Smartwatches are a category that almost looked like they wouldn’t get much of a run in 2016. We saw a large number of watches — some very good — announced in 2015, and then this year, the category seemed to take a bit of a fall. It’s not as if companies stopped making smartwatches, it’s more that they just didn’t get the coverage that they might have otherwise.
That said, we saw some great releases, but most of these actually came in the second half of the year. We saw the Moto 360 V2 come to Australia, we had the opportunity to try out Nixon’s Mission smartwatch for months prior to its release in Australia, and we’re about to take a look at ASUS’ ZenWatch 3.
At least two of these are watches from technology companies rather than watch companies, but there have been a number of Android Wear / smartwatches coming from other manufacturers too, including the likes of Tag and Fossil, both known for their watches first rather than technology.
We also saw a number of devices that weren’t smartwatches, but which we include in this category. We saw a raft of fitness trackers, smart wearable accessories and the like, but none really stood out… except one.
Let’s take a look at the best of the best
Ausdroid’s Best Smartwatches of 2016
The votes on this one are clear; ASUS ZenWatch 3 is our favourite smartwatch of the year … and we haven’t even had the chance to review it yet. On one hand, we don’t really need to review it to know it’s our favourite — on looks alone, knowing how Android Wear works, the ZenWatch 3 is the Android Wear watch that everyone wants.
It features nice updated internals, plenty of storage and RAM, and should work and perform better than most other smartwatches on the market. It puts a nice big tick in the “looks like a watch” column as well, something that a number of smartwatches don’t really achieve.
For example, as much as I love the Moto 360 V2, it doesn’t look as much like a watch as the ZenWatch 3 does. Equally, Nixon’s Mission is a fantastic outdoors watch, perfect for running, swimming, and everything in between. It simply cannot be destroyed.
However, neither look as much like a watch should as the ZenWatch 3 does.
With it looking the part, being the part, and being the most desirable, the ZenWatch 3 takes the prize.
Best runner-up smartwatches
This is a difficult one, because there are so many favourites this year. Here’s some of the best:
Samsung’s just announced Gear S3 has to be considered a contender. It might not run Android Wear, but it’s none the worse for it. The Gear S3 is compatible with most Android devices (though it will install more easily on a Samsung), and brings with it a range of benefits including stylish, traditional watch looks, rotating bezel to interact with the watch, and a neat wireless charging interface.
Motorola’s Moto 360 V2 would have to be my pick, but it can’t win in 2016 because technically, it was made and released last year in 2015. While it didn’t make its way to Australia until the middle of 2016, it is last year’s technology. However, it’s a beautiful watch, well designed and well implemented, with wireless charging and a beautiful leather band out of the box. My only criticism is that it’s a bit small; as someone with larger wrists, I’d prefer a slightly larger watch to look the part.
Nixon’s Mission is undoubtedly the best all-occasion watch; I’ve taken this in the surf, swimming at the pool, buried it in sand, and done quite a bit of manual handling, banging the watch into all manner of things, and it still looks like the day it arrived at Ausdroid’s office. The charging cradle is easy to use (though it makes the watch sit on a weird angle), the waterproof microphone means you can take it far deeper under water than any other smartwatch on the market, and it comes in a range of fashionable designs. Probably the only let down is that because it is (and looks) so rugged, it doesn’t really fit with more dressy occasions.
Polar’s m600 is Dan’s favourite sports watch, being the perfect cross-over between a dedicated fitness tracker/watch and a more generalised smartwatch. It runs Android Wear, but it does a lot of fitness stuff that other watches just don’t really do as well.