Microsoft Health and Band Sound Pretty Cool

Microsoft Health and Band Sound Pretty CoolI first saw pictures of the Microsoft Band yesterday and didn’t quite get it. I figured that it was yet another in a long line of wearables and wrote it off as such. Turns out there’s a little more to the story, and the Microsoft Band is only a small part of what Microsoft Health is, and it’s not even required.

First off, don’t think of Microsoft Band as a Fitbit or a Nike Fuelband. It actually has more in common with a smart watch than one of the aforementioned fitness trackers. That’s because the Microsoft Band doesn’t actually do the collection of the data. Rather, it receives the data that your phone is collecting and passes it along to you in a more efficient package so you don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket to check your vitals or your stats for the day.

Microsoft likens its Band to a personal trainer. It tracks your heart rate 24 hours a day, knows when you’re sleeping and keeps a log, maps the routes you take with the GPS while you bike, hike, or run, and let’s you save your favorite routes, and it can even guide you through workouts. Because the Band connects to your phone, it can also alert you when you get an email or have a calendar event, it can set a timer or alarm, and you can ask it things via the Cortana software, which is Microsoft’s version of Siri. It even detects UVs and will let you know if you should put on sunscreen when you head outside.

The surprising thing about all of this is how open it is. The Band works with Windows phones, Androids, iPhones, smart watches, and even certain Jawbone products. Microsoft Health has support for a variety of services, such as MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, and MapMyFitness as well.

I was listening to The Vergecast podcast today and they spoke about some of the possibilities of Microsoft Health. One example was the app could see that you have a meeting later in the day and that you tend to get tired later if you exercise earlier, so hold off exercising until after the meeting. Or, it could see that if you have a big dinner followed by coffee, you have trouble sleeping, so don’t eat so much and pass on the coffee. Because of the integration with services like MyFitnessPal and the ability to see how well you sleep, Microsoft Health will have access to such detailed information. The ability to integrate with the above services along with the fitness-tracking features of all phones is exciting.

But will I get a Microsoft Band? That remains to be seen. I’ll hold off and wait for the reviews. I don’t see myself as a smart watch kind of guy, but if it works as well as Microsoft says it will, then I might just have to bite the bullet. At the very least the Microsoft Health app sounds great, but for it to get information about what you’re eating and drinking, you’ll have to manually enter that stuff in a service like MyFitnessPal. I don’t think I have the time or dedication for that unfortunately.

The Microsoft Band is priced at $199, which is $50 less than the new Fitbit Surge, and it has a better (and color) screen, and seems to be able to do so much more. The new Fitbit actually looks old and dated in comparison.

Fitbit Announces Three New Activity Trackers

Fitbit Announces Three New Activity TrackersI wrote a week or two ago about the new activity tracker that Fitbit has in the pipeline, a smart watch-type device called the Surge. It has a larger screen compared to Fitbit’s previous offerings, providing users with a range of important data they once needed a smart phone to view. The Surge seems designed for people who are active rather than people who are trying to become more active. It has a built-in GPS and keeps track of your running or cycling, and it can keep tabs on your heart rate as well to ensure you’re getting it up where it should be. This new wearable is priced at $250 and will be released sometime next year.

The two other new wearables that Fitbit is releasing I didn’t write about last week, but I will cover in this blog post. They are more in line with what the company has previously released and are updated versions of those devices.

The first of these new activity trackers I’ll look at is the Charge, which is essentially an upgraded version of the Fitbit Force. It’s about the same size with a similar screen and you can expect it to last about seven days, which is the same as the Force. However, the Charge has an updated textured band which will hopefully not include any nickel, which gave a lot of people rashes last year. The Charge also has an improved sleep function which no longer requires you to tell it when you’re sleeping. It’s now smart enough to know when you are sleeping and keep track of it for you automatically. The Charge is available now for $130.

The final of the third activity trackers to be released by Fitbit is the Charge HR, and this will also be coming next year much like the Surge. The Charge HR is basically the same as the Charge yet it features an integrated heart rate monitor. It may not be as accurate as some of the straps that wrap around your chest like serious athletes wear, but it’s certainly cheaper and more convenient. The one caveat is that the heart rate monitoring ability will drop the battery life of the Charge HR from seven days to five compared to the basic Charge. As I mentioned, the Charge HR will be released next year and it will be priced at $150.

Details on Fitbit’s New Wearable Activity Tracker, the Fitbit Surge

Details on Fitbit's New Wearable Activity Tracker, the Fitbit SurgeDetails about the new Fitbit Surge activity tracker were recently leaked by the people over at The Verge. It looks like the latest version of the Fitbit will be hopping aboard the smart watch craze.

The nice thing about previous iterations of Fitbit wearables is that they were cheap. They were priced at less than $100 and because they didn’t have screens, they worked with a smartphone to help keep the price down. Everyone has a phone with them nowadays, so it wasn’t really necessary for Fitbit fitness trackers to have screens. You could just pull out your phone to check your stats throughout the day. Plus the Fitbit Flex and Force wearables were minimal enough that they could be passed off as an unassuming rubber bracelet, not unlike one of those Live Strong ones that everyone was wearing a decade ago.

The Fitbit Surge seems to be aimed at people who exercise more frequently than those who would likely buy the Fitbit Flex or Force. Along with a screen, the Surge has a built-in GPS for keeping tabs on your route while running or cycling and a heart rate monitor to see if you’re in the right range. Runners and cyclists will especially find this information useful, but the device will still monitor stairs climbed and calories burned when you’re not exercising like previous versions of Fitbit wearables. But all these new features will cost you. While previous versions were priced at $100 or less, the new Fitbit Surge will run you $250.

The silver lining to this is that there’s no need to carry around a smartphone with you. If you’re going for a run or a hike, you might not want to lug your phone with you to keep tabs on your progress. But let’s face it, a lot of people use their phones for listening to music, and the majority of people keep a phone with them at all times in case they need to be contacted. I can’t imagine that many people will be ditching their phones while they exercise in favor of keeping the Fitbit Surge with them.

The other issue I see with the Fitbit is that there are so many new smart watches becoming available. The iWatch is in the pipeline and there are already multiple smart watches available for the Android platform. If these watches become as popular as Apple, LG, Sony, and Samsung hope they will, people likely won’t wear a Fitbit Surge on one wrist and a smart watch on the other. I feel that if someone wants a smart watch, they’ll choose that over an activity tracker, perhaps opting for a Fitbit Flex or Force rather than the bloated Fitbit Surge. Sure, Fitbit promises that the Surge will be able to receive notifications from your phone about calls and texts, and it will be able to control your music, but it won’t completely eliminate the need for a smart watch for the people who want a smart watch.

It will be interesting to see if reviews cover some of these “issues” that I can see with the device, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks and see once the device becomes available. The Fitbit Surge should be out by the end of November, priced at around $250 as I mentioned, and available in a trio of colors: black, gray, and orange.

Misfit Introduces its Newest Wearable the Misfit Flash

Misfit Introduces its Newest Wearable the Misfit FlashI first wrote about the Misfit Shine last year. It was one of the first activity trackers on the market, and if you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s similar to the Fitbit. It keeps track of your daily activities and helps you to lead a more active lifestyle. The original Misfit Shine was a simple metallic disc that would track your activity and sleep, and unlike many other activity trackers, it was waterproof and didn’t need charging. Because it was waterproof, you could wear it in the pool while you swam to keep a more accurate log of exercise while swimming compared to some of the other activity trackers.

Now, Misfit has introduced it’s follow-up to the Misfit Shine called the Misfit Flash.

The major difference between the Misfit Shine and the Flash is the materials used in its construction. The Shine was solid aluminum while the Flash is now plastic. The Flash in terms of overall looks and feel isn’t as high end as the Shine, and it is slightly thicker, but in many other regards it functions just the same. The battery life is still very long (six months for the Flash while the Shine was four) and the waterproof rating has dropped from 5 ATM for the Shine to 3 ATM for the Flash. Still, Misfit says that the Flash is still waterproof enough for you to wear it while swimming.

One complaint with the original Shine was the LED lights, specifically they just weren’t bright enough. This seems to be solved with the Flash. There’s still the same ring of LEDs around the circumference of the circular device, though they’re now red and brighter and can be activated by pressing down on the face of the device. These lights display the time of day and your progress throughout the day.

While the original Misfit Shine stood out because it was one of the first wearables on the market, the Misfit Flash is now one of many, many activity trackers. The device can still track activity and sleep and is waterproof, I’m not sure if it’s enough to set it apart from the glut of other trackers currently available.

The Misfit Flash is now available at many retailers including Amazon for an affordable $50, about half that of the original Misfit Shine.

Do I Need to Wear My Fitbit on My Wrist?

Do I Need to Wear My Fitbit on My Wrist?There are many styles of Fitbit activity trackers. Some simply clip onto your clothes, while the two most advanced and latest iterations of the Fitbit come with rubber wristbands. In these wristbands you slide in the tiny activity tracker so you have easy access to view your progress throughout the day.

But the newest version of the Fitbit, the Fitbit Force, has been recalled. Apparently a lot of people were getting skin irritations and rashes from the material used to construct the wristband. This lead me to wonder, do I need to wear my Fitbit on my wrist inside the included wristband?

Now, I don’t have the newest version of the Fitbit. I actually have the model that’s one generation older, the Fitbit Flex. Although this particular model is missing some features of the newer Fitbit Force–most notably the ability to count stairs climbed and an OLED screen–the overall shape and size of the unit is virtually identical.

While I do love my Fitbit, I don’t necessarily love wearing it on my wrist. I haven’t worn a watch in years, and don’t really like having anything on my wrist. The somewhat bulky wristband is always sliding down my wrist and the way the wristband attaches isn’t as secure as wearing a watch. Also, I use my smartphone to check my progress throughout the day rather than tapping on the LED display to view my progress.

For these reasons I wondered if I had to wear the wristband at all, or if I could slide the device out of the wristband and simply keep it in my pocket. The majority of the time I wear jeans, so the small coin pocket on my jeans seemed like the perfect place to keep my Fitbit secure while I went about my day.

So, to answer my original question, no, you don’t have to wear your Fitbit Flex or Fitbit Force in the wristband. In fact, the official Fitbit website even says that you don’t have to wear it in the wristband. Simply take it out of the wristband, pop it into a pocket in your pants, shirt, dress, or shorts, and go about your day. So long as it’s secure and on your body at all times, it will continue to accurately count and measure your activity throughout the day.