- 1 A wristband and a shoeclip
- 2 A beautiful app
- 3 All-day activity and sleep tracking
- 4 Let's work out
- 5 Bugs, issues, and missing features
- 6 Broken promises and new prospects
- 7 Conclusion
I had my eyes on Amiigo the moment it was mentioned here on Android Police back in January 2013. The promised features seemed like everything I wanted in an all-day sleep and activity tracker, especially with its waterproof design and swimming capability. See, runners and cyclists have it easy: there are dozens if not hundreds of gadgets they have been able to use for the past years to track their workouts. But swimmers, well, let's just say the choice has always been limited and it was even more so in 2013 when you wanted a smart tracker that synced with Android. So I backed the Amiigo, and I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited,… (crowdfunding involves a lot of that) until my unit was eventually delivered several months ago.
Everything about my first Amiigo experience was disappointing. The packaging was nonexistent (I like a good unboxing and this was a bubble wrap affair with the band, shoeclip, and wireless charger inside), the wristband was too stiff to wear and kept coming off at the slightest friction, the app was kind of cool in terms of design but a nightmare of bugs and disconnections, and the entire experience simply fell short.
My expectations in 2015 weren't as low as they were in 2013. I had reliably used a Fitbit One for two years with nary an issue. I was wearing an LG G Watch R on my wrist. I had tested both a Misfit and a Pebble. I knew what excellent, good, and average activity trackers did. Amiigo wasn't anywhere in that spectrum.
But luckily things changed. I stuck with it because at the time, it was my only swim tracking device. I'm a tenacious optimist and I kept hoping that the band would live up to the bar it had set in its Indiegogo campaign. While I can't say that the Amiigo is everything I hoped it would be when I pledged for it in January 2013 — I still consider it an alpha product in so many respects — it's definitely better today than it was a few months ago when I received it. And that's why it's now worth looking at more extensively.
You shouldn't consider this article though as a review that shows you whether or not you must buy an Amiigo. I couldn't honestly recommend the product and it's even out of stock now (more on that in the "new prospects" section). It is, however, an expose of the capabilities of the hardware and its platform. There's a lot of potential here, and it could later show up in next generation Amiigo products or similar wearables.
A wristband and a shoeclip
My first encounter with the Amiigo wristband wasn't a positive one at all. The Amiigo was large and thick for my small hands, the material was stiff, the clasp was difficult to close, I felt annoyed when wearing it and wanted to remove the band, and it kept unclasping and falling off at the slightest friction with my clothes, purse, bed sheets, or any other object. It didn't help that I'd pledged for the charcoal black unit on Indiegogo, which looked incredibly dull and attracted dust particles like a magnet.
With time, however, several of these issues disappeared by themselves... or with a little help. The band broke in and became more flexible. I got used to wearing the Amiigo after a few days, so I no longer felt its weight and presence like a thorn in my side. And I eventually figured out how to close the clasp the right way.
The metallic clasp has a ridge in the middle and a large round end. When you wear the Amiigo, you have to make sure the first end of the band sits inside the ridge, clasp it onto the second end, then ensure that the round part of the metal protrudes and "clips" the second end tight against the first one. If one of these is loose, the closure isn't tight and any friction with the band's edge will unclasp it and cause it to fall.
Left: Metallic clasp. Middle: How not to clasp the band. Right: How to correctly clasp the band.
One of the wristband's good design ideas, which was probably borrowed from the Fitbit Flex and its ilk of activity trackers, is that the actual Amiigo unit (hard PC and ABS plastic) is removable from the band (flexible TPU). So you can buy additional bands of any color and match them with your clothes and style. I picked up a few of Amiigo's new bright band colors (not visible on the site yet). There's a flashy green one, a sky blue one, a pink magenta one, all of which look better and show less dust than the black band.
Less dull and so colorful!
Amiigo's welcome guide page explains that you have to wear the wristband right on top of your wrist bone, but that's not the only thing you have to keep in mind. The Amiigo unit is symmetrical, so it can be inserted both ways inside the band. To have accurate readings from all the sensors and to get consistent activity tracking results, you should make sure the sensors are toward the outside of your hand and the logo is on the inside.
Wear it so the sensors are toward the outside of your hand, and on top of your wrist bone.
Of all the Amiigo issues that I faced at first, two remained present with continuous use. First, the size of the unit alone is too big especially when compared with my tiny wrists. It's wide and thick, and nowhere near the svelte profile of a Fitbit Flex or a Misfit Shine. Due to the unit's size, the band, even in its small size iteration, is pushed away from my skin on the sides and doesn't sit snugly against my wrist.
The Amiigo unit is as wide as my wrist. With the band, it pushes off and isn't flush against my skin.
Second, even when clasping the wristband the correct way, there were still instances where a tug or a strong friction would remove it from my hand. After a few near-losses, I decided to grab a pack of 12 Friendly Swedes silicone fasteners from Amazon. These are for the Fitbit Flex (apparently many wrist-worn activity trackers have the same issue), but they can stretch and accommodate the Amiigo just fine. Most crucially, they keep the clasp tightly closed.
The Friendly Swedes fasteners keep the Amiigo securely closed.
The second piece of the Amiigo duo is the shoeclip. It's a nondescript black ABS plastic clip, with an arrow on top and an Amiigo logo on the bottom. You attach it to your shoe's strings (arrow pointing to your toes) when you're cycling or performing a specific exercise. I had no issues with that part of the hardware.
A beautiful app
It's sad to admit, but even today in 2015, when you buy a gadget that works with an Android app, you're more often than not going to find either an iOS-inspired app made to work on Android or the most rudimentary design with a few buttons and no thought at all behind the interface's choices. Amiigo's app was one of the best surprises of the experience. Where the hardware looks as basic as it gets, the software is where Amiigo shows its true colors.
Just don't expect Material design anywhere in the app and you won't be disappointed. Amiigo looks modern without following any specific OS design guidelines. It's very fluid and responsive, elegant in its typography and simple iconography, full of small touches of color, layered, and has an abundance of animations and graphs. The way the daily screen's 4 circles fill-up to their correct value as you switch through different days is one of the nicest animations I have seen in an Android app.
All-day activity and sleep tracking
Having used several activity trackers, I have come to the conclusion that none is perfectly precise. They all have their margins of errors, quirks, and odd situations where they count too few or too many steps. My strategy isn't to compare total steps on different trackers, but across different days on the same tracker to see if I moved more or less. I've set my personal goal at 8500 steps, so I know that I've been lazy when I only get 3000 steps for example, and that I've been very active when I reach 15000 steps.
Amiigo's daily step counts fall within 10-15% of my Fitbit One and G Watch R, so it's getting the right'ish number. (Maybe it's the one that's more accurate, maybe it isn't; again, that's not the point.) The only problem is that the wristband needs to be charged every two days, which means that you're losing about 2 hours of data every two days, and even more if you forget to wear it when it's done charging.
Left & middle: Setting up your daily goals. Right: Daily steps graph.
With the current version of the Amiigo app, step detection happens on the phone instead of waiting for the data to be uploaded to the servers to be analyzed. That's a big improvement over the first iteration. Steps show up in a daily graph divided in 10-minute intervals with the total distance, calories burned, duration, and the average heart rate of the day.
When you're ready to go to bed, you switch the sleep mode on then end it when you wake up the next morning. Amiigo's sleep stats have improved a lot over the past months too. They now show detailed phases of light (light purple) and deep (dark purple) sleep, with periods of interruptions (blue). You can see the total time spent in the various phases, including an estimation of REM segments and durations. An average heart rate as well as a sleep score are also attributed to each session.
All of the day's activities are laid in a timeline below the main screen, and the 4 gauges for steps, calories, sleep, and workout minutes fill up depending on whether or not you've hit your goals. You really want to see them all go white, but more often than not, I found myself with two or three goals achieved and a few incomplete gauges.
You want to see more of the left screen and less of the right one.
While you're asleep, Amiigo uses the time to measure a few biometric values thanks to its pulse oximeter and temperature sensor. These are your:
- sleeping/resting heart rate: should be around 60-70 beats per minute. It rises on workout days, or with age and stress.
- heart rate variability: indicates good recovery (if high) from exercise. It drops down with age and higher or lower BMI.
- respiratory rate: should be between 12 to 20 breaths per minute. The number rises with age and higher BMIs.
- blood oxygen saturation: should be between 94 and 99%. Why is it 56% in my graph below? No idea, it only happened once and I didn't die so I'm guessing it was a wrong measurement.
- blood pressure and pulse volume variations: indicate good cardiac physiology. They drop down with age.
- skin temperature range: the difference between the minimum and maximum temperature of your skin during the night. For information purposes.
- calorie burn rate: calories burned per minute, but these should also account for your daily activities. They rise with exercise, and drop with sedentary lifestyles and age.
Weekly and monthly trends
Beside the daily view, Amiigo offers a weekly and monthly trends section where you can spend hours analyzing the effect of exercise, different workout styles, stress, disease, and more on your various biometrics. I've yet to glean any trend in my own stats, but they're there should I want to check them out.
7 Day trends of steps, calorie expenditure, sleep, workouts, and biometrics
You'll have to keep in mind though that most of these stats are reliant on the Sleep mode being manually activated before you go to bed each night. Otherwise, you won't get any sleep stats and the biometrics won't be measured for that day. As you'll see in my 30-day trends below, I forgot to trigger the sleep mode on 5 days, which leads to some missing stats.
30 Day trends (minus 5 days)
By its focus on daily numbers, Amiigo lets go of an important aspect of activity stats: weekly and monthly totals. There are days when you're off, and days where you do more to compensate. Weekly and monthly totals should show you if you've kept your end of the bargain for the entirety of said period. You may see an average in Amiigo's trends views, which helps you get an idea of how well you've done over the chosen time, but with no total, there's no way to compare weeks or months. And there's no extended stats over longer periods of time.
Let's work out
Most of Amiigo's prowess shows when you use it to track your workouts. Right now, the app can handle 4 different modes: running & walking, swimming, cycling, and cross-training. Unfortunately, my parents never taught me how to ride a bike (and I've yet to do it myself), so I wasn't able to test the cycling feature. Each mode shows you which of the wristband and/or shoeclip you need to connect to before you start. Don't worry about staying close to your phone while exercising, the data isn't transmitted continuously, but only when you end the workout. For example, I don't have my phone near the pool when I'm swimming, neither do I have it on me while running.
By the way it's set up (no continuous sync and feedback), Amiigo's workout loses one important feature for athletes: there's no live feedback for what you're doing. You can't tell while running if this is one of your best sessions yet or if you're merely hitting your average numbers. You don't know how many squats or push-ups you did, or how far you've cycled. You have to wait until the session is over, the data is synchronized to the phone, sent to Amiigo's servers, analyzed, and sent back to you to see your performance. That is a major letdown.
Sure, you can simply rely on the app's regular all-day step tracking when you walk, but that wouldn't count toward your workout minutes goal or give you specific stats for your walk. So whenever you're actively walking, it's better to start a workout to see your average pace, distance, duration, consistency, and speed (in reps per second, ie. steps per second).
The issue that you'll face is that your workout steps (whether you're walking or running) count toward your total daily goal, but do not also show up on your daily steps graph. So if you walk in the workout mode between 9 and 10 am for a total of 6000 steps, the steps will appear on your gauge, they'll have a dedicated section in your timeline with their own graph, but the daily graph will have no steps there during that time. This could easily be fixed in a later version of the app.
The running graph and the stats shown below it are the same as for walking. If you're a runner who's used toapps like Runtastic or watches like Garmin, you'll be slightly disappointed by what Amiigo provides. Your pace is calculated in steps per minute, not minutes per kilometer. Your speed shows in rps (reps per second, where reps are steps), so it's essentially the same as your pace but divided by 60. There's no maximum or minimum speed shown. The distance is estimated, and in my case it was always way over-estimated. And since there's no GPS data, you don't see your elevation gain or loss.
Left: Tracking long runs... Right: ...and short runs
Amiigo a basic running tracker, but you'll love sliding your finger on the graph to see your steps for each minute, and swiping down to check your consistency and form. A+? Hurray!
Switching between walking and running
Since both walking and running are in the same mode on Amiigo, you can trigger the workout once and switch between both as much and as often as you want. That's one clear advantage over other apps and trackers: your running stats don't get soiled with warm-ups and cool-downs, and they don't fall into pieces if you stop for a bit to walk and catch your breath. And you'll be surprised at how accurate Amiigo is at gauging the difference between your walks and runs.
In the examples below, you'll see a short 25 minute mixed session of walking, running, then walking (left), along with a longer session (right) that ends with a moderate walk, run, and a cool down walk.
But Amiigo's real strength shows when you attempt some HIIT running. In the example below, I warmed up for 3 minutes, then alternated between 1 minute of fast running and 2 minutes of walking. You can see the clear distinction between each phase in the results.
The Amiigo wristband is waterproof (you don't wear the shoeclip while swimming) and has been with me in the pool for over fifty sessions now. It isn't uncomfortable to wear, nor does it affect your swim in any way. After a few minutes on the first session, you simply forget it's there and glide along.
Most days, I swim continuously with underwater flips at the wall. Amiigo recognizes these and counts each lap, showing the two lengths as separate light and dark teal colors. You can slide your finger to see the duration of each length, or swipe to check the total stats: duration, distance, average lap time, total strokes and laps, average strokes per lap, form, and consistency. Unfortunately, there's no SWOLF score, the pool length is hard set at 50m (so if you swim in a 25m pool, you'll have to divide the shown distance in half), and there's no way to see the stroke count in each lap.
The kicker though is that, like walking and running, Amiigo is very accurate at gauging when you're swimming or resting. I usually launch the workout on my phone way before I get into the pool, and don't stop it until after I've showered. In the first two screenshots below, you'll see how Amiigo didn't count any swimming for the pre- and post-swim duration. In the third and fourth one, you'll see how it recognized pauses in the swim. The last one also shows a distinction between freestyle and breaststroke laps.
I'm suffering from a bit of shoulder pain, so I've only been freestyle swimming over the past few months. But Amiigo is still perfectly capable of recognizing other strokes and counting their stats accurately. To clarify that, you should know that one hand movement in freestyle and backstroke swimming is 2 strokes (you alternate with your other hand), while it's only 1 stroke in breaststroke and butterfly (you move both hands simultaneously). Amiigo understands that and counts strokes accurately depending on your swimming style.
The final aspect of Amiigo's workout tracking is its cross-training mode. Here, you wear both the wristband and shoeclip, and engage in exercises like you would in a gym or at home. Amiigo doesn't know these workouts out of the box, so you'll have to teach it each one beforehand.
While in training mode, you get 30 seconds to repeat the motion as often and as fluidly as possible. Amiigo says it requires 15 repetitions to train an activity, which is quite a lot to ask in such a short time. I can do 15 push-ups or jumping jacks in 30 seconds, but lunges, hip extensions, planks with leg lifts, and other exercises are purposefully slower and would require a longer training period. Unfortunately that's impossible, and you'll see that some of your activities never get properly trained no matter what you try.
Training activities is a hit and miss because of the 30 second limit.
After you finish teaching Amiigo, you can begin a workout, follow your routine, and then end it to check the analysis. Each activity includes its duration, consistency, number of repetitions, and speed (in rps). You can manually enter a resistance too.
Often times, I found Amiigo managed to get the name of the activity I was performing among the ones I taught it, but there were still instances where it didn't recognize it. That's when I had to manually enter the name of each exercise, trying to remember in which order I performed them.
To get this clear timeline, I had to manually name or rename some activities.
Bugs, issues, and missing features
Over the past many months that I've had the Amiigo, I've faced a myriad of issues and bugs with the software, hardware, and algorithms. Some I haven't seen since the last app update and some are still there. I'll focus on the latter.
Hardware-wise, the biggest issue is with the battery life. The wristband needs to be charged every 2 days, and even more frequently now after a few months of use, which means that I'm often surprised by a low battery warning when I least expect it. Even with Qi charging and a pad at home and one at work, I still find the Amiigo demanding, especially since you're supposed to wear it at night, so you can't make a habit of charging it then like you would with an Android Wear watch for example. The shoeclip lasts about 5 days, but since I don't wear it all the time, I sometimes find its battery near empty right when I need to use it for a cross-training workout.
Another bug I've noticed a couple of times is with the heart rate monitor's red light (and I suppose the monitor itself) blinking continuously for more than an hour. I can't figure out how to turn it off so I wait for the battery to deplete and the unit to turn off.
Software-wise, the big problem is that you have to manually launch every mode and you can't post-log anything. Whether it's sleep mode, swimming, running, or walking, I wish I could at least get some basic stats by post-logging a session that I forgot to launch. I understand that I may not get step-level details in runs or detailed biometrics in sleep, because the wristband wasn't ready to track these things, but an average sleep duration or run duration and calorie expenditure shouldn't be that difficult, should they?
Other issues include not being able to start a workout or sleep session for no reason, or because the app couldn't detect the wristband or shoeclip (even though they were right next to the phone). There's also a bug with workouts or sleep sessions staying in analyzing mode like in the two screenshots below. This used to occur very frequently on previous iterations of the app, they're less of an issue now but they still happen from time to time.
There's another bug where the daily screen's gauges show up as empty even if you've done your share of everything for the day (first screenshot below). And algorithm-wise, despite the extreme accuracy of the analysis most times, there are odd occasions where you get weird numbers like an average of 194 steps per minute (2nd screenshot), where normal walking and moving is counted as swimming before you even get in the pool (3rd screenshot), or where a backstroke is seen as a breaststroke for example (not shown).
The one last major deal-breaker with Amiigo is that there's no way to get your data out of the app in any form. There's no export feature, no sharing to social apps, no integration with fitness sites like MyFitnessPal, and not even a web interface you can use to view your stats on a larger screen. You get the app and your data inside it, and that's about it.
Want to check your past workout stats? You can tap to switch days, find the appropriate workout, and then tap to open it. And if you want to compare further in the past, you have to tap, tap, tap, to go check each day's workout separately. There's no single screen where all of your workouts are displayed to simplify the process of finding them.
Broken promises and new prospects
From the Indiegogo campaign to the product in my hand, Amiigo gained some functionality and added some features, but a lot of its promises had to be broken. The current wristband looks nothing like the sleek renders of the campaign and the shoeclip is much larger and doesn't clip on the band like it should have.
The promised SDK for developers to dig their teeth into and harness more power out of Amiigo's data is nowhere to be seen. A lot of developers, hackers, and tinkerers, like our own Cody Toombs pledged for the Amiigo hoping for the SDK and an open platform they can extend or build on. That didn't happen and to Cody, his Amiigo is now a dead unusable weight.
Amiigo had also promised continuous and on-demand heart rate monitoring. You should have also been able to compete with friends and share your progress on social networks. Those are... you guessed it, not there. I even recall the team mentioning a certain exercise gamification platform that they had planned to integrate, but that didn't happen either.
And let's not even mention the support team. Try contacting Amiigo for a question and you should start a little prayer circle to hope for an answer back. Odds are you won't get it. There's a forum community full of antsy members just like you, so you may find solace in group abandonment.
That's not to say that the Amiigo is a dead project now. The company seems to be taken by a new direction, which could explain why the product is sold out at the moment on its website. Project Pulse is a small study recently launched by Amiigo and the online patient community Alliance Health to see if data and social support could help with the management of heart conditions. According to MobiHealthNews, the study is the first step toward Amiigo's seeking out of FDA clearance with a planned "more robust trial of Amiigo's device with Scripps Translational Science Institute."
I've said it earlier: I don't recommend the Amiigo. At least not if you don't have a lot of money and time on your hand, both of which you don't have and will not have other good uses for. At best, the current product is a proof of concept, an alpha prototype that works more times than not, and an enthusiast's gizmo that requires more involvement than any other activity tracker I have tried over the past years.
But what an interesting proof of concept it is! If / when you get used to the clasp, it becomes second nature to wear on your wrist. And when the algorithm analysis works like it's supposed to, the data provided by the Amiigo wristband and shoeclip is almost unrivaled. It is incredibly detailed up to the minute, clearly outlined, very specific and differentiated, and a delight to closely observe.
I find that I'm pushing myself harder and achieving better results with each swim, that I'm now completing more power squats in one minute than I used to, that I'm running at a faster cadence than ever, and so on. These are all improvements I have detailed reports of thanks to Amiigo. But I would have loved if that data plugged somewhere else, if the Amiigo was smaller, lighter, if it lasted longer, if I didn't have to manually launch every sleep and workout session, if, and if, and more ifs... At its current state, there's a lot of potential but it isn't enough to be worth the $179 asking price.
- Amiigo (Currently out of stock)