An edited article by Sarah Silbert
Updated December 19, 2018
A smartwatch is a portable device that's designed to be worn on a wrist. Smartwatches — like smartphones — use touchscreens, offer apps and often record your heart rate and other vital signs.
Consumers to appreciate the usefulness of wearing a mini computer on their wrists. In addition, specialty smartwatches for outdoor activities often supplement other, bulkier devices in an adventurer's tool kit.
Short History of the Smartwatch
While digital watches have been around for decades — some with abilities like calculators and unit converters — only in the 2010s did tech companies begin releasing watches with smartphone-like abilities.
At the same time, advances in silicon miniaturization opened the door to other kinds of dedicated-purpose smartwatches.
What Do Smartwatches Do?
Most smartwatches — whether they're intended for daily use or for specific purposes ( — offer a suite of standard features:
Notifications: Smartphones display notifications to alert you of important events or activities. The types of notifications differ; devices connected to a smartphone may simply mirror the phone's notifications on your wrist, but other smartwatches display notifications that only a wearable could provide.
Apps: Beyond displaying notifications from your phone, a smartwatch is only as good as the apps it supports. App ecosystems vary, and they're tied to either Apple's or Google's environments. Smartwatches with a dedicated purpose, such as for hiking or diving, generally support the apps they need to accomplish that purpose without the opportunity to add other kinds of apps.
Media management: Some smartwatches pair with smartphones to manage media playback for you.
Fitness tracking: If you’re a hard-core athlete, a dedicated fitness band is likely a better choice than a smartwatch. Still, many smartwatches include a heart rate monitor and a pedometer to help track your workouts.
GPS: Some smartwatches include a GPS for tracking your location or receiving location-specific alerts.
Good battery life: Modern smartwatches feature batteries that will get you through the day, with normal use, with a bit of juice still left to go.
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