Gone are the days where the functionality of watches was just to show time. The introduction of multifunctional features of the smartwatches has expanded the functionality definition of watches beyond showing time. The various features consist of longer battery life, GPS, barometer, heart rate sensor, or notifications. Due to the growing nature of the smartwatch market, manufacturers like Apple, Withings, and Fitbit are continuously engaged in research and development to enhance existing features and to add new functionalities.
It took years for me to purchase my first smartwatches due to their not so refined visual aesthetics. It was difficult finding a smartwatch with minimal and discrete aesthetic features. Hence, the latter delayed my first smartwatch purchase until summer 2014 when I discovered the Steel by Withings. Withings is an independent French health technology brand founded in 2008 focusing only on products and features providing health metrics to all. As such, their product line consists of body scales, health monitors, and smartwatches supports. When their team reached out to me to capture my consumer experience and gifted me a Steel HR watch, I effusively embraced the opportunity.
The competitive nature of the smartwatch market is pushing manufacturers to focus on design as much as functionality. Accordingly, companies are offering an array of options suitable to everyone’s taste. Personally, my preference for design is the minimalist look and feel with black, white, gray colors and silver metal options with a slim case and interchangeable straps. During fitness activities, I often wear a silicon strap because it does not hold moisture.
Customization. Personalization of the look at the time of purchase is a highly preferred option. You can pick the watch face and case attributes such as color, finishes and sizes; and, band/strap attributes such as color and material. Often, the options of band/strap materials consist of leather, silicon, and metal. When purchasing metal bands, be wary of bulky clasps requiring effort to open and close. My Withings’s smartwatch is a gray silicone strap, gold case, and white face (see below).
Size & Shapes. The best watch case size is relative to its proportion to one’s stature. The case should rest between the inner and outer wrist bones for comfort wear. The common traditional watch face sizes are 36mm and 40mm. The shapes of smartwatches are round, rectangle and narrow rectangle. The thickness of the cases is getting slimmer; but some cases are still thick, especially in the sportive selection.
Smartwatches offer many functionality features that are continuously be enhanced with new releases. The best bet is to identify how these functions will support your lifestyle and what you want to get out of your smartwatch. For instance, my preference for features is to show time and health features. Receiving notifications on my phone is not a preference for I already have a cellphone that I carry at all time to fulfill such function.
Activity Tracking. Most smartwatches have activity-monitoring functions either dependent on your smartphone or integrated into the smartwatches. Most watches automatically record the walk and run, and all other workout activities by manual selection on your phone. You are able to view as a whole of your training sessions, recap your fitness activities and set goals. With Withings, you have a selection of over 30 sports to select – talk about options.
Heart Rate Monitor. Built-in heart rate monitors are popular in smartwatches. Their reading accuracy is questionable, so if this is important to you do some additional research or even do your own testing.
Sleep Monitor. The sleep monitor is one of my favorites. Nothing like quality sleep. The function tracks your sleep patterns, sleep duration, overnight heart rate and may even offer gentle vibration waking up alarms. Of course, you have to wear your watch to bed, which can be uncomfortable for some. I highly recommend you to clean your straps with antibacterial pads every night prior going to bed.
Smart Notifications. The smart notifications feature allows you to receive alerts of incoming calls, emails, text messages, calendar notifications, and even social media notification. If you are not interested like me to stay in-the-know at all times with most watches you can turn on and off notifications via your cellphone. I tend to keep my call notifications on during work hours and off after.
Smartwatches are pricey items so I recommend due diligence on the brand and smartwatch functions. The brand’s customer service rating is important for all electronic and tech items experience glitches at times that the average person cannot solve. Therefore, a great customer service team will alleviate all your stress and be of great assistance. About a year ago, my watch stopped working even after changing the battery, the Withings team walked me through the process. The problem was not resolved, so they sent me a prepaid envelope to mail my watch. Unexpectedly, I received a new watch in the mail within a week. Invest in companies with great customer service and quality products.