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I've been considering getting a smart watch. It's been at least 15 years since I regularly wore a watch, but I'm thinking that the time might be nigh, if I can find a watch that's right for me.  My main incentive is the hearbeat monitoring functionality that is now available, and in particular starting to monitor my heartbeat while I'm cycling, so I can find out if I'm riding at a level that improves my fitness, or if I'm riding at a level that is just comfortable. But I also like the idea of some sort of notifications from my phone.

There are lots of players on the scene just now, it's not a straightfoward choice. If I do get a smart watch, I need it to work with my current phone (a Samsung S6), I need it to have heartbeat monitoring, both to track my hearbeat during exercise and to give me a display of my current heartbeat. I want it to have very good battery life (ideally at least 4 days, as normally battery life only gets worse). I'd like some reassurance the watch will be supported by the vendor (with firmware updates) for at least two years. I'd like there to be some kind of way of customising it (be that with different watch faces, or with apps). I'd like it to have some sort of waterproofing, so I don't have to worry about showering with it, or even better, I can swim with it.

I'm tempted to say I want a watch with GPS as well, so I don't need to record my rides with my phone. But I know that will push up the price and decrease the battery life. I've selected a bunch of watches I'm aware off, and written up a comparison:

 

  Apple iWatch Pebble 2 Fitbit Alta Fitbit Charge2 Samsung Gear Fit2 Polar A300 Microsoft Band  
works with Android no yes yes yes  yes  ?  yes  
Heartbeat recording yes yes no yes  yes yes (when paired with Polar H7))  probably  
Heartbeat display yes yes no yes  yes yes (when paired with Polar H7)  probably  
runtime on single charge 18 hours 7 days up to 5 days up to 5 days  up to 5 days  ?  48 hours (without GPS)  
vendor support yes, WatchOS updates yes ? ?  probably (Tizen OS updates) firmware updates via USB  yes  
customising display yes (App Market) yes ? yes  yes (App Market)  ?  ?  
waterproofing yes, 50 meters yes, 30 meters water resistant water resistant  water resistant yes, 30 meters  water resistant  
phone notifications yes yes yes yes  yes yes  yes  
GPS yes no no no  yes ?  yes  
Regular Retail Price (AUD) $400 and up ~$170 ($129 USD) $250 $250 (and up)  $289 $149  $288  

 

Fitbit have quite a few devices. The Fitbit Surge is similar to the charge2. It starts at $400 but also includes GPS. It's got better battery life (up to 7 days) until you turn on the GPS (then only up to 10 hours). If I wanted GPS in my watch (which is tempting, but I'm going to say not necessary) then the Samsong Gear Fit2 looks good. If I was using an iPhone, and could aford the extra $100 the apple iWatch might be better. But as I can live without the GPS, the Pebble 2 looks like a winner. It's the cheapest by far, and has the best battery life, by far. I'm sure the pebble 2 won't have the same bling as the newer options, it won't have a swipe screen like the Apple iWatch, and it's display isn't going to be anywhere near what the others are like.... but I'm ok with that.

It's true that I've not looked at what Garmin, Huawei, Sony and others are offering. But really, who has the time to be across the whole market? http://www.wareable.com/smartwatches/the-best-smartwatches-in-the-world looks like a great state of the market writeup.

 

Update 2016-12-14: It seems pebble is folding. We had placed an order for a pebble2 watch, but we don't think it's coming anymore.  Looking over my table, I think the fitbit charge2 is probably my next best option.

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