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budget wearables

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!