Apple, Samsung, Google and LG’s fixation with phones and tablets could be about to end.
All are heavily rumoured to be unleashing smart watches in 2013, but it’s not clear whether the (possibly curved glass) iWatch, Google Watch or Galaxy Watch will be standalone products or link up to existing ecosystems centred on the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S4, respectively.
Smart watches are a fledgling market, for now, but we do know that wearable gadgets are the future, with analysts at ABI Research stating that wearable devices could number 485 million by 2018 as a wave of new gadgets hit shops. While most wearable gadgets are, for now, sporty devices such as the Nike FuelBand, smartphone-compatible watches are beginning to emerge too.
Here are the best smart watches we know about so far, and details about their ability to pair with smartphones.
1. Cookoo – £110/US$ 130/AU$ 150
(iPhone 4S/5, iPad mini, iPad 3/4 & iPod touch 5th gen)
Looking more like a designer accessory than an armful of computer power, this modern-looking wristwatch has some great connected features, but is only for iPhone owners. Specifically those who are getting a bit bored of their iPhone. After establishing a Bluetooth link to an iPhone, the Cuckoo can alert you to incoming calls and messages, enables you to check in on Facebook, and even operate an iPhone’s camera remotely.
Great idea, but who’s going to hold it? We do like the calendar reminders, iPhone low battery alert, alarms and its waterproof design, though if you head off into the sea without your phone, you will get beeped at as you dive under the waves.
2. Pebble – US$ 150 (around £100/AU$ 155)
(iOS & Android)
Finally announced at CES 2013 after a few months as a Kickstarter poster boy, the Pebble – the maker of which may or may not be in discussions with Apple – is a watch for iOS and Android apps that uses power-saving e-paper rather than a conventional LCD display.
Consequently, the battery lasts for a whole week; that’s the big draw. Connecting to smartphones via Bluetooth, Pebble has a customisable clock face that can receive the same notifications from a paired phone – including social media – as most other smart watches can. A dedicated app store will also be available.
3. Casio G-Shock GB-6900AA – £163/US$ 180/AU$ 245
It’s brand new, but you could argue that Casio’s Bluetooth-powered smart watch represents simple first-gen thinking. Linking to an iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 hosting Casio’s G-Shock app, the Casio G-Shock GB-6900AA’s LED-backlit display notifies the wearer of incoming phone calls, emails, texts and Facebook and Twitter updates.
You can also operate the iPhone’s alarm – thus finding it if mislaid – with the GB-6900AA vibrating if it loses the Bluetooth link (which stretches only to about 2m). Another useful travel feature is world time; the GB-6900AA syncs with the iPhone’s refreshed time when you step off the plane in foreign climes. There’s no touchscreen here, but the GB-6900AA is a smart-looking, traditional watch (which could be its trump card) with added extra smartphone-sync goodness, that uses a CR2032 button-cell battery.
Read our Casio G-Shock GB-6900AA review
4. Martian G2G – US$ 250 (around £165/AU$ 260)
(iOS & Android)
Another Kickstarter-funded project that’s just begun shipping to its early backers, the Martian G2G is much the same as the Casio and Cuckoo in that it beeps when it loses sight of your phone, tells you about text messages and calls, works as a phone camera remote and interacts with Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and weather apps.
However, it also has a (noise isolating) microphone so you can voice-dial phone numbers, speak-in text messages and have Siri speak to you. It’s also got a swish design that centres on a tiny 96 x 16 pixel OLED display. Determine what your G2G actually does via a Martian Watch Alerts app on any iOS or Android device. It uses a rechargeable lithium battery, so will need charging via a USB or wall adaptor at night.
5. i’m Watch – £300 (around US$ 450/AU$ 470)
Android users at last get an armful of smart love from the oddly-named i’m Watch, one of the few touchscreen smart watches available so far. Its high price is accompanied by a useful extra feature that its rivals lack; it puts apps on your wrist. Made in Italy – which might explain the lack of a determiner between "i’m" and "Watch" – it links to a smartphone via Bluetooth and displays and reads out messages and emails, while phone calls can be made from the i’m Watch by choosing a contact.
Meanwhile its own i’market claims to host hundreds of apps (including a compass, radio tuner and, err, a metronome), with i’music offering a Spotify-style six million songs to stream. To a watch? Fellow commuters are going to love that. It also includes Facebook and calendar alerts, cloud storage and fitness functions.
6. Garmin fēnix – £350/US$ 400/AU$ 450
(iPhone 4S/5, Windows, Mac App)
It might not enable you to check in on Facebook, but this outdoorsy watch from Garmin will get you somewhere interesting. Equipped with a compass, altimeter and barometer, the waterproof (to 50m) fēnix is aimed at hikers and athletes rather than urban warriors, and it has a serious price, to boot. Its scratch-proof display shows lap times, graphical mapping, recordable GPS positions and distance/speed statistics, but it’s not all serious in-watch functionality.
The fēnix has a smartphone-friendly side, too, linking via Bluetooth to activate other functions found in its BaseCamp app for iOS and software for Windows and Mac. With those onboard, you can follow waypoints, tracks or routes on the phone, while saving and sharing routes – while the desktop software enables you to share track logs, waypoints, geotagged photos and videos. For anyone who has been known to get stranded up a mountain in swirling clouds, the TracBac feature – which helps you re-trace your steps and so avoid death by exposure – will make the fēnix seem the smartest watch by far.