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What is a smartwatch? Wearable technology explained

Everything you need to know about smartwatches

Pebble Steel smartwatch

Smartwatches have been around for a little while now and are set to boom this year, but what exactly is a smartwatch? We explain everything you need to know about the wearable technology.

To put it simply, a smartwatch is a wristwatch with screen and the ability to do much more than tell you the time. In essence, it's like having a tiny smartphone on your wrist but there are a few things to explain about them so read on.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

How much do smartwatches cost?

You can get hold of a smartwatch for under £100 (the original Sony SmartWatch to name one), but the majority will cost more than this. Sony's SmartWatch 2 costs £149 and other like the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Pebble Steel are around the £250 mark.

If these are a bit out of your price range then be patient because firm's like Archos are planning on launching smartwatches for as little as £50.

How do smartwatches work?

As a rule of thumb, a smartwatch needs to be hooked up to a smartphone in order to work to its full potential. One will probably only tell you the time if you don't. This is done via Bluetooth pairing, with some devices allowing for quick and easy setup using NFC chips.

Once you've connected a smartwatch to a smartphone, you can choose what notifications you get on your wrist – things like messages, emails, calls and social networks. Many smartwatches can do more than let you know mum's calling, too. Apps might let you control what music is playing on your phone or take a photo remotely. Functionality varies from smartwatch to smartwatch so check before you buy.

Sony SmartWatch 2

Will any smartwatch work with my smartphone?

A good question and, in a word, the answer is no. Smartwatches are generally developed to work with particular mobile phone platforms – namely iOS and Android so this is another thing to check before you buy.

Some smartwatches are only compatible with specific smartphones as well, not just the operating system. A prime example is the Samsung Galaxy Gear which only works with select Samsung phones like the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 3.

What smartwatches will launch this year?

We know that Archos will launch its range of smartwatches this summer, but many more have been rumoured. Samsung is thought to be launching the Galaxy Gear 2 at MWC and 2014 could be the year we see Apple's iWatch and smartwatches from Microsoft, Google or even Amazon.

We're always keeping our eyes open so we'll let you know if we hear anything.

LG Lifeband Touch

Blurred lines: Is my fitness tracker a smartwatch?

As of CES 2014, the lines between fitness trackers and smartwatches have been very much blurred. We've reached the point where one device is likely to have some of the functionality of the other.

Many of fitness gadgets which we took a look at in Las Vegas also offer smartwatch type features such as call and message notifications. Prime examples include the LG Lifeband Touch and Razer Nabu. Meanwhile, fitness tracking apps are available for various smartwatches which are already on the market.

Follow Chris Martin and @PCAdvisor on Twitter.

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