It's official: 2015 was the year of the smartwatch — and second-generation devices are already here for the holiday season.
Smartwatches offer a range of capabilities beyond displaying the time and weather forecast. Some of them focus on personal fitness, monitoring your vital signs with built-in heart rate and step monitors. Others are all about productivity, enabling you to call or text contacts simply by speaking to them — Dick Tracy style.
Smartwatches aren't typically standalone devices. They're designed to extend the smartphone in your pocket. There are two main smartwatch operating systems (OS) out there: Android Wear, which is the OS on devices designed to work with Google Inc.'s Android OS, and watchOS, the OS of Apple Inc.'s Apple Watch, which requires an iPhone to connect to.
Android is an open OS, supported by various vendors, meaning that there are also a wide variety of watches now available. The Moto 360 (www.motorola.ca/products/moto-360), which led the pack in the early days of Android watches, is now in its second edition. Its characteristic round display is now available in two sizes, both of which will draw comments from people during the course of your day.
You can control Android Wear models with your voice. A favourite feature is telling it to plot the route to your destination and give you turn-by-turn directions.
You can also prod and swipe your way through the music playing on your phone, which is particularly useful when it's connected to a Bluetooth speaker, such as the Bose SoundLink III (www.bose.ca/SoundLink).
The Apple watch (www.apple.com/ca/watch/) offers similar features to many Android Wear devices. The Apple Watch's HealthKit platform provides Apple's own health-based apps on your smartwatch, offering notifications about how well you're meeting your daily goals. It even prompts you to stand every once in a while.
One area in which the Apple Watch outshines Android Wear devices is in mobile payments. Apple Pay, which lets users pay with their iPhone and/or Apple Watch, launched in Canada in late 2015 for those who hold an American Express credit card, meaning that you can now pay for your client's coffee by placing your smartwatch next to a tap and pay terminal. That assumes the retailer supports the payment system, though, and many don't yet.
Tomorrow: An HUD device could help you while you're on the road to client meetings