Smart bands/watches are one of the first wearable things that became “smart”, and they are pretty popular nowadays. Many mobile phone manufacturers have looked into these wearables hoping for a new smartphone-like exploding market, however, it did not happen, yet. Still, we have a fair amount of options in this growing market. While we are receiving more options every year, the differences between smartbands and smartwatches seem to be vanishing. Let’s have a closer look at what smartband and smartwatch are.
What is a smartband?
Smartband is a wrist-wearable device that focuses on providing useful information gathered with its sensors regarding the physical activities of your body. Even though they focus on physical activities, they generally offer some basic-level features as well such as displaying time/date and notifications. They -generally- don’t have an integrated mic and speaker; so speaking through a smartband is not an option. The operating systems they utilize are generally specially crafted for the product, product series, or brand.
Due to the limits of features in smartbands against smartwatches, which we will talk about later, they require much less computing power, thus, their energy consumption is very very low. This grant smartbands a great advantage in battery life; some of the smartbands can actually reach more than 50 days of usage with a single charge when you further limit their capabilities with battery-saving mode. This also means that the days of losing the chargers of Nokia phones because you rarely require them is back.
What is a smartwatch?
Smartwatch is a wrist-worn device that acts like a smaller smartphone with its operating system, application store, standalone apps, and even cellular connection. They are designed to deliver many of the smartphone features to your wrist, including some applications to run without the need for a smartphone. Smartwatches have integrated microphones and speakers so users can easily speak through their watches. There are three operating systems that make the products fall into the “smartwatch” category: watch OS (Apple), Wear OS (Google), and Tizen Wearable (Samsung).
While the possibility of completing almost every task on a smartwatch sounds like a great idea, this comes at a great cost: high energy consumption. The capabilities of smartwatches demand much more computing power and data transmission speeds which effectively makes it necessary to charge every single day. And this is actually as far as they can go since the smartwatches have a very small room for batteries; 500 – 600 mAh at best. Sadly, this won’t change unless we can commercialize a breakthrough battery technology.
Best of both worlds (almost)
Nowadays, we are seeing a new category of smartbands/smartwatches that just dance around on the blurry line between them. Those products are actually smartbands in smartwatch form factor, but gaining more and more features in every generation simply becoming smartwatches. Also, the software/OS is kept as simple as possible to make a low-power chipset enough for it; effectively improving the battery life. Those products almost combine the best of two worlds.
Some Chinese manufacturers follow this way while Apple, Samsung, and other Wear OS watchmakers try to pack everything into their little products. Huawei, Amazfit, and Xiaomi are the most popular brands with those “semi-smart” models. They all offer the battery life of a smartband, like at least one or two weeks on average usage, and they gain additional features through software updates.
Is it a band or a watch? Is it even really smart?
Well, even though Chinese companies are pushing the boundaries of smartbands on their products, they are not, and will not be, as capable as a real smartwatch. Your map application will never reflect on your watch, or you will never have a full-fledged Spotify control other than standard Bluetooth controls on your wrist. You will not be able to answer your WhatsApp messages through voice recognition or a tiny virtual keyboard.
Interestingly, Amazfit is pushing for an application store on its Zepp application where some applications can be installed on your band/watch. Those applications are very basic ones such as a calculator, water-drinking reminder, Tic Tac Toe game, dice roller, etc. Being able to add a few features to your band is a great thing to achieve. However, this capability shouldn’t be enough to make a smartband, a smartwatch. But since there is no exact definition for this category, those brands are pushing their products as smartwatches.
Knowing what you need
The semi-smart watches by the Chinese brands are actually quite successful, combining the necessary features with a long battery life; which is very important because the necessity of charging every day in real smartwatches makes it almost impossible to leave it on the wrist while sleeping. That means you will miss a lot of sleeping track records on real smartwatches.
Currently, the higher models in this category come with integrated microphones and speakers, allowing users to talk through their watches. Those models seem to be the sweet spot between smartbands and smartwatches; Amazfit GTR 3 Pro and Huawei Watch GT 3 are some good examples of them.
Can the smartband/smartwatch work without the phone?
Yes, smartbands and smartwatches can work without the phone. However, you might miss some features without the phone connection, depending on the model.
Is it safe to wear a smartband or smartwatch while sleeping?
Yes, it is completely safe to wear a smartband or smartwatch while sleeping.
What are the activities smartband/smartwatch can capture?
The activities that smartbands/smartwatches can capture depend on the model. Some of the modern models can detect and capture more than 100 different activities.