I recently bought myself a Fossil Gen 5, an upgrade from the Fitbit Versa I carried for two years, which was quite limited as a smartwatch. It was something that I considered for quite a long time, and by all measures, I should be happy with my new watch. Instead, I became increasingly frustrated with it.
My lifestyle changed, and my smartwatch it’s not as useful as before. This inspired me to write this article. I hope that by sharing my insight, I could help you decide if a smartwatch is a good buy for you.
Smartwatches are really good at dealing with notifications. It is nice to see my notifications at a glance and deal with them without ever using my phone. As someone who receives hundreds of notifications a day that range from news and emails to group conversations, I find this really useful. I know what’s going on with having to be checking my phone every 5 minutes. Most smartwatches even allow you to reply or interact with these notifications. These are basic options, and the typing experience is nothing to brag about on such a small screen, convenient nonetheless.
With some smartwatches, you can also make and take calls. It is far from being better than talking directly on the phone, but I found some occasions where it was useful. Besides, it makes you feel like some secret agent. Some even come with LTE connections available and can make calls of their own.
— Fossil (@Fossil) September 15, 2020
A big selling point for smartwatches is their fitness and wellbeing capabilities. They can be useful if you are active. The array of sensors and capabilities varies from device to device, so your mileage may vary. However, most smartwatches worth their salt will give you basic fitness information like steps, distance, calories, and heartbeats.
If this is your priority and you are on a budget, you can get a fitness band instead, which are generally cheaper but have limited capabilities beyond fitness tracking and time-telling. Nonetheless, most watches will also track you throughout the day and give you data on your steps, heartbeat, sleep, etc. Some even allow you to add calories and water intake. If you are serious about your health, a smartwatch can be very useful. But even if you don’t, it is still nice to know how long and well you slept or how active you are during the day. For example, I can now correlate my mood to my sleep.
There are other things beyond fitness and notifications that I appreciate on my watch. Remember, a smartwatch is just a mini phone so that you can download apps just like in a smartphone. You can have Google Maps giving you directions on your watch. It is surprisingly useful when walking or cycling around.
So is controlling music from the watch with the Spotify app, talking to the assistant, or quickly checking the weather. Some are NFC-enabled, allowing you to make payments and even have a digital plane ticket in there. These little things combined create an organic experience in using a smartwatch.
— fitbit (@fitbit) April 9, 2018
Not a life changer
The many benefits of a smartwatch that I have illustrated here are not really substantial or life changers. They’re just nice to have. There have been plenty of times where I felt it was redundant or not as useful as I wanted it to be. Mind you that I don’t exercise much, so I don’t really use most of the fitness tracking features.
Instead, I mostly use my smartwatch as an accessory to my phone. In this role, a smartwatch can be somewhat limited and forgettable. The only thing benefits that it really brings is practicality. However, a phone will always be more comfortable to reply and do stuff with.
Your lifestyle matters
I think that this sentiment of frustration can be explained by the current world’s affairs and my current profession. There is a strict lockdown at the moment, and I spend my days sitting on my desk on my laptop with my phone right next to it. In this scenario, my smartwatch is pretty useless. I am not even using it to check the time because it is easier to look at my taskbar. It becomes almost annoying; it is just another thing buzzing with every notification that I have to charge more often than I would like to. Sometimes I even forget it in the charger for a day or two.
My sentiment was indeed different before the pandemic when I had a different lifestyle. I was a tour guide with a very active lifestyle, always cycling and walking everywhere. At the time, I was rocking a Fitbit Versa, which was limited, but I loved it nonetheless. I could see my notifications while riding my bike or during work, I could easily set timers for my tour, and because I was more active, I made use of the fitness features. It was more useful, even though it couldn’t do as much as my current Gen 5 because my lifestyle was different.
The value that a smartwatch is going to bring you will be dependent on your lifestyle and how you interact with your smartphone. It is convenient if you often find yourself in situations where using your phone is impractical. It can create a more organic experience. But if you have your phone on your desk right next to you for most of your day, as I do now, then I would argue that it would be unnecessary or even annoying.
Which one to buy
Deciding which smartwatch to buy is as difficult as deciding if you should buy it. The market is full of options for you to choose from. Some focus on connectivity and try to be a mini smartphone on your wrist, like my Fossil Gen 5, while others place themselves as fitness trackers with smartwatch features, like the Fitbit Versa 2.
It is up to you to decide where your needs and expectations fit in this spectrum. Your smartphone and ecosystem will play a role. If you have an iPhone, it is hard to recommend anything other than an Apple Watch. While on the Android side, the choices are more varied. Besides that, there is a great variation in terms of battery life, features, style, and, of course, price.
Only you can decide which smartwatch to get based on what you want to get out of it. I recommended you do some research and decided what fits you best. Keep in mind that smartwatches are frequently on sale. I bought my Fossil Gen 5 for £145 ($200), down from an original price of £279 ($385). If you keep an eye out and be patient, you will find a great deal.
If you are still on the fence, my advice is to buy a cheap one. You can find plenty of options on Amazon for less than $100. These are limited in function and features, but they will help you decide if a smartwatch is for you and give you confidence in the future if you decide to cash out for a more capable device. If you don’t have a good overview of available models as of now, you can also check out the video that we added below.
YouTube: Top 10 Smartwatches 2021 – Best smartwatches you can buy right now