Home : Hardware Terms : Smartwatch Definition


A smartwatch is a digital watch that provides many other features besides timekeeping. Examples include monitoring your heart rate, tracking your activity, and providing reminders throughout the day. Like a smartphone, a smartwatch has a touchscreen display, which allows you to perform actions by tapping or swiping on the screen.

Modern smartwatches include several apps, similar to apps for smartphones and tablets. These apps provide additional functionality, such as displaying weather information, listing stock prices, and displaying maps and directions. Most smartwatches can also be used to make phone calls and send and receive text messages.

While these apps run directly on the smartwatch, they require a smartphone to function. This is because the data is first received by the phone, then sent to watch. Most smartwatches do not include Wi-Fi and they do not have a SIM card for cellular data. Therefore, most apps rely on a compatible smartphone to provide data over a Bluetooth connection. For example, the text messaging app on your smartwatch may allow you to dictate and send a text message, but the actual message is sent using your phone. If your watch is not within range of your phone's Bluetooth signal, the message will not be sent.

Since smartwatches rely on smartphones for a large percentage of their functionality, they are generally considered a smartphone accessory rather than a standalone device. Still, smartwatches provide a number of features that don't require a smartphone. For example, activity tracking is possible using the smartwatch's built-in accelerometer and heart rate monitor. A smartwatch with a GPS receiver can accurately track and record outdoor runs. If your watch has an NFC (near field communication) chip, you can pay for purchases with your watch using a stored credit card. Finally, if your watch has enough storage for music files, you can play songs directly from your watch using wireless headphones.

Popular smartwatches include the Apple Watch (watchOS), Samsung Gear (Android Wear), and LG Watch (Android Wear).

Updated: August 5, 2017

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