Phones and laptops are so 2012. This year ushered in a new era for tech and there’s no doubt that wearables are making the technophiles salivate.
If you want to put that special geek on your list ahead of the curve for 2014, it’s time to leave your device comfort zone. But with such vast differences between options, which wearable is right for you?
The Sony SmartWatch is the best value. Like most watches on this list, the wrist device uses Bluetooth to pair with the phone in your pocket (and other accessories, like Bluetooth headsets) to allow you to control basic phone operations — such as check notifications, read Twitter updates, compose text messages and even take calls — without taking your phone out of your pocket.
The downside of the Sony: it’s little more than a remote control for your Android smartphone. You can operate your phone’s music player or quickly reply to text messages, but if you want to take that call, you need to take your phone out of your pocket or have an earpiece in. Still, it has a vibrant color screen and looks classy.
Similar to Sony’s, but slightly more robust is the Kickstarter darling, Kreyos. While the Kreyos only has a black-and-white screen, it goes beyond touch control and supports voice commands and even gesture commands. Wave your notifications away quickly instead of tapping through menus and tell your phone to move on to the next song, rather than click. Also, while the Sony watch only supports Android phones, Kreyos supports any smartphone with Bluetooth.
Watch bands for the Kreyos offered on the site are limited to the bright colored silicone, so this is no boardroom watch. Oh, and the first Kreyos won’t be delivered until January, so if you planned on gifting it, you better gift yourself some printer ink first, because the only thing you’ll be able to give on Christmas will be a printout verifying the purchase. That said, the apps available for this watch are pretty impressive and it looks like it could be a viable competitor in the smartwatch field.
Pebble is the waterproof e-ink smartwatch that does as much as the Sony watch, but with more style and with a longer battery life. Another Kickstarter project, Pebble has a rich app developer community and is likely the most durable smartwatch out there.
At $50 more than the Sony watch, though, it still isn’t much more than a remote for the phone in your pocket. It’s still very functional and a good alternative to the also black-and-white display Kreyos. Pebble also connects to the iPhone as well as Android, where Sony does not.
The first watch on this list that’s more than just a remote, for a small group of people, Samsung’s Galaxy Gear will make an unbelievably great gift. This powerful, full color smart watch does everything the previous three watches do — allow users to check notifications and perform basic phone tasks on their Samsung Galaxy Note or S4/S3 phones — but the Gear goes beyond basic notification and remote capabilities.
Gear allows users to take calls right from the watch, so a separate earpiece is unnecessary. The Gear also syncs with apps on the phone, so when a user checks an app notification on his or her watch and then unlocks the phone, the phone automatically loads the app that corresponds with the notification. You can even find your devices and lock them from afar using your Gear.
The bad news is that the Gear is only compatible with the Galaxy Note 3 and 4 as well as the Galaxy S3 and S4. Still, for users of those devices, the Gear is the clear frontrunner.
While the Fitbit does have a digital time display, this is no smart watch. The Fitbit is an incredible piece of fitness equipment that tracks many dimensions of your workouts, syncs with other devices — like compatible digital scales — and helps you get into the minutiae of your routine. If you’re a data-nerd like me, you want to know what the altitude and temperature were when you were rounding that particularly grueling corner, not just your speed, pulse and calories burned. Fitbit even tracks your sleep, then helps bring all of that data together to help you make better fitness decisions.