The smartwatch panorama is essentially divided into three camps: Apple Watch, the ever-evolving lineup of Google Put on OS smartwatches, and … all the things else. Now, it’s most likely unfair to group all the opposite wearables into an “all the things else” bucket as a result of, to behonest, most of the smartwatches and health bands on this miscellaneous class are literally nice.

No, what I’m speaking about after I say “all the things else” is that these watches make use of a custom-built working system — separate from Apple’s Watch OS and Google’s Put on OS. Whereas there are a variety of ramifications to a smartwatch with a {custom} OS (most of that are out of the scope of this text), one of many large decisions you’re making by going with a non-Apple, non-Google smartwatch is which good assistant you willn use.

Whereas the benefit with which you’ll have Siri navigate your Apple Watch is unsurprising, and the considerably lackluster efficiency of Google Assistant on a Put on OS machine makes that class of watches unlucky, there’s a complete panorama of watches which have turned to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. And that is fairly distinctive, as a result of Alexa has a selected place within the voice assistant world — largely because it pertains to DIY use instances and cross-device compatibility.

However what’s it truly like selecting a smartwatch completely for the Alexa performance? Properly, I received my palms on just a few totally different courses of watches, together with a Fitbit Versa 2 and Xiaomi’s new flagship S1 smartwatch (presently solely formally out there in some markets), and spent the higher a part of every week asking Alexa to manage my life. Right here’s the way it went down.

Xiaomi S1 with the Amazon Alexa loading screen
Courtesy of Xiaomi

Which smartwatches have Alexa

The primary key consideration for this story was to find out which manufacturers of smartwatch truly depend on Alexa. First, there’s Fitbit’s vary of trackers and watches. I typically actually like what Fitbit does with a {custom} OS, particularly with regards to battery life, however I’ve truthfully by no means spent a lot time calling for Alexa to start out a exercise or learn me my calendar. However Fitbit needed to embrace Alexa to keep up the aggressive edge of getting voice-activated instructions — although which will change now that Google owns Fitbit.

Then there are the “third social gathering” watches — essentially the most well-known maker of which is probably going Amazfit. These value-forward watches and bands purpose to provide you wrist notifications, fundamental exercise performance, and about 70% of a smartwatch expertise at a discount worth. That is seemingly the candy spot for Alexa use.

The ultimate class is the “higher-end” {custom} OS watches. For this story, I’m giving the Xiaomi S1 watch a spin for its {custom} OS, however yow will discover just a few choices within the higher-priced watch house that use a {custom} OS — most notably the Samsung Galaxy Watch line (earlier than the fourth installment switched to Put on OS, that’s).

The Xiaomi S1 smartwatch on a wrist
Xiaomi S1 Watch

Alexa for every single day

Earlier than I get into my precise expertise utilizing Alexa in my on a regular basis life, it’s necessary to underscore what “built-in” Alexa performance truly means. Whereas an Alexa-specific machine like an Amazon Echo or Fireplace TV is able to exit of the field, a “built-in” machine is a third-party piece of tech that’s designed to work hand in hand with Alexa after some setup — usually through an Alexa app in your telephone. Units just like the FitBit Versa 2 and the Xiaomi S1 require you to replace firmware, join the machine to an Alexa app in your telephone, and be in a territory the place this performance is supported. So as soon as it’s arrange, you’ll have hands-free entry, however it does take some doing to get it going.

In follow, Alexa felt like an fascinating voice assistant to have at your beck and name, almost definitely attributable to the truth that I’m used to Alexa dwelling extra in my good dwelling than in my pocket. My typical voice assistant on the go is Siri, and even then I solely actually apply it to my Apple Watch to start out a exercise shortly or clumsily reply to a textual content after I can’t fish my telephone out of my pocket. Alexa, along with her intricate, DIY-friendly patchwork of expertise signifies that there’s a bit extra with which to experiment after I’m strolling round.

First, I discovered that Alexa truly labored just a little higher than Siri when asking her to look the web for me. Siri will usually ship again the fallacious data or inform me to move over to my telephone extra usually. Alexa however appeared to be extra comfy taking a stab at answering my query, no less than usually. Equally, as a result of the Alexa app has different app performance built-in extra readily, it was extra seamless to set off scheduling in my Google ecosystem (like conferences and to-do lists). In fact, Siri can deal with this with Apple’s ecosystem, however not very seamlessly with third-party choices. That is all anecdotal, and your mileage could range, however normally, I feel Amazon has constructed a bolder voice assistant largely as a result of it doesn’t play it secure fairly as a lot — particularly while you consider Alexa’s tens of hundreds of expertise, which nonetheless outflank what the Google Assistant brings to the desk.

A hand holding the Xiaomi S1 smartwatch
Xiaomi S1 Watch

Alexa with each machine

Maybe an important consideration when figuring out the Alexa distinction is simply what number of third-party units Amazon has chosen to interface with. As a result of each Google and Apple are likely to preserve a decent grasp on their ecosystems, while you ask for performance, they’ll are likely to default to first-party units. Amazon however has painstakingly taken steps to construct an enormous rolodex of audio system and good dwelling units. Whereas the numbers fluctuate fairly a bit, Amazon normally has a few-thousand machine edge with its compatibility record. Google Assistant and Apple stay woefully behind on this regard.

To be honest, my good house is just a little little bit of a blended bag. My thermostat is a Google Nest Studying Thermostat, whereas my TV streaming machine of selection is an Apple TV. However a lot of the remainder of my good dwelling system is powered by the budget-friendly firm Wyze. Between good locks, Wi-Fi cameras, a monitored safety system, and even a robotic vacuum, the Wyze app is a frequent good dwelling management interface for me. And whereas Google integration is purportedly supported, the most effective performance I’ve discovered is with Alexa. Subsequently, getting Alexa on my wrist to unlock a door or flip off a digicam was useful. And this could seemingly maintain true on a wide range of different units, together with the plain Amazon-friendly ring units and the favored Ecobee good thermostat line.

And that is the place I actually assume the Alexa-on-your-wrist factor shines. Apple’s HomeKit performance is absolutely not there but and requires a ton of fidgeting with to get off the bottom, and Google’s method works finest with first-party units. Amazon is the ecosystem with out an ecosystem, so that you’ll have higher luck on a greater diversity of third-party units.

Xiaomi S1 smart watch on a wrist with the screen off
Xiaomi S1 Watch

The underside line

As unsatisfying as it could appear, the reply to the “is Alexa the most effective wrist-worn voice assistant” query is absolutely dependent in your priorities. For me, I feel I’ll nonetheless take Siri as my favourite, strictly as a result of a lot of my cell life-style is Apple-based. But when I most popular Android telephones and a PC laptop computer, I’d change my tune to Alexa.

For the Google Assistant versus Alexa battle, Google could have the first-party battle gained, however for compatibility on a ton of units, Alexa is a extremely intelligent little helper. Should you’re available in the market for a smartwatch and voice activation is a characteristic you’re after, I’d advocate having a look at your record of “must-have” machine integrations. If it’s something past the primary Google Nest/Google Residence infrastructure, Alexa would possibly simply unlock a greater, extra futuristic life.

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