Battle of the fitness devices: Week 1

Alright folks, my new Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand and Fitbit finally arrived. All of them claim to have similar capabilities and promise to help me reach my goals. Now it's time to put them to the test and let them duke it out as to which is the superior solution. So...welcome to the Battle of the fitness devices where I will be spending the next 6 weeks comparing these fitness devices.

My goals

1. Lose 4 pounds in 6 weeks 2. Run a 10k in March 3. Drink more water and stay continually more hydrated

Week 1

After ordering all the devices, Up was the first to arrive. Makes sense, considering their previous market disaster which forced them to pull the product off the shelves. I would expect to get the best service from them the second time around, including fast shipping. The NikeFuel band was next. And the FitBit took over 2 weeks. What's up with the wait? Not good folks.

The set up was fairly easy for all three devices. Up was extremely easy to setup. Just download the phone app, plug in the device to the phone, and go through a set of very simple instructions. Voila...ready to go. The only caveat is that you are required to take off the device and physically connect it to your phone to sync the data. A little bit annoying, but eliminating bluetooth helps reduce the size of the device and increases the battery power, which seems to last the longest compared to the others.

The FuelBand was also easy to set up. Unlike Up, which you can set up using your phone, FuelBand requires you download and install an app on your PC and install new firmware onto the device as well. After both installs, it was easy to get up and going and the wireless synching was nice once you get the device paired with your phone.  The only problem is that the bluetooth feature on your phone sucks away a bit of battery. We'll see if it's worth the convenience of wireless synching compared to Up.

Like the FuelBand, Fitbit requires you to set up using your PC. It was also very easy, although it requires an awkward additional wireless device to be attached to a USB port on your PC. So now I have to carry around the Fitbit device AND a wireless adapter on my laptop. Wireless set up was effortless on my phone, however.

Now that the devices are all up and running, it's time to set up my goals, which include losing 4 pounds and training for a 10k in March. Up and FuelBand failed miserably at this. Neither allowed me to set goals based on weight or exercise. Up makes you set goals based on steps, but doesn't make it easy for you to figure out how many steps equates to what. I had to go online and research elsewhere for that. FuelBand asked you to set your goals based on an arbitrary metric without providing much explanation around it. I get how it allows you to compare your activity to others, but I don't get how it equates to steps or calories burned and how it can help me reach my goals. Example, how does a Fuel goal of 3000 per day equate to my weight loss goal? So, I have been finding that I ignore this metric altogether and keep track of my steps instead.

The biggest gripe I have with the FuelBand is that the phone app doesn't integrate with Nikeplus running app. BIG MISTAKE considering I have a running goal. It's an opportunity loss that they don't integrate with running AND weight loss management. Instead, Nike makes you sign up for a completely different experience that is basically a glorified pedometer...a disappointment, especially since it's the most expensive device.

Also, the FuelBand is the bulkiest device with an over-sized and overly-bright LED display that aesthetically looks dated....and not in a good 80's retro way. Nike could have designed the display to be much more discreet and elegant, which would probably take up less battery power as well.

In terms of wearability, I find the FuelBand the least comfortable. It's the largest of the devices and requires you to press hard to get it to snap together. In fact, the clasp has pinched my skin a number of times and even drew blood. Ouch! Generally, I feel a bit dorky wearing it. Especially when I'm at the gym and use the giant LED display to see my steps. Come on guys, can't you be a little more discreet?

The Fitbit was the only experience that offered me to set up a weight loss goal. Once doing so, all the metrics easily related to my start weight and it made much more sense about what I needed to do to achieve my goal than, for example, an arbitrary “Fuel” metric. The Fitbit community is also much more engaging (for my needs) since you can invite friends privately and set up goals together. The other devices allow you to integrate with Facebook, but who wants to blast their data to absolutely everyone?

Fitbit provides more data visualization compared to the other devices including water intake and weight trends. However, some of the visualizations are built in flash so they don't work on apple devices. Bummer. Up's app does a nice job visualizing more detailed data including sleep patterns broken into deep and light sleep, which I find fascinating but not that useful yet.

So, how do the devices compare in week 1? I’ll be using 4 attributes to evaluate each device throughout the weeks including:

1. Wearability: comfort, style, fit, etc… 2. Capability: features, hardware & battery, syncing, etc... 3. Motivation: does it get me going, keep me going, and help me reach my goals? 4. Simplicity: understandable data, easy set up, easy to read/sync, etc…


So far, Fitbit came out of the gate the strongest. However, wearing it around makes me feel like I'm carrying a small pager. Pretty dorky. Hopefully, their new Flex might be less so. NONE of the devices helped me with my running goal. I had to use a combination of websites to make a plan and will end up tracking my progress with a good ol' pen and paper. I did already win a FuelBand badge, but i still don't know how "25k Fuel points" helps me achieve my weight loss and running goals so I wouldn't say winning it was very motivating. Cute achievement animation though that I played twice.

Stay tuned for next week as I begin collecting more data and (hopefully) inching toward my goals...


Wearable bio-metric accessories for health

There are a number of bio-metric accessories for health that are hitting the market these days. The accessories read and collect a variety of different types of bio-metric data (such as your heart rate, movement, and body heat), connect to your smartphone, and visualize the data through an application that helps you make sense of the data and keeps you on track toward better health. Spawned by successful products such as Nike+, cheaper components, and the Quantified Self movement, here are a just a couple that are making the rounds...  

Zeo Sleep Manager

Zeo Sleep Manager is a wearable accessory and smartphone app that tracks and improves the quality of your sleep. The headband tracks your actual sleep stages through the night and how much restorative REM and Deep sleep you actually get. It then sends them wirelessly to the bedside display and your phone where it shows you how you slept, including how much time you spent in REM and Deep sleep, which are critical for mental clarity, physical well-being and peak performance. Zeo also gives you an overall sleep score you can track over time.

An interesting idea, however, I have just one question for you there really no other solution than to make me strap hardware to my forehead while I sleep? From a wearability perspective, this could be very uncomfortable for those who might toss and turn and simply unsexy.

Jawbone Up

Jawbone Up is flexible smart wristband and smartphone app that work together to help you live healthier. However, it's plagued with a nightmare's worth of hardware and battery problems for their v1 product. (A friend of mine is on his 4th band within just 1 month. Yikes!) But once they iron out the kinks, this accessory and experience has potential to be a great addition to a health-oriented lifestyle.  


LUMOback is an exciting new product that is getting ready to hit the market in 2012. The experience includes a thin, flexible and wireless sensor adhesives that you put on your skin. These LUMOback sensors monitor and measure your posture in real-time. When you are slouching, it sends you small gentle vibrations to your lower back reminding you to sit up nice and straight on your iPhone.

Overall, we're seeing more sensor accessories + mobile app-based experiences focused on health and lifestyle. It will be interesting to see how they do on the market and how long they will last.


Jawbone wristband tracks health to fight obesity

Jawbone announced a project they've been quietly working on for years on stage at TED Global. It's a wearable band called Up, which is infused with sensors and a connected smartphone, allowing you to track your eating, sleeping, and activity patterns. Together, the combination of a sensor-infused wristband and a smartphone app will provide nudges for healthier living, based on your behavior. The industrial design was designed by Yves Behar's Fuseproject, and the software was developed by Jawbone's current CTO, Jeremiah Robison, who interestingly came from the social-gaming company Slide. It makes me wonder how (and if) game mechanics and game play will be used in the experience.

Continue reading at Fast Company. Image from Fast Company.