The Best Smartwatches on the Market
The smartwatch market has experienced phenomenal growth in the past two years, with the sale of smartwatches now outpacing traditional timepieces. The view that smartwatches are a device in search of a problem has been toned down as new innovations in the space have, quite literally, saved lives.
There are a plethora of different options out there, with each device trying to address a particular use case. Even long-time watchmakers have converted to manufacturing their own lineup of smartwatches, most notably, Fossil and Casio. So, what is the appeal of a smartwatch anyway, a device which needs to be great if you’re going to wear it for a lengthy proportion of its lifespan?
For many, the ability to place a call or send a text on your wrist reminds them that they are living in an era of amazing technological advancement, whereas those that like to hike, run or swim will value the data and motivation provided by sensors included in a smartwatch such as GPS, a barometer, accelerometer, altimeter and heart rate sensor. Finally, as I alluded to above, the smartwatch has saved many lives, detecting and warning people of heart problems years before their doctors may discover them. The same tremendously positive benefits can be said for patients with mobility issues, whom can now summon help faster and more effortlessly than ever before.
3 For Fitness Fanatics: Fitbit Ionic
If there’s one company that deserves recognition for spurring the wearable trend, it’s Fitbit, who also now owns Pebble. The company’s wearable devices, which vary from simple display-less trackers to sophisticated smartwatches such as the Ionic, aim to track your activity and help you live a healthier day. The Ionic stands strong to the precedent that Fitbit has set, with industry-leading activity tracking features and analysis tools. Think of the Ionic as a smartwatch that puts fitness tracking above everything else. Sure, that does lead to drawbacks compared to more well-rounded smartwatches from Apple and Samsung, but if you’re a fitness fanatic, this is the smartwatch for you.
The Fitbit Ionic’s industrial design is rather unappealing, with sharp corners and a square face bound to deter some people. However, the aluminium enclosure and tough silicone straps scream durability, and this smartwatch will take a beating. This smartwatch is waterproof up to 50m, and will easily survive any sweat that your body excretes during exercise. The software on board is Fitbit’s own OS, which is, to say the least, focused primarily on health monitoring. You can track your sleep patterns, view detailed graphs from your runs and cycles based on heart rate, elevation and pace, and even meditate with a feature that encourages you to take a minute to just relax and breathe. All of this data syncs with the Fitbit app on your Android or iOS device, so there is good versatility.
You can swim and track your lengths hours on end with a battery life exceeding four days, one of the best on the market right now. This watch also provides you with the features one would expect from a smartwatch, including the ability to pay with NFC (Fitbit Pay), receive notifications from your smartphone and place calls. However, don’t expect the same level of app support found with an Apple Watch or Galaxy Watch. The 1.42-inch display is one of the best on any smartwatch, boasting great brightness for outdoor visibility and superb vibrancy. If you want a wearable to track your exercise, but also want the device to support some “smartwatch” features, Fitbit’s Ionic should be at the top of your list.
2 For Android Users: Samsung Galaxy Watch
If you’re an Android user, look no further than Samsung’s Galaxy Watch (€320), which comes in 42mm and 46mm sizes. Unlike the Apple Watch, Samsung’s smartwatch resembles a traditional timepiece in terms of its design with a circular face and stainless steel enclosure. This is a beautiful device, both ergonomically and aesthetically. Samsung has devised a rotating bezel mechanism that runs around the bright and crisp 1.3-inch Super AMOLED display, which allows you to interact with the Tizen OS interface when turned. For example, rotating the bezel on the home menu will allow you to select which app to open, and adjusting the bezel in Spotify will allow you to fast forward the song. This is a fantastic mechanism that makes interacting with the Galaxy Watch more intuitive.
There is 4GB of internal storage with this smartwatch, allowing you to download songs or podcasts and play them via Bluetooth to your headphones without the need for an Internet connection. The Galaxy Watch boasts great battery life, by smartwatch standards, easily lasting at least three days. What’s also great is the inclusion of an always-on display mode, something that should be included with every smartwatch, which makes use of the OLED display to show the time constantly without any significant battery drain. With an IP68 waterproof rating which also covers saltwater, up to 50m of depth, this smartwatch will be fine for a plunge in the pool and sea or a splash in the shower.
If you’re a hardcore runner or just a casual swimmer, the Galaxy Watch has you covered with GPS tracking, a heart rate monitor and the ability to automatically detect and begin tracking six of the most common exercises. The Samsung Health suite is a powerful tool to track everything from your stress levels to blood oxygen saturation levels, and this integrates very well with Samsung’s lineup of Galaxy smartphones. Paying for your groceries with this smartwatch is a breeze thanks to Samsung Pay, which uses NFC to facilitate contactless transactions. To put the cherry on top, the Galaxy Watch is compatible with both Android and iOS, so if you move from one OS to another, your smartwatch won’t mind.
1 For iPhone Users: Apple Watch Series 4
With the Series 4, Apple underwent the first major design overhaul to their smartwatch, shrinking the bezels, enlarging the display and delivering a thinner chassis. The result is a modern smartwatch that provides more features than most of its competitors and integrates fantastically with Apple’s ecosystem of iPhones and services such as Apple Music.
The Apple Watch Series 4 features an aluminium exterior, 40mm or 44mm face sizes, GPS connectivity and waterproofing up to 50m. The 1.7-inch AMOLED display is one of the best out there on a smartwatch, with deep blacks, vivid colours and great brightness. Apple has re-engineered the speaker this year, and it provides ample volume to hear callers and incoming voice messages. Battery life isn’t an area where any Apple Watch has ever excelled, and the case is the same with the Series 4. You will need to charge this smartwatch every day.
Apple’s heart rate monitor on the rear is hidden beneath a clear ceramic casing, providing great durability for prolonged use. That heart rate sensor, according to experts, is one the most accurate and reliable out there right now and forms a major part of the fitness appeal for this smartwatch. Moreover, Apple has made a momentous breakthrough with this heart rate sensor, as an OTA update over the coming few months will enable the ability to perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) on your wrist. This is some fantastic innovation, and will undoubtedly reshape the way in which we detect underlying illnesses. Another new feature with the Series 4 is Fall Detection, which utilises a combination of sensors such as the gyroscope and accelerometer to detect when the wearer has fallen and then provides them with the opportunity to contact a friend or relative. If there is no response upon falling, the smartwatch will automatically contact the relevant emergency service. At €439 for the least expensive model, this an expensive smartwatch, but the experience that it delivers to iPhone users is simply second to none.