Since recording all my data with my Garmin Forerunner 10 and regularly participating in Park Runs across the country I have been becomingly gradually more and more obsessed with stats. I think it’s becoming an increasing trend in all runners to race home just to fire up your laptop and check out your pace. Not to mention the social community element, I crave the kudos, the comments and the acknowledgement that I did good. Naturally I have become excited at the prospect of a new product on the market which collates data from your whole lifestyle not just the run, cue the magical data tracking bracelet. A piece of wearable technology which is rumoured to be giving Apple a run for their money this year. Not quite magical though, it’s actually quite tangible AND it’s called a Smart Band.
The growth of the smart band is RAPID and major, infact it’s success outgrew the forecasted growth in 2013 with sales increasing by 700% – that’s kind of major. So I wanted to break down the key contenders (I’ve just watched a promo of the Samsung “smart watch” and it’s tipped the iceberg of writing a blog post about this).
Firstly, the US based company called Jawbone have introduced the UP band, a dedicated activity tracker which syncs up with your iPhone or Android via Bluetooth so you don’t have to bother with racing home and – if like me – wait for the laptop to sort it’s crap out before you can log any workout. So it monitors your running by detecting the duration and effort involved with the activity. I love a good map reminding me of my route, so I would need GPS tracking – maybe in the next product unless this is already integral to the UP product – some of the tech info isn’t that clear. Secondly, there needs to be an interface in order for this to be a success within the fitness community. I think this may go against the cutting edge design of the smart band so perhaps it’s targeted for beginner or non-serious runners. Enough about the running, the band also logs your sleeping patterns and forms funky infographs based on all your data. It also can link up with leading lifestyle apps such as My Fitness Pal, Runkeeper, Strava and Sleepio. Will the Jawbone actually compete with Apple in the world of wearable tech? read a discussion article here.
Jawbone UP can be purchased for £74.99 from Amazon here.
Fitbit is another main rival to UP which officially released in September 2013 and claims to help you on the basic principles of life that we all seem to struggle with: Get active, Eat better, manage weight and sleep better. I prefer the Fitbit interface here, it puts everything into metrics you understand when completing any physical activity – how many floors did I climb, how many steps did I take, how many miles did I cover. The fitbit One is a sleep and activity tracker which automatically syncs up data wirelessly to your phone just like the UP. It’s kind of cool in that it creates leaderboards which you can share with friends, this automatically updates from day to day – but essentially you need all your friends to buy into this product. Runners like the wealth of apps which allow you to track your runs, no-one really likes to be locked into one app and if they do – they’re with Nike (the Nike band measures your runs with Nike Fuel which can only be updated to the Nike site…!). I have generally stuck to Strava but not all of my running friends use it, so I’d be pessimistic in thinking my pals would also be present on the fitbit leaderboard if I were to purchase one. I’ve noticed that Fitbit have recently had to recall a number of their silicon based products due to it causing an inflammatory rash on the wrists of some it’s customers, not a good story line to have in the first 6 months of a product’s release! (but hey, I hear UP had some hiccups in the first few months of it’s release.) Of the two, I’m more drawn towards Fitbit – it definitely does indicate that it routes your run which is nice and I think the interface would present data that’s more relevant to me.
Fitbit can be purchased for £67.00 from Amazon here
This is in a likely different category of it’s own here.. a smart watch brought to you Samsung alongside the release of the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone as from YESTERDAY (24th Feb ’14). There’s a similar smart watch developed by Adidas but the Adidas one reminds me too much of my Garmin and at £350 – I just ain’t interested. I personally dislike the name of this Samsung product, I think it’s something my Dad might say to me if he sees me with a new gadget. There’s something unique about the design for the Gear Fit’s 1.84″ screen and it’s simple user-friendly interface. I’m a bit of a Samsung queen, typed with my Samsung laptop looking at my Galaxy S3… but that said I do like the fact that the watch connects up to your phone and there’s a ‘find my phone’ feature. I divert – back to the task in hand – the Gear fit. I am genuinely excited about the fact that there is an interface and a heart rate monitor all within the band – I don’t have to wear an additional band under my clothes and I can track my progress while I’m running (unlike UP or fitbit – but this is an unfair comparison as they are just smart bands). The worst thing for me here is that you can see notifications linked to your phone – you can reject calls and use a quick message reply.
After saving out this article and publishing, it was brought to my attention by @MalvernRunner that there is – low and behold – a Garmin smart band to rival all of the above. It’s a simple and smart product which ticks all the boxes for me as a consumer. Having already rambled on about the Garmin Forerunner 10 causing me issues on this blog before, it seems contradictory that I want to continue buying into the brand. Other runners have had great success with Garmins, and this smart band, at the competitive price of £99 seems incredibly tempting.
There are neat little features built within it, a red bar which accumulates if you’ve been inactive for an hour, just by going for a little walk or stretching the legs can reduce the red bar. I really like the concept of this but would be happy to switch it off from day to day. The three selling points for me are:
- The run monitoring I know and love – I can continue to use Strava comfortably knowing the format in which my Garmin will monitor my run.
- The interface will tell me distance covered, time of day and if I invest, heart rate details
- The battery life lasts up to 1 year – need I say much more?
My watch tells me my average pace per lap whether it’s mile/km which I find incredibly useful. I’d be interested to see if this smart band does it too. The Garmin Vivo is a no-frills, straight up quality product and for the price it suits alot of runners and their basic needs to track distance with a great and accessible user interface.
In the Samsung product release they wrote “empowering consumers stay physically active without sacrificing personal style or mobile connectivity. ” (read more here). The bombshell for me is the very last few words.. I run to disconnect from my mobile and from anyone getting hold of me. This watch makes me completely trackable. These products reach a different type of customer: the UP / Fitbit are pretty similar and seem to integrate a whole host of different functionality from a range of apps, so essentially it congregates a load of data that we can already get for free (Smartphone apps already have free running/sleep sensor apps). I envision it being a faddy and luxurious product which may be enough to help you psychologically get into gear with losing weight perhaps or shaping up. The Samsung Gear Fit is tailored to compete with the Garmins in the world, but I’m reluctant to digress into how successful it will be in the running community until I can see if it a) what data it provides, distance? average mile pace? calories? b) exports a file which is compatible with all running apps like the Garmin.
As for the Garmin, I am using the Forerunner 10 and I’ve just encountered a third different issue with it – it’s not being recognised by my computer. (Works on a different computer, how can a USB operated memory drive react differently from computer to computer? Kind of ridiculous!)