Smartwatches

Five of the best: Smartwatches from the pre-Apple Watch era

Is the Apple Watch the only smartwatch that matters? These five wearables have something to say about that (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Is the Apple Watch the only smartwatch that matters? These five wearables have something to say about that (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Pebble Steel (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Pebble Steel (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Asus ZenWatch (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Asus ZenWatch (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
LG G Watch R (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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LG G Watch R (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Samsung Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Samsung Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Moto 360 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Moto 360 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Is the Apple Watch the only smartwatch that matters? These five wearables have something to say about that (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
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Is the Apple Watch the only smartwatch that matters? These five wearables have something to say about that (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

As the Apple Watch goes up for online pre-orders (and in-store showings) around the world, perhaps you're wondering if any of the existing smartwatches are worth a look? We've been following this space closely for the last couple of years, and think these five are your best of the pre-Apple Watch smartwatches.

Moto 360

Moto 360 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Moto 360 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Its less-than-amazing battery life might keep it from being a no-brainer recommendation, but the Android Wear-running Moto 360 still has a huge screen and striking design that stands out from the crowd. Buy one of the versions with a metal band, and you have our pick for the best-looking smartwatch to date.

Android Wear, incidentally, is our pick for the best smartwatch software from this pre-Apple Watch era. As we said in our Android Wear review, the Google Now-based wearable OS has a simple card-based UI, tight Android integration and (by far) the best wearable voice control to this point. Wear runs on three of our five picks.

Moto 360 review

LG G Watch R

LG G Watch R (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
LG G Watch R (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

This (also Android Wear-running) model is going to soon be replaced by the better-looking LG Watch Urbane, but the G Watch R has a couple of advantages over Motorola's watch – with longer battery life and a fully round screen.

LG G Watch R review

Pebble Steel

Pebble Steel (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Pebble Steel (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Not far behind the Moto 360 in the looks department is Pebble Steel. Its user experience is more rudimentary, with no touchscreen, voice control or, hell, color – not to mention it's soon going to be obsolete – but Pebble's enthusiastic development community has Steel transcending the platform's barebones nature.

Pebble Steel review

Asus ZenWatch

Asus ZenWatch (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Asus ZenWatch (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

It could afford to be a little smaller, but the ZenWatch is another great all-around Android Wear watch – with a sharp screen and excellent bang for your buck, at just US$200.

Asus ZenWatch review

Samsung Gear S

Samsung Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)
Samsung Gear S (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

Samsung's latest smartwatch is a little hit-or-miss. On one hand, the Gear S pushes the envelope more aggressively than any of its rivals do – with features like standalone 3G data and the ability to swipe out texts or emails on its virtual keyboard (great for messaging in public, as you can skip voice control).

But on the other hand, it's only compatible with Samsung Galaxy smartphones, and the company also baffled us by leaving out fundamentals like the ability to set reminders or create calendar events. The Gear's Tizen software also has a pretty underwhelming app selection, despite beating Android Wear to the punch by several months.

Gear S review

A new ballgame?

The Apple Watch is going to be the most popular smartwatch to date from Day One, but will it be better than this bunch? Well, some would say "of course," while others would say Apple is now playing follow the leader in everything but public perception.We aren't going to make any assumptions until we put the Apple Watch through extensive paces (stay tuned for that). We do know that, whether or not the Apple Watch marks a big step forward in quality, it's still going to create a big step forward in exposure to these kinds of devices. Expect to see more and more smartwatch releases, advertising and in-store displays in the coming months.

Keep an eye out for Gizmag's coverage of other upcoming watches like the LG Watch Urbane, Pebble Time, Huawei Watch and the inevitable (but still unconfirmed) sequels from Motorola and Samsung.

4 comments
Sergo Kalandadze
Smartwatches from pre-Applewatch era are better then Applewatch.
Manke
A sligthly less "Apple is god" biased article would be marvelous.
Rick Clapp
Excuse me, you forgot a still major player: the Sony Smartwatch 2. Wasn't much to the version three, but the 2 is still my goto Workhorse. I have complete control of my Sony cellphone with it. I can even remotely watch live video from my cellphone on this watch. (eat your heart out 'Q') I can leave my phone somewhere and be within 30 feet, think next conference room, and see everything it sees live. Need an incriminating photo? Hit one button and done. The fun stuff is in addition to all the work apps from looking at MS format docs and such to paying for my coffee at Starbucks from my wrist. I am not planning on any upgrades at this time, as no one is offering everything I get now, in one package.
Dave Weinstein
Funny thing Will, but I hadn't even given the Apple Watch a moments consideration, let alone vote it as the product of the year. There's no denying that some people like the Apple use paradigm and some like the Google way. There absolutely ZERO change that anyone will be breaking ranks with Android to get an Apple Watch. By design, it just won't work with your non-Apple phone. With all that said, even the pro-Apple press had given the Apple Watch a mediocre review. It will sell well to the Apple faithful, but it's not really some life change product (like the iPhone or Android). Writing an article about Androidware watches and biasing the whole thing by inferring they are inferior to Apple's watch just damages your credibility (and Gizmag's) and politicizes Gizmag in the Apple vs. Google holy war.
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