Buying the best Android Wear smartwatch can be a difficult task, with a grand total of 19 different devices now hitting officialdom. Or 21 if you count different sized models. Or just 10 if you take away the one that got cancelled (but then relaunched). See, we told you it was confusing.
Google’s smartwatch OS is a hotbed of wearable innovation, with updates constantly arriving offering the likes of GPS, offline music and Wi-Fi connectivity. And getting to grips with the platform can be tricky, so when you do bag yourself a brand new smartwatch, make sure you check out our Android Wear hub of tutorials to help get the most from your device.
Google I/O 2016 revealed that Android Wear 2.0 is launching later this year and there are new devices from the likes of New Balance, Nixon and Fossil still to come too. So there’s plenty to be excited about.
But, if you want to buy one now – here’s the main event: the juicy details on the top Android watches on the market…
Top pick: Huawei Watch
When we first reviewed the Huawei Watch back in October, we called it the slickest looking Android Wear smartwatch but lamented that those good looks came at a premium.
Fast forward a few months and, while the official RRP is still much too high, there are bargains to be had for the basic model and, given it plays nicely with the new Mode interchangeable bands and can run the dev preview of Wear 2.0, it’s now our top pick.
The AMOLED display is a 1.4-inch, 400 x 400 screen with a 286ppi count. That’s the highest on any Android Wear device so far. Huawei’s effort is made all the more impressive thanks to a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. Side by side with the smaller Moto 360 2 – its closest rival in terms of aesthetics – it’s clearly a better display. Not just because it offers genuine 360-degree visuals, but because everything just looks sharper.
Best value: Sony SmartWatch 3
Sony’s third stab at the smartwatch comes with either a rubber sports strap in a choice of colours, or a slick stainless steel one, along with a 1.6-inch 320 x 320 pixel LCD display. The screen isn’t spectacular but battery life benefits as a result, with two days of use easily achievable.
The big win for the SW3 is that it was the first Android Wear watch with built-in GPS, so it’s great for tracking runs, cycle rides, and even tapping into golf apps. It’s looking a little dated now though, and Sony could be playing catch up if the Sony SmartWatch 4 doesn’t make an appearance soon. And the Moto 360 Sport is hot on its heels.
For max customisation: New Moto 360
The 2015 Moto 360 may still have that annoying flat tyre at the bottom of its circular display, but the rest of the setup is very promising indeed. It now comes in two sizes – 42mm and 46mm – although it’s actually three if you count the different band sizes. Using the Moto Maker platform there are hundreds of different combinations of straps, bezels, finishes and colours to choose from.
On offer are two different sized displays: 1.37 or 1.56-inch. On the larger size, the resolution is 360 x 360 – a 233ppi count.
Put the new Moto 360 next to the first-gen Motorola watch and you can see the subtle differences that really turn this design into a ‘watch’ rather than last year’s circle on a strap.
For build quality: Tag Heuer Connected
The Tag Heuer Connected is now official and while it doesn’t boast the ‘Swiss Made’ tag of its mechanical brethren, it’s by far the best example of watch craftsmanship in the Android Wear world. The build is incredibly high quality; the case, lugs and back are all made from grade 2 titanium. The display is 46mm in diameter and it’s covered in crystal sapphire.
Also, you don’t need to worry that your expensive smartwatch will be useless in a couple of years – at the end of the 2-year warranty period, you can use it to trade in for a mechanical Tag Heuer watch.
Best for running: Moto 360 Sport
Finally an Android Wear smartwatch to rival the Sony SmartWatch 3’s GPS skills – and the Moto 360 Sport is actually the better running aid thanks to the Moto Body app built in.
The 360 Sport boasts a single-structure silicon case and band, with a special UV coating to wick away sweat. The AnyLight LCD display is naturally adaptable, meaning it should be nicely backlit in dim lighting situations but will still be easily readable when out running in sunnier conditions.
Best for outdoor pursuits: Casio WSD-F10
Casio’s Smart Outdoor Watch landed at CES and is a million miles from another me-too everyday watch. Designed for outdoorsy types who are looking for a waterproof (50m), shockproof and vibration proof wearable that’s certified to US military standards (MIL-STD0810).
The 1.32-inch LCD touchscreen has an interesting twist. There’s a second monochrome display that can be used instead of the colour panel; instead of the single day usage from the main screen, using the monochrome screen boosts battery life to a month.
Forget trying to marry this with your work attire, you wouldn’t even be able to get it under your jacket cuff, let alone your shirt. It’s not uncomfortable though; it’s much lighter than you’d think and the chunky rubber strap provides a secure fit.
Great for style: LG Watch Urbane
The Urbane is a more female-friendly and, we have to say it, ‘blingy’ version of LG’s G Watch R, with high end styling that’s a bit more dressy than sporty. It isn’t designed to replace the R, simply add an extra option for smartwatch shoppers looking for a classier, more ‘luxury’ looking smartwatch.
You can’t miss the Urbane; whether it’s the silver or gold model, that fully round bezel is seriously eye- and light-catching. It also comes with a higher quality leather strap, which can be changed out for something more personal. If you really want to splash out, the LG Watch Urbane Luxe has a 23-karat gold case and comes with an alligator leather strap. It’ll set you back $1,200.
The 2nd Edition Urbane, complete with call features, is now available through cellular networks in the States.
The most unisex: Asus ZenWatch 2
The ZenWatch 2 comes in two sizes – one measuring 49 x 41mm, with a 22mm strap, the other a 45 x 37mm model that sits on an 18mm strap. Essentially, that’s a male and a female model.
There are a plethora of strap options including rubber, steel, leather and even a Swarovski covered one. And ZenWatch Message brings direct messaging with emojis from the watch while a new Smart Assistant app enables you to view more content from emails and calendar alerts.
For nostalgics: Fossil Q Founder
Looking a heck of a lot like the Moto 360, complete with a chunky chassis and that ever-so-annoying flat tyre at the bottom of the circular display, the Fossil Android Wear smartwatch was revealed alongside a trio of other Intel-powered connected devices.
To be honest, there’s not a lot to write home about for Fossil’s AW debutant. But if you’re a tech collector and like the look of a chunky metal watch, then the Q Founder could be a useful addition. Especially if you happen to own the 2002 Palm Pilot.
The one that (nearly) got away
LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition
Looking a lot like the original Watch Urbane, the LG sequel has a pretty big ace up its sleeve – the cellular connectivity is a first for Google’s smartwatch platform.
The display on the 2nd Edition has also been improved. It’s a 1.38-inch full circle P-OLED, 480 x 480, one – that’s a meaty 348ppi. The battery is an impressive 570mAh.
However, in a crazy turnaround, it was cancelled due to an unspecified hardware issue. In a double-crazy turnaround it’s now available through AT&T and Verizon, again.
Coming soon: New Balance, Nixon, Fossil and Michael Kors
The as-yet unnamed New Balance Android Wear model is set to rock GPS and built-in storage for smartphone free music listening, and is being built in collaboration with Intel and Google – it was announced in January at CES.
At Baselworld 2016 we saw more devices detailed: Two new Fossil smartwatches, Nixon’s The Mission and a duo of Michael Kors models. These will go on sale later this year, prices and release dates are yet to be released.
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