Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Wearables

Wearables serve many purposes. Some devices are designed with fitness in mind, while others focus on mirroring select smartphone features on the wrist.

While early wearables were largely expensive experiments, the product category is slowly starting to hit its stride. For many, now is the right time to finally pick up that smartwatch you’ve been thinking about buying.

But what wearable is right for you, or a loved one? That’s where our Holiday 2015 wearable gift guide comes into the picture.

Below is a guide outlining a collection of some of the best wearable devices around.

Apple Watch

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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 slowly coming to fruition thanks to the recent release of watchOS 2.0.

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.

Read our review – Apple Watch review 

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

Samsung Gear S2 Classic

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Samsung’s Galaxy Gear was one of the first smartwatches to hit the market and, five generations later, the company has finally figured out what makes a good smartwatch: simplicity.

The Samsung Gear S2 is a monumental improvement over its predecessors, both in terms of hardware and aesthetics. Also, more importantly, it’s actually compatible with Android smartphones not manufactured by Samsung. Tizen has also come a long way in just a couple of years, and while the operating system isn’t as versatile as Android Wear, it’s generally more powerful efficient. It also now works with all Android devices running KitKat and above, substantially increasing its potential customer base.

Samsung has released a technically outstanding watch that’s stable, responsive, and features one of the best smartwatch navigation systems we’ve seen so far — a rotating bezel.

Best: Looks like a standard watch, big improvement over the Gear S, accurate fitness tracking
Worst: App ecosystem is limited, pricey
Price: $429
Availability: Best Buy ($429)
Required: Android 4.4+

Pebble Time Round 

pebbletimeroundThe Time Round is Pebble’s latest and most attractive smartwatch to date. Unlike the Pebble Time and Time Steel, as well as earlier products from the company, the Round features a sleek, circular design. And compared to other smartwatches, it’s very thin, designed for individuals with smaller wrists.

Pebble’s latest smartwatch comes in two colour variants, a black stainless steel case with a 22mm black leather band and a silver stainless steel case with a 14mm stone leather band.

What makes Pebble’s wearable unique is the vibrant app ecosystem that has sprouted up around its devices thanks to their open nature. Pebble’s always-on display also helps ensure the user experience is closer to that of a traditional watch, allowing the wearer to quickly glance at the device in order to check the time and calendar information.

The Pebble Time Round is set to launch in Canada on December 4th, just in time for the Holiday shopping season.

Best: Battery life, always-on display
Worst: Low-res display, design still doesn’t compare to high-end Android Wear smartwatches
Price: $299 CAD
Availability: Best Buy ($299), Pebble ($249 USD)
Required: Android 4.4+

Moto 360 (2nd gen)

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If you’re an Android user the Moto 360 remains one of the best smartwatches around.

The 2nd generation Moto 360 now comes in two variants – 46mm and 42mm – so those with slender wrists now have a more size-appropriate option available. Android Wear has also come a long way from where it was when it was initially announced in 2014, especially with the availability of apps. The platform has received three major updates over the last few months, including a recent one that added actionable watch faces, a feature many smartwatch wearers will find useful.

Those who are more fitness focused will also appreciate the Moto 36o’s heart rate monitor, allowing the wearer to monitor the amount of exercise they’re getting on a daily basis. The Moto 360 one of the best Android Wear smartwatches out there.

Read our review – Moto 360 (2nd gen) review: It’s all in the lugs

Best: Design, price
Worst: Screen resolution
Price:
42mm – $379.99, 46mm – $429.99
Availability: Google StoreBest Buy
Required: Android 4.3+

Fitbit Charge HR

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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, stairs 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 people still wear those.

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

Microsoft Band 2

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A fitness band with hints of a smartwatch, Microsoft has finally brought its Band to Canada. The second-generation wearable is considerably more comfortable to wear than the original, and features 11 sensors, everything from GPS to UV monitor and barometer, for the most accurate exercise tracking out there.

With integration on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, the Microsoft Band is one of the more versatile wearables on then market, and its touchscreen OLED display makes it easy to navigate through the various menus.

While pricey at $329.99, the Microsoft Band 2 is everything you need to get phone and text message notifications, as well as comprehensive running and workout data.

Best: Comprehensive data tracking, multi-platform support
Worst: Uncomfortable to wear for long periods, pricey
Price:
$329.99
Availability: Microsoft
Required: Android 4.3+, iPhone 4S+, Windows Phone 8+