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Mar 1, 2015

How to select the right wearable?

fitbit activity tracker - mobilespoon

Let’s talk some wearables.
I am pretty sure they’ll be everywhere in this year’s MWC event, but what is the right way to evaluate them?
How do you rate a wearable device; a smartband, healthband, sportsband, or even a smartwatch.
What are the minimal specifications they need to have?
What is considered to be unique capability or an advantage for a wearable device?

And if you are going to buy a new wearable – what are the things you should look for?

 

Activity Trackers - mobilespoon

Design

Before anything else, a wearable device is something you wear. Smartwatches and activity trackers should look good on your wrist. The design matters, as it’s something you will wear like a jewelry for the rest of your life (or until a new model comes out).

 

Fitness & Health Tracking

Most activity trackers and smartwatches provide the basic stuff, but the great ones have more to offer.

Basic fitness functionality includes steps counting, heart-rate, calories burned and sleep tracking. Of course you need to have a companion app that will store your activity stats, daily progress etc.
That’s the basic. Less then that and you are probably looking at a really simple tracker which is too basic. 

Advanced fitness functionality includes built-in GPS, and some extra sensors (such as skin temperature) and social features in the companion app (for sharing achievements and comparing results).

Unique fitness functionality may include things like gym guided workouts (Microsoft Band) or stairs counters (Fitbit devices). Stairs are really fun thing to monitor as they can give you an extra daily challenge which is very effective.

My recommendation is to invest in a device that gives you a bit more than the basic. Built-in GPS and stairs tracking are two of my favorite options.

 

Smartwatch Functionality

Latest activity trackers already provide a lot of the basic smartwatch functionality.

Basic smartwatch functionality includes things like notifications and quick actions (for instance: reply to a text message using pre-defined sentences). Having those features is not a must but definitely brings some cool factor to any wearable and more importantly, can become handy in some scenarios. 

Advanced smartwatch functionality may include more than just notifications. The likes of Android Wear and soon Apple Watch (and even Microsoft Band to some extent) provide the ability to run apps. Most of the apps are relatively simple and depend on the smartphone, but some nice capabilities can be found in apps such as; calculator, weather, social network feed, news feed etc.

My view is that until proven otherwise (hint: by the Apple Watch) – smartwatches value is still to not clear.
I therefore recommend on buying a wearable that does the fitness part really well, and see the smartwatch functionality as a bonus.

 

Integration with phones and tablets 

Smartwatches and activity trackers are very dependent in the phone they communicate with. In fact the logic of the apps still runs inside the phone and exposed to the wearable through Bluetooth.

It’s important to check the integration options. Some wearables do not have a companion app for certain platforms such as windows and Windows Phone, while others, like the Samsung Gears, are running a proprietary OS (Tizen) that can only integrate with Samsung phones. If you don’t want to limit your next smartphone alternatives, select a wearable that is fully integrated with all popular smartphones. One of the things I like about the Microsoft Band is that it can work with iOS, Android, Windows, and Windows Phone.

 

Killer Feature(s)

It’s fun to buy a gadget that has some unique capabilities. Something you can use, or just showoff. That’s part of the fun of being a gadget person. Killer features can relate to waterproof devices, or being able to synchronize your latest run directly to the cloud through WIFI.

 

Apps

Like in many technologies these days, apps are key. They add content, they create constant innovation.
If you want to enjoy your activity tracker or your smartwatch – it needs to have 3rd party apps enabled for that wearable.

 

Battery life

For some, this is one of the most important factor when selecting a wearable. It’s hard enough to charge our phones, tablets and laptops every night, a watch is expected to stick around longer.
Unfortunately, it’s not always the case and while there are some activity trackers that can last 7-10 days (and even up to 30 days) – they are a bit harder to find, and the majority of today’s smartwatches (and new sport bands) require a daily (or nighty) charge.

My recommendation; if you are willing to compromise on functionality – get yourself a wearable that can last more than a few days (like the Fitbit or Garmin devices), if not – then try to find a wearable that can last for at least 2 days. 

Price

While price is mostly subjective, it is something most people will check before selecting a new wearable.

 

Summary

Buying a new smartwatch or an activity tracker? Check out the following things:

  1. Design
  2. Fitness & Health Tracking
  3. Smartwatch Functionality
  4. Integration with Phones & Tablets
  5. Killer Feature(s)
  6. Apps
  7. Battery Life
  8. Price

Tomorrow I hope to see some amazing new wearables in MWC15, I will try to examine them according to the above criteria.



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