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Device Compatibility
Most smart watches are companion devices, so they need to connect to a phone or tablet via bluetooth and be within wireless range for full functionality. That means unless you’re getting a standalone watch, device compatibility is the most important buying factor. Most smart watches aren’t compatible across platforms, so for an iPhone you’ll need the Apple Watch, and Android Wear watches work on any phones with Android 4.3 systems or higher.
While many watches have full color displays similar to phones, others use monochrome E Ink displays. While the black and white display is less eye-catching, it makes for a significantly lower price point and a drastically longer battery life (up to 5 days instead of 1 or 2). To save some of that battery power, many color displays won’t show the time while the watch is sleeping, which can be an annoyance to some.
Smart watches use either touchscreen interfaces or physical buttons. Touchscreens are more common, but they do have some pitfalls on a device so small: it can be hard to select items on such a small screen, and some use gestures like wrist movements, which can be accidentally activated. Buttons can be somewhat clumsy but may make for higher accuracy and a lower price.
Smart watches notify you of incoming calls, emails, texts, social media activity, and more. Not all smart watches allow you to customize how and which alerts come in, so make sure the one you choose will provide the notification settings you prefer. Some smart watches only give alerts, while others allow you to actually view and interact with the notifications, so pay attention to that as well.

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The apps available for your smart watch also depend on the operating system, so make sure the watch you want will support the apps you’re interested in. You can get apps for everything from controlling your home lights to locating your phone to making mobile payments at the register. Many smart watches are engineered especially for fitness tracking and have built-in pedometers, heart rate monitors, and other features that can’t be added by app, so look for those capabilities if you’re a fitness nut.
Don’t forget your watch needs to feel comfortable in addition to working well. Larger screens are tempting, but they also make the watch clunkier, so look for a good balance between form and function. Band types also vary, so if personalization is important to you, look for watches that have 22mm bands that can be switched out for nearly any standard watch band.
Battery Life & Charging
As mentioned earlier, the kind of display your watch has will affect its battery life, so if a longer life is important to you, look into monochrome displays. Also pay attention to the way the watch charges—look for ones that use standard micro USB ports rather than a unique charging system, so that it will be easier to replace the charger down the road.