Ray-Ban Stories review: Almost smart
Possibly the best of a mediocre field
Possibly the best of a mediocre field
If we're to listen to complaints about Wear OS, the one thing everybody agrees on is that OEMs should try new things. That's why it's interesting to see that LG's announcement of the Watch W7 instantly became the most criticized smartwatch of 2018 — possibly ever. It had an old chipset, a small-ish battery, and hands that obscured the screen. The watch was mocked so relentlessly, we had our doubts that it would ever come out.But does it really deserve so much hate? There are certainly some compromises and problems, but when you start to consider that the W7 also comes with solutions for some of the common complaints about smartwatches, it might have some potential. I've been using the Watch W7 for a little while and I think there's actually a lot to like about this thing. With some refinements, it might be the start of something good.
Samsung was among the first large tech companies to launch a smartwatch, and it ran Android before Android Wear existed. Samsung's interest in Android-powered wearables had waned since then. Now, it's all about Tizen despite recent rumors to the contrary. The Galaxy Watch drops the "Gear" branding, but it keeps Tizen. It looks like a real watch, like all of Samsung's recent models. Samsung is really embracing the watch aesthetic this time around, going so far as to make the device tick when you look at the watch face.
Fitbit has become a household name in fitness tracking, and it's not shy about its desire to get into smarter wearables. It acquired bits of Pebble's carcass a while back and then launched the Fitbit Ionic. That first smartwatch was somewhat lacking in features, and it didn't offer enough to justify the $300 asking price. Now, Fitbit is back with a cheaper smartwatch sporting almost as many features and a less "retro-future" design. In fact, the Versa looks quite a lot like another famous smartwatch.
Fitbit started out making simple step counters that clipped on your pocket, but over time it added displays, exercise tracking, heart rate monitors, and more. Many of its rivals have changed their focus or simply gone out of business, but Fitbit is fast becoming a household name. The last few wrist-based Fitbit devices have been vaguely smartwatch-like, but the true Fitbit smartwatch has been elusive—until now. After acquiring some bits from the now-defunct Pebble, Fitbit has its very own smartwatch called the Ionic.
Smartwatches were supposed to be the Next Big ThingTM a few years ago when Samsung launched the original Android-powered Galaxy Gear. That device came with a laundry list of problems, but the company quickly reassessed and got on board with Android Wear while also dabbling with the Tizen wearable OS. When Samsung quietly stepped back from Android Wear, many of us thought it was a mistake. With the release of the Gear Sport, it's looking like Samsung made the right call.
Let's get this out of the way first: smartwatches have not been the big sellers that many technology firms were hoping they would be. Android Wear is stumbling, and even Apple is having trouble convincing its rabid fans to pony up $300 to $1000 on a wearable device. Samsung has taken a long and winding road through the land of wearables, having released an Android-powered smartwatch before Android Wear existed, then adopting Android Wear ever so briefly, then diving into its own Tizen-powered watch ecosystem.
The original Asus ZenWatch was one of my favorite first-generation Wear devices because it had a slick design and competitive price ($200). It wasn't perfect, but it offered a good alternative to expensive devices like the G Watch R. The ZenWatch 2 is going to hit shelves in a few days, and at first glance it's very much like its predecessor.
The Huawei Watch is a nice smartwatch with a nice screen, good battery life, and what I would call an above-average level of construction quality. If you want a Wear device that is nice and usable and doesn’t have anything seriously wrong or annoying about it, this is a great option. A pricey one, to be sure, but still very, very good. But above all else, it really does feel like the Huawei Watch is the smartwatch for the consumer seriously concerned about the Moto 360’s flat tire. That is most of this watch’s real appeal to enthusiasts, so let’s just lay it out there. The sapphire crystal? The “all-metal” construction? The variety of bands and body colors? I’ll be frank: none of them are all that interesting. Nice, sure, but not interesting.