There are many reasons to look forward to CES each year: the audio products, the smart home gadgets, the ridiculous concepts that may or many not ever see the light of day. Wearables also play a big role at the trade show, and this all-virtual CES was no different.
From smartwatches to clip-on speakers for your sunglasses, here are our picks for the best new wearables from CES 2021.
Fossil Gen 5 LTE
Up until the TicWatch Pro 3 made its debut, the Fossil Gen 5 was the best Wear OS smartwatch you could get. Still, we had a few gripes with the watch, one of which was the lack of an LTE-capable variant. It took until CES 2021 for Fossil to finally launch its first-ever cellular-connected smartwatch.
The Fossil Gen 5 LTE takes what we loved about the original Gen 5 and simply adds an LTE connection. That means you can leave your smartphone at home and continue to send and receive calls and texts. It’s a niche feature to be sure — especially considering the cost of the extra monthly data plan — but there are plenty of people out there who only need one connected device on their person at a time.
Elsewhere, the Gen 5 LTE is the same device we reviewed in 2019. It has solid specs (but no Snapdragon Wear 4100 chip), decent battery life, and a killer design. Unlike Fossil’s new Gen 5E models though, the Gen 5 LTE only comes in one 45mm case size.
Available for pre-order now, you can pick up your Fossil Gen 5 LTE from Fossil and Verizon this Spring for $350.
Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR
If you’ve ever used a modern smartwatch from Apple, Samsung, or even Fossil, you’d know that battery life leaves much to be desired. Why not swap that bright AMOLED display for something a little less power-hungry? That’s exactly what Fossil did with last year’s Fossil Hybrid HR, and now the company is bringing the same tech to the Skagen line.
The Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR is Fossil Group’s latest entry to the hybrid smartwatch space. It has a full e-ink display as well as physical watch hands, which quickly get out of the way of your screen with a flick of the wrist. The display’s complications can be customized to your liking; I have mine set to show me the weather, the date, my caloric burn for the day, and my watch battery. Speaking of battery life, it’ll supposedly last around two weeks on a single charge.
The on-device software is the same as you’d find on the older Fossil models, but the hardware is improved. My review unit feels more well-built and the buttons are clickier.
The Skagen Jorn Hybrid HR goes on sale this month for $195.
Also read: The best hybrid smartwatches you can buy
Michael Kors Gen 5E: Darci and MKGO
Fossil Group clearly had a busy CES. Next up, the Michael Kors brand dropped new Gen 5E watches in classic Darci and MKGO variants.
Both watches are adorned with swanky, sparkling bezels around the displays. The Michael Kors Gen 5E Darci model is clearly the classier model with its stainless steel case and seven-link bracelet, while the Michael Kors Gen 5E MKGO is a bit more sporty with its aluminum case and silicone strap.
What’s the ‘E’ stand for? Essential. You can expect a slightly pared-down spec sheet for both watches, but there are no omissions that cause concerns. Instead of onboard GPS, you get connected GPS. Both will still be able to track basic activity stats, as well as your cardio fitness level. Both also have other Gen 5 goodies like a built-in speaker for receiving Bluetooth calls, custom battery modes, and NFC for Google Pay.
You can pick up both watches this Spring. The Gen 5E Darci will come in three colorways and cost $350, while the MKGO will come in four colors and cost $250.
Huami Amazfit GTS 2e and GTR 2e
Okay, so the Amazfit GTS 2e and GTR 2e aren’t making their debut at CES 2021. They actually launched last December in China. But at the virtual trade show, Huami announced that it’s launching its new smartwatches in North America.
The versions coming to North America are likely very similar to the models that launched in China, only without the XiaoAI voice assistant. However, they will still launch with the handy offline voice assistant, which allows you to open apps, start workouts, and more without the need to say a hotword first.
We reviewed their counterparts, the Amazfit GTS 2 and GTR 2, in November. Overall, we liked the budget-friendly smartwatches but noted that they could benefit from an improved app and fitness tracking experience. The GTS 2e and GTR 2e offer nearly the same experience, only they ditch Wi-Fi support, the standalone music player, and the built-in speaker.
Honor Band 6
Fitness bands are useful, but their small screens prompt some users to trade them in for bigger wearables with bigger displays. What if you could get the best of both worlds? That’s what Huawei said when it launched the Huawei Watch Fit last year, and at CES 2021, Honor is taking after its former parent company with the Honor Band 6.
This fitness tracker boasts a big 1.47-inch AMOLED display, which will give you plenty of room for reading notifications. That larger case size also leaves plenty of room for other health- and fitness-tracking tech, such as a heart rate sensor, 5ATM water resistance, and up to two-week-long battery life.
The Honor Band 6 also tracks all the basics, including your steps, sleep, stress levels, and even menstrual cycles. It also supports 10 workout modes and automatic detection for six of them.
The Honor Band 6 will launch “soon” for around $35. We think the price alone makes this one of the best new wearables from the trade show.
Quantum Operations Inc.’s wearable glucose monitor
It’s not the sexiest product from CES 2021, but this next one is too important not to feature on our list. Tokyo-based startup Quantum Operations has developed a working prototype of a non-invasive wearable glucose monitor that doesn’t require a needle to be inserted in to the skin.
“Non-invasive” is the key here. Currently, diabetics check their blood glucose levels either manually with finger pricks throughout the day or with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). While CGMs might be less painful than daily finger-pokes, they can be less accurate for on-demand readings due to lag. However, both finger pokes and CGMs still require some sort of needle going into the skin.
Quantum Operations’ wearable uses proprietary spectroscopy technology to read blood glucose levels from sensors built into the watch band. Users simply need to put on the wearable, wait a few seconds, and their blood glucose levels will be displayed.
The caveat is that this wearable glucose monitor isn’t a fully formed product yet. Quantum Operations is still working on the concept and hopes to eventually sell the hardware to healthcare providers. Also, we’re not physically at CES this year, so we’re unable to see just how accurate this wearable is in person.
But if all goes well, this will be absolutely huge for the diabetic community.
“If you can think it, you can do it.” This is probably what the team who created the Mudra Band should adopt as their next slogan.
The Mudra Band is an Apple Watch band that allows you to control your smartwatch with the hand that’s wearing it. The Bluetooth-connected strap uses proprietary sensors to read biopotential activity from the surface of your wrist and transmits it to your watch to perform certain functions. In the company’s words, it “listens to the brain — nervous system — wrist conversation and translates it into a language we can understand.” You can read more here about how it works.
Put even more simply, you can program your Mudra Band to perform certain functions when you execute a certain gesture. For instance, you can snooze an alarm with the tap of your index finger and thumb or flip your wrist to decline a phone call. Outside of typical use cases, the company behind the strap, Wearable Devices, has been working on accessibility use cases to help ALS patients and injured IDF veterans to carry out actions we typically take for granted, such as typing on a virtual keyboard or playing the piano (via Engadget).
The Mudra Band is in its final stages of production and is slated to ship March 2021. You can pre-order one now for $179.
That’s it for the best new wearables from CES 2021. Want to learn more about our favorites from the trade show? See below.