The entry of several key players, including Samsung, Apple and Sony, means that the SmartWatch market is growing rapidly. Which I guess means exciting times for those involved.
But for many, who are confused by technology and overwhelmed by choice, this is just something else that they don’t know whether to embrace or pass by.
If you’re in this camp, here’s my quick guide to what a smart watch is.
What is a Smart Watch?
A smart watch is essentially a computer worn on a wrist. Taking the appearance of a watch, it does more than simply keep the time. The technology used is relatively new and being constantly developed so the exact functionality of any given smartwatch will depend on the technology it utilises.
Currently, most smartwatches are a companion device for the smartphone. While some will work independently, it’s usually with limited functionality. To be able to utilise all of a smart watches features, you really do need a compatible smartphone.
Obviously if you’re an Apple lover, the iPhone will be the smartphone for you and the Apple watch your smartwatch of choice. However, for non Apple converts the Android OS is being customised by many manufacturers for use in their wearable technology products. Known as Android Wear, this operating system has consequently been seeing significant growth in the smartwatch market.
You may be wondering why you need a smartwatch if it’s dependent on having a smartphone. Don’t they just do the same thing? Well to a large degree, yes. And at the moment, the reason for having a smartwatch basically comes down to trend setting and convenience.
You can take a photo using a camera, but it’s far more convenient for many of us to simply whip out our smartphone and take the snap. Likewise, you can take your phone out of your pocket or bag to read a text message, but wouldn’t it be far more convenient to simply flick your wrist and read from your watch display?
And smartwatch functionality extends way beyond sending and receiving messages. It includes,
- Playing music. Activated by your voice rather than having to scroll through endless menu options.
- Paying for goods. Without having to take out a card.
- SatNav. Just tell your watch where you want to go and it displays a map.
- Activity tracking. Receive feedback on your daily exercise progress direct to your watch display.
- Heart rate sensor. Particularly useful for those who need to take things easy.
- Idle alert. Get a gentle nudge when you’ve been sitting down for too long.
- Scheduling reminders. Never miss an appointment again.
Now you know what a smartwatch is, and much of what it does, the other thing you need to consider before you purchase, is what it looks like.
Having a computer on your wrist used to mean wearing something which was relatively bulky and heavy. For a lot of people, particularly women, this was a complete turnoff. But advances in technology mean that smaller chips and lighter materials have overcome this obstacle and now smartwatches can be worn as an item of jewellery as well as a functional piece.
So let’s start with the watch itself. While the standard material seems to default to stainless steel, some lower range models are made from aluminium, while at the top of the range 18-karat gold models are available.
And there’s a range of materials for the bands as well. Lower priced models tend to use elastomer or fluoroelastomer which is a rubbery feeling material. More expensive models are available with leather or stainless steel bands, but there’s really no need to decide which one you want because in many cases you can have both!
Many smart watches have quick release toggles for their bands, meaning you can easily switch one band for another and give your watch a completely different look. You need never feel out of place, whether you’re wearing your watch in the gym or at a high end social function.
Generally speaking, if you switch bands from the same manufacturer, no specialist tools are required, but if you’re swapping with third party bands, you may need special tools to help you fit it. Just something to bear in mind.
Both watch cases and bands are usually available in a variety of colours.
While the case and the band might be considered to be the main aesthetic components, a number of other elements should also be considered. These include,
- Display size, resolution and covering
- Touchscreen capability and pressure sensitive display
- Scrolling capabilities and hands free features for navigating through apps, menu options and messages
- Android/iPhone compatibility
- Water resistance
- Always on display
- Battery life
So there you go. A quick look into the world of the smartwatch. Hopefully you’ll now have a better idea of what they are, what they can do and whether they’re the thing for you. If you’re interested in viewing some models, you can find some here.