The Most Promising Wearable Tech Devices 2019

Shares

We have come a long way in tech since the first Fitbit hit the market in 2009.  Wearable tech has hit the ground running (if you’ll excuse the pun) and all of a sudden, no one questions you if you appear to be talking to your watch in the supermarket, which is definitely a win for those of us who tend to talk to ourselves often.  But what is it that the sane amongst us are speaking to, what is that tech doing, and why do we need it?

Let’s look at the most interesting wearable devices on the market and how they can help us in day to day life.

Fitbit Charge 3

As the Fitbit is where this all started, it seems only fair to mention it first.  Boosting over 25 million users and millions of positive consumer reviews from all over the globe, Fitbit certainly have their fair share of the market for wearable tech.  With various models to suit the pockets of even the tightest household budgets, its easy to see why the devices have become so popular.

What does it do?

We’re looking at the Fitbit Charge 3 model which was released nearly a year ago in October 2018 but has received the best response of all the models so far.  The device itself is much more than the watch-come-pedometer device its manufacturers started with, with the Charge 3 able to manage all the following whilst sat comfortably on your wrist:

  • Timekeeping
  • 24/7 heart rate, fitness and sleep tracking
  • Calorie burn counters
  • Weather updates
  • Menstrual cycle tracking (with app – requires data input)
  • Goal tracking and competitions with friends (with app)
  • Swim tracking (water-resistant up to 50m)
  • Activity reminders
  • Tracking of pace and distance travelled (when synced to phone GPS)
  • Guided breathing reminders based on heartrate
  • Fitbit Pay (on special edition model only)

Fitbit came under fire for a few features which failed to meet expectations when the Charge 3 bumped the Charge 2 off the newest release spot.  Charge 3 still has no GPS tracker, operates only in monochrome and has a way to go when it comes to competing with other smartwatches on the market when it comes to managing texts, calls and other notifications from a nearby smartphone. 

It does, however, offer the option to swap and change wrist bands which is great not only for increasing the length of time the Fitbit can be used but is also great for people who may want to dress up and down with their Fitbit.  Fitbits are a relatively low-risk purchase too with a 45-day money back guarantee and a 1-year manufacturer warranty included with all purchases.

What does it cost?

With prices for a Charge 3 starting at just $119.95 it is truly affordable tech, especially given all the features and functions it manages.  There are plenty of older releases still available on the market too, giving similar functionality with a lesser pricetag.

What’s the Verdict?

If you’re looking for an affordable, responsive and reliable fitness tracker, Fitbit have you covered with the Charge 3.  However, if you’re looking for more of an all-round solution with more of a smartwatch feel, Fitbit just isn’t there yet.

Oculus VR Headset

If you’ve been waiting to make the leap into a virtual reality, your time is now!  Oculus’s new Quest headset is a fully self-contained, wireless headset which is reasonably adjustable.  The Quest comes with a choice of memory options for storing games on the device and acts as a pretty much a plug and play device! 

What does it do?

Putting the device on transforms the player into a game, with two handheld control devices for game play.  Games are best played stood up with plenty of space – think Nintendo Wii with more moving around and a blind fold on!  The Quest requires set up when you’re playing in new spaces so you can set your limits and play both standing and sitting so it is doable in small spots, it’s just better with the freedom it is intended for. It’s not the most affordable tech on the market, however, it is one of the few VR headsets that operates without requiring a connection to a PC or Laptop to access games, fully self-contained which cuts the overall costs considerably.  Other features include video sharing where a player can cast media to a screen within the Quest and invite their friends to come in and join them in a virtual cinema type room.  There are a few other nifty apps which add functionality to Quest which are in development and keep getting better, so Quest promises to give access to the latest tech as soon as it’s available.

A full battery life offers about 2.5-3hrs gameplay which is not much to write home about; however, Oculus throw in a 10ft charging cable so you can use the device plugged in with the controllers running economically on a singular AA battery each.  The device needs to be used in good lighting, the device depends on seeing your surroundings to track your head and body movements, however, if the play area is too bright, the device can’t pick up the infra-red lighting to place the controllers.  Another downside given the cost of the Quest is that games must be purchased separately, this can feel like a pretty sore deal after a $400 purchase, however, it is something most gamers have come to expect with consoles.

What does it cost?

The cheapest Quest headset package, including the two controllers and a 64GB hard drive is available from $399, the 128GB model offers twice the space for $499 which may be a fairly sensible investment if you want to futureproof your device for the next few years and store a decent number of games and progress on the device.  It’s certainly a dream product when it comes to wearable tech, however, it is not the most accessible with its current price tag.  I think given the limitations on how long a player would comfortably play or realistically want to play, it’s a steep price to pay, however, it still feels accessible on the consumer market.

What’s the Verdict?

We think the Quest must feel like a breakthrough for serious gamers, it is definitely bringing us one step closer to the imagined possibilities of VR.  That said, we can’t see a massive place for VR in day to day life yet and feel it is more of luxury item than a must have as it may have a bit of an expiry once the buzz wears off.

Moodbeam

A UK product still in its very early days, Moodbeam has shown promise since its release to the market, it sold out at first release and is well on its way to success.  It’s a wearable mental health tracking tool which hopes to help people suffering with ill mental health access the support and help they might need.

What does it do?

The Moodbeam is a simple wearable wristband, it is sleek and simple in design with just two buttons and nothing more.  The idea is that the wearer presses one of the two buttons; blue when they feel low, anxious or a generally negative shift in mood, and yellow when they feel happy, relaxed or a positive shift in mood.  The device then syncs to an app on the wearers smart phone where the wearer can find patterns in their mood, based on various factors.  The device also tracks sleeping patterns and steps to help give insight into the relationship between sleep or activity on mood.  The device prompts the wearer to log moods, if wanted, which can operate positively in several ways.  The idea is that a wearer can potentially spot causes of low mood using the data, or they can discover what affects their mood and/or changes it. Wearers can share their data with friends or family enabling them to know when they are managing well and at what times they might need extra support without having to have a potentially difficult conversation.  Moodbeam can also be used in a work environment for tracking workplace stress or workplace mental illness, to find areas which are high risk for mental health problems and tracking the effects of improvement measures. 

What does it cost?

The device itself is about $60 so about the same cost as a private counselling session for someone suffering with mental health issues.  A small price to pay for something which could help the person pick out some root causes to their health struggles and help them manage them better.  It also seems like a low price to pay for knowing how someone is, as often, people suffering with severe depression can be hard to get hold of, being able to check in on their Moodbeam account offers vital information to their carers or healthcare team.

What’s the verdict?

Moodbeam is a great concept but it is easy to see it is in its early days.  Whilst I think it is worth purchasing for those that could find it useful, I think Moodbeam has a lot of room for growth and development over the next few years.  It would be nice to see Moodbeam devices which also offer basic watch functionality, maybe with a few other features.  It might be nice to also see some other formats such as a broach, necklace or even one which would fit around upper arm or ankle to offer some discretion.  It would also be great to see a button for an SOS, so if a wearer feels particularly vulnerable or in need of support, they can press, and it could send a text to their emergency contact.  All in all, we think it is a great idea with a lot of mileage though and definitely a product to watch.

Ayo

Ayo is new to market and is probably the most bizarre wearable tech device that my research put me in front of.  Simply put, Ayo is a pair of glasses which sit above the eye, passing blue light into the eye and retina which is reported to help boost motivation and energy levels.  They’re a strange looking device and give the impression of something very futuristic and complex, so much so that if you saw someone wearing Ayo out and about, you’d probably be disappointed to find they’re simply a light projector.

What does it do?

Ayo syncs to an app on the wearers phone and completes a light cycle appropriate to user preferences and the time of day.  The manufacturers state that wearing Ayo enhances energy levels and alertness while optimizing your natural body rhythm; they suggest that in as little as 20 minutes under the blue Ayo lights, you can feel energized and refreshed, Ayo is also reported to help with jetlag.  Ayo isn’t the only light therapy option on the market although it is one of the few which seems to avoid mentioning SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) on their marketing material interestingly.  I did stumble across a few positive reviews from people living with SAD so it may well be that they’re beneficial for this too.  The perks of the Ayo over other light therapy products is that it is sleek and non-invasive, with the wearer being able to continue their normal daily activities whilst wearing, in one of the adverts a wearer is shown driving whilst using their Ayo.  They come with a travel case which also becomes the charger, so if you charge the device, then the case, you have extra charge to play with on the move.  The accompanying app can make suggestions on the best time to use the device and what patterns to use when adjusting to different time zones and avoiding jetlag, or for shift working at antisocial hours, as well as allowing users to save their data within the app to help it make more personalised advice.

What does it cost?

The Ayo is fairly expensive at $249 which is a good $100 over most of its competitors and by far the most expensive on the market.  I suspect this is because the Ayo team have put a lot of time into researching the right amounts of light and correct patterns for each desired effect, however, it seems a shame to not make the product more affordable in the first instance, whilst it builds up some trust with consumers.

What’s the Verdict?

Unfortunately, we couldn’t recommend an Ayo to anyone based on what we have seen.  Despite everything looking promising, it’s tricky to find many reviews on the product in any one place, even amazon is quiet for the device.  We put the Ayo on the list because we see the potential it has; however, it seems a large price to pay for something that is yet to be proven.  We think the Ayo shows promise and we think it’s one to keep an eye on for the next 12 months before committing to purchase.

Spectacles 3

Snapchat is one of the most popular apps on every mobile OS, boasting 310.7 million monthly active users in July 2019, two thirds of which are daily users.  It is fair to say they have a certain amount of power with regards to setting trends and accessing the market.  In the US, 73% of Snapchats users are aged 18-24, giving the app the power to influence the future movers and shakers, access to this market is invaluable.  Snapchat launched its first ‘Spectacles’ device in November 2016 via pop-up vending machines initially, they were sold via the app and online from the following February.  A second generation were launched in April 2018, selling in 17 countries, this second gen device was released in further style options that year.  As of May 2018, Snapchat recorded disappointing sales of 220,000 which is much fewer than expected, but there are high hopes for the highly anticipated release of ‘Spectacles 3’ due in Autumn.

What does it do?

Spectacles 3 will operate in the same way as previous devices, they are a functional pair of sunglasses with the addition of two small cameras positioned above and outside each of the wearers’ eyes, within the frames.  The cameras are operated using a small button which is located on the left arm of the glasses, the wearer can press to take a 10 second video or press and hold to take a photo.  Holding the button whilst recording extends the video length to 30 seconds.  These files are then wirelessly synced to the wearers ‘Snap Memories’ within the app, from where they can edit and send to contacts and/or their Snapchat story.  Snapchat are said to have worked on refining the design from previous models to make them more fashionable and wearable, improving durability and comfort, whilst offering two colour options.  The glasses are not water or splash proof at all according to the pre-order page, which seems a great loss given that Spectacles 2 can be used in rain, snow and even shallow water.  Spectacles 2 are still available to purchase on the company’s website, whether this will still be the case post-release of the new generation remains to be seen. 

What does it cost?

The Spectacles 3 come with a massive price upgrade, currently available to preorder at a cost of $380, leaping from the introductory prices of the first ($129.99) and second-generation releases ($149.99) by over $200.  This seems like a risky move given the poor sales figures the first two generations suffered; although the cost does buy the wearer a couple few upgrades.  The new device is the first to feature two cameras, giving a more balanced view but also enabling the wearer to take 3D snaps, allowing the viewer to scan around the Snap like the panoramic option iPhone users may be familiar with. 

What’s the Verdict?

The product and concept are great, and we can really see it being a must have device for Snapchats main demographic, as well as social media influencers and celebrities.  However, we think the price tag is rather steep given the limited functionality and we can’t quite get over the lack of water resistance, especially given that Spectacles 2 had this feature, though we wonder whether when the product is released later this year it may come with this.  We think Spectacles 3 is a product to watch out for, however maybe something perhaps worth waiting a couple more years for when the price is more accessible, and Snapchat have refined the functionality.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2

Samsung have always sat beside Apple in the market, arguably often providing comparable tech for a lesser price.  Many Android lovers will tell you that Samsung tech is better, although there is no denying that Apple offers a more user friendly and simplistic finish on their devices which is why the two remain competitive.  When it comes to tech, Samsung is a front runner and we have chosen their Watch Active 2 as our preferred smart watch over the Apple Watch 4 for a few reasons.

What does it do?

The device interacts with its wearer throughout the day, reminding them to stay active or alerting them to high heart rates and encouraging breathing exercises to reduce stress.  It also syncs to the wearers phone, showing notifications in real-time, some of which can be actioned from the watch.  The device also boasts the usual features we have come to expect from a smart watch; heart rate monitor, GPS, NFC, fitness, sport and activity tracking, full colour display, speech recognition and voice commands along with the usual interchangeable straps.  The watch is also one of the few devices next to the Apple Watch 4 that offers an ECG function, something that could be potentially lifesaving.  Speaking of lifesaving, the watch is also reported to have borrowed Apples tech to detect falls and ask the wearer if they are alright; if the device doesn’t receive a response, it will make an emergency services call using GPS to request help – an incredible feature that we have previously only seen with Apple.  The device is protected by Gorilla Glass DX+ with a military grade toughness rating and has ditched the previously used mechanical bezel in favour of sleek touch sensitive controls.  The device will boast Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE functionality with a battery life of 2 days – better than the Apple Watches rating of 18hrs although users have found 2 days of battery life is achievable on the Apple device.  The device is cross compatible with Android and Apple devices which gives it a major lift over the Apple watch which will only sync to Apple devices, restricting the wearers future buying choices if they want to continue using the watch.  The device is due for release on September 27th, interested consumers can sign up for alerts on availability from the Samsung website.

What does it cost?

The device is due to start at $279 with the slightly larger model available for $299.  We’re happy with this, given its additional functionality and power on top of the Fitbit and given that Apples equivalent or similar models sell for $399 and $429 respectively.  Whilst it isn’t quite sat in the affordable tech market, it isn’t too much out either and would make a reasonable Christmas or Birthday gift for a spouse within a lot of family’s budgets.  It also has the potential to be a health monitoring device for people living with certain conditions or challenges and almost act as a PA for businesspeople, with these uses, the price becomes more acceptable.

What’s the Verdict?

We think the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 is a welcome addition to the smart watch market which was probably even a little overdue.  We think that even with Apple Watch 5 threatening to come to market around the same time, the Samsung watch is the more economical and sensible purchase of the two and offers the buyer the gift of future choice when it comes to mobile devices.  We find it a hard pill to swallow that if you want to buy an Apple Watch, not only do you pay considerably more for the tech, you also must commit to an Apple phone for the lifetime of the watch for full functionality.

And that concludes our top wearable tech devices for 2019; the market looks as if it will be fairly static over the next year or two with wearable tech seeing relatively small changes to style and functionality on the whole.  We expect the next leap to be the advancement of ‘hearables’, which generally refers to small wireless devices inserted into the ear.  We expect the next generation of health monitoring devices to move to the ear, with the bonus of being able to hear advice straight from the device in a more confidential and discreet way.