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Top Android Wear alternatives to the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch's first reviews are in, and they certainly seem to be rather mixed. For those interested in wearables, but not swayed by the Apple Watch, we take a look at some of the top Android alternatives.
By
April 9, 2015
apple-watch

Smartwatches are a hot topic right now, and even more so with the impending launch of the Apple Watch, which is set to arrive April 24th. The Apple Watch was one of Apple’s most rumored devices before it was announced last October and the interest has only risen as Apple has slowly released more info about its wearable.

Now – just a couple of weeks ahead of the launch and two days before pre-orders open – the reviews are in and the world’s technology press have had their say. At first glance the review seem positive but dig into them and one thing is clear, the reviews are brutal and the Apple Watch takes a beating.

Android Wear vs Apple Watch: The Key Differences

We’ve already gone into a lot of detail about how Android Wear and the Apple Watch compare but summarizing, the key differences are around input and artificial intelligence (AI) of the platform.

Android Wear relies on Google voice input for actions and to respond to messages while the Apple Watch uses AI to predict your next response. Both methods have their limitations but the key is that Google Now on Android Wear relies upon Google recognizing your accent, which has proven troublesome for many users.

In comparison, the Apple Watch relies on pre-populated answers or Digital Touch; the pre-populated answers are tailored based on the Watch’s knowledge of you and the more you use it, the more tailored and accurate the answers will become. Digital Touch is a rather handy feature that allows you to sketch or tap a pattern and as long as your recipient has an Apple Watch, they’ll be able to respond in-kind.

Not for novices, apps don't work well and you have to use Siri, which still stinks.

All of this AI does come at a price though, as initial reviews of the Apple Watch have found it to be slow and the AI to be somewhat unintuitive. The Verge’s Nilay Patel called the Apple Watch “kind of slow” as it stutters when loading notifications while Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times says that the Watch is “not for novices” (unlike every other Apple device), “Apps don’t work well” and “you have to use Siri, which still stinks.”

The biggest challenge to Android Wear comes from the Apple Watch’s artificial intelligence and its ability to predict your likely response. Android Wear relies on voice input and although Google doesn’t offer AI-based responses yet, it’s only a matter of time until a similar feature rolls out to Android Wear.

If you’ve been waiting for a new smartwatch and the Apple Watch reviews have turned you off Apple’s first wearable, here’s a few tasty Android alternatives to the Apple Watch:

Specs Comparison:

We’ve hand picked a few of our favourite Android Wear watches and we’ll go through how they compare to the Apple Watch below. First, let’s look at how the specs compare:

Apple WatchSony Smartwatch 3Asus ZenwatchMoto 360Huawei Watch
Display
Apple Watch
340 x 272 or 390 x 312
Sony Smartwatch 3
1.6" 320x320 Transflective LCD
Asus Zenwatch
1.63" 320x320 AMOLED
Moto 360
1.56" 320x290 LCD
Huawei Watch
1.4 inch Full Circle
400x400 AMOLED
Sapphire Crystal
SoC
Apple Watch
Apple S1
Sony Smartwatch 3
1.2GHz Snapdragon 400
Asus Zenwatch
1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400
Moto 360
TI OMAP 3
Huawei Watch
1.2GHz Snapdragon 400
RAM
Apple Watch
unknown
Sony Smartwatch 3
512MB
Asus Zenwatch
512 MB
Moto 360
512 MB
Huawei Watch
512MB
Storage
Apple Watch
unknown
Sony Smartwatch 3
4GB
Asus Zenwatch
4 GB
Moto 360
4GB
Huawei Watch
4GB
Battery
Apple Watch
unknown (18 hours)
Sony Smartwatch 3
420 mAh (2 days)
Asus Zenwatch
360 mAh (2 days)
Moto 360
320 mAh (12 hours)
Huawei Watch
300 mAh (~2 days)
Size
Apple Watch
42mm or 38mm (height)
Sony Smartwatch 3
51 x 36 x 10 mm
Asus Zenwatch
51 x 39.9 x 7.9 ~ 9.4 mm
Moto 360
46mm diameter x 11.5mm
Huawei Watch
42mm diameter x 11.3mm
Weight
Apple Watch
unknown
Sony Smartwatch 3
38g
Asus Zenwatch
50g
Moto 360
49g
Huawei Watch
unknown
Resistance
Apple Watch
no
Sony Smartwatch 3
IP68
Asus Zenwatch
IP55
Moto 360
IP67
Huawei Watch
unknown
Extras
Apple Watch
pedometer, heart rate monitor, GPS
Sony Smartwatch 3
Accelerometer, Compass, Gyroscope, GPS
Asus Zenwatch
pedometer, heart rate monitor
Moto 360
pedometer, heart rate monitor
Huawei Watch
Gyroscope, Accelerometer, PPG, Barometer, Heart Rate Monitor
Charging
Apple Watch
MagSafe Wireless
Sony Smartwatch 3
microUSB
Asus Zenwatch
Dock
Moto 360
Wireless
Huawei Watch
Dock
Price
Apple Watch
$349 or $399
Sony Smartwatch 3
$249
Asus Zenwatch
$199.99
Moto 360
$250
Huawei Watch
TBC

Sony SmartWatch 3

The Sony Smartwatch 3 shares many characteristics with the Apple Watch including a square display and a button on the side (though it’s a traditional quartz crown on the Apple Watch).

Running on Android Wear, the SmartWatch 3 is fully waterproof while the Apple Watch is only splash resistant, meaning it’ll work in the shower but you won’t be taking it diving with you. Like the Apple Watch, the SmartWatch 3 is available with multiple band options but unlike Apple, there’s not a lot of price difference between them. The regular Apple Watch starts at $349 while the stainless steel version starts at $549 (rising to $1079 depending on the band and size you choose). The Sony SmartWatch 3 costs $249 and is expected to rise to around $349 for the stainless steel version.

The key difference between the SmartWatch 3 and the Apple Watch is in the fitness arena. The SmartWatch 3 comes with a GPS chip and accelerometer to provide accurate fitness data, while the Apple Watch is definitely lacking. In fact, Nilay Patel says that the “Apple Watch is a very expensive, barebones fitness tracker.”

Asus ZenWatch

Asus’ first smartwatch aims to offer something that many Android Wear devices don’t – a stylish design with a regular rectangular display. It has a two tone body and a standard-sized leather watch strap that’s interchangeable.

The Asus ZenWatch looks the closest match to the Apple Watch in terms of design and feature sets are rather similar as well. While the Apple Watch focuses on using the crown to interact with the watch, Asus have added several software enhancements including some nice watch faces and the ability to double tap to launch a particular feature.

The Asus ZenWatch retails at $199 including the leather strap, making it significantly cheaper than the Apple Watch. With the style of an Apple designed product and the Android Wear platform, the Asus ZenWatch is arguably the closest competitor to the Apple Watch.

Rectangular vs Round:

The decision on whether to go for a square or round smartwatch display is a debate that never seems to end. While the Apple Watch features a rectangular display, there’s definitely a case for round displays, so let’s take a look at the best round Android Wear smartwatches and how they compare to the Apple Watch:

Motorola Moto 360

The Moto 360 was one of the first Android Wear devices to be announced and although it took several months to come to market, it is one of the most stylish Android Wear devices to date. Featuring a circular display with the infamous “flat tire” cutout at the bottom, the Moto 360 has a brushed metal build and several interchangeable bands.

In comparison to the Apple Watch, the Moto 360 embodies the style that Apple have attempted with the more pricey Apple Watch Edition. One of the biggest criticisms of the Apple Watch is the lackluster battery life and sadly this is a condition afflicted upon the Moto 360 as well, thanks to its outdated internals.

The Moto 360 retails at $250, complete with leather strap, which is less than half the cost of the Apple Watch with Leather strap that starts at $579. If you’re looking for a round watch that has a stylish appearance, look no further than the Moto 360.

Huawei Watch

The last wearable on our list is arguably the greatest Android Wear watch to date. Announced back at MWC in February, Huawei’s first Android smartwatch is certainly late to the party but arrives with a bang. From a Sapphire Crystal display to a stainless steel body and an array of features, the Huawei Watch is the most feature packed Wear watch to date.

Side by side, the Huawei Watch and Apple Watch share many similarities but the key difference is value for money. While the most comparable Apple Watch will cost $999, the stainless steel version of the Huawei Watch is expected to cost a mere fraction of this at approximately $399 (price to be confirmed) and has a much larger feature set than Apple’s wearable.

If you’re looking for the best value-for-money Android smartwatch (and arguably on any platform) that you can buy, look no further than Huawei’s first attempt. It’s stunning in person, feature-rich and Huawei’s accompanying app means it will sync with third party fitness apps.

What’s next for Android Wear?

The concept of a smartwatch is ever evolving as technology moves on and manufacturers are able to pack more into smaller devices. The key to smartwatches, and wearables in general, is user experience which is largely set by the software and for Google, Android Wear needs to evolve.

When Android Wear was unveiled at I/O 2014, it offered the best software experience available at the time, but it only had to compete with proprietary platforms on the Pebble, Sony SmartWatch and Samsung Gear range. Since then, Apple have introduced a credible alternative and going forward, Android Wear needs to evolve.

Some of the ways Google could improve and differentiate from the competition is by optimizing the software to offer better battery life, offer native support for 3G data, voice & WiFI, and introduce alternative input methods. Currently Google Voice Input works well but does struggle with accents and dialects. Offering a discrete alternative would allow Android Wear devices to become more integral to our lives.

As Android has become the dominant smartphone platform, its rivals have looked to other forms of technology to steal a march and while Apple Watch hasn’t quite achieved this, it does indicate that Google’s rivals are ready to do battle in the wearables market.

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Wrap Up

The Apple Watch has been one of the most anticipated wearables ever announced but while initial reviews of most Apple products are largely positive, the Apple Watch seems to be missing that certain something. The advantages over Android Wear are minimal and the key differences are software-based, allowing Google to offer similar features at a later date.

Somewhat inferior to that of a traditional wristwatch

Both Android Wear and Apple Watch are designed to complement your smartphone but while the former can be used one-handed without paying too much attention, Nilay Patel found “you have to use both hands to use [Apple Watch], and you have to actually look at it to make sure you’re hitting the right parts of the screen.” Joshua Topolsky of Bloomberg says the experience is “somewhat inferior to that of a traditional wristwatch” due to the size, whereas the watch faces on Android Wear do come much closer to a traditional wristwatch.

Out of all the Android Wear alternatives, which on our list takes your fancy? Have we missed out your favorite Android smartwatch? Let us know in the comments below.