Smart watches are still a relatively new electronics category, but these devices are poised to hit the mainstream. This year we saw major players such as LG and Motorola throw their smart watches in the ring, along with Samsung, Sony, and a host of smaller companies like Pebble and Martian. And Apple finally confirmed its entry, the innovative Apple Watch, expected to arrive early in 2015.
We've just completed lab tests on six of the newest smart watches to hit the market. Three run on the very promising Android Wear operating system, which Google created specifically for wearable devices—the LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live, and Motorola Moto 360. We also tested several basic models: the Martian Notifier, Cookoo 2, and MetaWatch M1. And we included reviews of nine smart watches that we tested previously; all are still available, and we updated their prices. Find out what we liked and didn't like about the six newly tested models.
What is a smart watch?
What sets a smart watch apart from a conventional digital watch, or, for that matter, a wearable activity tracker? The lines are blurring, at least between the last two.
Basically, smart watches are wearable-technology devices that maintain a relatively persistent wireless connection to your mobile device—usually a smart phone—and can receive notifications of incoming calls, texts, instant messages, social-network updates, and more, from that device. Some can also let you accept and conduct phone calls right on the watch. And even newer models (the Samsung Gear S, for one) can act as smart phones all on their own, without needing a paired phone nearby.
Smart watches, like smart phones, can also run apps, via your smart phone or right on the watch. These include health and fitness apps (thus the comparison with activity trackers), apps that control functions such as music and the camera on your phone, navigation apps, and more. Because most smart watches have open software platforms (at least so far), developers are coming up with new and innovative apps that can increase the functionality of the devices.