What does the perfect smartwatch look like? Depends who you ask. If you ask us - God help you - we'll talk your ear off for days. So to save you from that, we decided to pull together a few of our thoughts into one place.
In the time Wareable has been around the smartwatch has evolved dramatically, but there's still a long way to go, and where it goes next is the great big mystery. Sure, there are some easy features we'd all like to see - a nice long battery, duh - but with the rise of hybrids, evolving styles and more variation in software, there are more things than ever to think about.
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So the whole Wareable team came together to pitch the perfect smartwatch, and there's a surprising amount of variation in our ideal devices. Here's what we came up with.
Paul Lamkin - Editor in chief
The perfect smartwatch for me is already here - in theory. Back in May of 2015, in an op-ed titled How the Apple Watch let me down, I picked apart the shortcomings of the original Cupertino smartwatch and wrote a wish-list for the second-gen model.
"I want to have my run accurately tracked by GPS… be able to listen to my tunes, whether that be offline Spotify synced tracks or stored MP3s… After my run I want to pop into Starbucks and get a coffee and pay using my untethered watch… scroll through my emails and Facebook messages and reply."
With watchOS 3.2, Android Wear 2.0 (and even Tizen) you can now do all that, and more, and it's swell. But the hardware footprint is pretty cumbrous still. The Apple Watch is much svelter than its Wear rivals but it's still far from a regular wristwatch.
Give me the above feature set, in a watch case that's as slick as a regular old Timex, and that's me happy. Oh yeah, and chuck in about 1000% more battery life too. Thanks.
James Stables - Executive editor
As an Apple Watch wearer, I've been banging the same drum as Paul about all the things a smartwatch should be able to do – and I agree, we're only a polished design away from an uncompromising all-rounder.
But this year, my eye has been caught by the current crop of hybrids, and especially the Withings Steel HR. It's left devices from the likes of Fitbit and Fossil in its dust, by coupling watchmaking craft with advanced health metrics from its built-in heart rate monitor. Couple that with 25 days of battery life and you have a seriously impressive health watch.
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Now, a hybrid can never be as powerful as a full-screen smartwatch, but conversely, can you ever be as proud to wear a computer on your wrist? Maybe not. And that's why hybrid smartwatches are filling the void. If I was to design the perfect smartwatch, a big dose of my inspiration would be from the Steel HR. Add in stress detection, really strong sleep insights and the ability to mine data from Strava and other workout apps, and this could be a real winner.
Sophie Charara - Features editor
You know how you sometimes catch yourself thinking about an Oreo milkshake or the opening credits to a Netflix show? When I'm testing out new smartwatches, I catch myself thinking about the HP Izaac Mizrahi hybrid. (Izaac Mizrahi is a Brooklyn based designer I had not heard of).
Ignore the bling, which is not my style, and look at its screen - it has a classic analogue watch face that always tells the time and an embedded OLED screen beneath the mineral glass that is only visible when you get alerts. Crucially, the rest of the time it fades seamlessly into the watch face. On this point, I'm also keen to see the LED matrix on the Adidas Chameleon which seems to be gunning for the same invisible-till-you-need-it aesthetic.
My dream smartwatch may be technologically impossible but here goes: I want a small, and I mean Pebble Time Round-small, light and comfortable watch (so that I can freely wriggle my wrist about, try it) with a girly-hipster-chic analogue watch face and that hidden HP Izaac Mizrahi style screen. On the weight point, even the Kate Spade Metro Grand hybrid weighs my wrist down a little at the end of the day. How feeble I am.
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Add NFC for wearable payments - a must - together with customisable 'pushers' or buttons a la Fossil Group's hybrids so I can control my music and silence alerts and then we're talking. I always carry my phone about so for the purposes of this device, let's not worry about making it standalone. For apps, I just want to start something - say order an Uber - either by talking to the watch or via my phone then get the beep when I need it.
For fitness, let's say impeccable step tracking, distance and calories plus connected GPS Fitbit-style just in case. I'd also like - instead of hourly vibes - an update alert at say 3/4pm with my stats so far for the day and what I need to do to move enough and hit my goal. I sleep like a baby log, so sleep tracking is less of a priority for me.
Like I said, I always have my phone and if I do go out running, I'd rather grab a Moov Now that I've bought separately. Because another big must is that this has got to be the same price as a nice fashion watch. Same deal for music - I'd rather have something I can wear than store music, especially when you can cut out the middleman and do that with a hearable like the Bragi Dash.
New item on my to-do list: find out what is going on with that HP watch.
Mike Sawh - Editor
Let's be clear: the perfect smartwatch doesn't exist yet, but like Paul, I do think that many of the components that make one are out there somewhere on a host of different watches. Well, most of them. We also have the fashion brands to thank for more attractive designs, and that's a big thing for me. It's a watch that needs to look good first and foremost. I'm talking about hybrids like the Frederique Constant Horological Classics or in the more affordable realms the Skagen Hagen Connected or Hugo Boss Smart Classic (minus the slither of a display).
I'm going to bang the battery drum because yes, it still bothers me that it should be acceptable that smartwatches last only a couple of days. Pebble (sad face) has shown it can be done (although admittedly with a lot of compromise in the screen) and there hundreds of hybrids (mainly from Fossil) that prove connected watches can go longer.
As far as features, I still feel like notifications are king; that's what lures me towards my phone and a smartwatch should be able to fill that void whether I'm at work or in the gym. The Apple Watch, Garmin's newest sports watches and the latest Android Wear 2.0 smartwatches handle this really well. Speaking of Google, I really had a soft spot for the Google Now cards and I still believe this idea of contextual alerts can be a killer feature for smartwatches.
I don't necessarily think that smartwatches have to be crammed with fitness features although I like the direction that the Apple Watch Series 2, the Gear S3 and others have taken to embrace sports watch features.
But fitness tracking has to be able to motivate as well as record the data accurately, and GPS that doesn't sap the life out of the battery would be the dream. Speaking of dreams, I'd like to see someone really offer something innovative and useful with sleep tracking. Maybe the Fitbit smartwatch will do it, but there feels like a big opportunity to do more in this department.
Let's keep embracing physical watch features as well. Samsung, Google and newcomers like Kronaby serve as reminders that we shouldn't forget that watches are already well designed devices. We should embrace those age-old features to get smartwatches to where they need to be.
Hugh Langley - US editor
If you'd asked me a year ago to describe my perfect smartwatch, I'd have had an easy answer; now I'm not so sure.
That's not because I've been won over by any big, flashy new ideas, but because my idea of what a smart should be has changed. When Pebble and the early crop of Android Wear watches hit the scene, I was convinced that a smartwatch should be passive and supplementary to the smartphone, with as little interaction as possible. Yes, fitness features are great, but we're still not as a place where a smartwatch can realistically replace a proper sports watch - although a meaty fitness component would definitely be on my wishlist.
Jump back to today and things have changed. We have more smartwatches that can stand alone, like the LG Watch Sport, and they've made me reconsider my stance. I don't foresee a time where smartwatches will kill the smartphone, but I now appreciate the benefits of having standalone functionality. So I guess I want a watch that's still be supplementary most of the time, but seamlessly come into its own when untethered from the smartphone, letting me continue to receive messages, get news flashes or check my location on maps.
The only problem would arise when I wanted to type something out or speak to someone, but with the rise of hearables this may become a non-issue. As my colleague Husain predicts, Apple will use its AirPods as a way of interacting with an LTE-enabled Watch, and that seems smart. I can foresee a not-too-distant future where all our hearables and smartwatches work in harmony, and the smartphone starts to feel a little left out.
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What do I want it to look like? Round, for starters. I like the Apple Watch, but square watch displays are not for me. No massive lugs either - that's something else all too common in today's roster of smartwatches. I like a bit of chunk, but with my small wrists I can't be doing with 48mm faces. I thought the Samsung Gear S2 had a good balance - imagine my disappointment with the Gear S3 - but maybe it's a tad too techy. The Tag Heuer 45 Connected Modular is a beauty, but a little large, and far more than I can afford. I'll go for a middle ground between the two.
Step tracking, I'm not fussed about. I'm not a fan of half-done fitness features; either go all in or don't bother. Sleep tracking? Unless this thing has a mammoth battery, I'll leave that job to better devices. Yes, even in my wildest smartwatch fantasy I'm setting limitations, but that's because I think my proposal is actually quite realistic.
Conor Allison - Reporter
For me, the closest device to perfection is the Apple Watch. It's able to mimic my wallet when paying for things, replace my phone when out running and remain stylish enough to wear in pretty much every scenario - providing you have a couple of extra straps.
But that doesn't mean it's all plain sailing. I want a smartwatch that's less finicky to navigate, and the rotating bezel from Samsung paired with a slightly refreshed OS is probably the best way to achieve this. I don't care if it means Apple dropping the square casing for a more classic look, it can take the ego hit.
And since nobody enjoys charging their device every two days, seeing hybrid-level battery packed inside is my selfless request for the people. Anyway, there's a bigger question now at play: just how long will it take Tim Cook to read this and rush to make my smartwatch dream come to life?
Husain Sumra - Reporter
I think smart clothing, and wearables in general, need to help make us better. They're tools that we humans can use to make us to transcend our squishy bodies. And that's what I want from my perfect smartwatch.
I want something stylish that I can wear to a fancy event, but that I can quickly turn into something that's more comfortable at the gym. The Apple Watch is one of the few that manages to bridge both worlds, so something like that, but half the thickness. I have no round or square face preference, but it does have to have a big, bold digital face with as little bezel as possible. Something minimalist, like the Withings Steel HR. Also, it would have have enough battery life to power bright white digital watch faces that resemble the gorgeous face of the Nowa Shaper.
I want it to be able to instantly track whatever exercise I'm doing without having to touch the darn thing. And please, don't just track my statistics, come with some sort of AI that can interpret it and tell me what to do with all that fancy data. Tell me how I'm sleeping, tell me I'm not active enough.
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Doing things without being chained to a smartphone would be nice. If I forgot my phone somewhere or it died because I was Snapchatting too much then I won't be totally useless. I'd hope that it has some kind of AI assistant that can dictate things too. Sure, talking to your wrist is weird, but if I can pair it with a pair of Bluetooth headphones and do some tasks (like dictating articles!) then that's Ok. This, of course, requires a somewhat robust operating system. So yeah, it'd have to have a robust operating system as well.
But most importantly, the smartwatch needs to keep track of how I'm doing. I want a watch that is constantly monitoring my health, jam-packed with all kinds of sensors that are looking for all kinds of things. Track my blood pressure, track my blood sugar, keep an eye out for any cancerous cells. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a doctor mention that catching something early is essential to fixing a health problem. Now, I admit that packing in sensors that can detect cancer and glucose levels isn't a possibility right now. While we have some cancer sensors, we can't track them all yet, and glucose sensors still have to be invasive for now. Plus, there are big regulatory hurdles. But as more serious medical sensors evolve, I want to see them make their way into smartwatches.
Overall, it may sound like I just want Tony Stark's Jarvis powering a stylish smartwatch but let me assure you… actually, yeah, that's basically what I want.
Who do you think is on the money? What would you like to see in your perfect smartwatch? Let us know in the comments below.
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