If you’ve been following Tech Now, you already know all about the current crop of fitness trackers, from Jawbone UP to Shine. But technology marches ever onward, and there’s now a new group of exercise gadgets quickly becoming the Next Big Thing in sweat tech. If you want to help lead the new exercise revolution, these are the fitness wearables everyone will be talking about tomorrow, and they’re all available today.
GARMIN VIVOFIT: IF YOU HAVE BATTERY BURNOUT
The Garmin Vivofit ($129.99) is a super capable tracker, keeping an eye on everything from your sleep patterns and steps to calories burned and distance traveled. It’s water resistant and durable, and syncs with your smartphone to give you a wealth of important exercise stats at a glance. But where the Vivofit really sets itself apart is with its ability to let you completely forget about charging it. Say goodbye to daily battery boosts or regular replacements, as this little beauty can keep chugging for a full year before you even have to think about swapping out its power supply.
Unfortunately, that may come at the cost of usability, as our testing of the Garmin found it to be a bit slower and clunkier than its competitors. But at least it has a long life, right?
SAMSUNG GEAR FIT: A TRACKER AS SMART AS YOUR PHONE
Samsung’s Gear Fit ($199.99) straddles the line between smart watch and fitness band, with a gorgeous full-color display, apps, and the ability to display text messages and e-mails. On the exercise end of things, it syncs with your Samsung smartphone to give you all kinds of useful data like your overall activity level, steps and even your heart rate via the built-in monitor that doesn’t require a pesky chest band.
The biggest drawback here is that the Gear Fit currently only syncs with Samsung smartphones, so if you have a different Android brand or an iPhone, it’s not something you should be considering. That’s a pretty big bummer.
ADIDAS MI-COACH: IF YOU WANT TO LEAVE YOUR PHONE AT HOME
While most fitness trackers rely on a companion device like a smartphone or tablet to showcase the bulk of your data, the Adidas Mi-Coach Smart Run ($400) is all about running independence. The beautiful color screen includes all the info you need, including your current speed, heart rate and pace. It has a built-in motivational coach to push you just a little bit farther and even includes 3 GB of on-board storage for your workout playlist, letting you leave your smartphone on the kitchen countertop.
The biggest issue we found while putting the Smart Run through its paces is that the heart-rate monitor can be wildly inaccurate. You need to have it perfectly positioned on your wrist to get a reliable reading, and if you’re sweating from a long workout, that’s another thing that can throw off your numbers (and among us runners, let’s face it, we’re a sweaty lot). It’s an OK alternative if you hate wearing a chest strap, but for $400, it should probably work better than it does.
POLAR V800: IF YOU’RE TRAINING FOR A MARATHON
The Polar V800 ($519.95) is a no-compromise training powerhouse, offering you the same daily activity data as its peers, along with some seriously intense training tracking. It not only tracks your pacing and speed when you’re pounding away on the trail, but gives you the edge on your fellow runners with a triathlon training mode, integrated GPS, and even detailed breakdowns of how much rest you’ll need in order to recover from the day’s workout.
All of this high-tech gadgetry comes at an equally high cost, and at over half a grand, there’s only a very small number of diehard fitness gurus that would see the value — I’ll admit, I’m one of them, as are many of my triathlon- and marathon-training buddies. I can’t recommend a $500 band to all you weekend warriors, but for those of you who do nothing but work out, it’s an option, albeit a pricey one.
SPIRE: IF YOU NEED A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
I’ve reviewed so many activity trackers that when a new one comes along, I’m pretty skeptical that it will actually do anything “new.” So — here’s Spire (pre-order, $119) — a just-launched little lifestyle tracker that does something so simple, it’s absolutely brilliant: It tracks your breathing. Your breathing is one of the easiest ways to monitor your overall health in real time, arguably a far more important metric these days than trying to rack up 10,000 steps.
Just snap the sleek little gadget onto your clothing and it instantly monitors and analyzes your breathing patterns in real time to show when you are focused, tense or freaking-out. As you breathe, colors change on your smartphone to help guide you to a healthier, more productive, more Zen state of mind. Whether you’re on the trail or simply pounding through a project at work, it’s amazing how much better you can feel really quickly with this guided breathing help.
Try it now, take one good deep breath. Smile. Feel better? I know I do.
Spire also counts your steps, and you can watch them adding up on the smartphone app in real time, which is also pretty cool. It also automatically detects and tracks when you’re going for a jog. But its real value is in how much peace it can bring to your hectic life just by reminding you to breathe.
The only drawback is that you have to clip it on your bra or belt buckle. I tend to like the wrist-worn trackers best. But, it helps keep it discreet. Also, after testing it out myself, I have to say, it makes you so instantly chill, you’ll want to take a nap. Which is a pretty good way to keep healthy too.
I know, I know, there seems to be a new lineup of fitness trackers every time you turn around, but if you weren’t impressed by the exercise gadgets that are already on the top of the charts, one of these sexy new devices is sure to fit your style. Whether you’re a marathon runner or just someone who wants to track their daily activity with a no-nonsense approach, this next generation of trackers just might fit the bill. And if it doesn’t, don’t worry, give it a few days and something new will come along.