A friend of mine was kidding me that I used to buy every “gadget of dubious value” that came out, which is pretty much true. But he also remembered that one of them was the first iPod, and that turned out to be a pretty good one.
Here’s a rundown of the current crop of wearable tech gadgets that I’ve had a chance to use.
Nike FuelBand and FuelBand SE. Probably the best of the bunch, looks and feels great, the SE now synchs nicely and wirelessly with Bluetooth LE. But is missing the boat on Sleep/Wake functionality – they hint at it with the SE but don’t really do anything with it yet.
Jawbone Up - looks and feels great, the Sleep/Wake function might be the best out there, but the original version had really bad synching (physical plug into your phone) and limited battery and you’d lose the end cap all the time. But I think the new version fixes a lot of that, and others I know that use it love it.
Fitbit Flex – This one was one of the first wireless synching devices, and it looks and feels good on the wrist, but the UI is a little limiting and it’s a pain to take it out of the wrist strap to charge it every time. But it looks like the upcoming Fitbit Force could be great.
Misfit Shine – the design is beautiful and the UI is intriguingly simple, and the first time you synch it feels like magic. But that wears off really quickly and then the clip on band breaks and you realize the synching was a magic trick and the UI isn’t that helpful.
Withings Pulse – probably the best UI of all of them and it does support sleep/wake, but for some reason they don’t offer it as a watch or with a wrist strap – it should be a watch too. They do offer a sleep wristband but it’s too much work taking it in and out of that and explicitly setting sleep modes.
The Pebble looks great with a very cool interface and I really love the notifications from the phone. But it just doesn’t work well enough, whether it’s synching problems or the charging cable is broken – but at least they give good customer service on Twitter.
The Cookoo is a great looking looking watch that I’d wear even if the notifications and synching to the iPhone didn’t work. Which is good, because it literally doesn’t work as advertised – the software and connection to the phone are useless.
I’ve played with the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch in the store and the screen looks great even if the design isn’t awesome. I’ve heard they have 30%+ return rates which which tells you something. If Apple comes out with a watch I guarantee it won’t have visible screws on the face of it.
I am a Google Glass Explorer and have had them for a while – it’s cool, and you know you’re looking into the future with them, but you also know the current version is not going mainstream. It’s really hard to have a normal conversation with someone wearing them.
That’s my current roundup – I think the activity accuracy of all of them is dubious (what is a Nike Fuel?) but that’s not the real point – it’s more about how they make you feel. I find the software running/walking tools like Nike+Running and Moves and Runkeeper and Strava to be as good or better than the physical devices in terms of accuracy. I think Sleep/Wake is the missing killer app for activity trackers, that Notifications and Actually Working are the killer apps for watches, and that I’ll wait for Apple or Warby Parker for my next pair of smart glasses. But I do think it’s an exciting time for the category, sales seem strong even with all the current limitations, and that we’re on the verge of some really amazing products.