It was a big week of Google’s Android Wear smartwatch platform. The first big announcement was compatibility with the most recent iPhones to be released — iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6, or 6 Plus running iOS 8.2+. Anyone with one of those iPhone/iOS combinations are now able to pair their phone to select Android Wear devices, including the LG Watch Urbane and all future Android Wear devices, and get limited functionality out of the platform. The watches will be able to display certain notifications, including for phone calls and text messages; track the user’s fitness goals and progress; and utilize Google Now to access such features as appointments, reminders, and traffic and weather updates.
The other big Android Wear news to come out of this week was the introduction of several new devices running the platform that are set to be released in the coming weeks, including multiple versions of the second-generation Moto 360, the first generation of which is the most popular Android Wear device to date.
Second-generation Moto 360 watches
The new Moto 360 is available in two sizes, 42mm and 46mm; a women’s version is also available in a 42mm case diameter. All versions come equipped with the Snapdragon 400 quad-core processor, 512MB RAM, 4GB of internal memory, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi and wireless charging. The 42mm versions have a 1.37″ screen and 300mAh battery; the 46mm has a 1.56″ screen, a 400mAh battery and is IP67 water and dust resistant. One feature that differentiates the 360 from competing watches is the ambient light sensor that allows for the watch to switch brightness automatically depending on the lighting conditions. That comes with the need for what has become known as the “flat tire,” a black bar at the bottom of the case that cuts off the bottom of the screen, causing the screen to not be a full, 360-degree circle. The flat tire was the major complaint a lot of people had with the first-gen model — myself included — but Motorola stuck with it for the new model.
Another differentiating feature of the 360 is the ability to customize it — with more than 400 possibilities, according to the company — through MotoMaker. The second-gen Moto 360 is currently available for pre-order, priced from $299-429 depending on the options chosen.
The Huawei Watch, the first smartwatch from the Chinese company, looks the most like a traditional watch of any Android Wear device to date. The internal specs are pretty much the standard for Android Wear devices — Snapdragon 400, 512MB RAM, 4GB of internal storage. The Huawei Watch has a 42mm case featuring a 1.4″ screen that has the highest resolution (286ppi) of any Android Wear watch yet. The battery is 300mAh and, although it’s smaller than that of the new Moto 360, the battery life should be more comparable, if not better with a AMOLED screen — with a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, which is a typical feature with traditional watches, on top of it — which is more energy-efficient than the LCD display on the 360. The Huawei Watch comes with Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi connectivity. The device is water resistant, though Huawei hasn’t specified the extent of it.
The Huawei Watch comes in a variety of case/band combinations with a big price range between them. A rose-gold version priced at $799 will be available later in the year. The list of other options, available for pre-order now, expected to be released around 9/17, are linked below:
Stainless steel case with black leather strap — $349.99
Stainless steel case with stainless steel link bracelet — $399.99
Stainless steel case with stainless steel mesh band — $399.99
Black stainless steel case with black stainless steel link bracelet — $449.99
Finally, there’s the ASUS ZenWatch 2, the least expensive and least premium-looking of the group. Not surprisingly, the internal specs — processor, memory, storage — match the other watches. The rectangular AMOLED screen comes in two sizes, measuring either 1.45″ or 1.63″, and features Gorilla Glass 3. It has Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi connectivity, IP 67 water and dust resistance and a 400mAh battery.
Like the others, the ZenWatch 2 has different case and band options. The case is available in silver, gunmetal and rose-gold finishes, each of which has different color options for the leather strap. Each is also available with a metal bracelet in a finish matching the case. It is not yet up for pre-order, but it is expected to be available in the U.S. at some point in October at a starting price of $129, making it one of the more affordable Android Wear options.
My opinion on this crop of Android Wear watches is that the Huawei Watch is the best of the bunch. A combination of it looking the most like a traditional watch and having the best and highest-resolution display makes it the most premium of these watches. It’s a little pricey starting at $349, but that is only $50 more than the lowest-priced model of the second-gen Moto 360. I think the upgraed display and fully-circular screen are worth that extra money. The Moto 360’s flat tire was a deal-breaker that kept me from buying the first-generation model when its price dropped to $150 in recent weeks, and it’ll stop from buying the new Moto 360 as well. I understand it has its purpose, but I don’t like the look. I think it detracts from what is supposed to be the look of a traditional watch. As for the ZenWatch 2, it’s not in the same league as the others. It’s on the lower end of the spectrum for people who don’t want to spend a lot of money on a smartwatch. And it shows in its design, it obviously looks like a smartwatch, not a traditional watch as the others, especially the Huawei Watch, do.