Long before smartphones arrived to make handsets beautiful
on the inside, phones such as the Motorola Razr and the LG Chocolate tried to
make handsets objects of fashion. That's not an optional requirement for
smartwatches, which will be seeking to displace wrist-wear that for hundreds of
years has been at least as much about fashion as function.
However, just as there isn't one watch brand or model for
everyone, smartwatches will fall along many points in a continuum from high
fashion to high tech. These will range from models barely distinguishable from
today's traditionally styled watches to stuff that looks teleported right out
of a science-fiction movie.
Click through our gallery for a look at how a
number of the current models fit into the "more chic or more geek?"
equation. CNET contributor Ross Rubin's Nerd Factor ratings take you from the smartwatches that are most like the traditional wristwatch to those that are the geekiest.
(The glam shot above shows the Notifier, made by Martian Watches.)
Casio Edifice (Nerd Factor: 1)
Casio, the driving force behind calculator watches (the
multitasking geek-wear of the 1980s), has proceeded with caution after seeing
the smartwatch struggles of big watch brands such as Fossil and Swatch. Its Edifice
includes Bluetooth capability to connect with an app for time-setting and
phone-finding, and that's about it. With such minimal functionality, it's not
surprising the timepiece is virtually indistinguishable from many other Casio
Connectedevice Cookoo and Cogito (Nerd Factor: 2)
Connectedevice has developed an alternative to
power-consuming displays that provide detailed notifications. By embedding a
half-dozen icons around the watch face, it's come up with gadgets that can tell
you what kind of notification you're getting -- but not what the notification
is. For that, you'll have to refer back to the phone. The Cookoo (left) and Cogito
watches can also reach out to your iPhone or Android for tasks such as music
control and remote photo-taking.
Martian Watches Voice Command and Notifier (Nerd Factor: 3)
Like Connectedevice, Martian Watches makes two watch lines;
they're the first in our list to have a digital display, albeit a small
one-liner that shares the face with the watch's analog hands. The Martian Watches
products can receive notifications from a host of iOS or Android apps, and you
can personalize the vibration pattern for different alerts. The Voice Command
watch (left) also includes a microphone for activating Siri.
CNET Reviews checked out the Notifier. You can see what the verdict was here. Our Reviews editors also took a look at another Martian model, the Passport. Read about it here.
Pebble (Nerd Factor: 4)
Even in its upscale Steel version (above), the Kickstarter darling's
chunky buttons belie the fact that the Pebble is a smartwatch. It has a fully
addressable display that uses e-paper technology so it can be read in the
sunlight without too much struggle or the bright distraction of a color LCD (the watch face you see above is completely digital -- those aren't analog hands). The
company has attracted designers responsible for the capable WebOS that once
commanded the HP TouchPad and the even bigger screens of LG TVs, so the Pebble
may have trouble retaining its uncomputery look.
CNET Reviews weighed in on the Pebble here, and CNET's Scott Stein gave a thumbs-up to the Pebble Steel here.
Samsung Gear Live (Nerd Factor: 5)
Like other watches in the inaugural classes of devices
powered by Google's Android Wear OS, Samsung's second Android watch (right) has
display and touch gestures that will draw attention (as with the Pebble,
there are no analog minute, hour or second hands here). The Galaxy Gear
first Android watch -- though an update has since swapped out that
system for the open-source Tizen OS.
The circular screen of Motorola's Android
Wear-powered, all-digital and yet to be released Moto 360 (on the left) may be a lot more
stylish, but it's no less geeky in its core operation.
CNET Reviews' take on the Gear Live is here. And Reviews also has some early thoughts about the Moto 360. Those are here.
Qualcomm Toq (Nerd Factor: 6)
Qualcomm Toq (left) is noteworthy for its widescreen display that uses the company's
Mirasol technology. The display allows easy daylight readability with the
advantage of color and animation. But the high-tech specifications don't end
there. While the Toq has no physical buttons, it has touch sensors built into
the band and supports wireless charging via a case that can also accommodate a
matched set of Bluetooth earbuds. Timex has worked with Qualcomm on the forthcoming Timex Ironman ONE GPS+ fitness smartwatch (right), which brings AT&T cellular connectivity to a watch that incorporates elements of the Toq reference design, such as its Mirasol display.
CNET Reviews checks out the Toq here and the Ironman here.
Samsung Gear 2 (Nerd Factor: 7)
This cousin of the Gear Live is based on Tizen, the
Linux-based successor to a line of operating systems such as MeeGo and Maemo
that have had trouble garnering developer support. So if you want a rich suite
of apps, you may have to code them yourself.
with Tizen, the Samsung Fit is a study in contrasts. Its vertically oriented display with curved glass
can be easy to miss when it's turned off, but its vibrant colors when turned on
will certainly help people notice you; there's nothing else out there that looks quite like it.
While the Gear Neo may look discreet until its display is
activated, there's nothing subtle about the Neptune Pine. It's so aware of its
ungainly appearance that it labels itself "an experiment in mobile
computing." More miniature smartphone than smartphone accessory, the Pine
includes a full implementation of Android on its 2.4-inch display, including a
tiny digital keyboard fit for those whose fingers have evolved toothpick tips.
Rufus Cuff (Nerd Factor: 10)
Why watch when you can do? That might be the motto of the
mammoth Rufus Cuff, which is more like a sci-fi armband than a smartwatch. Like
the Neptune Pine, the Rufus Cuff includes a full version of Android (KitKat)
But dwarfing even the mighty Pine -- with a 3-inch display, front-facing camera
and Wi-Fi -- the Cuff protrudes inward on your arm. In fact, users may struggle
to see the Cuff 's screen if they wear long sleeves. (The screen is shown in the inset image above.)