You’ve heard of a watch, right? And you’re likely fully aware of smartwatches, and how the two differ. But you may have also read about hybrid smartwatches. Confused as to what a hybrid watch does? We’re here to explain everything, from what a hybrid smartwatch is and what they can do, to a few examples of the best out there.
What is a hybrid smartwatch?
A hybrid smartwatch is a fusion between a regular mechanical watch and a smartwatch, in that it combines some connected features with traditional watch mechanics. It doesn’t have a touchscreen, doesn’t usually require charging up every day, and doesn’t look like a piece of technology. It looks like a normal watch. If the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear Sport, or touchscreen Android Wear watches like the Emporio Armani Connected, don’t appeal because they don’t really look like watches, then the hybrid is your gateway to the smartwatch world.
Show, don’t tell
The best way to understand what a hybrid smartwatch does is to see and play around with one. The above photo shows off the Fossil Q Crewmaster. We chose it as our example because the design is based closely on an existing Fossil watch, which the company chose to augment with smart connected features. You can see it has an analog dial, traditional watch styling, and it’s slim and stylish.
It’s smart because it has Bluetooth connectivity built-in, and it pairs with your smartphone through an app. The app is available for iOS and Android, which means there’s a high chance whatever phone you have works with the watch. It’s not like the Apple Watch, which only works with the iPhone.
What does a hybrid smartwatch do?
The vast majority of hybrid smartwatches share similar functionality. A hybrid watch will track your steps, while the app works out calorie burn and activity time. Some watches will also track your sleep, but it’s not as common considering most people are unlikely to wear the watch 24-hours a day. The watch will alert you of notifications on your phone with vibrations, and some kind of visual hint about which app is alerting you.
The method for notification alerts varies. Fossil, for example, makes the watch hands zip around to point at a single number, which you designate to a certain app or contact when you first set up the watch.
For example, if email notifications are linked to the number 3, the hands will move to 3 o’clock on the watch and will linger there long enough for you to take a glance. Other watches do it it different, such as the NYSW GTS Activity Tracker, which has a dedicated sub-dial for notification alerts. Hybrid watches from Guess and Martian have a small LCD screen for alerts.
You can also expect features like alarms, world time zones, and a programmable button that can be configured for different functions. This can include working as a remote shutter for your phone’s camera, for music control, or to make your phone ring in case you can’t find it.
Don’t expect most hybrid smartwatches to run apps, have watch faces you can change, or include more complex features like a heart rate sensor (though there are some like the Nokia Steel HR).
Because most hybrid smartwatches don’t have a touchscreen, they don’t consume anywhere near the same degree of energy as one that does. Paired with Bluetooth Low Energy, a hybrid smartwatch can usually survive on a coin-cell battery, and therefore doesn’t require nightly charging.
The battery can last up to six months before it needs replacing, which can be done at home, and for a very low price. This makes hybrid smartwatches perfect for anyone that wants to avoid owning yet another device to recharge every day.
Because a hybrid smartwatch doesn’t deviate very far from traditional watch styling and design, you get many of the benefits associated with mechanical watches. Almost all are water resistant, and usually down to at least 5ATM (underwater up to 50 meters), not just a simple IP68 rating (limited to about 1.5 meters), and the standard size lugs mean you can pick and choose your own straps. Also, because the designs are more watch-like, there’s greater choice for women in the hybrid smartwatch world.
Finally, because hybrid smartwatches aren’t as technically complex as a full smartwatch, they’re often much cheaper.