The market for connected watches matures, especially since the announcement of the Apple watch and Android Wear system from Google, which is standard figure because it has already been adopted by several major manufacturers including Sony, Samsung, Asus or LG. Samsung continues to push its own system, Tizen, which is quite convincing.

What’s the selection criteria?

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On the other hand, among the manufacturers offering autonomous watches – in other words, miniature smartphones with a bracelet and a SIM card – some have chosen Android, others have proprietary systems. The screen technologies are varied, the power and memory size changes at all. And compatibility with different models of smartphones is often limited. Here are some landmarks to choose from, as well as a panorama in the form of comparative tables of the technical specifications of watches connected.

Type of screen: LCD, Oled, electronic ink or … traditional needles!

  • Sony SmartWatch 3: Transflective LCD
  • Pebble Time Round: electronic ink
  • Gear S2: screen round Oled
  • Moto 360 Edition 2015: Round screen Oled

The type of screen is an essential criterion because it determines the autonomy, the color or black and white display, the readability under different ambient light conditions, and the need (or not) to turn off the screen when the screen Watch is not consulted. There is no miracle solution:

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  • Electronic ink screens offer excellent battery life (up to one week) and remain on at all times but are monochrome and less reactive.
  • The LCD or Oled screens are color and high resolution but energy-intensive and less readable in high brightness. They cannot stay on permanently but it is not necessarily a problem, thanks to an automatic detection of the movement of the arm when one wants to look at the time. The display then turns on automatically and then turns off immediately afterward.
  • Displays in so-called transflective LCD technology offer a compromise because they can do without backlighting. Chosen by Sony for its Smartwatch 2 and 3, this technology allows a correct autonomy and a perfect visibility in full sun.
  • Finally, do not forget the watches with physical needles, which give the hour in all circumstances and offer an autonomy of several weeks or months. Some have a display at the bottom of the dial.

Compatibility with smartphones (Android, iPhone …)

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The compatibility of connected watches is currently limited to Android and iPhone smartphones, which however represent more than 80% of the market. The Samsung Gear 2 smartphones only work with some of the brands. The Apple Watch will only work with the iPhone 5 and 6. Microsoft was preparing a connected watch that should logically work only with Windows Phone. 

Three philosophies cohabit today:

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  • The watches aspiring to complete the smartphone. Thus, they notify calls but do not necessarily have the capacity to respond directly. But some go further, such as the Samsung Gear 2 or the Apple watch which have a microphone and a speaker to answer a call while wearing the watch in his ear. However, the smartphone must stay close because it connects to the operator’s network.
  • The autonomous watches as the LG G Watch Urbane LTE or Omate which are equipped with a SIM and a 3G or 4G connectivity. These are virtually miniature smartphones. Who can most can least, these watches can also play the role of mere companions of the smartphone.
  • Traditional watches, needle, but which incorporate an activity sensor, connected in the manner of bracelets. They interact with a smartphone, the only one able to display the data.

Processing power: it varies from the whole

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The processing power of a connected watch does not necessarily have to be very important insofar as the current applications are not very sophisticated. But things could change. The uses and imagination of the developers may make applications much more gourmand. For now, the chips used display powers that vary enormously from one watch to another.

Storage memory: useful for applications, photos, videos

An important memory allows storing new applications of which some are potentially greedy. But it all depends on how they are designed. For example, a GPS navigation application could run on the smartphone and send only the display to the watch. This is exactly the philosophy of Android Wear watches, which do not need a significant memory (or power). Memory is also useful for storing photos, videos and music transferred from the smartphone or produced by the integrated video sensor to the watch.

Set of sensors (camera, gyroscope, pedometer, heart rate monitor..)

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The Gear 2 in video capture mode is very rare watches now have a camera that allows capturing videos or photos. The Samsung Gear 2 is practically the only one. Such a sensor potentially allows being more reactive than if one has to take his smartphone out of his pocket.

The presence of motion sensors (gyroscopes, pedometers, heart rate monitors …) opens the way to all kinds of applications, especially in the field of sports or health. Sensors can also be used to enhance the user experience.

Applications pre-installed in connected watches already cover many needs:

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  • Notifications (e-mails, SMS, calls, social networks)
  • Reading messages
  • Sports coaching (with often sophisticated applications)
  • Management of incoming and outgoing telephone calls, with access to contacts and display of call log
  • Steering the smartphone audio player
  • Recording voice memos
  • Stopwatch, alarm, timer.
  • More rarely: GPS pedestrian navigation

As with smartphones, it is possible to install new applications on connected watches. The recent arrival of the Android Wear system generates a new dynamic. Already adopted by several manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Motorola, it is emerging as a standard. As a result, the number of applications available is flying. In fact, it is not even necessary to install applications on the watch itself because these are simple extensions of the application of the smartphone since it has been adapted by its editor. As expected, the Apple Watch has the same dynamic: dozens of applications are announced every day.

Wireless Interfaces: Bluetooth, Wifi, 3G, NFC

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All watches connected “companions” dialogue with the smartphone via a Bluetooth interface. And that’s usually enough! Samsung Gear or Sony Smartwatch add an NFC chip (contactless communication to a few centimeters) which makes it easier to initially connect to a smartphone. For its part, the Omate TrueSmart or the Samsung Gear S add a Wi-Fi interface and a direct 3G communication, without going through a smartphone.

Battery life and charging: microUSB port or contactless dock

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The autonomy depends very much on the type of screen and the power of the chip. Thus, due to the type of electronic ink screen and its modest power, Pebble takes a week without recharging. Conversely, high resolution OLED screen and the chip of the Galaxy Gear 2 limited autonomy to 2 or 3 days. Charging the battery sometimes passes through a microUSB port dedicated to this function, which allows you to use any standard charger.

Waterproof: the watches connected are at least resistant to splashing water

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The palm of the waterproofing returns to La Cogito Original (water-resistant to 100 m), followed by the Pebble E-Paper Watch which can descend to 50 m depth. The other watches connected are for the most part waterproof to 1 m or simply splashing water. 

Customizing the look (a watch is a fashion accessory!)

A watch is a fashion accessory or even a jewel. The watches connected will probably be no exception and the manufacturers have understood. They look after the design of their products, decline them in several colors and offer different bracelets. In future, each model of I-watch could be declined in several designs and possibly several sizes, for example for men or women.