The wearable market is fairly saturated with fitness trackers and smartwatches, as well as medical technology and virtual reality headsets. Some gadgets stand out because of their manufacturers and reputation, while others stand out for their performance and design. This year’s biggest hits were the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R, while upcomers like the Asus ZenWatch and the Apple Watch, as well as Samsung’s stand alone Gear S promise to be future hits on the wearable market. Two of these upcomers, the Apple Watch and the Asus ZenWatch go head to head in our comparison to show off each their own features, pros and cons, to give you an idea what is ahead and which you might end up buying.
The Apple Watch was one of the highlights of the September Apple event, when the company launched the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, although the handsets were launched at the event, the Apple Watch was just announced, remaining to be launched early in 2015. The Apple Watch might encounter some problems when the time comes for its worldwide launch because the sapphire screen manufacturer, an essential part of the hardware on the Apple Watch, has filed for bankruptcy. The Apple Watch is still in production and development, so this incident might influence how and how many Apple Watch units will be available at the presumed February launch of the timepiece.
Even so, the Apple Watch remains one of the most impressive wearable devices of the year, with an outstanding design and new specific features included by Apple in the build and software of the timepiece. The Apple watch is made of stainless steel and has a beautiful crown button on the side which makes the device pop. It also has a fair number of straps you can choose from and you can even choose whether you would like a 14 carat gold body, called the Apple Watch Edition, Apple Watch Sport made from aluminium and the generic stainless steel Apple Watch. What’s more important is that you can get the Apple Watch in two sizes. One is 38 mm while the other is 42 mm.
The Apple Watch has a few very interesting traits, so let’s start with those. The OS is not a smaller version of iOS 8. It’s a whole different OS. apparently. It’s not better than Android Wear, but it does have some advantages it gets from the hardware the watch uses. The watch has a sapphire screen which can also sense force. What that means is that the watch display can tell whether your are tapping or pressing. Now I’m not sure how accurate this function will be, but the fact that it exists adds a lot of use to the watch.
The crown of the watch is not only used to power it up or shut it down – it’s also used for scrolling, zooming and scaling. The UI seems a very well designed wearable OS which is paired with your iPhone. None other, though. Just the iPhone. Its interface seems easy to use and instead of using a homescreen like Android Wear does, it uses a cloud of icons through which you can scale to select neighborhoods and apps.
The Apple Watch is also waterproof, dust proof and it can be wirelessly charged, which is cool. The watch also has NFC built in for the Apple Pay mobile payment platform. Apple has implemented a version of Google Now’s cards into the UI, calling it Glances. It does what Google Now does actually, Siri integration and information display on scrollable homescreens. The watch sports a taptic engine and a small speaker, so that it can send you sound alerts and vibrating alerts when taking turns in navigation for example. It has all the standard sensors found in a smartwatch, with a heart rate sensor included.
The widget interface of the UI has the same feel and function of Android Wear, except the fact that it incorporates the new force-tap gesture, which is essentially a “right-click”. What’s neat on the watch, and will be revolutionary if it works, is the messaging and writing technique. There’s none. I mean, you do have messaging, but either the watch suggests the response for you in a checklist type or you dictate the answer. Or use the animated emojis the UI has to offer. Now if this advanced message and text recognition system works as it should, this could be a great thing. Not much of the feature has been presented, but when a question was present in a message, like which phone would you choose, the iPhone 6 or the iPhone 6 Plus, the UI brought you a screen with four options to select: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Not sure and record a message.
A photo app, airline information, Pinterest, maps and the digital touch app (with its own physical button under the crown) are available on the watch. The digital touch app is a communication app that works between Apple Watch users and allows them to send drawings and actual heartbeats via the taptic engine to each other. A Fitness and a Workout app have been also added as part of Apple’s HealthKit platform. The apps measure everything from calories, to calories burnt, steps taken, miles walked, time spent exercising, heart rates and the likes.
The Apple Watch can also double as a walkie talkie among Apple Watch users and as a viewfinder for the iPhone. Luckily, It works with the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, and iPhone 5S so you don’t need to buy an iPhone 6 just to be able to use the Apple Watch. Retail price for the Apple Watch starts at $349. Prices will vary depending on which screen size you will be choosing or what kind of materials you want the Apple Watch to be made from. We don’t know much about battery life, though, so we won’t be comparing those aspects with the Asus ZenWatch.
The Asus ZenWatch has a smaller format than the Apple Watch and looks a bit similar thanks to its leather strap and metallic body. I personally like the Asus ZenWatch more because it looks more like a traditional watch than any other smartwatch with a rectangular screen. I also find the minimalist design pretty classy and can say that the Asus ZenWatch is currently the only watch I would actually wear at all times. The Moto 360 and LG G Watch R are not too shabby either, with their round watch faces, but the problem with those is that they are much too big for women.
The Asus ZenWatch is pegged for a (restricted) November release, with just a few watches available at first. Stocks should be replenished by next year though, so we suppose that the ZenWatch will be widely available by the time the Apple Watch hits the stores. The Asus ZenWatch will be running Android Wear and will sport an AMOLED display protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 encased in a rose gold aluminium body. Asus’ own ZenUI is said to be featured on top of Android Wear and will automatically unlock your phone. Tap Tap and Find My Phone are going to be pre-loaded on the device, as well as a remote camera trigger. Much like the Moto 360, you can cover the display and the call it’s displaying will be muted. The Presentation Control feature will also enable the Asus ZenWatch to be used in presentations. A wellness manager will also be included, measuring steps, calories, activity duration, heart rate, exercise intensity and relaxation level.
The Asus ZenWatch is powered by a Snapdragon 400 CPU clocked at 1.2 GHz, backed by 512 MB RAM and 4 GB internal storage. The AMOLED display measures 1.63 inches and has a 320*320 resolution with 278 ppi pixel density. There will be a 9 Axis sensor and a Bio sensor built-in, along with Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB port for charging and a microphone. The battery will be a 1.4 Wh one and the watch will be IP55 certified. Even though the Wellness app is said to measure heart rate, there is no mention of a heart rate sensor.
Android Wear should be a more comprehensive OS than what Apple is proposing for the Apple Watch, although support for the timepiece should grow significantly by the time the watch is released next year. Until then, the Asus ZenWatch will have more apps and games available thanks to the dedicated Google Play Store section for wearables. An Android Wear OTA will also be released by the time the Asus ZenWatch will hit the market. Android Wear is expected to get an upgrade to version 2.0 on October 15.
As you can see, the Apple Watch promises a ton of new features that the Asus ZenWatch doesn’t have, so if you want something that will definitely impress everybody you show it to, the Apple Watch would be the obvious choice. On the other hand, the Asus ZenWatch only costs $180, which is half of the Apple Watch price. It does however offer all the main features of a standard smartwatch, so if you’re looking for a smart timepiece that will be stylish and functional, but won’t offer a lot of extra ware (not to say bloatware), then the Asus ZenWatch is for you. Ultimately, it remains your choice and you should consider design, hardware and price when trying to choose between the Apple Watch and the Asus ZenWatch. You should also think about how the Apple Watch will lock you into the Apple ecosystem, while the Asus ZenWatch will allow for great flexibility regarding the devices you pair it to. Which would you choose?