Only time will tell if the concept of the smartwatch catches on, but the big brands are nevertheless readying products. Most of these are smartphone-linked accessories: Samsung already has its Galaxy Gear, while the Apple smartwatch, Google smartwatch and Microsoft smartwatch are all expected some time in 2014.

Intel used CES 2014 to discuss a prototype that doesn't need to be tethered to a smartphone and sports geofencing tech to create location-based notifications, while Archos announced that it would soon deliver a smartwatch for under £50 ($80, about AU$93).

Wearable devices are the future, with analysts at New Yorkj-based market intelligence firm ABI Research predicting that such devices could number a staggering 485 million by 2018. Here are the best smartwatches we know about so far.

1. Samsung Galaxy Gear

Price: £277, US$299, AUS$324 | Compatible with: Galaxy Note 2/3, Galaxy S3/S4, Galaxy tablets

Best smartwatch 2014

It's not been the hit accessory Samsung hoped it would be, but the Galaxy Gear remains the flagship attempt at a smartwatch from a big brand. What it has that the other boutique brands' efforts lack is a camera and, despite this 1.9MP shooter being situated on the wrist-strap, the Gear doesn't feel overly cumbersome when worn.

However, it's a little on the large side because of the 1.6-inch Super AMOLED 320 x 320 screen.

The Galaxy Gear pairs with a Samsung device via NFC and Bluetooth, and automatically switches on when you raise your arm - although this function is erratic. The integration of third-party apps is cool as are the voice memos and the ability to tell your wrist to add a meeting to your calendar.

There's no Wi-Fi or GPS, though, and it requires a charging cradle to re-juice. However, with new firmware, the Gear can send email notifications, Facebook and Twitter updates (for reading), Google Hangout messages and Messenger pings, making it handy indeed.

A locked-down interface, a less than intuitive operation and a huge pricetag could leave an open goal for Apple, but there's a lot to like about Gear.

2. Sony Smartwatch 2

Price: £149, US$200, AUS$210 | Compatible with: Android version 4.0 and above

Best smartwatch 2014

Compatible with any Android smartphone running version 4.0 and above, Sony has made a smartwatch that's half the cost and much more versatile than Samsung's Galaxy Gear.

A relatively uninspired square slab of glass, metal and plastic, this second incarnation of a Sony smartwatch carries an IP57 certificate, meaning it's dust-proof and will happily last up to 30 minutes in fresh water up to a depth of 1m.

You also get a trio of touch-sensitive keys below the 1.6-inch "Transflective" LCD display, and if you're an Android user you'll instantly recognise these as the back, home and menu keys. Battery life stretches to three days, while a range of Google Play apps bring some nice extra options.

But our favourite feature? The ability to use it with any 24mm watch strap. It's a sign that smartwatch designers realise that their products have to fit into normal people's lives, and not the other way around.

3. Cookoo

Price: £80, US$132, AUS$148 | Compatible with: selected iOS and Android devices

Best smartwatch 2014

Looking more like a designer accessory than an armful of computer power, this modern-looking smartwatch has some great connected features, and is available for both iOS (iPhone 4, 5, 5C, 5S and iPad mini, 3 and 4 and iPod touch 4) and Android (Samsung Galaxy S4, S4 Active, Note 3 and HTC One) devices. After establishing a Bluetooth link to the handset, the Cookoo can alert you to incoming calls and messages, and can even operate a camera remotely, though you'll still need someone to hold it.

We do like the calendar reminders, 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. (The Cookoo gets its name from the sound it makes.)