WHETHER IT'S SMARTWATCHES that promise to make reading your notifications easier, or fitness bands that guarantee accurate biometric readings, wearables are inescapable. So if you're in the market for one, or even want to know a little more about which ones offer what features, knowing where to start can be daunting.
The wearables industry is still relatively new and, while there are plenty of options, not all of them will work with your existing smartphone. So here's a round-up of what we think are the best wearables from the past year that are available now.
Withings Activité, Steel and Pop watches
The Withings Activité is one of our favourite smartwatches and an ideal gift for any gadget lover. It's elegant, simple and very well made, and we really enjoy wearing it, even if for its looks alone. We almost always get compliments on it, even before we tell people it's a smartwatch, which says a lot.
The best thing about it is that it's very handy for keeping you aware of your fitness levels. There's a discreet dial on the face that adds to the watch's overall design and tells you how far away you are from completing your goals.
The Swiss-made edition of the Activité is expensive at £320, but you get a good quality watch for your money with some great smart features, that almost feel like a bonus because the watch is so well designed in its own right. It also comes with an extra silicone watchband for sports activities, such as swimming, and is safe to a depth of 50m.
If the Activité is a little out of your price bracket, there's a very similar looking model, the Activité Pop, which isn't Swiss made but retails for just £120. Alternatively, there's the newer Activité Steel for £140, which is almost a hybrid of the two but with some additional tracking features.
The TomTom Spark has GPS, heart rate monitoring and timing tools all in one fitness tracker, and is ideal for the health-conscious out there. Aimed at runners, cyclists and gym-goers fed up with taking their smartphones onto the gym floor, the TomTom spark lets users track every sprint, stroll and step as well as see the total time, distance and calories burned.
But the Spark isn't just for the treadmill. You can use it out on the road, when cycling, in the gym or when swimming in the pool. You can also switch modes to mix up your training, or use it for sleep tracking.
However, our favourite feature is that it has built-in storage for songs and uses Bluetooth to sync to wireless earphones so you don't have to take your smartphone everywhere you go when working out, giving you more freedom to run, jump or dance around. It will set you back somewhere in the region of £190. Well worth it if you're a fitness buff.
The design might not be to everyone's taste but the Fitbit Surge is the firm's most powerful wearable yet. It offers the highest specs seen in any of the company's products so far, and has eight sensors including GPS, heart rate monitor and real-time workout data.
The back-lit, always-on interface allows you to keep tabs on steps, miles, active minutes and heart rate on a black and white, 1.25in screen which is positioned to sit at an angle on your wrist for better viewing. The monochrome screen also means that the battery lasts around five days.
It provides call and text notifications and there's a choice of six clock faces if you just want to wear it as a watch for most of the day.
Amazon sells the Fitbit Surge for £200, making it a little pricier than a lot of other wearables trying to do the same thing, but it's one of the best in its field and definitely worth forking out for if you're serious about fitness.
You perhaps won't be surprised to see the Apple Watch included on this list. It's arguably the most talked about smartwatch yet, and it's clearly proving popular as Apple is struggling to keep its debut wearable in stock.
This is no doubt thanks largely to the Apple brand, but the high-end design and bumper specs are also responsible.
The Apple Watch is available in over 30 watch face and strap combinations. Fitness fans can opt for the cheapest Sport model which features a rubber strap, while those more concerned about looking good than burning calories can choose between a number of metal and leather straps.
Those who have just won the lottery might consider the gold Apple Watch Edition, which can be yours from just £8,000.
The smartwatch runs Watch OS, a custom version of iOS designed from the ground up that can be controlled by touch or the Digital Crown.
The software, which needs to be paired with an iPhone to function properly at present, features support for HomeKit and HealthKit which allow users to control devices in their home and track fitness levels, such as heart rate, calories burned and body movements.
The Apple Watch starts at £299 for the smaller 38mm version, or £339 for the standard-sized 42mm model, and features an S1 processor, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, 8GB of storage and a battery that promises 6.5 hours of music playback and 3.5 hours of talk time.
The Jawbone Up3 has had a makeover since the first edition of the wearable. It is a very attractive device in a 'snake coil' design that grips, rather than clips to, your wrist.
The device tracks movement and sleep, and contains a similar 'nag' message to Garmin's Vivosmart, but the Jawbone Up3 is a thing of beauty rather than utility. It has just two subtle 'status lights' for a display, meaning that you are completely dependent on your smartphone for information.
However, the Up3 is loaded with a bunch of sensors that give you the full picture of your health. Workouts are logged automatically, a Heart Health Sensor delivers resting heart rate, a leading indicator of overall health, and it is touted to help you gain an in-depth understanding of your sleep. All this, in a water-resistant design with a full week of battery life.
If you want something that looks like a piece of jewellery, and you're interested only in recording the data, not constantly monitoring it, the Jawbone Up3 is your best bet and will cost you £130. Perhaps not best suited for the sportsman, though.
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