Everything You Need To Know About Smartwatches

With the release of the Apple Watch this past April, the once-humble timepiece became an object of tech fetishism the likes of which we haven’t seen in a very long while. Apple’s sleek new gadget has transformed the very idea of what a watch can be, and the market is suddenly flush with devices for which telling time is only the beginning. But where to start? Does form follow function? And is it a worthwhile investment? We’re here to help you navigate this burgeoning category with a survey of the smartwatch.

First, what can a smartwatch do?

Well, plenty as it turns out. Here are a few features you should be aware of...

Pairing: Smartwatches are essentially glorified smartphone accessories at this point. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it allows the watch to take advantage of a lot of established functionality; still, it’s something you should keep in mind when you purchase.

Phone Calls: Many smartwatches allow you to receive and dismiss phone calls -- although, again, in most cases you’ll have to take the call on your paired smartphone.

App Usage: Smartwatches, like smartphones, can run all kinds of different apps made specifically for the smartwatch ecosystem: health, weather, entertainment, navigation, and more.

Voice Commands: Many smartwatches allow you to perform web searches or launch apps using just your voice.

Bio Tracking: Whether it’s counting steps or tracking your heart rate, smartwatches can become a vital part of any fitness regime. In addition to built-in apps, 3rd parties are releasing dynamic new content at an incredible pace, ensuring that whatever you like to do, a smartwatch can help you quantify the benefit.

Ultimately it depends on what’s important to you and, of course, what your budget is, so consider carefully.

A few of our favorite options….

Apple Watch (From $349)
What better place to start than the watch everyone has been waiting for? When Apple announced they were creating a smartwatch, everyone sat up and took notice. And for good reason -- with a history of game-changing devices to their credit, it was easy to assume they’d revolutionize the watch like they did with the phone. So did they do the job? Well, yes and no.

Sure, it’s beautiful and features a lot of great cross-functionality with the ever-popular iPhone. Plus it’s ever growing fitness tracking and functionality will be a huge plus. But for the high cost, you might question the value proposition. It’s missing some key features too. It can’t add new contacts, for instance, and it isn’t GPS-enabled. Still, if you’re comfortable with the Apple ecosystem, can appreciate its beautiful design elements and price isn’t a factor, this is a leading contender.

LG Urbane (From $349)
With a leather and stainless steel aesthetic, the LG Urbane toes the line between classic style and cutting edge tech. It definitely looks like an analog watch, even though it’s powered by Google’s Android Wear mobile operating system. If you’re more familiar with the Android platform, the Urbane delivers more of what you know and love: gesture controls, an insane number of apps and games, voice commands and much more.

The LG Urbane is perhaps best recommended for the person ready for the advanced functionality and app availability of the smartwatch but still enamored of the timeless looks of the analog watch. It lets you take a step into next-gen wearables while maintaining the look and feel of a classic.

Pebble (From $99)
For the cost-conscious buyer looking for a full-featured smartwatch with a price tag that won’t break the bank, consider the original Pebble. With over 6000 apps, tons of faceplate color options, and all the features of the big boys (text and email notifications, calls, fitness tracking, and more), the Pebble is a great way to dip your toe into the world of wearables without fear of buyer's’ remorse. It’s sleek, smart, stylish, and waterproof -- a great way to see if the smartwatch is something you want permanently attached to your wrist. Something else to consider, Pebble’s next evolution, The Pebble Time. After it’s stunning success on Kickstarter we’ll have to see how the yet-to-be-released Time fares against the Apple juggernaut.