Smart move from phones to watches

2013-12-01 14:00

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The age of the connected device is upon us,but the functionality of smart watches is still toolimited for mass appeal, writes Toby Shapshak

Dick Tracy, the fictional 1950s cartoon detective, was famous for his wristwatch phone. Fifty years later, we’re no closer to using our wristwatches as cellphones.

But the humble single-use watch has evolved into infinitely more than just a timekeeper, with a generation of smart watches that make that other always-with-us gadget, the smartphone, more useful.

Smart watches are, unfortunately, just accessories for these mobiles and have varying levels of usefulness, but they extend the key features like checking messages and social feeds, which is what their current best aspects are.

The range of devices that work with smart watches is currently limited (only the Pebble works across both Android and iOS), but it does one very important thing in this age where we’ve become slaves to our never-ending smartphone alerts.

You can limit the amount of times you haul your phone out of your pocket by just glancing at your wrist. That alone should reduce stress between couples, where one half is digitally wired (okay, addicted) and the other isn’t.

Although Sony’s is the only one that is in its second version, it and the others need to present more functionality to become more widespread and useful for the masses, and in some cases cheaper.

Be that as it may, the age of connected devices is upon us and future versions of smartphones will become more functional – and might even one day become actual phones.

»?Shapshak is editor and publisher of Stuff magazine

»?Follow him on Twitter @shapshak

Sony Smartwatch 2

From R1?250 |

Technically, Sony’s second shot at a smart watch is Sony specific, working best with one of the company’s high-end Xperia handsets like the Z1.

But Sony has also left the door open for any Android 4.0 or later handset to connect and make use of its SmartWatch?2’s functions.

The SmartWatch?2 uses NFC, a Sony favourite at the moment, and allows notification displays – including those from a range of social networks – as well as call management from your wrist, out of the box.

There are also apps available, mostly from Google’s Play store, to add a little extra functionality. There are few customisation options for the hardware itself, mostly involving the wristband, but

it shares the Xperia?Z line-up’s disdain of liquid-based damage – like water off a duck’s back. It’s not the best of this trio, but it’ll play with most recent Android devices, and that’s a plus.


$150 (R1?518) Ships worldwide |

Kickstarter gave the world the Pebble smart watch, arguably the first wrist-based smart device to become popular with its various smartphone connectivity functions.

The Pebble benefits from a growing series of apps designed to launch smartphone actions, allow tracking of various activities and display notifications.

Apart from making you feel like a superspy while jogging, the Pebble is also customisable: the watch face and colour can be selected.

Pebble’s e-paper display (think Kindle), tiny processor and custom operating system allow it to link with both Android and iOS devices, making this one of the most versatile options available at the moment.

And just in case you think a wrist computer is a delicate little flower, it’s water resistant and also rated for use up to 3?000 metres, so climbing a small mountain while wearing it isn’t out of the question.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

R4?600 |

Samsung’s Galaxy Gear has the potential to be one of the best smart watches out there, but it’s very limited in that it will only talk to Samsung’s Galaxy Note?3 at first.

There are overseas updates broadening its use to a selection of newer Samsung phones, but it doesn’t come close to the versatility of the other two devices on this list.

As for the price, you’re getting 4GB of internal storage and an 800MHz processor, something that the other contenders cannot match – as well as a 1.9?MP camera and a shorter time between charges.

Not all of these are positives. Notifications are handled by the device (recently improved with an update), as are some call-management functions.

Being able to snap images, albeit at low resolutions, just illustrates the potential for the device, but it isn’t quite where it needs to be yet. Still, if you’re mad about all things Samsung, this is the companion device for you. – Brett Venter

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