3 Smartwatches That Might Give the Apple Watch a Run for Its Money
Apple largely fulfilled industry watchers’ expectations this week when it unveiled the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus with screen sizes of 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches, respectively. The California-based company also previewed three collections of what it called its “most personal device ever,” the Apple Watch. Besides boosting the screen estate of its iPhone models and introducing a smartwatch, Apple also unveiled a new mobile payments system called Apple Pay. All three of Apple’s new devices will now also function as digital wallets that allow users to make purchases via using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology.
However, the Apple Watch was perhaps the company’s most highly anticipated product since it marks the company’s first entry into the wearables market, as well as its first new product category since the iPad. Although consumers won’t be able to get their hands on the Apple Watch until early 2015, we now have a much clearer picture of the features and pricing for Apple’s first wearable tech device.
While Apple’s event garnered the majority of the media’s attention this week, there have recently been several other product previews and launches from the iPhone maker’s competitors that are hoping to woo consumers to purchase their smartwatches. Although various Android-powered smartwatches have long been available on the market, the most recently announced devices are more likely to fit the bill as viable competitors to the Apple Watch. Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at the three biggest potential rivals to the Apple Watch that have either been recently released or unveiled.
Samsung Gear S vs. Apple Watch
Apple’s primary rival in the worldwide smartphone market may also end up becoming its primary rival in the burgeoning smartwatch market. While Samsung has already released multiple smartwatch models that have failed to generate much consumer excitement, the Korea-based company is hoping that its latest attempt will finally fulfill its smartwatch market ambitions.
The Gear S has a two-inch Super AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) 360 by 480 resolution screen that is slightly curved to fit the contours of a user’s wrist. On the other hand, Apple’s device uses a more traditional flat display profile. The Apple Watch is available in 42 millimeter and 38 millimeter screen size versions or about 1.7 and 1.5 inches, respectively, for those of us that are metric system impaired. The resolution of the Apple Watch screen is still unknown. Some versions of the Apple Watch will use a sapphire-covered display, while other versions will use “strengthened Ion-X glass.” Although Samsung did not specify, the Gear S presumably uses some version of Corning’s Gorilla Glass for its display.
The Gear S includes a dual core 1.0 GHz processor, 512MB RAM, and 4GB of internal storage. While the storage capacity of the Apple Watch is still unknown, the company revealed that it will use a custom-designed S1 SiP (System in Package) chip. Apple’s device will run iOS 8, while Samsung’s device will use the company’s native Tizen operating system.
The Gear S features multiple fitness-related sensors, including an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a compass, a heart rate sensor, an ambient light sensor, a UV light sensor, and a barometer that will all work with Samsung’s proprietary S Health app. According to Apple, the Apple Watch “uses the accelerometer, a built-in heart rate sensor, GPS and Wi-Fi from your iPhone to provide a comprehensive picture of your daily activity.” The Apple Watch also includes several fitness apps that will presumably work closely with the HealthKit health data storage platform. The Gear S is IP67-certified, which means that it can remain fully immersed in up to one meter of water for thirty minutes. Although Apple has not yet revealed a rating for the Apple Watch, a company spokesperson described it as being “water resistant,” according to tech journalist David Pogue.
Perhaps the biggest differences between the Apple Watch and the Samsung Gear S lies in the user interface. Samsung relies on the traditional touchscreen interface and even includes a virtual QWERTY keyboard, although users can make voice commands as well. Still, several commentators have noted the difficulty of typing on the device’s two-inch screen. On the other hand, Apple introduced the Digital Crown mechanism that allows users to mimic the pinch-to-zoom operation commonly used on touchscreens. The Apple Watch also uses haptic alerts and a pressure-sensitive touchscreen technology that can actually detect how hard a user is pressing on the screen. Of course, Apple Watch users can also deliver voice commands to Siri through the wrist-worn device.
Like the Apple Watch, the Gear S will relay notifications from a tethered smartphone. However, while the Apple Watch requires the use of the iPhone, Samsung’s Gear S can make calls independently of a smartphone via its own 3G connection. That being said, it appears that Samsung still intends for the Gear S to be primarily operated with a tethered smartphone. The Gear S relies on a traditional charging method with a plugin charger. In contrast, the Apple Watch uses a MagSafe charger that connects to the back of the device with magnets. Samsung claims that its device’s 300 mAh battery will stay charged over two days of “typical usage,” while Apple has yet to reveal the Apple Watch’s battery life.
The price of the Gear S is still unknown, but is rumored to cost more than $300. The Apple Watch will start at $349 and includes much pricier looking versions, including an 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition model. Samsung has promised to get its device on store shelves by the beginning of October, while Apple has only offered a release date of “early 2015” for the Apple Watch.
Motorola Moto 360 vs. Apple Watch
Motorola’s highly anticipated smartwatch was released earlier this month. With its classic round face and minimalist appearance, the Moto 360 may be the most stylish Android Wear-powered smartwatch to be launched so far. The Moto 360 features a 1.56-inch (46 millimeter) 320 by 290 resolution display that is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. The Moto 360 includes a TI OMAP 3 processor, 512MB RAM, and 4GB of internal storage.
Like the Apple Watch and Samsung Gear S, the Moto 360 also features some fitness-monitoring capabilities with a pedometer and an optical heart rate monitor. Similar to most other smartwatches, the Moto 360 is designed to be tethered to a smartwatch and its Bluetooth connection allows it to connect to various Android-based smartphones and tablets. Like the Samsung Gear S, the Moto 360 has an IP67 water resistance rating.
Motorola also opted to use a traditional touchscreen interface for the Moto 360, although users can also send texts, set reminders, or ask for directions with the voice-activated Google Now assistant. The Moto 360 comes pre-loaded with six digital watch faces and can be purchased with several different watchband and case designs. On the other hand — besides being available in two different sizes — the Apple Watch also comes preloaded with 11 different faces and features a wide range of watch bands that can be easily switched out.
For charging, Motorola opted to use the Qi wireless interface standard. For users, this means that charging the Moto 360 is as easy as simply setting the device down on top of a charging pad. According to Motorola, the Moto 360’s 320 mAh battery will stay charged all day with “mixed use.” The Moto 360 is currently available in stores for $250, or $100 less than the cheapest Apple Watch.
LG G Watch R vs. Apple Watch
LG made its entry into the smartwatch market earlier this year with the square-faced LG G Watch, which was criticized by some tech reviewers for its unimaginative design. LG apparently took those criticisms to heart when it was designing its latest smartwatch. LG unveiled the more stylish round-faced LG G Watch R at the recent IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. However, unlike the Moto 360 display which is not a full circle due to an embedded sensor near the bottom of the display, the LG G Watch R shows off its 1.3-inch P-OLED (plastic- organic light-emitting diode) display in all its full-circle glory.
The LG G Watch R is powered by Google’s wearable-optimized Android Wear operating system and includes a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor, 512MB RAM, and 4GB of internal storage. The G Watch R also includes the smartwatch category’s requisite fitness-tracking sensors, such as an accelerometer, gyroscope, barometer, and heart rate monitor. The G Watch R uses Bluetooth support for its wireless connection, but also includes a micro USB port.
Interestingly, LG also incorporated the classic watch crown into the G Watch R’s design, which is the same part that Apple reinvented as a navigation tool on its device. However, according to a review from Stuff, while the crown on the G Watch R functions as an on/off button and accesses the menu, it apparently lacks the “zoom” function that the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown offers. Otherwise, the G Watch R relies on the traditional touchscreen for its user interface, a method that may not be ideal for such a small screen as Apple convincingly argued a few days ago. Like the Samsung Gear S and Motorola Moto 360, the G Watch R is certified water and dust resistant at IP67.
Like the Apple Watch, the G Watch R features a changeable watch strap, although all of the watch strap options have yet to be revealed. Unlike the inductive MagSafe charger for the Apple Watch or the wireless Qi charger for the Moto 360, the G Watch R opted for a standard charging method via metal pins on the back of the device. When it comes to battery size, the G Watch R takes the cake with a hefty and “long-lasting” 410 mAh capacity battery. Of course, it remains to be seen if the larger battery actually means that the G Watch R will last longer than its competitors. According to The Wall Street Journal, LG’s latest smartwatch will hit store shelves in October, around the same time as Samsung’s Gear S and several months earlier than the Apple Watch. Although LG declined to specify a price, The Wall Street Journal cited a company spokesperson who said it would cost more than the $230 G Watch that came out earlier this year.
Like traditional timepieces, a consumer’s choice of smartwatch may be based more on personal taste rather than technical specifications or price. For some consumers, one of the primary considerations will be the device’s operating system. If you are already own several Apple products, it makes sense to purchase a smartwatch that will work seamlessly with your other devices. Likewise, if you prefer using Android or Tizen-based devices, you may not even consider buying an Apple Watch.
As the dominant premium smartphone maker, it’s not surprising that Apple’s smartwatch is priced higher than the competition. It’s also no surprise that the Jony Ive-designed Apple Watch is one of the most stylish smartwatches to be seen so far. Although some consumers appear to have no problem operating smartwatches that rely primarily on a touchscreen interface, the Apple Watch appears to set a new gold standard for user interfaces on wearables with its Digital Crown, multiple haptic alerts, and pressure-sensitive touchscreen.
However, for smartwatch buyers who may have budgetary concerns, the $250 Moto 360 appears to offer the best balance between style and cost. It may also be the best option for impatient smartwatch shoppers since it is the only one of these devices that is currently available. However, if being able to use your smartwatch as a phone without being tethered to another device is an important feature for you, the Samsung Gear S may be best device. On the other hand, if you prefer a smartwatch with a traditional watch appearance, you may lean toward the LG G Watch R. Either way, since most of these devices have yet to hit store shelves, it will be at least several months before the primary competitor to the Apple Watch emerges.
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