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Lately, we’ve been getting pitched on so many new wearable gadgets that it has been difficult to determine what seems like a viable product rather than a “me-too” device.
And, with Apple expected to show off some sort of wearable device on Sept. 9 (at an event that will “suck the oxygen out of the tech media,” as Walt Mossberg so aptly put it), everything announced this week is running up against whatever Apple might, quite literally, have up its sleeve.
So rather than make you read several hundred words on each new product, we’ve summarized everything you need to know below. Keep in mind, we haven’t tested these yet, and this is not a full review. But it should give you a good idea of what to expect if you’re eyeing wearables right now.
Welcome to the club, Asus: Yesterday the Taiwanese computer maker introduced its very first smartwatch at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. Called the ZenWatch, the classic-looking timepiece is running Android Wear and features a curved 1.63-inch, 320-by-320-pixel display. It comes with a brown leather strap that can be swapped for any standard 22mm watchband.
Compatible with devices running Android 4.3 or higher, the ZenWatch offers a lot of the same features as other smartwatches, including phone notifications and activity tracking.
But it does have some unique aspects, such as the ability to silence incoming phone calls by placing a palm over the watch’s face and a built-in bio sensor that Asus claims can measure relaxation levels.
The ZenWatch is expected to ship in Q3 for around 199 euros (around $262 U.S.), but Asus didn’t provide any information about market availability at this time.
If you bought Sony’s first SmartBand, then you may not want to read the rest of this.
The company announced an updated version of its activity tracker this week, and it looks to be a lot better than its predecessor. For one, it now has a 1.6-inch E-Ink display so you can easily see the time, your fitness stats, phone notifications and other information at a glance. Sony also added an accelerometer and altimeter to capture more data about your physical activity.
Lastly, there’s a built-in microphone and speaker for making quick phone calls using the band.
In addition to the SmartBand Talk, Sony introduced the SmartWatch 3. As its name would suggest, this isn’t the first smartwatch for Sony, but it is the company’s first smartwatch to run Android Wear. It sports a 1.6-inch, 320-by-320 display and waterproof design. There are four gigabytes of onboard memory, and a built-in microphone, GPS, compass and gyroscope.
Both the SmartBand Talk and SmartWatch 3 are expected to ship this fall, with a price of 160 euros ($210) and 229 euros ($300), respectively.
The chip giant has made it very clear it wants to be at the forefront of the wearables market, having shown off in recent months everything from a “smart” shirt to a device dedicated to Parkinson’s research to heart-rate-tracking earphones made in collaboration with 50 Cent. Now another Intel-powered wearable is literally being trotted out down the runway.
The new MICA smartwatch, first teased back at CES in January as a joint effort between Intel, Opening Ceremony and Barneys, will be making an appearance at New York Fashion Week this week. The cuff-like wristwatch will have a 1.6-inch touchscreen sapphire display and will come in two distinct styles. Intel’s still keeping mum on a lot of its capabilities, but we do know this: It will show SMS alerts, calendar reminders and messages, and apparently will have a 3G cellular radio for two-way communications (read: Talking through your bracelet).
We’ve also been told that the MICA will come to market this holiday season, and will cost — wait for it — under $1,000.
Well that’s a relief.
Garmin has evidently adopted the motto “Know thyself,” as the GPS-and-fitness-device-maker has introduced neither an expensive fashion bracelet nor a metal watch that can’t handle a little sweat.
Instead, Garmin is following up its sleeper-hit Vivofit with the new Vivosmart, another activity-tracking wristband. Unlike the Vivofit, which has an LCD display and two coin batteries that last up to a year, Vivosmart has a swipeable OLED display and lasts around seven days between charges. The Vivosmart also pairs with a chest strap to show heart-rate levels, sends vibration alerts on the hour to remind you to move around and can even be used to control the Garmin Virb action camera.
The Vivosmart will be available through Best Buy for $170. A wristband-and-heart-strap bundle will cost $200.
Samsung, LG and More
Do virtual reality headsets count as wearables? Well, you do wear them, so we’re going with it.
In case you missed the announcement yesterday, Samsung showed off a pair of virtual-reality goggles that the Korean electronics giant developed with Oculus (now owned by Facebook). This came on the heels of Samsung announcing yet another smartwatch, the Samsung Gear S. As Re/code’s Ina Fried pointed out, “For those keeping track, Samsung this year has now introduced the Gear 2, the Gear 2 Neo, the Gear Fit, the Gear Live and the Gear S.”
Korean rival LG Electronics also announced another smartwatch this week, an Android Wear-based watch called the LG G Watch R. Unlike the rectangular LG G Watch, the G Watch R has a round face.
The Samsung Gear VR goggles, which work in conjunction with the new Galaxy Note 4 smartphone, will be available later this fall; no word yet on pricing.
Neither Samsung nor LG has announced pricing or availability for the new smartwatches.
Finally, let’s not forget about Motorola: Later today, the company is widely expected to launch its round-faced Motorola 360 smartwatch.
Proponents of wearable technology might say this influx of products only validates the relatively young market. Still, a couple of these show just incremental improvements over previous models, or might not necessarily have broad appeal — so for now, we’re keeping our skeptic caps on.
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