Misc

Fitness Trackers: What I Want

There’s a whole lot of fitness trackers on the market these days, and they all seem to offer different functionality. So, here’s a summary of the things I’m after in a tracker, and who comes closest:

Pedometer

Pretty much everything has a pedometer these days, and they’re all pretty accurate. It’s a useful metric for keeping track of my base level of activity during the day. Of course, because I use a treaddesk, I’m also after something that measures walking while my arms aren’t necessarily moving, which most wrist-based trackers struggle with.

Sleep Tracker

I like to keep track of my sleep, and sleep quality. No-one functions on poor sleep, so it’s a good metric to watch.

Connectivity

The device should wirelessly sync to your computer or phone, for transferring your data. Bluetooth is ideal here, for compatibility with the maximum number of devices. If you don’t manage to sync for several days, the device should be capable of storing your data for syncing later.

Battery

Any tracking device is useless if it spends all of its life in a charging cradle. The battery should last at least 5 days, and it should recharge quickly. Bonus features would be a micro-USB connection (instead of a custom cradle), and a notification when the battery is getting low.

Style

Of course this is a personal thing, but if you’re going to be wearing a device 24×7, it needs to look good.

Data

Having a nice web interface or mobile app is a necessity for quickly seeing overviews of the data you’re tracking. Just as important, though, is the ability to export the raw data (either through an export function or an API), for more in-depth personal analysis.

Bonus: Bio-Data

While not strictly necessary for me, a device that sits on your wrist 24×7 should be able to monitor basic bio-information. Temperature, heart rate, perspiration, and blood-oxygen levels come to mind.

Bonus: Bio Alarm Clock

It’s kind of a buzzword name, but the concept is cool – along with the sleep tracker, the device can also monitor when you’re at the lightest stage of your sleep cycle (near your morning alarm) and decide to wake you a little earlier, so you feel more refreshed when you wake.

Fitbit One Fitbit Flex Nike Fuelband Jawbone Up Basis Amiigo
Pedometer
Treaddesk
Sleep Tracker
Connectivity Bluetooth Bluetooth Bluetooth Plug Bluetooth Bluetooth
Battery 5-7 days
Custom Cable
5-7 days
Custom Cable
1-4 days
Custom Cable
10 days
Custom Cable
4 days
Custom Cable
6 days
Custom Unit
Style Small clip on, fits in pocket Plain wrist band, black or slate Plain wrist band, solid black, translucent black or white Small wrist band, 8 colour options Large watch, with changeable bands Plain wrist band, black or white with various highlights
Data Web, Mobile, API, Export (premium) Mobile, API Mobile, API, Export Web, Mobile Mobile
Bonus: Bio-Data
Bonus: Bio Alarm

Conclusion

So, it’s fairly clear that no-one has properly solved the fitness tracker problem yet. The wrist band seems to be the more popular method, and Amiigo’s wristband + detachable clip shows interesting promise, though hasn’t been released yet.

What’s next, then? Battery life is settling at around a week or so, I’d expect the next generation to be all around there. Extra sensors are a must have, and Amiigo is paving the way for recognising more than just walking – they claim to be able to recognise all sorts of gym activities, too.

I’d really like to see devices switch over to micro-USB for charging. I don’t like cables at the best of times, so being able to reduce the number of cables I have lying around is always a plus. There have been watches released in the past that are capable of charging from the movement of your arms, which is also cute. If I’m going to be using the energy, it should at least go somewhere useful.

Finally, I think there’s much more interesting data analysis to be done – the companies behind these devices are collecting massive amounts of data on people’s exercise habits, I’m certain there useful patterns to be picked out, which can lead to more efficient methods of exercise to fit in with our increasingly sedentary and time-poor society.

I’m looking forward to the future of fitness tracking devices with great interest!

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5 thoughts on “Fitness Trackers: What I Want

  1. Just a note about data export on the fitbit one, even the premium mode is basically useless, you only get daily summaries, I’m writing scripts to scrape the graphs to get my own detailed data.

    • Thanks for extra the info! It’s unfortunate that no-one has really embraced open-data standards yet, hopefully that will change in the future.

    • Looks interesting, and probably a better option than the Fitbit One, if you’re after a clip style tracker.

      I’m not sure how useful the heart rate tracker would be, I suspect that kind of bio-data is really only useful if you’re constantly tracking changes. Even when specifically exercising, heart rate over time is a more useful metric than heart rate when you remember to check it.

      I do like that they use micro USB for charging, that’s one less cable to have lying around!

      • I’m a bit late to the game here, but I have to say that I love my Withings Pulse. It’s small and fits perfectly in the the small coin pocket on most jeans and shorts, and it comes with a silicon “skin” case with a clip if your current clothes lack pockets.

        As for the things you’re looking for not found in the others, battery life has ranged from a week to two weeks depending on how often I check the device itself, so let’s say 10 days average. It charges via mini-USB. It records all heart rate readings as resting heart rate, so just remember to check once when you wake up and once at night for an accurate look at your average resting heart rate and how it changes over time with increased (or decreased) activity (sometimes it screws up the reading, so just re-take and delete the false reading in the app). So far, the Pulse only communicates with the Withings app, but since that app can also pull in data from a variety of third-party sources, I had no problem making that my new “home” for overall lifestyle tracking.

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