What is a smartwatch?
A smartwatch is a mini computer that is worn on the wrist. This wearable device is like a smaller version of a smartphone, mixed with the familiar style of a watch.
Smartwatches are designed to work alongside your smartphone, giving you a new way to control your most common handset tasks. As well as tell the time, they can also do nearly everything that a mobile phone can do, including internet browsing, sending and receiving messages and calls, tracking your fitness, controlling music, and much more.
They work harmoniously with other devices in their family, such as other iOS devices for the Apple Watch, or Android phones for the Samsung Galaxy Watch. The data can be synced and shared across devices, so they become interchangeable.
Types of smartwatches
There are two main types of smartwatches available:
- Wi-Fi only smartwatches - these can only access the internet over Wi-Fi, but need to be next to your smartphone if you want to answer any calls or messages
- 4G e-SIM smartwatches - these have an electric SIM built inside and can have the same telephone number as your phone. This means that you can leave your smartphone behind and make or receive calls whilst out and about
We are also starting to see smartwatches on the market which have a dedicated SIM slot, meaning that they can be used as completely standalone devices. Do you think the smartwatch will ever fully replace the smartphone? Let us know on Twitter.
How does a smartwatch connect to your phone?
It’s simple to connect your smartwatch to your phone. All you need to do is download the appropriate smartwatch app onto your smartphone, then follow the set-up instructions. For example, if you have an Apple Watch, all you need to do is download The Apple Watch app on your iPhone. Or, for a Samsung device, download the Galaxy Wear app. Most manufacturers want you to use their app.
After downloading, you’ll use Bluetooth to synchronise the devices. Once completed, your smartphone will share its data with your new smartwatch, and the two will work in tandem.
It should be noted that while Android smartwatches are compatible with iPhones, the Apple Watch can’t be used on an Android phone.
What can it be used for?
Smartwatches are often used as tiny smartphones when travelling, commuting, or exercising.
Texting and calling
You can send and receive messages, as well as make and answer calls, on your smartwatch.
A notification for a text message will pop up on your screen, and you can type a response by tapping the letters on the little screen. Or, a call will ring through and you can answer it by touching the screen. You can listen and respond during your phone call either with earphones, or with your smartwatch on speaker mode.
Listen to music
You can listen to music by connecting wireless headphones to your smartwatch via Bluetooth. Downloading music streaming apps like Spotify or Apple Music allow you to listen to your favourite music downloaded from your phone. Your smartwatch will give you easy access to playback controls, so you can pause, rewind, skip, and play without having to get your phone out.
Almost every smartwatch is designed to support exercise. In fact, many people are enticed to the world of smartwatches for health tracking alone. Most smartwatches can track your heart rate, measure your sleep activity, help count your calories, and monitor your steps.
You can use fitness apps to track activities too. A smartwatch lets you easily start activities and monitor your progress as you exercise. These are all helpful statistics for fitness junkies who like to go on long walks, runs, or bike rides. Some smartwatches are waterproof too, which is great if you’re a keen swimmer and want to monitor your performance. It’s convenient to be able to leave your phone at home and just use your smartwatch for your fitness needs.
Take care to research the specific health features available on each smartwatch before buying, as some may have more advanced features than others.
Like smartphones, smartwatches come with a built-in virtual assistant. On iOS devices, this is Siri, and on Android devices, it’s Google Assistant. These AIs allow for hands-free requests, completing tasks simply through vocal commands rather than having to touch anything.
So, if you’re running and need to send a text, you can simply ask your AI to do it for you by speaking - usually ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘Hey Google’ activates this feature. The AI system can also answer questions, add items to lists or notes, find reviews online, check the weather, and much more.
The newest smartphones include a technology called NFC (Near Field Communication), which allows you to make contactless payments in stores, like many smartphones and bank cards.
On Apple devices, this is called Apple Pay.
On Android devices, this is called Android Pay.
You can set it up on your smartwatch by adding your bank credentials and hovering your screen over the pay machine, as you would a phone or card.
You can download a whole host of apps onto your smartwatch to aid with daily life. There are many apps available, covering areas such as music, sports, shopping, transportation, education, productivity, news, and travel. We’ve put together a list of our favourite smartwatch apps to get you started.
Pros and cons of a smartwatch
If you can’t decide whether buying a smartwatch is the right investment for you, check out our list of the pros and cons to help you make up your mind.
✔Ultra-portable due to small size and weight
✔Convenient to use when out and about
✔Can encourage a healthier lifestyle thanks to fitness tracking
✔Don’t have to get your phone out to answer calls and texts
✔Can customise the interface to suit your style
✘Can be very expensive
✘Small screen size can be hard to see and use
✘Limited battery life - you do still have to charge these after a day or two!
✘Some need to be kept near your phone for connectivity
✘Storage isn’t usually as big as a smartphone
Remember that smartwatches aren’t made to take over a smartphone, at least not for now. However, they do work great as an extension, and can be helpful for many people who like quick access to apps and notifications without having to use their phone.
If you know a smartwatch is for you, check out the best smartwatches on the market right now.