The smartwatch, like the video phone, was an idea that was a long time in the making, but when it arrived, to say we were underwhelmed is to do a disservice to the lack of whelming we had. People in general were appalled and disgusted at the clunky functionality, the awkward fit, and the fact that most of the so-called smart timekeepers didn’t work all that well as regular watches. Like the smart glasses and goggles that science fiction promised us, we found ourselves in a technological dark age, staring at these awful, pricey pieces of blasé hardware and wondering where it all went wrong.
From the ashes of these awful Apple watches and bulky LG Urbane messes rose up the survivors of the flood. Companies late to the game have taken up the mantle and decided they can revive and renew the intelligent watch, and allow it to come of age. Truly slicker, savvier, and wiser than their predecessors, the smartwatch is an idea who is quickly coming of age, as evidenced by these 8 exceptional offerings.
The sequel to Casio’s WSD-F10, the company has again decided to stick with branding as a fitness watch that is best used for the outdoors. Big and loud, it goes along nicely with bright jogging gear, but not quite so much with a button-down business suit. The new features that set it apart from its predecessor are the addition of GPS and offline mapping; aiding campers, hikers, trail runners, and anyone looking to plot a route. Earning a MIL-STD-810 rating, it’s also water resistant to about 150 feet.
Though most smartwatch makers are aiming to please the athletic market, given the slow death of the fitness tracker, Armani Exchange is doing what they do best, and that’s inundate supreme mechanics into a business atmosphere. Though it’s mostly cut for going with a pinstripe suit and being handled around the office, AX knows that executives need good health as well, so the Connected has plenty of monitoring options for reaching exercise goals, staying active, and even playing music or snapping selfies while you do it.
Many of the smartwatches now tend to bear a lot of plastic, nylon, and carbon to go along with their more action-oriented bend. The Huawei doesn’t do that, instead being a big chunk of unapologetic metal for the person who doesn’t want a dainty little gizmo, but still wants the added functionality that a connected wrist-clock can bring. It easily outdistances the competition when it comes to looking like a good watch, and feels far sturdier on the wrist, even if it does err on the side of grandiosity. Stainless steel with a brash AMOLED display that has lots of classic looks to complement the leather strap, power brokers should seek this out. Purchase: $232
Samsung Gear S2
You can get an S3 or S3 Frontier if you’re really devoted to Samsung, but neither item really improves enough on the S2 to warrant the weighty price. With the S2 you get the revolutionary bezel and the brilliant Tizen OS that makes it work so well with Android phones that you’ll never want for connectivity. The face is so brilliantly bright that it is matched only by Apple’s pixel density, which provides incredibly clean, clear looks from any angle, and has the added bonus of being around a while, which has allowed Samsung to update out a lot of the initial bugs. Plus, it will save you a lot of money, particularly if you opt for the Classic make. Purchase: $250
New Balance RunIQ
The sports equipment giant New Balance has decided to start re-branding themselves with higher tech to keep pace with the contemporary athlete. While this seemed like a gimmick at first, the RunIQ with its heart rate monitor, on-board GPS, and music player is clearly seeking to be the only bit of kit you need to wear on your next run. Swimmers weren’t forgotten either, since there’s 5ATM worth of pressure resistance sitting behind that classy AMOLED display. Under the hood, the design was handled in conjunction with Intel, so New Balance wasn’t flying blind, but rather using the brilliance of the processor giant to ensure this was as sound as a robotic pound right from the jump. Purchase: $300
Motorola Moto 360
Versatility is the one thing that lacks in many smartwatches, since they began by trying to look too much like a tiny screen, instead of bearing a resemblance to the timepieces that people actually wear. The 360 starts off by being an excellent watch, with a nice band and a smartly customizeable face that actually looks damn natty when you’re wearing it. Each app is clearly given thought and effort, so they slide in seamlessly, feeling intuitive to use while the body fits on wrists of any size. Even better is the wireless charging stand that is quick, snappy, and the easiest choice for any smartwatch on the market, including the fruity tech giant. If you’re looking for the ideal smart timer for anyone, here it is. Purchase: $360
Apple Watch Series 2
When the first Apple Watch arrived, early adopters snapped it up. A little while later, the secondary market was flooded with these items, because the brand had tried too hard to stick to their guns and make it classy, rather than making it work. Re-mastered with fitness in mind, the second iteration is a huge step forward and upward from the humble, disappointing beginnings. Costly, but bearing a heavy-duty durability, water-resistance, and smarter fitness features than the original, it’s an exceptional buy for those who have the scratch to spare. Purchase: $400
Garmin Fenix 5
Garmin has once again proven to be the smartwatch of choice for the deadly serious athlete who requires a whole survival package along with exceeding their fitness tracker expectations. Their 5 series has three distinct models: The standard 5 that can go a whole day in GPS mode, the 5S which is smaller and more stylized, aimed at women who don’t want the bulk, and the elite 5X which has Wi-Fi wired into the feature set. Each has Garmin’s bombproof durability and all the built-in athletic tracking you could ever hope for. Easily the best GPS watch on the market, the 100 meters of waterproofing, gyroscope, and barometer/altimeter are just Garmin showing off. Purchase: $600-$850