Connected watches – or smartwatches – are now an integral part of our daily lives. True extensions of our loyal smartphones, these high-tech toxicants are more and more sophisticated, manufacturers competing in ingenuity to stand out.
From sports-centric models to Wear OS-powered utility watches to hybrids, the choice is incredibly wide. We are even witnessing the emergence of new technologies such as solar charging at Garmin or the double screen at Mobvoi. Anything goes to create the perfect smartwatch that is both elegant and enduring.
If the perfect model does not yet exist, there is already plenty to indulge yourself with the plethora of smartwatches scouring the market in 2020. With the few tips that follow, you will be clear enough to decide which smartwatch will adorn. your wrist for years to come!
What is a connected watch used for?
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The connected watch is above all an extension of your smartphone. It can also be a health coach, the majority of models on the market carrying a multitude of sensors to follow your constants – heart rate, SpO2, quality of sleep – and to motivate you to play sports. It’s a real little computer that you have on your wrist, the kind of device our ancestors dreamed of in SF books!
Its usefulness, however, depends on your uses. Some choose a smartwatch for its ability to send smartphone notifications directly to the wrist. Others use their smartwatch to track their sporting achievements. Still, others want it all in one device.
Let us not forget, however, the essential role of any watch: to tell the time. Just because smartwatches are packed with features doesn’t mean they shouldn’t achieve the union minimum. The watch has always been considered a jewel. The manufacturers have understood this and are now offering very elegant models, much more pleasing to the eye than the first pavers on the market like the LG G Watch!
Buying a connected watch: what are the criteria to check?
Want to take the plunge but don’t know which smartwatch to choose? Don’t panic, here are some points that will help you find the ideal smartwatch. You just have to take the time to think carefully about your future uses.
Which watch should I choose according to my budget?
Money is the sinews of war. Before any purchase, you will therefore need to define your budget. A connected watch is a high-tech object that costs relatively expensive, it is advisable to choose well so as not to regret anything afterwards …
Less than 50 €
It is tempting for a first try to take an Asian model for less than 50 € on Amazon. However, we do not recommend that you do so. Even if there has been great progress in recent years, these affordable smartwatches will soon disappoint you: poorly translated application, inaccurate sensors, very poor lifespan. In short, nothing foolish, you are more likely to disgust yourself than anything else!
Between 100 and 200 €
Interesting smartwatches start to appear around € 100 / € 120 minimum. We can for example cite the hybrids from Withings, very beautiful toxicants with a nice design for those who seek to get to the point.
Between 200 and 500 €
For more complete smartwatches, count between 200 € and 500 €. It is in this price segment that Apple Watch, Galaxy Watch and other Garmin reign supreme. Safe values, full of features with beautiful screens, neat designs: the best!
500 € and more
Beyond 500 €, we enter the luxury market. You will not have large additional features, but you will benefit from more noble materials such as titanium or gold in the very high end. We can cite watches from Montblanc or Tag Heuer at more than 1000 €. It’s Wear OS in very luxurious cases …
Some examples :
Withings Steel HR Sport: 150 €
Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2: 250 €
Apple Watch Series 5: 450 €
Montblanc Summit 2+ : 1200 €
Which watch to choose according to my use?
Having a budget is good. But above all, you will have to think carefully about your uses. Are you an accomplished athlete who wants a tracker on your wrist? Do you rather want a discreet watch that relays a few notifications and wakes you up in the morning?
It is essential to think carefully about what you plan to do with your future connected watch. Manufacturers tend to focus on one area at a time: sport or utility. Few do-it-all smartwatches. And if they do, they are expensive!
Sports connected watches are often the most affordable. Normal since they do without frills such as voice assistants. Their systems are designed to best track your health, displaying graphs directly on the screen and offering extensive health monitoring tips. In this area, Polar, Sunnto and Garmin are the most famous brands. Their watches can even display on-screen animations to help beginners with fitness movements. Other brands like Fitbit or Samsung offer sports tracking, but it is not as comprehensive.
Some examples :
Garmin Fenix 6X
Sport is not your hobby? Then you will surely prefer a utility smartwatch. In this area, the tech giants are leading the way. Google, Apple and Samsung have been able to develop hyper-complete operating systems for wearables. With their totes, you can control your home automation system from the wrist, listen to music and even have telephone conversations without taking your smartphone out of your pocket!
Note however that whatever model you choose, you will have a bit of the other world. For example, utility watches under Wear OS can also track the heart rate. They just do it a lot less well than their competition cut out for the sport. Conversely, models like the Amazfit T-Rex or the Withings ScanWatch oriented towards health monitoring will also be able to display your notifications, but the operation remains very minimalist. Few watches manage sport and utility functions well.
The choice of the case: between elegance and comfort
Now that you know how you will use your watch and what price you are willing to put on it, let’s get down to business: the look. By “look”, we include everything that corresponds not only to the visual but also to the finishes.
A watch is often seen as a decorative object. It must therefore catch the eye, but also be comfortable to wear daily. The first models of smartwatches on the market were far from like that. We will remember the venerable Pebble all square or the rectangular LG G Watch. Connected watches that at the time looked more like toys than real wrist ornaments.
Luckily, with evolution helping, today’s models are much more attractive. The manufacturers have made great efforts to improve the design of their productions, even highlighting this card more and more regularly to attract amateurs.
Although smartwatches are still bigger than classic watches, they now know how to be discreet. Their thickness is thus contained around 10 mm, their weight very rarely exceeding 80 grams. Most cases on the market are round, with Apple remaining one of the few brands to offer a rectangular look.
Long shunned by manufacturers, women are now also entitled to watches adapted to their morphology with cases of less than 40 mm. Technological development is also tending to regularly reduce the size of smartwatches. Rare are the models to be more than 44 mm, which is already quite substantial.
The design quality has undergone great improvements. Exit the very cheap plastic cases, even the entry-level benefits from quality materials such as aluminium or stainless steel. And when there is plastic, it is usually reinforced to withstand the toughest shocks. In the very high end, you will even be entitled to titanium and reinforced sapphire lenses!
The screen: a choice not to be overlooked
Having a light and comfortable watch is good. But if the screen doesn’t keep up, there’s a good chance your high-tech knockout will end up in the back of a drawer quickly. You’re in luck, there is a huge choice of technology on smartwatches right now.
The most common panels are those that use AMOLED technology. Yes, the same as on high-end Samsung smartphones. Their main asset: superb colours and good brightness. Even smartwatches under € 200 benefit from this type of screen, even if they are not always well mastered in this price range. The biggest flaw of AMOLED remains its high consumption and sometimes a lack of brightness in direct sunlight.
Some manufacturers have thus turned to other technologies. We can for example cite Garmin which makes intensive use of reflective LCD panels. The colours are poorly rendered, but the screen remains visible in direct sunlight. Better still: the very low power consumption allows permanent lighting of the panel. If you are often outside, you may need to look this way.
If not, why not try electronic ink? The great Pebble watches were the first to use this technology that is usually found in e-readers. These smartwatches are unfortunately no longer produced, but we are doing some emulation. Fossil has thus taken over electronic ink for its account for its Hybrid HR models. The panel remains readable even in direct sunlight, but unfortunately, you have to be content with black and white, as well as a very poor refresh rate. On the other hand, E-Ink technology consumes almost nothing.
The choice of the screen will therefore depend on your uses but also your budget. Do not hesitate to test in-store to get an overview of the various current technologies.
Hybrid smartwatch: halfway between tradition and high-tech
When the first smartwatches were launched, there was no real choice as to how it worked: it was 100% tactile. Then one day a brand tried a real game of poker. It was MyKronoz who had just introduced to the market the very first hybrid connected watch equipped with both a touch screen and an analogue system with good old hands. An innovative concept, unfortunately not always well implemented at the time
The idea was however taken up by many manufacturers. We can cite Withings, which only makes hybrid smartwatches. Fossil also has in its catalogue of very beautiful watches which do not embed any screen. These instead use the movement of the hands to tell you about notifications and other data. Garmin is on its side with its Vivomoves, hybrids geared towards sport.
Thanks to their design closer to classic watches, hybrids go everywhere. On the other hand, we lose a lot of comfort in navigation and the connected functions are more limited. The hybrids thus get to the point: a few notifications, basic health monitoring and that are it. No watch of this kind has a GPS. A choice that makes it possible to produce smaller cases, but limits use in sports.
In the end, we recommend hybrid smartwatches for people who want a watch first and foremost for what it does best: stylishly keeping time. Connected functions are very basic and navigation is not always very intuitive on these toxicants halfway between tradition and new technologies.
Autonomy: an essential criterion in choosing your smartwatch
We have almost covered the main criteria to check before buying any smartwatch. But the most important is yet to come. We are of course talking about autonomy. It is the bête noire of all manufacturers and probably the main obstacle to the mass adoption of connected watches.
However, there has been great progress in this area. If the first connected toxicants struggled to last more than a full day, there are now models capable of operating for up to a full year. A real giant leap that still hides large disparities between manufacturers.
The two giants that are Apple and Google thus appear to be bad students. Apple Watch and watches under Wear OS must therefore switch to the charging box almost daily. Next comes Samsung with its TizenOS system, which is lighter and capable of operating for 3 to 5 days depending on the model. Surprisingly, it is the lesser-known brands that manage to offer the most enduring watches. Amazfit, Honor or Huawei have smartwatches that hold the charge for about 14 days.