be seen out with it in public.
The Activité brings many of the benefits of digital — accurate
timing, the ability to set alarms and fitness tracking capabilities
— to an analogue form factor. It’s an unexpected, but interesting
take on the genre.
Last but not least is the Apple Watch, which is obviously only
for those already using or intending to use an iOS device. Apple
has also chosen to incorporate some tactile, analogue elements into
its timepiece. It noticed that these had remained popular over time
in its extensive study of horology, so decided to include a
“digital crown” on the side, which can be used for scrolling, or to
return to the homescreen (you just give it a press).
Perhaps most importantly, however, Apple understands desire.
Whereas its “one phone for everyone” ideology was clearly the
timely solution when it entered the smartphone sphere, given that
every other manufacturer basically followed in its footsteps, it
understands that when it comes to watches, one size fits all won’t
fly. It knows, in fact, that this is the complete opposite of what
the consumers want.
Rivals teased Apple for not producing a phone in more than one
size, and yet not one of them thought to apply this approach when
they were creating their wearable products, where size surely
affects consumer choice more than ever. Not only is the Apple Watch
available in a massive range of styles and configurations, it also
comes in two sizes.
It is well conceived, and will have rivals scratching their
heads. This isn’t the end for them though. Apple entering the race
means that things are only now about to get interesting.