Christmas buying guide for Wearable Technology: Part Two
The Jawbone, Nike+ Fuelband and Fitbit devices might be the poster children of the wearable technology wave (as in Part One), but if you’re on a budget or looking for alternatives, there is plenty of choice.
Start by taking a look at the Misfit Shine – probably the best looking wearable on the market right now (that could change at next month’s CES show). Probably the only wearable that could be classified as a fashion device right now, Misfit bucks the trend by offering a single function – tracking movement via a dial of 12 LEDs that progressively light up as you march (or jog) towards your daily goal.
The Shine can also be worn around the neck as a piece of jewelry (if you scoff, then just imagine wearing the Fitbit One round your neck and you will realize that the gap between wearables and fashion is still huge).
The Polar Loop looks like a $99 bargain until you discover the heart rate syncing is not included on the wristband, the packaging is midleading. The Shine is a Finnish firm’s take on the Nike+ Fuelband, tracking calorie burn (averaged by movement), steps and also showing the time with an OLED display. It has a plastic wristband with a metal clasp (the band needs cutting to size, and there’s no going back once you’ve trimmed it down) and feels a bit more robust than other devices. Polar is also going against the trend by having an iPhone-only app, no Android app (yet) but watch this space.
There is also a slew of smartwatches hitting the market. The best-known are the Pebble and the Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch. The Pebble is cheaper, but has a monochrome display, while the Galaxy watch has a full color screen, but has been slammed by reviews and I’m not convinced by the sales pitch: “Make calls from your wrist!”, nor the $299 price tag, especially since your smartphone already does everything the watch does.
The Pebble is a different proposition and focused more on style, although it is still clunky and if you’re already wearing a designer watch, it’s unlikely that you will be taking it off to replace with a smartwatch. Pebble has plenty of apps – one of the things that helped Apple’s iPhone to grab such a great market share, so quickly – and is a crowd-funding success story.
Sony also makes an Android-compatible SmartWatch. It looks very similar to the Samsung but even bigger and lacking true functionality. If you’re in the market for a smartwatch, then WearableTechWatch advises waiting a few months.
If you’re looking for a wearable and venture into a US electronics store like Best Buy then you’ll likely find an almost-overwhelming selection of wristbands without too many knowledgeable staff – a basic enquiry about the Polar Loop sent my assistant (Best Buy’s resident wearables “expert”) racing off to the computer to find out the answer. In the second tier you will find products from firms like iBitz by GeoPalz (in our opinion the name itself is a total fail), Striiv and Bodymedia, which laughably describes itself as “the leading on-body monitoring system”.
This simply underlines that there is a lot of hype out there. Our advice: Buy with caution after checking the ecosystem supporting your device of choice – does it pair with a smartphone? If so, which ones? Which functionality do they have? What’s the price? How much does it weigh? How does it look? Because unless you’re buying on price (in which case you should budget $100 today or pick up a used Jawbone UP on eBay), then there’s probably a more mainstream, better looking, sleeker option out there.
What’s your opinion? Let us know …