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Best Android Wear Smartwatches: Play & Pay With These New Devices

Android Wear smartwatches are everywhere. Seriously, walk into any store or go on any website and you’ll find offerings from every major brand.  And there are more to come. From Huawei and Tag Hauer to Casio and ZTE, there is lots more to see in this ever expanding market. Which is good and bad news.

It’s good because it gives you more choices, but it’s not good for the same reason. Too many options can leave you confused and unsure. Never fear: you have my guide to the Best Android Wear Smartwatches. From a rundown of the best devices to a look at Android Wear 2.0, I’ll tell you everything you need to know to make the “smart” choice.

Android Wear 2.0: From Great To Extraordinary

Android users have been waiting forever for an update to their OS system, and the wait is finally over. That’s right, Android Wear 2.0 is launching on 4 new smartwatches and will be hitting existing devices shortly. So, what exactly does this update mean? Well, simply put, it means better functionality and performance from an already great system.

Android Wear 2.0, like Apple’s OS update, targets what smartwatches do best: tracking, notifying and simplifying your life. Among other features, it allows for automatic work out detection, store payments from your wrist, and easier notification access. And there are specific, custom functions depending on the device.  I know, sounds more like the same old same old, but trust me it’s not. The purpose of any good smartwatch is to act like a computer on your wrist, minus your smartphone, and that’s exactly what this new update does! And, iPhone users can now easily sync to an Android smartwatch.

Here’s a look at what to expect:

Phone-Free Apps:

One of the most annoying things about using a smartwatch is having to have your phone nearby for texts, apps, and other functions. Well, that’s about to be a thing of the past. With this update, Google is unveiling hundreds of stand-alone apps that you can access using Wi-Fi. Which means no phone needed to download or access apps. Even better,  iPhone users can download an app directly to their watch, for improved app support.

A New Play Store:

Since this new system is all about untethering you from your phone, it makes sense to have a stand-alone Play Store. Now, you can download the store directly to your device, so you can browse, buy and install right on your wrist.

Face Customization:

Taking its cue from Apple, Android Wear 2.0 gives you advances in face customization, called Complications. With Complications, you can access third-party apps from your screen, like Spotify, and interact with them. Even better, you can quickly swipe between face styles you set up. For instance, you can configure 3 different faces, with particular Complications, and switch between them. Now that’s convenience!

Messaging:

With 2.0, you’ll get a mini keyboard to make typing messages a bit easier. There will also be handwriting recognition, so you can type a single letter or join a few together to make words.

Fitness:

There are lots of improvements in the world of fitness with this update. To start, Google Fit has improved integration, with more individualized stat counting. Also, with new watches like the Moto 360 Sport and the New Balance RunIQ, there is a host of premium fitness features for Android enthusiasts.

Android Pay:

Android Pay means you can use your watch to pay in thousands of stores- no phone or watch needed. Just load your bank card (it’s secure), and you’re ready to go.

The Best Android Wear Smartwatches

As you can see, Android Wear 2.0 is going to make Android-based smartwatches hotter than ever. So, to help you figure out which one to pick, here’s our rundown of the best of the best:

LG  Watch Sport LG Watch Sport Unlocked GSM (Dark Blue)

Big and bold, the new LG Watch Sport is equipped to handle all the Android Wear 2.0 upgrades and provide phenomenal support for LTE Connections and NFC for Android Pay. The large bezel gives this watch a striking design and prime functionality, with a rotating crown and 3-button to access everything.  2 of the 3 buttons can be customized, with the middle button being the main attraction, as it can pull up any screen based on how you touch it. Push it to bring up apps or spin it to see notifications.  As for the band, I’m bummed it’s not interchangeable, but the Thermoplastic Polyurethane material gives a secure fit and looks nice against the face.

Also, it has an ambient light to make it easier to see the screen in any light and an IP68 rating, so you can shower or get caught in the rain. Oh, and there’s a speaker to hear music while you exercise.

But that big size and sporty look is both a curse and a blessing. On the positive side, the larger size makes for a clearer touchscreen display and more room to type. It also allows it to stand up to everyday wear and tear, especially with Gorilla Glass 3 to cover the screen and stainless steel casing.

On the downside, its size makes it suitable mainly for guys, and even then, it’s less than ideal to wear dressed up or to work. But this is a small inconvenience for a watch packed with innovations like GPS and heart rate monitoring and a built-in speaker.

Specifications:
  • .38-inch P-OLED, 480 x 480 pixel display
  • 316L stainless steel
  • Gorilla Glass 3
  • Thermoplastic Polyurethane strap
  • 1.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor
  • 768MB RAM
  • 4GB storage
  • 430mAh battery
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS
  • NFC (for Android Pay)
  • IP68 dust and water resistant
  • Titanium or Dark Blue colors

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LG Watch Style

LG’s other watch offering, this model is the opposite of the Sport, with a simplified design and function meant for no-nonsense users. There is no GPS, speaker, NFC for Android Pay or a heart rate sensor, but what it lacks in components in more than makes up for in style. Slim, light and super comfortable, you can take this one from work to the gym or a night out on the town.

This watch, as the name implies, is all about style. The strap is leather and interchangeable; you can swap it for one of Google’s Mode bands or a traditional strap. And the face is surrounded by a two-tone bezel that’s available in Titanium, silver or rose gold; they’re matte on top and shiny on the sides for an eclectic, fun look. It also has an ambient sensor, like the Sport, for easy reading, even in sunlight.

As for what it can do, there are plenty of great fitness apps, along with Google’s voice-activated assistant. Fair warning, though, the apps take a bit of time to download/respond, which can be frustrating.

Overall the Style, which is dust and water-resistant, is a decent starter watch for under $300.

Specifications
  • 1.2-inch P-OLED, 360 x 360-pixel display
  • 316L stainless steel
  • 1.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor
  • 512MB RAM
  • 4GB storage
  • 240mAh battery
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • IP67 dust and water resistance
  • Silver, titanium, or rose gold colors

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Huawei Watch 2

The Huawei Watch 2 just debuted at  Mobile World Congress 2017 to mixed reviews. This is primarly because of the less than stellar design, both in looks and performance. The fact is, the Huawei Watch 2 is nothing to write home about when you look at it, with its rugged, sporty look made of mostly rubber.

However, looks can be deceiving. It may not be pretty, but compared to the LG’s it’s a step up thanks to a thinner, lighter, and way more comfortable design. This is important seeing as it has 24-hour heart rate monitoring built-in. The band moves with you for a better range of motion, and the traditional watch face has 3 inner circles to show various information. It also has GPS, NFC Android Pay, and Bluetooth, giving it a well-rounded set of features to make it user-friendly.

Where it falters, though, is in its functional design. The bezel, unlike on the LG’s, is just for show: you can’t turn it to scroll through messages or apps. Plus, the screen is significantly smaller; reading notices or stats is annoying at best.

There is also a Huawei Watch 2 Classic version. The main difference is it has LTE capability and a leather band for a bit of a more upscale look.

Specifications
  • Snapdragon Wear 2100
  • 420mAh battery
  • 768MB of RAM
  • 4GB of storage
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth
  • IP68 dust and water resistant
  • 390×390 resolution

Casio WSD-F20:

Another big, substantial smartwatch, the WSD-F20 is an improvement over its predecessor, the WSD-F10. Again, this is a watch, thanks to its prominent size, that looks best on larger wrists and arms (sorry ladies!). What I like most about this offering is its dedication to quality and providing a reliable choice for outdoor enthusiasts. Fitted with GPS and water resistant, it will take users where they want to go and beyond.

It doesn’t apologize or try to look like something it’s not, which is refreshing. Built to military standards, it could pass for an army watch; It’s available in black or orange, there are 3 buttons on the side, along with screws at the top and bottom and a prominent charging terminal. Surprisingly, the orange is the more attractive of the 2.

As for the display, it has a colored LCD touchscreen that is bright and crisp. It’s also ideal for highlighting the satellite view style maps you can download through GPS.  Speaking of GPS, there are some impressive new features due to its inclusion. In addition to being able to download and view maps offline using it, the WSD-F20 also has Location Memory. With this feature, users can place route markers, making for a better running/hiking experience.

Overall, this watch has a lot to offer. The one drawback is the limited battery life with GPS. For those who want to hike or camp, they’ll need to have a charger handy, as the watch will last about a day with GPS enabled

Specifications:
  • 1.32-inch screen with a 320 x 300 resolution
  • GPS (with GLONASS and Michibiki)
  • Wi-Fi
  • 50M water resistance
  • Lithium-ion battery
  • Black or Orange

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New Balance RunIQ:

Anyone who likes to run, jog or bike should consider this strong offering from sports retail giant New Balance.  With an ingenious Strava integration, GPS, and no need for your phone, this watch rivals its more expensive competitors.

New Balance is known for their running shoes, and it shows with the design of this watch. To start, you can keep your phone home while you take off for a run, which is a big selling point. Anyone who has ever tried to run with a phone in their pocket knows what I’m talking about. And with Google Play, you can listen to your music too, sans phone!

Then there’s the GPS and heart rate monitoring. GPS gives users access to maps, split times and more, even in remote areas while heart monitoring provides greater statistical accuracy.

But as good as this all is, it’s the Strava Integration that impressed me. With Strava you can track or analyze runs, challenge others and train with your friends, all from your wrist.  You can also go to tracked cycling or running session, either from the app center or main screen.

And I like it’s subdued, simple style that lets it blend in wherever you are. The band is snug, but flexible, for a custom fit and the AMOLED screen is easy to navigate.

Specifications:
  • 1.39-inch AMOLED display
  • GPS
  • Strava Integration
  • Wi-Fi

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Wearable News

In addition to these watches, there are some other worth noting. The Tag Heuer Connected 2 just hit stores this May. Company CEO Jean-Claude Biver confirmed the news and also let slip there will be a smaller, woman-friendly version as well. We’ll bring you more news and specs as they become available. Also, ZTE and Swarvoski are both releasing smartwatches. No word on when it will debut or any leaked designs to report.

My Guide to the Best Android Wear Smartwatches illustrates the good and the bad of Android Wear that is yet to come. From LG’s duo of high-end watches to the up and coming Casio device, there is lots to see and consider. Android Wear 2.0 is guaranteed to put these watches in high-demand and up their appeal, so choose wisely.

 

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