With the unveiling of Android Wear and the announcement that Pebble has sold 400,000 units, it’s pretty clear that smartwatches are the hot new gadget. But they differ vastly in functionality, looks and even intent.
Wear, a special branch of Android, is just a few days old, but there are already a few devices announced that will use it.
The Motorola Moto 360 is the first round smartwatch (we’re talking proper display here, not just notification lights). Unfortunately, that’s all we know about it – it’s round and looks good. It may or may not have a sapphire glass and wireless charging, but after the Moto X we trust Motorola to execute an always listening device with Active Display.
LG unveiled a smartwatch the second Google announced Android Wear. The LG G Watch is square and we have more specs for it – 1.65″ screen with 280 x 280 resolution, 512MB RAM and 4GB storage.
Samsung abandoned Android and went with its own Tizen OS for the new generation Gear smartwatches. The Samsung Gear 2 is the flagship with improved looks, not the least of which is a more discrete camera (2MP / 720p).
OS and camera aside, the Gear 2 is very similar to the LG G Watch with a 1.63″ 320 x 320 Super AMOLED screen, dual-core 1GHz processor, 512MB RAM and 4GB storage. It does have an IR blaster.
The Gear 2 Neo drops the camera, but keeps the IR blaster. Both have IP67 certifications, plus heart rate monitors and pedometers.
Samsung also has a sportier smartwatch or rather smart band, the Gear Fit. With a curved 1.84″ AMOLED display it’s more compact and sports the same IP67 / heart rate monitor / pedometer combo. There’s no smart OS here, the Fit is just a display and portable sensor array.
Same goes for the Pebble Steel – the new watch has the same functionality, but is smaller and its metal casing looks much better. The Pebbles prioritize battery life and sunlight legibility, two things at which the e-paper display excels.
Still, a 1.26″ 144 x 168 black and white display feels limiting. If users are willing to trade battery life for functionality, where do we draw the line – classic watches last years and are perfectly legible in the sun.
The Sony SmartWatch 2 sits on the middle ground – its 1.6″ transflective LCD offers colors and touchscreen functionality and since there’s no full blown OS inside, it lasts 3-4 days or a week depending on usage.
Perhaps the least known of these devices is the Qualcomm Toq, yet its Mirasol display has the great sunlight legibility and low power draw of the Pebble screen, except it does it in color. The phone supports wireless charging and can play music through wireless headphones.
So, where do you draw the line? Are looks what’s most important (the Moto 360 is a looker) or is functionality (the Gear 2 is loaded), or are sunlight legibility and battery life (Pebble, Toq)? Some middle ground but closer to the Pebble (like the Sony SmartWatch 2) or closer to the Gears (like the LG G Watch)?