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Top 10 Android-compatible wearables better than the Apple Watch

One can safely assume the decision to support iPhones on the Android Wear platform didn’t come easy for Google. Always an endorser of diversity and choice, the search giant would love it if its customers only had to pick between hardware products built by sanctioned brands.

Apple Watch vs Android Wear

But iPhones make the mobile world go round, and in order to stop the Apple Watch from rapidly rising to similar popularity levels, the Android architects made a major compromise, indirectly giving their blessing to the arch-rival’s main cash cow.

Cupertino likely accepted the “vote of confidence” without thinking twice, even if the Android Wear’s cross-platform support could soon prove a double-edged sword for Tim Cook & co. Will “iWatch” sales linger, while LG, Motorola, Asus, Huawei and Sony, plus Samsung, Pebble, Microsoft and Fitbit get to see their market share grow?

Android Wear devices

It’s possible, at least if we have a say in this, and you lose your flock instincts, going for the wearable device that objectively looks better, not the one the crowds are recommending. Namely, one of the ten following Android-compatible smartwatches and activity trackers superior to the Apple Watch:

LG Watch Urbane – $278 in silver; $299 pink gold

Until the 2015 Moto 360 and Huawei Watch become widely available stateside, this beaut remains the handsomest of its kind. It’s perfectly round, unlike the boxy, rectangular Apple Watch, breathes strength through every pore, yet also elegance and slimness, courtesy of a 10.9 mm profile, and 66.5 grams weight.

LG Watch Urbane

Water and dust resistant, the Watch Urbane may soon spawn a high-res sequel, though at 320 x 320 pixels, it’s already pretty sharp. And it lasts a while between charges, thanks to a 410 mAh battery.

Motorola Moto 360 (original) – starting at $147

Obviously eclipsed by its recently unveiled follow-up in style, autonomy and especially customization, the 2014 Moto 360 is cheap enough to stay in the limelight a few more months. Even in snazzy cognac leather, light metal and champagne gold metal versions, it sets you back around $150 a pop, which is peanuts compared to the “entry-level” $350 tag of the Apple Watch.

apple-watch-moto-360

Mind you, this is one of the first Android Wear pieces that will offer iPhone synchronization functions, although it should still work better pulling notifications from a Moto X Style or Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+.

Motorola Moto 360 (second-gen)

Only up on pre-order from Lenovo’s daughter company, the polished men and women’s 360 starts at $300, which feels excessive. Next to the OG, that is, not the clearly inferior and still pricier Apple Watch.

Moto 360 2015

With a refined exterior, improved battery, a whole lot of size, case, bezel, band and face choice, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Android Wear single-handedly propelled to the mainstream by the “New” Moto 360.

Huawei Watch – $350 and up

Okay, so it’s not exactly affordable. It actually matches the “iWatch” in terms of retail costs, but with a big, fat fashion advantage. Oh, yes, the $350 flavor is a definite knockout, what with its circular body, robust stainless steel construction, and distinguished black suture leather strap.

Huawei Watch

What does the Apple Watch offer at $350? A fluoroelastomer (read good, old-fashioned, chintzy rubber) band, awkward squarish build, anodized aluminum (i.e. a material short of steel toughness), and let’s not even go into specifications like screen resolution, processing power, or non-iPhone-dependent productivity.

Asus ZenWatch – $150

We know you’re inclined to wait for the second-gen, but at $150, the original feels almost impossible to turn down. Fashionable in its own way, with a curved 2.5D display, fairly chunky bezels, and a rectangular build, the ZenWatch can do plenty of things sans relying on a phone’s brains.

Asus-ZenWatch-Apple-Watch

It counts steps, estimates calories burned, measures your heart rate, tracks your progress in different sporting activities, not to mention it’s water-protected, endowed with a microphone, stereo speakers, and 4GB internal storage space.

Pebble Time – $195

The newest plastic-made Pebble feels like one of our own, although it technically runs a proprietary operating system, backing both Android and iOS before multi-platform compatibility became the norm rather than the exception.

Pebble Time

The simplistic UI allows the Time to keep the lights on for up to seven days, with a fairly rudimentary 64-color e-paper display in tow. Rudimentary but always-on, and despite the lackluster design, you get Gorilla Glass protection, a curved, ergonomic profile, water endurance up to 30 meters, plus all the essential alerts and notifications brought to your wrist.

It’s definitely not for fashionistas, but people perennially on the move, looking to make their connected lives easier, will love it.

Samsung Gear S2

gear-s2-apple-watch

They say it’s going to cost $350 stateside in a Bluetooth and Wi-Fi-limited configuration, or $400 with standalone 3G connectivity. Too rich for your blood? Too Tizen-y, maybe? Keep in mind it supports an entire slew of Android handhelds, not just Samsungs, it’s got a rotating bezel somewhat similar to Apple Watch’s “crown”, a vivid, circular display with minimal borders, and vows to run for at least two days on a single battery charge. It’s almost worth it, huh?

Samsung Gear S – $200 with AT&T contracts; $330 outright

Samsung Gear S

Let’s be honest, the oddly shaped Gear S is uglier, less functional, powerful and bulkier than its successor, only working in combination with a handful of Galaxy gadgets. On the plus side, it can run solo, it’s relatively inexpensive with carrier pacts, and the Super AMOLED panel still wipes the floor with the “Retina” on the Apple Watch, at 2 full inches and 480 x 360 pixels.

Microsoft Band – $138

We know exactly what you’re thinking. A primitive fitness band that trumps a progressive, extravagant smartwatch?! That’s crazy! Well, it is, and… it isn’t, as the primary use case for intelligent timepieces and activity trackers alike remains various fitness and health application.

Microsoft Band vs Apple Watch

So, if that’s what you’re looking for, why not purchase a contraption designed specifically for tracking your vitals, knowing when to push you, and how to convince you to live a better life. Plus, it’s got a screen, it can do messages and emails and notifications, and works smoothly with Androids, iPhones and Windows Phones for up to two days continuously. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds.

Fitbit Charge HR – $143

Fitbit Charge HR

If you’re willing to give up even more of your fancy wrist computer functions, and get a longer-lasting, simpler, super-reliable wireless activity tracking device, you can’t go wrong with a Fitbit. They’re the sales leaders of the market for a reason, unlike Apple, and the Charge HR deservedly rules supreme in Amazon fitness technology demand.

4.1 out of 5 stars based on 8,800+ customer reviews. Words are truly useless.

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.

Top ten Apple Watch alternatives that support both Android and iOS

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.

apple-watch-parody

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.

apple-watch

(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

Pebble

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

Fitbit Surge

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.

Garmin Vivoactive

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.

Alcatel OneTouch Watch

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

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.

Microsoft Band

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.”

Garmin Forerunner 920XT

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.

Martian Notifier

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.

CES 2015 recap: All the new Android-compatible wearables launched in Vegas

It’s over. It’s really, really over. The Consumer Electronics Show effectively wrapped up a couple of days back, even though certain exhibitors will continue to, well, exhibit their spanking new products until Friday, hoping for a last-minute publicity boost.

Best of CES 2015

The bad news? A similar onslaught of sizzling hot fresh Android gear isn’t set to go down again for the next couple of months or so, when everyone from HTC to Sony, LG and perhaps even Samsung are expected to take Barcelona, Spain by storm for the Mobile World Congress.

The good news? As long as you know where to look, and are wise enough to disregard natural born haters, you have quite a lot to take in from Las Vegas. Almost enough to keep you busy until March 2.

Granted, not much happened on the high-end smartphone front, and tablets in general have hit a major slump. But piles of unusually capable budget handhelds and oodles of rudimentary yet solid and affordable fitness trackers saved face for mobile at CES, shining nearly as bright as Intel Broadwell-powered laptops and convertibles.

garmin-fenix3

In the following lines, we’ll try our best to round up all the Android-supporting wearables introduced in Vegas the past few days. Since everyone and their mother had something to showcase in the niche though, we’re afraid we had to handpick the most promising dozen or so new gizmos. And yes, we stuck to conventional activity trackers and smartwatches, ignoring the nutty smart insoles, mouth guards, light bulbs and so on and so forth. Call us conservatory or uptight, but those things are a little too eccentric in our book.

Stainless steel Sony SmartWatch 3

It’s weird, but amid all the new announcements at CES, the wearable that caught our eye the most was a rehashed take on a classic. That said, you really have to wonder why Sony didn’t go the metal route earlier to bring out the very best in the near-flawless SmartWatch 3.

Sony SmartWatch 3 steel

Available for $236 on Amazon in a standard, basic, silicon band-strapped flavor, the timepiece is unlikely to be cheap in the premium steel finish. But boy, is it sexy, and jam-packed with sensors, GPS included, plus Android Wear-running.

Alcatel OneTouch Watch

A stylish, retro-evocative, round-faced gadget with lengthy battery life, all the typical functionality found on a complex smartwatch, and priced at $100 less than Motorola’s Moto 360? Where do we sign up?

Alcatel-OneTouch-Watch

Not so fast, grasshoppers, as Alcatel’s rookie effort in the increasingly competitive market segment snubs Android Wear in favor of a proprietary, thus far unproven OS. The “rookie” part should put you on the alert as well, with build quality a potential worry. All in all though, for $150, it’s probably worth the risk.  

Lenovo Vibe Band

Extreme affordability is what this basic activity tracker has going for it too, plus mind-blowing autonomy, courtesy of a deliciously frugal E Ink display with 296 x 128 pixels resolution. Seven days is six days more than what most smartwatches around can last between charges, and being able to charge just $90 for the privilege is an amazing feat on Lenovo’s part.

Lenovo-Vibe-Band

The fundamental downside? To our knowledge, the Vibe Band is unlikely to ever set foot on American soil, with wide European availability also a stretch.

Garmin Vivoactive, Vivofit 2, Fenix 3 and Epix

My oh my, did this once navigation-focused titan take CES seriously. As does Garmin seem to take the wearable landscape as a whole, with more products rolled out in the niche recently than I can count on the fingers of one hand.

Garmin watches

Though it’s hard, if we were to pick a standout performer from Garmin’s CES 2015 quartet, we’d probably go with the Vivoactive. Priced at $250, this is billed as the ultimate low-cost smartwatch for athletes, and fits the description beautifully.

Don’t get us wrong, the Fenix 3 is in many ways superior to the Vivoactive. But it’s also $500. Meanwhile, the Epix is aimed at extreme outdoors enthusiasts, and the Vivofit 2 is budget-friendly, at $130, and mighty elegant… for the price range.

Razer Nabu X

One word number. 50. As in, $50. The rest almost doesn’t count, and the minimalistic, straightforward design, as well as the long-lasting battery (five to seven days) just make the deal that much sweeter.

razer_nabu_x

And in case you’re wondering, no, there’s no screen in sight, and the number of sensors is skimpy, to say the least. But it’s 50 frigging bucks.

Withings Activité Pop

Never heard of Withings? You don’t know what you’re missing out on. Case in point, a $150 full-featured fitness tracker in smartwatch clothing. Smooth, round, metallic, premium clothing, that is, with playful color added in the mix upon request, and, get this, 8 month+ autonomy.

withings-activite-pop

Of course, that raises the problem of spending extra on spare batteries, but how cool is it to forget about charging cables, docks or whatnot, and still get detailed athletics stats, water resistance and sleep monitoring?

Unfortunately, Android compatibility isn’t offered yet, albeit it should be on the way in a matter of a few months, maybe weeks. The sooner, the better, Withings.

Omate Roma and Racer

Not familiar with Omate either? Maybe you should look around Amazon, and closely explore the $128 X smartwatch, or the $210 3G-capable TrueSmart. Yes, this start-up is beginning to shine, and become one of the greats, with a new $99 Racer targeting unfussy sports addicts, and the pricier Roma going after, well, men.

Omate-Racer-Roma

Men who still love the feel of leather against their skin, and the look of a classical, “conventional” watch. With a number of contemporary upgrades and improvements, full Android support for notification displaying included.

Misfit Swarovski Shine

Ladies, this one goes out to you in a big way. Essentially a jewel-adorned sibling of the standard $75 Shine, the Swarovski line looks exquisite as a watch, necklace or small clip attached to your clothing, breaking new ground in alternative battery-powering techniques with solar charging.

Misfit-Swarovski-Shine

You’d think a charming, cutting-edge ensemble of that nature would force you to break the bank, but amazingly, Misfit plans to price the Swarovski Shine at between $170 and $250, depending on specific capabilities and some add-ons. Wow!

Polar A300

Polar’s back, and this time, it’s showing off a lower-end variant of the omnipotent $315 and up V800 GPS sports watch. GPS support is now missing, and by the looks of it, certain build quality compromises were obligatory.

Polar A300

But at $140, with 24/7 activity tracking, advanced sleep monitoring and convenient health guidance, the A300 is a must-buy for anyone that’s not overly attached to Android Wear or just doesn’t dig “real”, beefy smartwatches in general.

Magellan Echo Fit

This company we’ll admit to not knowing it very well beforehand, but after proper vetting, Magellan checks out. Their OG Echo is vastly praised on Amazon, and costs a measly $94, whereas the just-unveiled Echo Fit is already up for grabs at $129 and up, and the swift turnaround is bound to go a long way.

Magellan Echo Fit

Round and pretty handsome for just 130 greens, this bad boy doesn’t need charging, and works with an entire slew of third-party sports apps. From RunKeeper to MayMapRun and GolfPad, you can throw everything at the Echo Fit, and business will be handled smoothly as butter.

iHealth Edge

Don’t let the name fool you. This $70 economical wearable doesn’t play OS favorites, and shows Android the same respect as iOS. As is often the case when paying so little for a gizmo of this kind, you shouldn’t rely on its data and statistics accuracy too much.

iHealth Edge

But the Edge is a fun, little, affordable fitness tracker with all the essentials, a five to seven days battery life, and automatic sleep monitoring. It’s tough to recommend it over Misfit or Fitbit-built contenders, but it could be the beginning of iHealth’s rise to fame.

That’s a wrap, boys and girls, both for our wearable roundup, and CES 2015 coverage. We wanted to do a tablet recap too, we really did, and perhaps something to cover the hybrid and “others” sections, but there’s simply not enough material to bother. See you all at MWC!

Best Android-supporting fitness trackers you can stuff into a Christmas stocking

If you’ve been following our site closely of late, and decided to sit the Black Friday shopping craze out waiting for Christmas deals and bargains, you should already be able to put together a decent gift list for any gadget enthusiast.

fitness tracker

We’ve rounded up the best Android-compatible smartwatches around for your selecting pleasure, the best business-friendly tablets, as well as the smartphone big-battery champions and top rugged choices in both the handheld and slate sector.

The smartphones, tablets, budget phones and high-end handhelds we recommended for Black Friday remain excellent choices for Christmas too, and the low-cost and 4G LTE equation doesn’t have to be solved by breaking the bank, as we demonstrated here and here.

Still, there’s something missing. A buying guide for fitness nuts who merely want a device to support their hobby, nay raison d’etre. Forget fancy, stylish, smartphone-replacing smartwatches. These guys are all about stats, sleep tracking and health advice, and they couldn’t care less if their wearable piece lets them make or receive voice calls via the wrist.

fitness trackers

Stellar battery life means a week, not a day of continuous use for the target audience of today’s story, and a heart rate monitor is always going to be preferred over a punchy Snapdragon processor. Without further ado, our health enthusiastic friends, here are the seven best activity trackers for your money available today:

7. Garmin Vivofit – $75 without heart rate monitor; $120 with heart rate monitor

Time hasn’t been too kind to the aging Vivofit, which put simply can’t keep up with 2015 wearable standards. Sure, it’s still nice you can bundle the band with an external heart rate monitor, and the combo’s price is hardly prohibitive.

Garmin Vivofit

Then there’s the traditional watch-like battery, which will never get old and could well outlast the actual fitness tracker. It’s the replaceable kind, and Garmin says it can stay on for “more than a year.” Of course, some may prefer recharging the thing rather than paying extra to swap it once it’s dead.

Also, we hardcore Android geeks would really really reheally like it if Garmin stopped shoving its clunky Connect app down our throats. Not to mention at the end of the day, the Vivofit just doesn’t do very much for its $75 and up price. It’s basically a glorified pedometer, and as we’re about to show you, you can get one of those for a lot less.

6. Misfit Flash – available for $25 in black or red

This little guy is a third of Vivofit’s price, and all in all, it offers mostly the same functionality. Granted, heart rate monitoring is nowhere to be found here, neither standard, nor as a paid add-on, but much like the Vivofit, the Flash is a decent, unpretentious, tiny running companion.

Misfit Flash

It also helps you sleep better, and it’s splash-proof, so it’s safe to wear around the pool. Around it, not in the pool, got that? As far as Android support and app compatibility goes, we love Misfit lets you choose between a number of “connected partners”, Runkeeper and MyFitnessPal included.

The minimalistic interface makes it a little difficult for the Flash to be used as a watch, but otherwise, the LED light assortment is a neat, ingenious way of keeping production costs low, yet not cut very many corners in terms of functionality.

5. Basis Peak – $200 on Amazon in black or white

The Peak means business, no question about it, and in many ways, it’s closer to a smartwatch than a basic fitness band. It’s got an LCD screen that’s not too fancy but not rudimentary either, displays notifications from synched Androids, and puts out vibrating alerts for stuff like incoming messages, calls or alarms.

Basis Peak

It’s also pretty impressive in the autonomy department, holding a charge for “up to four days”, and is completely water-resistant, not just splash-proof. It’s perfect for swims, as well as runs and whatever sporting activities you can think of, and it even passively measures your heart rate.

Why is it only #5 then? First and foremost, it’s far too expensive. Second, as it can’t decide whether it’s a smartwatch or fitness band, it looks like an ugly cross between the two. And third, the swipe-based interface is just a little awkward to use and get used to.

4. Fitbit Flex – $94 in slate; $95 in black; $100 in blue or tangerine; $130 in pink

It’s Amazon’s number one best seller in health and personal care products, but while we personally love, love, love the Flex, we can’t put it on our podium. It would be unfair to the three medalists we’ll dissect a little later, as it has started showing its age, similarly to Garmin’s Vivofit.

Fitbit Flex

The Flex’s biggest problem today is it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. A forte. A key selling point. The battery life is decent, at around five days, but not the best. Design-wise, the band is sleek and low-key, but perhaps a little too low-key.

There’s no heart rate monitor, the price is fairly steep, and the Android app showing those detailed statistics you all love so much… well, that’s pretty great, but not enough for more than a spot just under the podium.

3. Misfit Shine – starting at $77

Cheaper than ever before, the Shine is very similar to the Flash, but it’s obviously better-looking, more functional and productive. It’s also waterproof up to 50 meters deep, and can be worn as a necklace or clip, not just as a watch.

Misfit Shine

The minimalistic interface is perhaps too rudimentary for almost 80 bucks, which is why the Shine has to settle for bronze.

2. Jawbone Up 24 – $70 in red; $100 in “onyx” or lemon lime

No display, no problem? Then you can’t do any better than the Up 24. This thing is uber-cheap, extremely easy to use and master, and highly reliable for anything from running to sleep tracking.

Jawbone Up 24

It also comes with perhaps the world’s best companion Android app, as well as Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal and Nest support. Sure, it’s basic, really, really basic, and uses indicator lights that make Misfit’s gizmos look light-years more advanced.

But because it doesn’t waste energy on a screen or complex LED light arrangement, it can outlast pretty much every other rechargeable fitness band out and about, with 7 days of real-life continuous use. A-mazing!

1. Garmin Vivosmart – $170 without heart rate monitor; $200 with heart rate monitor

It’s a matter of personal preference at the end of the day, and it’s perhaps not fair to compare the Vivosmart and Up 24 or Shine. But if you have the extra money, and want the extra functionality, the Vivosmart is hands down better. A lot better.

Its battery holds a single charge for five to seven days, yet you also get a nice OLED touch screen for email, text message, incoming calls, Twitter or Facebook notifications. It sounds like a smartwatch from that standpoint, and it’s part that, but it’s an activity tracker first and foremost.

garmin-vivosmart

And it does the job stupendously, with its optional heart rate monitor, mind-blowing slew of sensors, personalized stats and goals, sleep observing abilities and record-setting water resistance. The review scores the Vivosmart has been garnering recently speak volumes about the near-perfect execution of Garmin’s simple but inspired concept.

A wearable to tick all the essential boxes of a smartwatch, and leave every fitness tracker in the dust with the best activity-monitoring user experience. Nicely done, Garmin.

Best Android-compatible smartwatches available for Christmas

There’s no more denying it. Wearable devices are the next big thing in mobile tech, and it’s just a matter of time until they’ll start competing with “old-fashioned” smartphones for mainstream popularity.

Flinstone smartwatch

We still don’t expect them to have a similar impact on handheld sales as tablets hurt conventional computers, but they will take a bite out of their ancestors’ profitability. No question about it. Granted, for the time being, most smartwatches need phones to work together with them to make them half-productive.

Before long, independently operated timepieces could replace phones altogether and make us all look as cool as James Bond. Or at least as geeky. Never mind, we’re perfectly fine with that, as long as they can hold a charge for a couple of days, get cellular reception anywhere, and also allow us to browse the web with ease.

James Bond watch

Clearly, we’re not quite there yet, but just think how you’ll be able to brag in a few years you owned one of these pioneering gadgets before they were cool. With that in mind, here are the seven best Android-running and Android-compatible smartwatches money can buy today:

7. Samsung Gear Live – available for $199 in black or wine red on Amazon

Part of the first Android Wear wave, the Gear Live hasn’t exactly aged very gracefully and barely makes the top seven now after leading the ranks a measly four months back. That goes to show how rapidly evolving the market is, and how badly the Gear Live needs a discount to survive.

Gear Live

At $199, this thing is simply too ugly and unproductive to qualify for a smart Christmas buy. Put differently, I wouldn’t gift my biggest enemy the Gear Live. The square design is disgusting, the 1.63-inch 320 x 320 pix res screen just… meh, and the battery life underwhelming, at around a day of continuous use, give or take.

But Adrian, if it’s so bad, why is it on the recommended list, albeit in last place? The answer is Android Wear. Also, it’s a Samsung, and that has to count for something.

6. Pebble Steel – $199.99 in black matte or brushed stainless

Yes, we realize the Pebble Steel only slipped one spot since August, and now leads the Gear Live after trailing it by four places. And no, Pebble didn’t roll out a magic software update in the meantime to vastly improve basic functionality.

Pebble Steel

It’s just that, after careful (re) consideration, we’ve come to the conclusion apps aren’t everything. Great, retro, elegant looks and record-setting autonomy trump Android Wear, and a recent $30 price cut also helped the Steel become a steal (pun intended).

To be clear, no, Pebble’s second-gen contender doesn’t run Android Wear, or an OS resembling in any way Android. Still, it’s fully Android compatible, neatly displays notifications from your synched phone, and supports over 1,000 proprietary applications, most of which should come in handy for health nuts.

5. Asus ZenWatch

No one took Asus very seriously when they set out to revolutionize the fledgling smartwatch universe, and sadly, the Taiwanese seem to be treating the ZenWatch as a limited test run. If you can find this baby though at its list price of $200, don’t give it a second thought. Buy it before it’s too late.

ASUS-ZenWatch

It’s not round, but it’s extremely fashionable. It’s useless without a smartphone yet highly productive on the whole, thanks to Android Wear and, surprisingly enough, ZenUI tweaks and add-ons. It’s mostly ho-hum in the battery life department, but makes up for it with performance perfectly on par with the medal winners detailed below.

Overall, it’s the ideal stocking filler… if you can find it.

4. Sony SmartWatch 3 – $275 on Amazon; $250 via Google Play

Let’s say we understand why Asus has trouble building enough ZenWatch copies to go around. But et tu, Sony? You should be skilled in this niche, after all, you helped set it up back in 2012. But for whatever reason, the Sony SmartWatch 3 is really hard to come by.

Sony-Smartwatch-3

Which is a damn shame, because this is Sony’s first Android wearable effort and, while it’s not a looker, it’s packed with features you’re bound to find useful. Built-in GPS, amazing water protection, a design tailor-made for fitness enthusiasts and, oh, did we mention the built-in GPS?

Guess we did, but it’s worth underlining. Now lower the ask to $200, let Amazon and Best Buy sell it, Sony, and it’s game over for Samsung, LG, Motorola and perhaps even Apple. Too bad that’s never going to happen.

3. Samsung Gear S – $200 with AT&T contracts, $300 outright

Futuristic and fully independent, the Gear S is a big step in the right direction, but it’s still awkward to wear and just all-around unattractive. Curves are nice, Sammy, but what we really want are circles. Nope, a smartphone for our wrist won’t do, it’s a classic watch that can work as a smartphone we’re dreaming of.

samsung-gear-s

Adding insult to injury, the Gear S runs Tizen. Frigging, fugly, glitchy, limited Tizen. Obviously, it can pair up with an Android phone, or make and receive voice calls all by itself. The latter is really the only reason we’re (unenthusiastically) recommending the gizmo, which also feels a little pricey and doesn’t impress with stellar battery life.

2. LG G Watch R – starting at $285 on Amazon

This doesn’t happen often, but for once, LG’s architects have eclipsed Samsung’s designer team. By a landslide, the G Watch R is sleeker, more elegant and more… watch-like than the Gear S. In short, it’s not something to be ashamed with when wearing, and that was no easy feat to pull for this baby’s creators.

LG G Watch R

Also available directly from Google at $300, as well as on T-Mobile and AT&T, the G Watch R is highly dependent on third-party phones, like the vast majority of today’s smartwatches. On the bright side, the 1.3-inch P-OLED display is a stunner, the 410 mAh cell pretty solid for wearable standards, and you even get IP67 water and dust resistance.

1. Motorola Moto 360 – $250 in black leather; $300 in stone leather

This was probably the toughest call we’ve had to make since starting these listicles, but ultimately, the 360 (barely) edged out the G Watch R with affordability and a slightly more original sense of style. Aesthetics is perhaps a matter of personal preference, but we feel the 360 blends the retro feel of a conventional watch with the futuristic vibe of a smartwatch better than the G Watch R.

Moto 360

And yes, Moto 360’s battery performance is a little on the underwhelming side, as is overall speed and system smoothness. But the superior build materials also helped Motorola defeat LG, as did the numerous band and color options.

Mind you, the 360 can be picked up at Best Buy in “natural silver” with a metal strap for $300. Or in “dark metal”, also at $300. Or, you can purchase a separate $30 “cognac” leather band to keep things fresh and original. Now, let’s hear it for our champion and fill up those Christmas stockings with the best of the best in Android tech. Who’s with us?

Best Android-compatible smartwatches available today – August 2014

The timing may seem a bit off (actually, way off), with all the Moto 360s, second-gen LG G Watches, third-gen Sony SmartWatches and rookie Asus Android Wear efforts around the corner. But you know how things go in the tech world, and particularly in a niche as hot as the wearable sector.

Flinstone smartwatch

There’s always something better, cooler, stronger on the horizon, and if you keep holding off for “the next big thing”, you’ll end up constantly on the lookout and never satisfied.

Besides, in a way, the timing is ideal to round up the best existing smartwatches. Motorola’s uber-elegant Moto 360 is likely a few weeks away from its hotly anticipated commercial launch, and then Apple’s iWatch will land to disrupt the relative Android-dominated harmony.

Android smartwatches

It’s thus important to see which of the “OGs” can keep up with the two groundbreaking gizmos, plus whatever self-proclaimed “innovative” thing Asus throws at us come September 3. Ready? Here are the seven best Android-supporting timepieces easily found on Amazon nowadays:

7. Samsung Gear 2 – $297

Way too expensive for its own good, the Gear 2 actually starts at $297, in titan silver, costing an extra 3 bucks when coated in “metallic orange” or “brown gold”. So yeah, this was basically DOA, barely enjoying two months as the most high-profile Samsung wearable, until the cheaper, Android Wear-running Gear Live debuted.

samsung-gear-2

Did I forget to mention? The Gear 2 is powered by Tizen, which Samsung essentially uses to give Google the false impression it’s not irreplaceable. It is, and you know it, Sammy. Maybe the Gear 2 isn’t the ultimate proof, as its user interface is pretty similar to that of the Galaxy Gear, but in the long run, Android is key for Samsung’s world domination plans.

What, you were expecting extra Gear 2 details? This is the only thing you need to know: $297.

6. Qualcomm Toq – $217

With no camera, a horrendous 200 MHz Cortex-M3 microcontroller, rudimentary operating system and low-power but “mute” color-sporting panel, the Toq barely feels like a “smart” device. I mean, sure, it can sync to Android smartphones running Jelly Bean and even Ice Cream Sandwich, and displays basic information.

Qualcomm-Toq

But while the battery life is exceptional, pretty much everything else feels like part of an inspired yet unpolished experiment. Starting with the impossible to replace strap, and the utter lack of app support. Toq’s price doesn’t help its cause either, starting at $217 in white and $233 in black, so maybe it’s time for a refresh, Qualcomm.

Unless you’re calling quits on the whole device manufacturing game, sticking to supplying processors for “partners”.

5. Pebble Steel – $229.99

Thinner, sturdier, better-looking overall and less clunky than the original Pebble Smartwatch, the Steel is a tad pricey too, although it clearly offers extra functionality, productivity and freedom of use compared with the Toq.

Pebble Steel

No camera on here either, and a near-identical Cortex-M3 MCU in charge of “raw speed”. Also, the 1.26-inch “e-paper” LCD screen has the same upside and flaws: frugality and poor image reproduction respectively.

But at least you have the choice of either a leather or steel band, plus access to an app store with over 1,000 titles. Mostly fitness tracking apps. Oh, and let’s not forget water protection. Android and iOS compatibility too, although no one here cares about the latter.

4. Samsung Gear 2 Neo – $191

As we grow nearer to our chart’s peaks, we begin to run out of things to complain about. The Gear 2 Neo, for instance, which is Gear 2’s lower-end brother, is more appropriately priced, going for $191 in gray, and $199 in black and orange.

Samsung Gear 2 Neo

Alas, the pre-loaded Tizen sticks out like a sore thumb in the inconveniences section, as does the lack of support for non-Samsungs. Even Galaxy compatibility is fairly limited, albeit the list of companions grows by the day.

Specs? A dual-core 1 GHz processor, 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display, Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity, 512 MB RAM and IP67 certification for water and dust resistance. Not bad for less than two Benjamins, huh?

3. Sony SmartWatch 2 – $135

Kudos to Sony for sticking to their beliefs and principles when everybody’s going the Android Wear route, but the company’s proprietary wearable OS needs a major overhaul for the upcoming third edition to keep competition at bay.

Sony SmartWatch 2

Yes, affordability goes a long way and the SmartWatch 2 is mind-blowing in the pricing-quality ratio department, with a beautiful 1.3-inch OLED screen, waterproofing capabilities and premium build materials (aluminum included) offered for sub-$140. Or $160 with a metal band.

But people need to be able to do more on a smartwatch than just receive notifications of incoming calls on their smartphones, and that’s where Google and Android Wear come in. Do something, Sony, and do it fast.

2. LG G Watch – $233

So close, LG. So, so close. Not from an aesthetical standpoint, but strictly talking features and functions, the G Watch would have probably defeated our leader… at $200. At $234, or $229 on Google Play, it simply doesn’t warrant the premium compared to Samsung’s Gear Live.

LG-G-Watch

Not with a near-matching spec sheet: Android 4.3 and up compatibility, dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 CPU, 512 MB RAM, 4 GB internal storage space, 1.65-inch LCD screen with 280 x 280 pixels resolution, 400 mAh battery, Bluetooth Smart connectivity, Google Play and Google Now support, IP67 certification, 63 grams weight. So close.

1. Samsung Gear Live – $199.99

Ladies and gentlemen, meet our champion. Our not-very-acclaimed champion, as many deem it too large, too square, too ugly or too “geeky” to be worn casually on the street. But its trend-setting character can hardly be contested by anyone, especially considering the price: $200 in black or wine red with easily replaceable 22 mm straps and a cool, light steel chassis.

Samsung_Gear_Live

Yes, light, as the wearable piece tips the scales at 59 grams. All while packing a zippy S400 SoC, beefy 300 mAh battery, 512 MB RAM and 4 GB built-in storage. You also get an array of sensors, a heart rate monitor included, and access to more health tracking apps that you could ever use or need.

And thanks to Android Wear, compatibility isn’t restricted solely to Samsung-made phones. Can the Moto 360 beat all that? Possibly, but if you have an itch to scratch and only $200 to spare, the Gear Live is your guy watch.