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Wearables are a new tech trend that has caught our eye. Being physically fit is a reward in and of itself, however being able to quantify results from workouts and gym memberships with statistical data can add another dimension of reward and trackability to your fitness regime. We’ve had the chance to try out three different wearables and use them in our physical fitness activities, including running in them, working out in them, and just wearing them throughout the day.
We have formed an opinion of the ones we’ve used, however your experience may vary. As a disclaimer, I don’t wear a watch now, so just the having of a device on my arm is enough to cause distress. Thinking this might constitute a First World Problem, I resolved to handle the akwardness for a few weeks to gauge some of the more popular wearables on the market. This is a review of the Fitbit Flex, the Microsoft Band, and the Apple Watch.
The Fitbit Flex ended up being our favorite wearable so far. We really loved the low price ($89) and the extended functionality, including social integration. The wearable just worked. We used it for sleep tracking and for workout tracking and were very satisfied with the results. We were able to setup the app easily and integrate it with our Facebook account and start comparing stats with our friends. This wearable is the one we think everyone should get, smartphone or not. It works by itself and holds a charge for almost a week.
The Microsoft Band is a really promising device, although we’re looking for the Band 2 to be a much needed improvement. The Microsoft Band is a bit bulky and clunky on your wrist. The shape isn’t nearly as flexible as the Fitbit Flex, and we ended up pinching our wrist skin when we moved around with it. The use of the Microsoft Band while typing on my Windows PC was difficult, as I had a hard almost bracelet-like band around my arm that wouldn’t let my wrists rest normally. I was impressed by the amount of info it shows on its Windows-8-inspired live tiles. They show text messaging and emails as they come in. This is useful information to have, although it wouldn’t let me reply on my iPhone. The Microsoft Band has a few extra sensors that the other wearables didn’t, including a UV indicator to let you know if you’re in a dangerous solar environment and could risk sunburn. It also had a heart rate monitor that keeps track of your heart rate throughout the day, assuming you can tolerate the bulky wearable that has the sensor. We wanted this wearable to work, however we have to pass on it as a daily wearable. It isn’t comfortable, and a wearable needs to be that.
The Apple Watch only works on your iPhone, it won’t work for your Android phones. That being said, it is probably the most advanced and developer friendly platform we reviewed. The nice big screen shows a lot of detail and has canned answers for text messages. There are new apps being written for it, however its abilities are limited to the apps you have on your phone. The Apple Health app gives generic readings of heart rate on a 15 second interval, steps, distance, and other useful information. However, it is up to application developers to use and report on this information. Technically, the iphone records information with limited detail out of the box.
The notifications from the Apple Watch are probably some of the most useful. Imagine getting your email, text, and call notifications on your wrist, without having to go into your purse for your phone. That alone is probably worth the high price of admission, starting at $350 with the sports band and going up to $18,000 for the gold banded elite model. We liked the Apple watch, but wanted sleep tracking as a basic function of the device, which we couldn’t find. For the high price and lack of basic functionality, we had to pass on the Apple Watch. It does have a lot of promise however, and we would be happy to review the Watch OS2 to see what Apple has in store next.