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The Smartwatch Hunt.

My Pebble Steel smartwatch is quickly heading for retirement. Is there a proper replacement out there?

The watch has been with me for about three years now. It’s starting to show signs of wear. The battery life is slowly decreasing, and just last week, the screen began to suffer from static lines and artifacts. The latter problem is something that has troubled quite a few Pebble owners.

When I first bought the Pebble, I was sure I’d use it for a lot of different thing. But in the end, I’ve mainly used it for viewing notifications, checking my calendar, and – surprise, surprise – as an actual clock. Notifications are a massive time saver when the phone is in my bag, pocket, or stowed away somewhere else. The calendar extremely convenient whenever I’m on my way to a meeting, my phone is at my desk, and I can’t remember in what room the meeting is. And that happens surprisingly often. The battery life is also excellent, at least compared to your average smart phone, and most other smartwatches. Fresh out of the box, the Pebble Steel managed a good 7 days on one charge. Now it’s down to 5, which is still more than most other smartwatches.

Lately, I’ve also been looking at getting an activity tracker. It’s not features that I really need, but I’m a sucker for statistics and graphs. And let’s be honest: I don’t need a smart phone in the first place, either.

The Alternatives

The planned Pebble Time 2 had all of these features, but it was canned when Fitbit acquired Pebble’s software assets last year. So now I’m browsing my options among the big players on the activity tracker and smartwatch market: Fitbit, Garmin, and Polar1.

Fitbit offers a wide range of options. Fitbit Alta HR, Fitbit Charge 2, and Fitbit Blaze all offer some of the features I want. The Fitbit Blaze seems to be the only one of the three that can display other notifications than call, text and calendar notifications. But the Blaze looks absolutely terrible.

Garmin also has a very wide range of options, but the one that best suits my needs seems to be the vívosmart HR+. Unlike the Fitbit models, the vívosmart HR+ can display any notifications sent from a compatible smart phone. Garmin also has a watch, the Forerunner 235, which looks interesting, but is rather large for my flimsy wrist.

Polar doesn’t offer quite the wide range of products as Garmin, but they’ve manage to put together the A360. At first glance, it’s offers pretty much the same as Garmin’s vívosmart HR+. But it comes with a color screen, and brags about a whooping 14 days of usage on one charge.

The Reviews

Reviews can be a good way to get a general feel of what the world thinks about a product. For my research, I’ve looked at reviews from Amazon, Tom’s Guide, and Wareable.

Of the three most relevant products; Fitbit Charge 2, Garmin vívosmart HR+, and Polar A360, none manage to really stick out. Amazon and Tom’s Guide both crown Fitbit Charge 2 as the champion, while Wareable gives first place to Garmin vívosmart HR+.

For Garmin Forerunner 235, however, it’s a different story. All three sites praise the watch, and it has some key features that I really like: Actual 24/7 heart rate monitoring, support for proper notifications from the phone, and today’s calendar right there on the watch. It’s also possible to pair the Forerunner 235 with a chest strap heart rate sensor if the one on the watch isn’t accurate enough. As an added bonus, the data collected by the watch can be synchronized automatically with Endomondo.

The Choice

As it turns out, one of my colleagues has a Garmin Forerunner 235 that he uses daily. After looking at that at work today, and reading a lot of what can only be described as rave reviews, I’ve decided to give it a try. I have to spend a wee bit more than I planned, but it’s not more than a smartwatch, and it’s got all the bells and whistles I’m looking for.

It’s a bit larger than my Pebble Steel, and will probably look pretty silly on my wrist – but I look pretty silly already, so it won’t make much difference.

Footnotes

  1. Apple is not an option since I don’t have an iPhone. The same goes for all Android Wear watches as I don’t want to charge it every single day.

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