Wearables may once have found their fan base in Silicon Valley nerds and over-enthusiastic Glass-holes, but they're becoming ever more integrated into our lives, offering opportunities from sophisticated health tracking to first-rate pet communication—all without so much as even reaching into your pocket.
Here are the ones you should be buying this holiday season:
For the fitness fanatic
Fitness trackers are among the most popular wearable products, with the likes of FitBit and Jawbone asserting their dominance in the market from early on in the game.
But Moov Now, the wallet-friendly take on insta-health, is a worthy competitor. Where the product differs from others is its 3D motion sensor capabilities, which go beyond just tracking the movements you're making by analyzing things like how many reps you're doing, all counted through the strap being attached to your wrist or ankle.
It contains three different sensors which work together to provide a full picture of your body's movements, from chalking up reports on boxing, cycling and swimming sessions to offering guidance through sets with its app.
There's also voice coaching available for runners, and a series of programs aimed at those wanting to improve on areas such as endurance and speed. With a much lighter design than its first incarnation in 2014 and a six month battery life, this lower-cost gadget is an attractive option for anyone looking to do some serious fitness monitoring in the new year.
For the stresshead
Attaching a white Bluetooth-connected module to your head may not be everybody's cup of tea, but for those daring to walk on the wild side of wearables, Thync is sure to prove popular.
The small device sends jolts of electricity to your brain with the aim of ramping up your energy levels or calming them down. Users have likened its effects to a caffeine high, or weed-generated calm. The module works alongside refill strips (there are two kinds, and affixing them is explained in the app's setup video)—an element that could get pricey given the refills cost $20 for five—but it's definitely an unusual addition to the market.
Hooked up to your phone, users can choose from a five or 10-minute session that sends currents to your brain—the strength of which can be adjusted using the app. If you're using the “calm vibe” option, Thync as a kind of pre-made meditation sensation that's ready to go after a couple of sticks and clicks.
And, for those choosing “energy vibe,” consider its five-minute high the morning coffee alternative that won't stain your teeth. The company believes the key to its success lies in the placement of the strips, targeting areas that naturally control the brain's stress functions. By tinkering with these, Thync promises a legal chill or buzz that can be taken anytime, anyplace.
For the woman on the go
Dealing with periods is a monthly exercise in how much pain you can be in both physically and financially after shelling out for sanitary products, which is where Thinx, a company manufacturing menstruation-proof panties, comes in.
Set up by twin sisters Miki and Radha Agrawal, the undies come as either briefs or thongs, and contain four layers of moisture wicking fabric to prevent leaking. Washable, reusable and at $24 per pair, they could be the simple alternative the period-proofing industry has long been seeking to avoid at the consumer's expense. This isn't the most high-tech of products targeted towards lady parts, but it's definitely a wearable that fulfills an important role—more so than, say tracking your vaginal kegels.
If you can get used to not adding any extra layers of protection before leaving the house during your time of the month, these antimicrobial garments are surely a winner.
For the wearable-obsessive
It's easy to lambast Apple products—they're not the most sophisticated out there, and the company's focus on mass appeal can sometimes hinder key elements of engineering. But the release of the Apple Watch earlier this year proved naysayers wrong, delivering a high quality smart watch that even Tim Cook's biggest critics couldn't find much fault with.
With stiff wrist wearable competition from the likes of Samsung, Pebble, and Huawei, Apple's device ranks highly on looks alone from the off, with buyers able to enhance its design further by selecting the sleek Hermes band to go with it (though this doesn't come cheap).
It uses a “digital crown,” a modernized version of the wind-up pin found on normal watches, which navigates around the problem of big fingers on a small screen—enabling users to make the most of the apps without inadvertently pressing everything in sight. It fulfills the usual expectations of a smart watch in terms of delivering all of your notifications to the device, but doesn't go overboard, taking into account how the watch is being used to steer how it presents them.
You can also use its dictation services to write texts, make the most of Apple Pay to step up your speed in stores, and track your heart rate thanks to a handful of sensors placed on the reverse side of its face. It monitors this continuously while you're exercising or every few minutes (to save on power) when you're not, delivering results with an impressive level of accuracy. Realistically, if you want to wear your life on your sleeve, this is the watch to do so with.
For the dog lover
There's no shame in the pooch-obsessed game, and if you know someone who spends more at Shake Shack on peanut-flavored doggy biscuits than the necessary copious quantities of crinkle cut fries, the Scout 5000 is worth a look.
Tacked onto your mutt's collar, this device goes beyond the GPS monitoring of its competitors to offer a video livestream of your pooch at play, voice enabling so you can issue compliments or commands from afar and WiFi connectivity. Not bad for a marketplace which until recently only had a stick as a basis for competition.
Retailing at over $200, this contraption doesn't come cheap, but if you're keen to be as in sync as humanly/caninely possible with your pet, it makes perfect sense. The collar is fairly chunky and thus presumably a no-go for owners of the Chihuahua and co-sized school of dogs, but its smartphone link-up could prove very useful for owners needing to keep a closer eye on their four-legged friends.
Owners get notified if their dog is barking particularly loudly via their smartphone app, which they can then use to tell their pet to keep it down. It could also work for events like Fourth of July, allowing you to say soothing things to your fraught chow as it edges towards a nervous breakdown over the fireworks. Plus, if you consider this a digitized version of obedience training, it might even save you some cash—and who'd say no to that at Christmastime?