So what’s the best smartwatch? To find out I gathered the 2nd gen Moto 360, Samsung Gear S2 and Apple Watch.
Even though they look similar each takes a different approach. Samsung was one of the first to tackle smartwatches with the original Galaxy Gear but with the Gear S2 they’ve basically started from scratch. With a bright, fully round OLED display it looks more like a traditional watch than most, in black it’s pretty stealth looking although there is also a Classic option which comes with a classier leather band and different housing. The normal S2 comes with a pair of rubber bands which are fine but it feels a bit on the cheaper side. One of my favorite features is the bezel, the touchscreen works but most things are much faster to do just by rotating the bezel. There are also home and back buttons along the side which all adds up to make one of the easiest to use smartwatches out there. On the other end of the spectrum is the Apple Watch. This is the stainless steel version but it’s essentially the same as the Sport, you’re looking at a much more traditional rectangular display. The OLED screen is just as good as the Gear S2 with deep blacks and solid colors but while options and menus work better without a round screen it just doesn’t look as cool. Like all smartwatches the touchscreen works but with such a small display it can be a bit awkward which is where Force Touch comes in. Unlike the others which often rely on long pressing the Apple Watch can pull up extra options by pressing harder on the screen and it works well. There’s also the Digital Crown which is how I interact with the watch 90 percent of the time, I slightly prefer the rotating bezel on the Gear S2 but the Apple Watch is one solidly designed smartwatch. Come over to the Moto 360 and there’s no plastic or rubber to be found. Instead there’s a solid metal chassis and a real leather band which gives a nice premium feel, the only thing that slightly holds it back is that it feels oddly light for such a beefy watch. Like the first Moto 360 we’ve got a round display which looks good but there is a small window on the bottom where the sensors live. I don’t really mind, in normal use I quickly forget about it and the slimmer bezel is nice. Where the 360 really loses out is in usability, you’re limited to the touchscreen and a single button. It’s fine but having a quicker option to navigate the software like on the Apple Watch and Gear S2 would be a welcome addition. When it comes to picking a smartwatch one of the biggest deciding factors is what phones they work with. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the Apple Watch only works on the iPhone and the Gear S2 works on Samsung phones but it also supports some other Android devices with a few exceptions. I did have some issues getting it to work with my Note 5 as it needed a firmware update that wasn’t out yet but it worked out in the end. The real winner for compatibility is the Moto 360, not only does it work on Android but it also supports iOS as well. Android Wear has made big improvements in the last year but it does feel a bit unpolished as if it’s too heavy to run smoothly on a watch. While the 2nd gen 360 is faster than before you’ll still get some slowness from time to time. In comparison the Gear S2 feels lighting fast, the animations are quick and it’s easy to fly through the interface with next to no slowdowns. The Apple Watch is fast as well but it can take a while to open some things, especially when it comes to more hardcore apps. Smartwatches are most useful for notifications in my opinion but all support third party apps, I’m not sure how many people want to read CNN on their wrist but the option is there. Being able to navigate especially with walking directions is nice but most of the utility is very similar on all three watches. Things like voice search work well although this is where Android Wear on the 360 does best but asking Siri a quick question also works just fine. Unlike a normal watch you’re pretty much going to have to get used to charging a smartwatch every night. It’s not the end of the world but it’s one more device you’ll have to remember to plug in every night. Most of the decision really comes down to what phone you use. The Moto 360 is the safest choice and with the ability to customize the design in Motomaker you can really make it your own. If you use an iPhone the Apple Watch has the best integration and the design is the most premium here, it’s a bit more pricey but you do get what you pay for. The biggest surprise is actually the Gear S2, while the hardware is a bit on the cheaper side the screen is great, the bezel works well and it’s seriously fast. If Samsung brings support for the iPhone the Gear S2 is going to be hard to beat.