There's a lot to love about the latest round of lifestyle tracking bands. The Jawbone UP24 is super simple and massively motivational. The new Withings Pulse O2 gives other bands serious screen-envy. And Shine, by Misfit Wearables, is a whole lot more than a pretty face. If you could put all three of these gadgets together with the Moves and Map My Run Apps, I would love it so much I would want to marry it.
I'm only half joking.
As standalones, each new fitness tracker has a few points to brag about, as well as a few weaknesses. Together, they've totally stepped up their game toward getting you more healthy. They are (finally!) so much more than glorified pedometers. If you've been eyeing these little lifestyle trackers, it could very well be time to buy. So now, let's figure out which one might be the right fit for you.
The Jawbone UP24 is the right band for the mainstream masses. It's the easiest of these three to just slap on and go. You wear the thin little band around your wrist, and it records roughly how many steps you take each day, how much and how well you sleep at night, and — if you log your meals into the companion app on your smartphone — your calories and nutrition information as well.
Gathering all that information is one thing, but the real value here is in how well Jawbone's smartphone app presents the important details back to you. The app layout is super simple, intuitive, and gives all the information you need with one glance.
You open it up and see three main bars which tell you how much you slept last night, how many steps you've taken today, and potentially (if you log) how many calories you've eaten. There are also motivational notes tailored for you, as well as your past data and overall trends.
You can connect with friends via social media and see how your progress stacks up against theirs, which is a great boost for accountability. You can also set reminders and goals within the app, so that the band vibrates if you've been sitting still too long or need a reminder to make an exercise class.
The biggest weakness with Jawbone's UP24 is that there's no display on the actual wristband itself, which keeps you tethered to your smartphone to check your progress throughout the day. There's a little flower that lights up if you've set a reminder, and a little moon to denote that you're in sleep mode, but that's it. If I'm wearing this thing around my wrist all the time, I at least want to be able to see what time it is.
Who it's great for: Casual fitness fans, desk jockeys, and anyone getting started with a slightly more structured health routine. You do not need to be tech-savvy to use it. With 7-day battery life and the flexible app, the Jawbone UP24 lets you tweak your own personal approach to fitness, and it's not as demanding as many of the alternatives. You can pick one up for $149.99.
The Shine disc-tracker is about the size of a quarter and pretty enough to wear as a piece of jewelry. Like the Jawbone, the tiny Shine sensor keeps track of movement, including steps, sleep and food, and automatically syncs up with a smartphone app. But unlike the alternatives, Shine is waterproof, has an internal battery that lasts up to a year (vs. having to charge it up once a week) and can virtually disappear within your daily wardrobe.
Simply snap the tiny gadget onto a lapel or sleeve, or wear it as a piece of jewelry with one of the dozens of flashy fashion accessories available. With the built-in LEDs that show the current time, you can even wear it as an ultra-modern, eye-catching watch. When it's time to tally your daily accomplishments, simply sync the sensor on your smartphone screen and watch the Shine app record it all.
Shine's app also does an excellent job of translating your goals into real actions. For instance, if you want to lose a pound a week, the app crunches numbers with your height, weight, and age, and tells you what actions will get you there — like walking for 2.5 hours per day or running for one hour. As your day goes on, you earn points on your progress, and LED lights on the tracker also light up as you closer to your goal.
Who it's great for: Fitness fashionistas, workaholics, early-adopters, the moderately tech-savvy, and anyone who wants a low-key activity tracker without the world knowing you're wearing it. The Shine sensor costs $119.95, with optional accessories that range from $19.95 to $79.95.
WITHINGS PULSE O2
Withings Pulse 02 has a display that is worth its weight in gold. Not only can you see what time it is, but also how many steps you've taken, distance traveled and elevation information — because not all steps are created equally. If you're hiking up a steep San Francisco hill, you'll likely burn more calories than walking around a high school track — and Withings knows the difference.
If it's time to take your health tracking to the next level, the Withings Pulse O2 will help you dig deeper. Like the others, it starts as an activity, sleep, and calorie tracker, but then sets itself apart with that long list of additional abilities, like reading your heart rate and blood oxygen level. Most people don't need to have that kind of information, but it could come in handy for heart patients, asthma sufferers and competitive athletes.
You can clip the Withings Pulse O2 to your pocket or other piece of clothing, or wear it as a watch. All the data recorded syncs wirelessly with your phone as well as an online database where you can dive into detail analysis, track progress and compete with others.
Of these three trackers, the Pulse app is too crowded and cluttered, and gets disconnected a lot, forcing you to wait a few minutes while it syncs via bluetooth. It's also hard to see the display in bright light, which is a bummer when you wear it outside on a run.
Who it's great for: Gym rats, fitness gurus, marathon runners, and those who are looking to get super serious about their fitness goals. It's an amazingly powerful little doodad. The Pulse O2 also works in conjunction with Withings other smart-devices such as a scale and blood pressure monitor. It carries a price of approximately $165.
USING A BAND TO HELP LOSE WEIGHT:
Most of the people who ask me about fitness bands want them to help lose weight. These can absolutely help you do that. They help you demystify how many calories you're eating vs. burning, which really is what this whole big equation boils down to in the end.
The sleep tracking is really interesting too. I know I don't sleep great, but I had no idea how many times I was actually waking all the way up each night. By tracking it through the gadgets, I finally figured out that I wake all the way up every time my cat jumps up or down from my bed. Now, poor little guy has to sleep in his own dang bed — and I'm feeling a lot better overall. It's amazing how much your sleep affects on your overall health!