The Apple Watch hits stores in just two weeks, and based on the reviews, it’s both an impressive bit of modern technology and a beautiful piece of jewelry. But the Apple Watch isn’t the only smartwatch on the market.
Apple’s nemesis, Google, already has its own watch operating system, Android Wear, and companies like Samsung, LG, and Motorola make smartwatches that run it. What’s more, these Google watches are less expensive than the Apple Watch and come in a host of different styles.
The smartwatch wars are going hot. So how do the armies compare?
The Apple Watch isn’t just another gadget, it’s a statement piece, and as such Apple made sure that its latest creation looked as good as classic timepieces that have come before it. Wrapped in your choice of aluminum, steel, or gold, the square Apple Watch comes in two sizes: 38 mm for those slight of wrist and 42 mm for those with larger wrists.
It looks great in either size, and some of the optional bands for it are both great-looking and mechanical marvels. The Apple Watch is an absolute beauty.
Unlike the Apple Watch, which is rectangular, you can get a round Android watch if you want. Or a rectangle. But of the multiple Android Wear watches on the market, only two, the Motorola Moto 360 and the Huawei Watch, are truly attractive. Many of the other Android Wear watches look more like nerd toys than fashion accessories.
The Apple Watch’s face serves as its home screen, while a secondary apps page lets you sort through your various watch apps. To navigate the Apple Watch, you use its touchscreen, a home button, and the digital crown — a tiny knob on its right side. And while the interface feels fluid, all of the tapping, swiping, turning, and pressing can get a bit confusing.
Swiping up from the bottom of the watch’s screen pulls up your customizable Glances widgets, which include things like calendar, fitness, and weather apps. Swiping down from the top of the screen opens your notifications. You can also change your Apple Watch settings from the Apple Watch app on your iPhone.
To save battery life, the Apple Watch’s display stays off when you aren’t looking at it. Lifting the watch up or touching the display automatically activates it.
Google’s Android Wear takes its design cues from the company’s card-style Google Now interface. Every time you receive an alert on your phone, a related card pops up on your Android Wear watch. Cards can be dismissed or interacted with on a limited basis. Many times, the cards will ask if you’d like to open their parent apps on your smartphone, which seems to defeat the purpose of using a smartwatch in the first place.
Unlike the Apple Watch, Android Wear watches rely on touchscreen interactions, no digital crowns here. As such, the interface is a bit less confusing for first-time users to navigate. Still, apps are fairly difficult to find in Android Wear, as they are buried within the settings page rather than immediately available as they are with the Apple Watch.
Android Wear watch screens can also be kept on all day, albeit in a dimmed state. Like the Apple Watch, Android Wear watches come to life when you lift them to your face, though they are a bit less responsive than Apple’s watch.
Notifications received by the Apple Watch take up the whole screen. Afterward, you can scroll through your prior notifications by swiping down from the top of the screen. It’s an intuitive system and essentially the same thing we’ve seen on smartphones for years.
Unfortunately, notifications are Android Wear’s Achilles’ heel. Notifications appear on the OS as cards that you can either dismiss or interact with. The problem, however, is that if you dismiss a notification, you can’t recall it. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
So while the Apple Watch allows you to look back at your previous notifications, Android Wear lets you forget them even if you don’t want to. If you dismiss a notification by accident, tough luck.
Perhaps the biggest concern regarding the Apple Watch is its battery. Apple pegs the watch’s battery life at about 18 hours. That means you’ll have to recharge the Apple Watch every night. Sure, you’re already charging your iPhone every night, but that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to have to plug in another gadget whenever you hit the sack. It also means you can’t use it as a sleep tracker.
The Apple Watch’s battery life could also be an issue if you happen to use it more than usual in a particular day, as you could be left with a dead watch before your day is over.
If you’re going to bash the Apple Watch for its short battery life, then you’re going to have to hit Android Wear watches for having the same problem. That’s because most Android Wear watches’ batteries last about as long as the Apple Watch batteries do. Depending on how much you use them and what model you’re using, some Android Wear watches can outlast the Apple Watch, but you’ll still have to recharge them every night.
One of the biggest features of the Apple Watch is its fitness-tracking capability. Using the watch, you can monitor how active you’ve been during the day, how many calories you’ve burned, and how often you got out of your seat to move around.
The Apple Watch can also provide you with new workout goals each week to help ensure that you stay on track. You can also receive progress updates on your workouts, check your previous workout records, and view your workout summary. There’s also a heart rate sensor and an accelerometer, which helps to better monitor your exercise routine.
Android Wear watches offer many of the same features as the Apple Watch via the Android Fit app. From there, you can set different workout goals, check your activity, and link different apps to your watch.
Some Android Wear watches, like the Sony SmartWatch 3, also come with their own built-in GPS monitors, which can track your run or bike ride, so you can leave your phone at home.
The Apple Watch isn’t even shipping yet, and already there are full-fledged apps available for the Apple Watch. And once you have apps installed, they are easy to get to. On Android Wear, apps are a bit hidden.
On top of that, Android Wear apps are fairly limited in terms of functionality. A good number of them ask you to open their parent apps on your phone, which is annoying.
That said, there are only about 50 apps available for the Apple Watch right now, though that number is expected to rise drastically. Android Wear already has a much larger library of apps, though when it launched, it had just 24.
Selection and styles
The Apple Watch comes in two sizes, 38 mm and 42 mm, and three styles, Watch Sport, Watch, and Watch Edition. Each style is made using a specific metal, too. Watch Sport is made of lightweight aluminum, while Watch is made of steel.
The ultraluxe Watch Edition, meanwhile, is made of 18-karat gold. Apple has also made a variety of bands available for the Watch made of plastic, leather, and steel.
Android Wear watches are made by different manufacturers, each with its own design sensibilities. There’s the circular Motorola Moto 360 and LG G Watch R, as well as the square Sony SmartWatch 3, LG G Watch, and Samsung Gear Live.
Each Android Wear watch is made using different materials, though they predominantly consist of steel and aluminum and feature plastic, leather, or steel bands. You won’t find any Android Wear watches made of 18-karat gold, though.
While there is a greater variety of Android Wear watches to choose from, none of them are as stylish as the Apple Watch.
The least expensive Apple Watch you can buy, the 38 mm Watch Sport, costs a hefty $350. The 42 mm Watch Sport is $400.
The 38 mm midrange Watch will set you back $550, while the 42 mm Watch costs $600. Move up to the Watch Edition, and you could end up paying as much as $17,000. That’s a seriously pricey gadget.
Android Wear watches are far more affordable than the Apple Watch, with most Android watches starting between $199 and $299. That’s a huge price difference.
The Apple Watch and Android Wear both suffer from one major issue, which is that at the moment, there is little reason to actually buy one watch or the other, beyond your own desire to have the hottest gadgets on the market. There’s just nothing here that makes either device an absolute must-have.
What’s more, the Apple Watch requires that you have an iPhone, while Android Wear watches only work with Android smartphones.
That being said, if you’re an Apple fan, you’ll be much happier with your watch than Android fans will be with theirs. Not only is the Apple Watch more attractive than the competition, it simply works better.
In other words, the Apple Watch is officially the smartwatch to beat.