In Pictures: 11 of Today's (and Tomorrow's) Hottest Smartwatches
Smartwatches are the 'it' gadgets this summer, and they'll only get hotter as notable new devices become available. Here's a look at the best smartwatches on the market, plus a few that are rumored to be on the way.
Today's smartwatches are like early cellphones: big, clunky, overpriced and underpowered. A recent Fixya report inventoried the product category's many problems, ranging from "untrustworthy batteries, to troublesome speakers and unresponsive /no voice controls, to more obvious problems like screen notification issues and a serious lack of real estate."
And yet, admit it; you're curious. Maybe you already bought a smartwatch or plan to soon. Perhaps you think it's only a matter of time before the kinks are worked out -- or Apple releases its rumored watch and blows the competition away.
Here's a look at the hottest smartwatches released since the summer of 2013, when we released our last report, as well as a notable few that should debut later this year.
Pebble was among the first companies to release a smartwatch and has sold more than 400,000 of them since January 2013. The second-generation Pebble Steel is functionally similar to its predecessor but sports a more sophisticated look. The $249 watch ships with a leather and stainless-steel band. CNET said it's "the first smartwatch worth wearing." Reviewer Jason Snell writes: "The (original) looks like a prop out of a sci-fi movie, whereas the Pebble Steel looks like a real watch." Snell also notes, however, that "the edge of the inner metal border around the watch's glass face is noticeable, almost sharp."
Samsung Galaxy Gear
Samsung released the first Galaxy Gear Android-based smartwatch in September 2013. It wasn't the critics' darling. CIO.com's Al Sacco outlined seven reasons why you shouldn't buy the Galaxy Gear. Among them: It's simply a companion gadget that works with few Samsung devices; the watch is "ugly;" the specs failed to impress; and the wrist strap can't be replaced. The Verge said it offered "a painful mix of unreliability and inadequacy," though some critics appreciated the ability to answer phone calls on the watch. Initially $300, this first-gen Gear now costs less than $200.
Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo
After the relative failure of the first-generation, Android-based Galaxy Gear, Samsung tried again with the Gear 2. Aside from dropping "Galaxy" from the name, Gear 2, released in April 2014, shows several notable changes. The $300 watch sports an improved design, a heart-rate monitor, basic fitness tracking, improved notifications, and it is water resistant. However, the smartwatch runs the Linux-based, open-source Tizen OS, it has limited apps and can only be paired with certain Samsung smartphones. The Gear 2 is identical to the Gear 2 Neo, but the latter costs $100 less and lacks the Gear 2's camera.
Samsung Gear Fit
At the same time Samsung announced its Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, the tech giant announced Gear Fit, a fitness tracker/smartwatch hybrid with a curved Super AMOLED touchscreen display. The $200 device provides basic pedometer and heart-rate data plus alerts for incoming calls, text messages, email, calendar appointments and more. Some critics, including CNET, liked its "forward-looking design" but faulted the longed, curved display, which can make reading text and other data "awkward." Like the Gear and Gear 2, the Gear Fit only works with some Samsung smartphones. You can't install apps on the Gear Fit, either.
Chipmaker Qualcomm released its Toq smartwatch in September 2013 and recently lowered the price from $350 to $250. The Toq is among the few smartwatches that responds to voice commands. Using Nuance's voice-to-text software, you can create and respond to text messages by speaking into the smartwatch. To do so, you tap the touchscreen's microphone icon to activate voice control, and you have about 10 seconds to record your message. The Toq sports a 1.55-inch color display (Qualcomm's Mirasol) that uses natural light instead of backlighting. Toq pairs with Android via Bluetooth 4.0, and you can use it to accept or ignore phone calls, read text messages and more. It's available in black, and there's a limited edition white model.
LG G Watch
LG's G Watch is expected to be among the first smartwatches based on Android Wear, Google's OS for smartwatches and other wearables. As of this writing, LG has been rather stingy on specifics about the G Watch, opting more for teaser videos than tech specs. But here's the gist: Google Now will be among its most prominent features. You'll be able to perform voice commands by saying "OK Google." The watch will be "always-on," waterproof, have a metal body and, according to a teaser, "sleek and lightweight for all-day comfort." The G Watch will be available in "stealth black" and "champagne gold." Expect pricing to be under $300.
Availability: June 2014 release.
Motorola's Moto 360 is another Android Wear-based smartwatch that's coming soon to a wrist near you. Unlike other current smartwatches, the all-metal Moto 360 has a circular face (a customized OLED) that more closely resembles a traditional wristwatch. The watch's OLED screen can show a perpetual black watch face as a screensaver when the device isn't in use, which reportedly requires much less power than some other watch screens. Motorola (which is owned by Google) has been mum about specs, including its secret charging method (wireless?), but it released a YouTube teaser video. The watch will offer multiple band options.
Availability: July 2014 release.
In May 2014, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft. The application describes a wristwatch that can track fitness activities, play music, serve as a phone and send/receive messages. The watch face can detach from the wristband and connect to a charging dock. Microsoft's described "wearable personal information system" has an optical sensor on its back, most likely to read heart rates or gather other biometric data. In short: The patent shows that Microsoft's planned smartwatch is similar to Samsung's Gear devices. Rumors also suggest that at least one prototype runs a modified Windows 8 OS.
Samsung Gear Solo
Not content with releasing four smartwatches during the past nine months, Samsung is reportedly planning to announce another model. The company's next smartwatch could be called "Gear Solo," a name that suggests the device could have its own SIM card, and therefore, wouldn't rely upon a smartphone for a cellular network connection. (Samsung filed a patent request that contains the name "Gear Solo.") This watch may only be available in South Korea initially, according to rumors. (Device pictured is the Galaxy Gear.)
Here's something that might surprise you: Fossil already released a "smart" watch, called Wrist Net. It debuted 10 years ago, however, and its big tech feature was that it displayed snippets of information from the MSN Direct service. You can still buy used ones on Amazon for about $300. The clothing/accessory maker also released a Palm OS-based Fossil Wrist PDA in 2003. Fossil is a natural choice to bring a sense of style to the fledgling smartwatch, and the company announced it is working on an Android Wear-based smartwatch. Unfortunately, no official product details are available.
Availability: Possibly late 2014.
Everyone knows Apple is working on a smartwatch. But for now, only Cupertino insiders know when it will debut, how much it will cost, what it will do and how it will look. Recent speculation suggests the so-called "iWatch" will sport a super-bright, curved, sapphire crystal display of about 1.5 inches. It could also offer strong battery life and come with a variety of band and face options. Apple may offer many smartwatches with different price points, some rumors suggest a high-end iWatch could cost several thousand dollars. The iWatch could have biometric sensors to track health-related metrics, including calories burned, heart rate and sleep quality. The iWatch has allegedly been a major consideration during Apple's ongoing development of iOS 8.
Availability: Possibly late 2014.