5 fitness wearables and their companion apps to keep Arizonans in tip-top shape
This article originally appeared on TechAZ. For more content about all things tech and entrepreneurship in Arizona, please visit TechAZ.org.
Phoenix, the sixth largest city in America, is immensely passionate about personal health and fitness. Whether it’s by hiking through the Grand Canyon, skiing down a snowy Flagstaff slope, or jogging through beautiful desert suburbs, residents of Arizona are able to turn the landscape around them into personal gyms. Nowadays, almost all of these fitness junkies have a wearable fitness tracker wrapped around their wrist or strapped to their shoe. But with over a hundred fitness trackers on the market (as well as an overwhelming number of smartphone fitness apps), it can be nearly impossible to choose which one to invest in. These five popular wearables each come with matching apps to make the choice a little easier.
You’ve probably heard of or seen Fitbit – their fitness-tracking wristbands are vibrant, their smartphone application is highly-rated, and a wide range of their products are readily available at many major retailers. With seven different wristband devices and the Fitbit Aria (a smart scale), Fitbit offers hopeful gym junkies and dieters an opportunity to completely customize their fitness-tracking experience. However, Fitbit may not be all it’s chalked up to be at first – the plastic that makes up their wristbands are known to irritate customers’ skin, and most of their wearables actually can’t be worn in the pool, making them nearly useless to swimmers. Fitbit bands that are designed to measure heartrate frequently overestimate users’ beats per minute (BPM), which throws off their fitness data. Though users don’t have to click a button or tap their smartphones to begin tracking a workout session, Fitbit’s wearables often mistake the physical length of a run (meaning the GPS tracking is a bit off) or the amount of time spent exercising after the workout has begun. Essentially, Fitbit’s fitness-tracking wristbands are fashionable and all-encompassing, but they glitch pretty regularly.
Fitbit’s app is a little more well-loved. Via wireless Bluetooth connectivity, Fitbit wearables transmit fitness data to a user’s smartphone, which then graphs the user’s data within the Fitbit app. The app allows users to view nutritional information based on what they’ve eaten, gloss over their sleeping habits and quality of sleep, monitor their workout improvements via colorful graphs, and more. Fitbit’s smartphone applications also let users connect with other Fitbit wearers so they can encourage each other to reach their fitness goals. The app is clean, bright, and easy-to-read. The downside? Users have to pay $49 per month for Fitbit Premium if they want to receive nutrition recommendations, view long-term sleep trends, or compare their data with the whole of the Fitbit community – features many similar apps offer for free.
Jawbone, traditionally a Bluetooth earpiece and wireless speaker manufacturer, began creating their own wearable fitness trackers in late 2011. Like all other fitness trackers, the Jawbone UP records users’ steps, quality of sleep, 24/7 heartrate, and more. Unlike other fitness trackers, the UP4, Jawbone’s newest model, tracks how much users sweat, which helps the UP smartphone application accurately document hydration levels and remind users to drink more water. The wristband reminds sedentary users to move around more by vibrating right on their wrists. Its battery life is about seven days – average length for a fitness-tracking wearable – and compared to any of Fitbit’s devices, the Jawbone UP is incredibly accurate.
Though the UP connects with several popular smartphone apps like MyFitnessPal, LoseIt!, Runtastic, and Sleepio, Jawbone recently came out with their own app, which (like most wearable companion apps) updates a user’s fitness data in real-time. Hundreds of UP users find that the device combined with the app keeps them accountable for their fitness and reminds them to be mindful of their food intake and bodily movement. They do complain, however, that the app doesn’t let users customize workout or caloric intake goals, meaning those have to be monitored elsewhere.
Under Armour’s brand new fitness-tracking wristband, simply dubbed the UA Band and only currently available for presale, comes in a single style, a single adjustable size, and a single black-and-red color scheme. Rather than excluding potential customers with its inflexible design, however, the UA Band seeks to offer a fitness-tracking solution to everybody in search of one. This device does the same stuff every other fitness-tracking wristband does – heartrate monitoring, step counting, sleep measuring, and workout documenting – but also integrates itself into the wearer’s daily life by offering gentle vibration alarms, music controls, and caller/text ID. It’s a little more than just a fitness tracker, but also a little less than a smart watch.
The accompanying data app, UA Record, displays users’ fitness information in easy-to-read pie graphs that neatly outline the users’ goals, accomplishments, and exercise or nutritional deficiencies. With help from IBM Watson, UA Record provides users with insights that “help you improve and see where you stand compared to similar users.” The app can be used solely with the UA Band or with MyFitnessPal, the UA HealthBox, the UA Scale, and other compatible apps and devices.
Garmin, developer of marine, aviation, and outdoor technologies, has jumped on the wearable fitness-tracking bandwagon with a line of durable wristbands: the Vivofit, the Vivosmart HR, the Vivoactive, and more. The Vivofit3, Garmin’s newest, most advanced model, has a one-year battery lifespan and can remind inactive wearers to move with the red light-up “move bar.” The Vivofit3 is fashionably versatile with interchangeable style bands. Like Fitbit’s wearables, most of Garmin’s fitness-tracking wristbands are water-resistant but shouldn’t be submerged in liquid; and like the UA Band, Vivo devices can be used in conjunction with a smart scale, the Garmin Index. All Vivo devices have backlit screens and Move IQ, which eliminates the need to start a workout with a button or within the app.
Garmin Connect, the accompanying app, is more of an online community than a data-collection center. Via desktop or smartphone, users can communicate with other Vivo wearers who enjoy the same activities they do (i.e. cycling, running, yoga), then exchange tips and encouragement. Rather than constantly sending fitness data to a user’s online account, Vivo devices must be manually activated in order for the user to view their stats and accomplishments. Through the Connect apps and website, users can download training plans to spice up their workouts. Garmin’s Vivo devices are not compatible with any other existing smartphone applications.
A relatively inexpensive alternative to popular fitness-tracking wearables, Moov is a wrist and ankle band that coaches you as you exercise. As users box, run, walk, perform aerobic exercises, and more, Moov speaks out loud or through your headphones about how you can land more gently on your feet, achieve a bolder uppercut, or increase your stamina. Moov’s nine-axis Omni Motion sensor can tell when user’s tired arms are falling or when they’re slowing down; instead of leaving users to fend for themselves, Moov shouts out words of encouragement or tips on how to make it through the last few rounds. Moov even possesses its own trademarked 7 Minute+ workouts, which can be generated through the Moov speaker or on a user’s TV screen. The device’s battery can last up to six months.
Moov is not a heartrate tracker, so users will miss out on heartrate data in the Moov smartphone application. However, just like others of its kind, Moov monitors users’ quality of sleep, different types of activity, and more. The data may be a little difficult to read at first, but it’s highly comprehensive – swimmers can view the time they spent performing breaststroke versus backstroke down to the second, and joggers can see the moment they started to slow down. Moov is not compatible with any other smartphone app.
Aspiring fitness trackers have an enormous pool of wearable devices and apps to choose from, so there’s a device well-suited for everybody. Which fitness-tracking wearables will you use to monitor your hikes up Camelback or your Downtown Phoenix marathon times?