Among our survey watches, only the Pebble Steel offers you the option of iOS or Android. The Apple Watch will work only with iOS on the iPhone 5 and upcoming 6 models. The Android Wear watches pair with phones running Android 4.3 and above. The Gear S is itself a phone, and Samsung says it can operate seamlessly with its latest mobile phones, but details in this area are scarce.
If you purchase an Android Wear watch today and switch to an iPhone next year, the watch will become a proverbial paperweight. The same is true if you purchase an Apple Watch, then switch to an Android phone.
Next month, Apple launches its Apple Pay mobile payments system, and when the Apple Watch debuts next year, you will be able to make payments with it at participating retailers. This system is similar to Google Wallet; however, to date, Google has not incorporated Wallet into Android Wear. Pebble does not offer this feature. So, for now, Apple offers the only “pay-by-wrist” option.
In this realm, the Pebble Steel reigns supreme, and by a wide margin. Its simple approach and low-tech screen allow it to last between five and seven days on a single charge. Samsung claims that the Gear S will provide two days of typical use on a charge. So far, no Android smartwatch has been able to last more than one day on a charge, and Apple has also confirmed that daily (or nightly) charging will be the norm. Blame those power-hungry screens, wireless connections, and processors.
This is another area where Samsung’s Gear S shines. It is the only watch in our survey that doubles as a stand-alone phone. It is Dick Tracy’s wrist radio realized. Thanks to a built-in 3G radio, it can make and receive calls, send and receive texts and social updates, and surf the Web, all without being paired with a phone. It also offers Bluetooth 4.1 LE, and wifi.
The Apple Watch communicates with the iPhone via near field communications. Bluetooth 4.0 LE is also available. The Moto 360, Pebble Steel and LG G Watch R also offer Bluetooth 4.0 LE.
The Apple Watch will start at $349. The Pebble Steel is priced at $249. The Moto 360 is $250. Prices have not been announced for the Gear S and the LG G Watch R.
This article was originally published on January 30, 2015, and has been updated.