Here's What We'll Be Buying This Season

We — along with the rest of the world — have spent much of the fall talking about iPhone this and iPhone that. Make no mistake about it: The iPhone 7 is pretty incredible, with a camera that rivals DSLR-quality shots and has the ability to withstand an accidental water spill.

But Apple hype aside, we've also been busy testing out other new tech products that are just as worthy of your consideration. Touchscreen smartwatches from Fossil and Michael Kors, Fitbit's latest addition to the fitness tracking world, a temperature-controlled mug, and a digital notepad that will take you back to the days of pen and paper all captured our attention this year.

Our testing was governed by a few simple criteria: Does it do what it claims to do? Does it have any additional benefits? And, ultimately, does it stand above its competitors?

Click through to see what we thought of eight 2016 devices, and check back for more reviews in the future.

This article was originally published on October 19, 2016.
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Photo: Courtesy Ember.
Ember Mug, $149.95.

If you're a morning coffee drinker, you know that one of the worst things is a lukewarm or cold cup of java. Enter the Ember mug. The thermos lets you set a temperature that you want to keep the liquid inside at, so you don't have to worry about it getting colder on your commute.

Pros: You can adjust the mug via a rotating ring around the bottom or through the connected app. The app also has useful preset temperatures that you can select, so if you're unsure what temperature is best for apple cider or a latte, you can choose the recommended setting. The mug does what it promises: My drinks stayed hot when I needed them to and, when I tried out the cold setting, they stayed chilled.

Cons: The mug will stay at your chosen temperature all day if you keep it on a plugged-in charging coaster. But if you're taking your drink to go, the temperature setting will only last for about two hours. This means that Ember is best used as a commuting and at-home or work mug than one for when you're running around to meetings all day.
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Photo: Courtesy Misfit.
Misfit Phase Hybrid Smartwatch, $175.

Misfit is known for its fitness trackers, including the popular Shine and Ray, which are sleek, understated, and simple. Today the brand just announced its first smartwatch, Phase, which looks like a classic watch but features vibration alerts for call and text notifications, alarms, and specified apps.

Pros: Like Misfit's other devices, Phase doesn't require charging — its battery lasts six months, and then you replace it. This is ideal for someone who doesn't want yet another gadget to plug in. The watch is also swim-proof, and you can control your music and snap selfies with a side button.

Cons: We haven't tested Phase out yet, but an in-person demo revealed one feature that seems like it could get annoying. You can set the watch so that different numbers on the watch face correspond to different people in your contacts. So, if you make your boyfriend the No. 1, anytime he calls or texts, the watch will vibrate and the watch hands will swing to that number before returning to the time. You have to immediately look down at the watch to know who it is — the hands move quickly — and also need to remember which person you designated for each number.
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Photo: Courtesy Apple.
Apple Watch Series 2, $369.

At the same time that it introduced the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple introduced the Watch Series 2, a second iteration of its original smartwatch. You can check out our full review here, and read highlights below.

Pros: Series 2 is waterproof and has GPS, meaning that it's much better for workouts. Swimmers will be happy to know they can wear it in the pool or ocean and still have the watch track distance, while runners can better chart their courses — and not have to lug a phone around. The new Breathe app is also a nice, meditation-focused addition. Upgraded chips inside mean that all of your apps load a full five to 10 seconds faster than they did on the original Apple Watch.

Cons: Can be a little buggy: I received activity alerts that seemed inaccurate, and the watch didn't always light up when I lifted my wrist to check the time or mile status during a run.
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Photo: Courtesy Wacom.
Wacom Bamboo Slate Tablet, $129.95.

Wacom's smart pad is much different than your average tablet. Put any pad of paper on top of the touch sensitive slate, and, when you use the pen included, the pad will register your writing, drawing, and mindless doodling through the accompanying Inkspace app.

Pros:
This is one tablet we'll actually use. It's less distracting to be in meetings and take notes with a real pen than it is to type away on a screen in front of you, with notifications popping up every other second. Plus, it's extremely easy to transfer your notes to a PDF or other editable format that you can email to yourself. And, of course, you can doodle and draw whenever you please.

Cons: When we first used the included ballpoint pen, a plastic piece on top broke off. The pen still worked fine, but we might go for a different option next time. One bummer: The coolest feature — one that converts your handwriting into typed text — will cost extra with a monthly subscription.
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Photo: Courtesy Fossil.
Fossil Q Wander Touchscreen Light Brown Leather Smartwatch, $295.

Fossil has been known for its fashion watches, but the brand recently released new smartwatches that are powered by Android Wear (the Android operating system used for watches). The watches are compatible with both iOS and Android phones, so you can still use one if you have an iPhone by downloading the Android Wear app.

Pros: The touchscreen watches are beautiful and, despite looking heavy, are surprisingly light. Unlike with the Apple Watch, the Q Wander watch face is always on, staying just dim enough that you can still see the time when you're not actively using it. In our experience, the calendar and text notifications were always timely and accurate. The biggest benefit over the Apple Watch might be its navigation: You can just swipe right for the full menu of apps versus having to deal with a cramped home screen of tiny circular app icons.

Cons: The watch works well, but doesn't necessarily distinguish itself from others that are out there. To spend $295 on it, you'd have to really love the design.
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Photo: Courtesy Caeden.
Caeden Sona Connected Bracelet, $179.

You've probably heard of Caeden because of its popular headphones. Now, the brand has released Sona, a wearable that you can use as a fitness tracker (it will record your distance, heart rate, and steps) but that is more distinctive for its meditation tools.

Pros: The guided breathing exercises accessed through its accompanying app were easy to follow and calming, even for a meditation newbie. And the wearable looks like it's just a gorgeous leather bracelet since there's no screen.

Cons: The band isn't the most comfortable to wear since the bottom of the device isn't completely flat (the battery underneath juts out slightly). Plus, if you already have another fitness tracker that you use, you could just listen to separate meditation exercises through an app instead of paying $179 for Sona.
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Photo: Courtesy Michael Kors.
Michael Kors Access Bradshaw Gold-Tone Smartwatch, $350.

Michael Kors' first foray into smartwatches also uses Android Wear, but distinguishes itself with unique Michael Kors-designed watch faces that keep with the brand's glitzier aesthetic.

Pros: The unique watch faces are realistic — the "rhinestones" on the one shown here look real rather than the fake, onscreen creations they are. Thanks to the reliable Android Wear platform, the watch is easy to operate, so you can switch from looking at email alerts to checking your step count with just a tap.

Cons: The watch is much heavier than your average smartwatch or fitness tracker. And since it does much more than a regular watch, the price rings it at about $100 more than most of the brand's signature styles, making it a real splurge. If you're in the market for a nice watch, it's worth it since it has the added tech capabilities. But, keep in mind that you'd still have to use a different tracker for workouts and sleep.
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Photo: Courtesy Fitbit.
Fitbit Charge 2, $149.95 to $179.95.

Fitbit's Charge 2 is the second, much improved version of the best-selling Charge HR. The tracker includes what the brand is already known for — fitness and sleep tracking — along with new components, including text, calendar, and call notifications; connected GPS; and meditation exercises.

Pros: The screen is much bigger than the first version, and the band is more versatile thanks to prettier colors and silver, gunmetal, or rose gold accents. There are now multisport modes, so you can track specific kinds of workouts. And, last but not least, the five-day battery life on this fitness tracker is a major improvement over many smartwatches that need to be charged every day or two.

Cons: The guided breathing exercises are an unnecessary addition. Having to watch the numbers on your wrist to time your breaths in and out correctly didn't always feel relaxing or effective.
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