Do we really need smartwatches

What current smartwatches can really do

From TECHBOOK | December 08, 2016, 11:02 am

Up until now, this was only known from agent films: making calls using the wristwatch. Smartwatches make this luxury possible. But the line between gimmicks and useful tools is fine with a smartwatch.

It's only been a few months since smartwatch experts predicted a bright future. The clever wristwatches were considered to be the ultimate technology gadgets, which, like smartphones and tablets, were supposed to change the market permanently - a must-have, not only for technology fans.

But the sales figures for the third quarter of 2016 are sobering. According to the market research company IDC, sales fell from 5.6 million in the same period last year to 2.7 million devices. That corresponds to a minus of almost 52 percent.

"Your time is not yet ripe", the "Stiftung Warentest" had already titled in October 2015 and, among other things, criticized the strong smartphone dependency of many watches. Other points of criticism were the short battery life and the sometimes less intuitive operation.

Lisa Brack, editor-in-chief for testing and buying advice at “Chip”, speaks not of teething troubles, but of missing features in smartwatches. “You can only leave your cell phone at home for a few functions, for example when jogging if the smartwatch has its own GPS sensor. Or when swimming, provided the smartwatch is not only waterproof, but also waterproof. ”Both features are now standard. Some models also have a barometer and an altimeter.

According to Brack, a smartwatch is worthwhile for “technology enthusiasts - especially those who want to be kept informed about what's going on on their cell phone. And of course for athletes who want to track their movements ”. This makes it possible, among other things, to call up the distance covered and the calories consumed as well as average and maximum speeds. If you want to use the smartwatch for sporting activities, you should pay attention to a heart rate monitor. Cyclists can use the clocks as a navigation system. The devices are also suitable for social networks and messaging with Facebook and WhatsApp as well as for calendar reminders.

Smartwatches can be divided into two groups: “There are models with and without their own SIM card,” says Markus Mizgalski from “PC-Welt”. Models with a SIM are independent, like a smartphone replacement on the wrist. Without a SIM, a connection to the mobile phone must be established via Bluetooth, which significantly limits flexibility.

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“By the way, the price of a watch is not an indicator of which group it belongs to,” says Mizgalski. He cites the TAG Heuer Connected as an example: At around 1500 euros, it is in the upper class of smart timekeepers, but depends on a smartphone.

The watches with their own SIM card slot include the Samsung Gear S, LG Watch Urbane, Enox WSP88 and Omate True Smart models. According to Mizgalski, these are basically Android smartphones that have been brought to wrist format. "For operation, this means that you either have to replace the phone with the watch, or apply for a second card with the same number if you want to be available on the watch at the usual number."

All of these watches have the Android Wear operating system. This is also used by higher-quality smartwatches without a SIM such as Motorola Moto 360 or Sony Smartwatch 3. "While the popular Pebble watches allow the installation of many apps, almost all watches from the lower price segment are extremely limited here," says Mizgalski.

Apple now has three technically different models of its Apple Watch in its portfolio. The latest Apple Watch Series 2 comes with GPS, a brighter display, and a waterproof case. However, in order to use the full range of functions, the Apple watch must be paired with an iPhone. No Bluetooth headset is required to make calls, loudspeakers and microphone are integrated.

In the meantime, many manufacturers have improved the initial battery problems. "The Apple Watch Series 2 now delivers twice as long as the first Apple Watch," says Lisa Brack. "As a rule, you can assume that your watch will be charged every two to three days at the latest."

Your colleague Markus Mizgalski recommends that you think carefully about what you need it for before buying a smartwatch. His conclusion: "The inexpensive models are a better mix of hands-free system and remote control for the smartphone, the more expensive models can be configured more extensively and also modified deep into the system."

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