As an unapologetic (wink, wink), self-acknowledged Android aficionado (don’t call me a fanboy), and writer who earns money off Google’s prosperity, I’m practically and almost unconsciously compelled to dislike, scorn and mock Apple.
But oftentimes, Cupertino makes it really hard to hate on them. The iPad Air and Air 2 are gorgeous and their “ecosystem” still makes a lot more sense than Android on a large, 7 inch+ screen. Then you have the iPhone 6 Plus, which is a bit overpriced but otherwise a mighty LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 contender.
Meanwhile, the Apple Watch was expected to similarly blow the competition out of the water. That was one to two years ago, when the first rumors popped up. The waiting suggested something really special would eventually come to light. Only last fall’s introduction and yesterday’s re-introduction events delivered a stink bomb for hardcore iFans.
(Unfashionably) late to the wearable party, the “iWatch” is costly, insipid-looking, and all-around boring. It’s virtually useless without an iPhone, and far from a battery champion. Above all, you can find dozens of superior alternatives everywhere.
Seeking a premium yet cheaper Android-compatible option? Here are seven. And don’t forget the soon-to-be LG Watch Urbane or Huawei Watch. Want a basic activity tracker with stellar autonomy? We have another slew of seven Apple Watch “killers” for you. Finally, in case cross-platform support is what tickles your fancy, we bring you today ten top-shelf wearables boasting both Android and iOS compatibility. This is how it’s done, Apple:
Pebble, Pebble Steel, Pebble Time and Time Steel – the “something for all” alternative
- Standard original version available for $99.99 on Amazon
- First-gen Steel – $190 in black matte; $252 brushed stainless
- Time and Time Steel – coming soon for all; available on Kickstarter at $179 and up
The ones that started it all showed moxie when taking the wraps off the Time/Time Steel pair just days ahead of Apple Watch’s second announcement. And the world rewarded their courage with over $17 million and counting.
But as good-looking the always-on color e-paper display is, you don’t want to write off the OG Pebble and Steel. With full-week energy, retro designs, minimalistic interfaces, iPhone and Android notifications and water protection, they essentially offer all the basics of an intelligent timepiece at a fraction of Apple Watch’s price. Besides, the advanced software on the Time and Time Steel is headed to their predecessors in a matter of months.
Fitbit Surge – the fitness “superwatch” option
Specialized in ultra-low-cost sporting gear, Fitbit pushes the envelope with the Surge, loading it up with everything from GPS location services to a heart rate monitor and sleep quality supervisor functions. Plus, you get a small but respectable monochrome LCD touchscreen, water resistance and up to 7-day battery.
Lastly, Bluetooth 4.0 technology for automatic wireless synching to more than 120 iOS, Android and Windows Phones. And it’s still 100 bucks cheaper than the Apple Watch.
Garmin Vivoactive – the Batman of “superwatches”
You got the Batman metaphor, so don’t even act puzzled. Basically, if the Surge is Superman, the Vivoactive is the “Caped Crusader”. Slicker, with more tricks up its sleeve, it’s this generation’s ultimate fitness hero.
The display is a lot prettier, larger and higher-res, but somehow, Garmin feels comfortable enough to promise up to three-week continuous life. Then there’s obligatory built-in GPS, an amazing interface that keeps various athletic activities separate, and of course, “smart notifications” for contemporary Androids and iPhones.
Wondering what superhero identity we’d give the Apple Watch if these last two are Superman and Batman? Robin, maybe. Or Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet.
Alcatel OneTouch Watch – the “future’s bright” contestant
Our number seven (yes, we’re counting the four Pebbles separately) isn’t out yet, but it’s nigh and too good to ignore, regardless of its creator’s lack of mainstream fame and credibility stateside. Obviously running a rudimentary, untried proprietary OS instead of Android Wear, the One Touch unbelievably aims to bring the big apple and green robot together starting at a measly $150.
That’s almost entry-level activity tracker territory, but for all intents and purposes this is a full-on smartwatch. It tells the time on a beautiful 240 x 204 pix res 1.22-inch IPS panel, it’s round, lightweight and stylish, and features IP67 certification for water and dust resistance, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, a (presumably primitive) heart rate sensor, altimeter, gyroscope and accelerometer.
And for a bit of extra dough ($50 or so), you’ll even be able to pair the handsome gadget with a metal-made band. Nice!
Microsoft Band – the surprise contender
- $200 via online Microsoft Store (currently out of stock)
This is rich. An Android blog trying to plug a Redmond concoction as an Apple replacement device. What can we say, we like to keep an open mind, and in an unforeseen twist, so does MS all of a sudden. With Windows Phone 8.1, plus iOS 7.1 and 8, and Android 4.3 and 4.4 sync compatibility.
Not too shabby, which is also what we can say about the Band’s abundance of sensors – optical heart rate, GPS, ambient light, skin temperature, UV, galvanic skin, accelerometer and gyro. How many do you provide, Apple?
Unfortunately, the Microsoft Band is hardly a battery powerhouse, despite its frugal-looking display and overall basic set of specifications. And the price tag isn’t ideal either. Make it $150, or throw in the towel, MS!
Garmin Forerunner 920XT – the pro athlete’s wet dream
First of all, yes, this baby is costlier than an Apple Watch. And for the typical, geeky smartwatch enthusiast, it’s a bit on the bulky and fugly side. But that’s not really the target audience here. Instead, it’s people who want the most accurate fitness readings and “metrics that matter.”
Speed, distance covered, cadence, power, ascent and descent, you name it, the highest-end Forerunner is there to report it. In a continuous loop up to 720 hours (aka a month), underwater or out in the wild. And yes, it brings smart Android and iOS notifications to your wrist as well.
Martian Notifier – the underdog
Colorful, analog, simplistic and inexpensive, this thing came out of nowhere and, with little to no conventional promotion, it’s now one of the most popular and well-reviewed products in its class on Amazon. Of course, it’s all about expectations with the Notifier. By no means is it an Apple Watch or Moto 360 slayer.
For sub-$100 though, it offers a lot: multi-platform support, honorable battery life, a 1.5-inch OLED screen, customizable vibration patterns, and alerts for incoming calls, text messages, social media posts, news headlines, fitness stats, etc., etc.
Now, who here is thinking of pairing their Android or iPhone with literally anything but the Apple Watch? Have a favorite, or still weighing different options? Did we maybe forget your pick? Sound off below.
- Pebble, Pebble Steel, Pebble Time and Time Steel – the “something for all” alternative
- Fitbit Surge – the fitness “superwatch” option
- Garmin Vivoactive – the Batman of “superwatches”
- Alcatel OneTouch Watch – the “future’s bright” contestant
- Microsoft Band – the surprise contender
- Garmin Forerunner 920XT – the pro athlete’s wet dream
- Martian Notifier – the underdog