I probably don’t need to tell you what is happening this week or what’s already in full flow on some shopping sites. It’s Black Friday, which these days seems to get stretched out beyond that day after Thanksgiving where people go on the hunt for those doorbusters (yes, they’re called doorbusters).
It’s bargain hunting time and while there’ll be a lot of people trying to get hold of cut-price TVs, games consoles and electric toothbrushes before Christmas, there’s probably going to be a fair few of you eyeing up a cheap wearable as well. You can pretty much guarantee there’ll be Apple, Garmin and Fitbit Black Friday deals to look forward to.
I’ve already been fielding a lot of questions from friends and family about what they should buy and if you can actually get hold of something good. You most definitely can, but you should definitely arm yourself with the knowledge to quickly identify a good deal from a bad one. Whether it’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday or you’re actually looking to buy a wearable for the first time, I’ve come up with five tips that I think will really help you pick up a good wearable tech deal.
1. Does it work with my phone?
This might sound like an obvious one but I can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve had Wareable readers telling us their phones don’t work with a fitness tracker or a smartwatch. It really pays to make sure you’ll be able to pair a wearable to the smartphone you own and to know you’re able to download the companion app to do things like sync data and customise settings.
Always check your phone is supported and make sure you are able to run the latest version of the operating system needed to pair the two devices together. Most of the big names like Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, Samsung and smartwatches running Google’s Android Wear will be compatible with iPhones and Android phones. Some show Windows Phones a bit of love as well, but not all of them. The likes of Fitbit, Polar and Garmin also offer web-based apps as well to help soften the blow if you’re phone isn’t up to the task.
All of these companies list compatibility information on their sites, so if you know you want a Garmin wearable, it’s worth heading to their site beforehand and checking in on a few devices. Also, if it wasn’t already apparent, the Apple Watch will only work with iPhones.
Speaking of the Apple Watch, the company itself doesn’t really get involved in Black Friday so you’ll be relying on other retailers to serve you up an Apple smartwatch on the cheap. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to get hold of a discounted Apple Watch Series 3, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t pick up one of the older models and get one of the best smartwatch experiences out there.
The Watch Series 2 is still a great smartwatch and includes the same waterproofed design as the Series 3 so you can go swimming with it. It still includes built-in GPS as well and benefits from the latest update to Apple’s watchOS operating system including improved Workout and Music apps. You’ll have to live without the LTE support found in the Watch Series 3, which means you won’t be able to do things such as stream music and access Siri sans iPhone. Don’t entirely rule out the Apple Watch Series 1 either, which might lack the waterproof design and GPS skills of the Series 2 and 3, but is still a great smartwatch minus the frills.
3. Smartwatch vs hybrid smartwatch
This is a really important one if you’re buying a smartwatch for the first time. Do you want what we sometimes like to call a ‘full fat’ smartwatch like the Apple Watch or the Fitbit Ionic? Maybe you prefer something that looks like a normal watch but adds its smartwatch features discreetly. That’ll be your hybrid watch. Picking between the two will come down to what you value most in terms of features and the ones you hope to use on a day-to-day basis.
On the one hand you have the smartwatch, which usually comes packing a full touchscreen display and will let you do things like view notifications, download apps, store music and make payments from the wrist. Limitations usually lie with having to live with a slightly bulkier watch on your wrist and getting one or two days of battery life.
Hybrid watches tend to look a lot more like traditional watches and focus on including features like notifications and fitness tracking, with sub dials sometimes included inside of the main watch face to display some of that data. While you might not be able to read a text on it, a vibrating buzz will usually give you a nudge to let you know someone is trying to get in contact. One of the biggest benefits over a smartwatch is battery life, with the majority of hybrids going months and even years without needing to be powered up.
4. Beware of the budget fitness tracker brands
Yes, beware of the cheap wearables, specifically fitness trackers. Now I’m not saying that all are a bad, and many of those made by obscure, relatively unknown companies will do a pretty satisfactory job. But sometimes it’s better to spend a little more to reduce the chances of having big issues with your wearable. Take durability, for instance. Even the biggest brands have had issues with making a device that can withstand more than a bit of rough and tumble, but you are more likely to find that a tracker from the likes of Polar or Garmin has been through a more rigorous testing process.
There’s another factor to consider with these cheaper trackers and that’s data. While it might be fine at recording it while you’re on the move, how does the software (or app) handle that data? Does it also offer third-party app support so you can import data from other health and fitness apps. Does it have Apple Health and Google Fit integration? While these things might not be at the forefront of your mind when buying, it’s important to remember that the hardware is just one piece of the puzzle.
5. Waterproof or water resistant?
Another one we get asked about a lot is something that the wearable-makers themselves don’t always make abundantly clear. Can you jump in the shower or the pool with your wearable or is it just good enough for fending off sweat and washing the dishes? There are some things to look out for like the ATM certification rating, which is a big indication of the wearable’s ability to be plunged into the watery depths. We’ve done a nice breakdown of what you need to know about waterproofing and wearables and what the various ratings mean here if you are still bamboozled by those ratings.