Smartwatches: everything you need to know

Smartwatches are the next big thing - helping you check messages and make calls and keep tabs on your calendar from your wrist. Here´s everything you need to know...

We've had smart TVs and smartphones - now we have smartwatches.

Smartwatches are one of the biggest tech trends of 2014 and beyond, with analyst Canalys predicting that 45 million will be sold by 2017.

But what are they exactly?

In this guide we'll explain the smartwatch concept, highlight the main brands and watches and offer some expert opinion.

What is a smartwatch?

A smartwatch is worn on the wrist like a regular watch. However it's actually more like a tiny smartphone. As well as telling the time it can show your messages and missed calls, as well as being used to make calls. 

Why you'd want a smartwatch

  • You can use it to check your text messages while you're in a meeting
  • You can find out whether a missed call was urgent without having to dig out your phone
  • You can make and receive calls 
  • Some boast fitness features such as pedometers
  • They come in either futuristic-looking digital styles or more traditional watch styles 

MINI_Gear _Neo _2-01

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Who makes smartwatches?

Smartwatches have so far been made by Samsung, LG, Sony, Pebble and Motorola. Now we'll look at a few key models.


Key smartwatches

1) Samsung Gear 2 Neo

Samsung -Gear -2-Neo

Key features

  • Fitness features such as pedometer and heart rate monitor
  • Dust and water resistant
  • Camera

Last year saw a wave of rumours that Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung were set to release smartwatches - however it was Samsung that got there first with its original Gear device.

The first generation of the Gear smartwatch was dubbed a 'fashion accessory' by Samsung. The second generation of Samsung smartwatches saw the release of the greatly anticipated Gear 2 Neo, which was launched ahead of the Mobile World Congress earlier this year.

The Gear 2 Neo is lighter and slimmer than its predecessor, the Samsung Gear - measuring just 10mm in thickness. It hooks up with your Samsung Galaxy smartphone so you can monitor texts and make and receive calls. 

It also boasts fitness features such as a heart rate sensor and pedometer for recording your exercise levels. You can then use the S Health Galaxy smartphone app to compare your past performances to see how you're improving.

And if it starts to rain there's no need to take an early bath - the Gear 2 Neo is water resistant to IP67. This means it's completely dust-proof and can be submerged underwater up to 1 metre depth for 30 minutes.


2) Sony Smartwatch 2

Sony -smartwatch

Key features

  • Runs on any Android smartphone above 4.0 
  • Access to Google Play app store 
  • Features changeable straps 
  • Is dust and water resistant 

Sony is a pioneer in the smartwatch game. It released its second smartwatch way back last summer, when many were still dreaming up their first. The Sony Smart Watch 2 does everything you'd expect of a smartwatch in terms of hooking up with your phone so you can pick up messages and calls, as well as featuring a few other cool features. 


3) Samsung Gear Fit 

Gear -Fit

Key features: 

  • 1.84" curved super AMOLED touchscreen
  • Interchangeable wristbands and themes
  • Dust and water resistant 

Samsung Gear Fit is the slimmed down cousin to the Samsung Gear 2 Neo.

While both smartwatches are dust and water resistant, feature super AMOLED screens and offer the same connectivity features when paired with your smartphone, the Gear Fit acts more like a ultra fashionable fitness tracker, with the added benefits of telling you about the arrival of emails, text messages, Twitter notifications, etc. 

It's thinner, longer and curved screen, interchangeable straps and themes means that the Gear Fit can be customised to a far greater extent than the Gear 2 Neo, which means you cn still look cool even during the most strenuous of activities!


Keep an eye out for... Google Android Wear

Android is the name of Google's mobile operating system for tablets and smartphones, and Android Wear is a version designed for wearable tech such as smartwatches. 

Key points of Android Wear: 

  • It's a smartwatch version of the Android we know and love from tablets and smartphones
  • It makes use of Google Now to keep you posted about the things that matter to you. Jut ask your watch when your flight leaves, or for the football score and it will give you the information
  • Contextually relevant information updates - from reminding you to buy the milk or keeping you up to date on the latest news and your daily calendar. 
  • You can see messages, calendar updates and make calls 

So far just two Android Wear phones have been announced - The Motorola Moto 360 and the LG G Watch.

Check out Android Wear in this video from Google

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Android Wear Design - LG G Watch and Moto 360 

Because Android Wear is a smartwatch platform that'll be used by numerous manufacturers, we can expect watches that look vastly difference from one another while running the same operating system.  

The LG G Watch looks like what we have hitherto known as a smartwatch - metallic body, futuristic design, rectangular face. It is both dust and waterproof so is a good option if you enjoy running. The G Watch features an 'always-on' screen, unlike many smartwatches already available. 

LG G Watch Android Wear New

(Credit: LG)

The Moto 360 looks like a traditional fashion watch. It has a round-face, elegant styling and the choice of leather or metal strap. The 360 will also feature wireless charging, according to Motorola UK manager Phillip Worth. 

Meanwhile G for Games suggested it could feature a battery-saving OLED display for always-on connectivity and sapphire glass screen.

Moto 360 Cafe

(Credit: Motorola)

These Android Wear watches are yet to launch - we will most likely find out more about them and Android Wear at Google's I/O developers conference later this month. Find out more about Android Wear here.  


Smartwatches - what the experts say 

Esat Dedezade, staff writer at Stuff, said he still thinks the smartwatch has yet to be properly cracked but said he anticipated watches featuring Android Wear and the rumoured iWatch from Apple. 

Here's what he likes about smartwatches so far:  "Deleting emails straight off your watch instead of getting out your phone is quite useful, as are music controls and the ability to measure your pulse without having to wear a chest strap."

Will Findlater, editor in cheif at Stuff, said with Android Wear Google has "turned an important corner".

He said:  "Until now, smartwatches have looked a bit geeky, and the functionality has been tied to a severely limited line-up of styles. Android Wear is a platform that manufacturers can take and use in any number of different designs. Given that watches are primarily used as jewellery, variety and aesthetic appeal will be crucial to the success of smartwatches."

What do you think of the smartwatch? Bona fide future tech or Jetson's-style fad? Let us know in the comments below...