Fitness bands like the Fitbit are premium and well made products but there are other manufacturers who have taken the fitness tracker concept and produced alternatives that are 4 times cheaper in some cases. The question is, are they just pretenders or viable alternatives?
These smart gadgets look cool and futuristic and allow you to monitor your steps and heart rate with minimal effort. They also double up as a stylish watch with notifications from your phone like email and social media.
I will admit I brought my fitness tracker as a calculated risk because I needed a watch and I thought paying a couple of bucks extra for more functions was worth it. What’s the worst that could happen I speculated; the fitness tracker part would be terrible but at least I would have a nice looking watch.
The price was comparable to a normal watch so I went ahead and ordered one. I’ve now been using it for over a month and am genuinely surprised by this smartwatch. You could say my expectations were quite low anyway so as long as the thing turned on and displayed the time and date I would have been impressed :) This watch not only did that but quite a few other things as well.
What does a fitness tracker do?
There are lots of smart bands available and most come from China and most don’t have clear brand names when listed on Amazon. I live in the UK and brought the WeLoop Now 2 (sometimes listed as OMorc) fitness tracker that cost just over £30 (about $40). The nearest similar one I could find in the US is the Letscom fitness tracker.
The main features I was interested in was the step counter and the notifications like emails as well as the simple time and date display. The bonus features for me included wake up alarm, reminder to get up and take a walk after periods of inactivity, being waterproof, sleep quality monitoring, heart rate monitoring, goal setting for daily steps, option for notifying me of almost anything from my phone, call and text notifications, long battery life as well as exercise tracking.
My initial scepticism disappeared when the watch arrived because the product was well packaged and of a high standard. The watch itself looks very similar to the Fitbit being only slightly thicker. Overall the build quality is impressive and durable - so far so good.
After charging the the watch using the included cradle and USB cable I was pleasantly surprised to find that the watch was very lightweight and comfortable to wear and the basic functions of time, calories, steps and notifications were easy to configure.
As with all these fitness trackers, you need to download the app on your phone and I found the WeLoop app (from the Play store) was simple and has a well designed interface which had no problems pairing with my Android phone (make sure you turn bluetooth and location on).
As I started using the app it became clear that the functions were well thought out and easy to use. I was most impressed by the notifications settings because I could set anything on my phone to be notified on my watch. For example, the watch vibrates for about 2 seconds when I have a twitter notification or YouTube app notification. The watch shows me the subject text and who or where it’s from with the text scrolling from left to right.
This works so well for me that I now have my phone on silent all the time and rely on my watch to tell me if someone’s calling, texting, emailing, tweeting or whatever. Not only is this discreet but allows me to ignore the messages to read for later. In our phone obsessed lives of today it’s refreshing to stay informed but be able to refrain from the urge to read the message straight away.
Oh and just between you and me, I feel just so cool every time I get an email or other notification on my watch - I’ve even had some curious eyes turn to envious eyes on my morning train commute!
Let’s get active!
We all know that on the whole we all spend too much time in one place for way too long, whether that’s in front of the computer or TV or that dreaded phone. Working in IT means sitting in front of a computer for long periods. With this fitness tracker on my wrist I get a little jolt every so often reminding me to take a break. It’s kind of like having a friend encouraging me throughout the day.
Some of the other features also work but I don’t think they are that accurate, like the pedometer for example. While using the watch for the last month, I’ve noticed that the pedometer is more like a move-ometer because it sometimes interprets general movements as steps, but let’s be honest at this price I wasn’t expecting high accuracy.
Unless you are comparing your steps with someone else with a different tracker or rely on the heart rate monitor for medical reasons, this watch should still be ok. Even if the tracker step count is too high or too low, as long as you are always comparing with your results on a daily basis you can still set yourself targets to achieve.
Another example of this is the heart rate monitor. I would say I am a fairly calm person but according to the results this watch gives me, I am in a perpetual zen-like state. Even if I’m walking or running, my heart rate according to the watch doesn’t change much.
I think you should treat the exercise functions more as indicators to set goals to rather than results to analyse and scrutinise.
When cheap means good value not bad quality…
I don’t like the alarm going off in the morning so I thought the wake function on this watch would be ideal. The problem is, I’m a deep sleeper so a couple of vibrations on my wrist to wake me up just wasn’t cutting it.
Oh well, I can live without that function and that’s what this fitness tracker and probably most other budget trackers out there are; products that don’t have the top of the range accuracy on their functions but are still useful and worth buying. In fact my wife liked the watch so much that it’s now hers and it was so useful for exercise reminders that I brought my Mum one as well.
At this price I could do that. Some functions like the pedometer and heart rate monitor were not very accurate but were still useful. Other functions like the notifications were brilliant along with the well designed app that tells me how well I slept or shows me my activity progress. These fitness trackers are stylish, high quality in most cases and if you’re in the market for one I highly recommend them.