And our Fitbit replacement? A Fitbit
It was a tough decision from a strong field of candidates, but we think the decision has been made – for now, the replacement for our recently-deceased Fitbit Flex is … another Fitbit. This time, we’ve chosen the Charge HR as our day-to-day wristband, over a fast-growing and very competitive field of contenders.
It was a different story back in July 2013 when we bought the Flex as a replacement for a malfunctioning Jawbone UP. At the time, these two were the only smart wristbands on sale – the Nike FuelBand went on sale a few months later, as did the Misfit Shine.
Today, there are tens of smart wristbands, catering for a wide range of styles and sports uses – and some early attempts to make the predominantly grey/black bands look like more of a fashion accessory. Buyers can choose between premium brands, me-too brands, sporty brands and all-singing, all-dancing no-name smartwatches available for direct mail order from China for less than $50.
Slideshow: An ever-growing choice of smart wristbands – which one will you choose?
Jawbone's UP - the original smart wristband
The late Nike+ FuelBand SE Rose Gold edition
Here's the original Codoon ... look familiar?
Crowd-funded ERI was colorful but wildly inaccurate
Jawbone's latest, the UP3.
Bling with it? The Swarovski Shine from Misfit
BodyMedia: The UK Daily Mail says this is the most-accurate wrist-based tracker (image: PR)
Not yet ready for prime time: Activité Pop from Withings
Fitbit Charge HR also tracks pulse rate
We had thought the Withings Activité Pop analog smartwatch would be the official Flex replacement, but then ruled it out due to the Activité’s frankly dismal performance in tracking sleep, which is especially disappointing for a device sold to “track movement and sleep” – and this was despite an early firmware upgrade which Withings hoped would fix the problem.
Just as our “shark” grey Pop was back in the box, it was rescued by a family member, who is now eagerly awaiting the introduction of Activité software for Android, which is promised in a few days – by the end of this month.
As an aside, it’s a worthwhile reminder for anyone buying a smart device of any kind to keep the packaging – all of it – because you’re going to get asked to return it all, if the device disappoints.
So to the Charge HR. In the end, it was a choice of the Fitbit or the sleek new Garmin Vivosmart – a surprisingly good-looking smart wristband/watch hybrid, especially considering the company’s previous efforts like the plasticky, cheap-looking Vivofit, which looks like a giveaway from a packet of breakfast cereal.
We also considered the rather odd-looking Jawbone UP3, but were put off by a higher price (an extra EUR 30 on top of the EUR 150 Fitbit) and a lack of any OLED display: Something that’s surely by now a must-have feature.
Nor did we let the recent “Rashgate” or Fitbit’s questionable data ownership policies get in the way: A looser fit on the strap is fine, and we use IFTTT to liberate our data from Internet of Things devices like the Charge and log it all to a Google spreadsheet.
The winning feature for us in selecting the Charge HR was its continuous pulse rate tracking. Although we wondered whether or not it would work properly, so far it has proven flawless.
Not everyone buying wearable tech will care about their sleep patterns, heart rate or other personal statistics that help make up the quantifiable self, but since the information is easily available, why not tap into it?
Next week we’ll be putting the Charge through its paces at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where we expect to find a rash more smartwatches and bands – but not yet any Apple Watch.
Whether or not the Charge HR will have the staying power to remain as our daily tracker of choice once the Apple Watch goes on sale depends on three as-yet-unknowns for Apple’s eagerly-awaited product: Usability, battery life and price.