MWC stands for 'more wearables coming'
Wearable tech was big at CES, and now the mania continues at Mobile World Congress. This week’s line-up in Barcelona has included plenty of weird-looking things to put on your head—but we ignored all the headgear to focus on stuff normal people might want to actually wear.
First order of business: smartwatches and activity trackers. Our list includes hardware with firm-ish ship dates, along with a few intriguing prototypes that could ship... never? This slideshow represents the best we saw, but whether anything here is good enough to beat rumored wearables from Apple or Google is anyone’s guess.
Samsung Gear Fit
Most smartwatches (including Samsung’s) have huge faces that can be uncomfortable if you have slender wrists. So for its Gear Fit activity tracker, Samsung was wise to use a 1.8-inch curved Super AMOLED display that follows the arch of your anatomy.
The Gear Fit can count your steps, monitor your heart rate, and provide smartphone notifications, but you’ll need a compatible Samsung phone to use it. The Fit is expected to go on sale April 11, with pricing still to be determined.
Samsung Gear 2
The follow-up to Samsung’s so-so Galaxy Gear smartwatch moves the camera from the watch band to the top of the watch itself. Framing a shot is just as easy as before, but now you can swap out your watch band to change up the look.
Samsung added a heart rate sensor in the updated smartwatch; improved battery life to an estimated three days of use; and expanded compatability to 17 Samsung devices—that’s a big jump from the five devices that work with the original Galaxy Gear. Gear 2 is scheduled to ship April 11, but no price has been announced.
Samsung Gear 2 Neo
The Gear 2 Neo is a more affordable version of the new Gear 2. It eschews a camera entirely (which is kind of a bummer), and features a cheaper plastic body. But at least it’s available in orange—a shade close to TechHive orange, our favorite color.
Nonetheless, the Gear 2 Neo gets the same heart rate sensor and extended battery life of the other Samsung wearables. And as with the Gear 2, the Neo uses the Tizen OS instead of Android, but its interface is about the same as what appears in last year’s Galaxy Gear. The Gear 2 Neo ships on April 11, but Samsung hasn’t yet revealed a price.
Huawei TalkBand B1
Chinese company Huawei rolled out some intriguing products we hope come to America soon—especially the TalkBand, which has a curved screen that shows your steps, the time of day, and notifications from your Android or iOS phone.
But here’s the coolest part: When you get a call, just push a button and the screen pops out to double as a Bluetooth headset. A USB connector is hidden in the strap for easy charging without any funky, custom, and always easily misplaced cables.
With its rubber wrist strap and pop-out Core unit, the design of Sony’s SmartBand activity tracker is reminiscent of the Fitbit Flex. But while this wearable lets you record your steps, it’s also got a button you can press to add a bookmark in Sony’s really cool Lifelog app. When you want to remember a particular moment in your life—maybe a song you were listening to, or a really good 45-minute run—just mash the button, and that event will be flagged in the app.
The SmartBand also provides notifications for new calls, emails, Facebook likes and Tweets, but you have to use your Android or iOS phone to respond. SmartBand launches worldwide in March.
More ways to wear the SmartBand
At launch, the SmartBand will only come in black, but more colors are on the way, and Sony is working with partners to develop other designs that will support the Core hardware. The concepts Sony showed us include fashionable wristbands, pendants, clip-ons, and even real watches with a little spot into which the Core can slide right in.
Kyocera’s booth at Mobile World Congress featured a bunch of really neat concept designs—though none of them were functional, and Kyocera had no firm details on prices or release dates. Still, that didn’t stop us from wanting this rugged, round, wrist-worn smartphone.
Then again, who says you have to wear it on your wrist? You could also strap it to your bike. Or hoverbike. Or whatever futuristic bike alternative comes along.
Fingerprint sensors are all the rage in biometrics now, but they can get so…schmutzy. But you know what’s a lot harder to gunk up? The Bionym Nymi bracelet, which uses not your fingerprint, but your pulse as a biometric security key. The Nymi is still a prototype, but Bionym says it will pair with smartphone apps to unlock things like your car and electronic wallet.
The company reminds us that passwords can be hacked, fingerprint sensors can be fooled, and car keys can be stolen. But our pulses are more secure. You authenticate Nymi by touching your finger to the bracelet, and dual electrodes hidden within the clasp capture your pulse’s unique waveform. That’s the pitch, at least. Bionym is taking pre-orders and plans to ship a bracelet with a screen sometime next year.
Moto teases "interesting wearable products"
OK, there’s not even a prototype to show yet, but Motorola says a smartwatch is coming.
Motorola had an event at MWC where the company slammed the current crop of wearables as “ugly” and promised to release something “more interesting to wear... more like an item of jewelry or clothing.” But there were no details whatsoever, except that the company is readying a smartwatch, and said, “It’s our intent to deliver some interesting wearable products this year.”
Hopefully, Moto can live up to its own hype.