My trusty old smartwatch recently stopped working. It was a Garmin Vivomove HR, a minimal hybrid watch with regular watch hands and a tiny hidden screen that showed notifications and messages. It served me well for quite some time, but unfortunately the hidden screen had stopped working and it would cost me as much to get it fixed as it would to buy a new one. So I decided to get a new one…

Looking for a new watch all I really wanted was a simple replacement that had three main features:

  1. Phone notifications: so I don’t miss calls/ texts.
  2. Step counting: to keep me active.
  3. A long battery life: so I don’t have to worry about it stopping working – battery anxiety is real!

That’s it! I don’t need apps, or advanced health tracking — just the basics…

I feel like this should be a simple thing to find, I can’t be the only person looking for a nice quality smartwatch that keeps me updated without all the extra fluff. But apparently, I am. I’ve spent hours searching for a watch that meets my criteria, and I’ve come up empty-handed.

When searching, I immediately dismissed all Apple and Samsung watches due to their high prices and short battery life. Although Fossil watches looked appealing, I came across multiple reviews mentioning issues with the watch face steaming up. Casio watches showed promise, but their limited notifications and unattractive styling didn’t meet my preferences for a more elegant design. While Argos offered a range of Sekonda watches that seemed promising, all the reviews indicated that the battery life fell short of the claimed specifications.

After much consideration, I narrowed down my options to two watches: the Withings Scanwatch and another Garmin model. I was particularly drawn to the stylish appearance of the Withings, but it exceeded my desired budget. Consequently, I opted for a brand I was familiar with.

So, after much searching, I settled on a Garmin Forerunner 55 — a watch that is primarily designed for runners. It fits my needs surprisingly well, and I am enjoying having it, but I had to disable a ton of fitness tracking features that I’ll never use just so that I could do the things I wanted. Plus I probably paid extra for all these extra features that I have switched off.

At least the battery is good, it’s advertised as lasting 2 weeks, and shows signs of doing just that, possibly a bit longer. I’m aware that there are cheaper alternatives out there like the Amazfit range but these watches were either too complex, or too basic, there was no middle ground. Plus, call me picky if you like, but having a reputable brand name behind my purchase gives me extra peace of mind when it comes to reliability.

Speaking of unexpected discoveries during this whole quest of mine — there’s one feature on my new watch that I hadn’t considered before: custom watch faces. They are more fun than I expected; although I have plumped for a minimal design with just the time and date on it. I’m actually tempted to try creating my own watch face design, but that’s a project for another day.

Maybe one day companies will realise there is a market for straightforward smartwatches and provide us with something a bit simpler, or maybe they won’t and I’ll have to keep on using these all singing all dancing ones. Or maybe we will all end up plugging into the Matrix (or Apple Vision Pro) and won’t need watches any more anyway. Who knows?

Have you shared this plight? Were there compromises in your watch choice too?

This post was originally published on Binary Moon and has been shared with permission.

Ben Gillbanks

Ben Gillbanks is a web developer and designer with a passion for creating digital experiences. With years of experience in the industry, Ben has established himself as a professional known for his knowledge of front-end development, responsive design, and user experience optimization. Throughout his career, Ben has worked on numerous projects, ranging from small-scale websites to large corporate platforms spending 11 years as the Director of Web Development at Miniclip.com. These days he spends most of his time working on Brush Ninja, an animated gif maker. In addition to his technical skills, Ben is a strong advocate for open source software and actively contributes to the development community. He has released several web-based tools and frameworks that have been widely used by fellow developers. Ben's frequently shares his knowledge and insights through blog posts, and tutorials, aiming to inspire and educate others in the web development community.

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One thought on “The Quest for a ‘Simple’ Smartwatch

  • I absolutely loved the Pebble Smartwatch. It featured a beautifully simple interface using e-ink technology, so the battery life was very good indeed. Sadly, after a few generations of watches they ran out of money and were purchased by another company and nothing really happened after that with the platform.

    Now I am using the Samsung Galaxy smartwatches, currently on the 4th version, the first to feature Android instead of Tizen and the rotating bezel is a wonderful idea. Simple is hard to find, but after a bit of configuration, this smartwatch has served me well.

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