Six smartwatch alternatives to the Apple Watch

The latest version of some smartwatches are starting to show why they might be worth buying

Do I need a smartwatch?

On Monday morning, Apple is expected to release the sales date and prices for its line of smartphone-like line of wristwatches, so that’s a question sure to come up for anyone interested in electronic gadgetry.

And if the answer is yes, the next question might be, do I need the Apple smartwatch?

Not necessarily. None of the alternatives has a sufficient feature set to answer the question of “need,” but they’re getting close.

LG G Watch R $299. With a round face, metal body and leather straps, a look that resembles a normal watch is the killer feature for those who don’t need to advertise their technological cool. The low-key look makes it easier for people who get hundreds of notifications a day on their smartphones to check the alerts discreetly in business meetings. Users have said the battery lasts through a normal day of work. The watch requires Bluetooth pairing to an Android smartphone. Note: Don’t count on the heart rate sensor to be great.

Pebble Time Steel $250. Though Pebble’s latest watch isn’t scheduled to be delivered until July, it’s available for purchase on Kickstarter. The killer feature: a set of three side buttons that moves users through past, present and future notifications. The intention is to organize around “time” as opposed to organizing around “apps” like on a smartphone. The stainless-steel watch comes in silver, black or gold; is water resistant; and has a battery with a 10-day charge. The rectangle-face watch, whose “e-paper” display isn’t as vibrant as competitors', requires pairing to an iPhone or Android smartphone. Functions such as replying to a message by voice may not work on iPhone.

Moto 360 by Motorola $249. The round-face watch with metal or leather strap options is the bare-bones choice on the market. Users say battery life has improved over time because of software updates, allowing it to last a full day. A pedometer and heart-rate monitor are nice features, but nothing about it screams “This is why the Moto 360 is the one to buy,” including its more-than-bare-bones price. It requires pairing to an Android smartphone.

ASUS Zenwatch $199. Before the Steel’s release, many viewed the thinly built ASUS as the most stylish rectangle-faced option. Steel and leather come together at a good price. But reviews have been mixed on everything else, including a display that’s tough to read in sunlight, the battery life, the heart-rate sensor and the step counter. It requires pairing to an Android smartphone.

Samsung Gear S $349. The killer feature is threefold: Embedded chips for Wi-Fi, 3G cellular and GPS connections that make the watch useful when it's not paired to a smartphone. The trade-off: higher price and larger size. And a Samsung smartphone is still required for set-up. The curved, rectangular screen is great, and the battery life lasts the promised day. Because the software is designed by Samsung, as opposed to Google, be sure to see whether it runs your most-needed apps. Budget at least $5 to $10 a month if 3G access is desired.

Sony Smartwatch 3 $249. With a GPS sensor and at least a couple of gigabytes of storage for music, the Sony watch is perfect for use during workouts (when paired via Bluetooth to headphones). And it’s better than a regular GPS watch for runners because it still runs a bunch of apps when paired to an Android smartphone. The various components have been panned as unreliable though.

P.S. If these smartwatches sound too “smart,” the Withings Activite watch is a fancy alternative. It’s a regular-old watch with a couple of embedded technologies hidden inside to track your steps and vibrate for alarms. All the settings and step reports must be adjusted or glanced at on a Bluetooth-connected smartphone.

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