Smartwatches have been a niche platform for a good while now. And there still is a long distance to cover even with Apple taking its place in the market.
Apple has always been one to make a dramatic entrance. They did it with the personal computer, then the MP3 player, and then, of course, the phone. They have always created unprecedented highs, especially with the iPhone, the most influential industry-changing product ever. Now they are hoping for similar beginnings with their take on the smartwatch, and they are doing it with a small computer on your wrist to both mirror and extend the capabilities of the iPhone in your pocket.
This product is the Apple Watch, with looks as one of its major drawing points. The configurations for the Apple Watch include 38 or 42mm, and three different watch models, Sport, Watch and Edition. The cheapest is the Sport model, starting with USD 349, followed by the Watch model, and then the high-end Edition, which costs upwards of USD 10,000. The Sport and Watch model are aluminium bodied, while the Edition is crafted out of 18 carat rose or yellow gold. All of the models are formed out of metal or diamond that’s incredibly polished and feels smooth on the wrist.
Make no mistake, it is indeed jewelry in the purest sense of the word, but its smartwatch features like the apps and sensors are nothing to get overly excited about. Even the brand new features, mobile payments, making phone calls and sending messages straight from the watch are not perfect or really obscure. In addition, apps made by third-party developers run really sluggishly on the Apple watch.
It seems clear that Apple Watch suffered clear growing pains like many of the company’s ‘first’ products. For example, I found the experience of making phone calls from Apple Watch to be a poor one, as it was too much of a struggle to make out just what the person on the other end is saying. Apple Pay is a great, innovative feature though, although retailer support may vary in your country, and the music controls, navigation and fitness tracking are on point.
The new features notwithstanding, I still wouldn’t recommend Apple Watch to anyone other than iPhone buffs. Android Wear like the Moto 360 and Asus Zenwatch and Pebble’s offerings, including classic Pebble and Pebble steel, along with their newly released colour smartwatch, Pebble time, do the same things for far less money.
Let’s not forget that Pebble is still a major player in this market. The modern breakthrough smartwatch has its valuable differentiating design values over the competition: a one-week battery life (with a colour display in the case of Pebble time, which is primitively low resolution and dot matrix unlike Apple’s far more attractive OLED), a feature set that works completely with little missteps and on both iOS and Android. Plus, voice replies are now a feature on the Pebble Time, a product refresh more known for the inclusion of a colour display than anything else.
At the end of the day, few people would consider Pebble outside of the battery life. The other platforms would soon catch up to Pebble’s app numbers, and although Pebble apps are the most robust of the three ecosystems, people would still be wanting a great smartphone-like display for these apps to exist on.
On the Android Wear side, is where the Smartwatch ‘pasture’ looks the most lush. With Motorola’s Moto 360 and LG’s Watch Urbane, the best smartwatches are round faced, something that Apple definitely has yet to introduce. The Watch Urbane also looks like one of the biggest leaps for the platform with its ridiculously-high processor speed for a smartwatch and huge battery. Along with that, brand-new Android Wear features like an always-on display and handwriting text input with emoji support, really show how the latest updates really enhance the experience.
As for square-faced Android Wear offerings, the Asus Zenwatch is aluminium-built enough even by Apple standards but costing only a ridiculously low price of USD 200. The only price to pay would be you holding an Android phone required for any of these Android wear smartwatches. It is conclusive that Android wear leads the Smartwatch market right now, in terms of usability and reliability within the platform.
But, really, it only takes Pebble’s great one-week battery or the absolute breadth of the iOS system, to sway you towards the Pebble Time or the Apple Watch respectively.
Regardless, it still takes a lot of investment to buy into any of these three smartwatch ecosystems at this current stage, and it really depends on whether you’d require, or crave for, immediate wrist functionality that would otherwise be cumbersome with your phone. As of now, I would only view jobs prohibiting the use of smartphones as the only current, practical reason that for a smartwatch to be a must-have. Otherwise, you would need to be an avid lover of cool, new shiny things on your wrist.