The world of “mobile technology” is constantly evolving and since the launch of the first smartphones, the main manufacturers in the sector have been pushing the innovation standards, both in terms of hardware and software. The “smart” technology involved in different types of devices has succeeded in revolutionizing our lives, and through the different products launched in sequence on the market every year, it has managed to take a place in our lives that now seems almost impossible to avoid. One of the main trends in the sector in recent years concerns the so-called “wearables”, that is, items that can be worn, which, over the months, began to fill the shelves of the main electronics stores and attract the interest of consumers around the world. When doing a simple Internet search for wearables available on the market, what we find first is that they are divided into two categories: smartwatches and smartbands. What are the main characteristics of these two types of wearables and what may be the best choice, depending on your requirements?
Let’s start with smartwatches, accessories that, perhaps more than any other, contributed to the general public illusion (the power of marketing!) That the smartphone era could be nearing its end and that we could carry all its features into the pulse. This has not happened and, at least in the coming years, it probably will not happen. It was in 2013 that the first companies that decided to invest in this sector started to cause a small furor in the market with the first offers using P-Oled touch screens, almost all with square screens: Samsung with its Gear, LG with G Watch , Motorola with Moto 360 (the first with a circular screen) and Pebble with its eponymous product. However, it quickly became clear that these accessories were incomplete and meant only “additives” for the various smartphones, and that some were even incompatible with them. Over the months, the situation has changed for the better and today almost all technology companies offer their own smartwatches with features that can be very attractive. In addition, in order not to lose significant market share, jewelry manufacturers, such as Tag Heuer and Fossil, even modified their company missions by launching themselves into the technological world with the offer of smartwatch models.
A major step has been taken in the direction of the evolution of this type of accessory mainly thanks to the progress in the software area, whether from the point of view of operating systems or applications, the latter being the real driver of intelligent technology.
Google revolutionized the market by introducing its Android Wear platform, which is now available on most smartwatches produced by third parties (LG Watch Urbane, Huawei Watch Active and Watch Classic, Asus Zenwatch, Motorola Moto 360, Sony Smartwatch, etc.), and is perfect for those who want a versatile and intuitive product, which does not have an excess of functions and is fully compatible with Android smartphones. In fact, Android Wear recently became compatible with the operating system used by Apple phones, iOS, even though it is not yet in a position (and may never be) to offer iPhone owners the full range of Android features. It should be noted, especially, the possibility of the best Android Wear smartwatches, such as the LG Watch Urbane 2,
For those who want a smartwatch designed in a personalized way for their iPhone, there is only the option to buy the Apple Watch, the Cupertino smart watch launched in late 2014 amid great pomp and promises for the future. The Apple Watch, despite being an exceptional product, as usual from its North American manufacturer, thought from the smallest detail from the design point of view, has not yet won the hearts of the public and even today it seems to be an object appreciated only by those who are fans of the Apple brand and the “tech addicts”. The operating system created specifically for the task by Apple for its high-tech watch is WatchOS (now available in its second version), which represents something in general more structured and complex when compared to Android Wear and that allows you to interact with several applications that your competitors have no hope of copying. However, the Apple Watch is not independent and without an iPhone it has no function as an isolated item (it would simply be an electronic watch). In addition to its purely technological arguments, Apple is especially focused on the concept of “technological fashion”, that is, accessories that can be fashion items. Among all the products in the Apple line, the Apple Watch is the one that most easily fits this type of idea, having been launched on the market in three models – sport, classic and special edition – with two sizes to adapt to different types of wrists and a catalog of rubber, leather or metal bracelets,
Samsung, another colossus in the world of mobile phone technology, has performed a lot of experiments in recent years, launching smartwatches with different formats and operating systems on the market. Gear S2 especially, the latest release from the South Korean company, with its circular screen and Tizen operating system, holds great promise for the future thanks to its simplicity of use and the potential for future development of its applications. Compatibility is guaranteed for both Android and iOS mobile phones.
A final recognition goes to Pebble, the smart watch equipped with an e-ink screen that marked the launch of the sector after a successful fundraising campaign on the Kickstarter platform designed by the eponymous company.
After this tour of the huge range of smartwatches, from the point of view of brands and operating systems, we will now review what are the main functions that a smartwatch or 2.0 watch can offer. Above all, a smartwatch must mark the time. It is the technology that makes the difference compared to a traditional watch, and this guarantees a practically infinite number of the different faces of the watches (the screens) and personalized graphics. In order to minimize one of the main problems with a smartwatch, namely battery life, the various manufacturers found it prudent not to allow the screen to remain on permanently. A wave of the wrist is enough to light it up so that the user can see the time without difficulty.
Another essential function of a smartwatch is the agility to view alerts on your phone. In this area there are also a vast number of customization options, making it possible to see some or all of the functions, thus leaving the smartphone in your pocket most of the time. The latest advance, which consists of immediate interaction with these alerts directly through the smartwatch screen, has been achieved with the latest generation models and the subsequent development of several software platforms. It is now possible to reply to a WhatsApp message, text message or voice message with your own voice, short text, photo or even a drawing in a matter of seconds, all from the wrist.
Like smartphones, smartwatches also access a store dedicated to applications and this greatly increases their functionality. These applications are much simpler than those found on phones (the ability to make calculations is significantly less, although the chips they use, as in the case of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 400, are the same), but at the same time they allow to initiate actions directly from the wrist, such as calling a taxi, writing notes, recording conferences, viewing the weather, checking addresses, showing appointments, airline tickets or movie tickets, or even keeping up to date with the latest news on their social media profiles, be it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat.
Another aspect to be taken into account when buying a smartwatch is the recording of physical activities, because, like the devices that record physical activities, smartwatches also have several sensors attached, such as accelerometer, heart rate counter to control the “pulse” and GPS, which allows you to monitor your sports performance, your sleeping habit and, in general, your fitness levels. In addition, thanks to the presence of dedicated apps, smartwatches allow anyone to take care of their body and well-being, including from a food standpoint, completely and immediately – all you need to do is look at the screen and ready.
Finally, smartwatches contain internal memories (usually 4 GB) that can “accommodate” videos, photos and music that can be viewed and heard via Bluetooth or wirelessly.
Physical activity monitors or fitness watches or, in addition, smartbands, are generally less expensive products and whose purpose is to support or improve sports activities, recording data related to their performance and then transferring their own “content” to a smartphone or tablet. when the sporting activity ends. In almost all cases, they do not have a screen, which gives them autonomy for several days or weeks. Depending on the model choice, it is possible to memorize certain data instead of others – the higher the price, the greater the number of sensors present. Among the most popular smartbands that have been more successful, we can mention the models Jawbone Up, Garmin Forerunners, Nike Fuelbands and FitBit Charge HR Surge. Xiaomi too, with its Mibands, and Asus, with its VivoWatch,
The main functions of the fitness watch, then, concern the monitoring of sleep habits, step counting and cardiac monitoring, but some models also offer other features, such as alarm clocks. An alarm clock is activated and transmitted to the user through vibrations, but its implementation follows a very precise logic: depending on the data captured in relation to sleep habits, the smartband will decide to vibrate at a specific moment, that is, when your sleep is lightest and only after a specific elapsed time informed by the user himself. A more limited function in comparison to that of smartwatches is that of alerts. Some fitness trackers vibrate or display a colored LED screen when an alert arrives on a cell phone,
Finally, in contrast to smartwatches, physical activity monitors are decidedly more resistant, precisely because they are dedicated to physical activities and more subject to strokes, dirt and sweat. Smartbands, in fact, always have some kind of certification that they are “waterproof”, that is, waterproof and resistant to water and dust, which are fundamental characteristics to keep the object “alive” in any situation.
What to choose?
In conclusion, what is the best choice to satisfy your desire to have a wearable accessory? A smartwatch or a fitness watch?
Smartwatches have all the functions of fitness watches within them, have access to a wide variety of dedicated applications, allow you to interact with alerts in different ways and make it possible to leave your smartphone temporarily in your pocket. In addition, especially on high-end models (Apple Watch, Huawei Watch, LG Watch Urbane, Samsung Gear S2 and the Motorola Moto 360 of the second generation), the design has also been carefully thought out, and the differences compared to classic models are minimal.
That said, be patient and get ready to recharge your wrist device every day (hardly every other day, except Pebble) due to the limited battery life. Our advice is to buy it if you want something that reduces the need to take your phone out of your pocket too often. But despite having an undoubtedly excellent performance, a smartwatch does not replace a smartphone.
Smartbands, as it seems obvious considering the description above, have very few functions, and among them, only one at the highest level of performance, which is to monitor physical activities. Therefore, we advise the purchase of this accessory only by people who are passionate about physical activities and who do not want to use anything very invasive, but who do not care about an accessory that, however, requires frequent interaction to monitor their performance and who accept the need to recharge another electronic device daily.
All of this, certainly, for the good of your pocket.