Smart Watch Showdown

With recent months, many OEMs have jumped into the smart watch bandwagon creating the smart watch craze.From Pebble to Samsung to LG to now Motorola. As more smart watches pop out in the market, we did a rundown on the popular smart watches in the market. Before we talk about the pros and cons of the watches, let us first talk about those “nerdy” features. Admit it, not all of us reading this knows all of those nitty gritty details that OEMs uses in their advertisements.

16_SmartWatch_3

 

Always on screen is one of those commonly talked about when it comes to smart watches. This feature allows the screen of the watch to stay awake all the time. This is a great feature as users would want to know the time right now, instead of having to click on a button(like our phones) to look at the time. That few seconds of having to fiddle around buttons is cumbersome as the watch wearer just want to get it over and done with because it is just the time. The buttons might also wear out due to the amount of clicks it gets over time, which means it will start to sink in. What would happen now? Your watch is no longer functioning. But there is also a problem of battery drain largely due to the screen on time. Smart watches with AMOLED like Gear Live will definitely not benefit from this if the background is not black. This is because AMOLED screens light up every single pixels all the time, which means the screen will receive burn in over time. Therefore, you will need a black background if you are intending to use AMOLED display to save battery and preventing burn in. LCD panels are not spared either. In an effort to over simplify things, LCD is a panel by itself which means it will light up no matter it is black or white. However LCD displays are brighter when compared to AMOLED(with both displays cranked up to maximum brightness). Pebble uses a interesting display which is an “e-paper” display commonly found in Kindle ebook. This display is designed to mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper which will reflect light like ordinary paper. This means that you cannot view the display in a dark room, thankfully a backlit, built into the watch comes into play which helps to mitigate the effects.There are also some smart watches that wakes on tap which solves some issues I mentioned earlier, but it isn’t always on.So, LCD or AMOLED or e-paper? At the end of the day, this is not a huge contributing factor if you want to buy a smartwatch as the ecosystem comes into play which we will be talking about next. But if you will be outdoors all the time, the Pebble might be a good choice.

Ecosystem is one of the most important factor to consider before investing in a smart watch. As of now, there are 3 competing platforms. They are namely: Android Wear, Tizen and PebbleOS. With Android Wear, there Google Now is built right into the Operation System and is tightly integrated. Using Android Wear, it does not merely tell time. It could even save your life by informing you of jellyfishes or at least save you a lot of pain.
090514_1521_SmartWatchS1.png

Android Wear works by pairing your phone to your watch and mobile notifications will appear on your watch when they appear on your phone. You could either swipe away the notifications on your watch or pull out your phone to get take actions. Of course, you will need the official Android Wear app to achieve these functionalities.

 

Watch the below video for the demostration of the functionalities.

The basic Android Wear gestures include swipe up to move down to the next card, swipe left to see actions for a given card, swipe right to get rid of a card, tap a card to read any overflow and tap the clock to get to the menu options. The Play Store is already filled with apps that work with Android Wear and Google has already dedicated a section especially for Android Wear. As of writing, there are 42 apps compatible with Android Wear and the list is growing. It should be noted that Android Wear is not cross platform. It only works on Android devices running 4.3 and above. This is not surprising as newer software is needed to run on newer hardware and software. As of now, there is no way to change Watch faces on your watches without some workaround. Google has also promise that it will deliver timely updates with no interference from OEMs skins.( Google stated that they do not allow OEM skins on Android Wear)

With PebbleOS, although there is no Google Now built in, but there are at least a thousand apps available in its very own “marketplace” for all your needs.

140106B.Appstore-Categories-1024x640

Categories available on Pebble App Store

01A-Device-Lineup-Hi-1024x729

 

 

PebbleOS is also able to give you all your text and important notifications on your wrist when paired to your phone using Bluetooth. You will have to use its official app to do this. It should be noted that PebbleOS is cross platform working on both iOS and Android. One thing that differentiates PebbleOS from its competitors is the ability to customise your watch face. This will make your watch much more unique as compared to others.

 

Tizen on our smart watch is actually quite an interesting topic as our own editors have trouble finding what makes it stand out?  Tizen works only on Samsung devices, so your Sony/HTC/Motorola etc. devices will not work with a Tizen powered smartwatch. 

Tizen has a built in watch face changer and you could even change font settings! Instead of Google Now, we have S Voice which does similar things to Google Now. It can do voice search but it does not have cards appearing when you need it. Currently, it is not known how much apps work with it. So, which ecosystem do you fit in? If you are an iOS user, the Pebble is the only thing available for you. However, if you are an Android user, things will be different. You could choose between PebbleOS or Android Wear or Tizen. If you rely on Google services a lot, go for Android Wear otherwise go for the Pebble. If you use a Samsung device and feel adventurous enough, go for Tizen for it’s magnificent battery life.

Always listening is one piece of amazing technology. This is done by making sure the CPU stays awake at all time so that the watch could listen to your voice commands on the fly. Although I said that that the CPU is staying awake all the time, the impact on battery life will be too insignificant to be noticed, which makes it amazing. This technology is featured in Moto X but it is clear that smart watches do that have a extra low power core to power the always listening feature.  Most, if not all, smart watches have this feature, so it is not crucial.

Interchangeable strap is an interesting feature that some OEMs have left out. Interchangeable strap allows users to change their straps on the fly. It just takes a min or two to swap out the current strap to other strap to match your outfit of the day. Some consumers who love to make a fashion statement will have a hard time using wearables as there are only small amount of smart watches allow users to change their straps. Well, are you a person who likes to personalise your things and wants to make a fashion statement when you step out? Then, a smart watch that has an interchangeable strap is the right one for you.

Water resistant vs. Water proof. Which do you actually need? Water resistant is the answer. 090714_0847_SmartWatchS1.jpg(Image credit)

Let’s say you are in the pouring rain like this, what would you do? Hide under the tree/in the shelter or holding your umbrella right?  Chances are when it starts to rain, you do not leave your house/office to rush outside, stand there, get soaked and come back once it is sunny.  We are all sane human, we generally avoid extreme downpours. Having a water resistant watch means that the water will not soak through your watch
right away but after a while water will start to soak through. Whereas water proof means, no water will ever go through your watch whereby keeping your watch internals safe. Unless you are going for a swim or dive in the ocean with your watch on, why would you need a water proof smart watch? A water resistant smart watch is enough for ordinary folks to do their day to day tasks ranging from washing the dishes to washing your hand to showering. 

 

Pebble

Pebble was one of the early kick starters for modern SmartWatches by holding a Kickstarter(no pun intended) campaign. 
Some background information for this watch. The watch raised $10.3 million through Kickstarter and was sold out within five days when it started selling in July 2013. The current Pebble named “Pebble Steel” is currently the second generation Pebble.
For the Pebble Steel it should be noted that there was a large price jump from $149 to $249 USD as compared to the first generation of Pebble Watch
.

Here is the ad on Pebble Steel.

Impressed?

  • PebbleOS
  • E-paper display
  • Always On
  • Water resistant
  • Customizable watch faces
  • Backlight                                                                                 
  • Daylight readable
  • Vibrating alarms
  • Interchangeable strap


This watch is running PebbleOS. There are 2 generations of watch. The first gen has an interchangeable strap but the same does not go to second generation as it is made of steel. This watch has a killer feature, which is the vibrating alarm. I am sure most of you out there uses an alarm from your phone/alarm clock or traditional watch will face with an issue, loud beeping noise in the morning waking you up. This is an intended feature but, your partner will also be awoken in the process. With the vibrating alarm, only you will be awoken when the alarm vibrates on your wrist. The watch is said to have up to 5 days of battery life. Price of watch is USD$249 for the Pebble Steel and USD$150 for the first generation watch. It should be noted that there is minor difference in the first and second generation watch, which is, the interchangeable strap. There are a variety of colours for the first generation device ranging from green to hot pink to grey. There are a total of 8 different colours. The same is not to be said for the steel as the only 2 colours available is Black Matte and Brushed Stainless.

If you want to watch the Pebble Steel announcement, it is available below. A forewarning though, it is 20 mins long.

 

Sony SmartWatch 3


  • Android Wear
  • Waterproof(IP68)
  • NFC
  • LCD display
  • Interchangeable strap
  • Always listening

     

This watch is running the Android Wear. Features wise, this watch is just a typical smart watch, however, it features an NFC. Personally, I have never seen NFC on other smart watches except Sony’s. With NFC, you could do tons of other things. It is possible to make payment through NFC using your smart watch. It is possible to run tasks using Tasker from your phone to your watch. Play music to stereo players. The possibility is endless. Although, one can argue that Bluetooth can handle the almost same tasks, but having NFC makes it stand out from the competition. Unfortunately, this watch is not on sale until autumn this year, therefore we have no news on the pricing as of yet. This watch comes in 2 different colours; black and yellow. You are in luck as this watch has an interchangeable strap. However, you are out of luck if you think you have a variety of choices.

Here is an ad on the Sony SmartWatch 3

 

The only 2 replacement colours are white and pink.

This watch is not always on and requires you to click on a button to wake the watch up.

 

Gear Live


  • Android Wear
  • Always On
  • AMOLED display
  • Always listening
  • Water resistant(IP67)
  • Pedometer
  • Heart rate monitor

Gear_Live_Black_2

This watch is running Android Wear with many fitness sensors built in. The fitness sensors built in makes it stand out from its Android Wear competitors. It has the ability to track the amount of steps you take and whether you have completed your goals. Not only that, it can also monitor your heart rate when doing intensive exercise. This watch has received quite a number of poor review from launch. There were complains ranging from poor battery life to needing to snap it into a cradle that hooks onto the back of the watch just to charge it. This watch comes in either wine red or black. This watch has interchangeable strap. Currently the watch is USD$199 on Google Play. You should get this if you are tight on budget as this is value for its money.

 

 

Gear S


  • Tizen
  • Bluetooth call
  • Water resistant(IP67)
  • AMOLED display
  • Curve display
  • Built-in GPS
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Fitness tracking
  • 3G connectivity

Samsung_shit

We have previously wrote a first impression of the Gear S when it was released. An interesting smart watch I have to say. This smart watch is one of Samsung’s attempt at moving away from Google’s ecosystem by forming its own ecosystem. Tizen is said by many reviewers to have magnificent battery life but at the cost of lack of apps. One point to note from this watch, it has a 3G radio built right into the watch. This allows you to make calls and text right from your watch. With this, you will not need a smartphone to make calls anymore! It brings back memories of Dick Tracy where he communicates with his allies using a wrist radio. However, I doubt this can replace smart phones at all with its small battery. Therefore, you will still need a smart phone after all. The design of the watch is ergonomically friendly. It features a curve face which fits nicely on the contours of your wrist. Unlike its competitors, which has a rigid shape of the watch which some people may feel uncomfortable as compared to Gear S. The watch is one of the rare smart watches which has a built-in GPS. Not only that, it packs an array of sensors and it is a perfect health and fitness companion. Overall, I find this watch gimmicky when it comes to calling on your smart watch. Otherwise, this is a good buy if you own a Galaxy device. It is unknown as of now if the strap can be interchangeable but it comes in 2 different colours; Blue Black and White. Currently, Samsung has not released the price of this device yet and it is expected to arrive by the end of October.

Take a look on their ad.

 

 

ASUS ZenWatch

  • Android Wear
  • AMOLED display
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Leather strap

     

This watch is ASUS very first attempt at entering the wearables market. Running Android Wear with some tweaks with the ability to take remote pictures and using it to unlock your phone. The latter feature is similar to what this app has to offer. This watch stands out from the crowd from its leather strap, which none of its competitor offers. ASUS claimed that the smart watch is “genuine stitched-leather watchband

Having said that, this watch has similar features just like its competitors, offering an array of sensors for fitness tracking. Sadly, the watch does not allow us to switch the strap. During IFA, ASUS released this watch telling us that it will be on sale in October priced below USD$200, which makes it cheaper than the Gear Live. If you are holding out, I would suggest waiting for ASUS offering, if you prefer square faces. 

Which leads me to next two watches with square faces. The former is much more hotly anticipated than the latter and was sold out at Google Play, Best Buy and Motorola Website on the day itself.

MOTO 360


This is one of the most hotly anticipated watch in the smart watch market now. There are reviews after review on this watch and it has been discussed to death about its battery life.

  • Android Wear
  • LCD
  • Pedometer
  • Optical heart rate monitor
  • Optical resistance(IP67)
  • Single physical button
  • Corning gorilla glass 3
  • Wireless charging
  • Interchangeable strap

We shall not talk about its pros and cons since there are reviews of this all over the internet. Although I would like to mention that this watch is using an old processor as compared to its competitors. Inside the Moto 360, it has a TI OMAP 3, which is a 2010-era technology. In the span of those couple of years, SoC has changed a lot. Improving performance and battery. Probably this is to keep cost down as Moto has not break the silence on the decision to use this SoC. Intel has already announced an optimised wearable SoC the size of a SD card, so we will have to wait out for the next couple of years or maybe months to see some improvements to this smart watch battle. I would like to point out that there are no carrier hindering Motorola, yet the watch is only available in USA. The watch comes in 2 different colour namely, gray and black.

There will be interchangable strap which comes in light or dark stainless steel band.

LG G Watch R

We have previously covered the watch when it was announced. Therefore we will do a brief rundown of this watch.

  • Android Wear
  • Heart-rate monitor
  • LCD
  • Curve square face

HTC_is_awesome

No, this watch has no interchangeable strap and is just an improvement over the original G Watch. There was no information on the retail price but we have the date via WSJ stating October 2014.

I have to strongly emphasis that the processor,RAM and internal storage does not matter when it comes to SmartWatches. You already own a Smartphone in your pocket, why would you need an equally powerful watch? I highly doubt you will be browsing the web or playing Temple run on your watch. The weight of the watch has to be taken into considerations too. With a heavy watch, you would not feel comfortable wearing all day. So, before choosing a SmartWatch, ask yourself, which features do I need, which features is much more value for money instead of comparing solely on hardware specs, or would you rather wait out for the next wave of smart watches?

 

Personally, I would wait out as the game has just begun.

Daniel Quah

18 Year old dude, who loves cat and tech