Five of the best smartwatches for 2015

LG watch urbane2luxury2-2015


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Five of the best smartwatches for 2015″ was written by Samuel Gibbs, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 30th June 2015 06.00 UTC

Smartwatches are the hottest thing in technology right now. The little wrist-based screens are dragging timepieces into the 21st century and shifting the buzzing, binging and bonging of modern life away from our phones.

The choice is staggering: from the high end luxury of the Apple Watch to Google’s growing army of Android Wear to the elegantly simplicity of the Pebble. But which one should you choose if you fancy joining the shift to wearables?

Sony Smartwatch 3

Sony Smartwatch 3 review
Sony’s latest Smartwatch 3 finally brings acceptable battery life to Android Wear with a comfortable, waterproof and future-proofed design. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Price: £130

The Sony Smartwatch 3 is a square Android Wear watch with a difference. It uses a transflective LCD screen, which means it is easy to see in direct sunlight and can be read without the need for a backlight.

It has a backlight though, for reading in the dark, but as it’s not needed all the time it saves power meaning the Smartwatch 3 lasts up to three days per charge even when connected to smartphone via Bluetooth.

It lacks a heart rate monitor but has GPS for tracking runs without a smartphone, and is waterproof to IP68 standards – 1m of water for 30 minutes.

It can connect remotely to an Android smartphone via Wi-Fi with the latest software update, is charged via a standard microUSB cable and has a choice of several custom straps including a metal one. A touchscreen makes navigation easy, and you can talk to it to ask questions of Google and dictate replies.

Verdict: decent battery life, easy to read screen, but plain styling

LG Watch Urbane

LG G Watch Urbane
The LG G Watch Urbane is the latest Android Wear smartwatch and the one that looks most like a regular watch yet, which is both good and bad. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Price: £260

The latest of Google’s Android Wear watches is big, round, shiny and is the most watch-like smartwatch to date. Its waterproof, stainless steel body comes in silver or rose gold with a brushed bezel around the screen and watch faces to match.

The 1.3in circular OLED screen can stay on all the time, but does not adjust its brightness to the ambient light. The watch is one of the largest available and as such its bulky body will likely only fit well on larger wrists.

It runs the latest version of Android Wear and can connect to an Android smartphone via Bluetooth or remotely via Wi-Fi. Users can reply to messages using voice dictation or by drawing out an emoji on screen using a finger.

It has a heart rate sensor, but no GPS, requiring a smartphone to track runs. The battery lasts for a day and a half between charges, which happens using a magnetic dock. The leather strap is a standard size, meaning it can be swapped for a regular watch strap.

Verdict: big, bold and chunky won’t suit everyone

Apple Watch

Apple Watch review
Apple’s first smartwatch is exquisitely made, but has a confusing, inconsistent user interface that tries to do too much all at once. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Price: £300

The Apple Watch was the most anticipated wearable of the last couple of years. It’s also the most expensive smartwatch going, available in two sizes starting at £300 for the smallest and rising to £13,500 if you want it in gold.

The premium iPhone-only smartwatch has similar capabilities to Android Wear watches, with a heart rate sensor and third-party apps, but it’s software is confusing and marks it out as very much a first-generation product.

New for the Apple Watch are the “taptic engine”, which taps you on the wrist rather than just vibrating, and “force touch”, which can detect how hard you press on the screen – acting like a right-click for more options.

The screen only turns on when you lift your wrist or press a button – it is just black most of the time – and the battery only lasts one day, charged via a magnetic charging cable. Siri works well for voice dictation or barking out commands, while calls can be taken directly on the wrist using the built-in speaker.

Verdict: exquisitely made, but expensive and confused at times

Pebble Time

Pebble Time review
The Pebble Time smartwatch is simple, effective and long-lasting. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Price: £130

The Pebble Time is the newest kid on the block and concentrates on doing a few things right, rather than many poorly.

Notifications and showing the time are its primary features, connecting to either an iPhone or Android phone via Bluetooth making it the only watch here that works with both platforms. A microphone enables voice dictation and access to Google searches on Android.

The Pebble Time has the longest battery life of any smartwatch currently available lasting between five and seven days per charge using a magnetic charging cable.

It uses an e-paper screen, which like a Kindle’s screen is constantly on and can be read easily in direct sunlight. The screen isn’t touch-sensitive, instead the Time has four buttons for navigating the user interface.

The Time is thin and light, waterproof to 30m, comes in three colours with a stainless steel bezel and takes regular watch straps.

Verdict: the Casio of smartwatches – simple, unfussy and easy to live with

Motorola Moto 360

Motorola Moto 360 review
The Moto 360 has a large screen that takes up the whole face of the watch. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs for the Guardian

Price: £170

The Moto 360 is arguably the best-looking Android Wear smartwatch. Its 1.6in round LCD screen is encased in stainless steel, but has virtually no bezel making it look less chunky than others.

It switches on a low-power black and white screen when moved, then lights up fully when lifted to read the time, rather than staying on constantly. It comes in gold, steel and black with a choice of metal and leather straps, and has a good collection of watch faces pre-loaded with more available to download.

The 360 has a heart rate monitor on the back, but no GPS for tracking runs, relying on a connected phone instead.

A microphone allows voice control and dictation through Google Now, but not calls. Like all other Android Wear watches it connects locally to a smartphone via Bluetooth for access to the internet and to receive notifications. It will also connect to an Android smartphone remotely over Wi-Fi when updated to the latest software version.

The battery lasts only one day with general use and is charged using a wireless charging dock in around an hour, which acts as a handy bed-side clock.

Verdict: the most attractive smartwatch is let down by weak battery life

Other reviews

Six of the best noise-cancelling headphones to silence the commute

Android Wear 5.1 review: simple, useful and the best – for now

Asus ZenWatch review: a sophisticated-looking Android smartwatch

Samsung Gear S review: can a smartwatch with a phone built-in replace a smartphone?

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