We’ve been covering this wearable business since 2014, and we know how to spot a hot trend when we see it. From products that are bound to break out to themes set to change the conversation, that's the Wareable Hotlist.
Essential reading: Best smartwatches to buy now
While those names will surely dominate the headlines, they certainly won't be the only wearable stories to get excited about in 2019. There'll be plenty of other cutting-edge tech, innovative startups and new smarts that will show the wearable space is still alive and kicking.
We've made 20 big predictions for wearables that we think you'll be hearing a lot more about in the coming months. So in no particular order, these are our 2019 wearable tech predictions.
Think we’ve missed something or just generally have something to say about our predictions? Let us know in the comments section below.
Smart rings are here to stay
Everything about smart rings suggests they shouldn't work. Putting tech into such a small design and hoping it can actually be useful felt like the impossible a few years ago, as startup after startup failed to make it a reality. But a handful of companies have shown these pieces of smart jewellery can in fact be great. Whether it's fitness, payments or keeping tabs on your general wellbeing, smart rings actually make for great wearables. We can expect these rings to only get smarter and more feature-packed in 2019. Maybe we'll see some newcomers enter the ring.
Fossil to fuel fashion watches
If building smartwatches and hybrids for its numerous fashion brands wasn't keeping the Fossil Group busy enough, it's also lending its expertise to other companies. Fossil signed licensing deals with Puma, BMW and Citizen in 2018 with the promise of launching new smartwatches in 2019. The Citizen/Fossil partnership might be the most interesting of all the collaborations, as it will see the two working together to build hybrid smartwatch movements that can be sold to other watch brands.
Snap's smarter Spectacles
You have to give it to Snap. Its first generation Spectacles were deemed a flop and there's no evidence yet to suggest that the second generation (along with new shade looks) have fared any better. At the end of 2018, there were reports that Snap was planning to launch a more advanced pair of Spectacles by the end of the year. Snap Specs 3 didn't drop, so maybe the smartglasses, expected to pack dual cameras to give them AR skills, will land in 2019 instead. Clearly Snap isn't done with its wearable efforts just yet and its next set could be the ones we have been really waiting for.
Vive Cosmos to bring back VR good times
HTC has prided itself on having the most advanced VR tech at its disposal, while Oculus focuses more on exclusive games and a better software experience. The Cosmos, however, is HTC’s bet on the future. We don’t know much, but we do know it’s made to be much easier to use. While it’s intended to tether to a gaming PC, it could in the future be taken on the go and powered by a phone. We can’t wait to learn more.
Wearable-powered home workouts
Why blow your cash on a gym membership when you can get a proper workout without even leaving the house? Don't get us wrong, home workout tech has been around for some time. But with the addition of wearables (and not just heart rate monitors), they're becoming more varied. So if you don't like short bursts of burpees, you can grab the gloves and punch your way to fitness or jump on your bike for a Zwift or Peloton session. And you'll still get that feel of being in a class with others, minus those sweaty bodies in close proximity.
Sleep back in focus
A mainstay of Wareable’s annual prediction lists, sleep tech is certain to have another big year. Why? Because everyone wants in on it. Fitbit is currently developing the next stage of its sleep tracking tech, which will be able to spot signs of sleep apnea, while Apple is bringing the fight by, well, buying up other companies – its Beddit acquisition has already resulted in a new sleep tracker. Meanwhile Garmin and the rest of the wearable cohort are chasing Fitbit’s lead. CES 2019 was awash with new sleep tech from companies small and large, a sure sign that this year will be about getting a better night’s rest.
The AR race is well and truly underway, but in 2019 AR may find early success in audio. The death of Doppler Labs hasn’t discouraged other companies from their pursuits, and this year audio giant Bose plans to launch its Frames AR sunglasses, leveraging the company’s acoustic expertise to stream information, music and calls into the ears of the wearer.
It won’t be alone: Startup Vue is also expected to roll out a pair of glasses that use bone conduction audio technology to transmit sound. Meanwhile Peex is doing some interesting experimentation with live music audio. It’s teamed up with the UK-based 7digital to create a wearable that lets gig-goers create their own mixes.
Self charging wearables you'll want to own
Smartwatch battery life on the whole is improving. More of what we'd call 'proper smartwatches' like the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch are getting better at lasting longer, but they're still not quite where we'd like them to be. So are we any closer to those proper smartwatches going the distance? Well, if they can follow in the footsteps of the PowerWatch 2, most definitely. The second-generation smartwatch uses body heat and solar power to keep its more feature-packed smartwatch running and running.
Also, in the traditional watchmaking world, MMT, the Swiss company that had a helping hand building hybrid smartwatches including the Frederique Constant Horological Smartwatch and Mondaine Helvetica 1 Smart, is developing a hybrid that will never need charging. So it feels like major progress is being made on delivering us a smartwatch with the same skills.
Huami to become a player
You may have heard of Huami, but plenty of people haven't – yet. The Chinese tech company behind the impressive Amazfit wearable range and Xiaomi's budget king Mi Band fitness tracker has big plans for 2019. Huami's CEO Wang Huang has already claimed that the company has something "revolutionary" to share in 2019. It might have something to do with its own in-house Huangshan-1 wearable A1 chip, which has serious health monitoring at the heart of the chipset. Throw in the fact we expect to see an update of its ridiculously good value Amazfit Bip smarwatch and you've got a company to keep an eye on.
Microsoft HoloLens 2
Microsoft is a seasoned elder in the world of augmented reality, and its original HoloLens headset has become a staple amongst businesses and in industry. It’s high time for a HoloLens 2 though, and it’s clear that 2019 is the year we’ll see Microsoft’s next AR headset. What can we expect? Rumours indicate something much more comfortable to wear, much more powerful thanks to Qualcomm’s XR1 chip and a more affordable price to get even more businesses on board. Let's hope that consumer version is not too far behind as well.
Women's health tech gets serious
2018 felt like the year that women's health was finally starting to get on the agenda for the most high profile names in the wearable business. Most notably Fitbit, which rolled out female health tracking features for its fitness trackers and smartwatches. CES 2019 has already given us a glimpse at wearables that will help mothers-to-be closely monitor their baby from the womb, take better care of their skin and even make breastfeeding a breeze too. But it feels like the time is now for other big names to give some attention to women's health tech, and we think that's going to happen.
Rest and recovery
Sports watch companies have pretty much got running, swimming and cycling tracking down to a tee. So what's next for Garmin, Polar, Suunto and the sporty smartwatch contingent? Taking that massive data harnessed by motion and biometric sensors and telling us how to recover better from tough sessions in the gym or out on the track. The likes of Garmin, Polar and Suunto are already dabbling in this space, but there's clearly more scope to help aspiring athletes and Parkrunners pay closer attention to what they do in between those workouts.
For a long time, the VR dream has been a high-end standalone headset. With the Oculus Quest, we get our first taste of that. Sure, it’s not as powerful as a PC-tethered Rift, but it’s much more capable than the Oculus Go. The Quest is a headset that can deliver a great VR experience without wires, and it’s even got the ability to one day run Oculus’ incredible arena-scale tracking. That might not be ready in 2019, but the Quest will be – and we can’t wait.
Neuroscience for the masses
Brain stimulating tech has been given some love in our previous annual predictions, but it finally feels like neuroscience and wearables are within reach of more people. Take the Muse 2, a brain-sensing headband designed for meditation, as a good example of this.
We can also look to Halo Neuroscience and its Halo Sport 2 headphones, proving neuroscience isn't just about athletes hoping to raise their game. It's also getting attention from musicians and pretty much anything that requires tapping into those parts of the brain to help you make improvements.
Fitbit's next smartwatch move
2018 was a big year for Fitbit. At the end of 2017, it entered the smartwatch fray to a tepid reception – but it was last year and the arrival of the Versa that showed it deserved a place with the Apple, Samsung and Wear watches of this world. So we are eagerly anticipating what Fitbit has in store for us next.
Since the Versa launch, we've also seen improvements made to the Fitbit OS that powers performance. Plus we are starting to see the more advanced health sensor tech starting to be put to use. Maybe it's time for an Ionic 2 or a smartwatch that breaks into another category.
The key to AR smartglasses is striking the perfect balance of style and function. North’s Focals are definitely on their way there, thanks to their fairly inspired ring controller, Alexa support and colourful interface. What separates them from others is that North is taking a note from Warby Parker, offering physical locations where you can go and get fitted for your own special pair of Focals smartglasses. It’s a big, ambitious bet, and the first customers have already lined up. 2019 will see if the gamble pays off.
Swatch OS (finally)
Okay, we said the Swiss watchmaking giant's first Apple Watch rival was going to launch in 2018. But then it all went very quiet from Swatch, until it told us that we would finally see what it's been working on in 2019. We are still intrigued both by that first proper smartwatch and also by the software, dubbed Swiss OS, that will supposedly tie everything together.
Will it be worth the wait? Will it all be too little, too late as Apple and others start encroaching on the watchmaking world? Hopefully we won't have to wait that much longer to find out. Until it does reveal all, we still think this is one wearable topic people are going to be talking about.
The electrocardiogram is no longer just hospital tech. In 2019, we’ve already seen the medical-grade heart rate monitoring technology appear in the first hybrid smartwatch with the Withings Move ECG, while Alphabet and its Verily Study Watch has had its ECG feature cleared by the FDA. Apple only turned on ECG on the Watch Series 4 in late 2018, so be fully prepared to hear more about people thanking their smartwatches for saving their lives – and more companies rushing to get the serious health monitoring feature into their devices.
Google's big smartwatch plans
We don't know whether a Pixel Watch is still going to happen, but we do know that the big G made a statement about its smartwatch ambitions by spending bucks on secret smartwatch tech from Fossil. We can only speculate what that secret tech might be. Will it be something groundbreaking in the health and fitness space? Could it be the key to big smartwatch battery life? These are answers we believe will be answered this year as we see how Google aims to match Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin and prove it's fully committed to making smartwatches work.
A new wind for hearables
2018 was a quiet one for hearables. You only have to take a look at the lack of hearables presence at the Wareable Tech Awards to see there wasn't a whole lot going on. But we still believe this is a category that is ripe for growth, and 2019 should see those smart buds back on track. That's likely to be led by a little company called Apple, which is strongly tipped to turn the AirPods 2 into fully-fledged hearables with health tracking features and more.
However, think beyond earbuds – we'll also see smartglasses which are technically "hearables" in disguise, like the Bose glasses mentioned further up this list. Come December, hearables may just have found their second wind.