I find Android’s lack of small smartwatches disturbing.
Between the fitness tracking that more and more of us rely on, and their ability to sort and interact with notifications without having to take out their phone every 90 seconds, Android smartwatches have now evolved from a luxury to a must-have requirement . Mine controls my music, reminds me of incoming calls and notifications when I leave my phone in another room, manages my timer, tracks my heart rate, gives me a break when I get tunnel vision, and even lets me pay for nothing Ready to pay Take my wallet or phone out of the holster.
In short, it’s a lifeline like my phone. It made me more miserable when I found myself still having to make sacrifices and compromises to find someone who only fit.
Earlier this month, we saw shiny new smartwatches from Razer and Fossil, including the new Skagen’s 41mm Falster Gen 6, which Fossil touts has the same features and screen size as its larger 44mm Fossil Gen 6 model. While I always applaud the big screen in a smaller device, it feels hollow because 41mm is still too big for my wrist and millions of others.
2022 seems to be a very interesting year for wearables as more and more Wear 4100+ watches enter the space, older models get Wear OS 3, and we maybe, just maybe It might end up being a real, physical, purchasable Pixel Watch. For everything to come, however, there are still few more refined arms in the smartwatch world that really fit and look good.
Smartwatches may have come a long way in three years, but they still have a long way to go to make smaller wrists more comfortable. To make matters worse, few seem to be addressing this in any meaningful way.
women’s smart watch a brief history
The first Android Wear watch, the original Moto 360, was by no means delicate or petite, but I wear mine with pride. Even though it stabs the back of my hand every time I turn my hand back to push a door or lean against a table, I endure it with a smile so I can control the music on my wrist and peek while directing newscasts. Notify or do chores. After all, the 360 is a better fit than the Samsung Galaxy Gear Live or LG G Watch with its 1.65-inch screen and larger case.
The next Android smartwatch for smaller wrists is the Huawei Watch, which was not only the best Android watch of 2015 but dominated the segment until 2018. The 1.3-inch, perfectly circular screen has very slim bezels and the lugs are short, which means that even on a wrist as narrow as mine, it almost feels – and even better, looks – like a regular Smartwatch, if a very, very thick watch. I almost cried when I had to send my phone back to Huawei because nothing else on the market at the time could compare to it.
2017 introduced a smartwatch in the style of an LG watch, very small and lightweight, one of the first Wear 2.0 watches, only 11mm thick, with a very compact 1.2″ screen and 42mm case. I bought the LG Watch Style with my own money because owning a small smartwatch sounds like a dream come true. It fits perfectly – because it pulls out all the good stuff.
While feature-packed fitness trackers emerged in 2017, the Watch Style lacks a heart rate sensor and onboard GPS, so it can only track steps when disconnected from your phone. It also lacks NFC, so you can’t use it with Google Pay, which is one of the bigger features in Wear 2.0 and the second biggest reason I want music control behind the watch. Of course, no NFC or GPS removing the bulky sensor means less battery draining stuff. That little 240mAh battery needs all the help it can get.
2019 brings several options for tech-savvy women, each with its own set of compromises. Mobvoi has finally given us watches that aren’t behemoths, but the TicWatch E is still a decent size, and its plastic case feels and looks cheap. On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and Watch Active 2, which arrived in spring and fall 2019, gave us a very light and compact watch with only one real caveat: Tizen.
Tizen means app support on the Galaxy Watch Active — and notification support, to a degree — is lackluster, but it has NFC tap to pay (via Samsung Pay), HR tracking and GPS so you can leave your phone at home Or your locker while you work out. Its battery life is even longer than its Android counterpart, lasting 1.5-2 days on a single charge. But the watch doesn’t perform well with non-Samsung phones, and notification handling is terrible compared to Wear OS. But it’s small, it uses a standard, easy-to-change strap size, and it weighs just 37 grams, where most other watches weigh between 50 and 70 grams.
Technically, you can still buy the Galaxy Watch Active 2 today, but you shouldn’t because it stops updating after eight months.
Smartwatch Choices for Today’s Women
2020 brought us some minor improvements, but the 2021 and today’s lineups offer some options based on your priorities. Garmin Lily offers the ideal size and form factor for smartwatches if you most want a watch that is small, light, and beautiful. However, it follows what the LG Watch Style does: no onboard GPS, no NFC, no app support, and a crystal monochrome screen instead of color AMOLED.
The monochrome screen actually looks tasteful, especially on the deep purple colorway, but since Garmin uses its proprietary strap system instead of standard lugs, you can’t customize it much or easily. The battery lasts five days on a single charge—because, by its nature, it doesn’t do much more than a fitness tracker.
After two years of the super-sized Galaxy Watch Active line, I had high hopes that the Wear OS-equipped Galaxy Watch Active could be the best in the world, blending a smaller form factor with great apps and a great notification layout. Instead, we got the Galaxy Watch 4, the first Wear OS 3 watch, which gave us Google services with sleek Samsung hardware — but it wasn’t complete.
Google Assistant on previous Wear watches has repeatedly failed, but six months on, it’s not even Options on Galaxy Watch 4. Battery life is also down to a day (if that’s the case), and while the Watch 4 itself is smaller in width and depth than the Watch Active, the out-of-the-box experience is very awkward for women and narrow wrists.
Awesome tech YouTuber Thao Huynh perfectly demonstrates this problem in the first minute of her comment. The gapless design of the first-party Watch 4 straps keeps the straps from rotating as fully as the Watch Active’s straight-edge straps do. This results in voids around the front of the watch, and possible false readings when tracking heart rate, blood oxygen, BMI, and blood pressure, and only makes the watch uncomfortable to wear. This makes users with small wrists rush to buy more suitable replacement straps.
Still, the Galaxy Watch 4 is the best 40mm Android smartwatch available today. Garmin’s Vivoactive 4 weighs twice as much, but has half the app support and a mediocre screen. Neither Mobvoi nor Fossil Group really got into the 40mm size range, and the Amazfit GTS 2 mini has the same flaws as the Garmin Lily: no apps, no NFC, and it’s more of a fitness watch than a smartwatch.
what are we waiting for
While the Galaxy Watch 4’s performance is so good, it’s still not enough for the millions of women who flock to a less-than-full-featured fitness tracker because they’re hesitant about its “size.” Even my mother opted for the Fitbit Luxe instead of upgrading to the Galaxy Watch 4 like my father and twins did. She just felt that the thing on her wrist was too big, and she wasn’t wrong.
The problem we’ve had over the past five years is the same one we’ve complained about with the LG Watch Style: Manufacturers can’t see a way to reduce enough bulk to a small, lightweight smartwatch without sacrificing functionality. A Samsung spokesperson highlighted the design achievements made to reduce the Watch 4’s thinness while still retaining functionality.
To achieve this, Samsung reduced the size of the health sensor to create a thinner, slimmer design. While smaller sensors generally reduce the accuracy of fitness measurements, Samsung has developed an entirely new algorithm to ensure there are no compromises.
However, any screen smaller than 40mm isn’t just a component miniaturization issue: it’s also a usability trade-off. Or at least that’s Fossil’s problem when it comes to making smaller watches. After the launch of the Skagen Falster Gen 6, I spoke with the Fossil Group about smartwatch sizes and their challenges.
One challenge smartwatches face as they get smaller has to do with touchscreens, because when a touchscreen gets smaller, swiping to navigate on a touchscreen can be very challenging. We found the 1.19″ – 1.2″ circular display and touch area to be about the smallest acceptable size that can still be used as a touch screen. This sets a fraction of the UI/UX minimum size, and then builds certain elements from there to support the board for display, antenna, and case design. As some of these elements see technological advancements over the next few years, we could see a slight decrease in overall size. However, with the current state-of-the-art technology, this is why the smallest watches have these displays with a diameter of about 39-40 mm and a very simple design.
If you need proof of any problem, just try a touchscreen fitness tracker with a small display. It’s a crazy exercise: you swipe or tap multiple times, hoping at least one of them works. Even though the rotating bezel and physical/digital crown are proposed as means to help with sliding and rolling, there isn’t enough utility to really help the situation.
Shrinking the screen also makes text less readable, another problem that plagues fitness trackers widely. While shrinking UI and text to fit more screen may be useful for some users, it also makes touch targets smaller, increasing missed taps/swipes, not to mention forcing you to scroll more. Before smartwatches get smaller, we need creative solutions to this problem.
That said, just getting smaller isn’t enough.We need watches designed to be more comfortable fit On narrower, slimmer arms. Our fitness watch fanatic Courtney Lynch doesn’t have the size concerns that most of us have, but comfort is still key.
It’s more about comfort. Some are big and bulky, some are larger in size but still comfortable to wear. Fitbit Luxe is awesome (you can read my editorial)! Right now, I’m wearing a Charge 5 and it’s the perfect size. I have really small wrists and have never had a size issue.
The models she mentions are fitness trackers (except for the Sense), but she’s one of the millions who choose a fitness watch over a full-blown smartwatch in the name of comfort. Android Central’s Christine Persaud was drawn to the Fitbit Luxe and its fashion-forward (but still durable) style.
However, women and men with narrow wrists – yes men, I know many of you have the exact same size issues as us – shouldn’t make that choice at all for the sake of a full wearable experience , especially when the likes of Google, Fitbit and Garmin have fallen behind the smartwatch curve that Samsung and Apple are cutting.
You deserve a smartwatch that fits your wrist as perfectly as your lifestyle. You should use a watch that lies flat on your wrist so your heart rate and blood oxygen readings are not erratic and inaccurate. You deserve it all, and I think it’s time to really live up to their promise of a girl-friendly watch that’s not a second-class experience.
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