Wearable tech is fast becoming the next big thing. We’ve seen fitness trackers gain popularity, smart jewelry take off, and even luxury brands start to sit up and take notice. But smartwatches are one of the most popular choices among early adopters of wearable tech. Big names such as Huawei and LG all have products based on Google’s Android Wear smartwatch platform, while Apple is on its own with the Apple Watch.
If you’re ready to strap on a smartwatch, you have a choice between two dominant platforms: Android Wear or the Apple Watch. Which one should you look closely at, and which should you avoid? We’ve compared the specs, features, and designs to help you decide which to get.
|Interface||Touchscreen, depends on manufacturer||Touchscreen, “Digital Crown” dial|
|Voice Control||Yes, via Google Assistant||Yes, via Siri|
|App friendly||Yes, via Google Play||Yes, via Apple App Store|
|Fitness and health monitoring||Yes, via Google Fit||Yes, via Apple Health|
|Heart rate sensor||Depends on manufacturer||Yes|
|Waterproof||Depends on manufacturer||Splash/water resistant to IPX7|
|Smartphone compatibility||Android 4.3+ and iOS 9+||iPhone 5 and later|
When you’re dealing with a smartwatch, design is just as important as functionality. A watch is more than just a timepiece — it’s an accessory.
Both Google and Apple have gone out of their way to ensure their flagship smartwatches bring out the best in design and aesthetics. In Android Wear’s case, devices like the Sony SmartWatch 3 boast a square face. Others like the LG Watch Sport and the classically-styled Fossil Q Founder feature rounded bodies.
Android Wear watches run the gamut in terms of design. Some, like the LG Watch Sport, have Apple Watch-like rotating crowns. Others boast physical keys that launch apps, and other special features, like Casio’s WSD-F20.
While older versions of Android Wear were sometimes awkward to use on a round screens, newer watches like the Huawei Watch 2 Sport ship with Android Wear 2.0, which has been redesigned from the ground up. Rather than having to swipe left or right to navigate menus and select apps, the new interface is a simple, vertical design that focuses on up/down gestures.
Many Android Wear smartwatches provide ample opportunities for customization, from changing the watch face to buying an aftermarket strap. The LG Watch Sport is the exception to the rule — the bands house cellular radios, and so aren’t swappable — but watches like the ZTE Quartz and Huawei Watch Sport 2 can be accessorized to your heart’s content.
The Apple Watch, on the other hand, has a square screen. You can choose from various watch faces, and Apple also has an extensive range of aftermarket wristbands that cater to fashionistas and fitness freaks alike. Each of the Apple Watch models — the Apple Watch Series 2, the Apple Watch Series 1, the Apple Watch Nike+, the Apple Watch Hermès — support a slew of different band and case materials, and come in two sizes: 38mm and 42mm.
The Watch Nike+ model, for instance, has an aluminum case and a soft, flexible sports band, while the Apple Watch Series 2 is available in one of several stainless steel cases with an accompanying band made of metal, leather, and woven nylon. For those who can justify the asking price, the Apple Watch Hermès comes in aged leather and stainless steel.
The design is consistent across the range of Apple Watch models: A square body with rounded edges and a bright little screen. It’s characterized by the digital crown, a clever, functional wheel that adds a touch of flair. It’s often far thinner and slimmer than most of Android Wear’s offerings.