When you think about wearable technology, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a smartwatch. So what’s the function of a smartwatch? Is it a device that replaces your smartphone completely? Or is it a fitness tracker, with basic app functions, that also gives you notifications?

More importantly, there are so many smartwatches out in the market, but unless you’re really into tech or just really like to count (your steps) like this guy:

Sesame Street Count Von Count
Image Credit: giphy

You’re not going to feel like you need a smartwatch in your life… Until now that is.

What if we told you that smartwatches today:

  • Are fashionable and stylish timepieces
  • Allows you to make payment with just a flick of your wrist
  • Helps you to keep track of your fitness goals (including swim)
  • Knows when you’ve slipped, and possibly blacked out, AND uses an SOS feature to inform emergency services of your location
  • Lets you make calls and text without taking your smartphone out of your pocket
  • Performs ECG with the touch of a finger

And yes, all of these functions point to the new Apple Watch Series 4. So should you buy the latest Apple (up to 3% upsized cashback) watch from Cupertino? Our short answer is: yes, only if you have deep pockets. But if you’d like equally reputable but more pocket-friendly options apart from what is probably going to be on everyone’s wrist, then read on…

Oh, and for our readers who know about ShopFest, stick around to find out how to get access to an exclusive Treasure Chest key!

Wearable Technology For Everyday Use

There was a time when wearable technology was not as sleek or attractive as the smartwatches and fitness trackers of today. Presenting evidence #1: the 2003 Garmin Forerunner 201.

Garmin Forerunner 201
Image Credit: Garmin

Yep, it looks like something out of Power Rangers Turbo.

Power Rangers Turbo Transform
Image Credit: giphy

(Writer’s note: I might have revealed my age with this reference…)

Fast-forwarding to 2018, we’ve selected 4 smartwatches that offer (in our humble opinion) what we feel are the best features that wearable technology has to offer today. These 4 were selected because they can be worn for everyday use and will easily take you from the boardroom or cafe to the running track or swimming pool. We also curated them based on reviews from tech forums as well as our own colleagues here at ShopBack – which yielded one little-known but really premium looking smartwatch brand. Here are our candidates:

Click here if you’d just like to see our comparison between all 4 smartwatches.


Apple Watch Series 4

Apple Smartwatch Series 4
Image Credit: Apple

What We Like

The Apple Watch Series 4 is great for suits, creatives, students, and pretty much everyone who owns an iPhone (sorry Android users). It’s also arguably the best looking and most feature-packed smartwatch on our list. As compared to the alarming sticker price of the 5.8-inch iPhone XS (starts from $1,649) and the larger 6.5-inch iPhone XS Max (starts from $1,799), an entry-level aluminium case Apple Watch Series 4 with GPS starts from $599, while the LTE version starts from $749.

It is admittedly pricey for a small piece of wearable technology, but to put it into perspective, the Apple Watch occupies a very interesting space in the tech world right now as it is moving beyond just being a notifications device and fitness tracker.

The built-in EKG scanner is the headliner of the Series 4, and it allows you to get an ECG reading by simply placing your finger on the digital crown.

Another health feature is what can be described as “fall detection“. If you slip and fall (detected by the built-in accelerometer and gyroscope), a notification will appear on the watch face where you can either tap to indicate that you’re okay. Or you can tap an emergency button to solicit assistance.

Apple Watch Fall Detection
Image Credit: Apple

If you haven’t responded within a minute – maybe you hit your head and passed out – the watch will automatically call emergency services and send a notification of your location to your preset emergency contacts. How. Cool. Is. That.

What Can Be Improved

The one gripe about the Series 4 is that its battery life is expected to be similar to the Series 3. This translates to approximately 18 hours of use. And if you extrapolate that expectation to real life usage (assuming you take the Series 4 LTE version outside for a run with Apple music playing and GPS tracking on), your watch might not even last till lunch.


Fitbit Versa

Fitbit Smartwatch Versa
Image Credit: Fitbit

What We Like

Fitbit Versa is evidence that the company has progressed beyond making really good fitness trackers to create a really good smartwatch that is an affordable Apple alternative ($318) – available on Lazada (up to 2% cashback).

The device weighs a mere 38g and looks compact and fashionable. Overall, it definitely feels lighter on the wrist as compared to the smallest Apple watch (40mm). It functions exactly as a fitness tracker should and even has a Fitbit Coach that allows you to watch workout videos. Swimmers rejoice as the Fitbit Versa is also fully water-resistant! For ladies, there is a dedicated female health tracking function that helps you to track your menstrual cycles.

Fitbit Versa Female Tracking
Image Credit: Fitbit

Notifications are prompt and although you can’t reply to messages, you CAN do quick responses if you have an Android phone connected (sorry Apple users).

The Versa has an impressive 4-day battery life, which is well above that of the Apple Series 4. This also means that you can wear it to sleep to track your sleep stages, instead of having to leave it next to your bed while it charges overnight.

What Can Be Improved

There are a few limitations:

  • A lack of a built-in GPS and LTE means you’ll always have to bring your smartphone along for your run
  • The App Gallery (Fitbit app store) is limited but has messenger apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger
  • You can store and play around 300 songs, but music transfer is complicated

And if you’re thinking of maximising the use of your Spotify premium account on your Versa, you’re out of luck as you can only choose from Pandora or Deezer.


Samsung Galaxy Watch

Samsung Galaxy Watch Wearable Technology
Image Credit: Samsung

What We Like

The Samsung Galaxy Watch (46mm silver variant) may share the Fitbit Versa’s phenomenal 4-day battery life, but it packs a lot more features and can potentially rival the Apple Watch Series 4. It costs a little more than the Versa but it’s definitely more affordable ($399) than Apple’s offering – available for pre-order on Qoo10 (up to 2% cashback).

Want to take it for a swim? The 63g device (without straps) is swim-proof up to 50m depth. And that’s impressive considering that the LTE variant has an integrated microphone and speaker for taking calls.

We like the rotating bezel as it allows users to navigate Tizen OS intuitively. As compared to Apple’s watchOS which uses a digital crown on the side instead. It’s also extremely useful for sweaty or wet hands, that won’t work as well on a touchscreen post workout.

Samsung Gear Bezel Demo
Image Credit: Wirecutter

What Can Be Improved

Android fans will be disappointed to learn that the Samsung Galaxy Watch does not come with Google’s Wear OS, and it’s probably because:

  1. Rotating bezels aren’t supported by Wear OS
  2. Samsung has optimised Tizen OS for its hardware (which explains the watch’s remarkable battery life)
  3. Samsung wants you to remain in their ecosystem (they want to make the best Samsung phone, not the best Android phone)

The lack of Wear OS also means that the only smart assistant you have is Bixby… Which some might feel is the Microsoft equivalent of this:

Clippy
Image Credit: Know Your Meme
The Problem With Samsung's Bixby

Samsung's voice-powered digital assistant has gained a reputation for being more intrusive than helpful. One of the most questionable attempts to integrate it was the need to activate Bixby every time you switched on a Samsung phone's camera. When Samsung dedicated a hardware key to Bixby on the otherwise beautifully, minimalist Galaxy S8, people actually dedicated time to find a way of triggering other voice assistants instead. It also really didn't help that voice commands don't seem to work as they are supposed to, and the assistant sometimes caused applications to crash.

 

And because you only have Samsung’s Galaxy Apps, you won’t get access to third-party apps like Google Maps, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger (there’s Spotify though).


TicWatch Pro

TicWatch Pro
Image Credit: TicWatch

What We Like

TicWatch Pro is probably the best smartwatch you’ve never heard of and is the latest premium offering from Mobvoi, a tech company that was formed by ex-Googlers. It’s also cheaper ($379 on Qoo10) than the Apple Watch Series 4 and Samsung Galaxy Watch while offering almost everything that the two can do.

The TicWatch Pro’s unique selling point is its revolutionary dual-layer screen. So instead of staring at nothing when the OLED screen is off – like in traditional smartwatches – you’ll get a familiar LCD display (with basic information like date and time) that wouldn’t look out of place on a Seiko timepiece.

 

TicWatch Pro Dual Screen Wearable Technology
Image Credit: TicWatch

So why two displays? Basically, it overcomes the problem of limited battery life by allowing you to use the watch in 3 modes:

  1. It’s easier to read information off an LCD in harsh sunlight or awkward angles. And if you keep it in “Essential Mode” (LCD only) the watch will last 30 days on a single charge!
  2. You can choose to keep the OLED screen on via “Smart Mode”  but that will reduce battery life to 2 days instead.
  3. “Hybrid Mode” is a hybrid of both earlier modes. Want to look at your awesome, custom watch face with all your notifications? Simply tilt your watch to wake up the OLED display (Writer’s note: I’ve seen it personally and it’s totally badass). This puts battery life to about 14 days.

Android fans will be pleased to note that the watch runs on Wear OS, which gives you access to Google Assistant as well as apps like Google Fit, Google Maps, Google Pay, and etc.

What Can Be Improved

We did learn, however, from a colleague’s personal experience that you might experience periodic Bluetooth disconnection from your smartphone. But we’re pretty sure that it’ll be fixed in time with updates to Wear OS.


Sizing Up All 4 Smartwatches

Here’s an overview of all 4 smartwatches:

FeatureApple Watch Series 4Samsung Galaxy WatchFitbit VersaTicWatch Pro

Shape

Rectangular

Circular

Rectangular

Circular

Operating System

watchOS 5

Tizen OS 4.0

FitbitOS

Wear OS

Compatibility

iPhone Only

Android and iPhone

Android and iPhone

Android and iPhone

Colours

Space Grey, Black, Gold

Midnight Black, Rose Gold (42mm)

Silver (46mm)

Black, Silver, Rose Gold

Graphite (Special Edition)

Shadow Black and Liquid Metal Silver

Build

Entry

Aluminium Body, Ceramic Back

Ion-X Glass

Premium

Stainless Steel Body, Ceramic Back

Sapphire Glass

Standard

Stainless Steel Body

Gorilla Glass DX+

Standard

Aluminium Body

Gorilla Glass 3

Standard

Stainless Steel & Glass Fibre Infused Nylon Case

Gorilla Glass 3

Display

AMOLED

40mm (1.57inch display)

44mm (1.78inch display)

Super AMOLED

42mm (1.2inch display)

46mm (1.3inch display)

LCD

39x39mm (1.34inch display)

Dual Screen: LCD & AMOLED

45mm (1.39inch display)

Internal

64-bit S4 Processor

16GB Storage

Exynos 9110 Processor

4GB Storage

TZ1201XBG Processor

4GB Storage (only 2.5GB for music)

Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100

4GB storage

"Swim" Capable

Yes, up to depth of 50m (5ATM)

Yes, up to depth of 50m (5ATM)

Yes, up to depth of 50m (5ATM)

Not recommended

(IP68: submerged 1.5m for 30 mins)

Battery Life

Up to 18 hours

Up to 4 days

Up to 4 days

Up to 30 days (Essential Mode - LCD)

Up to 2 days (Smart Mode - OLED)

Charging

Wireless

Wireless

Charging Dock

Magnetic Dock

Connectivity

Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi

LTE

Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi

LTE

Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi

Bluetooth, NFC, Wi-Fi

GPS Tracking

Built-in

Built-in

Needs smartphone connection to track

Built-in

Fitness Tracking

Accelerometer ("fall" detection)

Gyroscope

Barometer

Heart Rate Monitor

EKG Scanner (FDA cleared)

Accelerometer

Gyroscope

Barometer

Heart Rate Monitor

Accelerometer

Gyroscope

Barometer

Heart Rate Monitor

Accelerometer

Gyroscope

Barometer

Heart Rate Monitor

Contactless Payment

Apple Pay

Samsung Pay

Fitbit Pay

Google Pay

There isn’t a clear winner when it comes to buying a piece of wearable technology as we’re all limited by budget as well as what each smartwatch has to offer. But it’s clear that these devices exist to make our lives easier and will help us in our push towards becoming a Smarter Nation.

And hey, Christmas is just around the corner so if you need to pick up a gift for someone special (like yourself)…

Parks and Recreation Tom Treat Yo Self
Image Credit: giphy

Here’s a gentle reminder that tech and gadgets ALWAYS go for massively discounted prices during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And we’re not too far away from both… #justsaying


If You’re Already Planning To Buy A Smartwatch…

Then why not check out our ShopFest page for more information about the next sales event as well as how to win prizes like a 3D2N stay at Labuan Bajo, Plataran Komodo Beach Resort + $1000 cashback, or a Microsoft Surface Go Bundle worth $1,218, and more!

Pro tip: For even more chances to earn points and unlock levels, check ShopBack’s Facebook page and daily newsletters during key dates, in order to find special keys to unlock Treasure Chests via the ShopBack App!

ShopFest 9.9 Treasure Chest

Which smartwatch will you be getting? Let us know in the comments below!


Featured Image Credit: Apple

If you enjoyed reading our take on technology, follow us on our Telegram channel!

 

(P.S. We’ll be releasing a special Treasure Chest key for our readers there.)

User Feedback