Smartwatches To Look Forward To In 2016: Apple Watch 2, Moto 360 Sport, LG Watch Urbane 2 And More
Later in the year, Apple will come out with the Apple Watch 2. Maybe by then, it'll actually look more like a watch instead of a gadget.
Though it is the bestselling smartwatch to date, Apple isn't the only game in town vying for that lone spot on your wrist.
There are scores of other competitors from the consumer technology sector such as Pebble, Motorola, LG and many others that have all created varying shapes and sizes of smartwatches to fit consumers' tastes and needs.
On the same hand (or rather the opposite), traditional watchmakers like Montblanc, Tag Heuer and Fossil are also equipping their classier timepieces with sprinkles of silicon to make them "smart," too.
When Apple finally debuted its very first smartwatch before the whole world, much of the press wrote about the device with fluffy words of praise about its look, feel and function. Albeit the Apple Watch is a well-made smartwatch, is it well-designed? Admit it. A bulky, rectangular-faced watch is not what we were all expecting, and very much not what we wanted.
Where Apple's famed iPhones are generally regarded as prime pieces of technology that are both well-made and well-designed, a watch is a completely different kind of consumer item. For better or worse, a watch is a piece of fashion and no matter how much Apple touts the Apple Watch's fancy materials, it still looks like a mini-iPhone on our wrists.
That being said, Apple is arguably at the forefront of the smartwatch game – partly because the company is oft to come in late into a category, figure out what works and then do it better than everyone else – so the criticisms above apply probably even more so to other makers of smart wearable devices.
But it is a brand new year and with CES 2016 kicking off right now, we're about to get a sneak peek at what the future of smartwatches will look like this year.
Apple Watch 2
Apple is never at CES. Yet somehow, the Cupertino company's announcements tend to upstage those being made at the annual Las Vegas tech convention. This year, Apple may just do it again as news of the Apple Watch 2 begins to leak ahead of other smartwatch announcements being expected this week.
Surely, Apple's marketing machine is behind all of it, and they sure do a good job of it nonetheless. The Apple Watch 2, as with every other iteration of a new generation of a device, is a step up from the original Apple Watch. It's rumored to be a much, much "smarter" device with sensors for skin conductivity, blood oxygen levels and blood pressure, which were scrapped from the first Apple Watch.
Typical of Apple, the Apple Watch's comeback for this year is also reported to be thinner than the first and might even include a front-facing camera for FaceTime communications Dick Tracy style except with video. With an included Wi-Fi chip, the Apple Watch 2 could also be freed from the iPhone.
Whether the Apple Watch 2 will retain the rectangular-faced shape of the original is not yet known. If it does, then current Apple Watch owners can rest assured that their pricy bands will continue to fit the next version of Apple's wearable. Hopefully, Apple can commit to either a different or additional circular-faced watch design that can still make use of the varying bands that support the device.
We'll find out as soon as the first quarter of 2016. Last year, Apple announced the Apple Watch back in March and started shipping it soon after in April. Expect the same again this year.
Android Wear Smartwatches
Apple is the lone contender against a legion of Android Wear devices like Motorola's Moto 360, the LG Watch Urbane, and many, many others that all are coming out with more refined timepieces in 2016.
Motorola's Moto 360 Sport will be available this week and is targeted to those with active lifestyles who want to quantify their training sessions. Like the original Moto 360 and last year's Moto 360 2, the Moto 360 Sport still sports the same flat-tire display that provides the device a traditional circular-faced design.
However, instead of fancy leathers and latches, the Moto 360 Sport bands are made of a rubber-like silicone that won't absorb sweat, resists fading and has side ventilation vents so wearers won't end up with sweaty wrists. Moreover, the wearable is rated IP67 for water resistance, too.
With built-in GPS, the wearer no longer has to have his or her Android phone attached to the hip to keep track of distance travelled, pace, lap times and more. The Moto 360 Sport's included heart rate sensor also helps to measure an athlete's performance.
LG may have pulled out the popular Android Wear smartwatch, the LG Watch Urbane 2 in November, but it still one-upped the competition by upgrading the original Urbane's display into a much larger screen with more pixels. Besides a powerful processor and 4 GB of storage for more offline music, the Urbane 2 could just as easily stream music with the 3G and 4G antenna built into the device.
Despite the Urbane 2's cancellation due to hardware issues, however, no word has been made if it's never coming back in the future. We're keeping our fingers crossed.
Pebble was and still is a big hit on crowdfunding site, Kickstarter. Last year alone, the wearable manufacturer released three versions of its smartwatch – the Pebble Time, Pebble Time Steel, and Pebble Time Round – that were funded and completed by the community that loves the product.
This coming year, like all other smartwatch makers, Pebble may follow suit by adding a bit more silicon chips into their watches to make them smarter. Hopefully, Pebble's displays get a notch or two crispier and who knows, there would be a sport version of the wearable coming out later this year, too. Pebble Time Sport, anyone?
Finally, the new kid on the block is Blocks. A modular smartwatch – much like Google's Project Ara modular smartphone we've yet to see – is expected in the first half of this year as it wraps up its Kickstarter campaign.
The device will have a round face, one button and a slew of connectivity options including Bluetooth LE and Wi-Fi. It won't run Android Wear or watchOS as it'll run a custom OS and should have about 20 apps ready to go by the time the wearable is released. Similarly, Blocks' modular construction also allows for upgrades to the device's basic design.
Photo : Kārlis Dambrāns | Flickr