Tech Column: Keeping watch on smartwatches
A profile of major smartwatch platforms
Smartphones function well as easily available devices to tell time with. As a result, wearing a watch may seem like an unnecessary redundancy these days. However, a smartwatch provides an interesting bridge between the two devices and one of the three major smartwatch platforms detailed below may convince you to put something back on your wrist!
Smartwatches: A brief primer
Generally speaking, smartwatches use a Bluetooth wireless connection to work in conjunction with your smartphone. Text messages and data from certain apps on your phone are then displayed on the face of the smart watch. Without a smartphone to pair with, the functionality of smartwatches is often quite limited. Using a Bluetooth connection also impacts the battery life of smartphones, but current technology greatly diminishes that issue. When a smartwatch is paired with a compatible smartphone, the two devices can prove to be very convenient.
$99 to $199: getpebble.ca and major electronics retailers
Platforms: iOS and Android
I own a Pebble, and I think it rocks! (See what I did there?) Pebble was one of the first smart watches to make a splash last year when it was released and it’s still a great option. The inexpensiveness of Pebble is appealing, and the lightweight, but durable polycarbonate construction makes this smart watch comfortable to wear. Pebble is waterproof, too! While the display is E-ink (resulting in only black and white text and graphics), the benefit is that the battery life lasts for days. There are numerous smartphone apps that are compatible with Pebble and I also appreciate the wide range of compatible devices. If you feel like you need a classier option, the $199 Pebble Steel (with the same functionality) is also available.
$219 to $279: android.com/wear and major electronics retailers
Android Wear is Google’s attempt to harness the power of Google Now in a smartwatch platform. Android Wear devices are made by a range of manufacturers. Models include Samsung’s Gear Live and the (rather classy) Moto 360 to be released soon, among other models. Android Wear smart watches feature colour screens, so they generally have to be recharged with about the same frequency as a smartphone. Android Wear utilizes the same “cards” that Google Now pushes to your smartphone. This attempt to push data to a smartwatch can either be extremely useful, or a bit annoying if the data you want is not chosen. The best Android Wear feature is Google’s useful voice controls. It feels rather cool talking to your watch to send a text! Although, perhaps not as cool as a shoe phone.
Coming to Canada in 2015. US price: starting at $349
Even though iPhone users will have to be patient before Apple releases the Apple Watch in Canada, it may be worth the wait. Featuring an interesting honeycomb-shaped interface, novel communications features and sleek construction, the Apple Watch will surely attract attention. Apple is bound to have plenty of app support, too. But only time will tell if Apple’s smart watch lives up to the hype.
There you have it, a debrief on smart watches in no time at all!