Anyone who regularly reads this site, and/or who knows me personally will know that I am relatively happy with my level of activity and see no reason to own or wear an activity tracker. That being said, I have a life insurance policy with Vitality, who offer points for proving activity, and points mean rewards. For example, if I complete 12,500 steps in one day, I receive 8 points. If I obtain a total of 12 points this week, I get a free cinema ticket and Starbucks next week. There are other, greater rewards including up to 50% cashback at Evans Cycles and discounts on holidays that make owning an activity tracker more attractive.
I used to own (well, in fact I still do as I haven’t binned it yet) a Fitbit One, which was one of the first of the new breed of activity trackers on the market. As you can see from the image below, it is small enough to slip into a pocket and you could forget about it whilst it counted your steps.
Unfortunately, as I’ve now had the device for several years, the battery has all but given up, providing me with around 24 hours of tracking before needing a charge. It used to last a week. This brings me on to my point. If I was in search for a replacement, activity trackers are now almost exclusively wrist based, and I have two issues with that.
First of all is the aesthetic view. There are very few activity trackers on the market that you would classify as being smart enough for the office. They do seem to be getting better, with less rubber straps and smaller faces, but they are still some way away from being able to replace my current smart office watch. Close contenders include the Fitbit Ionic (which still looks like a sports watch) and the Garmin Vivomove HR (which still looks too big). Images below.
My second issue with wrist based activity trackers is their accuracy. When I was on holiday recently in Zurich, I went out for runs on my own in the morning, and then spent the rest of the day exploring the city with my family. I wore the same watch all day and it would pick up all (I’m not entirely sure of the accuracy, but it seemed right) of the steps taken during the workout, some 7-12,000 depending on the distance, but would then struggle for the rest of the day. The reason for the struggle, was because I was pushing a pushchair. I would walk 2-5 miles daily, but because my wrist wasn’t moving as it was attached to the handle of a buggy, my watch didn’t pick up any movement that it considered to be a step. So for those 2-5 miles, my step count would amass maybe 500 steps. I never had any such issues with the One, as it sat right on my leg and could pick up every movement.
I appreciate that this is a limitation based on the trackers position and not the tracker itself, and I also appreciate that this would not be an issue for the majority, but it still isn’t ideal. Say you’re on a hike and you take on some water or food, the chances are that the stationary movement of your wrist will mean that you will miss several steps.
For me, this isn’t particularly an issue. As I’ve mentioned, I’m happy with my activity, and in terms of the points I also obtain 8 points for a 30 minute activity carried out at 70% of my age-related maximum heart rate, or for a 60 minute activity at 60% of my age-related maximum heart rate. This could be an issue for others though, including anyone who walks or runs with a buggy.
I get that wrist based activity trackers are the latest fashion, and it’s ‘cool’ to have one, but I can’t help but think that something more inconspicuous that can be slipped into a pocket would offer more accurate feedback. The Fitbit One was simple, but it did the job, and surely there’s still a market for something similar.