Wearables is an extensive term when it comes to tech, with options from excellent fitness trackers to things like the Razer Anzu Smart Glasses and so many in between. Along with fitness trackers, smartwatches are the most commonly thought of devices when it comes to wearables, but — what makes a good smartwatch?
Well, for one, it should be well-built so that it can endure what life may throw at it, but that's less of an issue these days. Like the best cheap Android phones, finding a smartwatch with good build quality is becoming much more common. So that leads to the other characteristic that imbues a good smartwatch, and that's experience.
Two of the quintessential traits for a good smartwatch experience are the excellent handling of notifications and app support. Unfortunately, OnePlus, the company that has been making some of the best Android phones for years now, is learning the lesson of how difficult it can be to create an overall good smartwatch. With the release of its first smartwatch in the OnePlus Watch, OnePlus has seemingly nailed requirement number one and has a very well-designed and built piece of hardware. Where the OnePlus Watch fell short at launch was in the overall experience.
Consumer brands of all kinds need to spend some time talking to and listening to their consumers.
The experience of using a smartwatch is driven largely by the software on the device itself. This means that so long as the company that is in control of the smartwatch has the desire to improve it, that experience can improve. In the case of the OnePlus Watch, not only did OnePlus design the watch, but it also created custom software. The benefit to this is that OnePlus has the power to make those changes — and already has to an extent with the first update since launch.
The downside, however, is that unless there is a major overhaul of the software on the OnePlus watch, it's likely to still fail at a key aspect of a good smartwatch experience. I only say this because the software platform OnePlus is using for its smartwatch operating system doesn't do the two most essential traits of a smartwatch well — or at all, in the case of app support.
This doesn't mean that the OnePlus Watch and others like the Amazfit T-Rex Pro that use the same base operating system to run its smartwatches on are bad. If you didn't know better, you might just think that experience is what to expect from a smartwatch. Those watches offer excellent battery life, which can be important to a smartwatch experience.
Smartwatches like the TicWatch Pro 3 that runs Google's Wear OS and the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 running Samsung's Tizen software can offer 3-45 days and 2-3 days respectively per charge. While that doesn't match the 7-10 days that something like the OnePlus Watch can give, both of these watches have far superior notification and app support. Although Wear OS even beats out Tizen in these areas.
If you only want to count steps and track health, get a fitness tracker over a smartwatch.
A smartwatch offers many, if not all, of what a fitness tracker does, plus a lot more. It's very much the case of anything you can do, I can do better when it comes to smartwatches vs. fitness trackers. However, battery life is one area that most fitness trackers will win nearly every time over a smartwatch. What tips the scale for smartwatch wearers is the overall experience offered by them.
Smartwatches allow you the opportunity to leave your phone in your pocket, heck, even leave it at home in some cases like the best smartwatches with LTE. Whether your smartwatch has LTE or not, you have the ability to fully handle the notifications that are on your phone, all from your wrist. This means you know what app it's from, can read all the information in the notification, and respond if you want.
In the case of third-party apps, while the Samsung Galaxy Store lacks both quantity and some key options, these apps allow you to continue some of the functions your phone has onto your wrist. Some of the best Wear OS apps and best Samsung Galaxy smartwatch apps bring apps like your favorite fitness, music, mapping, messaging, and more in a compact version to your smartwatch.
Many factors contribute to a good smartwatch experience. What one person enjoys in a smartwatch may not be the same for another, but once you have had a taste of what a good experience can feel like and how it can benefit you — you may never want to try anything else.
Better apps and notifications
Fossil Gen 5E
Fossil brings the essential Wear OS experience.
For the same price as the OnePlus Watch, Fossil gives you a much more robust system for notifications and apps while still keeping the hardware solid. Yes, I wish it wirelessly charged, but Fossil's screen is easy to read (in indirect light), and it helps me keep my phone in my pocket instead of having to pull it out for every little notification.
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