Second wind for smartwatches

With a slew of new models, reports of the death of wearables appear to be greatly exaggerated

The recent Apple Watch Series 4 cemented its already-dominant position in the smartwatch market. For its sleek design, useful health features and superb performance, The Straits Times gave it the Editor's Choice and proclaimed it the best smartwatch in the market.

The watch marked a return to form of sorts for wearables after years of sluggish sales and constant predictions of the demise of the sector.

Yet with manufacturers like Apple releasing new models, Google giving its operating system for watches a makeover and Qualcomm releasing a new chip optimised for watches, it is now worth giving smartwatches a second look.

Progress has been made on some of the biggest complaints about smartwatches - few useful functions, poor battery life - with today's offerings boasting better features and performance.

And even those without an Apple phone are not short on options.

The Straits Times looks at three of the latest smartwatches.


3 smartwatches to consider

Looks like a real timepiece

Montblanc, the German luxury brand renowned for its writing instruments and leather bags, has just released a successor to its Summit smartwatch from last year.

Known as Summit 2, it is the first Wear OS by Google smartwatch to be powered by Qualcomm's new Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor. The new chipset is said to provide better performance and battery life.

The Summit 2 has built-in GPS for tracking runs as well as an improved built-in heart rate sensor. It has also improved on the IP68 water-resistance rating of the original, by being water-resistant to a depth of 50m - so you can swim with it.

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Good-looking and affordable

The Samsung Galaxy Watch is the first smartwatch from the South Korean chaebol to shed the "Gear" moniker of its predecessors. This name change streamlines with the company's Galaxy smartphones.

Unlike its predecessor Gear S3, which comes in two designs ("classic" and "frontier"), the Galaxy Watch features only one design. But it now comes in two sizes for different wrist sizes. There are the rose-gold and all-black 42mm models and a silver 46mm model (version tested).

The 46mm model has a slightly bigger 1.3-inch (360 x 360 pixels) circular touchscreen display compared with the 42mm model's 1.2-inch display of the same resolution.

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Befitting of active lifestyles

The Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is usually regarded as a GPS multi-sport watch. But it is a smartwatch too, as it pairs with your smartphone, displays incoming notifications of e-mails and messages, lets its wearer accept or decline phone calls, supports contactless payment and plays music.

The $1,299 5X Plus, which has a 51mm case, is the flagship model of the Fenix 5 Plus series that also includes the 5s Plus ($1,199, 42mm case) and 5 Plus (from $1,229, 47mm case). The primary difference in these models is the size of the watch case.

For this review, I tried the 5X Plus.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2018, with the headline 'Second wind for smartwatches'. Print Edition | Subscribe