H1 2015 in review: Best smartwatches


October 21, 2015 – this fast-approaching date might ring a bell in a nerd's head. It's the point in time when Marty McFly lands upon making his trip through time in Back to the Future II. Alas, the not-so-exciting fact of the matter is that we're not very good at traveling through time, at least not yet. On the other hand, people have long become masters of keeping track of time – surely, all of us have used a wrist watch at some point.

Speaking of watches, we could be witnessing a renaissance of sorts in the field. Timepieces are becoming more than just time-telling devices. They're becoming more than fashion accessories and status symbols. They're growing smarter, as you've surely noticed, with Google and Apple investing big money towards the advancement of this new type of gadget you might have heard of – the smartwatch. 

Now, there's one thing valid for all of today's smartwatches – they all leave plenty of room for improvement in a number of areas. Most of them don't last long between charges, and even when they're fully topped, there's not a whole lot they can do to justify their cost. Nevertheless, we do have our favorites among them. It is time to continue our review of 2015's first half with a look at the best smartwatches released over the past six months. 

The Apple Watch and the LG Watch Urbane


Ladies and gents, the Apple Watch and the LG Watch Urbane are our top smartwatches of H1, 2015 – the smartwatches that impressed us the most when we got our hands on them, the smartwatches that other players in the field should learn from, the smartwatches that are really worth your attention. Sure, neither of them is perfect, as we hinted above, but as of now, these two stand closer to that point than any other smartwatch in existence.

Now, we do have to share with you that picking a favorite among these two smartwatches sparked quite a dispute here at the office. On one hand, we had the long list of pros in support of the Apple Watch, including the simple fact that using one is a more refined experience. Pairing it to the iPhone, for example, is a hassle-free process – one infinitely smoother than dealing with the Android Wear app, and we dedicated a whole article to the frustration doing so might cause. And even past the pairing stage, Android Wear on the LG Watch Urbane is still not quite as stable as Apple's watchOS loaded on the Watch. 

Software stability aside, the Apple Watch is undoubtedly the device the majority of developers are having their attention drawn to. After all, more Apple Watches were sold on its launch day than Android Wear smartwatches were sold in 2014. This is why owners of the Apple Watch are guaranteed to have the richest selection of software for their wearable, thus finding even more uses for it. But even without relying on third-party apps, an Apple watch remains a fun, useful, well-engineered device – providing discrete alerts via its taptic engine, displaying beautiful notifications on its easy-to-read screen, and tracking your activity with great precision throughout your whole exercise session.  

In the opposite corner, the LG Watch Urbane may lack the Apple Watch's sophisticated alerts, rich app ecosystem, and precise activity monitoring features, not to mention that its design is unlikely to appeal to women. However, LG's offering stands out with being more stylish than an equally-priced Apple smartwatch. For $350 MSRP, LG is putting a solid, steel-made timepiece on your wrist and is pairing it with a high-quality leather band. In comparison, a stainless steel Apple Watch with a leather band will cost you north of $650, which sets quite a price gap between the two devices. 

Design aside, the LG Watch Urbane is packed with a battery that's twice as large compared to what an Apple Watch has tucked inside it. Even though battery longevity in smartphones is a matter of how the device is used, you're still more likely to get better battery life out of the LG Watch Urbane. 

The LG Watch Urbane also scores big points with a couple of killer features, one of which is its support for third-party watch faces. While the Apple Watch only lets you personalize the ones that come pre-loaded, Android Wear offers tons of gorgeous watch faces to pick from, and a generous portion of them are free to download. This makes the Urbane shine when it comes to personalization. And although the Apple Watch delivers a smoother user experience overall, the LG Watch Urbane allows you to enjoy the convenience of an always-on screen, which stays lit both when displaying the time and when using certain apps. As of now, the Apple Watch lacks such functionality, meaning that you have to wake its screen before using it, either with a gesture or a tap. 

Ultimately, we'd say that the Apple Watch and the LG Watch Urbane are equally awesome. While they both have their rough edges in need of polishing, they're a clear indication that smartwatches are advancing in the right direction, and, more importantly, are starting to make sense outside of Geeksland. Both camp Apple Watch and team Android Wear already have their solid strengths to stand their ground with, and we're excited to see what the future holds for the two platforms. Are you? Let us know in the comments!



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