What Do Smartwatches Do?
Most smartwatches — whether they're intended for daily use (as with the Apple Watch) or for specific purposes (as with the Garmin Fenix) — offer a suite of standard features:
- Notifications: Smartphones display notifications to alert you of important events or activities. The types of notifications differ; devices connected to a smartphone may simply mirror the phone's notifications on your wrist, but other smartwatches display notifications that only a wearable could provide. For example, the newest Apple Watch includes a fall sensor. If you fall while wearing the watch, the watch senses your subsequent movement; if it doesn't detect any, it'll send a series of escalating notifications. Fail to respond to the notification, and the watch will assume you're injured and alert authorities on your behalf.
- Apps: Beyond displaying notifications from your phone, a smartwatch is only as good as the apps it supports. App ecosystems vary, and they're tied to either Apple's or Google's environments. Smartwatches with a dedicated purpose, such as for hiking or diving, generally support the apps they need to accomplish that purpose without the opportunity to add other kinds of apps.
- Media management: Most smartwatches paired with smartphones can manage media playback for you. For example, when you're listening to music on an iPhone using Apple's AirPods, you can use your Apple Watch to change volume and tracks.
- Answer messages by voice: Remember the old Dick Tracy comics, where the hero detective used a watch as a phone? Modern smartwatches running either the watchOS or Wear OS operating systems support voice dictation.
- Fitness tracking: If you’re a hard-core athlete, a dedicated fitness band is likely a better choice than a smartwatch. Still, many smartwatches include a heart rate monitor and a pedometer to help track your workouts.
- GPS: Most smartwatches include a GPS for tracking your location or receiving location-specific alerts.
- Good battery life: Modern smartwatches feature batteries that will get you through the day, with normal use, with a bit of juice still left to go. Battery use varies; the Apple Watch typically gets 18 hours of normal use on a single charge, while the Pebble gets two or three days.
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