Designed to tell time, the wristwatch dates back to the 15th century and was originally meant only for the upper class. With time, the watch also managed to become a fashion accessory. Prices dropped, making it possible for the masses to afford it. Then came the Casio, which changed the way we looked at watches. The Casio Data Bank, it’s first smartwatch, created in the early 1980s allowed you to store your phone book, worked as a calculator and even switched channels on television.
Thus, began the journey of watches from being just a timepiece, to becoming an extended part of all our other mobile devices. There have been several attempts at making a smartwatch, from the Samsung Gear to Casio’s own Bluetooth connected watch that would show a message icon every time you got a text message on your phone. But, with Apple entering the game, the rules have changed. This week we look at an interesting range of watches that has hit the market.
The Apple: (US$ 549 onwards)
CURRENTLY available in a limited number of countries, Apple is changing the way we look at a smart watch. The moment you hold it, you realise the extent of engineering innovation that has gone into making this device. Although rectangular shaped smart watches have been designed before, this is a brilliant new experience. Apple maintains the watch crown and has made it digital, which when pressed gets you to the home screen. A touch on the screen brings up additional controls. Moreover, raising the watch and saying, Hey Siri activates Siri. Though the first version of the watch has some issues, Apple has hit the nail right on its head this time. The watch is an iPod, a fitness tracker with heart-rate measurement, a communication device to send and receive messages, calls and audio recordings and a portal to other apps, all built into one small wrist top device. It even connects to the Apple TV and acts as a remote for connected smart home devices, like opening the smart locks, controlling the smart thermostat etc. Currently it works only with the iPhone. The battery manages to run through the day and the watch comes with a magnetic cable that can be attached to the back to charge it. With various options of straps, designs and finishing, the Apple watch is a must have if you are in the Apple ecosystem.
The Pebble Time: (US$ 199 Onward)
THE Pebble Time is the third generation Pebble, and is coming soon. This is one smartwatch we are seriously looking forward to, and it’s not only because of its price. Pebble has proven with its last two versions that it is on the right track, and with Pebble Time they are now moving to a Colored E-Paper Display, a display that is very similar to the Amazon Kindle. Pebble time allows you to go a full week without having to recharge, making it perfect for those out of station trips. It will be available both in a plastic case as well as a steel case. The Pebble Time has an onboard microphone just like the Moto 360 and the Apple Watch that lets you send voice commands to your phone. The e-paper display is limited to just 64 odd colours and may not be as vibrant as the Moto 360 or the Apple watch. It also lacks a rich ecosystem of apps as the other two have on the line up, but for the price it is worth it.
Martian Notifier: (Rs 3,999 Onwards)
The Martian Notifier is a handsomely designed timepiece, but it is a watch first. With a small display at the bottom and an analog watch at the top, this does not have a full digital display. The watch runs for two years continuously without a recharge with its button cell, while it uses a smaller rechargeable battery that manages the digital display and gives you roughly five days of use before it requires a recharge. The Notifier can’t take voice commands like the Apple Watch or the Moto 360, but the great part is it works both with the Apple iPhone and an Android phone. You can view notifications such as Facebook messages, SMS alerts, calendar alerts, caller ID to see who’s calling, weather alerts and also use the watch as a trigger for your cellphone camera. The Martian Notifier charges using a micro USB cable with the port located under a flap above the crown, though you can’t use just about any micro USB cable as it requires a much longer connector to connect.
Moto 360: (Rs 12,999 Onward)
IF YOU are someone who likes round dials, the Moto 360 will make you swoon. Designed just like the Apple watch, the Moto 360’s round gorilla glass display is beautiful and innovative in its own way. The screen, though not as sharp as the Apple Watch is good enough to be used both as a watch and as a notifier that lets you read your messages and operate your phone. The screen is not flushed and the raised bezel at times reflects too much sunlight especially on a summer day, making it difficult to see what’s on the display. Just like the Apple watch, the Moto 360 also has a crown which on a press takes you to the home screen. Though limited in functionality compared to the Apple watch, the crown adds to the retro appeal of the watch. The Moto 360 works only with Android phones, though there are hacks that will allow you to get notifications off your iPhone to the watch. What we liked about the Moto 360 is it’s wireless charging dock. The Moto 360 also requires a daily charge and at times you need to put it on charging even before the day has ended. However, its innovative design and make, as well as the recent R5000 price drop make it a really interesting gadget to own if you own an Android smartphone.