Some of the information in this post may seem like it’s a repeat, I know I’ve done a couple of posts on fitness trackers/smartwatches before, however I wanted to apply this information to a specific use-case, one which the devices that I tend to use are targeted towards: Health & Fitness. While this is my primary use, I still have yet to try a Fitbit, or a Garmin wearable device – maybe down the line I’ll cave and try to find a used one to try for a comparison, but for now, this is the background on the devices I’ve used.
Back in October I really got back into going to the gym in the mornings. It eventually became a daily routine that took me a little while to work towards, and the eternal question that I was running into is which workout tracking app did I want to use? Well, over the last eight months I’ve tried a few, and I’ve also used three different trackers, and have settled on the combination that I like. I’m going to give a brief summary of some of the devices I’ve used and end it with the one that I’ve settled on.
In February of last year, I decided that I wanted a new smart watch after having… ummm… lost mine to the bottom of Seneca Lake that summer. I wasn’t really feeling like doling out a ton of money at the time on a new Apple, Samsung, or Garmin, so I decided to cave to the continual advertisements on Social Media. I gave the Amazfit “Bip” smartwatch. This is designed by a Chinese company Huami, which is a subsidiary of Xiaomi – which is well known globally, and a little less in the pocket of the Chinese government than Huawei. I still felt a little hoaky providing them with my Biometrics, and Location data, but I figured hey, what’re they going to do to me.
For the $50-70 price tag, depending on where you buy it, that this device carries, it’s well worth it. When it comes to the device and the app layout, I can say that this is solidly meant to imitate a Fit Bit (if they name didn’t give that away) in terms of software layout, and an Apple Watch in terms of design. The community aspect has quite a few offerings, however to actually use them you need to know other people with this device ecosystem… which I did not… but, with that being said, its built in workout tracking was fairly accurate, and offered the necessities such as Running, Walking, Cycling, a handful of obscure ones, and an “other” option. The “Other” option is something that I find quite handy as Cross Training, Strength Training, or just plain Gym Workout aren’t often put in. One other little thing to touch on with this one though is the battery life, the manufacturer states that it can hold a charge for 30 days… I never even was remotely close to killing the battery in my time using this. Most of the time I’d wear it for about a week without ever removing it, throw it on the charger on a Sunday when I got in the shower, and by the time I was out, the battery was back to 100%. I forgot my charger when I went on vacation for 10 days last summer, and when I got home, the battery was still sitting at 60%. This alone is something that every mainstream manufacturer should take to heart.
However, I began to have some issues with this device, and eventually it stopped working for me… I was able to fix this down the line, but not before months of email exchanges with the manufacturer eventually leading to them shipping me a replacement device, though not the same one. They wound up sending one of their “Amazfit Stratos” devices. It uses a slightly different Amazfit app, one that I found much more intuitive and well thought out while continuing to use your existing account. This device has a much sleeker design, offered additional workouts, and was much more accurate in terms of indoor workout tracking such as distance estimations on the treadmill – often accurate to about .05 miles after calibration over time. In terms of the calibration, when you’ve finished your run, it asks you to verify the distance that you’ve gone, and you can hone it in from there. Over time it becomes much more accurate. Lastly, this device is just running a custom skin version of Android, and if you plug it in to the computer, you can utilize it for file storage as well, and can view photos, and play music directly on device. It only has a couple gigabytes of onboard storage, so don’t get too carried away, and make sure to save room for the .tcx post workout files, and the GPS data. Depending on where you buy from, you’re looking at much closer to $200 in terms of purchasing this device. The battery life however is not quite as impressive, often sitting around 5 days on a charge. This was another instance where I never actually killed the battery on the device though, doing the same, put it on the charger before getting in the shower at the end of my week, and it was good to go.
Since I’m summing up the devices I’ve used, I’ll briefly callback to the Samsung Gear Fit Band. This was probably the device that I used the longest, just nudging out the Apple Watch Series 1 in duration. I purchased this device when I took a year away from iPhone usage (does this qualify as a gap year?) and hadn’t been able to come up with a workaround to keep using the Apple Watch with the Moto Z that I had switched over to. Now, I’ve since come up with a couple techniques to do just that, but I’m back in the iPhone world.
The Gear Fit was probably my favorite in terms of workout tracking, app layout, band design, and just in pure functionality. The battery life left much to be desired unfortunately, and the contacts that were utilized to charge the device very often would not get a clean hold, and I’d quite often find myself having an expensive, dead display on my wrist halfway through my day (well… I was working nights at the time… so… nights…). But, when I didn’t have this problem, it had the best workout tracking platform available in my opinion, and would sync data with third party apps such as MapMyFitness (I didn’t touch on this earlier, but the Chinese devices would not do that until recently). When you finish an outdoor workout, it’ll show you a GPS overview, with a point to point outline of where you went, which is neat that it can show so clearly given the dimensions of the display.
And so, it comes to this – where I’ve settled in… and as a hardcore Apple user, this really shouldn’t shock you… The Apple Watch Series 5… I just couldn’t stay away… I was about a week from buying one around Black Friday, and I was gifted one… And boy am I glad to have come back. I’m not going to go into detail about back when I used the Series 1, because the OS, and workout tracking features are a similar layout to what the Series 1 had when I sold it. The only main difference between then, and now (when it comes to features that are used) is the ECG monitor, and the addition of other workouts. It integrates well with third party applications such as MapMyFitness, and the community basis around it is quite well thought out, working with your contacts, and sharing activity via a push notification on the watch alone, leaving the phone as only the device in which it gets data service – unless you get the one with built in LTE, in which case you’re golden, and don’t even need your phone with you.