The activity tracker is your smart companion on your wrist
An activity tracker sits on your wrist like a regular wristwatch and measure your daily activities. It can tell you how far you have walked, how many calories you have burned and how many steps you’ve taken. Here are some of the features and functions to look for when buying an activity tracker.
There are four things to consider when buying an activity tracker; size, built-in heart rate monitor, built-in display and support for GPS. You should also keep track of all the extra features that many manufacturers have built into the slightly more advanced models, but we’ll come back to this.
The advantage of a built-in display is that you can see activity data such as number of steps, distances, calories burned, how many stairs you've climbed and the like. You can also set up features on the more advanced models, as well as view incoming calls or text messages on a connected mobile phone, set alarms, and read some of the messages from the phone.
The disadvantage with a screen is that the activity tracker can be quite large on the wrist. Those who do not care about more advanced features could choose a smaller model without a screen that resembles a regular bracelet rather than an activity tracker. Less features, but more stylish, and generally cheaper than one with a display.
Some models have a built-in heart rate monitor and a small amount of support for external heart rate bands. The advantage of a heart rate monitor is that you get an indication of how stressed your body is, both when exercising and resting. The disadvantage of a built-in heart rate monitor is that it is rarely accurate. Pulse bands are significantly more accurate and faster at achieving accurately measured results.
With a built-in GPS, the activity tracker's other exercise features are complemented with accurate tracking of your motion patterns. This allows you to get a more accurate calculation of the number of steps and the distance you’re running, and can be seen in detail on a map in retrospect. The battery runs out faster but the GPS is not meant to be used throughout the day, only when it's really needed. Clearly worth it, but keep in mind that the size of the activity bracelet is generally larger on the GPS models.
There are three extra features that are useful; the sleep measurement which tells you when you fall asleep and wake up, and how much you have moved around during the night. The number presentation shows who is calling your phone, the altimeter allows you to find out how many stairs you've climbed during the day, and the vibrating alarms are more discrete than the mobile phone’s alarm.
Don’t forget to check that the activity tracker you buy has full support for your mobile phone. And also your next phone if you plan to switch from, for example, Android to iOS in the future. Another tip is to choose a water resistant model to avoid damage to the device when swimming or if you get caught in the rain.
In addition, check for models with long battery lives, of at least seven to ten days, or maybe even longer. Many smart watches need to be charged every night but an activity tracker can have up to one year of battery life depending on the model. Some manufacturers use a proprietary plug for charging and not a regular micro USB. This means that a lost charger can cost you quite a lot to replace, which is also worth remembering.
Author: Daniel Haaf
Translator: Åsa Sondén Cook