The wearable technology revolution has been looming on the horizon for years now. Back before smartphones exploded onto the scene, everyone thought wearable tech would have to be self-contained computing devices. However, it’s now becoming clear that smartphones are here to stay, and wearable tech such as smart watches and fitness bands will act primarily as “appendages” to the smartphone “mother ship.”
Yes, it’s awesome, but don’t hold your breath.
Smart watches such as the Pebble E-Paper Smart Watch and Samsung Galaxy Gear are catching on with consumers, but personally I’m not quite ready for one. Fitness bands, on the other hand, have caught my eye. I like the idea of being able to track how active I am each day. The fitness band industry is booming at the moment, and consequently there are a number of fitness bands to choose from with a wide variety of forms and functions. The trick is to find the best fitness band for your lifestyle.
Since I’m shopping for a fitness band myself, I’ve narrowed it down to what I would consider my three best options. You’ll usually find me wearing a watch, so I would prefer that the fitness band be able to tell time. My other criteria is comfort, since fitness bands are intended to be worn all day. With that said, let the games begin!
1. Fitbit Flex
The Fitbit Flex is the best selling fitness band around, and at least partly responsible for the flood of fitness bands hitting the market right now. The Flex does not tell time, which is a strike against it in my book. However, it has a very small form factor, which allows it to be worn comfortably for long periods of time. It is also water resistant, although not waterproof, so it is safe for showering but not swimming. The Flex tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, and it also monitors your sleep and acts as a vibrating alarm when you want to wake up. It can sync with your smartphone wirelessly The LED lights begin to light up one-by-one as you get closer to your daily goals. The Flex syncs wirelessly with your smartphone and integrates with the Fitbit app software so you can easily visualize your data and keep track of your goals and progress. There also seems to be a “Premium” software service available if you decide you want to take your Fitbit to the next level.
One of the most unique aspects of the Fitbit Flex is that the electronic recording device inside the band is removable. So if you decide you want a different color or the band breaks, you can easily replace it. It’s too bad that Fitbit didn’t carry this design over to the newer Fitbit Force, which is currently experiencing a deluge of user complaints about skin irritation and rashes (which is why I’m not considering it at this time).
2. Jawbone UP 24
The UP 24 is the second generation of Jawbone’s entry into the fitness band market. It has many similar features to the Fitbit Flex, including sleep tracking, step and calorie counting, and the UP software integration that syncs wirelessly. The UP 24 is considered to be the most stylish fitness band around, trading function for a sleek form that is completely waterproof but lacking any external display.
3. Basis Health Tracker
The Basis Health Tracker is more expensive than the previous two entries, and for good reason: it does a LOT more. In addition to all the previously mentioned functions, the Health Tracker constantly monitors your heart rate, whether you’re exercising or sleeping. This allows for a much more complete data set on your workouts, especially for stationary exercises such as ellipticals, weight lifting, yoga, etc. The Health Tracker is water resistant, as opposed to waterproof, similar to the Fitbit Flex. Furthermore, it can tell the time and a variety of other information on the display.
The Basis Health Tracker seems to vary a bit in its target demographic. Unlike simpler fitness bands, which are designed to motivate in a fun and streamlined way, I get the impression that the Health Tracker is intended for more serious athletes. If you have no problem getting your workouts and and you’re looking to maximize your performance, you’ll probably be happier with the mountain of data that he Health Tracker can provide.
For my purposes, I was initially looking at the Fitbit Force because it’s the right price point and it can tell time. Given the skin irritation debacle, though, I will probably go with the Fitbit Flex instead. I could see my wife wearing the Flex, and since we workout together often, there are benefits to being on the same boat. I don’t think I have the fashion sense to correctly pull off the UP 24, and I don’t want to jump to the Basis Health Tracker until I know that fitness bands are something I want to use regularly. Whatever I end up getting, I plan on doing an in-depth review later on.
Fitness bands are a hot new commercial sector, so there are a lot of products (of highly variable quality) for sale now and hitting the market soon. Which leads me to my last topic…