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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?

What to expect from Black Friday 2014: 10 Android gadgets with discounts on the way

Must resist the urge to buy Android gear prior to the ceremonial holiday shopping season kickoff. You must do it. No matter how badly you may need a new phone or tablet, or how lucrative early deals on various retailers may look.

Black Android

They’re nothing compared to what’s coming, and savings currently offered are peanuts. Black Friday is the biggest shopping day of the year for a reason, and Android is an integral part of that. Besides, we’re just three weeks away.

We can almost feel the rush. See it, touch it. And to further incentivize you to wait, we’ve rounded up ten uber-attractive Android devices we have every reason to believe will get slapped with phenomenal discounts for Black Friday 2014. Or Cyber Monday, same thing.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Currently available for: $470 in factory unlocked flavor; $100 with Verizon and Sprint contracts; $150 with AT&T pacts

Why it’s a must-buy:

Do we need to spell it out for you? Fine. The Note 3 may be old, but it’s not decrepit. Not even close. It’s full-plastic, but it feels amazing in the hand, the Full HD display isn’t devastating for battery life, and the 3 gigs of RAM are still the highest smartphones have ever gone to.

Galaxy Note 3

How low could it go:

eBay has an ongoing deal that looks hard to beat for the unlocked variant, although we wouldn’t be surprised to see Amazon lower the bar to $300. Meanwhile, it’s time carriers stopped charging Note 3 buyers for the on-contract phablet. Mark my words, you will be able to pick up the 5.7 incher for no upfront fee in a matter of weeks.

Samsung Galaxy S5

Galaxy S5 Verizon

  • Up for grabs at $508 unlocked; $80 with Verizon, Sprint and AT&T contracts
  • Younger than the Note 3, the S5 doesn’t look it, and in the absence of promotions, no one’s interested in it any longer. But at the right price, you’ll start to appreciate the quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 16 MP rear camera and water-resistant exterior.
  • $400 unlocked? It’s a near-guarantee. $350? It’s possible. $300? That’s a bit of a stretch. With carrier agreements, we have no doubt the $80 charge will be scrapped ASAP.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4

samsung-galaxy-tab-4-trio

  • $156 for the 7 incher; $219 in 8-inch configuration; $280 with 10 inches of screen real estate
  • They’re nowhere near as beefy and bright as members of the Tab S family, but they’re light, sleek and offer decent punch for what we think the costs will be come Black Friday.
  • We wouldn’t stake the house on this, but it’s not impossible to see the Tab 4 7.0 go for $100. Samsung is that desperate. Meanwhile, a sub-$200 price tag for the 8 incher is probably a safe bet, and so is sub-$250 for the Tab 4 10.1.

Moto X (original)

Moto X 2013

  • Starting at $280 unlocked with US warranty; $0.01 with Verizon, AT&T and Sprint contracts
  • No prizes for guessing why no one even remembers the first-gen X. But second-gen comparison aside, this upper mid-ranger ain’t half bad. It’s got near-stock KitKat, Lollipop on the way, healthy battery life and 2 gigs of RAM
  • Obviously, there’s no more room to discount the on-contract X. But unlocked, you could pay as little as $200 soon enough. That’s crazy cheap… if it pans out.

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Xperia Z1 Compact

  • Starting at $365 factory unlocked with no warranty
  • The little flagship that could is yesterday’s news for power users, but it remains the all-around best handheld of that footprint. 4.3 inches still hits the sweet spot for some, and the 20.7 MP camera is a-mazing.
  • A penny under $300 would be a dream come true. We don’t see that happening, ever, but if it does, forget about the no-warranty qualms. Go for it, no questions asked, no hesitation.

HTC One M8

HTC One M8

  • $698 factory unlocked with US warranty; $50 with AT&T and Sprint pacts; $100 on Verizon
  • For an aging flagship that, as far as we’re aware, isn’t selling so hot, the M8 is sure expensive. That’s why we think it’s going to get massively discounted, and become the must-buy it never was. Power users have better options around, but very few are as robust and elegant as the all-metal One M8.
  • Make it zero with carrier agreements, HTC, and $500 tops outright and you’ll get your financials in order in no time.

LG/Google Nexus 5

Nexus_5

  • $342 factory unlocked
  • Google insists N6’s launch won’t impact N5’s sales, since the two phones are so different. True, but at the same time, the world has forgotten the Nexus 5. The best way to refresh our memory? Slash the price to $250, update the software to Lollipop, and further improve battery life over-the-air. Do that, Big G, and we’ll remember the 5-inch Full HD screen is a whopper, and so is the quad-core 2.3 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor.

Asus/Google Nexus 7 2013

Nexus-7-2013

  • $176 in 16 GB Wi-Fi only config; $239 with 32 GB storage; starting at $250 with Verizon LTE
  • Another Nexus that shouldn’t suffer from the recent upgrade/lineup overhaul, but that’s due for a price cut nonetheless. Temporary, permanent, we don’t care. Just make it $150 with Wi-Fi, $200 with Verizon pacts, and $300 tops in LTE-enabled form outright. Remember, this tiny thing packs quite a punch, and sports a breathtaking 1,920 x 1,200 pix res LCD screen. Oh, and it’s got Lollipop incoming.

LG G Pad 8.3

LG G Pad 8.3

  • $249 with Wi-Fi; $99 with Verizon LTE and contracts, $300 outright on Big Red
  • It’s old, it’s out of fashion, it’s glossy and plasticky. But man, is that design an ageless knockout, with those deliciously slim bezels and all. The display is just as vibrant as the one on the N7 2013, plus larger, and the quad-core Snapdragon 600 SoC should decently hold its own in everything from gaming to heavy web browsing.
  • Want me to venture a wild guess? Verizon will soon offer this thing for a penny on-contract. And $200 or so outright. Don’t take my word for it though, and keep your eyes peeled on Amazon.

Huawei Ascend Mate 2

Huawei Ascend Mate 2

  • $300 factory unlocked with US warranty
  • No, no, we haven’t gone mad. We’re well aware the Mate 2 isn’t going to score KitKat goodies, let alone Lollipop treats. But what’s so bad about Jelly Bean? Let me rephrase. What’s so bad about Jelly Bean on a gigantic 6.1 incher with 720p screen resolution, 4G LTE connectivity, 2 gigs of RAM, an incredible 4,050 mAh battery and selfie-friendly 5 MP front camera?
  • Do we hear $250? $250 going once, going twice, sold to… every budget-conscious Android enthusiast with half a brain.

Before leaving you to it, in case you haven’t caught on, this is just the first in a long line of Black Friday-dedicated articles coming in the next few weeks. The actual deals will start leaking out soon, and as we did last year, we’ll be covering them extensively to help you decide what to shop and how to save the most dough. Keep in touch.

Best low-cost 4G LTE Android tablets available on major US networks

Stacking up on LTE-enabled gear for the cold season and would love to have something left in your bank accounts at the end of the holiday shopping season? Don’t want to make the choice between a spanking new Android tablet and food, as you’re afraid you’ll die of starvation playing Temple Run 2?

LG G Pad 8.3 LTE

Then maybe the wise call would be settling just for a fresh LTE smartphone. But if you listen to our recommendations, it’s virtually impossible to go broke simply from spending, say, $200 on a Moto G 4G.

So if the piggybank isn’t completely empty, we give you the seven best, cheapest LTE-capable Android slates available in the States. We’ll get to the names and ranking in a minute, but before, let’s list our selection criteria to avoid discussions and general complaints:

  • Affordability – since carrier subsidies are minuscule compared to on-contract discounts for smartphones, and solid sub-$200 no-contract tabs are as easy to find as unicorns, we’ve raised the pricing bar a little. Not a lot though, so anything costing north of $350 sans pacts is a no-go.

LTE speeds

  • Wide US availability – network backing from at least one of the “big four” is a must for obvious reasons, and Amazon is as always our online retailer of choice.
  • Quality-price ratio – it’s not enough for a slate to be affordable to make our listicle. It has to offer bang for buck. Likewise, we’re always willing to recommend spending a little extra in exchange of excellence.

And now let’s get to it:

7. Verizon Ellipsis 7 – $0.01 with service agreements, $249.99 without contract

The prospect of accessing Big Red’s high-speed 4G connectivity options on a 7-inch screen for just one penny is probably irresistible for most budget tech consumers. Yet you may want to think this through before doing something you’ll end up regretting.

Ellipsis 7

Yes, we’ve certainly seen worse. But why be so skimpy when, you’ll see, $100 buys a lot more? A whole lot more than this ultra-bezel-y, fugly, low-res, laggy gizmo. Okay, maybe we’re pushing it to prove a point. Yet there’s a reason the Ellipsis finished this in last place. Make that several: Android 4.2, 10 mm profile, 4,000 mAh battery, 3 MP rear camera with no flash or autofocus.

6. Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 – $244.77 outright with Sprint-friendly LTE

Even though we’re dealing with a prettier, lighter, more reliable Samsung than the no-name Ellipsis, we’ll be just as brutally honest and admit the Tab 3 7.0 also made the list thanks squarely to its low, low price.

Galaxy Tab 3 7.0

Technically, lower than the no-contract retail costs of the Ellipsis, though by very, very little. In the hardware department, we’re actually looking at a worse slab, packed with a sluggish dual-core chip and also towing a modest 4,000 mAh juicer. Meanwhile, the 7-inch screen is horrible, at 1,024 x 600 pixels resolution and 170 ppi.

So yeah, it’s an option, but only if you can’t afford something better.

5. Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0 – $299.99 with no contracts for Sprint

Something better, like Tab 3 7.0’s 2014 follow-up, erm, spin-off. This thing isn’t drastically improved by no means, but it’s only $50 or so pricier and it at least increases RAM by 50 percent (1.5 gigs now), and ups the screen res ante to 1,280 x 800.

Galaxy-Tab4-7.0

Oh, yeah, and you get quad-core punch now, plus an even slimmer figure, with no impact whatsoever on battery life. Bottom line, we’re still a long way from perfection, but we’re clearly progressing.

4. Amazon Kindle Fire HDX – $279 for AT&T or Verizon with “special offers” and no contractual obligations

We’re no extreme Android purists, so we can certainly appreciate the benefits of a nice, smooth, non-intrusive custom-made UI, but what Amazon does to Android isn’t customization or skinning. It’s altering it from the roots, and we don’t like that one bit.

Which is a terrible shame, I tell you, because from a technical standpoint, the Fire HDX is a whopper. That display may be small, but it’s packed with pixels (1,920 x 1,200 resulting in top-level 323 ppi), then you have a fast and furious quad-core 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 processor, 2 generous GB of RAM and a battery supposedly capable of lasting hours and hours of “mixed use”.

Amazon-Kindle-Fire-HDX-7

Yes, the microSD card slot absence is a major flaw, but slap an actual flavor of Android on this baby, offer freedom of choice between Google Play and Amazon Appstore and we’d have no problem in promoting the Fire HDX to the podium. Maybe the top spot.

3. Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 8.0 – $200 with Verizon pacts, $340 outright

Sad to see the Fire HDX miss bronze by a whisker? You’re about to get sadder. Aside from running a copy of Android KitKat that, you know, looks like Android, and allowing Big Red customers to get a discount in exchange of a 24-month commitment, the Tab 4 8.0 has nothing on Amazon’s OG 7 incher. Nada.

Galaxy Tab 4 8.0

Well, size, yeah, and also expandable storage, but what about the positively lackluster 1,280 x 800 panel? The snail-like 1.2 GHz quad-core SoC? The 1.5 GB RAM? Ugh, how we hate encouraging mediocrity.

2. Google Nexus 7 2013 – $250 and $350 on Verizon, $404 in flavor compatible with other networks

Wait, the legendary second-generation vanilla Android-powered Nexus 7 has had its budget crown dispossessed? Sounds hard to believe, but it’s true. Yes, it’s the end of an era, and in part, you can blame the limited inventory most retailers seem to retain these days.

Clearly, N7 2013’s days are numbered, but at least its legacy will be carried on with pride by a larger, somewhat similar albeit not stock Android-running tablet. Before paying our respects to the new champion though, let’s underline the 7-inch “new” Nexus is a deserving silver medalist.

Nexus 7 2013

Sure, it lost some of its charm, its je ne sais quoi, yet the 1,920 x 1,200 pix res display remains a monster, and so does the quad-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro chip. And remember, Android L will swing by the Nexus line first and foremost.

1. LG G Pad 8.3 – $99.99 with Verizon contracts; $299.99 outright

Would you look at that, the G Pad 8.3 can be had for as little as one measly Benjamin, yet its spec sheet includes top-level stuff like a comfortably large, slim-bezeled, high-resolution 1,920 x 1,200 IPS screen, punchy quad-core 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 600 CPU and 2 GB RAM.

LG G Pad 8.3

Not to forget the beefy 4,600 mAh battery, the incredibly slim (all things considered) 8.3 mm profile, microSD support, 5 MP rear camera and, starting a couple of months back, Android 4.4.2 KitKat.

It’s the near-flawless blend of affordability, raw power, great looks, portability and productivity and, best of all, it works both on Wi-Fi and 4G LTE on America’s biggest service provider. Your tough decision has become a no-brainer all of a sudden, eh?

Verizon Wireless Extended Holiday Return Policy Starts Today

Just like Best Buy and other big box retailers, Verizon Wireless knows that customers this time of year need a little flexibility in their 14 day return policy.  That’s why their holiday return policy goes in effect today.

When you purchase a new smartphone from Verizon Wireless today through December 28th you have until January 9, 2012 to return the device. This way you can take advantage of Verizon Wireless’ holiday promotions and Black Friday sales and wrap your gift up without worry.

As the picture above shows, for some reason or another tablets and accessories aren’t included in this return policy. We suggest you consult with your local Verizon store for details on tablet and accessory returns.

source: Droid-Life via Gottabe