For many people, Fitbit is synonymous with fitness trackers, but the company has faced new challenges from smartwatches in recent years. The Fitbit Charge 4 signifies a change, even if it doesn't look too different from its predecessor. The tracker packs everything you could want from a fitness tracker, and you get basic smartwatch capabilities like notification management, Spotify controls, NFC payments, alarms, and more. However, its $150 price tag may make it a tough sell when a smartwatch like Fitbit's own Versa 2 often goes on sale for the same price.
Xiaomi managed to impress everybody with its low-cost $30 Mi Band 4 that easily kept up with much costlier products from Fitbit, Garmin, and Co. (as long as you're not a swimmer, that is). Exactly a year after its introduction, the company has released a follow-up in the form of the Mi Band 5, packing a slightly bigger screen, a much-improved charger, more tracking capabilities, and a ton of new animated watchfaces.
In the world of activity trackers, nothing comes close to the Mi Band's value. Cheaper than any Garmin or Fitbit tracker, even the most basic vivofit4 and Inspire, but still packing enough functionality, it also benefits from Xiaomi's name recognition and is considered a serious choice, not a cheap knock-off no-name tracker.
The most recent Mi Band 4 pushes the value-for-money envelop even further thanks to a colored AMOLED screen, swim tracking, and music controls, which get added on top of the previous generation's all-day activity, sleep, and heart rate tracking. Overall, the package is very attractive, but cracks are inevitably hiding below the surface, especially if you like spending your time in a pool.
An update to Google Fit began rolling out to both phones and Android Wear this week. In terms of changes, watches took the lead on this release with a short list of fairly significant additions, including audio alerts during runs, updates to the workout mode, a new screen for workout history, and even automatic heart rate tracking for some recent models. While phones weren't left out entirely, the only notable addition is a new app shortcut for handsets running Nougat and above.
My arsenal of smart health and activity trackers has been missing a body composition weight scale. The Fitbit Aria always looked appealing to me because I've been wearing a Fitbit for more than 3 years, but it's getting a little outdated. Several months ago, I was looking at the Polar Balance Scale, the Withings WS-50, the Garmin Index Smart Scale, and a few others. Eventually, I settled on the QardioBase because I already had a good experience with the QardioArm and liked the company's no-nonsense approach to design and health. However, I was unlucky enough to get the first generation, which turned out to be a complete failure from the get-go.
The Samsung Gear Live launched with a built-in heart rate monitor, but unfortunately, it could only take measurements one at a time. There was no way to monitor a wearer's heart rate continuously, such as during a workout. Now developer Portable Pixels has hit Google Play with an Android app that makes this functionality possible, one that goes by the rather straightforward name of "Heart Rate Training."
The developer's previous creations skew more towards the amusing side, but that doesn't limit the capability of this app. We've tested it, and it works.
Users don't set things up from their watches. Instead, everything must be preset on a smartphone beforehand, but then owners are free to pocket their phone and start monitoring from their Android Wear device.
How many times do you unlock your smartphone within the span of a minute? I can't count the number of times I've unlocked my phone, started a podcast, put it down, changed my mind, unlocked the phone, selected a new podcast, put the phone back down, heard a chime, unlocked the phone, responded, and put the phone down - finally - for long enough to focus on something else. For the sake of convenience, I desperately want to leave my phone unlocked, but doing so frankly isn't safe. We've covered an NFC ring on Kickstarter that alleviates this problem by unlocking your phone whenever it's pressed against it, and now we're sharing the Nymi, a bracelet that can detect who you are and unlock your phone by measuring your heartbeat.
Recon Instruments, creators of wearable goggle technology powered by Android called MOD Live that we got so excited about at CES 2011, have officially announced the impending release of an SDK for Android, due for launch in May 2012. Recon also announced Polar, the first app made using the SDK, that connects a Polar WearLink+ heart rate monitor to MOD Live and allows the MOD display to become a "biometric reader that delivers an athlete's heart rate in real time while they ski or snowboard."
For those not in the know, the Polar WearLink+ transmitter is essentially a Bluetooth-enabled heart monitor that can send heart rate information to a variety of compatible applications (in this case, the new Polar app).