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THE BEST SMARTWATCH FOR ANDROID



Smartwatches really only came onto the scene in a major way in the past two years — Google, Apple, and Samsung are all hoping it'll be the next big computing platform. Since then, we've seen lots of manufacturers try different strategies for strapping a computer on your wrist, but they were all pretty bad experiences — until right around now. More importantly, smartwatches have stopped looking like hideous wrist gadgets and more like, well, watches.
If you're interested in getting one, you should know that smartwatches are really good at some things and not very good at others. The good: notifications, counting your steps, and showing you small snippets of information. The bad: basically everything else, especially when it comes to advanced apps that try to do things that are just plain easier on a phone.
Last year, we chose the Pebble as the best smartwatch for either Android or the iPhone. But this year, smartwatches have changed. They are finally beginning to look good, can do much more than they used to, and still last long enough to get you through a full day. But to make all that happen, smartwatches needed to tie more deeply into the phones they work with.
So if you're convinced that you want to give one of these smartwatches a try, you should get one that nails the basics and has a good chance of getting the harder stuff right someday. That's why we're picking different watches for Android and iPhone users. That deep integration turns out to be a very big deal — and it's the key behind our pick for the best smartwatch for Android users.

THE WINNER

MOTOROLA MOTO 360

The Moto 360 (the 2015 edition) has the best combination of style and functionality for most people. First off, it runs Android Wear. Although smartwatches that run on other platforms are able to give you many of the basics you'll want, only Android Wear feels native to Android. It shows you Google Now's ambient notifications, gives you really good voice search, and has the widest variety of apps. Google has also been pretty good at providing software updates and improving the experience at a fairly rapid pace.
For most people Android Wear is the way to go — it simply works better with your Android phone than anything else. But there are a ton of Android Wear watches! As long as you stick to watches made in the past six months or so, what you get is going to basically work the same, so choosing between them turns out to be mainly a matter of style and the little details of functionality.
So why the Moto 360? It might make sense for me to punt and just tell you to get the Android Wear watch that looks best to you, but after testing virtually everything that's been released in the past year, I believe the Moto 360 is the best of them. For one, most other Android Wear watches are bulkier and — at least to me — a bit uglier. Huawei and LG have made watches that some people think are handsome, but to me they're trying too hard to look like more expensive watches.
The Moto 360 is more honest. It dresses up or down, but more importantly it comes in a fairly wide variety of styles. You can choose your size (42mm or 46mm) and your band — or you can buy your own band and easily swap it in. The only real design problem with the Moto 360 is that the screen isn't a perfectly complete circle. But I don't mind that too much, and it also means that you get a display that changes its brightness automatically without radically increasing the bezel size.
Here's the bottom line: you want a smartwatch that will work best with your phone, so you should get the one that's running the same software. That's Android Wear, and the best Android Wear watch is the Moto 360.


THE RUNNER UP

SAMSUNG GEAR S2

Samsung surprised pretty much everybody with 2015's Gear S2 smartwatch. Unlike Samsung’s previous watches, the S2 is reasonably sized and pretty good looking. Even better, the Gear S2's software is easy to figure out and actually really fun to use.
The reason the S2 is so good comes down to the bezel around the screen, which is actually a rotating dial you can use to scroll. It's great, and in many ways Samsung has created a smartwatch interaction model that's better than Google's. Read our full review of the S2 to see why we're so impressed with it.
So why not recommend the S2 as our main pick? It comes back to software that you can trust and that integrates fully with your phone. Android Wear simply does a better job with voice commands, for one. For another, the S2 requires you to install a bunch of extra software (three or four apps by my count) if you're not using a Samsung phone. Even those foibles aren't huge problems, though.
The bigger issue is that Samsung simply isn't as likely to get third-party app support as Google is. And Samsung has also been rebooting its smartwatch strategy every year since 2013. Even though the S2 itself is pretty great, the software ecosystem (Tizen) around it simply isn't — and so it has a way better chance of being forgotten in your sock drawer in a year or two than the Moto 360.
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