13 Nov Changing Face of Fitness – Part 2
Since July when I published my original post about fitness trackers and apps a lot has changed. Apple has launched iOS 8 which features built in health tracking as well as announcing a smart watch that will tie in some element of fitness. Jawbone have announced the the UP3 and FitBit have also announced three new devices. I have already covered iOS 8’s health in a previous blog post so today I will be looking more at the new wearables, though I will round things off with an app. If you missed part one of this post you can check it our here.
FitBit announced it would NOT be adding any integration into iOS 8’s healthkit in spite of Apple speculatively using the FitBit logo in a presentation before its launch. This lead to speculation that FitBit were themselves about to launch something new which they did, a few weeks later, three new devices in fact. The Charge, Charge HR and the Surge all three resembling the FitBit Force (a device recalled by the company in February due to reports of allergic reactions) and even though I have had my FitBit One for less than a year looking at the Charge and Charge HR I could be tempted to upgrade. All three devices are stepping into smartwatch territory with caller ID offered on the charge models and text messages and music control available on the surge. The Charge HR and Surge also offer constant heart rate monitoring using PurePulse optical heart rate technology that can read your pulse using LEDs and an infra-red camera on the skin without the need for a strap to be worn around the chest. All three new devices now come with a built in auto sleep detection. The Surge will also have built in GPS and multi activity tracking but comes with a higher price tag, currently, the UK store has no prices listed but PC Advisor has price information showing the basic Charge model listed at £99 and the Surge at £199 so around £100 difference. All three models also have considerably less battery life than the pre-existing FitBit One, that can go two weeks without charging, the Charge HR will last just 5 days.
The Apple Watch was announced at the iPhone event in September and has three variants available, the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. The edition and watch models are marketed more as a watch you could wear every day with an option of a leather or metal strap as well as the sports band, whereas the sport only offers the fluoroelastomer plastic band. All watches seem to be targeted more towards iPhone users with current compatibility set to only be with the latest iOS devices. The advantage of the Apple Watches is that as they run their own version of iOS (Watch OS) it will be possible to download different apps that can be used on the watch as well as using Siri to input data through speech. The Apple watch does come with GPS and uses a similar technology to the FitBit to measure pulse but cannot track sleep. The design of the Apple Watch is more along the lines of a traditional watch style than other activity trackers with even the controls designed to look like the dials on the side of a more traditional watch, the price and lack of compatibility outside of Apple devices could be the Apple Watches downfall. Although a UK price is not yet confirmed its speculated the Apple Watch Sport could retail around £220 but there have been rumors circulating that the Edition could be priced at around £2,000.
Microsoft accidentally unveiled their fitness band early when the companion app launched in the app store before an official announcement. So far reviews for the Microsoft Band have been less than spectacular with many reviewers commenting on the rigid material used and poor battery life (less than a day from fully charged) with one reviewer even said it felt “sort of like a handcuff.” The Microsoft Band again uses LED technology to determine heart rate and also comes with Galvanic Skin Response Technology* built in though the use for this has yet to be determined. The interface uses a tiled interface, similar to the Windows Phone and Windows 8, the band does come with the ability to download workouts to the device that it will then talk you through very handy for beginners. And it also ties into Cortana, Windows answer to Siri, to allow you to log food and activities by speaking into your wrist. The Microsoft Band also has a UV sensor that will let you know if you need to apply sunscreen or not which can be quite handy for those runs in the summer. The Microsoft Band will retail between £150 and £199 when released in the UK.
As with my previous fitness post CARROT fit is an app that deserves an honorable mention. CARROT was launched with iOS 8 as one of the flagship apps to tie into HealthKit. CARROT is built around the 7 minute workout model that is designed to exercise every muscle in your body. CARROT definitely gives you a different spin on the standard work out app injecting pop culture into your routines with such exercises as kowtows to cthulhu, dragon mating dance and invisible iron throne. CARROT will also choose to punish you if you don’t perform as well as expected i.e losing weight when you are on a gain weight plan. Its good motivation for beginners but if you are working from an already high level of fitness you may want to take longer to do some of the exercises to fully feel the effects. CARROT fit is available in both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store for £1.99 downloadable content such as extra exercises are also available.
*Galvanic Skin Response Technology is apparently the same thing that is used in lie detectors and detects changes in blood flow to the skin and sweat levels, presumably in fitness bands this will be used to detect exertion during exercise, rather than the uses popularised by Jeremy Kyle if you think someone is lying or cheating.