The Best Wearables for Back To School

It’s August, which means that kids are filling their backpacks with pens, paper, textbooks and – oh, who are we kidding, no one uses those things anymore.

Students want tech, and that’s why our Back To School Guide features the best smartphones, tablets, wearables and accessories available right now. Ready? Let’s do this.

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Apple Watch

Certainly not the first smartwatch to hit the market, the Apple Watch has garnered its fair share of both acclaim and criticism. Like all smartwatches, it is a companion device to a smartphone, but the Apple Watch has loftier, more independent goals, many of which are set to debut with watchOS 2.0 in the fall.

For now, the Apple Watch, available in two sizes, is a competent and attractive timepiece and fielder of notifications, which also occasionally makes it easier to access short snips of content like the next bus time or the best sushi bar nearby.

More than anything, the Watch allows Siri to shine, with almost-instant responses that are improving all the time.

Best: Screen, battery, app selection
Worst: Awkward charger, price
Price: $419 to $519 (Watch Sport), $699 to $1459 (Watch)
Availability: Apple.ca, Apple Stores, Best Buy
Required: iPhone 5 or higher

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Pebble Time

The do-it-all smartwatch, Pebble Time is compatible with Android and iOS, though it is more useful on the former platform.

More functional than fashionable, the Pebble Time has a smaller but just-as-dedicated developer community than Apple Watch or Android Wear, and it shows in the bevy of quick access apps from big names likes ESPN, Runtastic, Eventbrite, Foursquare and Yelp.

The always-on screen lasts nearly a week, and it can be seen in bright sunshine thanks to its epaper technology. While the colour reproduction on the Pebble Time is welcome, it’s still low-contrast and low-resolution, and doesn’t quite compare to the Apple Watch’s high-res OLED display.

Still, the Pebble Time is a great entry to the smartwatch market, and will look great on any student’s wrist.

Best: Battery life, always-on display
Worst: Low-res display, cheap-looking design
Price: $249.99
Availability: Best Buy, Pebble ($199 USD)
Required: iPhone 4 or higher; Android 4.3+


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Moto 360 

The oldest wearable on the list, the Moto 360 is still the best choice for Android users. Now upgraded to the latest version of the OS, which adds a number of great new features along with an overhauled navigation scheme, the Moto 360 and Android Wear 5.0.2 pair together beautifully.

With a round metal design that harkens to many popular Swiss-made brands, the Moto 360 has great battery life and excellent responsiveness, hampered only by a relatively low-resolution LCD display.

But even a year later, the Moto 360, increasingly affordable, is the best Android Wear smartwatch out there, and highly recommended.

Best: Design, price
Worst: Screen resolution
Price:
$199
Availability: Google StoreBest Buy ($279)
Required: Android 4.3+

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Fitbit Charge HR

The only dedicated fitness tracker on our list is the only one you should consider. Fitbit has truly stepped up its game (NPI) with the Charge HR, adding a 24/7 heart rate monitor to its already-accurate pedometer.

This year’s model has a nicer Matrix OLED display that conveys incoming phone calls along with step counts, stories climbed and other important health metrics, and the data synchronizes with the company’s excellent iOS or Android app.

Fitbit’s Charge HR doesn’t pretend to be a smartwatch, but it’s also much cheaper and, for many people, will be a great other-wrist companion to a real watch. You know, because some kids still wear those.

If you’re looking to get you or your kid into health tracking, and want to do it on the (relative) cheap, the Fitbit Charge HR is the one to go with.

Best:
Comfort, price, battery life
Worst: Small, low-res display
Price:
$179.95
Availability: Fitbit, Best Buy
Required: Android 4.3+, iPhone 4S+