"Wearables" was the word on everyone's lips leading into CES, the annual consumer technology event that took place in Las Vegas last week. Expectations were high off the back of the announcement of the Apple Watch in September 2014, as well as numerous fashion partnerships between the likes of Intel and Opening Ceremony, Fitbit and Tory Burch and Case-Mate and Rebecca Minkoff.
Where Apple goes, others do of course follow, meaning smart watches were the big focus. There was even a Chinese business nestled in a back corner of the show selling a fake but functional version of the Apple Watch for just $27.
That idea was reflective of an overall theme present across the show floor -- lots in the way of copycat designs, little in the way of innovation. A sea of clunky devices left a fair amount to be desired. Such a move is normal in a new category. Apple tends to get things right, meaning others in the space assume the smartest move is to imitate rather than innovate.
That’s a shame in a space that feels ripe for a big push to make wearable technology something we all genuinely want to buy. Fortunately hidden on that Vegas show floor were a handful of brands giving it a good go. Here are seven you should know about, each offering something you might even consider wanting to own.
It comes as no surprise to see sparkles were on the agenda for Swarovski, which has teamed up with a California-based fitness tracking device company called Misfit to create its own variation on wearable tech. The crux of this nine-piece collection is the Misfit Shine activity-tracker housed within a faceted crystal, which can be worn as a pendant, bracelet or on a watch strap. While Eliza isn't an enormous fan of the designs, I appreciated that these look distinctly like jewelry than pieces of technology.
If you’re after a smart watch, you no doubt still want it to look like a great watch. Enter then the Guess Connect. This one is a partnership with Martian Watches and comes with designs for both men and women. The device itself alerts users to calls and texts and enables voice command for replies. You can tap to see recent notifications and create unique vibration patterns to distinguish who is getting in touch. They’ll be available later this year and come in an expected nine different styles.
Withings Activité Pop
Withings already won us over with its original Activité design in 2014, but the launch of the new Activité Pop is better again for virtue of the fact it’s $150 -- $300 less than the original. Much of the same charm remains: a beautiful, analog-looking design, still acting as an activity tracker. The variety of different colorways to choose from is also enormously appealing.
Sony has updated its SmartBand line with a series of fashion collaborations. There are new designs from the likes of Roxy, Ted Baker, Jack Vartanian and Altewaisaome -- ranging from colorful rubber variations, to more bracelet-like styles in metal and leather. Each connects in to Sony's Lifelog application, allowing the user to track activity, set and monitor goals, and remember moments that matter.
June by Netatmo
This personalized sun protection device launched last year, but remained a highlight on the CES wearables floor. Designed to look like a stylish bracelet, it measures sun exposure, tracks UV intensity and advises wearers on how to protect their skin on a daily basis.
One of the Innovation Award winners at CES came from a Korean company called InBody Co. Its InLab device ticks the fashion box for a slim and stylish design that also houses an activity tracker and, even more usefully, measures body composition (body fat, muscle mass, etc.).
Belty got a lot of attention at CES, perhaps because it’s slightly silly, perhaps because it’s a somewhat different take on wearables for health. Based similarly on the idea of fitness, it’s a belt buckle from a start-up company called Emiota with a built-in pedometer, inactivity monitor, waistline trend analysis, bluetooth capabilities and companion smartphone app. In other words, it vibrates to let you know if you’ve been still for too long, tracks how much movement you actually make, and even automatically loosens or tightens as you sit and stand.