Christmas gifts for tech lovers: the best wearable gadgets

From smartwatches to fitness bands, from cameras on your clothes to the latest thing: hearables, here is a wish list of wearable tech for the festive season

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 12:36pm

The hottest wearable this Christmas? Snapchat Spectacles, of course, through which the wearer can record video. However, since they’re only available in the US at the moment – and then only via pop-up vending machine ‘bots’, you need to harass your friends or relatives living there pronto if you are going to get your hands on one in time for Christmas.

Happily, there are plenty of other weird and wonderful options; how about the Narrative Clip 2 (HK$1,544, getnarrative.com) wearable camera, or the ‘dressable’ Qlippie Q1 (HK$846, smarteasy.hk), both of which attach to clothing and take HD photos and video.

Seven Christmas gift ideas for the traveller in your life, from a 360-degree iPhone camera add-on to the newest Swiss Army Knife

More mainstream than wearable cameras, though still firmly in the “lifelogger” category, are smartwatches. This is a world of smartphone notifications, in-wrist mapping and phone-free music control, and the most famous is surely Apple’s waterproof Watch Series 2 (from HK$2,088, apple.com/hk).

Its biggest challenger is the sleek Pebble Time (about HK$$1,650, pebble.hk), which will suit Apple fans who are annoyed at the ubiquitous popularity of their beloved brand.

Androiders have many more to choose between, from the stainless steel Huawei Watch (HK$4,988, vmall.hk) – which is surely the best looking smartwatch around – to the Samsung Gear S3 (HK$2,895, xpansys.com.hk). If you’ve got (very) deep pockets, the titanium Tag Heuer Connected (from HK$10,790, chrono24.hk) is the smart watch of choice among the jet-set.

The line between a smartwatch and an activity tracker starts to blur with GPS running watches. The Garmin Forerunner 35 (HK$1,699, foresoon.com.hk), TomTom Spark 3 (HK$1,330, escapade.com.hk) and Polar M600 (HK$2,490, yohohongkong.com) will all suit runners, each has GPS and provides exhaustive metrics. The latter is also Android Wear – Google’s smartwatch operating system – which straddles the two genres. The multisport Garmin Vivoactive HR (HK$1,968, yohohongkong.com) wins the day for athletes; there are few sports it can’t collect data on.

Hong Kong start-up takes wearable tech to the next level

Hardcore hikers will prefer something tougher. With an altimeter, barometer, compass and GPS, both the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak (HK$5,630, procamper.com.hk) and Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire (HK$4,099, gonerunning.hk) blaze a trail, though its outdoor navigation tech takes some getting used to.

However, such bulky watches should be bought with caution. If your target is active, but more of a phone checker than a watch wearer, consider the minimalist option; the wristband. Although the Fitbit Surge (HK$2,098, broadway.com.hk) records the wearer’s heart rate and also has GPS, it lacks good looks, unlike the water-resistant Misfit Ray (HK$950, yohohongkong.com), which looks like jewellery.

Of course, all headphones and earphones are technically wearable devices, but some are making a real effort to create the new genre of ‘hearables’.

Simple Bluetooth earphones designed to fit snugly inside a compartment of a bulky bracelet, the Helix Cuff (HK$1,545, ashleychloe.com) is not going to appeal to everyone, but some will love its wearability. However, the most innovative hearables also double as fitness trackers. In typical fashion Sony goes its own way by creating the all-in-one Smart B-Trainer SSE-BTR1 ‘wearable music player’, which doubles as a fitness tracker (HK$1,680, sony.com.hk). With workout plans, training data and feedback afterwards, it’s ideal for sporty types who’ve tired of wristbands.

For swimmers, the brand’s NW-WS410 (HK$780, sony.com.hk) is basically a waterproof all-in-one Walkman. It’s surprisingly easy to use in the swimming pool, though getting music or podcasts onto the device does require a computer.

Wearable tech: an inside look at Apple and Hermès’ perfect marriage

Another hot hearable is Samsung’s Gear Icon X (HK$1,695, expansys.com.hk), which embraces the ‘true wireless’ trend in earphones, but also acts as a basic fitness tracker; it goes one step further by measuring the wearer’s heart rate. Not surprisingly, Icon X works only with Android phones, unlike the platform-agnostic Bragi The Dash (HK$2,498, fortress.com.hk), another pair of wireless earbuds that add a smart biometric tracking dimension. Designed for tracking metrics during a run, swim or cycle, and also able to take heart rate readings, oxygen saturation, energy spent, steps, cadence and distance, The Dash is the latest attempt to bring sensory feedback to a gadget a lot of people already use. After all, shouldn’t we lust not after more gadgets, but gadgets that do more?