1. Apple Watch
Apple waited to enter the wearable market until the technology was more evolved, which is typical of the company, and ended up releasing the most compelling smartwatch currently available. It’s only the first pick if you have an iPhone since the Apple Watch does not work with Android smartphones.
The Apple Watch is extremely well constructed, has long battery life, already has more than 1,300 apps, has an addictive activity tracking system, let’s you carry out phone conversations from the watch, provides more text and the ability to interact with messaging than what is provided on Android Wear, supports easy watch face customization, and has a vast accessory market.
The Apple Watch isn’t perfect and I imagine we will see some improvements in 2016. As a runner, the one thing I miss in order to leave my iPhone behind is GPS. However, that isn’t really essential for a companion smartwatch and recent Android Wear devices also no longer include this technology.
I’ve spent this year with the $400 46mm Apple Watch Sport and think the Sport model is a compelling option for those looking for a great smartwatch. Android Wear watches have all increased in price this year and are available for about the same price.
2. Huawei Watch
Huawei continues to impress me with fantastic smartphones, such as the Google Nexus 6P, and recently launched its first smartwatch. The Huawei Watch has a more classic round watch look and feel than the Apple Watch. People may not even realize you have a smartwatch mounted on your wrist with the leather or metal band Huawei Watch.
The Huawei Watch is powered by the latest version of Android Wear. Huawei includes many attractive and functional watch faces. You can also load up other custom watch faces, just like you can with any Android Wear watch.
The Huawei Watch is priced from $349 to $449, depending on the band and bezel style you select. I took a look at both the leather and metal mesh bands on the Huawei Watch and preferred the supple black leather band.
3. Samsung Gear S2
I have yet to try out the Samsung Gear S2 for myself, but from everything I’ve read it could prove to challenge for the top spot in smartwatches. I may pick up the T-Mobile version before the holidays, but want the classic style model.
The Gear S2 is unique with its spinning round bezel. You can use the touchscreen or bezel to navigate around the user interface. It is also launching on US wireless carriers with an integrated SIM card so you can use the Gear S2 as a stand alone smartwatch without your phone having to be connected.
The entry level silicone band Gear S2 is priced at $299.99 while the classic leather one costs $349. Carrier variations depend on the carrier. T-Mobile’s Gear S2 costs $359.99 and service is $5 per month.
4. Moto 360
Kevin loaned me his new Moto 360 at the same time as I was testing the Huawei Watch. I was a major fan of the first generation Moto 360 and think the new model is even better. It has a better processor, longer battery life, and refined style. There is no integrated GPS receiver, but with the leather band options it is not designed for the gym.
One great new feature in this year’s model is that you can go to the Moto Maker website and customize the band, bezel, and watch body of your own Moto 360. The Horween leather used in the Moto 360 looks and feels fantastic, easily the best leather band I have ever placed on my wrist. The Moto 360 ranges in price from $299.99 to $449.99, depending on the customization options you select.
The Moto 360 also runs the latest version of Android Wear and works, in limited capacity, with the Apple iPhone. I have had a Moto 360 in my shopping cart several times over the past couple of months, but have yet to pull the trigger and make a purchase.
5. Pebble Time Steel
Pebble smartwatches are great choices for those who use multiple smartphones or those who bounce between iOS and Android since the Pebble is device agnostic. Pebble has a more focused smartwatch user interface with a focus on the timeline of your life. While there are plenty of apps, its the out-of-the box experience that makes the Pebble compelling.
The Pebble Time interface is efficient and a bit quirky with funny animations and effects. It took me a couple of weeks to get used to it, but it does work well to triage your notifications and that is really the core of what a smartwatch should do.
The Pebble Time Steel is made of stainless steel with steel and leather band options. The display is color E-paper and has a battery life of up to 10 days. It is priced at $249.99 for the leather band and $299.98 for the metal band options, which is less than the Apple Watch and most Android Wear watches.