A smart watch is a wearable-technology device–a minicomputer you wear on your wrist–that does a lot more than tell time. It notifies you of calls, texts, instant messages, social-network updates, and more fed from your smartphone or other mobile device via wireless Bluetooth connection
What is a smart watch?
. Some smart watches also let you accept or reject phone calls and hold a conversation right on the watch, conjuring up images of Dick Tracy.
But they can be pretty smart on their own. For instance, a few of the latest models (the Samsung Gear S, for one) come with their own network connections, so they can perform many advanced tasks without being paired to a nearby phone. And they often include some combination of built-in sensors–including accelerometers, barometers, and heart-rate monitors–that give them more capabilities, such as tracking your physical activity. Wireless technologies, such as NFC in the Apple Watch, let you use a watch to make mobile payments at the register.
Like other digital devices, smart watches run on operating systems. Two of these are versions of Android and Linux: Samsung’s Tizen (found on three of its watches and Android Wear, which Google developed specifically for wearable devices. The Apple Watch runs on Apple’s Watch OS. The Pebble Watch line of smart watches uses Pebble OS, a customized version of FreeRTOS. Each wearable OS has its own apps–check to see which ones are available for the smart watch you’re considering.
This is a relatively new product category. Many current smart watches are large and bulky, and some of the devices have quirky shortcomings, such as hard-to-use chargers. A number of them can be paired with only a limited number of mobile devices.
But the newest smart watches are starting to look and feel sleeker, lighter, and more fashion-savvy. And in the not-too-distant future, smart watches will probably do a lot more than they can today. Operating systems and app ecosystems are still developing, and could drastically change what these devices are capable of.
Types of Smart Watches
Smart watches run the gamut from basic to sophisticated. For example, the original Pebble Watch ($100), one of the first smart watches to hit the market, has a monochrome, non-touch screen; you navigate its menus using buttons. It channels e-mails, texts, and other notifications from your smart phone and runs a variety of apps. More sophisticated watches do those things too, but also offer features like full-color touchscreens, voice-command capability, and activity tracking. And they can sell at significantly higher prices. Most models of the Apple Watch, for example, cost between $350 and $1,000. There’s even an 18K Gold version for $17,000. And fashion companies such as Guess are teaming up with watch makers to introduce stylish smart watches that have the appeal of jewelry.
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