The best gifts for Android users
A note of caution:
The smartwatch market was pretty much silent for months, but recently it’s come back to life. While I love seeing new hardware as much as the next guy, there’s a lot to consider if you’re buying a smartwatch right now. As great as all this new hardware, and even older hardware, may be, there’s something big on the horizon.
Qualcomm is preparing to launch a new generation of wearable processors at an event in September. That’s likely going to mean new hardware (possibly from Google) and maybe even new capabilities within wearable operating systems. So at least for the next few weeks, it might be best to hold off on buying any new smartwatches…
NEW FOR AUGUST:
Samsung Galaxy Watch
Alongside the reveal of its Galaxy Note 9, Samsung recently debuted the Galaxy Watch. Like the Gear Sport and Gear S3 that came before it, this watch has a rotating bezel running on top of Tizen OS. It, of course, connects over Bluetooth, but also has LTE options available.
The Galaxy Watch comes in two sizes, 46mm and 42mm, both with an OLED display and an “optimized” chipset that extends battery life. For the larger model, you can squeeze 6 days out of a single charge while the smaller model still offers up to 4 days. As you’d expect, the Watch also includes features like GPS, water resistance, and there’s NFC for Samsung Pay.
As for Tizen, this watch is based on version 4.0, and it packs some new health features as well as a handy “My Day” watchface that integrates with your calendar. Bixby has also replaced the aging (and somehow even more horrible) S-Voice. Corning’s new DX+ glass is also included for better durability and scratch resistance.
Pricing for the Galaxy Watch comes in a bit higher than the models preceding it, though. The 42mm variant will be available from $329 and the larger 46mm lands at $349. Both are available from Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung starting on August 24th. LTE variants will land at Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile later this year. Pre-orders are open now.
Fossil Q 4th Gen
Fossil is one of the biggest players in the Wear OS space, and the company offers a lot of different models. Currently, we’re on the fourth generation of Fossil’s lineup, and the Q Venture HR and Q Explorist HR deserve your full attention.
These new smartwatches build on a pretty familiar package. Both are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor and run on Wear OS. Both also get GPS, NFC for Google Pay, and heart rate sensors as well. The Venture is the smaller of the two, measuring in at 40mm with an 18mm band. The Explorist, on the other hand, is a 45mm watch with a 22mm band.
Pricing starts at $255 for the Q Venture HR and $275 for the Q Explorist HR. Several variants of each are available on Fossil’s online store.
Michael Kors Runway
Style is one of the biggest benefits of buying a Wear OS watch, and Michael Kors is a well-known name for just that. Recently, the brand announced that its long-time Runway watch is launching as a Wear OS-powered smartwatch.
The Michael Kors Runway is a pretty classic-looking design with pricing that starts at about $300. Like many other Wear OS devices, there’s a Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset under the hood, a 41mm “swimproof” casing, heart rate monitor, GPS, NFC for Google Pay, and a 1.2-inch display. A “day” of battery life is quoted. Three colorways are also available with silver, gold, and rose gold, all with various band options available.
FROM EARLIER THIS YEAR:
Mobvoi Ticwatch Pro
Mobvoi may not be a household name, but the company’s Wear OS smartwatches have quickly become some of our favorites. Now, the Ticwatch Pro has hit the market, and it might be one of the most compelling options to date.
The claim to fame on the Ticwatch Pro is battery life. The Pro offers up to 30 days of battery on a single charge. Of course, that all depends on how you use it. Mobvoi’s trick to improve battery life comes with the addition of a layered screen that acts as two displays. One is designed for use when the watch is idle, only showing crucial information such as the time to sip power. Under that is a standard OLED display that delivers the full Wear OS experience.
In “Smart Mode” the watch lasts about 2-5 days on a charge, all depending on if you slip it into “Essential Mode.” We’ve got a lot more details about that in another post, but it’s a pretty cool setup that seems to work well.
Aside from its display, the Ticwatch Pro is a pretty standard offering in the Wear OS world. It’s powered by the same Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, has a 400×400 1.39-inch OLED display, and has a 45mm casing. There’s also a 415mAh battery inside which charges with a magnetic charger. There’s also IP68 water/dust protection, and NFC for use with Google Pay.
Pricing on the Ticwatch Pro lands at $249, a pretty good deal if you ask me. The watch is available on Amazon in black, or black/silver.
Samsung Gear Sport
Samsung is pretty good at wearables, but one of the biggest complaints about the Gear S3 is its size. Now, Samsung has an offering that fits everyone (literally). The Samsung Gear Sport takes the best of its older, larger brother and trims the fat for a sleek, fitness-first smartwatch.
The Samsung Gear Sport has a 1.2-inch AMOLED display and runs on top of Samsung’s own Tizen OS with its latest update. Like on the Gear S3, you’ll get two tactile buttons along the side and a touchscreen, but the standout navigation feature here is that rotating bezel.
The watch ditches MST payments, but still supports Samsung Pay over NFC in its compact 42mm body. It’s available in black and blue and ships with a silicone band to match. It promises all-day battery life, has a new and allegedly more accurate heart rate sensor as well as 5ATM water resistance.
Pricing lands at the same $299 you’ll pay for a standard Gear S3, but we’ve already seen discounts. The watch is available now on Amazon, Best Buy, and pretty much anywhere else you can buy a smartwatch.
Fitbit may not be the first name that comes to mind for a proper smartwatch, but over the past year the wearable company has really stepped up its game. Most recently, that’s resulted in the Fitbit Versa. This compact smartwatch works with Android or iOS and brings a lot to the table for its $199 price tag.
The device has a 1.34-inch rectangular display with a lightweight frame made from metal. Instead of using Google’s Wear OS, though, the Versa runs on top of Fitbit’s latest wearable OS which carries improvements since the launch of the Ionic including better notification handling, new apps, and improved workout tracking.
The Versa might not be the most feature-packed smartwatch out there, but it’s going to be one of the better options for many, especially when workouts are a point of consideration. Pricing starts at $199 for the base model, a $229 option is also available with NFC for mobile payments.
Mobvoi Ticwatch E/S
A lot of smartwatches on the market today are pretty expensive, and there’s where Mobvoi comes into the picture. Its Ticwatch Pro is one of our favorites thanks to its killer battery life, but the groundwork was laid out by the company’s Ticwatch E and Ticwatch S.
The Ticwatch E is built entirely from plastic, but it’s certainly not a bad looking wearable in any of its 3 colors — black, white, or yellow. On your wrist, the E has a 44mm diameter, but it still looks pretty good on smaller wrists.
As for specs, you’ve got a 1.4-inch 400×400 OLED display, MTK MT2601 dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, and IP67 water/dust resistance. That runs Wear OS and with a 300 mAh battery, you’re getting a day of battery life no problem. That all arrives for just $159, which is a pretty killer price if you ask me.
Alternatively, Mobvoi’s Ticwatch S offers a lot of the same benefits as the E, but with a sportier design. The Ticwatch S comes in at 45mm and is a bit chunky at 13mm thick. Packed inside there’s a 300mAh battery for a full day of battery life, heart-rate monitor, and built-in GPS thanks to the band.
The Ticwatch S also has a 1.4-inch OLED display at 400×400, MTK MT2601 dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, and of course, Wear OS. Retail pricing for the Ticwatch S lands at $199.
Android Wear hasn’t had too many affordable options in the past several months that have impressed us, but one we’ve been looking forward to has been the Misfit Vapor. Now, the $200 wearable has hit the market and it has a ton of pros, especially for those who are active.
The Misfit Vapor was originally launched with a proprietary operating system, but that was ditched for Android Wear 2.0. The Vapor has a 1.39-inch AMOLED display, Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 4GB of storage, 512mb of RAM, and a heart rate sensor. Those specs are fairly standard for Android Wear, but the Vapor also includes 5ATM water resistance which is a huge plus, and an assortment of software features added by Misfit.
As far as pricing goes, the Misfit Vapor lands at a reasonable $199. That’s a solid deal especially considering the fitness features and appealing circular design of this watch. If you’re interested in picking one up, it’s available now in an assortment of colors from Misfit, Best Buy, and Amazon.
Huawei Watch 2/Classic
The original Huawei Watch is one of the most beloved Android Wear devices on the market thanks to its gorgeous design. Unfortunately, many were disappointed to learn that the second generation model wouldn’t keep up the same looks, instead opting for something a bit chunkier and rugged with the standard and “Classic” models.
The Huawei Watch 2 and the Huawei Watch 2 Classic both offer familiar specs with a 1.2-inch AMOLED display, Snapdragon 2100 processor and a 420 mAh battery. There’s also 768MB of RAM and 4GB of storage in each device.
Both smartwatches feature 45mm casings with compatibility with 20mm bands on the standard model and 22mm on the Classic. Both also feature two buttons for navigation and accessing app functions such as Android Pay, as Huawei has included NFC.
Pricing for the Huawei Watch 2 starts at $299 and includes 10 weeks of Google Play Music for free. That model is available now from various retailers including Best Buy and Amazon.
The primary differences with the Classic versus the standard include, first off, that this model lacks LTE. That, however, does mean that the Classic is built from a more premium “Titanium Grey” shell which has a bit less sporty look. A leather band is also installed out of the box rather than the silicone one found on other models. Pricing on the Huawei Watch 2 Classic is a bit higher than the standard model, asking $369 from retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy.
Samsung Gear S3 Frontier/Classic
My personal favorite watch for Android on the market today actually isn’t an Android Wear device, rather coming from Samsung and running atop Tizen. The Samsung Gear S3 Frontier is all the smartwatch you’ll ever need, with a sporty, circular gray design with a 1.3-inch Super AMOLED display that is the best I’ve personally ever used and is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass SR+.
The Gear S3 also offers a dual-core Exynos 7270 processor, 768MB of RAM, and 4GB of storage. The watch also features sensors such as GPS, NFC, and even optional LTE. The standout features, though, include Samsung Pay (on any smartphone) and the rotating bezel. The Gear S3 is a pretty big watch, though, coming in at 12.9mm thick with a 46mm diameter.
The Gear S3 also has dozens of useful features and very well-thought out software. It’s really just an excellent smartwatch at the end of the day, offering everything I could ask for. More information is available in our full review, and the Gear S3 Frontier and Classic are available now at various retailers, including Amazon, for $349 (or less).
Michael Kors Access Grayson/Sofie
Most of today’s Android Wear devices aren’t the most stylish, but two of the latest watches from fashion brand Michael Kors aim to change that. The Grayson and Sofie watches are designed to suit the style of men and women respectively, and both start at around $350.
Like most other watches on this list, these both feature Android Wear 2.0, a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of storage, and IP67 dust and water resistance. The differentiation of these watches really comes down to the hardware.
The Grayson is designed for men and is clearly inspired by a traditional watch. It has a stainless steel casing at 47mm wide with a 1.39-inch 454 x 454 AMOLED display.
The Sofie, on the other hand, is designed for women with jewelry inspired accents. It has a smaller 1.19 inch 390×390 AMOLED display, and a smaller casing at 42mm. As mentioned, pricing starts at $350 for either variant and goes up depending on options. Sales are available from MichaelKors.com (Grayson — Sofie) and also from outlets such as Amazon. (Grayson — Sofie)
Since we’re talking about Android, we have options to look at that aren’t Android Wear, and one of those is the Fitbit Ionic. The first proper smartwatch from the fitness-focused brand may not be as gorgeous as most Android Wear offerings, but it makes up for that with fitness features and improved battery life.
The Ionic packs all the typical fitness features you’d expect such as a pedometer, heart rate monitor, sleep tracking sensors, and even built-in GPS for keeping track of runs. Better yet, it’s water-resistant to the point where it can track swims, and it even has some personal coaching features on the touchscreen.
Aside from fitness, though, the Ionic packs full support for typical smartwatch features, including notifications from basically any app on your phone. There’s even an app store with popular offerings such as Strava, Starbucks, Pandora, and more. There’s also built-in NFC payments through “Fitbit Pay” with support for Visa, Mastercard, and AMEX debit/credit cards.
Fitbits promises about 4 days worth of usage out of a single charge with the Ionic. The device is available in three colors — Charcoal & Smoke Gray, Slate Blue & Burnt Orange, and Blue Gray & Silver Gray. Bands are interchangeable and the watch sells for $299 outright. It’s available now from Amazonand other popular online retailers.
Diesel ON Full Guard
In Android Wear’s continued push into the fashion industry, fashion brand Diesel has recently debuted its first smartwatch. The Diesel ON Full Guard is a pretty big watch at 48mm across, but it features a design you won’t find on any other smartwatch at the moment. The “rugged” design of the watch makes room for a fully-circular display of an unspecified size and resolution, as well as three buttons along the right side of the device.
You’ll also get a leather band with your purchase with a different design depending on your preference. Some models are available with stainless steel link bands for an extra $25.
Pricing for the ON Full Guard starts at $325. The watch is available now from Macy’s, Amazon, and several other outlets both online and at retail.
If you’re into premium smartwatches, the Montblanc Summit is the latest option hitting watch shops around the world. Out of the box, it runs atop Android Wear 2.0 with the standard specifications — Snapdragon Wear 2100, 512mb of RAM, and 4GB of storage. There’s no NFC or LTE on board, but the watch does feature a heart rate sensor and premium materials.
The base model is crafted from polished stainless steel with a premium calfskin leather band. Other models are available with a titanium casing and alligator leather straps, but they do up the cost quite a bit. All models have a 46mm casing that is 12.5mm thick. Battery life is rated at a day and the watch is IP68 water/dust resistant.Pricing for the Summit starts at a lofty $870 and goes well up from there. Currently, the only place to buy the watch online is via the outlet Mr. Porter, but it’s also available anywhere Montblanc smartwatches are sold in retail locations.
If you’re looking for the best design out there today, one watch that should be on your list is the Movado Connect. Powered by Android Wear, the Movado Connect offers up a minimalistic design, but quite a few feature you’d want.
First and foremost, the Movado Connect runs on top of the standard Android Wear specs package — a Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, 512mb of RAM, and 4GB of storage. It also includes a 1.39-inch 400×400 AMOLED display, 300mAh battery, and a typical array of sensors including an accelerometer and gyroscope. There’s also an ambient light sensor here and support for NFC, meaning you’ll be able to use Android Pay with this watch.
If you ask me, this is one of the classiest watches you can buy with Android Wear today, but it comes at a cost. You’ll need to fork over $595 to get the Connect on your wrist, and it’s available from Movado’s website as well as Kay Jewelers.