We saw some great Android and mobile tech at IFA 2013 this week like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and the Sony Xperia Z1. Along with their smartphone compatriots, smartwatches featured quite prominently as well with some expected announcements and some surprises. The main smartwatches that were on show at IFA were the highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy Gear, the Sony SmartWatch 2 and the surprise appearance of the Qualcomm Toq.
We didn’t any mention of Google Nexus smartwatch, or even an iWatch offering from Apple, so it was down to the third-party manufacturers to show what they had in the smartwatch space. In this showdown, we’re going to take a look at those three smartwatches and see which is best, or at the very least, best for you.
Samsung Galaxy Gear
Let’s start with the Galaxy Gear because out of this bunch, it’s most probably the favourite. The Galaxy Gear is definitely the most anticipated smartwatch to date, mainly due to the fact it is being made by the most successful of the smartphone manufacturers to date, and many postulated that the Galaxy Gear would definitely be the creme de la creme of the smartwatch world.
Thankfully, the Galaxy Gear turned out not at all like we feared it was going to, rocking the brushed aluminium that so many in the smartphone world seem to appreciate. Specification-wise, the smartwatch has managed to pack in a 800MHz processor, 4GB internal memory, 512MB RAM, 1.63-inch display as well as a 1.9MP camera as the kicker into a watch’s frame. An engineering marvel to be sure, though the 315mAh battery was less than inspiring; the Galaxy Gear is said to have a battery life of 25 hours with moderate use.
On the face of it, the Galaxy Gear is an attractive package, though weighs in with a $299 USD price tag which is arguably reaching the ceiling of what people are willing to pay for what is essentially a companion device. And after several reports from sources at IFA 2013 who got their hands on the Galaxy Gear, the smartwatch didn’t appear to be as polished as some of Samsung’s other products, which I guess is to be expected given this is its first iteration. Check out engadget’s hands-on with the device:
While I’ve yet to get my hands on a Galaxy Gear, I think it may be suffering classic Samsung ‘featuritis’, the phenomenon the tech community likes to label Samsung’s attempts to shoehorn more features into a device than is generally required. Of course, I’m referring to the 1.9MP camera, which in itself is a really interesting, innovative inclusion for the Galaxy Gear, but is ultimately a gimmick as it can only be used in a very select number of situations (that aren’t illegal or morally incorrect); people who like taking selfies won’t like this smartwatch one bit.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear is due out on September 25th at the price of $299 USD (availability and price my vary depending on where you are in the world).
Sony SmartWatch 2
Moving on to the Sony SmartWatch 2, which was announced way back in June, has lost a bit of its lustre in the last 3 months, particularly as the smartwatch market is now getting a lot crowded. Ironically, had the SmartWatch 2 launched in June, it would have been far and away the best smartwatch available, but we’ll have a look at how it holds up now.
Features for the SmartWatch 2 include a 1.6-inch display, is water-resistant, and boasts the ‘longest battery life for a smartwatch’, likely lasting around 3-4 days. Internal specifications have been kept hush-hush, though it’s definitely less important than smartphone specifications. One touted feature of the SmartWatch 2 is the inclusion of NFC which will allow on-touch pairing with any NFC enabled Android device. Check out CNET’s hands-on with the device last week:
Sony’s obviously gone with a much more traditional smartwatch format, and a much more traditional UI compared to the Galaxy Gear. There’s nothing particularly amazing about the SmartWatch 2; it’s more a necessary evolution of the original SmartWatch and lacks much wow factor, though, if you’re a current user of a smartwatch, this might actually make sense to you. Both the Galaxy Gear and SmartWatch 2 look to have plenty of app support that will give them restricted usage of commonly accessed apps like Facebook and Twitter.
The Sony SmartWatch 2 is scheduled for release by the end of September for between €179-199 (~240USD) (availability and price my vary depending on where you are in the world).
Definitely the biggest smartwatch surprise for us as we weren’t expecting anything from Qualcomm at all, especially not in end-user hardware form, but there it is: the Qualcomm Toq. Qualcomm have openly stated that the Qualcomm Toq sales will strictly be limited, and as one of the boasted features of the Toq is its Mirasol screen, this feels more like a statement from Qualcomm that the Mirasol screen technology is commercially viable. For those who didn’t know, Mirasol is Qualcomm’s proprietary screen technology that shares a lot of technical similarities to e-ink. Much like e-ink, Mirasol is still fully visible in the sun and is extremely low power, and has the bonus ability to show colour as well.
With that extremely low power usage, the Toq is able to remaining on almost constantly for days at a time (no exact number has been quoted so far). The watch will also be able to be charged wirelessly and will be usable with Android phones with Android 4.0.3 or higher. There will also be a premium version of the Toq which comes with wireless earphones so that you can listen to music from the smartwatch. Check out Android Police’s hands-on with the Qualcomm Toq:
You’ll notice that unlike the Galaxy Gear and the SmartWatch 2, the Toq does not run an OS based on Android meaning its app support may be lesser, depending on what you expect from your smartwatch. It’s screen technology and battery-life do make it rather attractive as a smartwatch choice.
The Qualcomm Toq will be available in Q4 this year, for exclusive sale in the United States (sorry, rest of world)
So there you have it: three very different smartwatches with their own pros and cons. Of the three here, we’d have to say that the Qualcomm Toq looks to be the best suited to actually being a watch i.e. being able to be used in all situations and have battery to last, though it’ll be hard to compete with some of the Android enabled functions available to the Galaxy Gear and SmartWatch 2. Though,with smartwatches still rumoured to be coming from LG, Google and Apple, the smartwatch space is surely going to get more crowded and interesting in the near future.
What’s your favourite of this bunch? Let us know which smartwatch is you favourite in the comments.