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Comparing Smartwatches: How to Find the Right Model

by Kevin Kyburz 01/22/2018

The selection of smartwatches keeps growing every day, making it no easy feat to decide which one is right for you. But there are still some basic criteria to keep in mind when comparing smartwatches.

Keep an eye on the following when making your purchase

Choosing a suitable smartwatch depends largely on your personal preferences and how you plan to use it. Be sure to consider the following points before buying one:

Compatibility

Apple Watch with an iPhone or a Fossil with Google Pixel

 

In a similar way to smartphones, smartwatches have two widely used operating systems: Android Wear and watchOS. Since the smartwatch was conceived as a complement to the smartphone, it’s important for the watch to be compatible with the phone.

A lot of watches work with both the iPhone and Android smartphones. But there are exceptions. The Apple Watch, for instance, is only compatible with the iPhone. Some smartwatches with Android Wear can be used with the iPhone, but with only a limited range of features. Still, checking the Internet to find out whether your smartphone is compatible is easy to do.

Functions

Almost all smartwatches come equipped with features like the pedometer and heart-rate monitor, although additional options aren’t always available. Which smartwatch features you need depends entirely on how you use it.

  • Fitness – If you spend a lot of time outdoors and enjoy walking, cycling, or jogging, then look for a watch with a built-in GPS function. If you prefer swimming, then you’ll need a watch that’s suited to that. Most models are waterproof but not suitable for swimming.
  • Notifications – If you’re an active social media user, then check for the appropriate connections to the relevant networks.
  • NFC – What about cashless payment? To use this feature, you’ll need a model with NFC (near field communication) technology.
  • Phone calls – To answer phone calls without your smartphone, you’ll need a smartwatch with a SIM card. If this feature is important to you, you have two options: either look for a model that allows you to insert a SIM card, or choose a smartwatch with eSIM. That means that the SIM card is already built in to the device and that the data can be uploaded to the SIM card. That way, you can use the same number for both your smartwatch and smartphone.
  • Apps – The selection of apps varies with the operating system. Apple currently has the largest selection, followed by Android.

Operation

Buttons, touch, or a combo? This is not just a question of design – it’s also crucial to the user’s experience. At first glance, the touch screen may seem to be the more convenient option, but people with big fingers often have a hard time using a small touch display. As a result, additional operating buttons can be a definite advantage.

Skagen Hybrid Watch

Ideal for women: The Skagen Hybrid watch.

One of the basic decisions that you need to make before buying is whether to get a hybrid model or a “genuine” smartphone. A hybrid watch has an analogue display and looks like a conventional watch, though with smartwatch features like a fitness tracker or music control. Compared to a smartwatch, the range of features is clearly limited, the upside being that it has a longer battery life.

Display

Smartwatch displays use a variety of technologies. For example, in addition to the classic LCD display, there are watches with an AMOLED display, which is mostly characterized by a higher-contrast color rendering than the LCD display. More and more models with an OLED display are also coming on the market. This display is thinner than the LCD version, allowing for a sleeker design.

Design

Design is also an important criterion when choosing the right smartwatch. The search for a suitable smartwatch can be especially difficult for women with small wrists. In the interim, though, several manufacturers have started producing a variety of models for both men and women.

Apple, for example, offers a smaller version with a diameter of 38 mm and a wristband measuring 125 to 200 mm in circumference. But a smaller diameter also means a smaller display, which makes the watch harder to use. Something to think about when deciding which one to buy. In addition to the Apple Watch, I also find the models by Michael Kors and Fossil to be good choices for women.

Apple Watch Series 3 Nike

Apple Watch Series 3 with the Nike fabric bracelet and velcro fastener.

A lot of watches give you the option of changing the wristband so that you can customize your smartwatch and adapt it to different outfits. Keep in mind that some watches support a classic wristband, which means that you can use the wristband from an old analogue watch. Other models, like the Apple Watch, require a specific wristband. If you decide on a model that doesn’t feature an interchangeable strap, you will need to consider what kind of material you prefer:

  • Plastic – Straps made of plastic are the best choice for athletes. They’re easy to clean after training and comfortable to wear while engaged in your chosen sport.
  • Metal – Variants made of metal look more stylish as a rule but are also noticeably heavier.
  • Leather/Fabric – The third option is a leather or fabric wristband. In general, though, these straps wear out more quickly.

Battery

Smartwatches with a color display use significantly more energy and consequently have a much shorter life span than the hybrid varieties, for instance. From this, you can assume that a smartwatch with color display will need to be charged every one to two days. Some models save on battery life by automatically turning off the display after a certain period of time.

Battery life is obviously strongly dependent on the features you use. Above all, if you take a lot of calls and make frequent use of the GPS function, the battery’s life span will be correspondingly shorter. For those of you who dislike using a cord for charging, there are models that allow for wireless charging. But this is more of a nice added feature rather than an important criterion to keep in mind.

Price

Aside from features and appearance, a manageable price for your budget clearly also plays a role. The price range for smartwatches is huge. If you want a somewhat newer model from a well-known brand, plan on paying a minimum of 200$. The newer the model and, as a result, the more features it has, the more the smartwatch will cost.

Conclusion

Regardless of the general criteria used when comparing smartwatches, which smartwatch is best for you will strongly depend on your personal preferences and usage habits. To determine this, make a list of which features that you absolutely want and then compare the different models. In the next part of this article, I’ll be taking a look at six models in relation to the criteria outlined above.

Kevin Kyburz

Kevin Kyburz

Kevin Kyburz is part of Generation Y, which grew up with a Windows 95 computer and the first PlayStation. Since he discovered the Internet, there are no limits.

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