IFA 2016's hottest new wearables

Our pick of the best wearable tech from the Berlin-based tech expo
IFA 2016's hottest new wearables

What a week. We've barely had time to catch our breath while running from launch to launch across the vast expanses of the Berlin Messe. IFA 2016 will certainly be remembered for a strong showing in wearables.

We've picked out the best new wearable tech devices that were announced at this year's show. There's great smartwatches, next-gen fitness trackers, exciting virtual reality concepts and more...

Smartwatches

Samsung Gear S3

A long time coming and, thankfully, it doesn't disappoint. It's coming later this year in two flavours. First up is the Samsung Gear S3 Classic, the natural successor to the Gear S2; and then there's the more rugged Samsung Gear S3 Frontier.

The Classic comes with Bluetooth/Wi-Fi while the Frontier will offer up a Bluetooth or a standalone LTE flavour. Both models feature the rotating bezel of the S2 - with functionality extended to call answering and dialling, and altering the temperature on a Nest Thermostat.

The Gear S3's come with a 1.3-inch screen with a 46mm body which is a bump up from Gear S2's 1.2-inches and 42mm body. The battery has also been boosted - up to 380mAh. We'll see about the four day life Sammy is promising.

There's no price or precise release date details just yet.

Asus ZenWatch 3

Asus has abandoned its square smartwatch roots for the ZenWatch 3, with a much bigger emphasis on design thanks to the jewellery-grade 316 stainless steel and diamond cut bezel.

The latest Android Wear watch features a circular display measuring in at 1.39-inches. The 400 x 400 resolution on the AMOLED display should mean a considerable bump up in sharpness in comparison to its predecessor.

It's one of the new Snapdragon 2100 gang - the CPU designed by Qualcomm firmly with smartwatches in mind. We don't have UK or US prices just yet, but we know it's going to cost €229 when it goes on sale.

Withings Steel HR

While it might just sound like an updated version of the Withings Activité Steel, the HR is far from a minor upgrade. In terms of design, there's all the hallmarks here of the Activité family, with stainless steel casing, chrome hands and a silicone strap.

But there's now an optical heart rate sensor that can continuously monitor a user's heart rate. It also uses the sensor to monitor a wearer's pulse as they sleep to provide resting heart rate data.

The Steel HR goes on sale at the beginning of October from the Withings website, priced at $179.95 for the 36mm model and $199.95 for the larger 40mm version.

Virtual reality

Qualcomm Snapdragon VR820

Qualcomm has unveiled its vision for the future of VR, with a reference platform for headsets that don't require a smartphone. Qualcomm Snapdragon VR820 uses the company's mobile processor to deliver the experience.

The reference headset, built in conjunction with Goertek, uses a 1440 x 1440 resolution per eye, an AMOLED panel that supports up to 70Hz 4K video playback and a low latency of 18ms.

We're told that the the Snapdragon VR820 will be available in Q4 2016 with the first commercial devices based on the platform expected to be available shortly after that.

Alcatel Vision

Out of nowhere, Alcatel came up with a potential Oculus Rift rival by way of the Alcatel Vision; a standalone device, packing its own visuals and engine room.

The Vision boasts dual 3.8-inch AMOLED displays (1080p for each eye), 120-degree visuals, and is powered by an octa-core processor. Connectivity is Bluetooth, LTE and Wi-Fi and it's also wire-free - there's a 3,000mAh battery on board that will get you 2-3 hours of gameplay.

On paper, this all sounds very exciting. We're hearing whispers of a $600 price tag for the headset though, which is less encouraging.

Star VR

Acer and Starbreeze are now shipping StarVR headsets to IMAX VR centres. That was announced at Acer's IFA 2016 conference where CEO Jason Chen named VR as one of the core businesses of the company in the future.

There are no plans to sell the StarVR to the public at the moment but IMAX centres in Los Angeles, London, New York and Shanghai are all getting kitted up.

We tried it for the first time at IFA and, although the spec-sheet is, on paper at least, an upgrade on the likes of Oculus and Vive, we felt it didn't really exceed what we've tried so far with its bigger name rivals. Still, it's exciting to see a serious new contender.

Hearables

Jabra Elite Sport

Hearables are all the rage and Jabra got in on the action in Berlin by announcing the Jabra Elite Sport - a pair of smart wireless earbuds.

With a heart rate sensor, VO2 Max testing and in-ear coaching, Jabra's offering seems to have a leg up on the competition. If a call comes in while you're out running or exercising, voice controls and audio prompts let you manage calls without needing to touch your phone.

They will cost you $249.99 and will be available for pre-order at the start of October, with shipping later that month.

Sony Xperia Ear

Okay, so the Xperia Ear isn't technically an IFA 2016 device as it was announced a while ago but we got the all important launch date details at Sony's IFA press conference. The hearable is going on sale in November for €200 with a couple of nifty new features.

The new features include audio alerts for email and messages, and new head motion gestures so you can nod your head to reply 'yes' to a message or shake it to say 'no'. Clever stuff, eh?

There's no UK or US pricing yet or any details on what countries it will launch in.

Fitness trackers

Fitbit Charge 2

Announced on the eve of the expo, Fitbit finally took the covers off of the much anticipated Charge 2 - as well as the all-new Fitbit Flex 2 as well.

The Charge is the pick of the new duo, however. The Charge 2 is an amalgamation of the original Charge and the Fitbit Alta, and features a glossy and OLED screen that is four times bigger than that of the old Charge HR. It also features PurePulse heart rate tracking as standard, so there's no HR and standard variants this time around.

The optical sensor still monitors your pulse 24/7, keeping tabs on your resting heart rate as well as bpm during exercise, but it's now primed to offer new stats to the Fitbit ecosystem.

The Fitbit Charge 2 will cost $149.99 when it launches in September.

TomTom Touch

TomTom's first foray into fitness tracking is more than just another me-too fitness band. Alongside step tracking and sleep analysis, the TomTom Touch builds body composition analysis and 24/7 heart rate monitoring into the mix.

The main event here is the body composition feature. The Touch features two sensors placed on the front and the back; simply place your fingers on them and a tiny, undetectable current will fly around your body and back into the rear sensor. The TomTom Touch uses this to ascertain your body's ratio of tough muscle and wobbly fat mass.

Available in large and small and with a host of different coloured bands to slip the module into, the Touch is priced at $129.99 and goes on sale in October.

Sports watches

TomTom Adventurer

TomTom revealed the the Spark 3 at the show, adding a redesigned strap and the ability to view routes on the watch. But it's the multi-sport-skilled Adventurer that caught our eye.

TomTom has added in a barometer, which unlocks new metrics like 3D distance tracking. There are also new sport modes that include hiking, trail running, skiing and snowboarding.

The Adventurer is going to cost $349.99, which is cheaper than Garmin and Suunto's outdoor watches. It's not launching until mid October, so there's a bit of a wait before you can go exploring with one.

Garmin Forerunner 35

An upgrade to the Forerunner 25, the Forerunner 35 is hardly a budget watch - with prices starting at $199.99. But it's the cheapest way runners can get their hands on a Garmin GPS running watch with a built-in optical heart rate monitor.

It offers pace, distance and time data, as well as a real-time readout of heart rate and heart rate zone. It's all the basics even accomplished runners need and, of course, it doubles as a fitness tracker as well.

3 Comments

  • Nischit says:

    Just one word. Awesome!

  • Pw1 says:

    Unless the moto 360 3rd gen or Android smartwatch come out with a 40" ish version with heart rate monitor then the withings steel hr looks the best choice for me with slim to normal male wrist. 

  • lauriebaroni says:

    Would like to know if a setting can be established to warn runner that a maximum heartrate has been obtained so I might slow down.

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