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Apple Watch v. Android Wear: 10 differences to help you decide

By Brian S Hall / October 7, 2014


Tech can save Earth in a number of ways

You must choose: Android Wear or Apple Watch?

Can’t decide? Not to worry. We’re here to help. These are the ten primary differences between Apple Watch and Android Wear. Know them and you’ll know which device is best for you.

1. I want it now

Better go with Android Wear. There is no official date for Apple Watch, though it is rumored to go on sale “early 2015” according to the company. Apple will miss this Christmas and possibly even next year’s Valentine’s Day. Android Wear is Google’s platform for smartwatches and numerous vendors have already made use of it to construct some rather attractive devices.

2. I want to look good

Moto 360 is based on the Android Wear platform, as is the Samsung Gear 2. These are both attractive smartwatches. But the Apple Watch is simply among the most beautiful (computing) devices ever constructed.

Apple Watch comes in three “collections” of two sizes each, with multiple metals to choose from, including 18 karat gold, and multiple removable bands. If looks matter a great deal, then you’ll want Apple Watch. In fact, Apple just showed off its Watch collection at the annual Fashion Week in Paris. The message was clear: Apple Watch is at least as much about looks as it is about function.

fashion

Note: This could all change, of course, given enough time. Android Wear is a platform and as such Google has made it available for use by long-time fashionable watchmakers, including Fossil, Swatch and others. They may ultimately trump Apple Watch in the looks department. Just not yet.

3. Price matters

If price matters at all, then Android Wear is your best choice. The traditional looking Moto 360 is available for $250, and the jazzy Samsung Gear Live can be had for only $200.

Apple Watch just might break the bank. The base (stainless steel) model Apple Watch starts at $349, and you will almost certainly spend much more than that to get the “Sport” or “Edition” versions. Then there’s all those pricey, attractive bands, and various metals to choose from. Indeed, no one blinked when Apple blogger, John Gruber, predicted prices for Apple Watch watches would range from $349 to $4,999, at least.

This is not a gadget you buy your geeky brother. Apple Watch is a fashionable fitness bracelet at the low-end, and an armed-guard jewelry store objet d’art at the high-end.

4. I hate pulling out my smartphone all the time

Go with Android Wear.

Smartwatches built on the Android Wear platform make full use of Google’s personal, location, weather and “context stream” data. Google Now “cards” instantly push important data to your wrist, although these notifications can become overwhelming. Alerts and glanceable data are the core feature of the Android Wear platform. If that’s what you want, it’s an easy choice.

To be fair, Apple Watch makes clever use of what it’s now calling “Glances.” These data nuggets display your most important alerts, such as weather, calendar items, Facebook updates or directions. You can swipe through Glances to see all notifications or tap on one to get more details. It’s a solid effort, but pushing useful data is really Google’s forte.

5. Let me talk!

A tough call. First off, forget those Dick Tracey dreams. You won’t really be making phone calls from either Apple Watch or Android Wear, at least not anytime soon. But, you can still use your voice to help operate either device.

Apple Watch includes a speaker and mic. This means two Watch wearers can use the device in walkie-talkie mode. Users can also send and receive audio text messages. It’s workable for quick chats, though even Apple suggests transferring conversations over to your iPhone. This is still better than what Android Wear offers.

At present, Android Wear does not support speakers, so you won’t hear anything. That said, Android Wear devices do allow you to send email and text by voice. Even better, say “Ok, Google” and call up numerous voice commands, such as “send a text,” “remind me” or “take a note.”

By contrast, Apple Watch includes Siri, which has definitely improved, though it’s still not quite the equal to Google’s offering. If you want to use your voice to interact with your smartwatch, Android Wear is a slightly better choice.

6. Only the best tech for me!

Apple Watch is the clear winner here, despite also being the high-fashion bearer. Apple has absolutely stuffed the Apple Watch with some amazing technology. Here’s a small sampling, which probably doesn’t do justice for the device considering how small and pretty it really is:

  • Retina Display
  • Sapphire glass (Ion-X glass on the “Sport” collection)
  • Taptic Engine – delivering tactile feedback to physically alert you of notifications or messages from other users
  • Digital Crown – an innovative new method of rapidly scrolling through features, functions, photos and apps
  • Accelerometer to measure steps, calories burned and movements
  • Heart rate sensor w/ LEDs and photodiodes for greater accuracy

7. Take my money!

The Apple Watch includes Apple Pay. In the US, at least a few hundred thousand retailers and banks are expected support Apple Pay by early 2015, thanks to Apple’s incorporation of NFC and its market clout. Pay with Apple Watch and you receive a visual and physical confirmation–the “taptic engine” vibrates on your wrist.

Android Wear does not (yet) support NFC. Worse, Google has repeatedly stumbled whenever they’ve rolled-out a payments solution. See: Google Wallet.

Apple Watch also includes PassBook, Apple’s app which stores boarding passes, movie tickets, loyalty cards and more. To pay or pass, Apple Watch is the clear winner.

8. Watch me run

Here, again, Apple Watch is the better choice, though just barely.

Apple Watch includes a heart rate monitor, accelerometer, a eye-catching “Activity” app that encourages you to move–briskly–and should provide more precise, usable data. A custom sensor is used to measure the intensity of your activities and the GPS can track your distance.
Watch will even count how many times in the day you get up out of your chair. The “Workout” app helps you keep track of your fitness goals and progress.

While Android Wear should meet most people’s needs as a fitness bracelet, Apple Watch appears more elegant and robust. In addition, Android Wear devices do not include GPS.

9. I’m a night owl

Strap on Android Wear.

While both platforms let you listen to your music and dance the night away, Apple’s mobile hardware has a well-deserved reputation for favoring thinness, weight and design over battery life. Watch appears to stick to this tradition, though the company has not offered real-world numbers yet.

More telling: at its launch event, Apple did not even mention battery life.
Android Wear devices, such as the Moto 360 should deliver a noticeably longer battery life. Even better: Moto 360 offers a handy charging dock.

10. I’m lost

The obvious solution is Android Wear. Android Wear relies on Google Maps and this is simply the best mapping service on any mobile platform.

State “Ok, Google” and ask your device for navigation and Google’s turn-by-turn directions will get you there, whether via car or walking. If you can’t look at your watch, however, you will need to have your Android phone nearby, as it can speak the directions to you (say when you’re driving a car).

maps

But do you need a smartwatch?

Both Apple Watch and Android Wear do a great job of telling time, but they also offer so much more. Notifications, voice commands, health data, payments, navigation, status, etc. It’s truly amazing how much technology is packed inside these tiny devices, and how much more they can do when paired with a smartphone. But, do you actually need one?

Right now, probably not, especially considering how so many features will only work when these devices are effectively tethered to your smartphone. What’s the point? That said, many thought the same thing about smartphones when they first appeared.

Apple Watch and Android Wear are remarkable for how forward-thinking and technically capable they really are. It’s as if when Apple introduced the very first iPhone back in 2007, it was an iPhone 4. Mobile tech is advancing even faster than we imagined.

Expect all smartwatches to get very good very quickly. So much so, in fact, that in a few years time you will absolutely believe you need one.

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