When it comes to fitness devices, the market for women is just starting to gain traction. Typical devices have included slimmer versions of bulky smartwatches made for a man’s wrist and cheap-looking plastic fitness trackers that appear more suitable for a child than any adult. But more manufacturers are catering to women, with many devices starting to double as jewelry. The world’s first smart bra will even hit the market soon.
Here’s a review of some of the available products that may or may not fit your needs.
Industry observers say women just aren’t buying these so-called do-everything devices. Most are still too masculine, and the normal way manufacturers have dealt with products for women is to offer the bulky watches with smaller bands or diamond encrusted faces. But that’s changing, with some models starting to appear more androgynous, trying to go against the grain of being labeled masculine or feminine. And, always bear in mind that most smartwatches still need to be paired with your smartphone, and you usually have to lug along your phone while you exercise for your watch to do you any good.
Let’s start with the seemingly ubiquitous (marketing-wise) Apple Watch. If you buy it, you’re going for a cool factor over more work(woman)-like products, such as Android Wear, Pebble, and other smartwatches. Stylish but pricy, it does a decent job of tracking your fitness, but it’s not the best of the bunch, and it’s nothing more than a sidekick and at some point needs to be untethered from the iPhone, or else it’s not going anywhere. You could probably say that about any smartwatch that isn’t a stand-alone device; few are.
First, some of the bad. For starters, you’re going to get a day out of the battery, at best; if you use the fitness functionality a lot, you can burn down the battery in about three hours. Other models out there have much better battery life, some lasting weeks (their makers claim). It’s water-resistant but not waterproof, so you can wear it in the shower but swimming isn’t the brightest idea. It doesn’t have a sleep tracker. And there’s no intuitive way to review past workouts, although you can see a basic graph showing when you were active or inactive during your day.
What’s cool about the Watch is it automatically detects that you are exercising and calculates your calorie burn. That’s fine if you’re not serious about fitness. But if you are, you can turn on the Workout app and measure pace and distance. Unlike some other models, the Watch doesn’t have a built-in time interval feature that tells when it’s time to slow down or pick up your pace. You’ll need a third-party app for that. You’ll also need to bring your phone on your run so notifications will work.
The Watch feels good to wear and your wrist moves freely while wearing it; the smaller 38 mm model is intended for women and comes in multiple designs, but it still feels manly. It can be quite fancy, depending on how it pairs with your wardrobe and, more importantly, your budget. Apple has put on a full-court press to woo women, and that’s probably necessary; lots of women are turning away.
Next up is the Pebble Time Round. It’s smaller than the Apple Watch, with a much slimmer band, and fits a bit better on a woman’s wrist, while looking classy and even coming in a rose-gold version. An Android Wear product, and thus compatible with more smartphones than Apple’s product, Time Round is super thin, has the look and feel of a real watch, and is more feminine. While it works with both iOS and Android, it’s less chic than Apple’s watch. As far as fitness tracking goes, most industry analysts will tell you the Android Wear watches are better smartwatches because of their continuous trackers. But don’t wear it while you go for a swim; it’s only shower-ready.
You can choose from 6,000 apps, and you’re going to have to because Time doesn’t have a built-in continuous tracker; you’ll need apps like Misfit or Jawbone (which means you might want to use their devices for fitness instead of this watch), and you’ll need to turn them on before you start to exercise. Time also doesn’t have a heart-rate monitor, doesn’t track your location, and won’t measure your calorie burn, so you’ll need to download apps. The step counter is rudimentary. The display is always on, so you can look down and check the time during your workout, but the 1.25-inch screen can be difficult to read because it’s not very bright.
Finally in the smartwatch category there’s the Moto 360. Like the Apple Watch, it comes with a 42 mm band for a woman’s wrist (the men’s version is 46 mm), so it’s bulkier than the Time Round but still light. Like the Round it’s, well, round, and looks less manly. This Android Wear product is pricier, but you can buy a rose gold version.
This watch has an optical heart-rate monitor and can take spot readings in the Moto Body Wear app. It will track progress for daily and weekly heart minutes and activity. After 14 days, the Moto 360 analyzes your averages. On your phone, you can track weekly, monthly, and yearly trends. The fitness value of this watch depends on the Android apps you use, but it does all the basics: It will provide motivational reminders, progress updates, and updated goals, and tracks steps and caloric burn. One weird caveat is the leather band. You’ll sweat all over it, and Motorola doesn’t offer a band suited for exercise.
While smartwatch manufacturers are still trying to figure out how to slim down watches for women, the fitness tracking category is heading in the right direction, with many devices designed specifically for women.
One area is “smart jewelry.” The Bellabeat LEAF stands high on the pyramid here. Specifically designed for women, LEAF tracks steps and sleep, like most fitness trackers, but it also monitors your stress level, by recording your breathing patterns; this product even offers guided breathing exercises. It will track your menstrual cycles and ovulation, unlike most smartwatches. Weighing just 0.64 ounces, you can wear it as a bracelet on the included leather strap, but it looks bulky on a small wrist. You might be more comfortable wearing it as a necklace (the chain is also included), if you’re into large pendants. You can even clip it on your clothing as a broach.
To get the most out of LEAF, you need to move it around. To track your breathing, you’ll wear it at your waste. For sleep monitoring, you attach it to the hem of your pajama shirt. For fitness tracking, you can wear on it on your wrist, around your neck, or clipped to your shirt.
A few caveats: It’s not water resistant (it’s made of wood), so you can’t wear it in the shower. It doesn’t detect when activity picks up (you have to activate it), and it won’t record your workouts like apps for a smartwatch will. It also doesn’t have a display, so you have to rely exclusively on the app and pairing it with your phone. However, it does work with both Android and iOS.
The Mira is an affordable and stylish bracelet that tracks steps, distance, calories burned, even elevation. It’s more interactive than LEAF, encouraging you to move when you’ve been sitting too long and offering suggestions for activities.
It also looks more inconspicuous than most fitness trackers, and style-wise goes far beyond many of the plastic, childlike products out there, so it doesn’t look out of place. Made of surgical-grade stainless steel, Mira weighs 1.2 ounces, a bit heavier than LEAF but not nearly as bulky. It’s available in a bronze or silver finish; no rose gold option here. But you can pop the sensor off the bracelet and clip it to your shirt or bra, which is a nice function.
While Mira works with both iOS and Android, it doesn’t track sleep like the Fitbit Charge HR and the Withings Activite Pop (another smartwatch). While it’s not for fitness addicts but more for folks who need a little push, you can add activities via the app, such as yoga, swimming, and weight-lifting tracking.
The Swarovski Shine is Misfit’s fitness tracker appeal to women, coming encrusted with a Swarovski crystal. It can be worn as a pendant or a bracelet and comes in two versions, one that uses a battery lasting 8 months, and the purple version, the first solar-powered fitness device. You can combine Swarovski Shine with nine accessories, such as wrap-around slake bracelets, three pendants, and fancy watchbands.
Per industry standards, it tracks sleep and fitness activities, monitors your sleep, and delivers the results to your smartphone via the Misfit app. You can swim with this tracker; it’s waterproof down to 50 meters. The display is a bit rudimentary; you double tap the crystal to see the time or a glowing ring of LEDs (to show your progress towards your fitness goal), but at least it has one, unlike LEAF.
Fitbit is also hot for the female dollar, of course. It’s Flex is sleek and mostly unobtrusive, coming with an androgynous plastic band, though you can buy replacement bands in a myriad of colors and styles.
Flex tracks steps, calories burned, and monitors sleep. It won’t show you elevation or how many steps you’ve climbed, but it does buzz you back from sleep at a set time or to let you know when it’s time to work out. There’s also no built-in heart-rate monitor. Flex is water resistant and has 5 to 7 days of battery life. Because there’s no display, you’re forced to consult the Fitbit app on your smartphone, although the LED panel does light up to indicate progress toward your goal. It is, however, much cheaper than the Swarovski Shine.
Garmin’s Vivofit 2 isn’t a smartwatch, so it’s not as fancy, but it does display the time and is water resistant and low-maintenance. It also has a long battery life. Compare it to the Nike Fuelband or the Withings Pulse O2. It’s a bit more expensive than the Fibit Flex but costs a lot less than the Swarovski Shine. The strap is rubberized, like the Flex, but the backlight LCD display is easy to read, and its sensor pops out to fit any band coming in 13 different color options.
Vivofit counts steps, tracks the distance you’ve traveled, estimates calories burned, tracks sleep, and can check continuous heart rate if you buy a separate heart-rate monitor. It’s not a great device for runners because it doesn’t have GPS. It also doesn’t have smart coaching or insights on being healthier.
To encourage you to move, a red bar appears once you’ve been sitting for an hour, and then grows every 15 minutes after that. However, it doesn’t vibrate like other products, so you do need to look at it. There’s just one button for all the controls, so you’ll have to click and hold, or press and hold, to get to various functions.
Jawbone’s UP Move is a fitness tracker for the budget conscious (read: not stylish at all, childish-looking, in fact). Plus, you have to buy the band separately to wear it on your wrist, but there are several color and style options available. It does, however, come with a clip to attach to your clothing or bra, so it can be unobtrusive like other models out there. UP Move runs on a replaceable battery that lasts 6 months. It’s not waterproof, so swimming with it is out, and there’s no display or LED indicator lights to show your fitness activity progress.
UP Move has three modes – activity tracking, stopwatch, and sleep – and monitors steps, distance walked, calories burned, active time, and idle time. The stopwatch mode tells the device you’re about to start an activity (when want to start, you enter stopwatch mode, then assign your activity later). It can track everything from cycling to cross-training to Zumba. UP Move isn’t for its looks but for its app, one of the market’s best at tracking fitness.
Lastly comes Socialite by WiseWear; it’s designed (so says the manufacturer) for women and expensive. This line of “connected bracelets” comes in three styles. It’s made from brass and is platted in either 18-karat gold or silver-white rhodium. Billed as “brain plus beauty,” it’s durable and water resistant. Socialite will work with its smartphone app to give you notifications for calls, texts, emails, and calendar reminders. It tracks steps, calories burned, distance traveled, sleep, and activity minutes.
One interesting feature is you can send your location and a voice or video recording (working with your smartphone) to a pre-approved list of emergency contacts if you encounter a safety issue. The manufacturer also claims Socialite is antimicrobial, to prevent buildup of unwanted bacteria.
Says Gerald Wilmink, PhD, MBA, founder and CEO of WiseWare: “We have cracked the code and fused fashion and technology into an innovative product. The result is the first fully integrated luxury jewelry that people will actually want to wear.”
January 19, 2016