Several years ago, owning a smartphone was a sure sign of your advanced geekery (we say that lovingly). Today, smart tech has leapt from your pocket to your person with a new class of gadget that you wear.
The smart watch
A smart watch can pair with your smartphone (using Bluetooth) to send text messages, email alerts, Facebook updates and more right to your wrist. They also can function as mini remotes, controlling the music or video playback on your phone. Like a smartphone, smart watches run apps and have sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes to monitor your movement. They also have unique sensors that can track your heart rate, body temperature and more. Did we mention they also tell time?
Motorola Moto 360 ($250)
The Moto sports a classic look that belies its contemporary brains. Using Android Wear, Google’s wearable operating system, the Moto 360 can display text and email alerts from your phone. You also can ask it for directions, get weather reports, play songs or simply let it track your heartbeat. It pairs with Android phones running the Jelly Bean 4.3 operating system, or higher, via Bluetooth. The battery will last all day with “mixed use,” and a wireless charging dock is bundled with this water-resistant watch.
LG G Watch ($229)
LG’s G Watch features a 1.6-inch display and is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor. It runs Android Wear, so it can handle many of the same tasks as the Moto 360, but it’s a bit cheaper at $229 and offers boxier styling. Like the 360, expect a day’s worth of battery, and you’ll need an Android phone running at least the 4.3 operating system to pair it with.
Pebble Watch Standard ($150); "Steele" ($250)
Unlike its competitors, the Pebble watch works with both Apple and Android phones. It also has a much longer battery life – between five to seven days – than other watches because it uses an e-ink screen. The downside: the screen won’t be as sharp as other smart watches. The Pebble is water resistant, offers changeable straps and will set you back just $150 ($250 for the sleek “Steele” version).
The most anticipated smart watch of them all, the Apple Watch, won’t be available until early 2015, so Apple fans on your wish list will need to settle for a $350 gift card or an IOU. The Watch may be worth the wait, though. It promises super accurate time keeping, vibrating messages, a heart rate sensor, activity tracker and more.
The fitness tracker
For the fitness buff on your list, a fitness tracker will help them count calories, measure their daily activity and keep tabs on their sleep – or lack thereof – and send this data to a mobile device with easy-to-read charts so they can benchmark their progress – or lack thereof. Worn around the wrist or clipped to a pocket, the fitness tracker can also be something of a fashion statement.
Garmin Vivosmart ($169)
Garmin’s Vivosmart has a few smart-watch features, like the ability to receive text, email or call alerts from Androids or iPhones, but it’s built for fitness. It can track your steps, distance, calories burned, time you’ve been exercising and your heart rate. It will send you “time to move” alerts if it senses you’ve been inactive for too long. The battery will last for seven days, and you can use it as an alarm clock if you prefer a gentle vibration on your wrist to the dream-shattering blare of your phone’s alarm.
Jawbone Up 24 ($149)
There’s no visible display on Jawbone’s Up – all the health data it harvests from you is sent directly to your phone. It has an amazing two-week battery life and quickly recharges via USB. A free app helps you track the calorie content of what you’re eating with a Food Score to measure your prospective food choices. Another neat feature: If you own a Nest Learning Thermostat, it can work with your Up 24 to learn when you’re awake and when you’re asleep to adjust your home’s temperature accordingly.
Lumo Lift ($99)
While many fitness trackers cling to your wrist, the Lumo Lift is wrapped around your back to measure your posture in addition to your steps, how you’re sleeping and for how long you’ve been lounging on the couch. Vibrations remind you to get up and go or sit up straight.
Head and toe
Glasses have been a geek fashion statement since, well, forever. Google has cranked the geekiness to 11 with Glass, an eye-worn computer that overlays electronic information like maps and texts into your field of view. It has a camera, too, for snapping point-of-view stills and video. Glass is available through Google’s online Play Store for $1,500 with a selection of designer frames.
That’s right. Sensoria Fitness makes a pair of $149 smart socks with an electronic anklet and textile sensors that pair with the anklet to track your steps and measure how your foot lands on the ground. A mobile app helps you track your running or walking goals and will also give you pointers on how to improve your stride.