How much do you want to spend?
Smart watches retail from about $100 to upward of $350. You can find deals on some older models, if you don’t need the latest and newest smart watch. Price can vary depending on how sophisticated the watch is, feature-wise; case and strap materials; and brand-name cachet.
What do you really want from a smart watch?
Consider carefully which features and capabilities are most important to you before you plunk down a lot of money for a device you may not use fully.
- If you care mostly about getting smart phone notifications (saving you the trouble of pulling out your phone and unlocking the screen before you know who’s calling or what a text says), you can make do with a basic model.
- Those who are mostly interested in fitness monitoring should also consider a dedicated activity tracker, some of which now have notifications and other smart-watch-type features. Those devices are usually more lightweight and resistant to shock and sweat.
- If you’re an Android fan, an Android Wear watch (made by companies including Motorola, LG, Asus, and Samsung) offers smooth compatibility with your Android phone as well as Google Now, the company’s Siri-like intelligent personal assistant service.
- Apple aficionados can purchase that company’s own smart watch, but several models that are out now work with iOS too, including Pebble and Martian watches. These may not be sophisticated as the Apple Watch, but they may do enough for you.
- Fashionistas, you may want to wait a bit: New partnerships between smart-watch makers and fashion houses will produce some truly stylish smart watches later this year.
Will your smart phone work with your smart watch?
Make sure the smart watch you’re thinking of buying is compatible with the smartphone (or other smart device) that you plan to pair with it. Some watches work with Android OS and iOS devices, some only with the Android OS, and some only with specific versions of Android. (None we’ve seen so far work with Windows Phone.)
Most of Samsung’s numerous smart watches work only with phones made by that company. And unsurprisingly, the Apple Watch will pair only with the iPhone 5 and later models.
How comfortable will it be to wear all day?
Some of these watches are large, and most are rectangular. It’s kind of like wearing a mini smart phone on a wristband. A few newer models, such as the Motorola Moto 360 and LG G Watch R, are round, and feel a bit less bulky, so they may be more comfortable if you have small wrists. Of course, some small-wristed people are fine with big watches. It’s a personal choice. But regardless of your wrist heft, if there is any way you can try on a smart watch before you buy it, we recommend that you do.
- Battery life: This can range from around a day to a week or more depending on the sophistication of a smart watch’s technology, how much power it requires, battery type, and how you use the watch.
- Screen type: Most basic smart watches have monochrome e-paper screens and push-button navigation; more-advanced ones have full-color LED touch-screen displays, which our testers have found are easier to navigate. (They also require more power.)
- Water resistance: Some smart watches can be worn while you swim or shower. Others are splash-proof. Still others make no water-resistant claims at all. Make sure to check a smart watch’s specs if this is important to you.
- Case and strap materials: The watch itself could be plastic or metal; the straps could be plastic or leather. Some allow straps to be changed and offer a variety of materials and colors for customizability.
- Charging: Some smart watches come with convenient wireless chargers: You just place the watch onto the charger. Others come with snap-on docks for charging. Still others require a cable that plugs into the watch itself to charge.
- Apps: Before you make a buying decision, check out the available apps for the smart watch you’re considering. Apps can add a lot to what you can do with your smart watch. Some smart watches have only a limited number of available apps, while others have access to thousands of apps.
Photo by Bekathwia