After a shaky start, Google’s Android Wear is an increasingly mature platform. Much like Android on our phones, the idea behind wear is that it can provide a common operating system across devices from tonnes of different manufacturers; So whether you pick up a Motorola, Samsung or Huawei device, you know that you’ll be able to get the apps that you need.
Recently Google unveiled Android Wear 2.0, which brings a number of new features to the OS. For example, it is updating watches faces to enable users to add ‘complications’ to this default screen. These are essentially little widget what will enable you to view other information at a glance without having to go into a specific app – just like widgets on the Android mobile home screen.
You’ll also be able to reply more easily to messages direct from the watch, with improved handwriting recognition and even the addition of a tiny keyboard (which comes with predictive text). Hopefully as it is powered by Google’s machine learning capabilities, it should be pretty good at making suggestions, to minimize having to jab at the tiny screen with our big fat fingers.
Perhaps the biggest change is that apps will now be able run independent of your phone – meaning that the processing will be done on the Android Wear device itself. This means that you can leave your phone at home if you want to go for a run – and that apps on your watch should hopefully be a little faster too. As part of the chances, Google is also going to support mobile connectivity direct from the watch – so expect to see Android Wear devices that can take a SIM card soon.
But that’s the future. For now, what’s the best Android Wear watches on the market? Read on to find out.
Moto 360 (2015)
This is the one to beat
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.56″ 360 x 330 IPS LCD | Processor: Quad-core 1.2 GHz | Band sizes: 20mm-22mm | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 48h | Charging method: Wireless | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Battery life remains subpar
Flat tire bezel is back
The original Moto 360, released in 2014 quickly earned the praises of users, for packaging up Google’s fledgling OS in some super attractive packaging. And the 2015 edition of the watch builds on this – providing arguably the best Android Wear experience to date.
The watch comes in two different sizes: 42mm and 46mm, and is runs slightly more slickly than its predecessor thanks to the improved processor. The round-screen makes it feel slightly more natural than bolting a square display on to your wrist. The only thing that really feels lacking is GPS support – meaning that it is unable to natively track your journeys.
And one other criticism that has been leveled at the 360 is the battery life – that tends to only go for 48 hours at best. But at least this still means your watch will still be keeping you informed long after your Apple Watch-wearing colleagues have run away to look for a plug socket.
Read the full review: Moto 360 (2015)
Moto 360 Sport
Moto 360 Sport
A sportier take on the 360
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.37″ 360 x 325 IPS LCD | Processor: Quad-core 1.2 GHz | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 24h | Charging method: Wireless | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS
GPS and easy run tracking
Smart screen tech
Poor battery life
Unreliable HR sensor
If the regular Moto 360 is for looking slick when doing business, the 360 Sport is for looking slick when working out. With a rubber strap, you can bind it tightly to your skin, and with an “AnyLight” screen that automatically adjusts for brightness, it’ll keep you updated on your lap-times whether you’re going for a run in the midday sun or just before dawn has broken.
The other big advance is that it is only the second Android Wear watch to have built in GPS – so you can be sure that you runs are recorded accurately, and that you’ll smugly be able to post a map of your run to Facebook, to show how athletic you are. Like its sibling, it also has a heartrate sensor to track your pulse. The only downside is that when you do use GPS, it inevitably will run your battery down rather quickly.
Read the full review: Moto 360 Sport
Asus ZenWatch 2
Asus ZenWatch 2
An improvement over the original
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.63″ 320 x 320 AMOLED | Processor: Quad-core 1.2 GHz | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 48h | Charging method: Magnetic | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Too much bezel
Display is tiny
Asus isn’t an obvious name to associate with Android Wear watches, though with the ZenWatch 2 it has more than earned in place. Available in multiple sizes, it starts cheaper than many rivals – at just US$129 (about £110, AU$179). But it still provides an attractive watch for the price – even if the bezel around the edges of the screen are a little large.
Design-wise, the screen tries to have it both ways on the eternal battle between round and square screens, in this case going for a square screen, but surrounded by a case with rounded corners.
This is also one of the first Android Wear devices to also support iPhones – though obviously functionality is relatively limited, because of Apple’s draconian controls of what functionality it exposes to third party developers.
While it lacks the fitness features of other watches too, if you simply want a solid watch that will alert you to notifications – then the ZenWatch 2.
Read the full review: Asus ZenWatch 2
Tag Heuer Connected
Tag Heuer Connected
When form meets function
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.63″ 360 x 360 LTPS LCD | Processor: Dual-core 1.6 GHz | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 24h | Charging method: Conductive USB | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Top-end internal specs
Well-designed watch faces
Doesn’t quite justify price
Now that smartwatches are a fact of everyday life, luxury watchmakers are worried that they’re on a path to destruction. You only have to look at how the iPhone killed any interest in diamond-covered “luxury” phones – even amongst the filthy rich. So perhaps wisely, Tag Heuer has come out with its own take on the smartwatch – by taking Android Wear and giving up touch of Tag’s class.
Priced from £1,100 (US$1,500, around AU$2,100 – about 5 times as expensive as a normal Android Wear watch), the Tag Heuer Connected won’t be cheap, but will make you look pretty slick at the golf club. The body is made from grade II titanium – the same material with which the company makes it’s traditional watches. It is also fairly chunky at 12.8mm thick (so at least it looks expensive).
The trade-off though appears to be on the inside, where spec-wise the price doesn’t match the performance. Faster, higher resolution devices are available at lower prices. But of course, if you do go for a Moto 360 instead, it won’t have the classic Tag Heuer watchface.
Read the full review: Tag Heuer Connected
Fossil Q Founder
Fossil Q Founder
A slick debut from Fossil
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.63″ 360 x 360 LTPS LCD | Processor: Intel Atom | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 24h | Charging method: Conductive USB | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Quite large and heavy
Flat tire display
Fossil is another traditional watchmaker that has trying to solve the problem of becoming a tech company, before tech companies can fully become watchmakers. So it has come up with the Q Founder Android Wear watch.
Vaguely reminiscent of other high-end round watches like the Moto 360 and Huawei Watch, the Q features a combination brushed and polished metal face – and a plastic back, so that can it can charge wirelessly.
While the screen is lower resolution that some competitors, it is barely noticeable. Perhaps the only annoyance on-screen is the so-called “flat tire” at the bottom, which means the screen isn’t a perfect circle. This is to leave room for the ambient light sensor. Unlike most other rivals too, it has 1GB of RAM instead of 512MB, which should boost performance.
So it certainly has the looks – and the innards look promising too. But at the end of the day, this watch isn’t anything too special.
Read the full review: Fossil Q Founder
Sony Smartwatch 3
Sony SmartWatch 3
A regal and sporty smartwatch
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.6″ 320 x 320 TFT | Processor: Quad-core 1.2 GHz | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 48h | Charging method: Micro USB | IP rating: IP68 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Built in GPS
Not super stylish
Fiddly charging port
All things considered, the Sony Smartwatch 2 was a bit of a disaster for Sony. But the good news is that with the company’s latest hardware update, it has created something rather decent indeed.
The Smartwatch 3 has the increasingly rare distinction of featuring a square, rather than circular display – which depending on your preferences, could be a good thing. It certainly seems to reduce the price, relative to its power, compared to what you’d pay for a round screen.
It was the first Android Wear device to have built in GPS – ideal if you want a device that doubles up as a fitness tracker too. And like Sony’s smartphones it is both dust and waterproof, for if you want to really test it (though yes, this will drain your battery). Another favorite feature is something obvious yet simple. Unlike other smartwatches (such as the Moto 360) which rely on wireless charging, the Smartwatch 3 can be charged up using a normal micro-USB cable. This means that wherever you go, there will probably be a way to give your watch some extra juice if it needs it.
Read the full review: Sony SmartWatch 3
One of the best all-around watches
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.4″ 400 x 400 AMOLED | Processor: Quad-core 1.2 GHz | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 24h | Charging method: Conductive USB | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Premium build and materials
Android Wear 2.0 compatible
So-so battery life
With the Huawei Watch, the Chinese behemoth is very definitely aiming at the top end of the market, as it is priced around £299 (US$349.99, around AU$549). But it does actually go some distance towards earning that price.
The main strength is the screen – which is a 1.4″ AMOLED display, running at 400×400 – one of the highest resolution watches available, ensuring PPI on par with the Apple Watch. Helpfully too, the screen is always on – it will dim after a few seconds of inactivity, but the time will still remain visible. Spec-wise, the watch is slightly less remarkable – with 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 CPU, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage and a 300mAh battery it is rougly on a par with its top-end rivals.
Sadly, despite the premium price the watch doesn’t include GPS, but it does include a heart rate sensor. So if you want a polished, top of the line Android Wear watch – this is probably the one to go for.
Read the full review: Huawei Watch
A fantastic entry-point to Android Wear
Compatibility: Android | Display: 1.63″ 320 x 320 LTPS LCD | Processor: Quad-core 1.2 GHz | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 24h | Charging method: Conductive USB | IP rating: IP55 | Connectivity: Bluetooth
Super affordable now
A slightly older watch still worth a look is the original Asus ZenWatch. Though its successor is now on shelves, if you simply want a competent, and likely cheap Android Wear watch this will do a perfectly serviceable job.
As our original review said, there’s no “killer” selling point – there are watches out there that beat it on every individual metric, but where the ZenWatch is excels is in potential value.
Read the full review: Asus ZenWatch
LG Watch Urbane
LG Watch Urbane
The best smartwatch LG has made yet
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.3″ 320 x 320 P-OLED | Processor: Quad-core 1.2 GHz | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 24h | Charging method: MicroUSB | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Decent battery life
Bulky for some
The Urbane is LG’s attempt at getting classy. While the 360 looks slick and modern, the Urbane looks, well, like you’d expect a watch to look. With a metal design and leather strap, this is perhaps your best bet if you don’t want to look like a nerd (let’s admit it – smartwatches still aren’t quite wholly acceptable.)
Spec-wise the screen is a little smaller than the 360 but the physical size could prove an issue for some – especially if you have small wrists. It also charges over Micro USB, which as mentioned earlier means that it can be easier to charge on the go (the battery is 410mAh, putting in somewhere in the “not the worst… but not the best” bracket).
Ultimately though what the Urbane has going for it is its looks. If you care about the way it looks, there are better hardware options available.
Read the full review: LG Watch Urbane
Moto 360 (2014)
The Android Wear poster child
Compatibility: Android (Full), iPhone (Limited) | Display: 1.56″ 320 x 290 IPS LCD | Processor: 1 GHz | Onboard storage: 4GB | Battery duration: Up to 24h | Charging method: Conductive USB | IP rating: IP67 | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Stylish circular design
Great build quality
Battery life is poor
Yes, the shadow Moto 360 has been cast over this piece – but perhaps rightfully so. The 2014 model, if you can still find it, is still pretty decent – even compared to newer watches. This could be a cheaper means of getting your hands on a nice looking watch with a round screen.
It has a round 1.56″ LCD display, though like its successor contains a small band across the bottom of the screen for an ambient light sensor – so isn’t a perfect circle. It runs at 320×290 and suffers with direct comparisons with OLED screens, but still does the job.
When it came out the 2014 version blitzed what had come before it – from Samsung’s lackluster Gear Live and LG G Watch – and it still stands up today.
Read the full review: Moto 360