In this day and age you don't need to resign yourself to having a traditional low-tech watch. Smartwatches are all over the place, as part of a growing industry of watches with built-in smart features for you to buy and enjoy. But what if you want the advantages of high-tech timekeeping gear, without walking around with what looks like a miniature computer on your wrist?
There are more than a few options there as well, and here are the best ones you can get your hands on.
Right here is the ideal time to mention that this Battlemodo features two different kinds of wearables: traditional smartwatches, and watches with smart features. In other words, the top list focuses on mini-wrist computers, while the bottom list focuses on regular watches that offer more than meets the eye. It wouldn't be a fair fight to throw them all together, which is why they're being split up.
All of the smartwatches have been deliberately chosen because of their resemblance to ordinary low-tech watches. Needless to say each one could go unnoticed (with varying degrees of success, I'll admit) thanks to a variety of features including custom watchfaces, round watchfaces, and overall design. The 'smart watches' have been picked for a very simple reason: they are regular, normal-looking watches that have some extra bonus features.
That being said, that aspect isn't going to make much difference in terms of list placing. As I said, each watch has been deliberately chosen due to the fact they have the capacity to go unnoticed. Design is important, but it's meaningless if you have a rubbish piece of tech underneath it all. So, while I'll be making note of just how discrete each watch is capable of being, the main focus here is to determine which watches are actually worth buying based on performance.
With that in mind I'll be looking at what each one has to offer. Is it comfortable to wear, or is it a skin-pinching monstrosity that leaves you with a rash? What sort of features does it have built-in? Can you those features be expanded on in anyway? How good is the battery life, and what is it like to actually recharge the thing? (If it even needs recharging).
Finally I'll be considering how easy it is to use. How do you use it? Does it have its own hardware, or is it all controlled through a companion app? If it has one, what's the user interface like? How do you navigate through the watch's screens? Is it intuitive, or messy as hell? Is it done with touch, hardware, or both?
The ideal watch will be one that's comfortable, has a good battery life, a great feature-set (with the option of expanding that being a bonus), and a simple intuitive interface/app that can be easily navigated.
First Place: Pebble Time Round, £170
It wouldn't be a round-up of smartwatches without a Pebble. Especially since most of you can't say a bad word about them. After using it a fair bit, I do admit it's hard to disagree. This is one great little watch.
If we're talking purely from design, the Time Round is relatively discrete. It's round, of course, but the watchface isn't so large that you can tell it's supposed to be a mini computer (like the Moto 360). I think the patterned bezel helps that somewhat, since it ensures the screen isn't too big without shrinking the overall size of the face too much. I think the ratio of bezel to screen is slightly off, and personally feel that the screen could do with being a smidge bigger.
Despite all that, there's no getting past the fact that this is an e-ink display and can't pass for a normal mechanical watchface. Like the Vector Luna, the fact that the display doesn't allow for incredibly intricate detailing means even the most regular of watchfaces have no chance of passing for the real thing. It doesn't help that without the backlight on the screen is incredibly dark, and the backlight makes it unmistakable as an electronic device – even on low. Plus, even if it did, the backlight doesn't seem to be allowed to stay on more than eight seconds of inactivity.
To pick things up a bit more, I do like how notifications are handled on the Pebble. Rather than having an icon or preview that needs a prompt to open up, it just buzzes and opens up the notification there and then. It doesn't matter if it's an email, tweet, text message, or whatever. You can't seem to directly answer calls from your wrist without deliberately finding and downloading an app, but you can reject them or send a text message in response. It was also nice to find that apps don't appear in the Pebble App's main notifications menu until you get a notification from them. That way you don't have to go through every single app and decide what should be beamed to your wrist and what shouldn't.
Android users will be prompted to download the Android Wear app as well. Provided it's installed (it doesn't have to be paired with the Pebble, or anything like that), it'll give you more options on what to do with your notifications. The example Pebble uses is responding to Google Hangouts messages, which can only happen on your wrist if you have Android Wear installed.
One of the things that most people will know about Pebble is that it;s one of the big names in the world of smartwatches, despite the fact it never had any backing from enormous tech companies with vast amounts of wealth. Because of this, and the fact it has its own home-brewed OS (rather than relying on Android Wear, Apple's watchOS, or Samsung's Tizen), I was quite impressed with the number of apps available. Last February the number clocked in at over 6,000, and things will only have improved since then. Large numbers are meaningless if 90 per cent of them are rubbish, but the fact that there are so many bodes well. For reference, the only other smartwatch I tested that ran its own OS in a similar way was the Vector Luna. That only had 16 apps.
I really liked the UI on the Pebble, much more than Android Wear and probably on par with the Tizen system used on the Gear S2. There are two timelines that you access from the main watch screen, up takes you to past notifications and down takes you to future events. Future events like weather forecasts, calendar events, and so on. Hit the middle button and you get taken to the apps list, where you can access all of the features the Time Round has to offer. The last button, on the left-hand side, is the back button that will eventually take you back to the main watch screen.
On another note here, I love the fact that the future timeline has an entry that tells you what time you need to plug your watch in by to ensure the battery doesn't die. It's a bit out of the way if you want to see the exact time, but it's a fantastic little touch that all smart devices need as standard – not just other smartwatches.
There's only one thing where the Pebble really falls down on, aside from the previously mentioned screen resolution. The hardware isn't all that fancy. There's no heart rate monitor, like the rest, and so far Pebble hasn't announced a round wearable with that bit of kit included. But, like Android Wear and the Gear S2, the Time Round is capable of taking voice commands and relaying them to your phone. You need apps on both your watch and your phone to accomplish this, but there is a microphone that makes it totally doable. I couldn't find any apps that lets you fiddle with Siri, only Google Now and the Pebble-only voice assistant Slate.
In terms of battery life, Pebble's claims of a two-day battery life seem pretty accurate, as do the claims of a 15-minute recharge time. Obviously the more you have the backlight on, the less time it'll last. Two days might not be a lot compared to other watches here, but it's rather good considering how much smaller and thinner the Time Round actually is. The standard Time is supposed to last seven days, but it is larger and rectangular. If you value the round aesthetic, you're going to have to make a sacrifice. Still, it is rather poor when compared to the rest of the smartwatches tested - especially when you take standby battery life into consideration.
I will say one thing. If you have big hands, and equally large wrists like me make sure you buy the 20mm band variant and not the 14mm. It may seem obvious, but having used the 14mm version I can confirm that it looks ridiculously small. I don't mean that as a slight against the Time Round, just a word of warning for any would-be Pebble adopters. [Buy it here]
Second Place: Samsung Gear S2, £202
The design of the Gear S2, or rather the materials that it's made out of, means it's not the most discrete watch on this list. The body, which is actually made of stainless steel, looks like rubber or hardened plastic (not the tacky kind). I was a little surprised by this, because it really didn't feel like it was made of metal. I do have strong suspicions that my brain was playing tricks on me, because I realise how ridiculous that sounds.
You're not stuck with this option, though. The Gear S2 Classic has a more metallic look to it, and comes with a leather strap. So it looks and feels more like an expensive watch, rather than a random digital watch you got at Argos. You do have to pay more for the privilege, though. How much more depends on which model you get. At the time of writing the price difference on Amazon is roughly £65
That being said, the shape and size do work in its favour. Unlike the Moto 360 (and to an extent the Huawei Watch), it's roughly the same size and shape as your typical mechanical or digital watch. Possibly even slightly smaller than some men's watches out there.
The Gear S2 uses a pretty interesting method of input. Most smartwatches either rely on touchscreens (Huawei Watch, Moto 360) or a series of buttons (Pebble 2, Vector Luna) to get things done. The Gear S2 has a touchscreen, but also uses a spinning dial for navigation – along with two buttons for quick actions. While a number of companies have tried to innovate their smartwatch tech (like Apple's Digital Crown), I think Samsung is onto something here.
The dial is faster, smoother, and much easier to use than touchscreen navigation. Really, it's probably as intuitive as you can get with physical hardware. Clockwise moves forwards/down, and anti-clockwise moves backwards/up; it's so simple a child could easily figure it out. The buttons take a bit longer to sink in, but the top one is the back button and the bottom one takes you to the homescreen or back to the app/page you were just using.
The whole user interface is based around using the dial, almost like using a rotary dial on an old-timey phone (which I'm 100 per cent sure is not accidental). It's most obvious on the apps list, where turning the dial moves the cursor round from app-to-app. It's neat, simple, and it makes the most of the hardware Samsung included with the watch. Personally I found it much neater and less difficult to use than Android Wear, the other touch-based interface on other watches I tested.
It's worth mentioning that the Gear S2 I tested was not the 3G model, so it wasn't able to connect to my phone via mobile networks. That said, it wasn't just restricted to Bluetooth. The watch is able to remotely connect to a phone via Wi-Fi, though functionality was restricted (I couldn't seem to install new apps on the watch while connected this way). Interestingly the phone didn't have to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network, it was more than capable of communicating with the Gear S2 via mobile networks. Provided the watch was still connected to Wi-Fi anyway.
You can't get the 3G model in this country, at least not officially. Importers probably have a few knocking around, but there's a decent chance they won't work properly.
If we're talking extra features, this particular model doesn't offer much different from the other watches here. There are a couple of small points to make. For starters you can load music and audio files onto the watch directly. No going through Google Play Music like Android Wear. Voice commands are also done with Samsung's S Voice, rather than Google Now, which is different though functionally the same. The main differences are that it appears to mainly for controlling the watch, and if the watch can't handle it then you have to option to beam it to your phone.
That downside is that there's an extra step involved for controlling your phone with voice, which Google Now does not have. That being said, you can customise the initial command to something slightly more interesting than "OK Google". Literally anything you like, as long as it has between three and five syllables. Extra points go to people who set it to something that's likely to turn a few heads in public.
Disconnected from my phone, the Gear S2 didn't last as long as both Android Wear smartwatches. But a smartwatch disconnected from your phone is 99.9 per cent useless, so that doesn't really matter all that much. As for regular use, you can get more than two days of regular use before you have to recharge, which is better than everything tested except the Vector Luna. But considering the Luna cuts a lot of functionality, it's up to you to decide whether the Gear S2's more advanced features are a worthy trade-off. I'd say that they are.
So why is the Gear S2 second? Honestly differentiating between this and the Pebble was tricky, but when it came down to it the Gear S2 misses out simply by how easy the Pebble is to use. Before this testing I'd never used a Pebble of a Tizen-based smartwatch, and going in blind I found that the Pebble was completely effortless to use. I picked it up and was able to get my head round it almost instantly.
The Gear S2? Not so much. Once I got used to it, it was fine, but the fact that I had to refer back to the instruction manual and play with it for a long while before I got the hang of things is a serious limitation. I wouldn't say that it's not user friendly, but because there's so much going on you have to sit down and make yourself learn how things work. I haven't really had to do that since I got my first smartphone back in 2009.
The Gear S2 works relatively well, and offers an awful lot packed into a relatively small package. It's got its faults and is yet another smartwatch that hasn't solved the keyboard issue, but it's one of the better purchases you can make. [Buy it here]
Third Place: Huawei Watch, £286
If you so value discretion above all else, you'd be hard-pressed to find something better than the Huawei Watch. It's certainly not completely unrecognisable as a smartwatch, but it has all the characteristics you'd need to go mostly undetected. It's smaller than the monster Moto 360, about the same size as the Vector Luna and ever so slightly bigger than the Gear S2. As this is Android Wear you can, of course, customise the watch face, and you have a ridiculous number of options available to you. The screen doesn't go completely unnoticed, especially in ambient mode, but that's the only flaw in this respect. Different watchfaces behave in different ways, and it's not difficult to find one that looks like a proper watch in both regular and ambient modes.
In regards to the screen, there are no complaints with what we have here. It's much clearer than the Moto 360, which is to be expected since it has higher resolution and a smaller screen. Compared to the Gear S2 it's about the same, which is also to be expected. As for the other two? Well that goes without saying. E-ink and low-power LCD can't compare to an OLED screen like this.
I can't fault the design here, either. It's comfortable to wear, and while it's thicker than a regular watch it's not so thick that it's noticeable when you wear it. And like most premium smartwatches, there's a heart rate monitor to aid you in any fitness tracking activities you need to accomplish.
The battery here is all fine. Nothing spectacular, but it should be more than enough to get you through a single day. If you've had some particular heavy use and no way of recharging, Android Wear does let you turn the watch screen off until you need it. Plus there's the ambient mode that strips the screen down to a simple white on black clock, and with the OLED display, that significantly reduces your power consumption. As with the Moto 360 and Gear S2, leaving the Huawei Watch disconnected from your phone significantly increased the battery life (I got about a week). That said, if you're not connecting it to your phone then it's barely worth having. I also found that it often attempted to optimise power usage, doing things like switching off Wi-Fi to save power.
It doesn't have a fancy-looking charging dock like the Gear S2 or Moto 360, instead has something that has more in common with the Apple Watch. It's a round magnet that you stick to the back of the watch, and the four teeth connect with the watch to pump some extra juice in.
The main issue with the Huawei Watch is Android Wear. The software is fine, but it's far from perfect and could do with some serious fine-tuning. For instance, trying to control music from the watch was irritating because every time I wanted to skip tracks, instinct told me to tap the Google Play music bar at the bottom of the screen. For those of you who've never used it, that pauses the track when it seems more logical that doing this would open up the app and take you to the controls.
The Google Now integration is a big plus, although it's not the only platform that offers that feature. The Martian Notifier (down in the smartwatch list) has a button for initiating voice commands, and if it's paired with an Android device that means it initiated Google Now. The Martian watch I tested didn't have a microphone, so it relied on your phone being able to hear and understand what you were saying, but the point still stands. The Pebble is also capable of sending Google Now commands to Android, though it requires some extra apps to do it.
As I mentioned earlier when talking about the Gear S2, Android Wear's interface isn't as pleasant as the Gear S2's version of Tizen. I think this is primarily due to the fact that Android Wear is reliant on touch input, rather than using other hardware to navigate. I think that's a matter of personal taste, though, and there's nothing inherently bad about the way Android Wear does things. Aside from some of the minor things that need some fine-tuning (like the whole music control thing), Android Wear is fine. It's just not for me.
Obviously Android Wear's biggest bonus is the fact that you have access to a massive number of Android apps from Google Play. At around 4,000 there are fewer than Apple and Pebble, but it's more than the 1,000 available on the Gear S2. Plus numbers aren't everything, and 4,000 is bound to be more than enough. But unlike the Pebble, Gear S2, or Vector Luna, you don't need to physically download them onto the watch. Just download the main app to your phone, and it'll sync across automatically. Easy.
If you're looking for a smartwatch, there's nothing wrong with grabbing yourself a Huawei Watch. I wouldn't say it's the best watch out there, but you can't fault what it has to offer. The battery is decent, the screen is good, the design is comfortable, and it's probably got the most chance of passing under the radar compared to the other watches here. There's some competition from the Gear S2 there, but I think the Huawei Watch can put up a decent fight. [Buy it here]
Fourth Place: Moto 360 (2015), £246
Like the Huawei Watch, the Moto 360 runs on Android Wear, meaning it comes with many of the same drawbacks and limitations. Functionally it's exactly the same. It has the same software, virtually the same app support, and similar hardware.
I'd say that out of all the smartwatches in this list, the Moto 360 has the most chance of being recognised as a wrist-computer. Mainly because its screen is much bigger than most watchfaces tend to be, and also because there's that tiny bit cut off the bottom of the screen. It's not huge, but it's not exactly discrete. Normal watches don't have that, and I can't think of another smartwatch that has it either.
Why does the Moto 360 have it? Apparently that's where the display driver and ambient light sensor lives, a design choice that let Motorola have a much smaller bezel. That's a reasonable technical explanation, but I still don't like it. I also don't like the distortion that happens around the edges, the product of the watchface glass meeting the watch's body. It's not always that apparent (like when the watch is in ambient mode), but when you're actually using the thing that stands out like a sore thumb.
In all honesty there's not much I can say on the software side of things. The Moto 360 is an Android Wear device, so it's basically identical to the Huawei Watch. The only difference I noticed was in the built-in watch faces. For some reason the Huawei Watch had a larger number of different faces built in, but overall they both had a good number of different styles without having to resort to the app store. So, it's not exactly a big deal.
The Moto 360 also has Moto health and fitness apps built-in, regardless of whether they're installed on your phone first. That's a grand total of two apps, which won't make much difference in terms of storage and offers a nice alternative to Google Fit. That said, it's bloatware that you can't remove, which is going to turn some people off.
In terms of wear, there's not much that can be said. It's comfortable, it doesn't cause a rash, and if you're used to wearing a watch then you know exactly what to expect. The only reason this comes below the Huawei Watch is that it's a much bigger device, with lower resolution. In terms of this test, the larger face does make it more recognisable, which loses it points in the long. As for the resolution there isn't a huge difference, but it is noticeable. For reference, I was using the Men's 36mm watch with a resolution of 360 x 330 (226 ppi). Other 2nd Gen Moto 360 models have a resolution of 360 x 225 (263 ppi). The Huawei Watch offers 400 x 400 (286 ppi), and the Gear S2 has 360 x 360 (302 ppi).
Like the Huawei Watch, the Moto 360 has enough power to get you through a single day of regular use and about a week disconnected from your phone. The power-saving features are all the same, thanks to the fact they both run Android Wear, so you've got the white on black ambient mode and other battery saving features. Likewise you can choose to turn the watch screen off to conserve power in emergencies.
Which one you get is all down to how you view the design. Some people might prefer having more screen space, while others will want something smaller and more like a traditional watch. [Buy it here]
Fifth Place: Vector Luna, £291
Onto the topic of how well it goes undercover. I feel a little bit of bias here, since the Luna Vector sent me had an all-metal watch-strap rather than one made of leather. Naturally, compared to the other leather-band smartwatches I looked at, it does seem more 'watch-like' than the others. But, overall, the leather-band Luna don't look that dissimilar from the likes of the Moto 360 or the Huawei Watch.
The screen is where the whole 'undercover' aspect really comes into play, and sadly I can't see many people mistaking the Luna for a normal watch based on this. The monochrome LCD display isn't particularly elegant, and while some watches end up improving how passable they are with the custom watchfaces, doing so on the Luna has nowhere near the same effect – particularly when the backlight is on. Unfortunately the low-tech screen (it relies on button control, rather than a touchscreen) is what gives the Luna its 30-day battery life, whereas the others last a few days at best. Still, I can't help but wonder why Vector opted for an LCD display, when e-ink would probably be more power efficient.
The notification system certainly isn't the best. While the other four watches let you see the whole thing, the Luna only shows you a snippet. So if you want to see the whole thing, you do need to pull out your phone and sort everything there. That being said, there's enough information to make an informed decision about what to do with the notification, whether you want to deal with it ASAP or just ignore it until later. So it's basic, but it does the job well enough.
The Luna isn't just an attempt at a fancy watch with notification alerts, though, and there is reasonable selection of apps for you to download through the app. We're not talking anything near the amount of stuff you can get on Android Wear (or even the Pebble), but it's enough to make the the Luna useful for a lot more than telling the time. There are apps for music control, basic fitness tracking, camera control, Uber, Twitter, and even some news sites. The functionality is limited, given the lack of touchscreen control. News apps are restricted to a few headlines, social media is just reading statuses, and so on. Basically, you're reliant on the Luna's three buttons to navigate using an up/down/select system.
Vector promises that more apps are on the way, and for those interested it has just released software for you to create and share your own custom watch faces from scratch. That's a nice thing to have on the side, and it means the number of watch faces is increasing pretty rapidly. They're all free as well.
The UI is incredibly basic. It's just a timeline of sorts, that you can flick up and down through using the watch's buttons. You could say there isn't really a UI to speak of, and if you don't have any extra apps or watch faces installed you are stuck on the default watchface. Everything important is done in the companion app, which is incredibly simple to use. Provided, that is, you don't completely fail to realise each watch face and app has to be downloaded and installed on the watch before you can add them to the homescreen's 'timeline'. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything...
The battery life is the real hero of the Luna's repertoire. Despite the fact it has a full LCD screen, it's supposedly capable of lasting 30 days on a single charge. I didn't have the watch long enough to test that, but I didn't have to recharge it once during the testing. Obviously the downside is that it isn't capable of doing very much. It has more than a regular watch, or even the below smart watches, but nowhere near as much compared to the other four. If you pride battery above all else, and don't need a watch with a fancy screen or a massive range of apps, then the Luna might just be for you. [Buy it here]
As I mentioned earlier, this list features a number of regular-looking watches that offer extra 'smart' features. It's important to note here that aside from the Martian Notifier, these are not marketed as smartwatches by their respective companies. That's because they're not what most people would consider to be smartwatches. They are simply watches that have some extra stuff hiding under the surface.
First Place: Martian Notifier, £52
The Martian Notifier is a bit of a special case. Despite the fact that it is a regular watch, it also has quite a lot of smart features packed in. Not quite as good as a smartwatch, but don't let that put you off. If you look carefully you can see a tiny little black box. That's an OLED screen, and that's where all the smart features come into play.
Unsurprisingly, that little screen is not powered by a watch battery. The actual watch bit is, but the rest is charged up by a very bizarre microUSB cable (more on that later). So unlike a smartwatch, it's not completely useless if you forget to charge it up. But unlike some of the other smart watches, it's ill-prepared for anything other than telling the time if that happens.
Without only a tiny screen to work with, the smart features come in the form of notification alerts. But unlike some low-powered smart watches out there, the notifications are a bit more in depth than a buzz alerting you that something has happened. Instead the teeny tiny screen gives you the gist of what's going on. Provided the app is compatible, that is.
Everything that comes through to the little window are your standard apps everyone has. Emails, caller ID, calendar alerts, text messages, and so on. You can set up other apps for Martian notifications, but those come in the form of customisable buzzing. Imagine something akin to Morse code and you get the idea. They're customisable so that you actually know what's what, meaning you can differentiate between apps based on the combination.
The notifications that do come through work fairly well. You get an email, it shows you who it's from, what the subject is, as well as the contents of the email. The same goes for texts, tweets, and so on. It's a little bit difficult to read on such a small display but you get all the essential details there and then. It's important to note that you can't answer calls, nor would it do you any good if you could (it doesn't have a microphone). If that wasn't enough for you, the Notifier also has a button dedicated to voice commands (Google Now or Siri, depending on which type of phone you use) which can offer hands-free phone functionality provided your phone is actually within earshot.
On top of that there's a status screen, that pops up when you hit the Notifier's bottom button. This offers up a digital clock, the local weather, date, and a series of symbols that tell you what's going on with the watch. Battery level, whether it's connected to the app, Bluetooth, and whether or not Martian Leash (which locks your screen when the watch moves out of range).
As I mentioned before, the actual watch component of the Notifier is powered by a standard watch battery, meaning it does last quite a long time by itself. Martian claims it will last up to two years before it need replacing, and having a look you will need to get a professional to do it for you. I couldn't see any easy way of swapping it out without risk of damaging it. The smart features are powered by a rechargeable battery that will last a few days before running out, although that will depend primarily on how much you use the OLED screen. Thankfully since all the Notifier's smart features are passive, it could last quite a bit longer than estimates if you don't get many notifications.
My biggest gripe with the Notifier is that the charging port is embedded quite deep into the body of the watch. That means you can't reach it with a standard microUSB cable unless you strip away the plastic coating to make the damn thing fit. Here's a picture to show you what I mean. It's weird in that it's almost like a proprietary cable, but not. You can buy replacements from Martian's online store, but they do cost $12 (£9), plus $16 (£12) to ship to the UK. Which is nuts.
It's also not particularly intuitive during the setup, so you do need to go online and find the user guide to get your head around things. It is pretty easy to get your head round, unlike the Casio 500DB, so a quick skim and you should be good to go.
The hybridisation of smart and mechanical watch features is definitely going to be appealing to some. It's not the most elegant timepiece out there, nor is the app particularly visually appealing, but it still works and it does what it promises well enough. Plus it has an awful lot more to offer you than the other smart watches. If style is what you're after, then maybe it's not your thing. But with the sheer amount of features that it offers, while still retaining the watch aesthetic, means it's not to be trifled with. In fact, if a smart watch is what you need then you can't go wrong here. [Buy it here]
Second Place: Garmin Vívomove, £133
In comparison to the Martian Notifier, the Vívomove doesn't seem all that impressive. It certainly doesn't have as many features, but that's not to say that it's a bad device.
Aside from being a watch, it's also a sleep and fitness tracker, much like anything you can get from Fitbit, Withings, and so on. The difference is that it fits that snugly into a watch, and without making it totally obvious. In fact, you could easily use this as a watch without ever connecting it to your phone. I don't know why you'd do that, but it's possible if that's what you want. The only visible 'smart' features that the watch has are an activity gauge showing your progress towards your daily goal, and a 'move bar' that slowly fills up each time you spend more than 15 minutes without any sort of activity.
While those can be useful, and certainly means the Vívomove has more to offer than the Withing Activité Pop, I wouldn't say that's where its strengths are. I'd say the real strength is in the design. The Vívomove has a stainless steel body, and an interchangeable leather strap (both available in a variety of different colours), and together those make for a very smart looking watch. This is a watch that's just at home in the gym as it is at all those stuffy formal gathering you have the joy of going to.
Battery-wise you don't have a great deal to worry about. It's operated by a typical coin-shaped watch battery, which will supposedly last a full year before dying. Replacing it looks a bit difficult, so you'll probably have to take it to a watch shop to get that done. A pain, but at least it's only a once-a-year job.
Dimensions-wise it's fairly typical for a men's watch. While it's slightly thicker than you might find in a traditional watch, like the Huawei Watch it's not too thick. It's thinner than the Martian Notifier, smaller than the Casio DB500, and flatter than the Activité Pop. That last one might seem a bit off, but the underside of the Activité Pop is a bit bulbous and it is noticeable.
So if you want a smart-looking watch that happens to have a little bit extra, this is an ideal choice. Sure it doesn't have all that many smart features in there, but if you want something good looking that is a watch first and foremost, this is a great choice. [Buy it here]
Third Place: Withing Activité Pop, £86
While I quite like the Withings Activité Pop, it doesn't offer an awful lot more than a regular watch. It's literally just a watch with a fitness tracker tacked on, and a Bluetooth module that's used to transfer fitness data into the Withings app. Honestly, though, that's fine.
It's more watch than a smart watch, and that's where its strength lies. There's no fiddling setting up notification alerts, or a stupid number of button combinations to memorise (like the Casio 500DB), it's something that you slap on your wrist and it tells you the time. If you're interested, it also passively collects data on your daily movement and beams it over to your phone. If you don't want to keep checking up on the in depth details of that, there's a secondary dial on the watch that tells you what percentage of your daily goal you've managed that day.
It's also water resistant up to 50 metres, which is handy, and runs off a watch battery which Withings promises will last more than eight months.
Some might not like the Activité Pop's design, which is understandable. The plastic and rubber combo isn't for everyone, but it's far from your only option. Withings's Activité range also includes the Steel and Sapphire brand watches. They're functionally the same as the Activité Pop, but they do come in more premium materials that would be more suitable for more formal events. Obviously those extra materials do come with an extra price.
The main downside to the Activité Pop (and Withings' other Activité fitness watches) is that it can't be used without the app. Why? Because it doesn't have any time-setting capabilities of its own, and requires the app to do it for you. That does have its perks, mainly the fact that the time sets itself based on the time on your phone - meaning you can't accidentally set the time incorrectly.
There's not much on offer here, but if you're looking for a nice-looking comfortable timepiece, with a little bit extra, then this is one to look out for. Just make sure to remember that this is a fitness tracker without a heart rate monitor or any of that fancy stuff. It's all about the steps and sleep. That's no bad thing for casual users, just make sure you know what you're buying. [Buy it here]
Fourth Place: Casio Edifice EQB-500DB-2AER, £280
I like to think that I'm pretty good with understanding tech. I can find my way around a computer, and while I might need help from time to time I have a general understanding of how things work. Modern technology tends to have a level of intuition, and generally things are easy to work out – once you've used one you can use them all to a reasonable degree. Earlier in this article I commented on how there was a bit of a learning curve for me when it came to using Tizen on the Samsung Gear S2. I feel I should go back and retract those words, because it wasn't all that difficult, not when compared to the Casio EQB-500DB at least.
I honestly can't remember the last time I used a device this frustrating. This is definitely not a device that you can pull out of the box and start using straight away, mainly because there is nothing included that tells you what to do. It's not a good sign when you pull something out of the box, and are immediately baffled with what you have. Certain devices can get away with not providing instructions, but a smart watch is not one of them. I did have a bit of trouble adjusting to the Martian Notifier, but with its two buttons and miniature screen, everything beyond the initial set up was a breeze. With the 500DB, setup was only the beginning.
It definitely doesn't help things when the watch has to stop moving in order to connect to Bluetooth. What's the point in having smart features if you can't use them and concurrently tell the time?
The main smart feature is checking whether you have any emails, and frankly it's a massive chore. For starters you don't get notifications, you have to manually check to see if something has arrived – but only with email accounts that you've added into the Casio+ app. Pressing a button switches round to two little circles, full means you have email and not full means you don't. That's provided the watch is connected to the phone, which is probably isn't. That means you have to hold down the Bluetooth button and wait for the watch to connect, and then press the button and wait for the analogue dial to flip round. In that time you could have easily pulled out your phone and physically read any emails that might have arrived.
The biggest issue here is that the method of input. If you want to get anything done, you have to rely on a series of button combinations and frankly it doesn't work. First of all actually following the instructions can take a few attempts to get things right, and after that you have to memorise every single one to do anything. Or pull out your phone to google the manual again, which completely defeats the purposes of smart features in a watch.
Plus, why try and memorise a combination to open up simple features like a stopwatch, then remember how to interpret the data, when you can just pull out your phone and use the clock app every single device has? I feel like that even in pre-smartphone days if you really desperately needed a stopwatch on you then it would be easier just to buy one and store it in your back pocket.
It's not all bad, though, and the 500DB does have built in solar panels to keep the watch powered up. While most watches would require you to plug them in or swap round the battery, all the 500DB needs is to sit near a window or slightly powerful light
It's at this point that I mention the price. I try and avoid pricing when it comes to Battlemodos, because pricing is subjective and changes often. That being said, it's worth pointing out that the 500DB does sell for between £200 to £300 depending on where you look. That's more than the Martian Notifier and the other smart watches, more than the cheapest Apple Watch, and more than even the most expensive Pebble.
A good-looking, well-performing watch might be worth paying a lot of money for, but the Edifice 500DB has neither of those qualities. It's awkward and irritating to use, and all the extra large buttons make it so obvious that it's not just a regular watch. I'm not a watch connoisseur, but it's clear that the 500DB is not going to appeal to people who are – regardless of how low or high tech they want their timepieces to be. It feels like an attempt to bridge the gap between the two, and it's an attempt that fails miserably.
It's a frank reminder of why I ditched watches in the first place: a smartphone is just so much more convenient. [Buy it here]