Best smartwatch introduction
The best smartwatch for 2015 is no longer in the offing, it's finally here to weigh down your early adopter wrist right now.
Dozens of choices are available. A third are made by startups like Pebble, a third from rebounding firms like Motorola, a third are from Samsung alone ... in the last 30 seconds. Oh, and one is now made by Apple.
Apple Watch has finally launched to change the face of digital wristwatches, while Android Wear continues to evolve new wearables with eight watches and counting. In fact, the LG Watch Urbane will have an updated OS and will start shipping out soon.
All of them deliver important information closer than "at hand," from texts messages to email alerts. Notifications and apps are the big difference between smartwatches and the best fitness trackers.
So far, here are the best smartwatches to strap to your naked wrist that, for more than a decade, has been relying on a mobile phone to check the time.
10. LG G Watch
The LG G Watch was the very first Android Wear smartwatch we donned at Google IO 2014, and we continued to wear it for months even with its square-shaped design and plastic build. That's mostly because the battery life gave us a solid day's use between charges.
That made it easier to swipe through all of the contextual Google Now notifications, texts and email alerts beamed to our wrist. It also eased the battery usage of our Android-connected LG G3 because we could see these messages and the current time via the always-on display.
LG G Watch gave us the best insight into Android Wear in July, but it's very much a device for wearable diehards. It looks like a computerized plastic wristwatch and the default rubber strap is a dust collector. We're also not a fan of the the buttonless design and proprietary charging cradle to turn it back on.
Of course, many of these faults have been corrected with the LG G Watch R, making this version the first edition of an Android smartwatch fit for early adopters - plus it's now one of the cheapest around.
9. Sony SmartBand Talk
The light frame makes the Sony SmartBand Talk very comfortable to wear day in, day out without discomfort.
At $169.99 (£130, AU$199) you're paying a bit for technology that is less than cutting-edge. The price will probably drop before too long, though, which should make the Talk easier to recommend.
Fairly small, light and comfortable, the design isn't flashy but it works. You can also get more colourful straps, if the choice of a black or white watch just isn't jazzy enough for your tastes. It's the screen that you should really take note of though.
Unlike the LG G Watch and Moto 360, the Sony SmartBand Talk uses an e-ink display. It's just 1.4 inches across and offers resolution of 296 x 128. You do get three days of battery life from the tiny 70mAh battery, but we were hoping for a few more considering its limited functionality.
8. Samsung Gear Live
Samsung recycled its boxy smartwatch design when it made the Samsung Gear Live, but that was enough to make it our favorite Android Wear watch early on. That's because it conformed to the wrist with curves lugs, making it better than the black slab that is the LG G Watch.
Gear Live also sneaks in a so-so heart-rate monitor, a smaller (though still proprietary) travel charger and a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display with a superior 320 x 320 resolution. Intelligent Google Now notifications made it worth owning over non-Android Wear watches if you couldn't wait for the more stylish Moto 360.
Of course, now that Motorola and LG's circular watches are out, it only serves as the boxy alternative if you have something against rocking the iconic round design of the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R.
Samsung is known for outdating its own products with quick refreshes, but this is its only Android Wear smartwatch so far and the South Korean electronics may stick to making Tizen watches here on out, like its Samsung Gear S.
The Kickstarter favorite that started it all is still relevant among its smartwatch imitators. That's because the plastic Pebble watch has functionality that's almost identical to the Pebble Steel with similar specs. It's just in cheaper, bulkier plastic housing with more color options.
Offloading texts, email alerts and every other smartphone notifications to the wrist has never been easier thanks to Pebble's black-and-white 1.26-inch e-paper LCD. It's also both iOS and Android compatible. Any Apple or Google smartphone with Bluetooth 4.0 syncs just fine. Water, at a shallow enough depth, is also "compatible" with this swim-ready 5ATM resistant smartwatch.
Pebble's new price is $99 (£99, about AU$114), making it cheap among computerized watches. It does look more like a toy on the wrist, but Pebble delivered on its Kickstarter promise and is up to 4,000 apps, something that gives Android Wear and Apple Watch a real challenge.
Warning: Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel aren't without limitations. You can only load eight apps on the watch at a time, notification management isn't as slick as Android Wear and it doesn't have the same feature set as a lot of its rivals.
6. Pebble Steel
The best non-Android Wear smartwatch you can strap to your wrist right now is the Pebble Steel. It outclasses its plastic-clad predecessor with a stainless steel frame that surrounds its 1.26-inch e-paper LCD and the silver or matte black casing comes with a leather band in the box. A matching steel band to complete this sophisticated look costs extra.
You get all of the same texts, emails and notifications at a glance for $199 (£179, about AU$228). That's the same price as most of the Android Wear watches. Missing here, however, is the brilliant color display that makes Android watches shine, a number of features found on rival wearables and a way to get around Pebble's annoying eight installed apps limit.
Of course, Pebble Steel doesn't have the same battery life issues of the Moto 360. It can last at least four days between charges and is compatible with both iOS and Android phones. It's for everyone and, with swappable bands, for every stylistic situation.
It's also for pretty much everywhere you go considering its 5ATM water resistant rating. This means it's waterproof enough for swimming in shallow water and even has real-time swim tracking software among its list of 4,000 apps. Just keep in mind the Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel are on the way to Kickstarter backers soon.
5. Asus Zenwatch
If you're after a stylish smartwatch that does your basic range of Android Wear things, the ZenWatch is worth a look. Beyond that, there's little difference from the other similarly priced Android Wear watches.
The design is stronger than the early Android Wear offerings from LG and Samsung, but it doesn't quite hit the heights of the Moto 360.
It doesn't quite stand up to the Smartwatch 3 or G Watch R in terms of battery life or general ruggedness. Regardless, this timepiece is certainly in the top tier of rectangular Android Wear watches on the design front.
There are better Android Wear watches out there for a similar price, but if you are personally fond of the ZenWatch's stylings then it won't let you down.
4. Moto 360
This was the first Google watch that could pass itself off as a stylish designer timepiece. Everything else before it was square and plastic. Moto 360, like the slightly newer LG G Watch R, doesn't come off as an overt computer strapped to your wrist. It analog watch faces really blend in.
Its Google Now integration seamlessly beams SMS, email alerts and every other smartphone notification to your wrist. Sure, Moto 360 has an inefficient processor that sometimes stunts swiping through these Android Wear menus, and battery life is a day at best.
That's why the LG G Watch R jumps a few posts ahead. But on its face - it's beautiful, beautiful face - Moto 360 is one of the best-looking smartwatches to date and comes with a nifty Qi wireless charger to make up for those all-too-frequent charges.
3. Sony Smartwatch 3
It seems like Sony learned a thing or two making the Smartwatch 2. The latest Sony Smartwatch 3 actually has Android Wear, despite the fact that the company has its own ecosystem.
Its 1.2GHz quad-core processor and 512MB of RAM leave it packed with power and with GPS built in it's a more fully-functional fitness accessory than most other smartwatches. Of course all that power doesn't come cheap, as the Sony Smartwatch 3 retails for $249 (£189.99, AU$299.99).
If you're not fond of the strap design, Sony unveiled a Pebble Steel-esque band called the Sony Smartwatch 3 Stainless Steel edition during CES 2015. It looks pretty nice compared to its rubbery counterpart, but the guts remain the same.
Ultimately, the Smartwatch 3 has proved that third time's a charm (at least in Sony's Smartwatch series). It puts function ahead of form, delivering one of the best user experiences yet but with minimalistic style.
2. LG G Watch R
The LG G Watch R has got one thing right, it's one of the few Android Wear smartwatches that actually looks like a watch. It may not appear as fancy as the Moto 360, but it still has a sporty look that many might actually prefer.
In terms of specs the G Watch R is relatively well equipped with a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage and a 410mAh battery. Compared to the Moto 360 that's a better processor and larger battery, plus you also get a barometer, heart rate monitor and 9-Axis (which includes a gyro, accelerometer and compass).
The display is also worth shouting about. While the Moto 360 had a larger screen which made text a little larger and easier to read, the higher resolution display of the G Watch R is easier on the eye, while the P-OLED screen delivers strong colors.
It's still a bit pricey at $300 (£200, about AU$280) but remains the top Android smartwatch out there, narrowly squeezing the Smartwatch 3 into second with a more accomplished overall package.
1. Apple Watch
It's finally here. The smartwatch we've been waiting for with bated breath, the one we'd hoped would change the faces of the wearable revolution - and the best iPhone-compatible smartwatch and, at the same time, it's pretty much just OK.
Well, the Apple Watch is better than OK since it managed to snag the top seat on the list. It's a thing of beauty but comes at a high cost when it simply can't deliver on all the fronts.
Starting at $349 (£299, AU$499) and peaking at an exorbitant $17,000 (£13,500, AU$24,000), this lightweight wristwatch is meant for patient early adopters and boutique store regulars.
There are plenty of iPhone features that are and aren't carried over to the wrist. It makes calls, but it can't add new contacts. It listens to dictated texts and sends them as an audio message or transcription, but it doesn't have any sort of edit function. It tracks basic fitness goals, but not it's GPS-enabled, doesn't track sleep and third-party workout apps require an iPhone close by. Likewise, it can name songs through the Shazam app, but it listens with the iPhone microphone, not its own.
For iPhone users waiting for nice wristware, the Apple Watch takes the cake when you take price away from the equation.