What if your watch could make you more productive? A smartwatch can, since it is able to pair with your smartphone to push alerts and notifications right to your wrist. That way, you'll never overlook an important email, text message, calendar notification or missed call. And most models support voice commands, so you can access turn-by-turn directions or perform Google searchs, totally hands free. Smartwatches have been around for a couple of years now, but the technology has finally evolved to the point that buying one can be a smart business investment. Here are our picks for the five best smartwatches out right now.
Alcatel OneTouch Watch [New & Notable]
Compatible with: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone
Alcatel's new OneTouch Watch has a lot going for it. It runs on a colorful, capable new operating system developed by Alcatel. It pairs with iPhones, Android phones and Windows Phones, whereas many other top smartwatches are Android-exclusive. And at just $150, it's more affordable than most of its competitors. Plus, when it launches in March, it will be one of the few touch-screen smartwatches with a round face. In other words, it's more watchlike than your average smartwatch. Admittedly, it feels a bit cheap compared to more premium Android Wear devices like Motorola's Moto 360, but there's a lot of value packed into Alcatel's offering.
Martian Voice Command [New & Notable]
Compatible with: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry
The Martian Notifier was one of my favorite smartwatches of 2014, thanks to its good looks and minimalist approach to smartwatch functionality. Now, the Martian Voice Command watch improves upon that formula with a microphone that lets you perform all sorts of hands-free actions, from setting reminders to sending text messages. Martian watches don't have touch-screen displays. Instead, they're like regular watches, but with a small LCD panel at the bottom that shows alerts and message previews. Whereas other smartwatches need to be recharged every night, Martian watches can last for more than a week on a charge. Plus, the Martian Voice Command watch is compatible with nearly all smartphones.
GoldKey Secure Communicator [New & Notable]
Whereas most smartwatches are really extensions of your smartphone, GoldKey's Secure Communicator really stands on its own. The smartwatch is basically a tiny Android smartphone that you wear on your wrist, complete with a data connection and the ability to take and place phone calls. You can use the watch's built-in microphone and speaker for calls, or pair it with a Bluetooth earpiece or headset. The device can run any Android app, and even lets you type with a tiny QWERTY keyboard, which vibrates with each key press. Admittedly, it's pretty hard to type on such a small screen — and most Android apps weren't designed for such cramped quarters — but the functionality is certainly novel. GoldKey is also packing in its own secure applications that let you send encrypted email, store encrypted files and more. Of course, buyers will have to ask themselves whether a tiny smartwatch can really replace their smartphone, or if they're willing to shell out for an additional monthly data plan.
Compatible with: AndroidBUY MOTO 360 >>>
Want a smartwatch that looks a little less, well, geeky? The Moto 360 might be the best-looking smartwatch you can buy. It sports a slick, round face and comes with either a leather or stainless steel wristband, making it a device that business users can take seriously. It's certainly the most stylish on this list. Design aside, the Android Wear-powered device can grab alerts from your Android smartphone, and the integrated microphone makes it easy to issue voice commands; just tap the screen or say, "OK, Google," to initiate the voice-command prompt. The Moto 360 is pretty durable, too; it has a tough Gorilla Glass screen, and it's water-resistant to protect against splashes.
Compatible with: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerryBUY Pebble Steel Smartwatch >>>
Pebble got a jump on the competition when it launched its first smartwatch in 2013. That's why the Pebble platform has the most robust app library of any smartwatch platform, with more than 1,000 apps available. The Pebble Steel is the newest watch in the line, sporting a slick, stainless steel face that gives this watch a highly professional appearance, especially compared to the chunky plastic designs of competing devices. But its weeklong battery life might be the device's best feature, since most other smartwatches must be charged nightly. The Pebble Steel owes its longevity to its simple black-and-white display, though, which is easier to read in daylight but not half as pretty as the colorful LCD screens on other devices.
Samsung Gear 2
Compatible with: AndroidBUY Samsung Gear 2 >>>
Samsung's Gear 2 stands out from the pack as one of the only smartwatches with a built-in speaker. That means it can deliver all sorts of information via audio. For example, you can activate the voice-command prompt and say, "What's the weather?" to hear the forecast read aloud. You can even take phone calls using the Gear 2 as a speakerphone device; other smartwatches can alert you of incoming phone calls, but they make you pull out your smartphone to actually take the call. Of course, you can also initiate phone calls on the watch using voice commands. The speakerphone is loud and clear, even when the device is at your side. Meanwhile, the Gear 2 delivers most of the basic features you expect from a smartwatch. It can pull in notifications from your Android smartphone via Bluetooth, run basic apps and tell the time. It runs on Tizen, Samsung's mobile operating system.
LG G Watch R
Compatible with: AndroidBUY LG G Watch R >>>
The Moto 360 isn't the only round smartwatch out there. LG's G Watch R also sports a circular face, but it's not quite as stylish as the Moto 360. This LG device has a chunkier, sportier design, with a thick, black bezel around the screen. The leather band that comes with the watch is a nice touch, however. While it might not pair as well with a suit as the Moto 360, the G Watch R still looks a lot more like a traditional wristwatch than most competitors, earning it a spot on this list. Aesthetics aside, LG's latest smartwatch is a solid Android Wear device that lets you view alerts and notifications on your wrist, and use voice commands for notes, reminders, directions, messaging and more.