There's no denying that "wearables" represent the next great frontier in technology (just ask the genius silicon valley types smugly answering texts with their Google-covered eyeballs). The real challenge occupying today's early-market leaders is creating reasons for us to wear them. Bringing the dream of "the quantified self" to reality is one approach taken by many front runners like Nike, Fitbit and Jawbone. Others, like Samsung, Qualcomm and Pebble, have pushed their chips towards seeking information from the wrist (or in Google's case, the glasses) rather than the pocket. Chances are both groups are on to something, but the pot won't be split in the end.
Fitbit's newly announced Force is one of the most advanced activity trackers released to date, greatly improving on the company's earlier Flex product in particular. But its ultimate appeal and success with consumers may rely just as much on the Smart-Watch-like features that have come along for the ride.
The new device's highlights include an altimeter in addition to the more standard accelerometer for tracking stairs climbed along with typical metrics like steps taken, distance traveled and minutes spent exercising. Activity data can now be wirelessly synced through Bluetooth 4.0 with select Apple and Android smartphones and even your computer via an included dongle. There's support for NFC too, allowing users to open the Fitbit app on compatible devices with just a quick, how-do-you-do tap.
One of Fitbit's best selling points has always been the ability to track sleep patterns in addition to active metrics, and the Force retains this strength with excellent nighttime monitoring. A new silent alarm that gently rouses wearers without disturbing others is a welcome addition for transitioning between night and day.
Unlike the somewhat cryptic LED strip found on the Flex, the Force's small OLED display inside its rubberized frame relays basic stats along with the time. Fitbit says a firmware update will add the ability to check recent call info, too. Combined with Fitbit's robust but still user-friendly software and a battery life rated for 7 to 10 days of use, the Force's unique feature set make it the first of its kind to understand what a user needs and wants both day and night. It's this kind of thinking that separates the interesting from the indispensable and makes the strongest argument to date for owning yet another personal gadget.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers