How Smart Watches Work with Tablets and Phones
Last Updated: December 14, 2015
A smart watch has it’s own Operating system and locally installed Apps just like your phone or tablet.
This means that the smart watch can operate independently of a phone or tablet.
Exactly what your watch can do in standalone mode depends on your smart watch.
Generally the more expensive watches will work better in stand alone mode than the very cheap $10 ones.
However most of the current generation of Android Smart Watches are designed to work in conjunction with a smart phone or tablet as most smart watches cannot connect directly to the Internet.
Smart Watch Operating Systems
There are many different operating systems used on Smart watches.
Android Wear is an Android based OS designed by Google to be used with wearable devices e.g. watches.
The Android Wear OS isn’t Open source however its gives the best integration with Android phones and tablets as well as Apple IOS.
It is used by many popular brands like LG, Casio Sony,Tag Heuer
However there is a growing trend for smart watch manufacturers to create and use their own Operating systems.
Samsung have developed Tizen which it uses with its range of smart watches.
Fitbit have also developed an Operating System for their Fitbit smart watch.
Here is a more detailed Tizen vs android wear comparison.
Here is a good article that covers the different Operating systems that are currently in use.
The smart Watch OS determines what Apps can be installed on it.
Smart Watch Apps
The Operating System used on the watch becomes an issue if you want to install Apps on the watch.
Cheap/inexpensive smart watches will come with built in Apps, and it is unlikely you will be able to change them or add new ones.
On smart watches that support the Android wear OS you can install new Apps, and upgrade existing ones using the Android wear App on your tablet/phone.
Android Wear has a larger collection of Apps than other Smart watch Operating systems.
Take a look at this promotional video for Android wear for a quick look of what you can do with it.
Connecting a Smart Watch To a Phone or Tablet
Android smart Watches can connect to your phone/tablet using either Bluetooth or Wi-FI, but bluetooth is the most common method, and the method supported on all smart watches.
Note: Wi-Fi is usually only supported on the more expensive smart watches.
To connect the smart watch and phone/tablet you will need to install a smart watch App on your phone/tablet.
This App can be used to:
- Pair the Watch and phone/tablet
- Send Notifications to the Smart watch
- Receive data from the smart watch e.g. sensor data.
- Load Apps onto the smart watch.
To connect the watch and phone together they will need to be paired.
Pairing is usually done within the APP that you use on your phone/tablet to connect to your smart watch e.g. the Android wear App.
Here is a video that shows you how to pair a phone and Android wear smart watch.
Once the devices are paired they can talk to each other.
A smart watch can only be paired with one tablet/phone at a time.
Google provides the Android wear App for Android wear watches.
Many high end smart watch manufacturers will have their own App.
The Apps are generally known as Blue Tooth Notification Apps (BTNotification).
If you purchase a cheaper watch (they are available for as little as $10) then you will generally have to find a compatible App from the play store. (not always easy)
Using A Smart Watch Without Your Phone/Tablet
Your smart watch doesn’t need to be connected to your tablet /phone to function.
I have a smart watch that includes the following sensors:
They all work without being connected to my tablet, but they work as stand alone devices.r
High End Smart Watch Features
Smart watch prices vary considerably. They start at around $10 and go all the way up to $500 and more.
As expected the high end brand name watches will have not only better design but also offer more functionality e.g.
- GPS – Becoming popular especially for sports/fitness watches
- Wi-Fi – Used for installing Apps and connecting to the Internet without a phone.
- Mobile Payments– e.g Android Pay on android Wear devices. Samsung Pay on Samsung watches.
Common Questions and Answers
Q- Does Your Smart Watch Need Wi-Fi?
A – No it doesn’t but if it has Wi-fi it can connect to the Internet without needing to be near your phone/tablet. It does need to be near a Wi-Fi access point.
Q- Can I use My Smart Watch without connecting it to my phone/tablet?
A- Yes, but the Apps will be standalone Apps
Q- What Operating System does my Smart watch use?
A- It depends on the watch see this List of Operating Systems on Smart Watches
Q- Will my Smart watch work with Android and IOS?
A- Many do but you will probably find that you are limited in functionality on IOS if your watch is primary targeted at Android and vice versa.
Q- How do I charge my smart watch?
A- Many smart watches have a micro USB connector which you use for charging.
Q- How Long does the battery last?
A- Generally around 2 days for moderately priced devices.
Q- What is the difference between Android wear on my watch and on my tablet.
A- On your watch Android wear is the Operating system that controls your watch. Your watch comes with this already installed. On your tablet/phone Android wear is an APP that you need to download and install on your phone tablet.
Q- How does my smart watch connect to the Internet?
A- Most need to use your phone or tablet to connect to the internet. However Wi-Fi equipped watches can connect directly.
- Beginners Guide to the Google play store
- Understanding Android sensors
- Android Wear-Wiki
- Set up Android Wear Watch
- Installing Apps on Android wear
- Google- Android wear help