Best smartwatches – Models and features
From smartphone to wrist: With a smartwatch, you are always informed what is happening on your smartphone Read and answer emails and messages via a messenger, take calls, get the latest news or find the right way in a foreign city. Modern smartwatches not only allow control via touchpad, but also via voice. More and more additional functions even allow use without a mobile phone or replace a separate fitness tracker. Even music playback and photography is possible via the smartwatch on your wrist. Find out which requierements the best smartwatch on the market has to offer, and how to find your perfect wearable.
Smartwatch leaderboard: This is how the top models work
Technology and design combined in perfection: Smartwatches which belong to the best in the test, convince with inner and outer values. The smartwatches from Pebble, Apple, Samsung and co. already differ considerably at first glance. You’ve got the choice between different colours and designs. In addition to simple models in black and white, these smartwatches also come in the classic watch design in gold or with a stainless steel case. In the latter case, these are often so-called hybrid smart watches. A watch with a dial is complemented here by the intelligent functions of the wearables.
However, other design factors score particularly well in the test: How is the Smartwatch processed? Can it be flexibly adapted to any wrist and can the bracelet be changed according to personal taste? Especially for smart watches for women and children, the flexibility of the bracelet can be a crucial purchase criteria. In addition to the visual appearance and wearing comfort, a test winner also impresses with comfortable operation: Most Smartwatch models are controlled by a fingertip on the display and hands-free by voice control – in individual cases a wheel on the side of the watch can be used to scroll within messages and apps.
The inner values of a smartwatch depend on the technical equipment and functions: On the one hand, the pre-installed and additional apps available via the App Store are compared. In addition to standard apps for news, navigation and weather, the best smart watches should at least support the current mailing and messenger services. In addition, the display quality and pixel density are being compared, as well as the available interfaces. In the best case, a current generation Smartwatch should have an interface for WLAN, GPS and NFC in addition to low-energy Bluetooth. Other technical factors in the smartwatch test are a camera function and the presence of a SIM card slot so that the watch can also be used without a smartphone. If these smart watches are also to be used as fitness trackers, a heart rate monitor and additional applications for tracking movements are just as important as water resistance.
What has always been a big point of criticism with smartphones continues with the smartwatches: The battery life of the watches varies greatly depending on the model and use and is therefore an important factor when placing them on the leaderboard. The best smartwatches achieve a battery life of around 2 to 2.5 days on average use.
And the price? Leaders in the leaderboards not only convince with design, comfort and performance, but are also available at an affordable price, usually starting at around 150 euros. Pricing is open upwards, depending on performance and range of functions. The cheapest Smartwatch is not always at the top of the list, neither is the model with the strongest performance – it depends on the price-performance ratio. If you are looking for a Smartwatch yourself, first find the watch that meets all your needs and then compare the prices of all models available.
Smartwatch comparison: This is what you should pay attention to
Samsung, Apple, Pebble and other vendors offer a variety of smartwatch models – so it’s worth comparing them. This is what you should pay attention to
Design: It is not possible to test the smartwatch, especially when comparing them online. Please pay attention to the size of the watch and the display, available colours and the weight. When it comes to design, women and children in particular usually find a much larger selection of smart watches than men. If classic watch optics are important to you, you might want to consider a hybrid smart watch with a classic dial.
The Screen: Besides the size, resolution, pixel density and type (for example Super-AMOLED or Retina-LCD) are also selection criteria. Current models range from 240 x 240 pixels to 360 x 360 pixels with a pixel density of approx. 226 to 290 ppi.
Storage: The models differ considerably in terms of storage capacity – from around 190 MB to 4 GB, everything is included. How much data you can store on the wearable depends on the internal memory size.
Rechargeable battery: Here is not only the battery life crucial, i.e. when you actually do something on your smartwatch, but also the runtime when you simply use the model as a time indicator (the standby time).
Software: Which operating system is installed on a smartwatch is crucial for the compatibility with your smartphone. For example, you cannot combine an Apple smartwatch with a Samsung smartphone.
Connection methods: If you want to use your smartwatch independently of your smartphone, you should make sure that it is possible to establish a WIFI connection. A watch with a SIM card slot also allows smartphone-independent use.
Features and apps: Depending on how you want to use your smartwatch, appropriate apps and features should be available. A minimum requirement is the availability of classic messenger services and apps for social networks. GPS enables your smartwatch to navigate Some models also provide a media player such as a fitness tracker and have a built-in camera.
Advice on smart watches for children: Make sure that GPS is included and that it is possible to automatically locate your child via the watch.
Questions before you buy: Which smartwatch suits me?
Not all factors when comparing smart watches are equally important for everyone. Before you buy a smartwatch, ask yourself the following three questions:
- What do I want to do with the watch?
If you only want to receive e-mails, write WhatsApp messages and make phone calls, you only need a much slimmer smartwatch than someone who also wants to use the watch as a fitness tracker. In the latter case, for example, the smartwatch can measure the pulse and many models are waterproof.
In both cases it is important whether you want to use the watch in conjunction with your mobile phone or independently of it. If you want to use the smartwatch without a mobile phone, make sure that a connection via WIFI is possible and/or that a simcard slot is available.
- How important is flexibility to me?
Wifi connection and a sim card slot are also a factor when it comes to flexibility, because in both cases you can use the watch without your mobile phone. It may also be important to know whether you can change the wristband of the wearable according to your taste and which apps are available for the watch. Voice control also determines flexibility: In many models, you can not only check emails and make calls by voice, but also write messages and navigate.
- Which smartphone do I use?
Not every smartwatch is compatible with every smartphone. The crucial factor here is the operating system. Samsung and Sony use their own operating systems, but most models use Android. Motorola and Apple also use their own software. Apple Watches with iOS, for example, cannot be used with an Android phone.
Some advice: If you need a new smartphone anyway, buy your mobile phone and smartwatch in one package.
Functions and features of smart watches in detail
Operating systems of smartwatches
Pebble was once a pioneer of smartwatches, working with its own operating system which was compatible with iOS and Android. With the sale to FitBit the production of the watches was discontinued and it is questionable whether the models will even be relevant beyond 2017.
Samsung equips most of its models with its own operating system called Tizen. However, if you choose such a smart watch, you should be careful because Tizen only works with selected in-house smartphones. Be careful: In some cases, the connection from Samsung watches with Tizen to Samsung tablets or smartphones with Android does not work.
The most widely used operating systems are made by Apple and Google. Google’s Android Wear is compatible with all Android phones from version 4.3 and upwards. Asus, Huawei, LG, Motorola and Sony are some manufacturers using this operating system. Apple limits itself with its own operating system to its own mobile phone models (as well as some Pebble models), vice versa iPhone users can partly also use Smartwatches of LG and Huawei.
Your watch as a fitness tracker
Many smart watches not only serve as an extension of the smartphone, but also fulfill the purpose of a fitness tracker. Whether sleeping, running, swimming or any other outdoor sport: The watches can record and evaluate the heart rate as well as the sleep rhythm and the distance traveled, provided that GPS is integrated. If you want to use a smartwatch to record the distance covered and your pulse while swimming, you should make sure that the watch is water-resistant.
Playing multimedia content via smartwatch
Similar to the mobile phone, selected smart watches can now replace the mp3 player and the camera. Some models allow not only the playback of music but also the streaming of movies- in the latter case the display size and quality naturally limits the enjoyment of the movie. Even the camera of a smartwatch cannot replace the quality of a smartphone or real cameras, but this function is sufficient for snapshots “from the wrist”.