You mean you still have a watch that only tells time? Smartwatches do that, and ever so much more.
Right from your wrist, you can keep up with texts and emails, get answers to your Web-searchable questions, and maybe even track the calories you’re consuming and the beat of your heart.
January’s International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas revealed a stampede of watchmakers meeting the hot and heavy demand for these brainy devices: The Consumer Electronics Association predicted that smartwatch sales in 2015 will quadruple from last year and reach 11 million in the U.S.
While the early smartwatches tended to place function before form, the newest crop caters to a call for beautiful design, too. You’ll see slimmer profiles, rounded edges, bountiful band options and even offerings from companies known for their fashion sense, like TAG Heuer, which is rumored to have a smartphone in the works.
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Here’s a look at our favorite new flamboyant friends for our phones, which can now hibernate safely in our pockets, as well as a peek at what’s on the immediate horizon, including that tempting little watch called Apple.
Fashion Meets Function: Guess Connect
Guess, a leader in the fashion watch industry, has partnered with California-based Martian Watches and its Voice Command system, to create a new beginner-level, blingy smartwatch in two sizes. The Guess Connect won a coveted CES 2015 Innovation Honoree Award. How it looks: The watch is based on Guess’ bestselling Rigor model and functions as a traditional analog watch. But a small monochrome OLED screen across the bottom of the face shows it can synch with your smartphone and bring you rolling smart notifications. What it does: With a built-in microphone and speaker, use Martian’s Voice Command feature to send texts, place calls, check the weather and find out how the Rangers game is going, all with verbal commands. Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE technology allow you to harness your smartphone’s software (like Siri) to talk, listen and send voice commands. Compatibility: iOS and Android. Price: No official word yet, but Engadget.com predicts that the price will be around $300. When and where to get it: Expected summer 2015; look for announcements on Guesswatches.com and Martianwatches.com.
Leave the Phone at Home: Samsung Gear S
With its own mini-SIM card, Samsung’s latest smart wearable lets you untether from your phone. How it looks: It has a big, 2-inch AMOLED display and changeable rubber straps, which right now are only available in black and white in the U.S., though a partnership with Diesel Black Gold will soon yield new colors and leather and metal details, the company says. What it does: Connect it through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or 3G. Thanks to the SIM card, you can leave the phone at home and make and receive phone calls straight from the device. Keep up with email and texts, too; extended features include turn-by-turn pedestrian navigation, a news service from Financial Times, a calendar and instant Facebook notifications. Built-in sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and heart-rate monitor. Use Nike+ Running to track your pace and listen to music. Compatibility: The Tizen OS system works only with Samsung Android phones. Price: About $350-$400 (price varies with phone service agreement). When and where to get it: See Verizonwireless.com, Att.com and Bestbuy.com for price options with service plans; also see Bestbuy.com for local stores.
Fresh Pick: Apple Watch
In late January, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the much-anticipated Apple Watch would ship to consumers in April. How it looks: Options abound. Two sizes (38 mm; 42 mm). Three case styles: Watch (two shades of stainless steel); Watch Sport (two shades of anodized aluminum); and Watch Edition (two shades of 18-karat gold). Plus, there’s a plethora of band choices: six styles and 18 colors. There are also nine default faces, including analog and digital options. What it does: Raise your wrist, say “Hey, Siri” to the built-in mic and your watch can tell you where to find the nearest Starbucks or can call your mom. Check the weather, stock market and your calendar; call up a map and check your email. But that’s just the start. Use the touch-screen watch to navigate iTunes and Apple TV, listen to music and send doodles to friends. The apps are in a bubblelike interface; use the digital crown to navigate them. A Near Field Communication (NFC) chip lets you pay with your debit and credit cards right from the watch with Apple Pay. There’s also an activity tracker and a workout app. Compatibility: iOS; iPhone 6 or 5/5s/5c. Price: Predicted to start at $350. Various techie websites such as 9to5 Mac speculate that the Watch Edition, with its 18-karat gold case, might be priced between $4,000 and $5,000. When and where to get it: April; Apple.com and Apple stores.
Just for the Guys: HP Chronowing
Menswear designer Michael Bastian designed this watch, engineered by Hewlett Packard. How it looks: This smartwatch is a beautiful piece of jewelry that looks more like a watch than many. The watch has a stainless-steel case and three interchangeable straps. What it does: For those who want good looks and don’t need the cutting-edge of interactive connectivity, this is a good option. The watch face delivers smart text and calendar notifications and can stream your favorite content, such as weather and sports scores. Water resistant to 50 meters, this piece has an always-on display screen and a weeklong battery life. Three buttons on the side help you navigate the display. Compatibility: iOS and Android. Price: $349.99; a limited-edition, all-black model for $649.99 was unavailable at press time. When and where to get it: Available now at Engineeredby.hp.com.
On Trend: ASUS ZenWatch
A Taiwanese offering, this watch debuted last September with an emphasis on its sleek design. How it looks: With a curved glass touch screen, rose-gold accents on the stainless-steel rectangular case, instantly-changeable watch faces in more than 100 combinations and a high-quality Italian leather strap, this watch looks like jewelry. What it does: The watch is powered by Android Wear and uses Google Now, so you’ll get email, text and social media notifications from your phone and be able to reply by speaking into the microphone. A wellness app will monitor the steps you take, and there’s a heart monitor, too. Additional apps will unlock your phone and allow you to mute it by covering it with your hand. Compatibility: Android. Price: $199.99. When and where to get it: Available now at Bestbuy.com and Google Play.
Taskmaster: LG G Watch R
The LG G Watch R routinely gets praised for its two-day battery life and its big, easy-to-read face. An upgrade, the LG G Watch R2 with 4G connectivity, is rumored to be on the horizon. How it looks: This is a big, stainless-steel watch with P-OLED high-resolution display. You can customize the look by choosing a face, and switch out the straps with any standard 22mm option. What it does: Say “OK, Google” to activate Google Now, your watch will take on myriad tasks for you — sending texts and emails, searching the Web, taking a note or setting an alarm. The watch will show you all your smartphone notifications, keep up with your schedule, give you directions, control your phone’s music and more. There’s also a heart-rate sensor on the back of the case; use G Fitness and Google Fit to analyze your fitness data. Compatibility: Android. Price: $299. When and where to get it: Widely available online, including on Amazon.com and Google Play; also at select Best Buy stores (see Bestbuy.com).
Bring on the Bands: Moto 360
Experts debate the merits of the Moto 360 vs. the LG G Watch R. Both are fabulous Android smartwatches with heaps of functionality. A Moto 360 2 is rumored for 2015. How it looks: This is a big, stainless-steel watch. Choose from a variety of faces and bands, including metals, leathers and two new slim bands, including one in a fashion-forward light champagne color. What it does:The Moto 360 syncs with your Android smartphone, has the Android Wear operating system and uses Google Now technology. You’ll have access to plenty of smartphone functions: send emails and texts, ask Google to give you directions, keep up with Facebook and much more. The watch has a mic, but no speaker. Moto Body features a built-in activity tracker and heart-rate monitor so you can analyze your activities and workouts. Compatibility: Android. Price: $249. When and where to get it: Available at Motorola.com and Bestbuy.com; also at select Best Buy stores (see website).
A Need to Notify: The New Martians
California’s Martian Watches was founded in 2007 and has been a leader in the field of smartwatches that also try to look like watches and not computer devices. In 2014, it launched the Martian Notifier. For 2015, it is taking its watches a step further in the fashion direction, with four new models. How it looks: Martian watches look like regular analog watches because they are — and the watch itself runs on a regular watch battery. But the watches also have smart features that run on a separate lithium ion battery — so if you forget to charge it, your watch will keep working. Notifications are shown on a small screen on the watch face. The newest watches have four distinct styles. The Aviator has the look of a round, old-fashioned pilot’s watch. The Electra is pure white and a bit sporty. The Commander is bold, with black and white graphics. And the Monarch brings the bling with a crystal-bordered bezel. All have various band options. What it does: Equipped with microphones and speakers, these watches use Voice Command and a customizable vibrating notifications system so you can receive and send messages, make phone calls, send yourself reminders and do much more with simple verbal commands. The watches also have a “phone leash” feature that reminds you if your phone wanders out of Bluetooth distance. A remote camera mode lets you use your phone to take pictures without having to hold the phone, and the watch lets you control your phone’s tunes, too. Compatibility: iOS and Android. Price: $200-$400. When and where to get them: Summer 2015; see Martianwatches.com for a list of online and local stores.