Every year seems to be the "Year of Something," but some things don't always work out as expected. Just ask Apple.
Wearables, for example, have had their years in the limelight for quite some time.
In 2013, Pebble came along and made their Pebble Smartwatch a hit on crowdfunding site Kickstarter. The following year, Motorola's Moto 360 made smartwatches actually look like nice watches. Finally, Apple joined the wearable party this year with the Apple Watch, but we certainly aren't seeing as many Apple Watches on people's wrists as there are iPhones in people's hands.
As we wrap up this year and look toward the next, it looks like 2016 is going to be the Year of the Wearable. So far, wearables have been more like secondary notification systems to the smartphones they're connected to – they're just not as good on their own just yet.
That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't any good wearables to buy as expensive stocking stuffers. In fact, there are plenty and the following below heated up the market by raising the bar of what wearing technology could be like in the future.
Arguably, the Apple Watch could be considered the hottest wearable of 2015. It certainly received the most media attention and is no doubt the most expensive wearable on the market ever (until maybe next year's second-generation Apple Watch). For instance, Apple aficionados could burn $17,000 on a 38mm 18-karat yellow gold Apple Watch Edition with a bright red modern buckle.
For us regular folk, even the cheapest Apple Watch at $349, the Apple Watch Sport, might be too hot to handle when our phones are just as capable as smartwatches anyway.
Now notifications are the Moto 360's forte. (Actually, since it runs Google's wearable OS, Android Wear, it's that platform's best weapon against the Apple Watch.) The second generation Motorola-made smartwatch is more of a refinement than a revolution over the first generation's debut in 2014.
The Moto 360 2 still retains its incomplete circular "flat tire" screen like the original, but as with all other gadgets, it is faster, lasts longer, and is more customizable. In fact, just like the Apple Watch, the Moto 360 2 also comes in two different sizes: 42mm for both men and women and 46mm for men with larger wrists.
At the time of its release in 2013, the Pebble Smartwatch was the hottest, biggest thing on Kickstarter. It raised over $10 million dollars, the most for any product on the site at the time. When it was released, it sold out in just five days, and a little over a year later, Pebble sold its one millionth smartwatch.
In 2015, the company finally released a version of the smartwatch that actually looked like a classic watch. The Pebble Time Round literally became the new face for Pebble, especially as the device worked both for iOS and Android Wear. Unlike most of the wearables in today's market which are usually platform-specific, Pebble's smartwatches balance both form and function.
Withings Activité Pop
The Withings Activité Pop only links with the iPhone, but also diverges away from a typical wearable. The watch, in fact, is arguably more of a standard watch than a smartwatch. It doesn't even have a screen. Text and email notifications, for example, won't be sent to the user's wrist. Rather, the user's sleep and fitness data will be sent back to their phone for quantifying and displaying through the Withings app.
At best, the smartest thing the watch actually does on its own is resetting itself when the user travels into a different time zone. Otherwise, consider the Withings Activité Pop as a digital watch powered by analog components. It's either the best next step into wearing a full-blown wearable, or a classy way of holding on to tradition while carrying a sprinkling of the future.
Because almost all of the smartwatches released this year incorporated some sort of fitness and health tracking, fitness-only wearables have had a tougher time differentiating themselves from the higher-end competition. The ongoing duel between Fitbit and Jawbone, for example, may finally come to an end when one of them is swallowed up by one of the companies we've already listed above, or when they eventually get nudged out of the market.
There are only a few more days left in 2015, and just a few more weeks until 2016's first major tech event, CES, in Las Vegas. Maybe then, we'll come closer to finding out if the upcoming year will finally be the Year of the Wearable.
Photo: James Whatley | Flickr