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Smartwatches & Trackers 

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Reviews of brands from the category smartwatches & trackers
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02.2023
Rating smartwatches (february)
The popularity rating of smartwatches is based on comprehensive statistics on the interest shown by the Internet audience
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Smartwatches & Trackers: specifications, types

Type

Smartwatch. A wristwatch gadget designed to be used in conjunction with a smartphone, usually with a Bluetooth connection. Such a watch can be used to receive notifications of incoming calls or messages, to control various smartphone features; and the most advanced models even allow the installation of their own applications and differ from watch-phones only in the inability to make calls on their own. In turn, the difference...from fitness trackers (see below) lies primarily in a more traditional design and broader specialization: smartwatches often have fitness sensors and support specialized data collecting, but their use is not limited to this.

Watch-phone. Smartwatch with its own mobile communication module. Such devices are capable of making calls, sending messages, and in most cases even using the mobile Internet without connecting to a smartphone or other external device. However, a Bluetooth headset may be required for voice convenience, and smartphone connectivity is also available on many models. The specific features of such gadgets can be different, it should be specified separately.

Fitness tracker. Specialized wrist gadgets designed mainly for sports. Typically, such a gadget has a long and narrow body, the width of which may not exceed the width of the strap; this arrangement is considered the most convenient in view of the application. As for the features, fitness trackers mainly record various data about the state of the body and health of the user, ranging from heart rate to blood oxygen levels, sleep phases, and other specific parameters. In addition, traditional features such as call or SMS notifications can also be provided, but in this case they are of secondary importance. Displays in fitness trackers are usually the simplest, and in some models there is no screen at all — it is still more convenient to view detailed data on physical activity in the application on a smartphone.

Beacon for children. Wrist devices to ensure the safety of children; most often — a specialized type of watch-phone (see above). The beacon performs primarily two main features: it allows parents to control where the child is, and provides communication between the child and the parent (including in emergency situations). Specific features may vary, for more details see "Parental Control". In addition, the design often provides for other features of smartwatches — from an alarm clock and time display to a pedometer, heart rate monitor and other special data collecting.

— For animals. Gadgets designed for pets — primarily dogs. Such a device is usually attached to a collar and can perform quite a variety of features: a beacon that transmits data about the location of the pet, a “calling card” with the owner’s contact information, and even a fitness tracker that tracks the activity of the animal and allows you to monitor its health.

— Smart glasses. Wearable smart gadgets made in the form of glasses. Usually, a camera is built into the frame of such a gadget, and the display is located opposite one of the user's eyes. Initially, smart glasses were considered quite a promising development, but in fact, for a number of reasons, they did not gain popularity, and nowadays they are almost never used.

Interface

The main way to connect a wrist gadget with external devices. For smartwatches and fitness bands (see "Type"), this refers to a connection to a smartphone or tablet, while in the case of watch-phones, it usually refers to headsets.

— Bluetooth. Wireless technology for direct communication of various devices with each other. This is the most popular interface in smartwatches and bracelets: Bluetooth modules can be made very tiny, the communication range even in the earliest versions r...eaches 10 m, and different generations of Bluetooth are mutually compatible in terms of basic functionality. Specifically, the versions nowadays are as follows:
  • v2.0. The earliest standard used in modern wearable gadgets. The possibilities of such a connection are more modest than those of more advanced versions, but they are often quite enough.
  • v3.0. A standard that combines classic Bluetooth v 2.0 and a high-speed “add-on” for transferring large amounts of data.
  • v4.0. Further, after 3.0, improvement of Bluetooth: in addition to the classic and high-speed format, this version added Bluetooth Low Energy technology. Support of this technology is especially useful in fitness trackers, which usually transmit small amounts of data, but constantly.
  • v4.1. Modification of the 4.0 standard described above with improved protection against interference while working with LTE mobile communications.
  • v4.2. Another improvement of the 4.0 standard, which introduced, in particular, improved data protection and increased connection speed.
  • v5.0. The fifth generation of Bluetooth, released in 2016. One of the most interesting improvements is the introduction of two special modes of operation for Bluetooth Low Energy: extended range (by reducing speed) and increased speed (by reducing range).
— USB. Wired connection to a computer/laptop using a USB cable. A rather specific option, found in some fitness trackers and children's beacons. During working hours, such a gadget functions completely independently, and the USB connection is used only occasionally, for some special tasks: transferring collected data to a computer, charging the battery, changing some settings, etc. This is not as convenient as a permanent connection via Bluetooth, therefore, in wearable gadgets, USB is rarely used as the main connection method.

— 3.5 mm (mini-Jack). Another wired connection method, almost completely similar to the USB described above and differing only in the type of connector. Also, the 3.5 mm plug is designed mainly to work with smartphones and tablets, and not with computers. However, it is also extremely rare.

ANT+

The support of ANT+ wireless data transfer technology.

This technology is designed specifically for use in sports equipment, including wearable gadgets. It allows you to transmit secure data over a wireless channel with a frequency of 2.4 GHz at a distance of up to 30 m in open space. At the same time, the data exchange rate is very low — 12.8 kbps in normal mode and up to 60 kbps in "forced" mode — however, ANT+ was originally designed for small amo...unts of information, moreover, this format of operation provides extremely low power consumption. With all this, several elements can be easily combined into one network (for example, smart watches, a heart rate monitor, and even smart home control panels). These elements will coordinate their work with each other — wait for free air for transmission so as not to “interrupt” each other, and even work as repeaters for each other when the signal from a certain part of the network is weakened and direct communication with the central unit is impossible. The role of the central unit can be played, for example, by a smartphone — ANT+ support is provided in many such gadgets; and if it is not initially available, you can install a special application and communicate through an external adapter.

ANT+ devices will be compatible with each other regardless of type and manufacturer.

Gadget OS

Operating system is firmware that allows you to install additional applications. In addition, the operating systems themselves usually have quite extensive features — for example, tight integration with certain web services. Most popular options:

Android. The Android mobile OS is known mainly for smartphones and tablets, but the open source code allows you to optimize it for other devices, including wrist ones. It should be noted that traditional A...ndroid applications are mostly poorly compatible with wrist gadgets, however, some programs are able to automatically adapt to such devices, and specialized software is also released for many models (often by manufacturers themselves).

WearOS. The system formerly known as Android Wear. This is a specific version of Android, originally designed as a solution for wrist gadgets. It features a radically redesigned interface, tight integration with the Google Assistant, as well as the so-called proactive notifications. Thanks to the latter, the device is able to independently, without a request, issue extended tips for a specific situation: for example, before an important meeting, lay a route on the map, taking into account traffic jams and, if necessary, turn on a reminder even earlier than originally planned.

Tizen. An open operating system for mobile devices promoted primarily by Samsung. As with Android, the original Tizen is not well suited for smartwatches, so it is usually a special version of Tizen Wearable. It is worth noting that there are tools that allow you to run Android applications on devices with this OS.

— WatchOS. An operating system specially designed for Apple wrist gadgets and used only in them. Among the key features, it is worth noting support for the Siri voice assistant and the Apple Pay system, a set of fitness tools, as well as a high degree of optimization for Apple Watch controls. WatchOS uses its own applications, which can also be created by third-party developers.

— Nucleus. A rather rare and unusual OS: it does not refer to a general-purpose OS, but to real-time systems. Such systems are optimized for the fastest response to external events (whereas in conventional operating systems, the reaction occurs depending on the allocation of resources). Specifically, Nucleus has all the features necessary for wrist gadgets, however, for a number of reasons, such firmware is quite rare.

HarmonyOS. Huawei's Universal Operating System, also known as Hongmeng. Provides operation of a wide range of devices: appliances from the smart home ecosystem, smart watches, smartphones and tablets. On wearables, Harmony OS is a rebranded version of the homegrown Lite OS used in Huawei watches and other low-end devices.

SIM card support

Type of SIM card for which the gadget is designed. SIM cards are required for mobile communication modules, which are mainly found in watch phones and children's beacons (see "Type"). And their types can be:

Micro-SIM. Reduced in size and improved, in comparison with the obsolete mini-SIM, a variety of SIM-cards: the dimensions were reduced to 15x12 mm, while the amount of built-in memory and the overall functional...ity of the chip were slightly expanded.

Nano-SIM. The newest and smallest variety of replaceable SIM-cards: it has dimensions of only 12x9 mm.

It is worth noting that nowadays, most mobile operators sell SIM cards that are compatible with all three types of slots at once: the chip itself has a nano-SIM format, and such a card can be installed in a micro-SIM or mini-SIM slot using an adapter frame. So paying attention to the type of SIM card makes sense, first of all, if you already have a "sim card" of a strictly defined format and you do not want to change it.

A separate variety is represented by e-SIM(Embedded SIM) — non-removable modules that need to be programmed for a particular mobile operator. On the one hand, this creates some inconvenience: to change the number, changing the SIM card can be easier than reconfiguring the e-SIM. On the other hand, e-SIMs are more compact and better suited for wrist gadgets, and when you change your number, you do not need to spend money on buying a new card. The compatibility of such a module with the network of a particular operator should be specified separately.

Calls and alerts

Types of notifications, as well as basic voice communication features supported by the gadget.

Call notifications. Notifications about calls coming to the smartphone connected to the gadget, and for watch-phones — about calls to the watch itself. In classic smartwatches and fitness trackers (see "Type"), the specific functionality of such notifications can be different — from the usual sound or vibration signal to the ability to see the caller's nu...mber on the screen and accept/reject the call. But anyway, such notifications are often more noticeable to the user than the own signal of a smartphone deep in a pocket or bag.

SMS notifications. Notifications about SMS messages received either on a smartphone connected to the gadget, or on the gadget itself, if it is capable of receiving messages (all watch phones and many children's beacons have this capability, see "Type"). The specific features of notifications can be different — from the icon "you have received a message" to the ability to read SMS and reply to it. Anyway, this feature often provides additional convenience — at least it reduces the likelihood of missing an important notification, and often also eliminates the need to once again take the phone out of your pocket / bag.

Voice control. The ability to control the device through voice commands. In order for a smartwatch or fitness tracker to perform some simple feature, it is enough to say its name aloud.

Voice assistant. In watches with voice assistant support, the level of user interaction with the device is displayed in a new qualitative way. The most popular virtual assistants are Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. In Apple devices, the role of an assistant is performed by Apple Siri, in Samsung wearable gadgets — a virtual assistant Bixby. Unlike the voice control function, the assistant does not just turn on this or that feature, but allows you to perform certain operations in applications that require feedback.

— Sound signal. The ability to give sound signals using the built-in speaker. This feature will be useful primarily in situations where the gadget is not on hand — for example, if it is used as an alarm clock and is removed at night.

— Vibration. Vibration signal similar to that used in mobile phones. In wearable gadgets, such a signal is especially convenient due to the fact that the device is constantly in contact with the wearer's skin, so that the vibration is perfectly felt — and regardless of the level of noise around. In addition, vibration mode is also useful in quiet environments where a loud sound signal is undesirable.

— Built-in microphone. Own microphone built into the body of the device. Such equipment can be used for different purposes, depending on the type and features of the gadget. First of all, voice communication is impossible without a microphone. Another feature for which a microphone is required is the voice assistant (see above). And in children's smartwatches, it may be possible to remotely turn on the microphone from the parent gadget and listen to what is happening around the child; see the relevant paragraph below for details.

Speakerphone(speaker). The ability to work the gadget in hands-free mode, using the built-in speaker and microphone for conversation. In a conventional smart watch (see "Type"), this feature allows you to talk through the watch without removing the smartphone from your pocket; in watch-phones, speakerphone allows you to do so without headphones and headsets, and for children's smartwatches, this feature is almost mandatory. However the volume of the built-in speaker is usually low, so in a noisy environment its power may not be enough.
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