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Best early 2016 Android smartwatches money can buy

The signs were there for a pretty long time, but it wasn’t until the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show kicked off in Las Vegas a few weeks back that we realized how wearables had graduated from experimental companion devices to mainstream-oriented tech headliners.

Model smartwatch

Quick, can you name a tablet introduced at CES that stuck with you and has the potential of selling in more than a couple thousand copies? How about two or three phones? Meanwhile, we bet you immediately recall the Fitbit Blaze, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, HTC HealthBox, Mio Slice, Withings Go, Fossil Q54 Pilot or Razer Nabu Watch.

Granted, we don’t think each of those products will make it in millions of connected homes or on millions of wrists by the end of the year. But even if only one or two strike gold at the global box-office, that means something, given the overall recent rise of the smartwatch, and further forecasted segment growth.

Android-Wear

Besides, the Mobile World Congress approaches, and so, in just a few short months, we might be looking at an entirely different top ten list than the one we’ll lay out as follows:

Huawei Watch – $329 and up

It feels odd to begin one of these roundups, where gadgets are ordered from costliest to cheapest, with a Huawei, since the Chinese OEM generally stands out by offering unbeatable quality – price ratios. But truly, if fashion’s all you care about, the Huawei Watch is your go-to smartwatch.

Huawei Watch

It blends premium scratch-resistant sapphire crystal with cold-forged stainless steel casing, and tops it all off with your choice of leather or steel straps. If money’s not an issue, you can even plate the Android Wear timepiece in rose gold, and both men and women will see their very different thirst for elegance quenched.

Motorola Moto 360 (2nd gen) – $300

Moto 360

Again with the ill-fated flat tire? Come on, Lenovo, there has to be a better, chicer way of masking sensors. Oh, well, at least the 2015 Moto 360 is sold in separate “collections” for gentlemen and ladies, with 300 bucks, for instance, buying you a robust 42mm model for men coated entirely in black, leather band included.

Motorola Moto 360 Sport – $300

Moto 360 Sport

In a nutshell, it’s the same device as the one above, only sportier. At first glance, it’s slightly less physically attractive, but it makes up with a “hybrid” AnyLight display, built-in GPS, and water resistance up to 30 minutes and 3 feet.

Samsung Gear S2 – $290; $349 Classic version

Not quite as stylish as Huawei’s eye-catching Apple Watch “killer”, at least in standard, non-gold or platinum editions, the Gear S2 also doesn’t run Android Wear. But technically, it supports all 4.4 and up smartphones no problem, so aside from minor UI distinctions, it’s the same exact thing.

Samsung Gear S2

It’s ironically not compatible with iPhones however (not yet), and in entry-level configurations, it comes paired with a chintzy plastic band. On the bright side, it’s circular, which is always a good thing, and that rotating bezel ensures easy, intuitive navigation.

Fossil Q Founder – $275

“Classic design meets smart technology.” It’s how the well-known American manufacturer of dumb watches, jewelry, and other fashion accessories promotes its rookie Android Wear effort. The question is just how classic and smart the Q Founder really is?

Fossil Q Founder

On one hand, the design is indeed enticing but not overly flashy, and on the other, you get basic touchscreen functionality, notifications and activity tracking but no GPS capabilities, heart rate monitoring or liquid protection. Bottom line, perhaps a price cut is already in order.

LG Watch Urbane – $239 in pink gold; $249 in silver

LG Watch Urbane

Speaking of discounts, this flamboyant bad boy used to fetch 350 bucks, and now, it feels slightly underwhelming even at less than 250. Don’t get us wrong, it’s still in the top three prettiest Android-supporting smartwatches in the world, but it’s hardly a fitness pro or battery champion.

Only rated at around a day of normal usage between charges, the Urbane continues to shine in the display department, thanks to a perfectly round 1.3-inch 320 x 320 pixels resolution P-OLED.

Pebble Time Round – starting at $230

Pebble Time Round

Launched at $250, the first circular, semi-handsome Pebble was at one point slashed to $200, and currently goes for $230, which is a little steep for such a “bezelicious” smartwatch. Its main claim to fame is a lightweight, skinny construction (28 grams and 7.5mm), while the e-paper screen looks a little cartoonish, but saves battery, letting you aggressively use the Time Round for north of two days on a single charge.

Fitbit Blaze – $200 on pre-order

A new wave pioneer from the leader in fitness wristbands, the Blaze tries hard to copy the Apple Watch without also mimicking its extravagant pricing. Thus, it’s nowhere near as premium-looking and robustly built as the best-selling iOS-compatible wearable, but the form factor, shape and even advertising campaign sure feel familiar.

Fitbit Blaze

Like any Fitbit, the focus is on getting the owner in shape, via guided workouts, all-day, everyday activity and sleep tracking, multi-sport modes for real-time statistic separation, and last but not least, no-chest strap PurePulse heart rate checkups. Such a shame you need to wait until mid-March to have this amazing smartwatch/fitness band crossover device shipped stateside.

Sony SmartWatch 3 – $195

Sony SmartWatch 3

Very recently axed by Google from its official store, this transflective display-sporting wearable remains an Amazon must-buy, as long as you don’t care how it looks on your wrist. Spoiler alert – pretty crappy. Its key strength is a standalone GPS chip, which keeps up with you while disconnected from your handheld, but the 320 x 320 screen is quite sharp too, and the gizmo can easily withstand the occasional splash or light rain.

Also, the SmartWatch 3 should last “up to 2 days of normal use” between charges.

Asus ZenWatch 2 – $129

Asus ZenWatch 2

Why exactly is this Android Wear piece available at such a ridiculously low price? Is it because it’s ugly? Well, it’s not, though we wouldn’t exactly call it beautiful either. Is it because it’s manufactured by Asus? It shouldn’t, since the Taiwanese OEM has been responsible for many Android and Windows hits over the past few years.

Then what the heck is it? We honestly have no idea, so before retailers start catching on, be sure to buy a couple. They provide all the basics and more, including a Gorilla Glass 3-protected 1.63-inch AMOLED panel, built-in Wi-Fi, IP67 water resistance, Google Now cards, notifications, voice actions, “accurate” fitness tracking, and 4GB internal storage space.