Wearables, wearables everywhere!

In the run-up to Christmas, we’re in the midst of a glut of new wearable technology – with even more goodies to come in early 2015. In the past week, established players like Fitbit and Jawbone have updated their offerings and there’s even a new wearable device from Microsoft.

With less than six weeks of shopping time before Christmas, wearable tech producers have gone into overdrive. Here’s a round-up of some of the most interesting new products:

Jawbone's UP3 in "look at me" silver (Photo: PR)

Jawbone’s UP3 in “look at me” silver (Photo: PR)

Jawbone, which pioneered the whole wearable tech movement with its original UP wristband, has launched its third-generation product – called the, er, UP3.

Ignoring the trend towards multi-function wristbands which blur the border between a smartwatch and a smart wristband, Jawbone has gone for an evolutionary look – retaining some of the sculpted look and staying pure to purpose by excluding a digital display.

On the inside of the strap are some protruding sensors – which make the band look rather uncomfortable to wear, although we won’t judge by appearance. These sensors allow the UP3 to track resting heart rate, currently The Big Thing in the latest generation of wearables. Remember those old, uncomfortable chest-band heart rate monitors? They’re on their way out.

Jawbone says its new band is “impossibly small”, but offers a “look at me” silver coated version for show-offs. When it comes to pricing, we think it’s “impossibly high” as Jawbone is asking a rather jaw-dropping US $179. And we’re not sure about the styling, either … so far wearable tech has an uneasy at best relationship with fashion.

Microsoft Band (Photo: PR)

Microsoft surprised everyone with a smart wristband. The “Microsoft Band” is a tracker which collects all the usual stats, and is designed to sync seamlessly with Microsoft’s Health service – a head-on rival to Apple’s Health. Microsoft says this provides “actionable insights for healthier living” which sounds very worthy, but we’re also wondering if this extends to counting the arm movement in lifting beer to one’s lips.

Alongside Jawbone, Microsoft is also targeting the pricier end of the wristband market, offering the Band for US $199.99 although it does have a multi-color OLED display.

As well as steps and sleep, Microsoft delivers a feature-packed band that also has GPS and of course tracks heart rate – and when tethered to a smartphone, even provides email previews on your wrist (plus “social updates, weather, finance and more”). The app is “designed to be awesome” on iPhones and Android as well as the Windows Phone platform.

One thing that makes us curious is why Microsoft seems to be pushing for the display side of the band to worn on the inside of the wrist – as per the promotional video, for example – as this seems counter-intuitive to us.

The Activité from Withings – we like it a lot (photo: PR)

Our favorite piece of new wearable tech to go on sale this month – or at least, open for pre-order with a guaranteed delivery within the next 30 days is the Withings Activité. This is a smartwatch like no other – it’s a very simple, analog interface.

As the watch gets closer to launch, so Withings continues to impress with the watch’s impressive capabilities – albeit matched by an impressive price of US $399 or EUR 399 (the latter including European sales tax).

Withings is now claiming an 8-month battery life, in stark contrast to the Apple Watch and Moto 360, which need daily juicing …

The latest clever touch we’ve learned about is that when changing time-zone, the watch automatically resets to local time on syncing with a smartphone. That’s one of the reasons why the Activité retains its place as our Number One Object of Desire in the world of wearables.

/WTW

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