Smartwatches started out life as purely tech-driven devices, causing some of the ugliest smartwatches we have ever seen, and in squeezing in so many features, manufacturers forgot one detail – design. Fortunately, with designer brands now entering the market, the looks of smartwatches have greatly improved. But there are still some disastrous designs out there – as we find out.
Huawei – Band 4e
$26.99 (US), £24.99 (UK)
The Huawei Band 4e is, despite appearances, a smartwatch and deserving of a place on the ugliest smartwatches ever seen. A versatile one at that; it can be worn on the wrist or around your ankle. You’re able to track activities like running and basketball and even swimming. It’s waterproof up to 5m, but the ugly fabric wrist band isn’t likely to dry quickly and will likely eventually smell.
If you can forgive how little effort this tech giant put into this horrendous design, it’s actually a nifty little device for less than £25.
It monitors heart rate and even sleep and is compatible with Android and iOS smartphones. The Huawei Health app lets you analyse all this data so you can make improvements to your routine for better health.
You can get notifications like calls, texts, alarms and if you lose your phone the Band 4e will ping it for you. You can get an epic two weeks between charges out of this smartwatch.
It comes in two colours; Sakura Coral Red and the less horrendous Misty Grey and it’s pretty slim, coming in at 19mm wide.
Neptune Pine 16GB Smartwatch
$58.99 (US), £78 (UK)
Another face only a mother could love. Released only seven years ago (when it cost $335). The Neptune Pine isn’t technically a smartwatch so much as a basic phone you can wear on your wrist. It has a monster colour touchscreen measuring 2.5 inches.
It’s big for a reason. It has a lot of cool features packed in. It connects to wifi and can behave independently of your phone (remember, this was mind-blowing at the time). Along with GPS, a gyroscope and accelerometer which gives the wearer some accurate activity monitoring. Futhermore, it offers you steps, distance, pace, speed, laps, location and calories burned (which is probably more with the watch on). You can sync this information to a number of fitness apps.
The screen is big because the Neptune Pine has a full qwerty keyboard so you can compose emails on the go. It has voice commands too, so you can also write a message by talking to the watch.
For its age, it’s impressive that you can take photos, videos or even have a video chat. It’s got a 5MP front-facing camera as well as a rear-facing one too. Both have an LED flash.
You can actually play music or watch videos on it via streaming services or store it locally on the Neptune Pine’s in-built memory. There’s the option to plug in a standard headphone jack or listen via the built-in speaker.
The battery time varies, depending on what you’re using it for. You can get 120 hours of pure standby time, 6 hours talk time, 7 hours of internet surfing or 8 hours listening to music.
iOS users were probably seething with jealousy at the time…
Garmin Forerunner 101/201 waterproof GPS smartwatch
$139.99 (US), £119.95 (UK)
Long before the days of Fitbit, Garmin released the Forerunner 201 in 2004. It’s still going today and you won’t find it for less than £/$100.
Its main job is to give accurate information for latitude, longitude and altitude via its GPS sensor. It can pinpoint specific locations and has an electronic map system that allows the user to look up a location and navigate their way. The aim was to allow a runner to retrace their steps on their route, or to be able to revisit a route. It’ll store this information for up to a whopping 2 years!
It has a virtual assistant that’ll work with you during your session. This ensures you’re running at the right pace to meet your goals. As well as all the distance logging and mapping, it’ll tell you how many calories you’ve burned along the way.
Other features worth mentioning is the fact that it’s waterproof and has an adjustable wrist band. Adverts suggest the battery life is 14 hours, but you’ll need to keep a couple of Duracell replacements in your pocket as there’s no mains charger with this smartwatch.
$39.99 (US), £78.99 (UK)
Despite being discontinued, you can easily still find this watch on various retail sites online. Why you’d want to is another reason. Perhaps topping the ugliest smartwatches we have ever seen. It’s been said that this Pebble smartwatch looks like a lovechild between a BlackBerry and a Tamagotchi.
You can pick it up in either matt black with a black leather band or brushed stainless steel with a matching steel band.
It’ll show you notifications with previews for calls, texts and emails. Annoyingly it’ll count your steps but there’s no native app that records the information for you. You can get anywhere between seven to 10 days between charges, which is pretty decent.
You might be able to drown this ugly smartwatch, as it’s only waterproof to 5m. If you wear it to swim, you’ll have to keep your phone close by so they can talk to one another. It’s OK, though because apart from the time and an alarm, it doesn’t do a lot else without the aid of the Pebble app, which opens up the smartwatches capabilities.
These early offerings are all still available for purchase, should you be into the more we’re-not-sure-what-we’re-really-doing retro look of the first smartwatch offerings. Despite their looks, their features are impressive for their age, and show that tech wise, at least, things haven’t moved on that far.