So here we are, just about a year into the first generation of Android Wear smartwatches. I have them all. I've worn them all, some longer than others. And as I've said before it's interesting to see how much better design of the watches became in a very short amount of time, even while the internal hardware stayed consistent.
So let's take a look at the watches that have made my wrist tick (sorry not sorry), and why ...
1. My favorite: The ASUS ZenWatch
The ZenWatch was the first to bring a chrome finish to the game. And while it was a close battle with the likes of the Moto 360, the ZenWatch won out for me for a number of reasons. The first was that it just fit me better. I prefer metal bracelets over leather straps, and the design of the ZenWatch lets it take third-party bracelets better than the 360. (This is the bracelet I'm using.) The body also is very small, so it sits better on my wrist.
The down sides? Not a whole lot. I think other watches have better displays, but the ZenWatch was and remains my favorite, a good mix of form, function and (currently at $199), price.
2. The next favorite: LG Watch Urbane
No. 2 on my list shouldn't be a big surprise (and it's the watch I'm currently wearing). The LG Watch Urbane is the most stylish watch we've got that also looks more like a traditional timepiece. It's a dressed up version of its older brother, the LG G Watch R. I still contend, however, that it does a good job of looking nice, but not too nice. It's the most expensive of the bunch at $350 but definitely brings something different to the table.
I think the P-OLED display LG uses is still the best available in Android watches. The integrated Wifi is a nice option, I suppose, but that's not been a feature I've needed to rely on at all.
And a small but noticeable difference is that LG uses what probably is the easiest of all the chargers, with a pogo-pin setup and a light magnetic hold. And it's small enough to keep a spare on hand and tuck into the pocket of a gear bag.
3. An old favorite: Moto 360
The Moto 360 was one of the first Android Wear watches announced, though it ended up being the third released, behind the original LG G Watch and the Samsung Gear Live — and not until the fall, at that. It was a long wait for the first round Android Wear watch, and the first to use leather that we didn't immediately want to rip off. And a round design quickly established itself as the way to go. It allows for more traditional watch faces and gives the whole smash the feeling that it's a watch and not just a display on your wrist.
Android watches aren't exactly high-powered devices for obvious reasons — there's not a lot of space in there for a battery. But the TI OMAP processor used in the 360 also seemed to struggle a little. Or maybe more than a little. It's definitely noticeable when you use any other watch, so that knocks the 360 back a bit for me. I'd expect that to change in a new model from Motorola. (Assuming there is a new model, that is.) The design of the 360 also made third-party bracelets a little difficult. Officially you're supposed to stick with Motorola's offerings, because of the way the pins meet the body. But I was never really happy with that overall look — the Pebble Steel bracelet on the 360 looked better to me.
Still, though, there's no denying that the 360 is one of the more compelling Android watches, and so it sits at No. 3 on my list.
4. ... and the LG G Watch R
If you had to pick just one watch and wanted a mix of style and performance, I'd definitely include the LG G Watch R in the conversation. It was the first with that excellent P-OLED display, and the first to attempt to look more like a watch than a computer. But it's chunky, and the faux spinning bezel just never did it for me. Still, it's a solid contender, even if I'd recommend the ZenWatch over it because of the $50 price difference. (Some of that, though, is the psychological difference between $199 and $249.)
I didn't really expect to enjoy wearing the G Watch R as much as I did, but that display made up for a lot.
5. Best of the rest ...
That's four down, but still three watches to go. Let's bang 'em out, then:
- Sony SmartWatch 3: Still the only choice if you want to take an Android Wear watch running. The integrated GPS is a nice touch — though it doesn't kick off from a cold start, so you will need a smartphone nearby at first. Combine that with Bluetooth streaming to earbuds and it means you can run with music without having to lug a phone along. Nice.
- Samsung Gear Live: A non-starter for me. Uncomfortable and homely.
- LG G Watch: The first one I wore. It's a display on your wrist. A metal bracelet helped. Guess you had to start somewhere.
And that's it for me. How'd I match up to your favorite Android Wear watches? Let's hear it in the comments.