The week in wearable tech: Fitness titans are learning how to own our wrists

A look back at the last seven days
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As editor Mike Sawh lamented last week, the July/August period is often a little quiet in the world of tech, but things shifted gear this week with big news about some of the industry's titans which are now gearing up to launch new smartwatches. It looks like things are picking up again.

Here at Wareable we revealed a close-up look at Fitbit's smartwatch and how it looks set to unleash new heart-rate tech. Fitbit CEO James Park has talked a lot about the company's plan to go deeper and broader on health, and the new smartwatch appears to be doing just that. In fact, if you want a better lowdown on why we're so interesting in Fitbit's new sensors, Mike has gone into more depth on the matter. Definitely worth a read..

In fact, there's been a bit of a theme this week. We also exclusively revealed Garmin's next wearable, the Vivoactive 3, which brings surprises of its own - the most notable being a new design that's a world away from what we've seen in the Vivoactive line to date. We're not saying they've been ugly but… they've been ugly.

The Vivoactive 3 changes that with a more tempting look borrowing from the Fenix series. It's like the end of the movie where the unkempt nerd gets a makeover and returns to high school, unrecognizably attractive to their classmates. "Damn, who's the hotty?" onlookers ask one another in the corridor. "Check out that optical heart rate technology!"

Oh yeah - the theme. Well we also need to look to Suunto, which this week revealed its new Spartan Trainer Wrist HR smartwatch (easy for you to say), which again has gone from a bulky, wrist-consuming sports watch to something slimmer and much more agreeable. As someone with skinny wrists, I am all for this, and again, it won't be sacrificing any of the features. Just as well, as the Suunto Sport Wrist HR has one of the most reliable heart rate monitors we've tried on a wearable.

The theme in this week's column isn't just the sexification of wearables, but how fitness-first companies are getting better at making sports devices that can be worn all day. At the same time, companies at the "smartwatch end" of the spectrum are strengthening their fitness offerings - like Apple.

I remember when TomTom launched its first GPS watches in 2013, Gary Raucher, who was the company's head of marketing at the time, told me TomTom was making a watch that you'd stick on for a run, but then take off afterwards. I think if you looked at most sports watches back then, you'd feel the same way, but look how far we've come. And I'm not just talking about design - it's a progression in abilities too. The new Garmin watch looks set to deal better with notifications, and we know Fitbit's watch is going right up against Apple's, so all expectations are that it will deliver on the smartwatch side of things too with apps and notifications.

Partnering up

The week in wearable tech: Fitness titans are learning how to own our wrists

Elsewhere this week we've seen some interesting partnerships emerge. Lumo Bodytech announced earlier in the year that it would be sharing its tech with third-party companies, and we learned this week that Puma is one of them. The duo are building a "cutting edge" AI coaching device, and we suspect it will be something to make our workout clothes a bit smarter. Smart shoes, perhaps?

Elsewhere BlackBerry made its wearable debut (unless you count BBM on Android Wear) with a partnership with AR smartglasses maker Vuzix. No your eyes do not deceive you - we did say BlackBerry. The company is still trundling along, although it's now relying on licensing deals with other companies rather than building in-house. With Vuzix it'll provide software for the AR glasses, for enterprise use cases. That may not sound too exciting to you and I, but it's interesting to see BlackBerry get involved here, and let's remember that enterprise is spurring growth for AR right now, which will help it eventually hit the consumer space.

I'll sign off with a shout out to Snap, which had the unenviable task this week of revealing its latest quarterly earnings. They were… not good, but as our US reporter Husain has proposed, AR wearables could be their savior. I don't think he's wrong.

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Hugh Langley


Now at Business Insider, Hugh originally joined Wareable from TechRadar where he’d been writing news, features, reviews and just about everything else you can think of for three years.

Hugh is now a correspondent at Business Insider.

Prior to Wareable, Hugh freelanced while studying, writing about bad indie bands and slightly better movies. He found his way into tech journalism at the beginning of the wearables boom, when everyone was talking about Google Glass and the Oculus Rift was merely a Kickstarter campaign - and has been fascinated ever since.

He’s particularly interested in VR and any fitness tech that will help him (eventually) get back into shape. Hugh has also written for T3, Wired, Total Film, Little White Lies and China Daily.

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