Gadgets

Should you bother getting a smartwatch?

You've probably seen one by now, wrapped around the wrist of one of those guys from IT, or brandished with obvious pride by some guy on the bus.

"Look at him… That jerk’s got a smartwatch. Probably cost him £500. He’s going to talk to his wrist like he's on Star Trek. Wait for it... wait for it..."

Truth be told, it probably didn't cost that much, and he almost certainly isn't going to talk to it.

I smirked and sniggered at the best attempts of tech companies to make the latest attempt at smartwatches (they had a good go in the late Nineties/early Naughties) 'cool' - yet after spending a week with the Android Wear-powered LG Urbane, I became a convert. You're going to want a smartwatch, and here's why...

Foremost, there's a novelty factor. If you want a watch that tells a time, buy a classic Casio. If you want a novel time piece that's going to draw attention, look nifty and tell the time for under £300, consider getting a smartwatch. While the uptake is growing, they're still a rare sight on wrists: the LG drew more comments and compliments than any overpriced minimalist number I usually sport.

No, I don't buy a watch to get compliments. I'm not a tw*t. But you know what? It's quite fun telling people exactly what it can do - a similar oracle-feeling experienced by the first iPhone users of 2007. People are curious about just what these things can do.

And what they do is brilliant. No, they're not the leap forward the marketing material makes them out to be: they won't change your life, they won't save the day and they are not about to disrupt the tech market to the same degree as tablets or smartphones. Yet they have an odd appeal that’s destined to see them grow from accessory oddities to common wrist furniture.

Foremost, they reduce your reliance on updates. If you're forever feeling a phantom tickle of an alert vibration, pulling their device out to find – with a stab of disappointment – that no one is talking to you, then you'll appreciate a smartwatch. If you check work emails "just in case", browsing subject headers for something that needs immediate response, you'll enjoy having a smartwatch. If, for lack of a more appropriate term, you are "addicted" to the social window that is your phone, you'll want a smartwatch.

Because it's wrist-based liberation. A leather-strapped guardian, ensuring you don't take a needless trip down a rabbit warren of notifications and status updates. Get a notification from any app (and the list of Android Wear/Apple Watch-specific apps is growing all the while) and your phone won't do a thing, remaining blissfully dead in your pocket. Meanwhile, a party plays out on your wrist, with your email/text/football alert/Whatsapp details popping up for a quick skim.

I realise this doesn't sound like a technological breakthrough. No, you won't want to reply to an email with voice-recognition recitation. No, you won't call your mum from your wrist when your phone is in your pocket. But the habits you form with a smartwatch are vastly less antisocial than those that accompany a smartphone. Indeed, they make you realise how antisocial a smartphone can be.

The other features vary with make and model, from heart-rate tracking (great for sports kids) to map directions. There are many gimmicks and few genuinely impressive functions - yet. A glance around the web shows you just where these miniature computers are headed, from bowling games to ridiculous gaming potential

Not convinced? Wait until the 'second wave' of watches arrives next year - the Apple Watch II and LG Urbane Plus.

Think they're a waste of wrist estate? Stick to your Casio.

But if you're curious, if you've seen one and wondered if the hype is worth it - give it a go. The time of the smartwatch has finally arrived.

FOLLOW DAVID CORNISH ON TWITTER: @D_CORNISH

Have a browse of the best smartwatch models in the accompanying gallery

  • Should you bother getting a smartwatch?

    LG Watch Urbane

    Price: £202.99

    While this a sizeable chunk of a watch 'towers' 1cm high from your wrist, the Urbane's bulk hints at its credentials as the powerhouse of the current smartwatch crop. A beautiful round screen, simple Android Wear functions (more accessible than Apple's offerings), heart-rate monitor, Wi-Fi, it's got the lot. And - most importantly - it looks like a watch, not a tech toy you've picked up at the Early Learning Centre.

  • Should you bother getting a smartwatch? 1

    Pebble Steel

    Price: £149.99

    Don’t let the rectangular face fool you - this is the all-rounder of the current crop of smartwatches. Compatible with both iOS and Android devices, the Pebble Steel displays push notifications along with a growing variety of unique apps, from remote camera controls to run keepers. The biggest perk? The grey, e-ink screen - far less power hungry, the battery lasts around a full week. This is a sensible, clever offering.

  • Should you bother getting a smartwatch? 2

    Apple Watch Sport 38mm

    Price: £299

    If you're wielding an iPhone, Apple's own Watch is your best option for making full use of your smartphone features. We'd strongly advise going for the Sport over either the normal Watch (not enough features to warrant the £500-ish price) or Watch Edition (are you mad?): it's lighter, cheaper and still gives you a true smartwatch experience. As to whether you go for a 38mm or 42mm screen - only go larger if you have hugely chunky forearms. The 38mm is plenty of glass to tap about with, and looks normal on a male or female wrist. 

  • Should you bother getting a smartwatch? 3

    Vector Watch

    Price: £349 model shown, starting from £219

    Thirty-day battery life. That's why you'll want a Vector Watch. There's no touch display, eschewing such mod-cons for a black-and-white LCD screen and buttons (remember them?). Compatible with Android, Apple and Windows phones, the Vector watch displays messages and notifications via a connected app, as well as record your movement and sleep patterns - all the stuff you'd actually use a smartwatch for.

  • Should you bother getting a smartwatch? 4

    Sony Smartwatch 3

    Price: £110

    This is not your budget smartwatch. Well, it is, by virtue of being cheaper than the others we've assembled, but it's not skimping on features. That large case comprises built-in Wi-Fi, near field communications and an array of sensors, including GPS, compass and accelerometer. This means that you can leave your phone at home when you’re off being active, syncing all the data when you return home. There’s 4GB of internal storage in there too, so you’re able to take your music with you as well. If you want a smartwatch for your morning run or commute - this is it.