I got my first wrist watch when I was 7 years old. It was a Mickey Mouse watch like the one pictured to the right, but mine had a red face on it. It made me feel important. Time fascinated me. Perhaps it was the ticking of the second-hand. It made me feel like a grown-up. It would be another 30 plus years before the Smartwatch would become mainstream.
When I was about 12 or 13 years old, I got a brand new “Timex Men’s Classic Silver-Tone Case Bracelet New 80’s Retro Digital Watch” for my birthday. It had a beeping alarm, it was water-resistant, and it showed the date, day, and time to the second in digital format. It even had a built-in stop watch. But above all, it had this amazing technology called, “Indiglo!” With Indiglo, I could simply push one of the 4 buttons to see what time it was at night! I spent many nights under the covers at night playing with my super cool, brand new digital Timex wrist watch. It was so cool.
While recently walking through the mall, I passed an Invicta watch store. The watches I saw were beautiful, and of course, they were running a “special.” The watch I was ogling over was on sale for only $250, regularly priced at $600. I did not buy the watch, but after I left the store, I thought, “that watch is really nice, but in all honesty, it really just provides the same information that my Timex 80’s retro digital watch provided.” This incident at the mall eventually led me to discover the smartwatch. What stood out to me the most was that a smartwatch could offer so much more than just the time and date. By the time you have finished reading this article, you will know the right questions to ask in order to be able to determine which type of smartwatch is right for you.
Why Should I Buy A Smartwatch?
In a word: convenience. There are many reasons why you may consider purchasing a smartwatch, but I have listed a few below.
First, let me say that a smartwatch is not a phone replacement; however, it is convenient having one. Think of it as a great notifier. Because it is constantly communicating with your smartphone, it will notify you of any and all text messages, incoming email, reminders, and alerts. I love silent notifications. You can be anywhere doing anything—be it driving your car, in an important business meeting, or even a job interview—and silently be notified that you received either a text message, alert, or an e-mail. Nobody else will even know. It does not distract like a cell phone might; it simply notifies.
Instead of doodling on paper, pretending to take notes in those boring business meetings, you can send and receive text messages, play a game, or even read news articles using the Flipboard app, all from your wrist. While your colleagues try to look like they are paying attention during the meeting (while really trying to text on their phone), you can leave your phone on the table for all to see. You will be the one who looks like you are paying attention when you text from your wrist. When a text comes in, your wrist vibrates silently. No one knows, and you can respond with canned messages or by writing the message out yourself, all from your smartwatch. I love it.
You can literally compose e-mail or text messages from your wrist while driving, simply by speaking out loud. If you left your phone behind, no worries. With an LTE enabled smartwatch you can even make phone calls from your smartwatch. Need directions while hiking or bike riding? Let your smartwatch guide you. Know the weather wherever you are at any time. You can even use your smartwatch to buy a candy bar at the vending machine.
Using your smartwatch to make purchases at the department store is just plain fun. Because the technology is relatively new, it almost certainly will bring a surprised look to the sales clerk when you make payment by simply moving your wrist in front of the credit card scanner. It will definitely bring a smile to your face. It is almost too convenient.
What Smartwatches Are Available?
There are so many smartwatches available today (too many to list here), so how do you know which smartwatch to buy? Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at four of the major contenders out there, in no particular order.
The Apple Watch was first released on April 24, 2015. Even in writing this, I had to double-check the date to ensure that it was correct, because it seems like it was forever ago that the Apple watch was first released. Since its release, there have been two more releases: the Apple Watch 2, and the Apple Watch 3, respectively.
The Apple Watch has a following (as with all Apple products), and it truly is a great watch, especially for those who are already part of the Apple ecosystem. Apple is known for reinventing products, meaning that they take an existing product and rebrand it with new features and functionality. They have applied this marketing technique to the Apple Watch and have done a pretty good job with it. They offer a phenomenal product and a great operating system, and it seamlessly integrates with any and all other Apple products.
Samsung Gear Series
Samsung has been putting out very high quality watches since September, 2013. The Samsung Gear Series addresses four categories of watches. They currently carry the Samsung Gear “Classic” for business professionals, the “Frontier” for outdoorsmen, the “Sport” for athletes, and the “Fit2 Pro” for those who want to stay fit. I am generalizing here for the most part, as some of the features in each watch may overlap, but the look and feel of these watches are appropriate to each respective category. The quality of each of these watches is just outstanding. They rival the quality of the Apple Watch. Samsung is definitely a serious contender, and it is perfect for those who have an Android phone.
If you interested in the Samsung Gear Classic or Frontier, you may be interested in reading an article I recently wrote entitled, “What is the Difference Between the Gear S3 Classic and Frontier?“
I see these everywhere—in the office, at the gym, etc. You will primarily find both runners and walkers alike wearing a Fitbit smartwatch. You will find mall-walkers wearing the Fitbit smartwatch. People that take walks during their lunch hour also are fond of the Fitbit smartwatch. Generally speaking, people who are conscientious of their health will gravitate toward the Fitbit watch because it focuses on providing information on one’s health.
A big reason that Fitbit has continued to be successful is because of their ongoing investment in new models since their initial release back in 2015. Because they have such a wide spectrum of watches to choose from, you will have no problem finding one that looks good on you. Of course, some of their offerings have features and functionality that other smartwatches of theirs do not have, but that is a good thing. You have choice, and choice is always good.
As an aside, you may have heard of the Pebble smartwatch; unfortunately, in January 2018, Fitbit (who now owns Pebble OS), announced that they would end support for the Pebble OS in June 2018, in favor of their own smartwatch, Fitbit. For that reason, I would steer clear of purchasing a Pebble smartwatch if you plan on using it well into the future.
Wear OS by Google (formally Android Wear)
The Android operating system is an open-source operating system created by Google, meaning that any company can take the operating system and brand it to meet the needs of their product. It allows for a company to add functionality or remove functionality based on what the hardware will allow for. When used in connection with a smartwatch, the operating system is now referred to as “Wear OS.”
Because the Android operating system is open-source, companies can spend their time developing the hardware, and dozens of companies have done just that. Today there are at least 18,000 Android devices out there (phones, smartwatches, etc.), so rest assured, Android is not going anywhere—especially since Google acquired it in 2005.
There are literally dozens upon dozens of different smartwatches available that utilize the Android operating system. What is important to note is that the operating system is different from the hardware (the smartwatch itself). Some companies offer better hardware, but all smartwatches that utilize the Android operating system are very reliable and stable, and it only gets better with time.
What Smartwatch Features are Important to You?
Earlier, I mentioned that there are so many smartwatches available today, how is one to know which one to choose? To answer that question, you first need to determine exactly what features are important to you. Not all smartwatches are made the same or have the same features.
Health & Fitness
One of the biggest reasons people purchase a smartwatch is to use it as a source of information to help them stay healthy. It can tell you how many steps you have walked, how many flights of stairs you have climbed, your heart rate, and how many calories you have burned. Additionally, your Smartwatch can tell you how many miles you have walked, and what percent of your daily walk goal you have reached. When you set goals to accomplish each day, I can tell you from personal experience that you will try to achieve those goals. As silly as it sounds, people like to be told that they are doing a great job, even if it comes from a machine strapped to your wrist.
LTE stands for Long Term Evaluation, and technically, it refers to the speed at which your LTE enabled device is able to communicate with the internet. When we refer to an LTE enabled smartwatch, we are talking about a smartwatch that can make phone calls without being tethered to your smartphone via bluetooth.
I recently wrote an article entitled, “Do I Need LTE On My Samsung Gear S3?” The discussion applies to any smartwatch, I just happened to have the Samsung Gear S3 when I wrote the article. In the article, I discuss the pros and cons of using LTE on your smartwatch. By the end of the article, you will be convinced one way or the other, if you want (or need) LTE on your smartwatch.
The Look and Feel
Let’s be honest. When looking to purchase a smartwatch, the look and feel of the watch is probably at the top of your list when selecting a smartwatch. You want to make sure that it is not too big, or too small for your wrist. Given that there are a plethora of watches to choose from, you are sure to find one that looks great. One really great thing about smartwatches is that you can easily change out the watch band itself for another one (changing out Apple watch bands could not be easier). This way, you can choose any color you want.
Smartwatch Purchase Recommendations
I have just briefly reviewed four major smartwatch companies and their offerings. If you use an iPhone and have a Mac or iPad, you probably will naturally be drawn to the Apple Watch because it integrates seamlessly into the Apple ecosystem. For those who use an Android smartphone, you will probably be very happy with any of the Samsung Gear Series smartwatches or Android offerings. If you do not have a smartphone, or just really do not care about your smartwatch interacting with your cellphone, a Fitbit smartwatch just might be right for you. Regardless of which smartwatch you decide to purchase, before you do so, make a list of things that are important to you and then choose appropriately.
It needs to be stated that Apple, Samsung, Fitbit, and Google offer outstanding smartwatches. Personal preference and the smartwatch that will meet your needs will determine which watch you should purchase. I am not trying to be vague. If I knew who you were, how you would use the watch, and what features are important to you, I could then make a tailored recommendation. I personally own the Samsung Gear Classic S3 series. This watch fits my needs and desires, but that doe not mean that it would meet your needs or desires. Again, not every smartwatch is equal in features and functionality; but, if you do your homework to ensure that the smartwatch that you are interested in will meet your needs, you almost cannot go wrong with any of the vendors mentioned above. They really do have outstanding reputations for quality and craftsmanship.