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Calling time on old tech: our guide to smartwatches

The noughties saw almost every gadget brought to you by the letter 'i', beginning with Apple's iPod, iPhone and iEverythingElse.

Before long, on the back of Apple's soaring sales, others began sticking the magical 'i' before almost anything in an effort to catch the hype.

As the 21st century now matures into its teenage years, we're seeing the same thing all over again, only this time the prefix is 'smart'. Smartphones began the trend during the last decade but now we're seeing smart televisions, smart sound systems, smart homes and so on. I've even seen smart fridges recently (that's no joke).

The one that seems to be catching the most interest at the moment is the smart watch. The concept has been promised for years. Now it's a reality. Despite the interest however, not everyone seems to know exactly what they are.

Is it a phone? Can it track my workout? What the heck is it? It's all very well for the techies among us, but for something to truly succeed, it has to be accessible to a wider audience, and a huge step towards accessibility is understanding.

The next key question: is a smart watch something that's going to benefit you similarly to how your smartphone has?

People often say now that they couldn't live without their smartphone. Ten years ago a smartphone was a clunky tool to access emails for the business elite. So is the smart watch a true enhancement to your life? The next step in must-have tech? Or simply another gimmick the tech giants are trying to push on consumers? Yesterday's tech in a new body being passed on as innovation?

For the most part, it is yesterday's technology wrapped in a new body and it isgimmicky. But that doesn't mean it lacks innovation. In the right hands (or wrists), it truly could enhance the user's life. It carries an array of time-saving benefits while assisting the user in never missing another important notification.

For certain people, the smartwatch really could be a miniature miracle-worker. But for the public en-masse? I'll define it simply as 'sexy, but wholly unnecessary'. However, as technology evolves, so will the capabilities and features of the smartwatch and thus, so may my definition.

The smartwatch is the first wave of so-called 'wearable tech'. It is, put simply, an extension of your smartphone; a second screen if you like. It will tell you who's calling, it will show you notifications, display messages and on some, you can even reply via the watch's touchscreen providing your fingertips are no wider than a matchstick. Is it an essential enhancement to your life? Well that depends on your priorities.

If you work in an environment where you're not always able to take your phone out of your pocket but need to be contactable, then it's great. If you spend a lot of time at the gym, it's great. If you want to look like James Bond, perfect and if gadgetry is an essential part of your life you don't need me to tell you how wonderful it is. But if you're anyone else? I don't think the first major generation is a must-have.

Personally, it would annoy me having to click a button every time I wanted to tell the time and to have to recharge my watch so frequently alongside my phone.

Will it survive the test of time? That all depends on how it evolves and adapts to consumer needs/wants. They're ranging from £100 to £300 at the moment and for that, I'd want something more than just a cool smartphone accessory. Personally, I'll make sure it isn't another 3D television scenario before I fork out.

The biggest test of all; would I buy one for my mum? Not yet.

You may, however, decide that you're going for it right away. If you simply can't wait to get your hands on one, here's my list of the top 5 most popular ones out there at the moment:

Neptune Pine

This plain yet professional-looking smartwatch is definitely the most feature-rich. It is fully compatible with your phone yet also works as a standalone Android device and even has room for its own SIM card. It centres itself not just on communication, but also health and fitness with built-in heart monitor, GPS, pedometer, accelerometer and digital compass. It is at the top-end of the price spectrum, but for that you're getting not just a smart watch, but effectively an additional high-powered smart phone strapped to your wrist. This one definitely gives you the most bang for your buck.

Price: £299

Rating 4.5/5

Sony Smartwatch 2

Not boasting quite as many features as the Neptune Pine but not lacking in brilliance either, Sony's current effort is a complimentary extra to your Android smartphone. This one does require a connection to your phone in order to be able to use the majority of its features, but once it's connected, performance is second-to-none. It's dustproof and waterproof, it's compatible with most Android smartphones and the best part of it is the price.

Price: £149

Rating: 4/5

Pebble

This one is compatible with both Android and iOS (iPhone) devices. It runs its own apps rather than using Android-based ones like most other smart watches. I can see this being more popular with business users than tech fans due to its more traditional watch look, relative ease of use and about the best of the bunch in terms of battery life, lasting up to a week between charges.

Price: £149 (Standard); £249 (Brushed Steel)

Rating: 3/5

Samsung Galaxy Gear

The Galaxy Gear is probably the smartwatch you've heard about or seen the most ads for. While it's a lovely-looking bit of kit and great at the things it does, there are some rather important drawbacks; it is only compatible with Samsung smartphones (and only a select few at that) so unless you're sporting a newish, top-line Galaxy handset, this watch is nothing more than, well, a watch.

On top of that, most notifications are not feature-rich, meaning it'll tell you you've got a message, along with who it's from, but you'll still need to pull your phone out your pocket in order to read it which, in my opinion, takes away some of the purpose of the device. Unlike most others, this one will take a little light rain but stick it under water and you're in trouble. I can see a lot of people buying this one purely because it's the only one they've heard of.

Price: £250

Rating: 2.5/5

Qualcomm Toq

Finally, we have an even less-heard-of effort from internal-component-manufacturer Qualcomm. Much more basic in design and premise, the Toq does away with most of the gimmicks that other smart watches flaunt. It is simply a watch that enables you to view and read notifications. Its display is something I feel other smart watch manufacturers should consider adopting. It uses a form of e-ink, similar to the Amazon Kindle but with a dash of colour. This means it's perfectly visible even in bright daylight which is something that cannot be said for the others. The biggest let down with this device - aside from the not-overly-sleek design - is the price. For a device that's yet to prove its worth, the asking price is simply too steep.

Price: £300+

Rating: 2/5 (this would be higher if it was perhaps £100 cheaper).

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