Cogito Fit takes on geeky smartwatch competitors with style, simplicity and savings

Think wearables and the smartwatch inevitably springs to mind. With us firmly in the age of the Apple Watch, entrenched stalwarts like the Moto 360 and the Pebble are fighting to stay within the public eye through innovative offerings and novel form factors. All this going on doesn’t mean new ideas can’t spring up, though.

The Cogito Fit attempts to tack on a bit more functionality to a basic smartwatch without resorting to daily charging . Billing itself as the first fashion-forward connected watch on the market, the device not only looks good but also addresses a few limitations of high-end devices. Cogito offers a face with LED icons for basic notifications, straps in a few colors, and a bezel that can be swapped depending on preference.

Feature wise, the Cogito Fit functions like most other smartwatches in its notification capabilities, and when its done alerting someone to what e-mails, SMS, calls, and social media updates they have, a light activity tracker also tracks steps.


ReVault uses wireless storage to back up your smartphone, keep stuff close at hand

Day in and day out, the smartphone does a lot for the smartwatch, but what does the smartwach do to help the smartphone? As it turns out, one thing it can do is help back it up.

What sets the ReVault smartwatch apart from its rivals is its ability to back up devices wirelessly. The device enables users to securely access and sync their files across all devices without an Internet connection. It connects to other devices using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Users can set up ReVault to auto-backup and auto-synchronize files across their devices. A 32-GB version will cost $269, while a 128-GB model will cost $404 when ReVault ships in January.

Smartwatches/Bands Wearables

Swimmo smartwatch tracks pool performance, encourages strokes of genius

Perhaps the advent of the Apple Watch isn’t the be-all and end-all of smartwatches after all. At least until its app library fills out, there’s still room for specialized wristwear to make a splash.

patent-claimedEnter Swimmo, a smartwatch focused solely on the swimmer looking to increase strength and improve form. The OLED-equipped wearable is designed to be fully waterproof so as to work perfectly while tracking the length and intensity of each session. To do so, it captures everything from speed, distance, lap times, and heart rate, vibrating to alert users when to speed up or slow down in order to maintain a beneficial level of intensity to achieve set goals — all without having to interrupt the swim to take a look. The multilingual device uses  a patent-pending Rotate&Tap maneuver to keep things as streamlined as its users wish to be.


Reserve Strap charges Apple Watch while you wear it

The Apple Watch isn’t even out yet, but many people are already viewing the device’s 18 hour battery life as a point of concern.

Coming to the rescue is the Reserve Strap, a charging band for Apple’s new smartwatch that charges the device while its user is wearing it. Photos at the strap’s website, where pre-orders are being taken, show a design that features a silicon band with embedded lithium polymer cells and an inductive charging cradle located between the user’s wrist and the Apple Watch itself. The strap is similar in concept to the smartstraps recently announced by Pebble for its new line of smartwatches, including the Pebble Time.

Through prototyping, the Reserve Strap’s maker has refined the product’s design and has come up with a few other ways to charge the watch that remain undisclosed for the time being. Interested buyers should note that there is no ship date yet for the band. Nor is there a final price, for that matter, but the site lays out an estimated selling price of $249.99.

The Reserve Strap, featured in a Backerjack podcast, seems to solve an issue many Apple Watch users will likely face. As a result, this product has all the makings of a slam dunk — so long as the Apple Watch catches on, that is.


Comfortably watch video on your wrist with the Blu smartwatch/smartphone hybrid

Most smartwatches on the market look fairly similar, with screens typically too small to be used for viewing items like video or mapping directions.

patent-claimedThe makers of Blu have created a bendable and wearable smartphone/smartwatch that’s worn like a bangle around the wrist. The device features a flexible 5-inch by 2-inch HD OLED display capable of covering a user’s full wrist. With such a design, the device is able to incorporate an overlapping clasp that allows the Blu to fit users with wrist circumferences ranging from 5.5 inches to 8.5 inches.

The waterproof Blu also features an invisible 360-degree speaker system which emits sound from all around the wrist. Another notable feature of the device’s futuristic design is a light bar which can be incorporated into application functions for games, social media apps, and even standard mobile phone notifications. Adding a dash of customization, the light bar’s colors can be user-adjusted. Blu will cost $799 when it ships in May and its maker is hoping to raise $600,000 AUD (~$468,700 USD).

Blu has several unique features that separate it from the growing smartphone pack and its distinctive look will likely appeal to many consumers. That said, its industrial design may prove to be off-putting to many, especially those who don’t want something so large around their wrists.


After devouring folding keyboards, FlyShark takes on the smartwatch

A common knock against most smartwatches is that their most significant functions, such as making phone calls, can only be used when a paired smartphone is nearby.

Following their successful campaign for a sleek folding keyboard accessory for smartphones, the makers of the FlyShark Smartwatch have set out to remove this codependence from smartwatches. Specifically, the FlyShark Smartwatch can make private calls and send and receive messages all without requiring users to touch their smartphones. Generally, the FlyShark Smartwatch can function independently so long as there is a Micro SIM card installed.

Like other smartwatches, it also functions as an exercise tracker and heart rate monitor. Unlike the soon to be released Apple Watch, FlyCatch also features a built-in camera. Other features include dual Bluetooth 3.0 and 4.0 support. The campaign, which seeks $10,000, will remain open until April 1, 2014.

FlyShark has some nice features, but the jury’s out on just how much appeal there is for a smartwatch whose main selling point is its independence from the smartphone. Many consumers on the market for a smartwatch, after all, likely already own a smartphone. It’s therefore a little hard to see how FlyShark can compete against popular brands like Samsung, LG, and Apple.



Pebble Time arrives in time to go head-to-head with Apple Watch

The first Pebble smartwatch was so popular when it launched via Kickstarter in 2013 that its maker couldn’t supply enough to satisfy demand as it set a record fundraising. But, since then, Apple has created more buzz in the smartwatch category than any smartwatch to date. Pebble fans have likely been wondering what the company would do to remain relevant.

The new Pebble Time, being launched via another Kickstarter campaign, offers various enhancements over the two prior Pebble smartwatches, including certain unique features that not even the Apple Watch can claim. An example is the smart accessory port to be added later in 2015 that will provide a way for other companies to add additional sensors to Pebble Time. Pebble Technology has also boosted battery life to seven days and shifted from a black and white to a color e-paper display.

Also new are a microphone, a 20 percent slimmer design and a new timeline interface that highlights what’s important in the user’s day. The timeline organizes all kinds of relevant information, including appointments. And Pebble is asserting its independence from the smartphone platform makers via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that can push information from the Internet directly to the timeline without any apps required. Another feature coming later this year is voice to text, which adds voice recognition to the user’s apps. Pebble Time is fully compatible with the more than 6,500 existing Pebble apps for iOS and Android. The company is also fielding the new model in three colors: black, red and white. And unlike the original that was months away at the time of its campaign, Pebble Time is shipping in May at $199. The company has set a goal of raising $500,000 by March 27.

While it’s starting to be a very crowded space. Pebble Time has potential thanks to its wide set of features, and brand recognition. It remains to be seen if the Time has what it takes to slow the Apple Watch juggernaut, although as noted on the special edition of the Backerjack podcast devoted to it, the new Pebble model has a clear price advantage over the $349 and up Apple device..



Spark smartwatch provides spark you need to stay awake

Most people have been in a situation where staying awake is required, but can’t be done because of how tired they are. Alarm clocks and watches with alarms are all well and good, but people don’t always know that they will be falling asleep and will need to be awakened.

The Spark smartwatch addresses that issue. The watch tracks the wearer’s movement velocity and frequency, which claims to detect how alert the person is using an algorithm developed by its maker. If the device detects that the user has fallen asleep, it will gently vibrate to wake the person back up.

Spark holds some promise, especially for college students pulling all-nighters, but it’s not clear if its one main application will be enough of a reason for many consumers to find it a compelling proposition. Some consumers may not find the watch’s plain design appealing enough to wear it on their wrists. It lacks the style of a smartwatch like Moment. Health fans, meanwhile, will likely prefer to reserve the real estate on their wrists for smartwatches or bracelets offering fitness tracking features.

Spark will ship in May of this year to those who back $99. The campaign has a goal of raising $8,000 by March 12.


Kairos Watches balance mechanical, smartwatch capabilities with style

Up until now, watches have either been mechanical or, more recently, they’ve abandoned their mechanical construction to become more intelligent. Bluetooth capabilities have allowed smartwatches to communicate with the devices in people’s lives, relaying information about everything from exercise results to e-mail notifications. The smartwatch problem is a thorny one, though, and as much as people want their watches to be high-tech, watches aren’t smartphones that last for a few years. People expect quality that will last for a lifetime.

Kairos Watches is attempting to bridge the chronography gap by offering a hybrid mechanical smartwatch that gives users the best of both worlds. The watch’s two versions, the MSW 115 and the SSW 158, offer Japanese and Swiss construction and movement, respectively. Both of these models are outfitted with a touch-sensitive, full-color, transparent OLED display, or TOLED, that lets users check time normally while still being able to receive and act on notifications, text messages, or e-mails. Bluetooth LE connects the watch to an iOS, Android, or Windows Phone, and an embedded GPS in tandem with a three axis accelerometer helps in tracking fitness progress, amongst other applications.

Since the watch is a hybrid, it doesn’t come as a surprise that it needs to be charged every week or so. It also comes with other caveats, like components that become rapidly outdated. To address the issue, Kairos Watches offers an upgrade program that has owners pay $99 to ship their unit back to be updated with current parts.

The company presents a solid solution to problems unique to smartwatches and, along with quality construction options like stainless steel and gold, may prove enough to sway serious watch owners over in the face of the impending Apple Watch. The many models are currently enjoying a 40%-50% off their respective MSRP in their pre-order phase, ranging from $549 to $1,249. The Kairos Watches will ship in spring 2015.

Smartwatches/Bands Technology Wearables

Colorful Miiya connects kids to physical activity

For a kids’ smartwatch to be appealing to its targeted customer base, it must accomplish a few things. On the one hand, it needs to feature all the usual technology that tracks a user’s activity, while at the same time making it fun to wear and use. The device also needs to be visually appealing enough for kids to want to wear it. Making it available in multiple colors helps.

Miiya, designed by a pair of Belgium-based brothers, has been created with those features in mind. It is being fielded in four colors: blue, orange, red and white, each featuring the same cute original Miiya character icon in a superhero cape. The smartwatch tracks the activity of its young users and they are given gold stars each day as rewards for physical activity.

A Miiya app for smartphones gives parents direct access to daily reports on their kids’ activities. The device uses Bluetooth LE to synchronize with the phones. It is already compatible with iOS (starting with the iPhone 4S) and will also be compatible with Android (expected in May) and then Windows Phone and Blackberry. The device’s “Dynamic Safety” feature enables parents to be warned if a child goes too far away from them and can indicate where the child has gone.

The Bluetooth signal range, however, is only about 200 feet. Interference can also be generated by a lot of objects, and that will reduce the signal range. The device is also waterproof and dust-resistant. Backers can buy a watch at the “super early bird” price of $75, a 40% discount off its normal price, for delivery in May. The device’s creators are looking to raise $50,000 on Indiegogo.

Miiya compares favorably to other kids’ smartwatches, including Jumpy. Miiya seems especially appealing at its $75 super early bird pricing, much less so at its regular price. Another barrier may very well be the Miiya name, which sounds uncomfortably similar to Mii, the name of the digital avatar in Nintendo’s videogame systems.