By Darryl Budge
This year the competition is hot for the crown of the most desirable and smartest watch that pairs with your smartphone via Bluetooth. In the race for your cash are Apple's iWatch, Google's Android Wear ecosystem and Pebble (plus many fitness trackers not covered here).
Here is an overview that will help you avoid buyers regret:
PEBBLE (getpebble.com): Pebble was the first to sell 1 million smartwatches by focusing on 50m water resistance, over 7-day stamina, step and sleep tracking, buttons-only, iOS and Android notifications with vibration, an e-paper screen visible in bright sunlight, phone music control and weather/news/stock updates via 6000+ customizable watch-faces and apps from developers. The plastic B&W-screen Pebble (out 2013) is $99, or $200 for the Pebble Steel (out 2014). Time and Time Steel models ($200-300 from May 2015) with a 64-color screen add a mic for voice responses to Android-4.3+ notifications and Gmail on iOS, plus 'Smartstraps' for GPS, heartrate monitor, etc. All Pebble models ever sold will be upgraded to a time-scrolling 'Timeline' interface.
ANDROID WEAR (android.com/wear): Like Android phones, Google works with Samsung, LG, Sony, Asus, Huawei and others to add their touch-input Android Wear operating system into a round or square full-color wearable screen. On its own you can track steps or heart-rate, and use onboard storage to play music on Bluetooth headphones. Pricier models have built-in GPS or even 3G connectivity. Paired with an Android 4.3+ phone, you can say "Ok Google" plus any query or action possible via Google Now, like compose or respond to a message, search on Google, or manage your calendar. Pre-emptive Google Now cards will alert you based on time and location, and your calendar, transit routes or flight time. Downsides: low-power B&W mode may struggle in sunlight; splash water resistance; max. 50 hours battery; and Android 4.3+ phones only. With watches from $200 (Asus Zenwatch), Android Wear will support contactless payments via NFC-capable watches from May 2015. Over 750,000 have been sold since its June 2014 launch.
APPLE WATCH (apple.com/watch): Compatible only with an iPhone 5 or above, the touch-input Watch comes in a "Basic" steel bezel for US$350 or more for a "Sports" model with Ion-X toughened alumina-silica glass and lightened frame. For the rich there is the "Edition" with 18ct yellow or rose gold bezel. All models detect heartrate and come in two case lengths (38mm or 42mm) and a variety of bands and buckles. Besides "Hey Siri" voice input, the scroll-anywhere homescreen shows apps for Calendar, Maps, 'Apple Pay' (contactless payments), and Health, plus controls for music, camera, Apple TV and iTunes. Downsides: only splash resistant; one day battery life.
For a great round up of all wearables on the market see www.wareable.com •