2014: Wearable brand report card - the specialists

We take a look back at how the wearable brands performed in the last 12 months
A5RKJA School report card with A+ written on front.
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Earlier on we looked back on how the traditional tech powerhouses - Apple, Sony, Samsung, Google and the gang - had performed in 2014 when it came to wearable tech.

And now it's time to consider the wearable specialists who are taking on the old guard at the new game.

2014: Wearable tech review of the year

Here you’ll find their end-of-year report cards, providing their performance in key areas pertaining to their vision, their creativity and how well they’ve delivered on that theoretical promise in the real world....



More labour than art but willing, able and with plenty of promise.


We’ve rather lost count of the number of wrist-attached wearables that we’ve seen from Fitbit in school. There’s been so many that we’ve just about managed to forget the disaster of the Force recall debacle from early in the year. It looked for while as if the bigger brands would bully Fibit but this smaller student has redoubled its efforts in coming up with both a highly competitive trio of advanced fitness trackers before the end of term as well as the Aria connected scales. Tremendous spirit from a plucky player. A


Fitbit’s focus has been more on quantity than originality but that’s highly understandable in the face of peer competition. Nonetheless, there has been a consistent evolution of ideas with the addition of heart rate monitors in the top-end Fitbit Surge and the appealing Tory Burch jewellery promised for 2015. All the same, more guile required in this department for Fitbit to remain relevant this time next year. Holiday work required. B-


We’re not entirely convinced that Fibit is barking up the right tree aesthetically speaking but its design identity is strong if not the best in the class. External private tuition from Gadi Amit’s NewDealDesign is paying off dividends and both parties will need to remain sharp if looking to reach the highest branches. Ultimately, would we wear one? Yes, we would. B+

Wareable verdict: Fitbit Charge review



Stubborn but superb.


It’s been something of a continued embarrassment of riches from Garmin this year. There’s been not one but two volleys of fitness bands in 2014 with the Vivos-fit and -smart proving that this valedictorian has something to offer casual users and semi-pro fitness enthusiasts alike. Updates to the Forerunner series at both the top and bottom have been superb as has the arrival of the adventurer’s Fenix 2. If only Garmin would considering ditching the chest strap for a built-in heart rate monitor; eyes up, ears open, please. A


It’s hard to find many ideas in Garmin’s work that haven’t come from discussions in class aside the inactivity monitor installed in the fitness bands - an impressive addition nevertheless. What has proved innovative is the ability to include all of the salient technological advantages in each product, heart rate monitor notwithstanding. Long battery lives, impressive OLED screens, sleep tracking; these are all the hallmarks of a company paying close attention to what’s going on in the wearable world, and in class. B+


Garmin’s fitness bands are a little too functional in look and will most likely not get the attention that they perhaps deserve if things continue in this vein in 2015. As for the sports watches, they are very much just that - only for wearing whilst actually exercising. Whether that’s going to a problem going forward remains to be seen. B

Wareable review: Garmin Vivosmart



Unruly and original in equal measure; a pleasure to watch if not to teach.


With so much attention from the rest of school, it’s easy to forget that Misfit has actually produced very little this year. Still bragging in the playground about Shine and all of its accessories, it’s only the Misfit Flash and Beddit that we’ve had in to mark; and of those, one is a simplified version of the original device and the other has been bought from a Finnish company. Something of a fast one going on here but while managing to evade the headmaster's glare at the same time. B


In the last 12 months, Misfit has been hell bent on proving that you can wear its trackers on any part of the body and has even produced socks with pockets to make the point. We trust there’s as much bravado going on behind the scenes when it actually comes to creating something new. All the same, we’re looking at a high achiever; pioneering in both the sleep and fitness tracking spaces. B+


Again, much of the big work was done at the end of 2013 but all those additional trinkets have pushed Shine to the fore as the undisputed best looking, best industrially designed fitness tracker in school. Definitely something to shout about. Just a pity that Misfit knows that too. A-

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Quiet, but some exceptional work when heard from.


We had been growing weary of the list of excuses surrounding the long-promised homework that was the Withings Activité. Fortunately, when it finally arrived at the end of the year, it still managed to prove something of a delight. In fact, it’s so utterly appealing and refreshing that it’s easy to forget that it doesn’t actually do that much. A


Withings has proved that a step back can constitute innovation, which is something of a fascinating paradox that’s been the subject of much postulation in the staff room. Of more obvious merit, however, is the Aura’s ability to measure sleep stages including even REM, apparently, although we’re yet to have fully marked this project. B


The word ‘genius’ is not one we use lightly at Wareable, which is why we’re not going to use it. All the same, the idea behind the design of the Withings Activité is as close to that description as we’ll allow any student to feel. It is the only traditional timepiece fitness tracker on the market. It is the first truly pan-wearable wearable. It is not exactly certain whether Withings will be getting it back from our confiscated items desk drawer. A+

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Tardy but effective. Plenty of good work but room for improvement next year.


Continuous fighting with Fitbit doesn’t seem to have caused any problems for the work of either. In fact, dare we say, it might have improved it when they can finally keep their hands to themselves. We were initially promised a trio of fitness trackers from Jawbone but will have to mark them down on the tardiness of the UP3 which has yet to deliver. Jawbone has been given an extension until the new year. Fortunately, both the UP24 and UP Move passed our tests with flying colours. B+


There’s some suspicion that Garmin and Jawbone have been cribbing off one another in class when it comes to innovation. Each has spurned the addition of optical heart rate sensors and each has added inactivity alarms to its fitness bands. For the time being, we’re willing to treat this as collaboration but expect more differentiation in 2015. Battery improvements have also been par for the course but this appears to have been more of a term of evolution rather than revolution. Should those promised bioimpedence and skin sensors in the UP3 deliver useful applications, we'll be willing to reconsider this grade. B


While Jawbone might have fallen behind some of the bigger companies in class when it comes to innovation, it’s top of the set for design. Swiss entrepreneur Yves Behar is now fully on board as Chief Creative Officer and his aesthetic influence is clear to see. Withings might have the smartest watch and Misfit the most wearable tracker but Jawbone is the boy with the best-looking fitness bands. A-

How we test


I'm a technology and sports journalist and writer with over 15 years experience. Most recently my role centres around monetising editorial in a content lead role at Future Publishing, writing for What Hi-Fi, TechRadar.

I'm also a published author and a presenter for both national radio and for video too. I've appeared on TV news channels, online videos, podcasts and I've worked for BBC Radio 2, Radio 4 and had a regular slot on BBC Asian Network as the resident gadget expert.

In a previous life, I was a professional actor. I also lectured at Harlow College on digital publishing for two years. Loves include skiing, cats, canoeing, singing and football.

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