All posts in “Apple Watch”

Understanding smartwatches

I was wrong. Several years ago I reviewed the first Garmin Fenix 3 smartwatch. This was before the release of the Apple Watch. That’s key to this story. I declared Garmin would have a hard time selling the Fenix 3. The Apple Watch would be better in every way, I pointed out. Therefore, there would be little reason to buy the Fenix 3.

But here I am, in the middle of the woods, wearing the fifth generation of the Garmin Fenix while my Apple Watch sits at home on my desk.

In some ways I was right. The Apple Watch is better by most measurable attributes: there are more apps, the screen is superior, there’s a vibrant accessory market, and it’s thinner, faster and cheaper.

The Garmin Fenix is big, clunky and the screen looks like it’s from a Kindle. It’s not a touchscreen nor does it have the number of apps or band options of the Apple Watch. I like it. To me, the Garmin Fenix is akin to a modern Casio G-Shock, and that’s what I want to wear right now.

Smartwatches are often reviewed like phones or vacuums. Specs are compared, and conclusions are drawn. Wearability is talked about, and functions are tested. If the watch has a swimming option, take it in a pool never mind the fact the reviewer hasn’t done a lap since high school.

I started out doing the same thing with this Garmin. I took it kayaking. I had kayaked twice in my life, and dear reader, I’m here to report the watch performed well on this kayak trip. The watch has topography maps that novel though not useful since the river. It has a cadence beat to help keep strokes consistent. I tried it all. I ended up drinking a lot of Michigan beer instead of tracking the performance of the watch. Sorry.

Still, performance matters to a point.

Here’s my OG review of the Garmin Fenix 5: The watch is significant even on my wrist. The screen is underwhelming though it’s always on and visibility improves in sunlight. The buttons have great tactical feedback. The watch is waterproof to the extent it survived a flipped kayak and hours in Lake Michigan. The battery lasts nearly a week. The watch does not know when it’s on or off the wrist, so notifications will cause it to buzz while it’s on your nightstand.

But most of that doesn’t matter. The Garmin Fenix 5 is exceptional, and I love wearing it.

Smartwatches need to be reviewed like ordinary watches. I need to explain more about how the watch feels rather than what it does or how it works. At this point, several years into smartwatches, it’s not notable if the smartwatch with a smartwatch. Of course, it tracks steps and heart rate and displays select notifications from my phone. If those items work then, they’re not important in a review.

Take a Citizen Skyhawk line. It packs a highly sophisticated complication that’s designed, so the maker says, for pilots. Ball makes a lovely line intended to provide accurate timekeeping for train conductors. There are watches for high magnetic fields, tactical operators, racer car drivers and, of course, countless for divers. Here’s my point: The vast majority of these watches are not used by divers or train conductors or fighter pilots.

This Garmin Fenix watch, much like the Apple Watch or Rolex diver, can be an aspirational item. It’s like the juicer in my kitchen or rowing machine in my basement. I got it because I wanted to be a person who woke up and juiced some veggies before my workout. I haven’t used either in months.

Smartwatches are different from smartphones and need to be reviewed as such. This Garmin Fenix watch has many modes I would never use, yet I love the watch. There’s a base jumping mode. I’m not jumping off a cliff. There’s a tactical mode and a golf mode and an open water mode, and I have no desire to be in situations where I need to track such activities. But I like the thought of having them available if I ever wanted to monitor my heartbeat while shooting targets.

The smartwatch industry is approaching a point where features are secondary to design. It’s expected that the watch will track steps and heartbeat while providing access to various features. It’s like the time and date of a regular watch. Past that, the watch needs to fit in a person’s aspirations.

Everyone is different, but to me, this is how it is laid out: The Apple Watch is for those looking for the top-tier experience regardless of the downsides of constant charging and delicate exterior. Android Watches are those looking for something similar but in a counter-culture way. The Samsung’s smartwatch is interesting and with the new Galaxy Watch, finally reaching maturity.

There are fashion smartwatches with fewer features but designs that make a statement. That’s where this Garmin watch lives and I’m okay with it. Fossil and Timex watches live here too. Using the Apple Watch as a standard, some of these fashion watches cost more, and some cost less, but they all say something an Apple Watch does not.

I’m bored with the Apple Watch, and right now I’m into thinking I live the type of life that needs a smartwatch that tracks every aspect of a triathlon. I don’t need all these features, but I like to think I do. I also don’t need to have a GMT watch with a third timezone, and I don’t need a watch with a hacking movement hand as if I need to synchronize my watch with other members of my special forces squad. But I have those watches along with dive watches and anti-magnetic watches. I’m not alone. The watch industry has long existed on selling lifestyles.

I was wrong before. The Apple Watch isn’t better than this Garmin or most other smartwatches— at least it’s not better for me right now. Maybe two weeks from now I’ll want to wear an Apple Watch and not because it’s better, but because it makes a different statement.

Fossil announces new update Android Wear watches with HR tracking, GPS

Fossil’s Q watch line is an interesting foray by a traditional fashion watchmaker into the wearable world. Their latest additions to the line, the Fossil Q Venture HR and Fossil Q Explorist HR, add a great deal of Android Wear functionality to a watch that is reminiscent of Fossil’s earlier, simpler watches. In other words, these are some nice, low-cost smartwatches for the fitness fan.

The original Q watches included a clever hybrid model with analog face and step counter. As the company expanded into wearables, however, they went Android Wear route and created a number of lower-powered touchscreen watches. Now, thanks to a new chipset, Fossil is able to add a great deal more functionality in a nice package. The Venture and the Explorist adds untethered GPS, NFC, heart rate, and 24 hour battery life. It also includes an altimeter and gyroscope sensor.

The new watches start at $255 and run the Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip, an optimized chipset for fitness watches.

The watch comes in multiple styles and with multiple bands and features 36 different faces including health and fitness-focused faces for the physically ambitious. The watch also allows you to pay with Google Pay – Apple Pay isn’t supported – and you can store content on the watch for runs or walks. It also tracks swims and is waterproof. The Venture and Explorist are 40mm and 45mm respectively and the straps are interchangeable. While they’re no $10,000 Swiss masterpiece, these things look – and work – pretty good.

New Apple Watch will probably have a larger screen, better heart rate detection

A bigger screen, but with the same physical dimensions? What is this witchcraft?!

Apple expert Ming-Chi Kuo gave some specific details on Wednesday about the rumored Series 4 redesign of the Apple Watch. He said it’s getting bigger, and will have better heart rate detection. The new Apple Watch is rumored to come out in the fall.

Back in March, Kuo shared that the size would increase by about 15 percent. But he has now specified that the two sizes of the new Apple Watches will be 1.57 inches (39.9mm) and 1.78 inches (45.2mm), up from 38mm and 42mm. 

However, based on Kuo’s reports, it’s not clear whether the new dimensions refer to the watch as a whole, or whether smaller bezels could allow for larger OLED displays. And that prospect has designers and pundits excited. 

Concept artists @VenyaGeskin1 and @rjonesy have made mock-ups to show what a bigger screen might look like.

Ming-Chi Kuo previously released information about the redesigned screen and longer battery life. The redesign will be the first from the watch’s initial debut.

Get excited, Apple Watch fans.

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This gorgeous wood charger can power up your Apple Watch and iPhone (and it’s on sale)

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Style and function.
Style and function.

Image: Oakywood

So many gadgets, so little time to charge them.

In 2018, our gadgets are practically extensions of ourselves and need a full charge at all times. The problem is, your home only has so many outlets, and chargers aren’t the most attractive decor. You could power up each tablet, phone, or smartwatch one at a time, or you could invest in a multi-purpose charger.

That’s what makes Oakywood’s iPhone and Apple Watch Charging Dock so great. Not only can it cater to multiple devices at once, but it’s also by far the best-looking charger we’ve seen. 

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At first glance, this charger looks like a slab of walnut wood — you know, something you’d see as décor on a bookshelf or desk. Look closer, and you’ll notice it can charge both your iPhone and your Apple Watch —at the same time. 

On one side is a wireless charging pad that makes juicing up your watch as easy as plopping it on the charger. And on the other side, there’s a dock that not only charges your iPhone but has an adjustable back, so you don’t have to take your smartphone out of its clunky case. 

Normally, this iPhone and Apple Watch Charging Dock costs $79, but for a limited time you can grab one on sale for $62. So whether you’re in need of a new charger or looking for a practical gift that’s sure to not hit the regifting circuit, it’s worth the investment.