Long-awaited smart watches are hitting the consumer marketplace. However, do these gizmos live up to their hype?
Chester Gould, the inventor of Dick Tracy and his iconic two-way wrist radio, couldn't have imagined the real thing. Teamed with your smartphone, a wise watch may exhibit real time physical fitness information; show telephone, text and social-media messages; and even work as a remote control for your phone's music player. And it could come in handy any time you would rather keep your smart phone tucked away. Caveat: So-called wearable devices continue to be rough around the edges. However, the three under are standouts in a rapidly evolving genre. Slightly larger than a conventional watch, the Sony SmartWatch two ($200) has a sleek and fashionable aluminum case and a silicon or stainless-steel wristband. The SmartWatch, which syncs to a phone, vibrates softly when you get a call, e-mail or text message (including buddies' Facebook and Twitter articles ). Using a Bluetooth headset, you may use it to make and receive phone calls, view a list of recent forecasts, and control (play, stop and skip) songs on your mobile phone. The 1.6-inch LCD display is easy to see in bright sunlight, although the vibrant 220-by-176-pixel resolution lacks the crispness of current smart-phone displays. The device runs a few times between charges.
The SmartWatch 2 works just with smart phones running Android 4.0 or higher. To set them, you either touch the SmartWatch for your phone (if it is NFC-compatible) or use Bluetooth to connect the apparatus. The SmartWatch comes with a couple preinstalled apps, but you have to go to the Google Play shop to download the really useful stuff. We found some of the programs a bit glitchy, and the consumer experience was far from seamless.
Long-distance runner. It joins with your smart phone, but you cannot send and receive calls. However, exactly what the Echo doesit does well: exhibit real-time feedback from sports programs, such as MapMyRun, Strava and Wahoo Fitness, running on your own Apple iOS device. (Android service is"coming soon," Magellan states.) The Echo has a decidedly athletic look, and it may operate for months on a single cheap lithium battery. But miserly energy consumption involves trade-offs. The Echo's 1-inch, 128-by-128-pixel display is reasonably simple to see, but it is small and drab. Just to be clear: You will have to bring along your iPhone, too, which could prove awkward for runners.
Versatile switch hitter. Of the three designer watches in this review, we would choose the upstart Pebble ($150), whose development has been financed by a Kickstarter campaign. It's more flexible than the fitness-oriented Echo, and with no Android-only SmartWatch two, it works with either Android or iOS--plus it costs less. Such as the SmartWatch, the Pebble syncs via Bluetooth to your phone or headset to make calls, and runs a few bare-bones apps that allow you to exhibit phone-call, text and social-media notifications. Additionally, it shows real-time data from fitness programs, and it permits you to manage songs playing on your mobile phone.
The Pebble includes a slim, polycarbonate case. It runs five to seven times between charges, a bit more compared to the SmartWatch. Its 1.26-inch, 144-by-168-pixel screen is pretty sharp. The Pebble's stable of hot programs is growing, with Yelp, Foursquare, ESPN and Pandora expected to release Pebble-specific models soon.