Over the past few years, wearable tech has well and truly entered the mainstream market. First it was with health and fitness gadgets, like Fitbit and Jawbone, then the Pebble and the Apple Watch forced us all to take the idea of wearing teeny tiny computers on our writs way more seriously.
But today we want to celebrate the brands that aren’t quite on our mainstream radars just yet and are only in the initial funding or prototype phase. Because although we love our Jawbone bands and our Misfit accessories (and designs that actually consider women), we’re passionate about championing smaller offerings that could soon be as special as a piece of well-loved jewellery or as useful as our smartphones.
6) Blocks – build your own smartwatch
At first glance, Blocks may look like a regular smartwatch, but actually it does what a lot of other mainstream wearables aren’t really doing all that well at the moment — it allows you to choose the tech, the looks and the features that are right for you, giving you freedom and flexibility.
Sure, options like the Apple Watch allow you to pick sizes and straps, but Blocks allows you to pick more battery or an added LED, heart rate tracking or a fingerprint sensor, essentially giving you the chance to build your very own smartwatch with functionality to suit your lifestyle.
There are two key components: the core, which has all of the features you’d expect from a smartwatch, like notifications, activity tracking and voice control. Then there’s the module, which adds extra dimensions to your smartwatch – whether that’s haptic control, LEDs, heart rate, fingerprint, GPS and so much more.
The Blocks promo video provides some real world examples of what this might mean, from allowing you to pack an extra battery module when you’re out all day, to turning your Blocks watch into the ultimate fitness, health and stress tracking device. Using it for security and payments or adding in a gesture module to better control your connected home from your wrist.
Looks-wise, you’ve got a few different choices too, but we love the plain and simple style the most. It’s subtle, its circular face looks just like all of our favourite watches and it’s totally wearable. Admittedly, the face looks a little big, but nowhere near as huge as some other smartwatches on the market, like the original Moto 360.
Blocks is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter (it’ll run you about £200, depending on what you want) and has already smashed its goal. People like choice? Who knew.
5) Zing by Mvbii – the DIY wearable for younger folks
Launched at the end of September, Zing by the unpronounceable Mvbii is a wearable that looks a little like Blocks for the younger generation. With bright, quirky straps, pendants, gesture games, messaging apps, selfie features and weird kissing messages, the Zing is most definitely created with teens in mind.
The Zing can be worn on a strap, which you can switch out for different colours and styles, hooked onto a special pendant or kept in a carry case. It’s got some of the key features of most other wearables on the market, like activity tracking and notifications, but also has some additional features built-in, like gesture-controlled games and selfie controls, unique clip-based messaging (a dumbed-down Snapchat), a music player and a diary to share your meetups with your mates.
You can pre-order a Zing from Amazon now for £68.60 — although stocks have been running low since launch.
4) Shammane – a slim and beautiful smartwatch
When we first saw the Shammane, our little techie hearts jumped for joy: another smartwatch that actually looks good! That we’ll actually wear! With a similar form factor to the Pebble Time, a super slim, circular face and good-looking strap, the Shammane has been specially created to fit all of the important tech into something that looks like jewellery — or more accurately like the traditional watches we all know and love.
Unlike Blocks and other smart devices on the market at the moment, the Shammane isn’t built to be an all-singing, all-dancing wearable that’ll make your smartphone redundant. It’s designed more to alert you about the stuff that actually matters so you can get on with your day without checking your phone or laptop every few minutes. So it’s got calendar reminders, call alerts, messages, Facebook push notifications, a pedometer and three days’ battery life.
This is ideal for those who want to switch off more — not so great for those who want the convenience and high-tech specs of the Apple Watch or Moto 360.
The Shammane has customisable straps, so you can tailor yours to a particular outfit, occasion or activity. And did we mention the rose gold casing? There are three options: rose gold and dark blue leather, rose gold and nude leather and rose gold and metallic leather. Yep, it’s a rose gold lover’s dream.
The Shammane team is currently seeking funding on Indiegogo and is getting close to its goal, so head on over to the page to pledge (it’ll cost you about £200.)
3) The Dipper Audio Necklace by Tinsel – a statement necklace with built-in headphones
If The Dipper Audio Necklace looks familiar, it’s because we recently wrote about this simple yet ingenious wearable, but it fits perfectly into this feature.
The Dipper is a brilliant way to fight off the elusive headphone tangle goblin that’s lurking in the bottom of all our bags. The idea is that headphones are annoying: they get tangled on stuff, caught on stuff, sometimes broken on stuff and sometimes just lost in amongst stuff. So The Dipper is a clever piece of jewellery tech with headphones integrated into it — no more lost/damaged/screwed up headphones ever again.
The main part of the necklace holds the earbuds, and it’s made of a lightweight aluminium alloy — so won’t make your neck feel too weighed down like some statement jewellery does. It’s plated with 24K gold or gunmetal and silver, which means if you’re into this kind of jewellery it’s bound to go with most of your outfits. The earbuds themselves have been specially crafted to better fit a woman’s ears and there’s an integrated microphone and remote to make taking calls really easy.
The only drawback with the Dipper is whether we’d want to wear it every day. It’s a great-looking piece of statement jewellery but sometimes we want to wear other necklaces!
The Dipper is currently looking for funding on Indiegogo and it’s already hit its goal. It’ll cost you about £100 at the moment.
2) Antelope Sportswear – connected fitness clothing
The wearable market is currently full of products created to make you healthier, fitter and more active. But at the moment they all look quite similar, with a plastic-y band on your wrist and a small screen. Antelope sportswear aims to change all of that with its connected fitness clothing.
Using state of the art muscle stimulating tech that first originated in a medical and rehabilitation setting, wearing Antelope products mean your body gets nearly three times the workout that you’d get without it. Naturally stimulating muscle contraction and effectively making your exercise time more efficient — meaning you do less for more reward, which sounds good to us.
Built for everyone from athletes through to couch potatoes, the Antelope Sportswear line admittedly isn’t as stylish as the likes of Lululemon or Black Milk when it comes to workout gear. But we’re pretty sure you can ignore the fact it’s a bit OTT for the tech it’s packing. Plus, you’ll totally feel like one of the X-Men in that get up. Antelope Woman! Is that a thing? It is now.
Antelope Sportswear has been looking for funding on Indiegogo and is already 630% funded. Yep. 6. 3. 0. That doesn’t mean you should ignore pledging if you’re interested though, for $299 (about £200) you can get a package called the “Woman’s Dream” (hmm), which comes with “pelvic floor pants,” a booster, charger and, um, personal training by webinar.
1) Eyecatcher – the always-on bracelet
The Eyecatcher. Now let me be honest here. The name of this wearable is a little ironic for me, because I don’t think it’s particularly eye-catching. In fact, its e-ink display just screams Kindle on your wrist KINDLE ON YOUR WRIST in my head. But, I asked a few people what they thought and they loved it, and it’s already raised a tonne of funding on Kickstarter, so hey, what do I know.
The Eyecatcher is an always-on wearable that looks like a chunky bracelet. Unlike other wearables in our list, it’s not about constant notifications, tracking and connected-home gesture controls. It’s more about displaying art, patterns and photos on your wrist to match your outfit and your personality.
Although you can have some messages sent to the Eyecatcher, you need to specify which will appear — and you won’t be able to interact with them from the device itself, as it’s not a touchscreen.
Its rechargeable battery should last a whole year between charges, which is pretty decent given Eyecatcher’s always-on USP and slideshow functionality that constantly switches between different patterns.
Eyecatcher is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter and again, they’ve smashed their goal. If you want one, get in quick as the reward tiers are filling up fast.
Main Image via Indiegogo