Comparing wearables: How to choose the right one for you

Apple Watches, Fitbits and every other wearable product out there on the market (and it's a lot) can be overwhelming. So how do you choose?

Wearables are the hot new buzzword for 2015. We go into depth to help you choose the right one before you buy.

What is a wearable?

A wearable is any electronic technology you can wear on your body, either directly on the skin or attached to an item or clothing. Also known as wearable technology or wearable devices, it's an accessory that can monitor your health and fitness, access data in real time, and connect to your smartphone so you never miss a call again. Fitbits, Apple Watches, and SOMETHING else all fall under the niche of wearables.

Different types of wearables

  • Activity tracker. These are all about measuring how much you move in a day: steps, distance, calories burnt. They're great for not just measuring your morning run, but for recording how much incidental exercise you're getting in a day.
  • Smart clothing. Working in a similar way to activity trackers, these are pieces of clothing (usually fitness-related) that have the technology built in. With sensors closer to your skin, they can pick up the more subtle cues of your movement, heart rate, and breathing patterns than activity trackers. These can include anything from motion detecting pants to heat sensing bras.
  • Smartwatch. Examples of smartwatches include the Apple Watch, Samsung Gear S, and the Pebble. Their capabilities are still growing, but their range is vast: they can monitor your fitness, send emails, make phone calls, order taxis, book hotels, and – most importantly – tell you the time. Check out our comparison of the best smartwatches on the market here.
  • Smart Glasses. These are wearable computers for your eyes – think the now defunct Google Glasses. Don't rule these out as technology. They have the ability to immerse you in augmented reality, so expect their rise in gaming in 2015.
  • Smartband. This is the same as an activity tracker, except that it sits solely on your wrist.
  • Headphones. Yes, even headphones are getting the wearable treatment. You can find ones that act as a music player, microphone, Bluetooth headset, fitness tracker, and heart rate monitor all in one.

Key features of wearables

Wearables are designed to both make your life easier, and track changes in your body that you would otherwise not be aware of. Not every wearable will have every one of these features, just like not every wearable will track the same things (see below).

However, some of the key features you can expect to find in a wearable are accelerometers (the technology that tracks your movement), Bluetooth, communication with another device (such as your smartphone), notifications, and water resistance.

Fun fact: accelerometers make use of the same technology used to detect and measure earthquakes.

Tracking metrics of wearables

What would be the point of a wearable if it didn't track things like your movement throughout the day? If you're not interested in your personal data, you might as well get a regular watch instead of a smartwatch.

However, if you do want to monitor your health and fitness, wearables can track:

  • Speed and/or pace
  • Steps taken per day
  • Distance travelled
  • GPS / Location
  • Heart Rate
  • Calories burnt
  • Sleep patterns
  • Posture
  • Stress
  • Blood Pressure

And, of course, most of them can tell you the time. After all, what would be the point of a smartwatch if it couldn't even do that?

What sports or activities can you use them for?

Wearables are designed to be used for a range of sports: running, cycling, swimming, golf, skiing, snowboarding, even diving. (If you're an avid diver, the Pebble is water proof for up to 50 metres).

Yoga lovers might like one that tracks posture, such as the Movea G-Series, while runners may prefer a Fitbit that tracks their time, distance, and pace.

If you get your exercise in one big burst at the gym, then spend the rest of your day in front of a computer, you might want to invest in an Apple Watch. It reminds you to stand up at least once an hour, and as we keep hearing, sitting is the new smoking.

Where can you wear them on your body?

Wearables can be worn anywhere. Decide where you'd be most comfortable wearing one, and how often you plan to wear it, before making a decision.

Body PartTypes of Wearables
HeadHeadphones, glasses
ChestChest straps, smart bras,
Abdomen / WaistSmart shirts and accessories that strap to your shirt
LegsWearables that strap to your calves
AnkleAnkle straps

What are some of the best wearable products currently on the market?

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