Wearables 4.0 - The Activity Trackers Strikes Back

The Next Generation of Activity, Health Trackers, and Smartwatches.

By Hector Cisneros
Apple Watch Courtesy of Flickr

Health Trackers and Smart Watches are everywhere. You can walk into a room without noticing these items inhabiting the arms of thousands of people across the fruited plain.  It has been about five years since these items were introduced to the public and the fad has turned into a trend that still seems unstoppable. In fact, it appears these devices are replacing regular watches as the de facto timepiece. This trend will grow as long as computing power grows, size shrinks, devices improve, and the prices drop. It seems that there is no end in sight to the number of people adopting activity trackers and smartwatches. This is especially true for health conscious and athletic individuals. In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will delve into the latest and greatest activity/health trackers and smartwatches. There is considerable overlap between many of these devices, and this article will endeavor to help you understand the differences. So, roll up your sleeves Dick Tracy and take a gander at your wrists as we take a close look at the latest and greatest Smart Watches and Activity Trackers.


My goal in this article is to give the reader the ability to sift through all the hype so they can select a wearable that fits their needs and taste. Later in this article, I will provide a checklist of the most common features available on many of these devices. It is up to you to pick a watch that best fits your specific needs.

Smart watches, activity, and health trackers are not new. In fact, we first wrote about them back in 2013 with our article called New Year, New Internet Rules, where we discussed new exciting trends at that time. Since then we have written about wearables in several more articles, including Wearables 2.0 - The Rise of the Trackers, In that Article I explained many of the ins and outs of selecting the right tracker for your needs and how to maximize its usefulness as well. It's one of our most read articles ever. Here are a few more wearables articles worth reading.
Courtesy of smartwatchnews.org



I have made many predictions about wearable devices, especially activity trackers and smartwatches. Most of the predictions of greater performance and features have come true. But battery life still has not improved much in 2 ½ years. I believe this is due to adding more features (like GPS and Heart Rate monitoring) to many of the mid-range units. Greater battery drain comes with greater performance and more features being tracked, so most of the top sellers by Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, Apple and Polar range from about 2 to 7 days between charges.

Fitbit Ionic Courtesy of Wikipedia
Any tech product buyer will have to deal with the rapid changes that any new product faces. This includes dealing with regular updates that address bugs and improve functionality to prevent obsolescence. The Fitbit and Garmin activity smartwatches I have own both required updates at least once a quarter. These smart devices are internet connected via smartphone apps and are updated almost as often as any computer. This also means sometimes having the updates cause as many problems as they fix, just as with computer updates. Having said that, it is also important that they get upgraded as time passes. My own experience (and those of my friends) is that updates can be a curse or a blessing (more often a blessing than a curse) because the updates come from two different places. The wearable devices get updated regularly, and your smartphone also gets updated. This sometimes causes the updates to get out of synch. However, I have found that the problems work themselves out over time. I also know that it makes sense to check the device’s website support section if you’re having a problem that hasn’t self-corrected in a week or two.

Vivoactive 1 Courtesy of  Flickr
Planned Obsolescence - The reason I talk about perceived obsolescence is that all too often people are tricked by advertising into thinking they need the latest and greatest wearable when the one they have is already doing exactly what they need. No matter what or whose device you buy, a new replacement is in development and waiting in the wings to launch next year. My suggestion is to pick a device based on your needs (produced from the list below) and plan to keep it for at least two years. If you feel that you must keep up with the Joneses, be ready to hock your old device on eBay for a loss. Be ready to pay a premium on any new wearable that launches for the holiday season. Also, don’t forget that often you can get the best deal on last year's models. Last year’s models already have the bugs worked out of them and in many cases. This is also true when buying a used wearable device. I purchased two used devices online over the last four years, and both work perfectly.

Speaking of how to select your activity tracker - I am sure you will be reading reviews and test articles to see what the experts have to say. I have provided a bunch of them on our
Vivoactive 3 Courtesy of Garmin.com
notes page
associated with this article. I want you all to read these articles with a grain of salt. Articles fall into two categories, reviews, and test. Review articles are often skewed toward the model or the brand the author likes best. Test articles, on the other hand, start by discussing the criteria used to rate devices. They also provide categories like price range, and whether they were geared toward health tracking, general athletic use, specific sports or more general computing like a smartwatch. If criteria are not set up or mentioned, the article could be an advertisement disguised as a review. Many of the videos on YouTube touting the “best and top models” are just advertisements optimized for YouTube search with those key phrases. I also recommend paying attention to the reviews on vendor sites like Target and BestBuy. Look for products with hundreds, if not thousands of reviews and that have a rating of 4 or higher.

What to Buy? - Three years ago, there were many categories and clear classes of wearable products. The truth is that the function of these devices is blurred. When a device can provide the time, track a dozen activities, monitor health functions, download and use apps
Fitbit Charge 2 HR Courtesy of Fitbit
and also connect online, it’s both an activity/health tracker and a smartwatch. In my opinion, the top brands from
Apple, Garmin, Fitbit, Samsung, and Polar are smartwatches that double as high-end activity and health trackers.  The rest is just semantics. As a general rule, you can’t go wrong with a top brands. The links above will take you to these top brand websites. But remember, decide what you must have first. That’s why I say you should choose a wearable device by selecting your “must have” features first. Then, if the device you end up with has more features, it's icing on the cake. Having said that, if you're looking for a good all-around device, look at the Fitbit Charge 2 and its Garmin competitor the Vivosport. If you want a great multi-sport  smartwatch in the $250 to $300 range, look at the Fitbit Blaze or Ionic or the Garmin Vivoactive  3. For a top end smart Watch, it’s hard to beat the Apple Watch 3. And just so you know, I am not getting paid for any of my endorsement of these products.  I just like them.

The Future is bright - It doesn’t take a crystal ball to guess what direction wearables are going. It’s headed in the “Star Trek Tech direction. The next generation of these devices will be adding artificial intelligence as a standard feature. Many of the Android smartwatches and the new Apple watch will allow you to give voice commands to your smartphone via the watches microphone. Some will let you make and take calls, play music, access your calendar, answer text and more.  Yeah, AI is where this tech is headed, and it will be a cool technology once it’s protected.

Samsung Gear S3  Courtesy of Samsung
A Bit Scary Too! – The future is also a bit scary when it comes to protecting your new cool tech devices. These manufacturers and the buying public need to keep in mind that these are miniature computers and they are internet connected. In essence, they are IoT devices. I have yet to see any smartwatch, much less any activity tracker that comes equipped with or is capable of adding an anti-malware application. In the near future, this will become an issue because these devices are now becoming equipped with the ability to act as payment devices (that have access to your bank accounts). Some, like the high-end Apple Watch 3 is also internet connected because it is a smartphone.

A word of caution about where to buy your wearables - Make sure the vendor you buy from can warranty the device directly and that they are authorized to sell the device by the
Courtesy of Pixabay
manufacturer. If they are not, the manufacturer will not honor the warranty if you have a problem. The manufacturers often list who is authorized to sell their product on their website. It doesn’t matter if you're buying it from Amazon, eBay, Jet, or Walmart. These vendors offer many third-party products, and all vendors are not authorized resellers. Target, Best Buy, Dicks, and Academy Sports, for the most part, don’t advertise l third-party sales on their websites. If you must buy from a third party or even used on eBay, make sure the vendor has a high rating (98 or 4 stars and above) and that they clearly state the warranty, return policy and time frame in their product listing.

Earlier I stated that I felt it was important to choose your wearable based on your “must have” features first and foremost.  In order to know what features you must have and would also like to get, you’re going to need to do some reading. I highly recommend doing your due diligence by reading many of the articles linked here and on the notes page. Here is a list of the prominent features that most people care about:

Price Range
____ $20 to $49
____ $50 to $100
Polar 600 Courtesy of Polar
____ $101 to $200
____ $201 to $349
____ $350 to $549
____ $550 and up

General Features
____ Battery life (longer is better)
____ Readability in all lighting
____ Size (personal preference)
____ Shape (personal preference)
____ Color (personal preference - some are changeable)
____ Exchangeable bands
____ Charging method and plug
____ Time and Date
____ Additional Watch Faces
____ Additional Device Wedges & App
____ Accessory Support (associated smart scale or sport specific devices)
____ A method to express progress towards your goal
____ IPX rating (water & dust proofing)

Activity Tracker Features
____ Steps
____ Distance
____ Floor Climbed
____ Work out Intensity
____ Goals
____ Smartphone App

Health, Fitness Features
____ All day Heart Rate Monitor
____ Sleep Tracking
____ Weight
____ Calories In/Out
____ All Day Stress
____ Respiration Rate
____ Blood Pressure
____ Temperature
____ Blood Oxygen

Sports Tracker Features
Vivoactive 3 Courtesy of Garmin
____ Smart Coaching
____ Golf + courses
____ Swimming
____ Running- Both indoors and out
____ Weight Lifting
____ Climb
____ Bike- Both indoors and out
____ Ski/board
____ Boxing
____ Interval Training
____ Walking - Both indoors and out
____ Hike
____ Rowing - Both indoors and out
____ Other

SmartWatch Features
____ Access to Smartphone to make and receive calls
____ Make and receive calls from the watch
____ Access to Smartphone to send and receive Text
____ Create, send and receive text from watch
____ Access Email on Smartphone
____ Create email on Watch
____ Access to Calendar Functions
____ Create entries and update the calendar from the watch
Apple Watch 3 Courtesy of Apple
____ Access contact list on a smartphone
____ Create and edit contacts from the watch
____ Access to GPS Map navigation from a smartphone
____ Built-in GPS navigation
____ Control Music Smartphone apps
____ Store and control Music and MP3 files to watch
____ Play videos from Smartphone to watch
____ Record and play videos on watch
____ Take Pictures with Smartphone
____ Take picture with Smartwatch
____ Take picture with Smartwatch
____ Downloadable Device Specific Apps & Widgets
____ Activity Tracker Features
____ Sport Tracker Features
____ Health Tracker Features

Smartphone App
____ Smartphone App Friendliness
____ Full Featured Smartphone App
____ Ability to function with third-party apps
____ Product Community
____ Vendor upgrades
____ Vendor online Support

If you’re a beginner, make sure you get the basics covered regarding whichever product you purchase. For example; all day activity tracking, steps, distance, and calories burned. I would also add sleep and heart rate monitoring along with a move indicator as being tops on my list. If you’re into various sports, make sure your top three or four sports are covered by your device. I personally like Garmin devices because Garmin makes smartwatches that cover the most sports. I would also tell you that Apple, Fitbit, Samsung, and Polar all make great smart/activity/health tracker watches. If you’re an Apple person, you won’t be disappointed with the Apple Watch 2 or 3.  

If the look and feel are important, make sure you try a few on first to check if it meets your
Courtesy of GearBest.com
standards. If you are price conscious, you can always go with a used device or look into any of the hundreds of low cost imported devices on the market. I know that eBay, Amazon, and Walmart are flooded with these products.
Gear Best is another company that carries a lot of these import wearable devices. Last time I checked, Gear Best carried over 240 smartwatch/activity trackers including some brand names like Garmin. Their inventory covers a wide array of prices and features with the bulk of the devices coming in at low to medium cost range. A real cheap alternative is just to use your Smartphone to track your activity. In fact, 2016 saw a slowdown in the adoption of activity trackers due to the widespread availability of smartphone apps like Google Fit and many others. Search the Google Play store, and you will see what I mean.

If you're shopping for a new activity tracker, know that this will not be your last. Look for the best deal you can find. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Amazon Cyber sales in July are great times to buy. You can also setup a sale alert on some of the retail websites to let you know when to buy. Also look for closeouts and used devices. Often a person will buy a smartwatch or activity tracker and doesn’t like the look or feel. Sometimes they realize they hate wearing a watch-type device. Sometimes they were given the device as a present and didn't need it! Their loss is your gain.

Now, if you're buying one of these devices in the hopes of losing weight, think again. These devices provide feedback only! They don’t do the exercises for you; they can only monitor your vitals, efforts, and results. Also, even if you exercise more and ignore eating right, you will fail. Eating right is more important than doing lots of exercises.

It is my sincerest hope that this article and the other articles listed help you on your journey to a better understanding of your health. I hope it helps you select the best wearable device for your budget and needs. I recommend reading my prior article called “Wearables 2.0 - The Rise The of Trackers”, it provides a wealth of useful information when making a buying decision. Thanks for reading my article.
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That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.

This article provides the reader with a means to better understand the differences between health trackers, activity trackers, and smartwatches.  It includes an updated look at what’s available, makes purchase recommendations and also includes a checklist of the most common features. This aids the reader by providing a must-have feature list to help make the buying decision easier. Also included are links to many other related articles and resources.

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Hector Cisneros is COO and Director of Social Media Marketing at Working the Web to Win, an award-winning Internet marketing company based in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is also co-host of the weekly Internet radio show, "Working the Web to Win" on BlogTalkRadio.com, which airs every Tuesday at 4 p.m. Eastern. Hector is a syndicated writer and published author of “60 Seconds to Success.” 

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