How to choose a smartwatch

A smartwatch is a device with a computer and a display that performs many functions. Typically, such watches work in conjunction with smartphones: they receive calls and answer emails and messages. Some models are used as a wireless headset for talking on a smartphone. Smart watches have a square or round shape, an electronic or analog dial.

Smartwatch phone – thanks to built-in cellular communication modules, it can make calls and send SMS messages without connecting to a smartphone. They have a contact book, a keyboard, and a SIM card is required for the device to work. The watch phone can be used in conjunction with a smartphone.

Smart bracelets differ from watches in smaller dimensions and often lack a display. They collect information about physical activity and the body’s state (distance traveled, heart rate) for transmission to a computer or mobile phone.

Important: some smartwatches can perform certain functions of a smart bracelet and vice versa – a number of intelligent bracelets receive messages about incoming SMS messages and calls to a smartphone.

Capabilities

Smartwatch

Basic level – display of the current time of day (primary function). The device also notifies incoming calls, SMS, or e-mail messages (through a sound signal, vibration). In this case, the message text is not displayed on the screen. Basic smartwatches allow you to control your smartphone (put into sleep mode). Some models have bracelet functions.

Medium level – displaying information on the screen (not only SMS and e-mail messages but also information received from programs on a smartphone), installing additional applications, playing music and videos. These clocks have monochrome or color screens.

Advanced level – the two previous levels are connected with searching for information on the Internet and working with all programs. Such watches are equipped with a color touch screen, and in terms of their functionality, they are close to a full-fledged smartphone.

Bracelets

Essential bracelets lack a screen. Such devices track physical parameters (number of steps, calories burned, distance covered, sleep phases). More “advanced” gadgets are equipped with a display, have a smart alarm function that wakes up a person in a state of shallow sleep for a comfortable waking.

Control

Push – button – found in cheap models or devices with increased protection against water and scratches. Button control is more complicated than touch control since it takes time to master, but such devices have a higher resistance to impacts.

Touch – performed through a pressure-sensitive screen. Such a display provides intuitive operation. A touchscreen watch is more functional but not always convenient while driving or on the go, as the lack of buttons will have to distract from the road. Sensory models are not resistant to mechanical stress – they are easily broken.

Important: Comfortable touchscreen operation requires a large display.

Some models allow you to control gestures. This is the most modern method, but it takes time to learn since not all gestures are intuitive.

Time display

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Analog – made using a dial with arrows. This way of displaying time is rare.

Digital – displayed on an electronic screen. This option allows you to change the screen’s view to your liking (classic or modern). Digital imaging is most commonly used.

Combined – a combination of the two previous methods. Due to the complexity of execution, this display method is very rare.

Material

Watch case

Plastic is a lightweight and cheap material but inferior to the metal in strength and durability. Cases of expensive models are made of polycarbonate, a very durable plastic.

Stainless steel is a durable and relatively inexpensive material. Over time, the steel case gets scratched, which degrades the appearance of the gadget. Due to the optimal balance of quality and price, stainless steel is used to manufacture cases more often than other materials.

Aluminum is cheaper and lighter than stainless steel, but less durable and robust material. The aluminum body scratches faster than the steel body.

Strap

Plastic is hypoallergenic, moisture resistant, and pleasant to the touch, but not too durable.

Silicone – similar in properties to plastic, but soft and pleasant to the touch.

Leather is a soft, pleasant to the touch, but expensive material. Leather straps are used in luxury models and need careful care.

Metal is an eye-catching, durable, and resistant material. On the other hand, the metal bracelet is the heaviest and has high thermal conductivity (unpleasant sensations in the cold season).

Rubber is a cheap and durable material that can be easily colorized. The rubber strap fits nicely on the wrist, is resistant to moisture, and has low thermal conductivity. Users note that rubber straps can cause redness and rashes.

Important: when choosing a strap, pay attention to the hypoallergenicity of the material. It is worth reading customer reviews.

Premium smartwatch cases are made of costly materials:

  • ceramics – attractive and not afraid of scratches, but fragile;
  • titanium is a super strong and very reliable material;
  • Gold – in practical terms, it has no advantages over stainless steel or aluminum.

Display

Designer Smartwatch Straps : smartwatch strap

The form

Round – resembles a classic wrist watch dial. Suitable for lovers of retro style.

Rectangular – displays more information than a round analog while being cheaper. Optimal for high-tech style lovers.

A type

Monochrome – Displays information in two colors (black and white). Such a screen is cheaper and uses less energy than a color one. The resulting image is visible even in bright sunlight.

Color – Displays information using multiple colors (e.g., OLED, Super AMOLED). The richer the display palette, the more beautiful and informative the picture. The color screen has worse readability in the sun, and the display itself increases the watch’s cost.

Important: To extend the model’s operating time with a color screen, put the device into “sleep mode”.

Matrix

LCD (liquid crystal) – due to its relatively low cost and acceptable quality, it is most common. There are several modifications of LCD technology: IPS, TN + film, Super LCD. Such a screen requires internal illumination and “fades” in bright sunlight.

OLED (light-emitting diode) – differs from the LCD screen in more excellent brightness and contrast colors. Such a screen does not need backlighting and consumes less power. The OLED display is thinner and lighter than LCD. On the other hand, such a display is more expensive and lasts less than an LCD.

AMOLED is an advanced version of OLED. Differs in lower power consumption, improved color rendering, and contrast. True, such a screen will cost more than an analog-based on OLED technology.

  • Super AMOLED – an improved version of AMOLED: consumes even less power, provides higher brightness and color contrast. A screen with a similar matrix gives good readability in the sun. The downside is the higher price compared to the AMOLED display. (put this paragraph instead of the previous paragraph Super AMOLED).

E-ink (electronic paper) reads well in the sun and consumes a minimum of energy, which significantly increases the device’s operating time. This display shows only text and graphic information (monochrome mode): video cannot be viewed on the screen. In terms of color, such collections are inferior to other screens.

Like the previous display, Mirasol consumes a minimum amount of energy but displays a color picture.

Glass

Plastic – Cheap glass that doesn’t shatter when hit but scratches easily. Plastic glass is found in inexpensive models and sports watches (plastic case).

Mineral – scratch-resistant, but inferior in strength to the previous version and is expensive. It is used most often in smartwatches. Marking – Crystal Glass.

Sapphire – highly transparent and scratch-resistant, retains its original appearance for a long time. However, such glass is very expensive and easily shattered by impact. Because of these shortcomings, watches with sapphire crystal are rare. Marking – Sapphire Glass.

Combined – combines the advantages of the aforementioned types. This glass is scratch and shock resistant (e.g., Gorilla Glass).

Additionally

It is curved for an eye-catching, comfortable display that follows the contours of your wrist. As a result, such watches cling less to the sleeves and do not interfere with clothes. The curved screen, in contrast to the flat one, provides good readability in any position.

Backlit – makes it possible to work with the device at night. This feature is useful for LCD screens as they do not emit light.

Interfaces

Wireless

To connect smart watches/bracelets with mobile phones, PDAs, PCs, laptops, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi are used. The popular Bluetooth 4.0 and 4.1 (Low Energy; LE) provide a reliable connection with a minimum of wasted energy in smartwatches and smartphones. Wi-Fi is less versatile: it works in a confined space, as it is “tied” to access points located in public places.

NFC – Performs the same functions as Bluetooth but uses less power and connects almost instantly. To connect two devices, touch them to each other. True, the transmission speed of NFC is lower, and the price of smartwatches/bracelets supporting such a connection is very high.

If the Bluetooth range is usually less than 10 m, then NFC works up to 10 cm.

ANT + is also used, which connects the smartwatch with various sports sensors (heart rate monitors, etc.).

Wired

The vast majority of smartwatches and bracelets can be connected to computers and laptops via USB. This connection allows data exchange and charging of the watch/bracelet.

Age group

Adults are standard smartwatches.

Children’s – differ from the “adult” model with a colorful design and limited functionality. Simultaneously, children’s smartwatches have a number of unique features for parents (parental control). These options include:

  • SOS button – allows the child to send an alarm signal to the parent in an emergency;
  • speed dialing – serves to quickly establish contact with parents;
  • listening – allows the parent to hear the environment around the child;
  • removal sensor – informs the parent that the child has taken off the watch or has been robbed;
  • perimeter control a (“electronic fence”) – allows parents to track the location and movement of the child within the boundaries of a certain area (geofence);
  • Blocking incoming calls from unknown numbers – protects the child from communicating with strangers. You can set the time interval during which this block will be valid.

Alert

Beep – can be heard even when the watch/bracelet is not on the wrist.

Vibration is a silent signal that affects the body (hand) of the wearer. Vibration is good for when you don’t want to use sound. Such a signal is useless if the watch is not on the wrist.

Calls – notification of outgoing calls that arrive on the smartphone.

SMS – notification of incoming SMS messages received by the smartphone. Sometimes these messages are displayed on the screen of the gadget.

Food

Smart watches and bracelets are equipped with Li-Ion and Li-Pol batteries. Li-Pol is a more advanced battery model. Its distinguishing feature is its compactness and lightness, which is especially important for watches and bracelets with small dimensions. For charging, micro USB, USB, or an original connector is used, which requires an additional proprietary cable or cradle (frame with connectors).

Most devices are equipped with non-removable batteries, which makes it possible to increase their capacity. To replace such batteries, you should contact a specialist. There are also removable batteries with a small capacity. This option is used in watches without a screen or with an E-ink display.

Sometimes some expensive models provide wireless charging (Qi). This option is more convenient, but the charging process itself takes longer.

Battery life

The battery life (without recharging) of smart devices depends on their capabilities:

  • basic level – up to 2 years (after that the spent battery is replaced with a new one);
  • medium level – up to 7 days;
  • Advanced level – 1-3 days.

This parameter is also influenced by the screen’s characteristics (monochrome/color, matrix, dimensions).

For smartwatches, the battery life should be at least 24 hours. Wristbands have a higher parameter as they collect data on physical activity and sleep. It is better to opt for gadgets that are recharged once every 1-2 weeks.

operating system

The operating system (OS) is the brain of a smartwatch. Models with an OS compare favorably with devices without a full-fledged OS in extensive functionality, first of all, the ability to install applications created by third-party developers.

The main operating systems for smartwatches:

  • Android Wear – used in Huawei, LG, Motorola, Asus, Sony models;
  • Tizen – used in Samsung products;
  • Watch OS – designed for Apple Watch.

These operating systems have comparable functionality, the main differences are the number of compatible smartphones and interface features. The best option is chosen based on the available gadget: owners of smartphones with Android OS can choose between Android Wear and Tizen, but for iPhone owners, only smartwatches with Watch OS are suitable.

OS Compatibility

Pay attention to the smartwatch/bracelet’s compatibility with the smartphone OS ( Android, Windows Phone, iOS ) for the devices to work correctly. Manufacturers often indicate the oldest version (minimum supported) by release date. This assumes that newer versions are also compatible, for example, Android (2.3+).

Smartwatches and bracelets are often multi-platform, that is, compatible with multiple operating systems.

SIM card type (watch phone)

  • mini SIM – classic SIM-card (size – 25×15 mm);
  • micro SIM – a compact version (size – 15×12 mm), found in most smartphones;
  • nano SIM is the smallest card (size – 12.3×8.8 mm), used in the latest gadgets.

Functions and equipment

Voice control – carried out through voice commands: to perform any function, say its name.

The stopwatch is a useful feature for athletes.

Timer – measures lengths of time. With the help of this function, the remaining time to the user’s point is determined (the device informs about its achievement with an audible signal).

GPS – determines the current location of the device. The watch/bracelet model determines the functionality: in some models, this function records the distance traveled and helps you return. In others, it navigates the map. Sometimes some devices support GPS and GLONASS.

Compass – used for orientation on the ground.

Smart alarm clock – works for certain phases of a person’s sleep so that the awakening is comfortable.

Monitoring

Sleep – tracks the time of falling asleep and waking up, determines the ratio of sleep phases.

Physical Activity – collects information about the user’s physical activities (walking, running, dancing, fitness, yoga, swimming).

Calorie Consumption  Provides information about the calories burned. This information is useful for athletes who want to lose weight and people who monitor their health.

Memory card slot – allows you to read memory cards (microSD). This option increases the storage capacity of the smartwatch.

Speakerphone – turns your smartwatch into a mobile phone.

Sensors

Accelerometer – monitors the movement and Physical Activity of the user.

Gyroscope – measures the angles of rotation about a fixed coordinate axis. This device makes the accelerometer readings more accurate, especially when the user moves quickly.

Altimeter – determines the user’s altitude above sea level.

Thermometer – measures air temperature. A useful device for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts.

Heart rate monitor – measures the user’s heart rate. Such a sensor is useful for athletes and people suffering from cardiovascular diseases. The heart rate monitor can be built-in or external. The built-in sensor is more convenient but less accurate.

Illumination – automatically adjusts screen brightness based on ambient light.

Depth Gauge – Determines the user’s submersion depth—a must-have device for divers, snorkelers, and other underwater swimmers.

Barometer – Determines atmospheric pressure. Such a sensor is useful for outdoor enthusiasts, for example, tourists.

Multimedia

Camera – takes photos and videos. Note that the quality of the resulting image is not very high.

Microphone – allows you to use the watch as a dictaphone, used for voice control of the gadget. When shooting video, the microphone records the audio track to the video.

The speaker is a multifunctional device. Some speakers are only able to notify or transmit simple signals, while others play video, music.

FM radio – allows you to listen to music, news, and radio broadcasts.

Headphone jack – Lets you listen to music and other audio files with headphones. The standard version is 3.5 mm (mini-Jack). The earphone can be connected to smartwatches and bracelets via Bluetooth.

Protection

From dust and moisture – ensures the resistance of the gadget to adverse external factors. The protection class is marked as follows: IPXX (the first digit means the level of protection against dust, the second – against moisture).

There are several classes of protection for smartwatches and bracelets:

  • IP55 – dustproof housing, protection against jets and splashes of water in any direction (immersion in water is impossible);
  • IP57 – dustproof housing, protection against water jets and splashes in any direction, as well as against sea waves (immersion to a depth of 1 m is possible);
  • IP67 – dustproof housing (full protection against dust), protection against jets and splashes of water in any direction, as well as against sea waves (immersion to a depth of 1 m is possible);
  • IP68 – dustproof and waterproof case (submersible to a depth of over 1 m is possible).

Also, the water-resistance of the smartwatch/bracelet case is measured in WR (Water Resistant).

  • WR10 – WR20 (1-2 atm) – minimum protection (from rain, when washing hands). This class of protection is most common;
  • WR30 (3 atm) – taking a shower, washing a car;
  • WR50 – WR60 (6 atm) – work with a watch in water. The best option for most cases;
  • WR100 – WR150 (10-15 atm) – diving;
  • WR200 (20 ATM ) and above – scuba diving.

Water-resistance information is indicated on the case.

Shock – increases the shock resistance of the smartwatch/bracelet. A unique shockproof device provides protection. Watches with such protection are perfect for outdoor activities and sports, but they are costly.

Advice

  • Pay attention to the diagonal of the watch (it is within 0.5-2 inches). The larger the diagonal, the easier it is to work with the device. At the same time, its cost and power consumption increase.
  • Before purchasing watches/bracelets, be sure to try them on. The gadget should fit comfortably on your hand. Better to get a model with an adjustable strap. Care should be taken when choosing a device with a non-adjustable strap.
  • It is good if the strap is removable – this will allow you to change it if necessary.
  • Buy smartwatches/bracelets from well-known manufacturers that guarantee the high quality of their products. Such watches/bracelets will last a long time and will delight you with trouble-free operation.

Manufacturer

When purchasing the cheapest models of smartwatches and bracelets, for example, from AirOn, Bravis, Fitbit, IconBit, MyKronoz, Prestigio, UWatch, GoClever, you need to be prepared to face the following drawbacks: some models slow down or work slowly, run out quickly, signals from the phone come with delays. The functional features do not always provide for the measurement of the pulse in various states, except for rest. That is, such a smartwatch cannot be used when playing sports at all. It is worth noting that there are more or less successful models, but you can find them only by studying the market and read reviews.

Good quality is provided by the brands ASUS, Huawei, Jawbone, Samsung, Sony, Xiaomi, Motorola, Garmin, and Cogito. The price range can vary considerably depending on the brand and purpose of the watch. For example, Garmin models are significantly more expensive than others because of the brand. In general, smartwatches from this group of manufacturers meet all the requirements: performance, multifunctionality, excellent design, and customer service support.

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