I'm a fan of wearables and have gotten to the point where I feel something is missing if I don't have a smartwatch or sports watch mounted on my left wrist. Apple entered the market in 2015, Pebble released a few substantial updates, and various manufacturers released more compelling Android Wear watches that now even support the Apple iPhone.
Let's take a look at my current top picks for the 2015 holiday season.
1. Apple Watch
Apple waited to enter the wearable market until the technology was more evolved, which is typical of the company, and ended up releasing the most compelling smartwatch currently available. It's only the first pick if you have an iPhone since the Apple Watch does not work with Android smartphones.
The Apple Watch is extremely well constructed, has long battery life, already has more than 1,300 apps, has an addictive activity tracking system, let's you carry out phone conversations from the watch, provides more text and the ability to interact with messaging than what is provided on Android Wear, supports easy watch face customization, and has a vast accessory market.
The Apple Watch isn't perfect and I imagine we will see some improvements in 2016. As a runner, the one thing I miss in order to leave my iPhone behind is GPS. However, that isn't really essential for a companion smartwatch and recent Android Wear devices also no longer include this technology.
I've spent this year with the $400 46mm Apple Watch Sport and think the Sport model is a compelling option for those looking for a great smartwatch. Android Wear watches have all increased in price this year and are available for about the same price.
Huawei continues to impress me with fantastic smartphones, such as the Google Nexus 6P, and recently launched its first smartwatch. The Huawei Watch has a more classic round watch look and feel than the Apple Watch. People may not even realize you have a smartwatch mounted on your wrist with the leather or metal band Huawei Watch.
The Huawei Watch is powered by the latest version of Android Wear. Huawei includes many attractive and functional watch faces. You can also load up other custom watch faces, just like you can with any Android Wear watch.
The Huawei Watch is priced from $349 to $449, depending on the band and bezel style you select. I took a look at both the leather and metal mesh bands on the Huawei Watch and preferred the supple black leather band. You can read my full review (8.0 rating) on ZDNet.
Check out the CNET review of the Huawei Watch that earned an 7.2 rating.
3. Samsung Gear S2
I have yet to try out the Samsung Gear S2 for myself, but from everything I've read it could prove to challenge for the top spot in smartwatches. I may pick up the T-Mobile version before the holidays, but want the classic style model.
I understand setup and support for third party apps is a bit clunky at the moment so that's why I held it back in third place. Samsung's Gear S2 is powered by Tizen, but at least this model supports all modern Android smartphones. It does not work with iOS devices though so iPhone users can't give the Gear S2 a try.
The Gear S2 is unique with its spinning round bezel. You can use the touchscreen or bezel to navigate around the user interface. It is also launching on US wireless carriers with an integrated SIM card so you can use the Gear S2 as a stand alone smartwatch without your phone having to be connected.
The entry level silicone band Gear S2 is priced at $299.99 while the classic leather one costs $349. Carrier variations depend on the carrier. T-Mobile's Gear S2 costs $359.99 and service is $5 per month.
Kevin loaned me his new Moto 360 at the same time as I was testing the Huawei Watch. I was a major fan of the first generation Moto 360 and think the new model is even better. It has a better processor, longer battery life, and refined style. There is no integrated GPS receiver, but with the leather band options it is not designed for the gym.
One great new feature in this year's model is that you can go to the Moto Maker website and customize the band, bezel, and watch body of your own Moto 360. The Horween leather used in the Moto 360 looks and feels fantastic, easily the best leather band I have ever placed on my wrist. The Moto 360 ranges in price from $299.99 to $449.99, depending on the customization options you select.
The Moto 360 also runs the latest version of Android Wear and works, in limited capacity, with the Apple iPhone. I have had a Moto 360 in my shopping cart several times over the past couple of months, but have yet to pull the trigger and make a purchase.
I backed the first Pebble on Kickstarter and did the same this year for the Pebble Time. The Pebble Time Steel is the higher end model of the Pebble smartwatch, thus earning a ranking higher than the Pebble Time.
Pebble smartwatches are great choices for those who use multiple smartphones or those who bounce between iOS and Android since the Pebble is device agnostic. Pebble has a more focused smartwatch user interface with a focus on the timeline of your life. While there are plenty of apps, its the out-of-the box experience that makes the Pebble compelling.
The Pebble Time interface is efficient and a bit quirky with funny animations and effects. It took me a couple of weeks to get used to it, but it does work well to triage your notifications and that is really the core of what a smartwatch should do.
The Pebble Time Steel is made of stainless steel with steel and leather band options. The display is color E-paper and has a battery life of up to 10 days. It is priced at $249.99 for the leather band and $299.98 for the metal band options, which is less than the Apple Watch and most Android Wear watches.
The Pebble Time has the same user interface and functionality as the Pebble Time Steel, but is constructed of steel and plastic with a silicone band. The battery is a bit smaller with about a week's worth of battery life, which still far exceeds that of the Apple Watch and Android Wear.
I keep going back to wearing my Pebble Time because it works with Android and iOS while offering me the core smartwatch functionality. The Pebble Time is extremely comfortable and I don't even realize it is on most of the time.
The Pebble Time is an affordable option at $199. It's highly water resistant and very visible outside so makes a great watch for the active lifestyle as well.
Check out CNET's review of the Pebble Time (7.8 rating).
7. LG Watch Urbane
LG's Android Wear devices have some of the best displays on a watch. The LG Watch Urbane is a rather large watch with big lugs, but it looks very professional and is great in the office.
I spent a bit of time with the LG Watch Urbane and almost purchased one to go with my LG G4, but other smartwatches launched just afterwards so I just evaluated one for a few weeks. It has a 1.3 inch circular plastic OLED with 320x320 pixels resolution, 410 mAh battery, and 4GB of storage for music.
The LG Watch Urbane is priced at $349 with silver and gold options.
Most smartwatches are quite large and not really a good fit for smaller wrists. The Pebble smartwatches are great for smaller wrists, but the best Android Wear device is likely the Asus ZenWatch 2.
The Asus ZenWatch 2 is one of the smartwatches that I haven't tried out myself, but I understand people are pleased with the size and functionality. It is priced rather low at a starting price of $149.99.
The Asus ZenWatch 2 has a Gorilla Glass 3 display and comes in two sizes. It has 4GB of internal storage, 512MB of RAM, WiFi Bluetooth, and changeable bands.
The Sony SmartWatch 3 was actually one of my favorite smartwatches for quite a while since it is designed for the active lifestyle and is one of the rare smartwatches to include a GPS receiver. It is an older model, see my review (9.0 rating) from last year, but still a decent option today.
Unlike most Android Wear devices today, the Sony SmartWatch 3 does not include an integrated heart rate monitor. It does provide you with a standard microUSB port for charging, which is really handy when you consider all the other watches require a custom charging solution.
Pebble smartwatches always stood out from the pack because of outstanding battery life. While others struggled to get through a day and set 24 hours as the bar, Pebble typically achieved a week's worth of battery life. All that changed with the Pebble Time Round and I just don't get the strategy here.
The Pebble Time Round looks to exist to appeal to those looking for a very thin smartwatch with the great Pebble Time user interface. It's a bit pricey starting at $249.99 and going up to $299.99.
CNET provided a hands-on look at the new Pebble Time Round that was just announced a couple weeks ago.
Smartwatches have come a long way in 2015 and this is the first year there has actually been enough to have a top 10 list. There are still more options available too so feel free to chime in if you have another favorite.
Wearables are still not being adopted widely by the masses, but with more options, more features, and more competitive pricing I am starting to see more on the wrists of my daily commuters.