Smartwatches Reviewed

Facebook logo Twitter logo

Samsung’s commercials for their new Galaxy Gear “Smart Watch” (www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxynote3-gear/, $299) tell us that the future is here.  After growing up watching Captain Kirk and the Knight Rider talk into their tiny, wristwatch communicators, the day has finally arrived where you too can have a mini phone on your wrist… well, sort of. Here’s what you need to know about the next generation of Smartphone accessories – the Smart Watch.

When I first saw the Smart Watch in concept-form I was intrigued. Who wouldn’t like to leave their phone behind when heading out for a workout or to a concert, without missing important notifications or an emergency phone call? However, these devices work over Bluetooth; they do not contain an independent SIM card. This means that your phone must be in close proximity for the watch to work. Think of them as a secondary display: it will save you the effort of fishing your phone out of your pocket or purse but it won’t let you leave your phone in the car or at home while you head out to have fun phone-free.

our nerds can help you find the right mobile technology!

I have a difficult time imagining that I’d want to have my calls broadcast speaker-phone style to my wrist, subjecting innocent passerby to the uncomfortable “forced eavesdrop” of not just me yelling into the device to be heard over traffic or ambient noise, but the caller’s side of the conversation as well. I’m also troubled by the safety implications of reading notifications and texts on a watch-screen while engaged in activities like driving or bike riding.

However, there’s no denying that there’s a large public desire for these Smart Watches. In a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, almost 69,000 people contributed to raise an impressive $10 million to get the Pebble Smart Watch (https://getpebble.com/, $150) to market. The Pebble connects via Bluetooth with both Android and iPhone smartphones, allowing you to see notifications, texts and emails; get alerted to incoming calls (and answer them, if you choose); control the audio on your phone (change tracks or volume); and interact with any of the 90+ apps that support Pebble (like RunKeeper and the FreeCaddie Golf App, both free).

There’s nothing like a hugely popular crowd-funding campaign and selling more than 250,000 Pebble Smart Watches since they became available in late 2012 to make the major phone manufacturers stand up and take notice. Sony released the first generation of its Smart Watch last year. They named it SmartWatch, presumably to avoid any confusion over what it is. The second generation, SmartWatch 2, is available for pre-order for $199 (http://store.sony.com/smartwatch-2-zid27-SW2ACT/cat-27-catid-Smart-Watch?_t=pfm%3Dsearch) and runs on Android smartphones. It works in much the same way as the Pebble, offering hands-free notifications and calling on your wrist though it also includes pre-installed apps to view Facebook, Twitter and Gmail.

There are rumors of an Apple iWatch coming soon. Tech forecasters predict a 60% likelihood that Apple will release one next year, with recent reports that Apple is currently hiring developers to work through hardware kinks.

Overall, when compared to the Pebble and Sony Smart Watches, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is lacking. It is currently compatible only with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (starting at $299), with support for other Samsung smartphones planned to be released in the coming months. The idea of paying $299 on top of the price of the phone gives me sticker shock, particularly when it only works with Samsung phones. It integrates with very few apps (more are promised soon) and the battery won’t hold out more than a day (the Pebble can go a week between charges).

If you’ve been waiting to channel Star Trek with your phone beaming communications to your wrist, you have plenty of options to choose from.

About The Author: Andrea Andrea Eldridge is CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, a computer repair company that specializes in on-site and online service for homes and businesses. Andrea is the writer of a weekly column, Nerd Chick Adventures in The Record Searchlight. She prepares TV segments for and appears regularly on CBS, CW and FOX on shows such as Good Day Sacramento, More Good Day Portland, and CBS 13 News, offering viewers technology and lifestyle tips. See Andrea in action at callnerds.com/andrea/.