With confirmation from a company exec that Samsung will formally unveil its Galaxy Gear smartwatch in just a few days time, the tech world is whipping itself into a fervor at the thought of what the South Korean electronics giant will unveil.
Likewise, Apple’s much-rumored and never-spotted ‘iWatch’ has been reported to be unveiled as soon as later this year but there’s no guarantee that it actually will be. So let’s take a look at some of the smartwatches you can already buy, some trying to break into the market and some that are just rumors right now.
The Apple iWatch is one of the most rumored products in Apple’s recent history. However, despite all the reports of its development, we still know very little about what it could look like and exact functionality that could be on board. Obviously, we’d expect it to be able to take care of most of the usual second-screen companion features we’d want in a smart watch (notifications, calls, texts, email etc.) but what it will do to go above and beyond other devices on the market already is yet to be seen.
Even the name itself could cause a bit of a problem, as iWatch is already a registered trademark for non-Apple owned companies in the UK and US. That said, Apple has already trademarked the iWatch name in several other countries.
Now leaving rumorville
With one giant (and a couple of smaller) unicorns on the horizon taken care of, it’s time to take a look at efforts from other camps, like the Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects of the world. Some you’ll know, some you may not. Some got funding, and some did not. But they all have one thing in common: they all want to make watches a whole lot smarter.
Before we look at the hopefuls (or soon to be incumbents) of the smartwatch market, we’ll take a quick look at what’s on offer from the bigger players in the market today.
Like Apple, Samsung is said to be getting into the smartwatch space in the future. In fact, the very near future, according to a company exec who let slip that the Galaxy Gear will be given its formal introduction on September 4 at the IFA conference in Berlin.
With only a few days to go until the show kicks off, it won’t be long before we have the full details, but it’s rumored to have a 2.5-inch color display with a 320 x 320 pixel resolution. It’s also said to have a 1.5GHz processor, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0 for connecting to a smartphone.
Interestingly, current rumors suggest that the Gear won’t use a flexible display (as had been previously suggested) and will in fact use Samsung’s own app store to get apps onto the device rather than the standard Google Play store.
Sony Smartwatch 2
While others companies are mostly gearing up to offer their first generation of smartwatch, the confusingly named Smartwatch 2 from Sony will actually be its third effort and will allow all the things you’d expect of a big brand smartwatch, such as the ability to navigate to a destination, make or receive a call, send messages, check email, and all the other things you’d usually pull your phone out of your pocket for.
Pricing is currently unknown, but it’s due to hit shelves worldwide from next month.
i’m Watch | Price today $299 (listed $399)
The ‘i’m Watch’ comes from an Italian company, which means you can expect it to offer a little more in terms of refinement and design chops than some of the other smartwatches on this list. Nonetheless, its attractive hardware and UI design go beyond just good looks to offer all the sort of functionality you could want from a second-screen smartwatch.
As there’s no on-board processing, the i’m Watch connects to your compatible smartphone iOS 4+, Android 4.0+ and BlackBerry 10 – although this loses SMS functionality) via Bluetooth to do things like handle calls, texts and email and to get its connection to the Internet.
Core specs include a 1.54-inch color TFT display with a 240 x 240 pixel resolution and 4GB of on-board storage. This generous hardware does come at a cost though, the i’m Watch weighs around 170 grams.
As it connects to different mobile platforms, the company has created its own app store with “hundreds” of specially built apps ready to be downloaded and put through their paces on the watch.
If Italian design is more your speed, the i’m Watch can be snapped up today for $299, although it’s listed RRP is $100 more than that.
Pebble | Price today – $150
The Pebble is one of the most well-known smartwatches to take the crowdfunding route, and the fact that it blew through its initial Kickstarter goal of $100,000 to reach an astonishing $10.2 million, the first million of which took just 28 hours to reach, accounts in part for why it is so well-known..
Pebble is a smartwatch that will work happily with an Android or iOS-based device (iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, 5 or any iPod Touch with iOS 5 or iOS 6. iOS 5 and iPhone 3GS users will have restricted feature sets. Android devices running OS 2.3 and up) and allows the user to customize the interface, for example, by downloading different watch faces. Naturally, it allows you to control certain phone functions too, such as showing incoming caller ID, providing access to email, displaying SMS message and some social networking functionality.
With Pebble’s site showing 85,000 Pebbles sold/pre-ordered to date, it’s clearly the Kickstarter smartwatch project that others hope to emulate.
Omate TrueSmart | Price today – $199
The Omate TrueSmart is, as it’s name alludes to, a little different from some of the other smartwatches in this list as it is a fully standalone smartwatch that doesn’t rely on Bluetooth pairing to a phone to provide the smart functionality.
Its feature list is no less essential, however. Voice calls, text messaging, social media updates, sports/tracking apps, use as an SOS device, GPS navigation, gesture control, voice control, voice-to-text, weather, music player, world clock functions, calendar alarms, voice notes – all the things you’d expect to find on a device running Android 4.2.
With an on-board processor and other essential hardware – even including a microSIM slot – the Omate really should go above and beyond being a mere companion smartwatch when it hits the streets.
Oh, did we mention it’s also IP67 rated for ingress resistance, which means it’s officially protected from dust and capable of withstanding water immersion between 15 cm and 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. Certainly long enough for the average shower.
However, as well as working as a standalone Android smartwatch, it can also pair via Bluetooth with other smartphones to act as a second screen.
The Kickstarter project still has another 24 days to run (at the time of writing) but has breezed past its initial $100,000 goal. It currently stands at around $380,000 with a stretch goal of $500,000 in place to give all Omate TrueSmart devices a scratch-resistant sapphire crystall glass display. Early backers managed to snap one up for $179 and the first units are expected to ship in November. A developer edition (that ships rooted) is available for the same $199 and will ship from October.
HOT Watch | Price today $159
The HOT Watch, like others here, can pair with almost any smartphone via Bluetooth to carry out basic functionality like calls (including private calls), speakerphone, downloading of contacts and caller ID, as well as messaging features like sending an SMS directly using its E-Ink display.
Pairing it with an Android or iOS device, however, adds extra functionality and app support for things like weather, stocks, calendar, news, music control, phone finder, as well as watch apps (pedometer, note capture, fall detection – which can be used to send an automated text message, calculator) and alarm/timer/stopwatch functionality. There’s also plans for an SDK for custom apps.
It’ll support voice control too and promises to achieve those ‘private calls’ by amplifying the sound from the speaker through your hand.
Currently standing at a little under $540,000, the Kickstarter project has far exceeded its original $100,000 goal with 10 days left to go. The first units are expected to start shipping in December this year, and the lowest level still available to purchase at will set you back $159.
AGENT | Price today – $299
Called the Agent and self-referentially dubbed “the world’s smartest watch”, this smartwatch doesn’t just want to be at the cutting-edge of technology, but also at the cutting edge of style.
With an initial goal of just $100,000, the Agent’s Kickstarter campaign was succesfully funded back in June this year, reaching a touch over $1m by the end.
Where devices like the Omate TrueSmart have attracted a little reservation from some people due to its slightly chunky nature, the Agent promises to be a more understated affair thanks to its partnership with House of Horology. However, that’s not to say that there’s any less under the bonnet, there are in fact two processors, but it does require pairing with a smartphone via Bluetooth for most operations.
While it offers a lot of similar functionality as others in this list, such as notifications, incoming call alerts, motion and light sensors etc., it goes one step further in trying to keep the actual thing up and running by adding Qi standard wireless charging into the mix.
Display-wise it offers a 1.28-inch “Sharp Memory Display” which the company says combines the best aspects of E-paper and LCD displays.
The Agent Kickstarter options are now closed, but you can register for a pre-order due to arrive early next year and expected to cost $299.
MetaWatch Strata | Price today – $179
The MetaWatch Strata is another companion device/second-screen app to pair with your smartphone via Bluetooth, and like many of the others here it offers support for all sorts of communication needs, like messaging or calling. It’ll also play nicely with the big social networks and uses a custom UI that by default shows a number of different notifications at one time, which is handy.
The watch itself isn’t actually new per se, but the company looked to Kickstarter fund the creation of an iOS 6 (and Android) compatible version of the smartwatch.
The display itself is a 0.9-inch (25mm-by-25mm) reflective mirror display (Polymer Network LCD technology), and around the edges of the watch are six hardware buttons for controlling things like music, device navigation and controlling the light.
The company has also open sourced the project, allowing iOS developers to use its SDKs to create their own apps.
With a paltry $100,000 target, it actually finished up earlier this month at around $310,000. If you want to reserve one now you can do so for $179 before taxes or shipping.
Cookoo Smartwatch | Price today – $129
The Cookoo from ConnecteDevice is another Kickstarter-funded smartwatch that connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone. In this case it also comes with its own iOS app to provide functionality and management of the smartwatch features. However, it currently only compatible with iOS 5.x or higher.
Setting out on Kickstarter looking to reach a $150,000 figure back in June 2012, the Cookoo actually ended up attracting pledges totalling more than $305,000 in 45 days. Like others, it shows notifications of reminders, incoming calls, messages, emails and can also be used to find your phone if you’ve misplaced it. As an added bonus, it uses so little power that it has a claimed battery life of one year.
While it’s currently restricted to being an iOS-only watch, there’s hope for future compatibility with other platforms like Android and Windows Phone in the future, as they were a part of the company’s original Kickstarter goals.
While early birds snapped up Cookoo (so-called because the creator was fascinated with Cuckoo clocks as a child) smartwatch for $50 on Kickstarter, you’ll now need to shell out around $129 for your very own.
Vachen Smartwatch | Price today – Unknown
The Vachen (pronounced VAR-CHEN) smartwatch successfully achieved its $100,000 funding goal back in May (beating it by an extra 10 percent at $110,000) and was due to start shipping the first units last month. It also bills itself as a watch with smartphone functionality, rather than as a smartphone that can tell the time, meaning it’ll live or die by whether you like its arguably chunky looking appearance.
Like one or two of the others, the Vachen runs its own version of Android on-board rather than simply relying on hooking up to your phone via Bluetooth and as well as providing the usual communication features, is trying to create an ecosystem for itself by offering mulitple different watchfaces (more than 100 already available) and planning an SDK for developers. Users will also soon be able to upload their own watch face designs, too.
Accounting for some of its solid appearance are the raw hardware specs of the device, which include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a 1.5-inch, 240-by-240 pixel, single touch, color display, accelerometer and a haptic vibrating motor.
While early backers could get in from $169, it’s unclear exactly whether or where any new orders are being taken for the next batch of Vachen smartwatches.
Androidly | Price today – $219
The Androidly smartwatch is the first in this list to be listed on Indiegogo and is also the largest, offering up a 2-inch (320 x 240 pixels) capacitive touchscreen display.
That large screen means the overall size of the device is a not insubstantial 14mm thick and weighs in at 160 grams. However, on the plus side, it does mean there’s room for virtually everything you’d find in your smartphone, including WiFi, SD storage card (8GB included) support up 16GB and a 2-megapixel camera.
Around the outside of the device there is also a pair of hardware buttons on each side for controlling volume (on the left side) and a back and home button on the right-hand side.
Whether or not the Androidly smartwatch appeals to you is likely to depend on whether you were looking for a replacement for your smartphone that you could wear on your wrist, or whether you were looking for a second-screen companion device. If it’s the latter and you were just looking for something that meant you didn’t need to get your phone out of your bag to check for notifications, the overall size of Androidly might put you off.
With funding set to run for a further 23 days, the project has a goal of $100,00 still to reach, with only $1,100 having been pledged so far. Early birds wanting to get in on the action can do so for $219 without a headset or $229 with a headset.
Kreyos Meteor | Price today – $149.95
The Kreyos Meteor smartwatch is another in this list that has already garnered significant media attention for its multiplatform support for voice and gesture controls.
Rather than walk the on-board route, the Kreyos uses the Bluetooth pairing trick to deliver much of its extended functionality and will play happily with iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 devices. This means that it does things like allow you to make and receive calls, send emails and SMS messages and update social networks without touching a button (or the screen) and will also take care of all your activity monitoring tasks thanks to things like a built-in gyroscope and support for the ANT+ standard for supporting other hardware devices like heart monitors.
The funding period for the Kreyos on Indiegogo ended on August 12 with more than 15 times the initial goal amount of $100,000. The first units are set to start shipping from November this year, but if you missed the crowdfunding slots you’ll have to lodge your pre-order via the Kreyos website for $149.95, you can also choose your color too. After November 1 the price will go up to $169.95. All pre-orders through the website will ship on a first-come, first-served basis from January next year.
Martian Smartwatch | Price today – From $249
Martian’s smartwatch Kickstarter campaign is another that came during 2012, seeking to raise $200,0000 of backing in 45 days. It actually managed a not-insubstantial $220,000 putting it an extra 10 percent or so ahead of its target.
The Martian smartwatch goes further than others like the Cookoo smartwatch and allows full voice control of your phone’s features (including things like saying “send a text to” or “call home”) via integration with Google’s voice control on Android and Siri on iOS. Needless to say, it’ll work happily while connected via Bluetooth to either platform and it really does put its main focus on being able to do things just via voice control.
Unlike some other Kickstarter projects, Martian set out to make more than one model of its smartwatch in order to try and maximise the appeal of the device, as a result you can choose between styles called ‘G2G’, ‘Victory’ and ‘Passport’. And also unlike others, it actually includes an analogue watch face. If you want to get your hands on a G2G model, it’ll cost you $249 today, or either of the other models are available priced at $299.
Neptune Pine | Price today – $335
The Neptune Pine is another full smartphone replacement, rather than mere accompanying device. With a large 2.4-inch (320 x 240 pixels) capacitive touchscreen display, Android 4.0 OS, 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and 1.2GHz Snapdragon dual-core processor its spec list really does read more like a mid-range Android smartphone than most of the others here.
As such, there’s a microSIM slot for full quad-band connectivity and it comes in 16GB or 32GB storage options.
It’s also one of the few in this list that will provide access to the Google Play app store and stands a chance of providing a halfway decent Web browsing experience.
Available to pre-order now, the Neptune Pine is due to start shipping in December this year.
Hyetis Crossbow | Price today – £1,200
While most of the smartwatches on this list have kept the cost down as low as possible, and sacrificed some hardware upgrades to do so, the Crossbow from Hyetis takes the luxury approach. Also unlike most others on this list, the crossbow includes a camera. In fact, it puts its emphasis on delivering a good camera experience via a 41-megapixel camera sensor with optical zoom.
But it’s called a smartwatch, not a, err, camerawatch, so expect it to hook up to your phone. The creators plan to support iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8 via Bluetooth.
Its whopping price tag isn’t just the result of the camera tech, the chassis itself is made from Grade 5 titanium and is waterproof up to 250 metres.
Priced at £1,200 for early birds, the Crossbow is only actually available from Hyetis’ website and the first 500 are due to start shipping from December.
The agony of defeat
While there might be a few differences between the smartwatches above, they all have one other thing in common: they all got funded, or at least have not yet failed to be funded.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the efforts that didn’t fare so well, which isn’t to say that the creators have given up – just that they didn’t reach their targets.
Boddie set out with high hopes and an eye on raising $100,000 (that would seem to be the magic figure for many other smartwatch development efforts) but closed up its Indiegogo campaign with just over $3,000 pledged after 25 days.
Not even its obviously long-considered, if slightly long (at 7 minutes), promo video was enough to stir interest in taking Boddie to the next level. Nor was including a quote from Princess Leia on its Indiegogo page.
The iStick Playtime from Dew Motion is set out to be a little different to others as it has been designed not only to add extra functionality to your wrist, but also to endure the rigours of extreme sports or outdoor pursuits.
As a result it offers an E-Ink display and a promise of seven days battery life of a single charge. It also features a flexible strap and a uses a mini joystick to control the operation of the device instead of hardware buttons or an expensive (and battery draining) touchscreen display.
However, before you get too excited, the iStick Playtime fell a long way short of its Indiegogo project goal of $250,000 and only ended up with just under $11,500 pledged. Nonetheless, Dew Motion still has references to it all over its website, so is obviously hoping to still bring it to market at some point.
SmartFitty originally set out looking for $100,000 but raised just 10 percent of that amount during its Indiegogo campaign.
Like many of the others, it promised the usual alerts and iMessage (iOS only, naturally) integration across Android and iOS and things like social media updates. But what made it a little different was its focus on exercise.
It can monitor how many steps you’ve taken, how far you’ve gone, and how many calories you have burned. Not only that, but users can set goals into the watch, and they are then notified when they have reached their goals.
As well as monitoring when you’re active (steps taken, distance travelled, calories burned etc) it was also intended to monitor sleep patterns and cycles.
For a twist in the tale, despite only making $10,000 on Kickstarter, there was some talk of SmartKitty having secured private investment, so it could turn up one day still.
NanoSmart | Price today – $100
The NanoSmart is another example of a company refusing to give up the dream. With an Indiegogo goal of $30,000, the NanoSmart failed to breach the $3,000 mark. Undeterred, the Taiwanese manufacturer WiMe (pronounced ‘Why me’, honestly) went ahead and made them anyway.
Judging from the Indiegogo page it seems early $79 backers received their units, and if you’re interested a quick scour of the Web should find you one for around $100.
Watchson’s Indiegogo campaign was looking for an even less ambitious amount of cash with a goal of just $30,000, but raised just $325 in the 45 days the project was running. Then again, the project page is more of a concept and barely contains a single word, let alone a sentence. Nor is there a video.
While the price was low, at just $40, it probably didn’t help that the smart watch wasn’t so smart either. The Indiegogo project’s comments page reveals that the Watchson wouldn’t actually support apps as the plan was to use a simple ‘if this then that’ trigger for things like notifications, alerts and vibration.
One for the road…
That pretty much rounds off our look at some of the smartwatches that are out there today, but we’ll leave you with one more optimistic Indiegogo project that its creator admits currently only exists as an idea and is hoping to fix the problem of one-handed operation. Right now, while there is a patent filing, there’s isn’t yet a name. With $0 pledged and $100,000 still to go in the next 11 days, it’ll need to pick up pace soon. It’ll also need to convince the world that one-handed operation of a smartwatch is what it needs.
Published August 28, 2013 — 16:49 UTC