Google rolled out Android Wear, now called Wear OS, in 2014, with Samsung, LG, and Motorola the first companies to offer an official Google experience on your wrist. Samsung branched off into Tizen OS for many years, but as we just saw at Google I/O in 2021, Samsung and Google are partnering back up to release watches that share the best of both companies. While smartwatches today are heavily focused on detailed 24/7 health and wellness tracking, most also provide other advanced features, such as a companion Android application, touchscreen displays, call and/ or text messaging support, installable applications and watch faces, and voice assistants. In 2021, there are several powerful options available to help you get work done through a wearable device. Keep an eye on this sector in 2021 as we see results from the Samsung-Google partnership that could challenge the Apple Watch for the best smartwatch title.
The first modern smartwatch, the Fossil Wrist PDA, launched in 2003 from Palm. Microsoft then followed up with its unique SPOT watch collection powered by MSN Direct services running over FM radio waves. Motorola, Pebble, Samsung, Suunto, and others then provided various options as wearables advanced with smartphones. Today's smartwatches offer more advanced features, such as detailed 24/7 health and wellness tracking, voice assistants, call and text message support, and a variety of apps and services that extend the power of your smartphone to your wrist. Some models have cellular support and can serve your needs independently from your phone for limited functionality.
The Apple Watch Series 6 is as beautiful as it is useful. With a wide range of features, an understated design, and no major weaknesses the Apple Watch Series 6 is the best smartwatch you can buy. It can track your fitness, provide insights into your health, handle phone calls and messaging, help you navigate or listen to music, and ensure you stay on top of your schedule, all controlled by elegant and intuitive software. The Apple Watch comes in two case sizes (40mm and 44mm) and in a wide array of finishes and bands. Whether you want an aluminum case with a sports band primarily to help you stay healthy, or a stainless steel case with a Milanese loop band to keep you connected during a busy workday, there's an Apple Watch for you. Setup is a breeze, and the Apple Watch Series 6 is the perfect partner for your iPhone. It can help you find your iPhone by triggering an alert sound, and even be used as a remote control for the iPhone camera. If you opt for an LTE model, you can leave the iPhone at home, though the watch will require its own data plan. The OLED touchscreen is bright, sharp, and surprisingly easy to swipe and tap your way around. The Digital Crown on the side can be rotated for fine control in menus and pressed to call Siri into service.
The Galaxy Watch 4 is Samsung and Google's attempt to combine efforts and compete with Apple's smartwatch – and it gets about 80% of the way there. The Android smartwatch comes in two designs and four sizes, starting at £249 ($250) for the Watch 4 and £349 ($350) – as tested – for the Watch 4 Classic. They succeed the £269 Watch Active 2 and £399 Watch 3 respectively. The two designs have the same chips, features and screen sizes, but the stainless steel Classic has Samsung's jog-dial-like rotating bezel controller, while the standard aluminium Watch 4 has a touch-sensitive ring instead. The watches are slimmer and have slightly more flare than their predecessors. The 42mm Classic is extremely comfortable and not sweaty to wear with its traditional silicone strap.
Samsung's latest, the Galaxy Watch 3, is an all-round refinement of its previous excellent smartwatch efforts – slimmer, lighter and with a larger screen. The £399 Galaxy Watch 3 comes in two sizes (41mm or 45mm), two colours and with or without 4G, aiming to be the Apple Watch of Android, here reviewed in black with a 45mm case. It sits alongside the smaller, fitness-focused Galaxy Watch Active 2 and works with any brand of Android with access to the Google Play Store as well as an iPhone running iOS 9 or newer. The Watch 3 takes the design of 2018's Galaxy Watch – there was no number two – and slims down its stainless steel body in all dimensions while adding a larger screen. The result is a thin, attractive traditional-looking circular watch that's only 11.1mm thick and 53.8g in weight. The 1.4in screen is large, crisp and bright.