Our faves from an ever growing group of Google-powered watches
Android Wear has been going by the name Wear OS for a while now, and there are more options than ever to choose from.
Along with a new name, Google is aiming to improve support for pairing its smartwatches with iPhones, bringing it closer to the experience you currently get with Android smartphones.
Still, choosing the right Wear smartwatch is no easy task. There’s an ever-expanding range of Wear wearables on sale, from a whole host of different brands. It’s not just tech companies that are making them these days.
Smartwatches from the likes of Tag Heuer, Montblanc, ZTE, Asus, Huawei and Fossil brands like Michael Kors and Skagen are rocking the latest version of the operating system, with plenty more in the stable or running older versions. That also means that finally there are now better options for both men and women in the Wear collection.
The good news for iPhone owners, too, is that Wear does play nicely with iOS, so you don’t have to go for an Apple Watch if you want a smartwatch companion in your life.
If you’re looking to get a Google-powered smartwatch on your wrist sooner rather than later, here are all the key details on the top Wear smartwatches available now.
*** Note : £1 = $1.31 (correct at time of post)
Fossil Q Explorist
The Fossil Q Explorist is the successor to the Fossil Q Founder, a watch we liked but which had a horrible flat tire. Packing Wear 2.0, the Explorist has all the amenities you expect, like Google Assistant, apps, watch faces and notification support.
While it doesn’t have GPS, a heart rate sensor or NFC, the Explorist is a rugged beast at 46mm. It’s one of the few smartwatches that feels like you’re wearing a regular mechanical watch.
The star of the show here though is its looks. This is one of the most beautiful and rugged watch you can buy for men. If you’ve got smaller wrists, this may not be a great option, but for everyone else, there are very few other smartwatches that look better.
£259, fossil.com | Amazon
Kate Spade New York Scallop
Kate Spade was one of the last of the Fossil brands to get the Wear treatment, and it’s without doubt one of the standout additions to the Google smartwatch clan.
First and foremost, the New York Scallop looks the part, with a 1.19-inch, 390 x 390 resolution touchscreen display and no flat tyre in sight. It features a polished stainless steel case that comes in both a gold and rose gold finish, with both 16mm metal and black/cream leather straps available. It’s built for daintier wrists, although we’d still see Fossil go a little slimmer in the future.
In terms of features, you can expect it to run like most other Wear OS-packing smartwatches. That means you’ll be able to customise watch faces, download apps, receive smartphone notifications and access Google Assistant when you press down on the crown. It also works as a fitness tracker, which is powered by Google Fit, but it doesn’t have the ability to make contactless payments. Battery life should be enough for a day, so you can expect to be charging it every night.
But the good definitely outweighs the bad on this stylish Wear smartwatch built for women.
From £279, katespade.com | Amazon
LG Watch Sport
If you want the most complete Wear smartwatch experience out there, then the LG Watch Sport is still the one.
It’s packing a 1.38-inch, 480 x 480 P-OLED display giving it the best Wear display out there. It’s also got the most oomph in the engine room, with a 1.1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor and 768MB of RAM. What that means in the real world is a super snappy Wear experience with the new standalone apps loading without a stutter.
But it’s the inclusion of the GPS / NFC / LTE connectivity trio that really sets it apart. Thanks to that holy trinity, it’s the first Wear smartwatch that really could consider itself a genuine smartphone replacement.
Yes, you’ll have to contend with the bigger than average body, and it’s not the prettiest, but if you want the most feature-packed Wear watch, this is it.
$349, lg.com | Amazon
Michael Kors Access Sofie
The first generation Michael Kors Access series consisted of two models: the Bradshaw Access and Dylan Access, based on bestselling women’s and men’s Michael Kors watches. Now there are two newer additions, the Access Grayson and the Access Sofie, with the latter being the more female-friendly version of the pair.
It’s available in a number of different styles, including gold, rose gold, silver and sable-tone. Crucially, it still delivers that fairly blingy, pretty smartwatch look that we’re fans of. The 42mm watch is still a little on the chunky side, but it’s definitely slimmed down from last year’s devices, so dimensions are heading in the right direction.
As far as unique features are concerned, it’s added a new My Social ‘micro app’ for watch faces to offer greater customisation, letting you use Facebook and Instagram pictures as faces. Again, you have to make do without features like NFC for Google Pay and LTE to leave your phone behind, but if you want a Wear watch that looks the part and delivers of all those core Wear features, it’s one to consider.
From £350, michaelkors.com | Amazon
If you don’t want to spend big on a smartwatch, the Ticwatch E is in our opinion the best budget option available right now.
Joined by the Ticwatch S on Kickstarter earlier this year, maker Mobvoi decided to ditch its own operating system for Google’s on the 45mm watch – one that packs in a 1.4-inch OLED display, plus a heart rate sensor, and has a GPS sensor built into the strap.
That means you can track your runs and rides without your phone by your side, offering compatibility with Movboi’s fitness suite and third-party fitness apps. With Wear running things, you can expect all the standard features, including the ones introduced in Wear 2.0, so you’ll have more customisable watch faces and access to Google Assistant. You won’t however have access to Google Pay, which is disappointing.
You can expect a battery life of 1-2 days, so it’s nothing groundbreaking on that front. But if you’re looking for an affordable, well-balanced watch with decent sports tracking skills, we think you’re going to like it.
£120, mobvoi.com | Amazon
The Danish watch brand is renowned for making gorgeous, minimalist watches, and, after impressing us with its hybrid smartwatches, it’s now hit us with its very first Wear smartwatch.
The Falster channels the same ‘less is more’ design values with a 42mm watch case that measures in at 12mm thick, making it just small enough to be considered unisex. You also have your pick of leather or steel bracelet bands that should appeal to a range of tastes.
There’s no heart rate sensor or GPS here, but being around a sporty person’s wrist is clearly not the ambition for Skagen. Instead, it opts for more watch faces to choose from and streamlining information so Falster owners are not constantly overloaded with data. We should mention that there’s no NFC on board, either, which does mean that Google Pay support is missing in action – that’s a little disappointing.
If you can live with a more streamlined smartwatch experience packaged into a watch design that’ll appeal to both men and women, we think you’re going to have a lot of time for the Falster.
£279, skagen.com | Amazon
Louis Vuitton Tambour Horizon
If you have more money to spend and you like the idea of your Wear smartwatch having a more luxury feel, Louis Vuitton’s debut smartwatch certainly fits the bill.
The travel-centric Tambour Horizon models its design on LV’s existing Tambour Moon watches, helping make it one of the most attractive watches on our list. Even the charging setup screams luxury.
It doesn’t bother with sporty features like GPS or a heart rate monitor, which is to be expected, but disappointingly doesn’t include Google Pay support, either. As far as putting its own spin on Wear OS goes, Louis Vuitton makes more effort than others, including LV Guide and My Flight apps that are built for travellers, and that will help pinpoint places to visit when you’re away and even make it easier to board your flight.
You can expect battery life to be around the day mark, but be warned it’s a bit of a slow charger in comparison to other Wear watches.
Overall though, the 2017 Wareable Tech Awards nominee is a beaut of a smartwatch and definitely one we’ve loved living with.
Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45
The leading luxury smartwatch, this ‘Swiss Made’ 45mm beauty is available with titanium, ceramic and 18K rose gold finishes and will provide you with a modular design, which essentially means you’re free to switch out the electronic watch with a traditional mechanical Tag module such as the Calibre 5 or the chronograph Tourbillon Heuer 02-T. Mixing up the lugs, straps and buckle is also an option, with 56 different versions available at launch.
There’s an Intel Atom Z34XX processor powering performance, 4GB of storage memory and a battery life of around 24 hours. There’s also built-in Wi-Fi and GPS to give it standalone smarts, NFC to let you make payments from the wrist and water resistance up to 50 metres.
For more on the watch, check out our Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 review. And seeing as this device is on the bigger side, those with smaller wrists may want to check out the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 41.
From £1,200, tagheuer.com | Amazon
Google Fit on Wear is still very much a work in progress, so if you want a Wear smartwatch that takes sports tracking up a notch, the M600 is the one for you.
It syncs directly to the excellent Polar Flow, and not only will your smartphone be able to display all your stats, but all that data is also synced to the cloud so you can dig deeper using the Flow desktop client or the browser based version. What’s more, if you don’t trust the optical heart rate monitor on the M600 (you really should though), you can pair it with a dedicated chest strap – and it doesn’t even have to be a Polar one.
It gives you the kind of sports tracking you’d expect to find on Polar’s GPS sports watches and by combining that with the best that Wear OS has to offer, it’s our pick of the sporty Wear smartwatches.
£219, polar.com | Amazon
It’s an oldie, but it’s still very much a great Wear watch in our eyes. When we first reviewed the original Huawei Watch, we called it the slickest looking Wear smartwatch but lamented that those good looks came at a premium.
Fast forward a couple of years and, with the Huawei Watch 2 now on sale, there are bargains to be had when buying the original model, which we think still beats out its successor in the style-stakes – we really wish the Huawei Watch 2 had stuck to this simple design. In terms of actually looking like a watch, nothing comes close to the Huawei Watch.
The AMOLED display is a 1.4-inch, 400 x 400 screen with a 286ppi count. That was (before the LG Watch Sport came along) the highest on any Wear device, and Huawei’s effort is made all the more impressive thanks to a 10,000:1 contrast ratio.
Huawei is no longer selling it but if you’re willing to shop around you should be able to get it at a good price on Amazon. Have a look at our Huawei Watch review to see why you shouldn’t write off this old timer just yet.
From £223, consumer.huawei.com | Amazon
Wear: New watches incoming
As well as our picks above, there will be several more Wear smartwatches announced and released in the next few months – especially with IFA around the corner.
Fossil has announced some big partnerships recently. It’ll be teaming up with Puma to make Wear smartwatches, but we won’t see those until 2019. Fossil is also going to partner with BMW to create some smartwatches, but that also won’t happen until 2019.
So while the smartwatches above are worth your consideration, if you’re really hankering for a Puma sports smartwatch or want a watch that’ll play nice with your ultimate driving machine, you may want to hold off a bit. Plus, we do expect several more smartwatches through the rest of the year.