The fitness tracker and smartwatch market has really taken off in recent years, and today, there’s an Android-compatible model to fit just about every budget and need. These five popular bands have earned praise for their style, comfort, and functionality, and many combine all three attributes. Some are pure fitness tracker, while others also incorporate features of smartwatches, like email and call notification.
Here’s a look at some of the top wearable picks for Android users.
This isn’t the wearable to show off to your friends, unless you want to impress them with how little you spent on it. For less than the cost of some movie tickets, Mi Band offers lots of functionality, albeit in a no-frills design. It tracks all the basics — steps, distance, and estimated calories — and lets you know how long you’ve worked out each day (although with sometimes questionable accuracy). The band also automatically tracks your sleep, and lets you know whether it was deep or restless.
The design is basic, but clean, with a thermoplastic elastomer (think stiff rubber) band that comes in a variety of colors, and a pop-out oval chrome tracker in the center. Though the model lacks a display, three customizable LEDs light up to let you know how close you are to your fitness goals. When the watch vibrates, you’ve hit your target. Mi Band is comfortable enough to wear around the clock, and water resistant to go straight from gym to shower.
The Mi Band syncs wirelessly with your Android device via Bluetooth, and alerts you with a vibration when you get a call. Pair up the band with the Mi Fit app. It won’t revolutionize your workouts, but it will let you know in a very basic and easy-to-read display whether you’re meeting your daily activity and step targets.
Charging takes fewer than two hours. Once powered up, your band should go about 30 days without another plug-in.
At the intersection of fitness tracker and smartwatch, the Microsoft Band combines some of the best features of both. It measures speed, distance, and heart rate while alerting you to incoming calls and emails. It has a barometer that tracks how many stairs you’ve scaled, and GPS to chart the distance, time, and location of your run.
And that’s not all this band can do. Say you’re a golfer. You can check the weather before heading out for a game, track how your swing is improving, make sure your stock portfolio doesn’t take a tumble while you’re on the course, and find out whether your Facebook friends are also teeing off. One of the band’s best features is that it takes advantage of Microsoft Health, a comprehensive platform that consolidates health, fitness, and sleep goals and centralizes that information into one, cloud-based dashboard.
Sometimes trying to do too much can spread technology too thin, though. Many of the functions seem somewhat lacking. For example, you can see when you’ve received email, but you can’t do anything with that knowledge.
The latest version of Microsoft Band is more comfortable than previous incarnations, but it’s still wider than you may be used to wearing. And the meager two-day battery life means you’ll often be recharging.
The Garmin Forerunner is both tough and good-looking. Wear it out to dinner, or on a 5-mile run. It can handle either scenario with ease. For its bulky appearance, the Garmin Forerunner is surprisingly light and comfortable on the wrist.
In this model, Garmin has incorporated the heart-rate function right into the watch, so no more wearing a chest strap. Heart-rate monitoring only activates during workouts, though; it won’t keep tabs on your pulse during the rest of the day. Customize your heart-rate targets, and the watch will vibrate when you hit them. In addition to tracking your BPM, the Forerunner keeps tabs on your steps, calories burned, pace, distance covered, and sleep. If you’re worried about becoming a couch potato, set it to vibrate, and it will alert you that you’ve been sedentary too long.
Though you can use the Forerunner for any activity, it’s really a runner’s watch. Pair it up with the Garmin Connect Platform via a Bluetooth connection to your smartphone, and you can collect data on past runs, create training plans, and share your successes with other runners. Just be warned that you’ll have to connect manually by pressing a red button on the watch — it won’t sync up with your phone automatically like the Garmin Vivoactive.
The Seattle-based company behind the Pivotal Tracker has taken its wearable into a new frontier. You don’t just buy this device — you subscribe to it for a very affordable price. Your subscription lasts one year, after which time you can renew it. If you don’t renew, you can still use the tracker, but you won’t have access to the accompanying app that tracks your fitness data.
Despite its paltry price, the Pivotal Tracker doesn’t look cheap. It’s lightweight, but somehow still substantial. And it’s water-resistant to withstand even the sweatiest workouts.
Tracker offers many of the same features as pricier models, including step, distance, calorie, and sleep tracking (although you’ll have to activate the sleep feature manually before going to bed). It even offers features many other wearables don’t have — like weight and hydration tracking. And, the Pivotal Living app is among the most user-friendly models on the market. It clearly delineates calories, weight, steps, sleep, active time, and hydration, each in its own colored circle over a clean white background. Tap any of the circles to drill down deeper, and you’ll get an in-depth look at your personal stats. You can also see friends’ stats, and connect with them via the app to keep each other motivated.
In the past, if you wanted to get an accurate heart-rate reading during a workout, you had to strap a monitor on your chest. Not so anymore, in part thanks to Basis Peak. Its improved sensors cut through light interference to capture an accurate pulse picture straight from your wrist.
Heart rate is the Peak’s signature feature, but it also offers a lot of other bells and whistles. It counts steps and tracks sleep, and does so automatically through a technology called Body IQ. So as soon as you start walking, running, cycling, or sleeping, the device is right there with you to log it. Peak also tracks your skin temperature and sweat levels (if you didn’t already realize your shirt was soaked through). The accompanying mobile app is full of charts and graphs that reveal volumes about both your sleep quality and daytime activity.
Peak isn’t as sexy looking as some of its competitors, and it’s one of the pricier models in its class. Yet its tracking capabilities are among the most sophisticated. The large touchscreen is easy to see, even in the dark (it has a backlight). And, a recently added notifications feature adds smartwatch functionality by alerting you to incoming texts and calls. The battery life — about four days — is also closer to smartwatch range.
December 08, 2015