12 Best Wearable Tech Gadgets of 2019
Wearables are among the fastest-growing technology branches today. In less than a decade, they’ve transformed the way we approach exercise, and now they’re poised to play an even more active role in shaping our lives. Most people associate wearables only with smartwatches and fitness trackers. While these are the most representative wearables, the field is much more complex and diverse.
Broadly speaking, a wearable is any kind of smart gadget worn on one’s body. While they come in all shapes and serve different purposes, all wearables are equipped with sensors that tell us something about our body or can communicate with smartphones and be controlled through apps. Most wearables are used to assess and help improve your health or wellbeing by monitoring heart rate, burned calories, sleep cycles, and so on. However, wearables can also help you reach loved ones or emergency services in the event of an accident, foster creativity, and offer pain relief.
We’ve already covered smartwatches and fitness trackers extensively elsewhere, so this guide focuses on the twelve best wearable tech gadgets that don’t fall into these two categories. They’re a diverse dozen, but every featured product has the potential to improve your life in a meaningful way.
Accidents are impossible to predict, and once one does happen, you might not have access to your phone, or be conscious for that matter. That’s where V.ALERT’s wireless Emergency Alert Device comes in. This compact button can send an SMS or have your phone dial three contacts and share your location via GPS. It is durable, fits in the palm of your hand, and has a battery that lasts 12 months.
The button is small and unobtrusive. You can keep it in a pocket, use it as a key fob, or get the wrist strap version that lets you wear it as a watch. The device is waterproof and equipped with an accelerometer so it can detect when you fall and send out a call for help without further input. Its companion app lets you specify the contacts you want to inform as well as a safe zone. Leaving the safe area will then trigger alerts too. Best of all, the messaging service is free of charge!
2. Upright GO
If you spend your working hours hunched in front of a computer screen, chances are your posture and back health are a mess. Here to fix this problem is Upright GO, a small wearable that attaches to your upper back and monitors your posture. You can use it to both improve your posture in training mode or monitor how correctly you’re sitting or standing during the day in tracking mode.
Wearables like this used to be cumbersome and came with straps. The Upright GO is a small rounded rectangular device that comes with strong adhesive pads which stick to your back and won’t let go until you need them to. Training mode is the Upright GO’s main feature. Each time you slouch, the device will alert you with a vibration in training mode. The duration and intensity of vibrations can be set in the app. Tracking mode is useful for gauging your progress as it provides a timeline and illustrates the percentage of time you’ve spent maintaining a good posture.
Best of all, it works! Using training mode 2-4 times a week and tracking mode in the meantime quickly gives tangible results. You’re bound to set the Upright GO’s vibrations off many times at first, but its gentle correction guidelines are excellent at helping you gradually adopt and maintain a healthier posture longer.
Health trackers provide lots of helpful biometric info, but they’re functional rather than stylish. The Bellabeat Leaf is a unique tracker for ladies who want to live a healthy lifestyle without compromising their chic look. It comes with a fantastic companion app, tracks feminine-specific data like menstrual cycle & pregnancy days, and can be worn in multiple ways.
The Bellabeat Leaf pendant is leaf-shaped and made from wood composite resistant to water. You can choose either silver or rose gold trim and get a stainless steel clip along with a leather strap so you can wear the Leaf as either a necklace, brooch, or bracelet. An included coin cell battery powers the tracker for 6 months and is easy to replace, so you don’t need to keep track of battery levels and constantly charge the device.
Even though it has no physical interface, the Leaf keeps track of a surprising amount of data. This includes the number of steps taken, calories burned, and sleep patterns. There’s no heart rate monitor though. The Bellabeat app is able to calculate your stress levels based on that information and offers several meditation exercises to help lower it. You can also track your menstrual cycle or pregnancy days if you put in the first day of each.
Do you love to run long-distance but can’t be bothered to fiddle with a smartwatch or fitness tracker? Under Armour’s new HOVR Infinite running shoes combine the comfort and support of high-grade athlete’s footwear with the fitness tracking capabilities of a specialized chip. They’ll track your run and map it out while the companion app has tips on improving your cadence and overall performance.
The shoes themselves are built to Under Armour’s high standards. They’re breathable, comfortable, and come in different styles for anyone’s taste. The HOVR in their name refers to a thick layer of support foam that cushions the impact of your soles on the pavement. They might feel stiff at first, but you’ll discover that the support HOVR offers gets better the more you run.
The chip responsible for the shoes’ smarts is embedded into the insole and so small you won’t feel its presence. You don’t need to charge the chip or even worry about updates since these are taken care of each time you sync with the app. The shoes connect to MapMyRun, a platform that lets you plan out, log, and save runs. The app also connects you to a community of fellow runners willing to share their knowledge and has a personalized coaching tool that helps you set goals and improve your running technique.
Do you want to get your kids interested in music? Instead of boring piano lessons, you should give the Sphero Specdrums a try! These sensor-equipped rings transform the world around you into a soundboard, letting you create music by tapping onto any surface. They’re the perfect tool for playing around with beats, learning the rudiments of music theory, and creating your own songs in a new and intuitive way.
The Specdrums package contains one or two rings based on the variant you bought, a multi-colored mat, and a charging cable. The rings are made from white silicone and accommodate fingers of all sizes. They’re comfortable to hold for extended periods and won’t slip either. Each ring is topped with a sensor that causes the app to produce a sound once the ring comes into contact with something of a specific color.
The mat is well made and features 12 surfaces, each with a different color. You use the mat and rings in conjunction with two apps. The Mix app transforms the pad into a mixing deck, turning the bottom 8 keys into notes or sounds from one of 50 sound packs. The upper 4 panels are used to provide a beat. The other app is called Music and is more serious in nature. It introduces users to notes, scales, and chords and lets them create songs with different instruments. Both apps also support exporting your creations and sharing them on social media.
However, you don’t need to rely on the mat to make music. You can tag an object in real life, and its color will replace one of the pad’s colors in the apps. This not only lets you turn a room, playground, or park into your music studio but also makes the Specdrums a portable source of creativity and fun.
6. Quell 2.0
Millions of people suffer from chronic leg pain, and managing the pain with medication comes with its own set of problems. Quell 2.0 aims to be a more natural, medication-free alternative. It sends out pulses of electrical current to your brain, causing it to release endorphins and eliminate leg pain. The treatment is harmless, non-addictive, and easy to regulate thanks to the Quell app.
The 2nd-generation Quell works like its predecessor. The most significant improvements are its smaller size, stickier gel strips, and a heavier reliance on the improved app. The Quell 2.0 takes up much less space on your leg, which frees up movement and makes wearing the device more comfortable. The treatment is administered through gel packs which adhere to your leg and need to be replaced every two weeks.
You control the duration of pain relief sessions as well as the intensity of electrical pulses from the app. There you can also track the number of sessions, steps taken, time slept, and pain levels over periods ranging from one day to three months. The app takes this information into account when determining the intensity of therapy sessions. You can also set these manually a well as stop & resume a session at any time by double-tapping the device itself.
Incontinence is an unfortunate side effect of getting older and certain disabilities. While there’s little dot be done about it, the DFree Wireless Bladder Scanner can help you avoid accidents by telling you to go to the bathroom in time. It uses ultrasonic technology to measure your bladder’s volume. Once the bladder has expanded to a predetermined level, it sends a notification to a tablet or smartphone. This is an excellent device for elderly or physically impaired people as well as their caregivers.
The DFree has a sensor that straps onto the lower abdomen in level with one’s bladder. It can be worn under clothes and is completely unobtrusive, so wearers can move around freely and eventually stop noticing it altogether. You’ll have to supply a means of holding it in place on your own though as the package doesn’t come with adhesive tape.
The DFree app is intuitive and simple to use. Its dashboard is dominated by a circle divided into 10 segments. These segments get darker one by one as the bladder fills up. Once a threshold has been reached, you get a push notification advising the wearer to go to the bathroom. You can also see the last time the urine level was recorded and the remaining battery. Other tabs allow you to view the event history, position the device correctly, and adjust settings.
Using a harness is the most accurate but also an uncomfortable way of tracking your heart rate. If you don’t want to use a harness and feel your fitness tracker’s heart rate data is inaccurate, you should definitely buy the OH1+ by Polar. This precise heart rate monitor can be worn in three ways, is easy to control & pair to devices through Bluetooth or ANT+, and can store data on its own.
The feather-light tracker comes with an expandable band you can wear on your upper or lower arm. It is also completely waterproof and comes with a clip that snaps onto diving goggles. This lets the OH1+ take accurate measurements at the temple and makes it usable in water since moving your arms won’t interfere with the result!
There are two modes you can use the OH1+ in – standalone and broadcast. The device has 4GB of memory and will store 200 hours of activity in standalone mode. Broadcast mode sends real-time heart rate data to your phone and fitness tracker via Bluetooth or a treadmill you’re exercising on through ANT+. The data is then interpreted either in your fitness tracking app of choice or Polar’s own Beat app. Finally, there’s Polar Flow, a web interface that visualizes transmitted data and provides detailed metrics.
How much oxygen your muscles are getting is the most precise indicator of exertion while exercising. The Humon Hex is the first wearable which measures muscle oxygenation and helps you visualize your performance & exertion levels. Using the Hex gives you an idea on how long you need to warm up and recover, how to determine a sustainable level of exercise, and shows when you’re pushing yourself.
The Humon Hex is a hexagon-shaped pad with a strap that goes around your thigh as this contains muscles that undergo the most stress during intense workouts and activities like running or skiing. Like Polar’s OH1+, the Hex has Bluetooth and ANT+ and connects to a variety of smartphones, smartwatches, and exercise equipment. It has a rechargeable battery that lasts for 20 hours. The device is also weather-resistant and won’t be damaged by rain.
The Humon app takes some getting used to, but it’s a well of information on your workouts once you learn how to interpret the data. Its main feature is a workout graph which shows blood oxygenation in four zones. Blue is a warmup zone in which oxygen levels rise in anticipation of greater strain. You enter the green zone once a balance between oxygen supply and demand has been met and shows the level of exercise you can comfortably sustain for longer periods. Orange and red zones indicate that more oxygen is being consumed than delivered and you’re starting to reach your limits.
The visual data presented in the app lets you adjust your workouts to conform to different goals. A history tab stores data from previous workouts and helps you track improvements. With a little practice, you can optimize warmups, reduce recovery times by better gauging when to stop exercising, and keep up a comfortable momentum longer.
There are many wearables on the market which will notify loved ones and emergency services if something happens to you. However, only Ripple’s 24/7 personal monitor also lets you get in contact with a real person no matter the time to get support when you need it the most. This can be for something as alarming as an attempted assault or something that isn’t serious yet but might escalate.
The Ripple is a tinny rectangular device with a lock-shaped clasp. It weighs barely anything and is small enough to be worn as a charm on your bracelet, on a keychain, or secured to a zipper. The device has a single button that’s relatively hard to press so false alarms are unlikely. There are two modes of operation, depending on how many times you press the button. A single press means you’re feeling uneasy and just need someone to talk to. Three presses mean there’s a real danger. In that case, Ripple’s professional team will call to check in on you and immediately dispatch emergency services your way.
You need to install the Ripple 24/7 app to use the device. The app is where you fill out your personal and health-related information, add emergency contacts, and specify which service – police or medical – is more important in the event of an emergency. This is useful for people with medical conditions who might be able to press the button three times but not respond to Ripple’s call.
A service like this comes with a monthly subscription. Luckily, Ripple’s rates are reasonable – you get a 1-month free trial and need to pays $10/month after that. Not bad for round-the-clock support!
Music puts a spring in your step, but running or cycling with a smartphone can be annoying. The solution? Mighty Vibe, a music player that connects to your Spotify account and downloads your playlists or podcasts for easy listening on the go. The tiny player pairs with Bluetooth headphones in seconds but also has a 3.5mm jack that connects it to analog headphones and serves as a charging port.
The Mighty Vibe is a small square music player available in blue, red, and black. It has a clip and can be attached to clothing. This combined with its weight of 0.7 oz. and diminutive size makes the Mighty Vibe more portable than any MP3 player, let alone your smartphone. There are logically laid-out commands for playback, volume control, and track skipping, while double-tapping the play button turns on shuffle mode.
You use the Mighty Vibe by pairing it with your Spotify account through the Mighty Vibe app. There you can access your playlists and transfer them onto the device in one of three quality levels. You don’t need to engage with the smartphone at all past that point unless you want to sync the Mighty Vibe with updated playlists. However, you need to have a Spotify Premium subscription to use the player, meaning there’s a $10/month fee.
The Coros SafeSound is the ultimate wearable for cyclists! It is brimming with smart features including an accelerometer for fall detection and the ability to wirelessly pair with your phone through Bluetooth. The helmet has an advanced sound system & an LED light, and it looks stylish to boot.
You can get the SafeSound in three variants. The electronics and safety features are the same for all three models – they differ when it comes to shape. Urban is kettle-shaped and suited for undemanding city streets. Road is meant for long-distance rides on asphalt while Mountain is best for tackling the toughest trails. All helmets are made from a combination of high-quality impact foam and polycarbonate and are treated with a substance that combats bacterial odors.
Sound is delivered through speakers positioned on the side straps. The speakers are placed close to your ear canal but don’t obstruct it so you can hear traffic and other outside noises. There’s also a microphone so you can answer calls wirelessly. The helmets connect to your phone through Bluetooth and let you listen to music or directions, take calls, or take in real-time stats like distance traveled.
The SafeSound app provides lots of data on your current ride and can upload it to popular fitness apps like Strava. It also uses GPS and three contact numbers you provide to send your contacts emergency messages in case of a fall. The helmets are sensitive when it comes to crash detection – their alerts won’t go off if they’re empty and not moving with sufficient force. The red LED on their back helps improve safety and flashes an SOS when you crash.