War of the Watches: A Smartwatch Comparison 2015

Two top contenders in this smartwatch comparison

A Nifty Smartwatch Comparison for Anyone Weighing Their Options

smartwatch vs. smartwatch3D creation: Martin Hajek

One watch to rule them all, one watch to find them… It would appear that war is on the horizon for manufacturers vying for the eye of technophiles ready for the latest round of electric mayhem. With several contenders in the developing smartwatch arena, each with benefits unique to their product, signs of a clear winner are becoming increasingly hazy. To bring some clarity to this chaos, here’s a smartwatch comparison cheat-sheet highlighting some of the pros and cons to some of the top players.

Note: For the sake of equality we’ll be using the newest generation of each watch either most recently released or expected to hit the market in the next couple months.

 

 1. Samsung Gear S

Samsung Gear S smartwatch

Price: ~$300 (without contract)

Released: November 7, 2014

CPU: 1.0 GHz Dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor (Qualcomm)

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Battery life: ~ 2 days

Display: Curved 2.0 inch (360 x 480 px) touch-screen

Features: WiFi, 3G network, low-energy bluetooth, multi-touch, compass, gyroscope, accelerometer, heart-rate, ambient light sensor, barometer, and alerts to email, SMS, and social media.

pros:

– 4 GB of storage with 512 MB of RAM

– Impressive processor

– Large display (bordering on a bad thing)

– Heart rate monitor

– While a Galaxy phone is required to pair with the watch, the Gear S can operate remotely and independently from it (even if it’s on the other side of the country)

– Can make phone calls and connect to WiFi without a phone

cons:

– Too big for a watch?

– Adds to complexity of phone rather than simplifying it

– Tries to do too much (arguably)

The Samsung Gear S’s list of features is pretty damn impressive. While its large curved face might appeal to some, however, it’s bulky surface almost looks like you’re wearing a small phone on your wrist rather than a watch. While other contenders have gone with the philosophy that a smartwatch should complement rather than replace a phone, Samsung asks, “who needs a phone?”

 

2. Pebble Time

Pebble Time Smartwatch

Price: $199 (Pebble Time), $299 (Pebble Time Steel)

Release date:  May 2015

CPU: STM32F2 Cortex M3

Battery life: 7 days (standby)

Display: 1.25 inch (144 x 168 px) LED display

Features: 4.0 Bluetooth, 3D accelerometer, Compass, Ambient Light Sensor, waterproof, microphone, magnetic charger, and alerts to email, SMS, and social media

pros:

– One of the longest battery lives of any smartwatch

– Open source OS platform (with a few exceptions)

– Works with iOS and Android

– Open source “smartstraps” allow modular improvements (GPS, longer battery, etc.)

– Water proof to 50 meters

– Complements rather than replaces your phone

cons:

– Not quite as flashy as other contenders

– Though promising, Pebble is a relatively unproven startup company

I love successful underdog stories. First made possible via crowdfunding site Kickstarter, the Pebble Time reached its goal of $500,000 within 17 minutes. It hit an unheard of $10.4 million within 48 hours and, at the time of this writing, holds the Kickstarter record for the most raised by any campaign with $20,338,986.

While lacking the flash apparent in some of its competitors, the Pebble Time has been reportedly designed to meld perfectly with a phone’s capabilities (iOS or Android). The idea is to make a phone quicker and simpler to use as opposed to increasing its bells and whistles (though it can do that too if you want).

Its open-source software platform means there’s already thousands of user-created apps available for the watch. With the potential for expandable capabilities via an open-source hardware wristband (not to mention an attractive entry price), the Pebble Time is this writer’s favored horse.

 

3. Apple Watch

Apple Watch smartwatch

Price: $349 – $399 (entry) up to $17,000

Release date: April 24, 2015

CPU: Unknown (part of all-in-one “System in Package” Apple S1 computer)

Battery: ~18 hours (standby)

Display: 38mm(272×340 px) or 42mm(312×390 px) LED screen with either Ion-X glass or sapphire glass

Features: Strengthened Ion-X glass (sport) and sapphire glass (watch, edition), 8GB of storage, 4.0 Bluetooth, WiFi, speaker, and alerts to email, SMS, and social media.

pros:

– Hot damn that’s a good looking watch…

– 8GB of storage!

– Durable screen (probably?)

– Likely to have Apple’s classic “simple yet beautiful” interface

– Nice aesthetic variation depending on how much you’re willing to spend

cons:

– Blends line between function and jewelry (arguably not a bad thing)

– iOS only, and even then it’s iPhone 5 or newer

– High price point for technology that’s likely to be dated in 2 years

– Battery life a bit unimpressive

– $$$

There’s been a lot of talk about the Apple Watch, and with good reason. Apple fandom aside, it’s hard to deny that the Apple Watch is one fine-looking timepiece. With one of the best-looking “How It’s Made” videos I’ve ever seen, I was pretty impressed before I even knew what it could do.

With three separate versions at different price points, Apple appears to be going after both the tech enthusiast as well as the affluent collector. The biggest hiccup to the watch, however, still appears to be the cost. With even it’s entry level price quite a bit higher than its competitors, many have expressed reservations about investing their money into a product that will fail to impress (as far as technology goes) in a few years time. With the Edition presumed to retail for as high as $17,000, it would be a tragedy to wake up one morning to discover smartwatches were just a fad.

 

4. Motorola Moto 360

Motorola Smartwatch

Price: $212

Released: September 4, 2014

CPU: 1GHz Cortex A8

Battery: ~ 2 days (after software update)

Display: 1.56 inch LCD display (320 x 290 px) with gorilla glass

Features: charged wirelessly, dual microphones, vibration feedback, heart rate sensor, 9-axis accelerometer, and alerts to email, SMS, and social media

pros:

– Actually looks like a watch (a good-looking one)

– Said to be one of the best choices for Android watches

– Tight machining gives it high dust/water resistance

cons:

– Aging processor (TI OMAP 3630)

– Slice taken out of bottom portion (to fit hardware) makes circular screen a bit odd.

– A bit large for smaller wrists

The Moto 360 initially suffered from a surprisingly poor battery life, though a software update reportedly optimized it to more respectable levels. While the bottom section of the circular face has taken criticism for being “cut off,” the watch still looks quite a bit better than most of of its competition.

Currently, it seems to be lauded by many as the best choice for Android smartwatches.

 

 

5. LG G Watch R

LG's smartwatch

Price: $160 (LG G watch), $300 (LG G watch R)

Released: October 24, 2014

CPU: 1.2 GHz quad-core processor (Snapdragon 400 chip)

Battery: ~ 2 days

Display: 1.3 inch OLED display (320 x 320 px)

Features: 4 GB storage, 512MB RAM, circular display, heart rate sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, and alerts to email, SMS, and social media.

pros:

– The G Watch R has a full circular display

– Looks very much like a regular watch

– Tight machining gives it high dust/water resistance

– Barometer can display altitude

– Switchable straps

cons:

– No speakers (can’t take calls)

– Not as flashy as the competition (arguably not a bad thing)

– While it has no major flaws, it has no huge advantages either

The LG G Watch R improves upon the lower priced G Watch with a nicer display and a circular face. A bit less flashy and a bit more outdoorsy, LG appears to have favored the more nature-inclined technophiles.

While the LG G Watch R successfully implements a fully circular display, it does so at the cost of a slightly thicker bezel than the competition. While the inclusion of the barometer is a nice touch, the LG G Watch R doesn’t really have much to set it apart. It tends to come across as a jack-of-all-trades but master of none.

 

6. Sony SmartWatch SW3

Sony's smartwatch

Price: $235

Released: November 10, 2014

CPU: 1.2 GHZ Quad ARM A7

Battery: 72 hours (standby)

Display: 1.6 inch transflective display (320 x 320 px)

Features: 4GB storage, 512mb RAM, Ambient light sensors, Accelerometer, Compass, Gyro, GPS, and alerts to email, SMS, and social media

pros:

– Relatively good battery life

– GPS capability

– Reportedly has a quite efficient interface

cons:

– While stylish, it’s still a bit on the bulky side

– Few offline capabilities

– Reportedly not as durable as other watches

– No mic or speaker

While Sony’s contender is a bit on the bulky side, it still looks quite a bit more natural on the wrist than the Samsung Gear S. It also looks pretty darn sleek.

Though its battery life is admirable, some have said the display suffers scratches a bit easily. While there’s not much setting it apart from the others, it does have GPS capability which is a rarity among the smartwatches.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This post is a real STRIKE of a comparison between these watches. I think the smartwatch war will get far more interesting with Apple’s second iteration of their wearable; I’m picturing the real change in mindset that the iPad and iPhone brought to the industry once they had a few generations of product to finish polishing off the design and really start to innovate.

    • A good point. I’ll admit I was one of the skeptics when the first iPad came out, but it seems to have been more or less spot on. I could definitely see a favorable change in the average consumer mindset as features improve and issues get ironed out in the next few years.

      • I think Apple is a real kingpin and has the resources to disrupt all of these different tech market segments, unfortunately I think a lot of tech media and consumers overlook the time it takes to really innovate and run with the ball. When the iPhone came out it was touted as revolutionary, but had a number of shortcomings that the industry had already standardized. It wasn’t until a few generations later (arguably until 4 years later, with the iPhone 4) when the phone really took a strong marketshare and could tout not only a standardized feature-set, but innovative and new ideas that were pushing what mobile phones could be capable of. Now, 8 years later, it is clear that they have positively influenced not only the entire smartphone market, but also hundreds of other industries that can use iPhone as a building block. I think the Apple Watch is heading in this direction; it will just take a few years of market introduction and innovation to really understand the potential that wearable tech has to change the world.

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