The next generation of smartwatches and wearables are here
IFA, the European equivalent of CES, is the annual showcase for the latest tech announcements just as we're heading into the ultracompetitive fourth-quarter buying season. And it's no surprise that new wearable tech was at the forefront of this week's news, with new products on display from the likes of Sony, Samsung, LG, and Asus -- all of which are trying to get a jump on Apple's rumored iWatch, which could be announced at the company's September 9 press conference.
Sony SmartWatch 3
With its waterproof body, interchangeable straps, and Android Wear operating system, the SmartWatch 3 is a big step forward from its uninspiring predecessor. Its design and specs put it roughly in line with the existing lineup of Android Wear watches we've already seen from the likes of LG and Samsung -- particularly as their interfaces are identical.
Although I'm not exactly convinced that anyone needs to be able to shout into their wristband to make a phone call, the Smartband Talk still has a few neat features to be excited about. The e-ink screen shows fitness activity (which its screenless predecessor wasn't able to do), while its waterproof design means you can happily shower with it on. It's not dirt-cheap, but it may be worth a look if you're after a fitness gadget that doesn't require you to sync it to a phone to find out how much exercise you've done.
The ZenWatch feels like a capable smartwatch that doesn't lag behind in any significant way, but doesn't particularly push the category forward either. But Asus's first stab at a smartwatch -- which is slated to hit later this fall -- is expected to cost less than the Android Wear competition.
LG's G Watch R aims for a higher, more sophisticated level of style that its predecessor didn't quite achieve -- especially when you consider that it's going more upscale, with leather and steel construction. It also has a 1.3-inch (33mm) plastic OLED display with a 320x320-pixel resolution. The device is powered by a 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor and a 410mAh battery. Indeed, this stylish Android Wear watch could take some of the wind out of the Moto 360's sails.
A 3G-connected smartwatch might be a bridge too far for a lot of people, unless Samsung shows how this device can be affordably linked into the average person's phone plan. Still, the Gear S shows that Samsung isn't giving up -- on design tweaking, software, or Tizen.
Samsung also announced the Gear VR headset this week that uses the company's new Galaxy Note 4 as its main display. It looks a little like an Oculus Rift, and a "powered by Oculus" logo appears on the side. But it reminded me most of Google's Cardboard VR headset: open the front, slide the phone in, snap it shut, and you have a VR experience you strap to your head.
Of course, smartwatches that don't debut in Berlin are still relevant. The Meta M1 is notable for not being an Android Wear watch -- which makes it compatible with both Android phones and iPhones. It's available soon for $250.
Image created by Sarah Tew and Christopher MacManus/CNET
Will we see an 'iWatch' next week?
That's the big question hanging over all of these new smartwatches and wearables, both at IFA and elsewhere. The rumor is that Apple may show something off alongside the presumed iPhone 6 at its September 9 event -- but that the alleged wearable wouldn't be available for sale for months. We'll know for sure in a matter of days.
That rounds up the most interesting wearable announcements we've seen at IFA -- and beyond -- so far this week. But you can check out dozens more new phones, tablets, PCs, audio equipment, TVs, and smart home gadgets by reading CNET's complete IFA coverage.