Google has finally launched its own smartwatch, but it is entering a wearable tech market where shoppers are already inundated with options.
Just as in the mobile market, the company faces stiff competition from the likes of Apple and Samsung for its inaugural smartwatch offering, the Pixel Watch.
Garmin and Fitbit are also well-established players in the smartwatch game, although many of the latter’s features have been incorporated into Pixel Watch, thanks to Fitbit’s multibillion-dollar acquisition by Google in 2019.
Finder shopping expert Chris Jager said the smartwatch market is “surprisingly varied”, ranging from models geared towards fitness with inbuilt heart rate monitors and in-depth health metrics, to luxury watches with basic smartphone functionality.
He said the best-selling smartwatch 2021 was the Apple Watch Series 7, followed by the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.
Apple and Samsung dominate the smartwatch space, with a market share of close to 50 per cent.
Regardless of the type of smartwatch you want, Mr Jager said there are some features that should be on your must-have list if you’re in the market for a device.
This includes strong battery life between at least 12 to 18 hours, water resistance and comfort.
“You should also consider the operating system it uses. If you have an iPhone, the Apple Watch is a good bet, whereas Android users will be better served by a brand like Samsung or Garmin,” he said.
“With that said, most smartwatches are compatible with both phone types.”
Read on to find out more about the smartwatches from the biggest brands.
Price: from $549
From first impressions, Google’s inaugural watch comes with all the bells and whistles smartwatch fans are accustomed to.
The Android-compatible watch comes with Google features including Google Assistant Wallet, Gmail, along with 40 Fitbit exercise modes and 32GB of storage.
But Ritesh Chugh, a Central Queensland University associate professor specialising in technology, said the problem is Pixel Watch is not offering anything to make it stand out from the crowd.
“If Google really wanted to tap into the smartwatch market, they should have come up with something new and unique,” he said.
He said health and fitness applications are one of the most popular smartwatch features among consumers.
Although Google has ticked this box with its integrated Fitbit technology, it’s also releasing its watch with a built-in blood oxygen sensor that is not yet functional – something Dr Chugh said would have been worth further delay to get up and running before launch.
The market-average price point of the Google Pixel Watch, which starts at $549 for the wi-fi model and reaches $649 for the 4G LTE version, is also an issue for an unremarkable product.
“There is no price difference when you compare it to the other watches,” Dr Chugh said.
“The good way of trying to tap into an already established market is to lower prices, which Google hasn’t done, and they’re not offering anything that’s unique.
“So trying to enter a saturated market can be problematic.”
Price: from $399
Apple recently released its Series 8 model, with updates including a 36-hour battery life, and potentially life-saving car crash detection, which will automatically call emergency services if you do not respond within 20 seconds – although that too can have some inherent flaws.
With 32GB of storage, 50 metres of water resistance, and a working blood oxygen sensor, Apple is holding its place around the top of the smartwatch market.
However, the Apple Watch Series 8 model comes in at the pricier side than some of the brand’s lower-cost options, starting at $629.
Price: from $399
The Samsung-Apple battle of tech giants has leaked over into the smartwatch market, where Samsung continues to hold its own with its Galaxy Watch.
The Pro model from the latest Galaxy Watch 5 series only comes with 16GB of storage, but has a battery life up to 48 hours, a digital bezel showing sensor details between the display and the watch’s edge, and a host of health-monitoring features.
Price: from $129
Garmin has a range of wearable tech options, costing between $129 and $3250.
With no strong affiliation with a mobile manufacturer, Garmin devices are more heavily focused on health, fitness and GPS capabilities.
The mid-range Venu 2 series starts at $399, and features up to 11 days of battery life in smartwatch mode and up to 26 hours in GPS mode.
Along with standard fitness and health features, the Venu 2 series also tracks stress and hydration, comes with a range of preloaded workouts, and is compatible with select apps from the Connect IQ Store.
Price: from $94
It remains to be seen whether Google’s Pixel Watch will cannibalise the Fitbit empire, but the latter does have a strong pre-existing customer base.
The kids range starts at $94, and the adult range starts about $145, depending on the retailer.
Fitbit’s focus on health and fitness is on display on its mid-range model, Versa 4, which features more than 40 exercise modes, a built-in GPS, 50-metre water resistance, and personalised reminders.