This is going to be a big week for wearables. Sound familiar? You’ve definitely heard that one before. It’s exactly what we were saying this time last year, as we were ramping up for CES 2014.
But what became of all those promises? As we prime our immune systems for the convention onslaught, let’s take a quick look back at what was unveiled at last year’s event and, more importantly, who delivered and who didn’t.
While practically all of the major manufacturers at CES last year bumbled around one another to demonstrate just how committed they were to the emerging wearable space, the little hardware startup that practically defined smart watches for so many early adopters simply waltzed right in and defined the conversation. What’s more, it did so without any profound changes to its existing device. The Steel wasn’t a revolution, it was just much nicer looking.
The smartwatch delivered when it was released later that same month. While practically every review led with a mention of the fact that the device didn’t actually offer any new functionality, the wearable still managed to score high marks in just about every review, earning a place as one of the most celebrated wearables of the year, yet another remarkable feat for such a fresh-faced company. Then the expected happened: The Apple Watch was finally made official in September.
Pebble spent the rest of the year refining the watch’s firmware and celebrating a growing number of available apps. Toward the end last month, the company also embraced Google’s wearable push by bringing Android Wear notifications to its ecosystem. But for all of its accomplishments, Pebble hasn’t yet been able to strap its watches to the wrists of mainstream consumers — a goal that becomes all the more distant as companies like Google and Apple enter the fray. Once again, Pebble needs to make another big show at this year’s CES if it’s going to be heard about the noise.
Garmin continued to leverage its GPS prowess with fitness devices last year, offering up its first band in the form of the Vivo. When reviewers finally got the Vivo on their wrists, it scored pretty decent reviews, owing to accurate and comprehensive stat tracking, plus some bonuses like remote music control aimed at fitness buffs. Since then, however, the reigning king of the fitness band, Fitbit, has given the company a run for its money with the Charge, and even Microsoft has thrown its massive weight into the fitness band arena.
Sony opted to focus its CES wearable conversation inward with the Core, a tiny chip it said was destined to serve as the “heart” of its wearable play, signaling a fresh start for a company that had already been dabbling in wearables for some time. The announcement led to plenty of goofy “hands-on” photos with a small, nondescript internal component and little else, as the company wasn’t exactly forthcoming with details. Sony focused on its comprehensive Lifelog app to differentiate itself.
The SmartBand SWR10 arrived several months later to little commercial fanfare, and critics seemed to deem it an imperfect step in the right direction for a company rethinking the way it does fitness tracking. Perhaps CES 2015 is the year the company really delivers on its Core promises.
LG Lifeband Touch
The first crack at a fitness band from this established consumer-electronics giant failed to make a huge splash beside the countless wearables that debuted alongside it last year. When it arrived months later, the results were fittingly lackluster.
People seemed to want to pat LG on the back for giving the whole fitness-band thing a shot, but a poor display and uncomfortable design no doubt sent the company back to the drawing board. Hopefully this year’s model will make the company more competitive, now that it knows precisely what not to do.
Epson Moverio BT-200
A surprise entry from a company more closely associated with printers and projectors, Epson’s Moverio BT-200 took an unexpected swipe at Google Glass. At $700, the augmented-reality glasses are, if nothing else, considerably cheaper than what Google has offered up. And when reviewers finally got their hands on units in August, the consensus was that they were pretty OK — for a first-generation product with no perceivable consumer application. If you haven’t heard of the things since those heady days of CES 2014, it’s for a good reason — these Epson goggles aren’t really for you.
Another wholly surprising entry from an outlying manufacturer, gaming peripheral manufacturer Razer took a brisk power walk into the world of fitness bands with the Nabu. The product was much more notable for who made it, than what it actually brought to the table. However, the real reason you didn’t hear much about the product all year was due to the fact that company didn’t actually release the product until early last month. A visit to Razer’s home page, where you still can’t buy on, will confirm that even the company wasn’t putting too much stock in its new fitness wearable.