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Everyone is talking about smartwatches and other wearables as “the next big thing.” The Pebble saw massive success on Kickstarter, and companies as well-known as Samsung and Sony have jumped into the ring with their own smartwatches. Future smartwatches from companies as diverse as Apple, Google, and Microsoft are rumored to be on their way. So, should you buy a smartwatch today, or wait for the smartwatches to come?

What’s the Point of a Smartwatch?

Every smartwatch manufacturer is scrambling to figure out why you would want a smartwatch. They know why they want to sell you a smartwatch — to create a new product category and make more money — but why would a normal person want to buy one?

Current smartwatches connect to your smartphone over Bluetooth. The “killer app” for a smartwatch seems to be notifications. When you get a text message on your phone, you don’t have to pull your phone out of your pocket — you can glance at your watch and see who sent the message and even read it. The same goes for emails and other messages you might want to receive. Smartwatches can also take advantage of this Bluetooth connection to do other things — for example, you could have a phone conversation while talking into the smartwatch on your wrist. You could control music playback from your wrist. Smartwatches also allow you to use apps, so you can play games, read, or even watch videos on your wrist.

Let’s be really honest here. If you’re interested in a smartwatch today, you’re probably a gadget geek or just someone who loves playing with new technology. It’s early days in the smartwatch market, and manufacturers are still polishing them and figuring out what they’re for. Samsung’s “A Long Time Coming” Galaxy Gear advertisement focuses on how smartwatches were once science fiction and how cool it is you can buy one today. The advertisement doesn’t explain why the Galaxy Gear would actually be useful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3qeJKax2CU

Smartwatches You Can Buy Right Now

There are some other smartwatches on the market 4 Alternatives To The Pebble Watch 4 Alternatives To The Pebble Watch The Pebble E-Paper Watch (which we've just reviewed and will be giving away) has a lot of interesting functions, is highly customizable, and raised over $1 million within 28 hours of being put on Kickstarter.... Read More , but the watches below are the ones you’ll probably be most interested in:

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  • Pebble & Pebble Steel: The $150 Pebble was the smartwatch that really took the gadget market by storm. Raising more than $4.7 million dollars on Kickstarter with an initial fundraising target of only $100,000, there was serious demand for this watch. With its e-paper display, the Pebble has a strong focus on notifications and offers 5-7 days of battery life. The $249 Pebble Steel is the successor to the original Pebble, and offers a less-geeky looking watch. Pebble watches work with both iPhone and Android phones. Check out our review of the original Pebble Pebble Smartwatch Review & Giveaway Pebble Smartwatch Review & Giveaway Smartwatches are the new hottest trend in today's tech world, and the Pebble e-ink watch helped start the fire. The most successful Kickstarter project to date, the Pebble raised over $10 million during its 1-month... Read More .
  • Samsung Galaxy Gear: Where the Pebble offers an e-paper display with a focus on notifications, Samsung’s $299 Galaxy Gear offers an LCD display that consumes more power. Where the Pebble offers about a week of battery life, the Galaxy Gear offers about a day. You’ll have to recharge it every night, and if you use it heavily you may not make it through a day. The hardware is more capable, but you pay for it with less battery life and it doesn’t have the dedicated developer community the Pebble has.
  • Sony Smartwatch 2: The Sony Smartwatch 2 has an LCD screen with an Android-style interface. Unlike the Pebble, Sony’s $199 Smartwatch 2 only pairs with Android devices, so you can’t use it along with an iPhone. Reviewers noted the interface was slow and laggy. Like the Galaxy Gear, you’ll have to recharge this watch every day. Sure, it’s pretty and has a nice screen, but it’s like strapping a small smartphone to your wrist. Check out our review of the Sony Smartwatch 2 Sony SmartWatch 2 Review and Giveaway Sony SmartWatch 2 Review and Giveaway There are plenty of smartwatches which you can get your hands on right now, so why should you consider the Sony SmartWatch 2? Read More .
  • MetaWatch: MetaWatch’s $129-$199 watches have a black-and-white screen for receiving notifications and run for 5-7 days on a charge, like a Pebble. They’re being positioned as a device that’s closer to a watch than a tiny smartphone strapped to your wrist. New MetaWatches are being designed by former Vertu designer Frank Nuovo — Vertu being a company formerly owned by Nokia that created luxury phones that sold for up to $310,000 each. MetaWatch’s future watches will probably be more interesting and stylish than its current ones, so it’s worth holding on and seeing what they release next.

samsung-galaxy-gear-smartwatch

Smartwatches On the Way

The most interesting smartwatches on the way are from Apple, Google, and Microsoft. It’s no coincidence that these are the companies in technology. The challenge with making a smartwatch isn’t putting great hardware together; it’s creating great software that provides a compelling experience.

  • Apple “iWatch”: Apple has reportedly been working on a watch for years now. We’d expect to see the “iWatch” released sometime in 2014. It will reportedly include fitness-tracking features to also compete with fitness wristbands like the Fitbit Fitbit One Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker Review and Giveaway Fitbit One Wireless Activity and Sleep Tracker Review and Giveaway Fitbit One is an activity monitor and sleep tracker. It counts steps taken, distance travelled, stairs climbed, and calories burnt. In sleep mode, it tracks the number of times you got up or were awake,... Read More . As it’s an Apple product, it will likely be extremely polished and have a focused user experience. The iWatch may do for smartwatches what the iPhone did for smartphones and the iPad did for tablets — take an existing type of product, polish it, and cause it to explode in popularity.
  • Google “Nexus Gem”: Google purchased smartwatch maker WIMM Labs back in 2012. They’re reportedly working on an Android-powered Nexus smartwatch 5 Smartwatch Concept Designs You Will Want! 5 Smartwatch Concept Designs You Will Want! Sick of waiting for Apple's smartwatch to debut? Not sure if it'll even happen? If the Pebble isn't "smart" enough for you, then perhaps these 5 smartwatch concept designs will get your blood pumping again. Read More  that emphasizes Google Now. Google Now displays relevant information all the time — for example, if you’re walking by a bus stop, you’ll see the bus arrival times. Putting this information on your wrist so you can always see up-to-date information about the world around you could be amazing. Google Now also supports many voice commands OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone OK, Google: 20+ Useful Things You Can Say to Your Android Phone Slowly, without us noticing, the future has arrived. Read More , which would be a useful way of controlling a smartwatch.
  • Microsoft “Surface Watch”: Microsoft is also working on their own smartwatch. They were actually one of the first players to the smartwatch market back in 2004 with the SPOT watch, but this product was discontinued in 2008. We’ll have to see if this product makes it out of Microsoft’s research labs or if it falters like the Courier tablet, which was cancelled because it didn’t run Windows.

The below images isn’t a real photo of an iWatch. It’s one of the many concept images people have created over the years.

apple-iwatch-unofficial-concept-image

Should You Buy a Smartwatch Now?

Smartwatch manufacturers are experimenting with hardware and software, frantically trying to provide a compelling user experience. Smartwatches from Apple, Google, and Microsoft are on the horizon and we’ll probably see many new smartwatches later this year. Now’s probably not the time to buy a smartwatch. You’ll have many more options if you can wait until later this year.

If you’re a gadget geek, you may want to buy a smartwatch right now so you can get notifications on your wrist and experiment with the latest gadgets before they become mainstream. We’d recommend the Pebble as the smartwatch to get right now. It’s the most well-reviewed smartwatch today. Fueled by Kickstarter demand, the Pebble has a dedicate developer community behind it and a strong focus on notifications and providing a user experience that makes sense

Samsung is known for throwing products at the wall and seeing what sticks, and it feels like this is what they’re doing with the Galaxy Gear. The Pebble Steel also looks much more stylish than the original Pebble, which had a look that many people didn’t appreciate. The Pebble feels like an actual device designed for displaying notifications, while many of the other devices feel like little Android computers on your wrist. Pebble is onto something.

pebble-steel-smartwatch-menu

Have you picked up a smartwatch already, or are you waiting for a future smartwatch? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Image Credit: James Brown on Flickr, K?rlis Dambr?ns on Flickr, brett jordan on Flickr, Chris F on Flickr

  1. Bogarard
    April 18, 2014 at 6:47 am

    I would rather stick with my old-fashioned wristwatch for now. Unless there is one with an hologram pup-up on it or any other fancy futuristic features. Otherwise.. I'll pass. All of those so-called smartwatches are just a regular small gadgets with a bunch of unpolished features.

  2. James G
    March 1, 2014 at 5:46 am

    My watch already has an altimeter, barometer, compass, thermometer, sunrise/set, 5 alarms, 3 time zones, stopwatch, countdown timer and is solar powered so never needs charging. That is smart enough for now.

  3. Hugh Glenn
    February 28, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Let me cut to the chase: Pebble is a pretty piece of plastic that serves as a watch (as long as it is FREQUENTLY charged). Purchasing a Pebble was a huge disappointment: My Pebble arrived DOA. At this point the bad news began.

    There is no access to tech support at Pebble via telephone. You must depend upon multiple e-mails. Count on a couple of days before receiving a reply. Moreover, the support you receive is WORTHLESS. Your e-mail will direct you to You Tube and web pages, which you already viewed and read trying to get the watch to work. Eventually, if you are lucky, you will receive an "invitation" to return the watch and receive a replacement--not a new watch but a refurbished one.

    I rejected the invitation and asked for a refund. This message was ignored FOUR times. I contacted my credit card company and filed a dispute. It was only AFTER I filed the dispute that I received the "invitation" to receive a replacement, which I declined and returned the watch.

    Conclusion: To know the time by looking at a pretty piece of plastic, you may like Pebble. But if your watch does not work properly, you will need divine intervention to receive any useful technical support or to find out how to return the watch for a refund. I found nothing to recommend this company or its product. If you want a Smartwatch, I'd wait for the iWatch from Apple.

  4. matthew
    February 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Yay for adding the clips from Babylon 5 !!!!

  5. Tom Uruqhart
    February 28, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    I think it would be prudent to stay away from Huawei. I'd be afraid I would be hacked by some Chinese listening post.

    • TeeJay
      March 1, 2014 at 12:23 am

      Oh yeah. I can just imagine the Chinese authorities all sitting round a table eagerly listening into your telephone conversations. I'm sure they'll lose many hours of sleep in the process.

  6. antonio
    February 28, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    I bought a Pebble, and even though it's serving it's purpose I wish I would have waited... The future looks awesome for these kind of devices. I disagree with the fact that some people think it's expensive... If someone were to buy a designer watch they would spend at least 400 dollars... with 2/3rds the price you can get a smart watch which will have more features than that expensive brand name one. Just my opinion.

  7. Liviu
    February 28, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    I own a SmartWatch 2 (SW2).
    First of all .. it is a watch (you do not need any phone connected for it to be a watch). Paired with a leather wristband (or using the original metallic one) it is quite elegant.
    Second: it does NOT require to be recharged every day. I charge mine every 5th day or so.

    Useful ? ... for me yes, definitely. What I know is that I no longer reach for my phone every time it buzzes in my pocket. A quick look at my wrist will tell me if the message I just received is important enough to go on and pull the phone out (especially if I'm outside and I'm wearing gloves :) ). The main use for a smartwatch is to act like a WATCH in the first place .. and (in my case) as a notification extender for my phone. I do not need anything else and SW2 is providing these basic needs.

    • Jerry S.
      March 1, 2014 at 12:10 am

      It makes sense to me, and eventually will perhaps buy one. However, I will wait for Google, Apple, etc., offerings. ... I usually avoid jumping onto the bandwagon of first generation products, especially in emerging technologies.

    • Techygirl
      April 30, 2015 at 4:25 am

      Some smart watches I've seen have Sim ports in them, do you have to have a Sim (spare) card for the watch in order to use it or is it more along the lines of a Bluetooth? Haven't had a chance to see on in person.

  8. poless
    February 28, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Who needs "Smartwatch"? Give a me WatchPhone and I'm all in.

    • Techygirl
      April 30, 2015 at 4:20 am

      They already make them and have beend on sale for quite sometime now.

  9. Kevin M
    February 28, 2014 at 1:19 am

    I fail to see the point of these devices? They are big enough to be a wrist watch and well... they already do that! I see this as one of those things that falls into the just because you can doesn't mean you should category!

    • Gill_I_am
      February 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      What do you mean "they already do that"? If you fail to see the point of a smartwatch you don't understand the possibilities.

    • Kevin M
      February 28, 2014 at 5:38 pm

      Meaning they are already a watch and there is very little use of them beyond that or perhaps some specialty need. I fail to see this being some big hit but everyone is acting like the day the first cell phone hit the market.

  10. TooCostly
    February 27, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    I'll wait until the joke pricing has snagged all the hipsters.
    Notifications and the ability to make and receive calls - without nuking your brain, are the lure for me. I'll wait until a high-quality analogue of the Huawei smartband becomes available.

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