Smartwatch Holiday Buyer’s Guide 2015

With the Christmas Holiday Season looming on the horizon, there’ll be a mad dash to get all your presents for your loved ones in order. Now that smartwatches are a booming category and can be thoughtful yet exciting present because of the utility, style and presumably the the status it affords.

However, with the variety of smartwatches on the market, poses the challenging task of choosing the perfect smartwatch for the person who’s receiving the gift. They come in a variety of flavours for any occasion, from fitness to a fancy company Christmas party – there’s a watch appropriate for every occasion.

It’s a particular piece of technology that simply enmeshed as part of you by simply sitting on your wrist for possibly many years to come.

With that in mind, at Staples we’re creating this Smartwatch Holiday Buyer’s Guide to help you choose the right gift. While we’re not going to write about the Apple Watch as that’s geared towards Apple users only, here we’ll be looking at the best overall smartwatch to get from those who are on Android smartphones, the best designed, fitness focused as well as budget friendly smart watches, we’ll cover the few, in our opinion to help you decide on the perfect gift.

staples smartwatch holiday buyers guide 2015

Microsoft Band 2

microsoft band 2

Price – $330
Heart Rate – Yes
Compatibility – Windows Phone, Android, iOS
Screen – AMOLED, 320×128 pixel resolution
Battery Life – 48 hours
Water resistance – Dust and Splash resistant
Sensors – Optical heart rate sensor, microphone, 3-axis accelerometer/gyro, Gyrometer, GPS, Ambient light sensor, UV sensor, Skin temperature sensor, Capacitive sensor, Galvanic skin response sensor, Barometer
Strap – Thermal plastic elastomer silicone vulcanite with adjustable-fit clasp

The Microsoft Band 2 , the company’s latest wearable, is its attempt at gaining some of valuable wrist real estate. They do this by trying to offer a compelling piece of elegantly designed technology that sits on your wrist that attempts to assist you in ways that would surprise you at first. I stress the word attempts as it sends you all notifications by default. If you don’t ruthlessly pick and choose which notifications you want and deem the most important, you’ll be getting constantly notified and conditioned to become Pavlov’s dog whenever the Band vibrates.

It’s a shame that it can’t surface or provide the granular controls to bubble up messages only from people that are most important or from data sources that are the most important that’s one step below of their “do no disturb” mode.  I’d imagine who it would work better is that you’re only notified from those people / data sources that you’ve whitelisted. Further to this, it would be cool if the Bandcould actually learn what you care about or dismiss over time to serve you the most relevant information at the right time.

The Band is beautifully designed, it packs a lot of technology to the gills, so much so I didn’t know to use everything off the bat. With sensors such as GPS, a heartbeat monitor, accelerometer, gyroscope, a skin temperature sensor, a curved touchscreen made out of Gorilla Glass 3, a haptic feedback motor as well as a UV sensor! It looks as if it came off the set of an episode of Star Trek and was sent back in time from the future. The only caveat of this awesome wearable, however, is that it’s pretty bulky and heavy compared to other wearables. But if that isn’t a concern, for the utmost wearable technology connoisseur, this is the device for that person.

The Good: has sensors packed to the gills, excellent battery life (2 days worth)

Perfect for: the tech and fitness junkie that wants to be on the bleeding edge of what smart bands are capable of.

The Bottom Line: If you want to stay on the bleeding edge and support a reinvigorated Microsoft that’s put innovation at the forefront melded with beautiful design, you’ll feel like this band is sent back from the future to own a bit your wrist real estate.


Withings Activité and Activité Pop


activite pop sand

Price – $199
Heart Rate – N/A
Compatibility – iOS and Android
Screen – Analog (traditional) watch face, mineral glass
Battery Life – 8 months
Sensors – Pedometer
Strap – User replaceable straps, in leather and silicone with a variety of colours

Tackling both the higher and lower end smartwatch segments, with its Activité and Activité Pop product lines. They come in at a the $599 and $199 pricepoint, differentiated only by its construction material and watchbands. Understated elegance for who’s who don’t want to be identified as a technology junkie, but can appreciate a traditional timepiece design that doesn’t draw any attention. The little brother of the Activité Steel, the only thing that differs from its elder brother is its use of materials that aren’t as premium. Not to say that it is inferior in design, the materials the Pop uses don’t put it in the $500 price point that the Steel is priced at, but it’s very much a fantastic product essentially sharing the same software as the higher end Activité that’s found in the Apple or Android App Stores.

The wonderful thing about the Pop is that it relies on a traditional watch battery (CR-2025) to power it close to 8 months without having to plug it in. All you need to do is pop off the back cover with the tool provided by Withings and you’re good to go again for another 8 months.

The Good: traditionally designed watch with a lot of tech packed underneath and stowed away. 8 month (!!) battery life with a traditional battery watch.

Perfect for: the person who values style and doesn’t want to identify or scream they want the latest in tech on their wrist.

The Bottom Line: If you or the person you’re buying for wants something that eschews the futuristic design of “smartbands” and wants something functional beyond just a traditional watch, the beautifully design Withings Activité lineup of smart watches just might be the thing to pick up this holiday season.


Moto 360

2015 Motorola Moto 360

Price – $330
Heart Rate – Yes
Compatibility – Android and iOS
Screen – 1.56-inch 360 x 330 (233ppi) and 1.37-inch 360 x 325 (263ppi) LCD with Gorilla Glass 3
Battery Life – Over 24 hours
Sensors – Pedometer, Optical Heart Rate Sensor, Ambient Light Sensor, Capacitive screen
Strap – Silicone, Leather, Steel.

Motorola’s second attempt at the delivering an awe inspiring smartwatch experience, compared to its lukewarm reception of its first generation Moto 360 watch. This second time around, things are a lot different, and for the better. First thing is the performance and battery life of the 360. It’s much zippier and fluid than before along with the battery being able to last for more than a day. Secondly, the screen’s resolution is bumped up to 233ppi and 263ppi for the 1.56in and smaller 1.36in models. Finally, with the multiple build colours, sizes and watch straps, it is very customizable, in fact up to 300 different combinations in the Moto Maker store.

With the 360, you’ll be getting a distinct, familiar, and attractive smartwatch that will fit comfortably into your life.

The Good: better battery life than their 1st attempt. Gorgeous round watch face. Super customizable, and functional due to software powered by Android Wear.

Perfect for: The techie who cares about style and wants the functionality that an Android powered smartwatch can provide – from fitness, to heart rate, and rock solid integration with the latest and greatest Android powered smartphones. But if you have an iPhone, it’ll work with that as well.

The Bottom Line: The beautifully designed and well thought out Moto 360 deserves to have a space on your wrist if you want the most seamless experience when it comes to integration with Android smartphones. With its ultra customizability in terms of watch straps, construction and sizes, you’ll be sure to be able to design a Moto 360 perfect for you.


Fitbit Charge HR

fitbit charge hr

Price – $170
Heart Rate – Yes
Compatibility – iOS and Android
Screen – LED
Battery Life – 5 Days
Sensors – Pedometer, Heart Rate Sensor, 3-axis Accelerometer, Altimeter, Vibration motor
Strap – non replaceable silicone strap

The grand daddy of fitness trackers ushering in the era of the “Quantified Self” movement became mainstream. Unsurprisingly, it’s made a natural transition over to the smartwatch space as their trackers moved to consumers’ wrists with the introduction of their Fitbit Flex line almost 3 years ago. The Fitbit Charge HR is their attempt at breaking into the mid-end smartwatch segment for those who are truly fitness minded.

The understated simplicity of the design, with its LED display and singular button that can toggle the different modes that you can view – from time, steps, heart rate. As expected, outside of fitness tracking and logging your workouts, it also measures your sleep, although it isn’t the most comfortable to wear while sleeping.

With its simple design and HR monitoring function built in, for those who are conscious about their health and want to know how active they are, the Fitbit Charge HR is a great gift to consider.

The Good: From the pioneers of fitness trackers, they’re now turning more into smartwatch. They’ve packed everything you need for the fitness junkie, except for velocity based data if you lift, and have great gamified app to keep you engaged with your friends who have a Fitbit as well.

Perfect for: The Fitness junkie that can still appreciate the functionality it affords, and can rock it with any outfit they please.

The Bottom Line: Affordably priced in the mid-tier range, the Charge HR packs all the bells and whistles you need to hit those New Year’s Resolutions. This sleekly designed Fitbit is more Fitness tracker than watch, but can also double as watch if you need to you know, check the time.


Pebble Timeline Round


Price – $330 or $119 for the Original Pebble
Heart Rate – N/A
Compatibility – iOS and Android
Screen – 180×180, e-ink, scratch resistant screen 2.5D Gorilla Glass
Battery Life – 2 days
Sensors – gyroscope, pedometer, accelerometer, microphone
Strap – 14mm and 20mm, steel, nubuck leather

Undoubtedly Pebble’s most elegant and exciting design yet. For the smartwatch aficionado that doesn’t want to compromise on style, this should be definitely on your list. The Pebble Time Round incorporates everything they’ve learned from their original Pebble that was on Kickstarter. Thanks for its use of e-ink technology of LCD displays, the Pebble pretty much mimics traditional timepieces while making a little bit of consolation on the battery front in order to achieve its thin design. Expect to get about two days worth of use from their new design before having to recharge.

Additionally, you can customize it to your own liking, whether it’s their watch straps, to the watch faces that are available in its bustling app ecosystem. You’ll be able to get a lot of use outside of it being, well, a watch.

The Good: Most elegant design yet, compatible on iOS and Android, robust app ecosystem. Customizable, everything from watch straps to watch faces. Pricing is favourable compared to competition. Quick charge allows for a day’s worth of battery in 15 minutes.

Perfect for: the traditionalist that doesn’t want to compromise on elegant watch design or the fashion forward techie that still has an appreciation for traditional watch design without eschewing on the latest smartwatch technology on the market.

The Bottom Line: This is the smartwatch that performs well on both iOS and Android that makes has a perfect blend of style, functionality and a vibrant app ecosystem that is continually being updated with more and functional apps that complement your life.


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Will obsesses over the latest and greatest in gadgets, startups, does CrossFit and writes about technology, growth marketing, programming and personal development. He curates the Startup Digest in Toronto and is a coffee enthusiast.

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