Buying a Smartwatch? Here Are the Most Important Features to Consider

We break down the specs you should take note of.

ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

(SPOT.ph) In the last few years, the wearable category of gadgets has exploded along with the enduring ubiquity of smartphones. Among the wearables, the most popular and accessible is the smartwatch. It combines the utility of traditional watches with high-tech features, smartwatches and their users have become inseparable. For those who are just getting their first smartwatch, figuring out the important smartwatch features can be daunting—even for the tech savvy.  

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Here’s what you should consider when buying a new smartwatch:

OS Support

Most smartwatches are designed as companion devices to smartphones. Smartwatches that run Google’s Wear OS work well on Android devices but they also work on iPhones. The same goes with most FitBit, Samsung, Fossil, Garmin, and Huawei smartwatches, which are compatible with both iPhone and Android phones. Depending on the watch model, some features may not be available when used on a particular phone OS. For example, the stress-monitoring feature on the Huawei Watch GT 2 is only available for Android even if it supports iOS. Apple Watches only work with iOS devices. Before purchasing any smartwatch, make sure to research a bit on the compatible devices and supported OS. 

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Battery Life 

No matter how advanced or feature-laden your smartwatch is, it’s just a fancy wrist accessory when it runs out of battery. Next to the OS support, the most important feature to consider is battery life. Because of size constraints, it’s definitely a challenge for smartwatch makers to create devices with a power-packed battery. It’s typical even for the best smartwatches to have a few days or a week or so of battery life. This goes down further when additional smartwatch features are turned on, such as constant notifications, real-time GPS tracking, or health monitoring. After a day or so of normal usage, users can typically gauge what their regular charging cycle should be when it comes to daily smartwatch usage. You can browse for user feedback for specific watch models as well as compare it with stated manufacturer specs on battery life.

Hardware and Display

Unlike smartphones which usually have a slate form factor, smartwatches can come in several hardware configurations. The all-screen watches such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit Versa 2 have an all-digital interface which is not unlike a smartphone. The display can usually be customized and several watch faces can be installed—there are even watch faces that mimic analog time pieces. Some styles even have rotating crowns or buttons on the side. Hybrid watches such as Fossil’s Hybrid series have screens with traditional watch hands on top of it. Like traditional watches, smartwatches can come in square and round casings or something in between. Some smartwatch models are available in several sizes.  

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Sensors

Apart from the usual GPS tracking for logging distance, smartwatches usually have sensors for health monitoring when used for fitness. Built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes enable the watch to track activities, like steps taken and even sleep behavior. An optical heart rate sensor can track resting and active heart rate during exercise. The Apple Watch (starting with Series 4) even has ECG tracking for keeping tabs on your heart rhythm. 

Accessories

Having a healthy choice of accessories for your smartwatch is also an important factor to consider when buying a smartwatch. Not only do the right accessories make your smartwatch stylish enough to wear every day, but they can help improve the durability of the device. Even with normal usage, bands can wear out or need to be swapped depending on your activity. For example, you’d need a silicon strap for sports activities or a leather strap for more casual wear.

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Some smartwatches have universal lugs with specified width which is usually stated in millimeters, for example, 18mm or 22mm. Other watches have proprietary straps that are replaceable with specific models. For popular models such as the Apple Watch, there are adapters that are available that allow the watches to be fitted with standard straps. Add-on cases are optional, which may add to the overall bulk of the watch. You can also opt to install compatible screen and tempered glass protectors since heavy usage may expose your smartwatch to scratches on the screen. 

There’s a reason smartwatches have been called “the ultimate smartphone accessory”—they can make it easier to keep track of messages, calls, or find your way around with GPS. If you know what to look for when shopping around for one, you’re more likely to end up getting the one that suits you best. 

Ed Geronia Jr. is a gaming, technology, and screen writer. He worked previously as a magazine editor and as a co-founder of a mobile technology startup.  He is currently involved in creating immersive virtual reality experiences. Follow him on Twitter @edgeronia. 

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