[Originally written for and published in part by Innovation and Tech Today in collaboration with Billy Brown, Spring 2016 edition]
It’s the 21st century and wearable technology has become seriously mainstream, impressively futuristic, and far more inspiring than “hover boards” with wheels. But with the rising popularity of these fitness trackers and smart watches comes an overwhelmingly long list of options for the consumer. Truly, it’s daunting. So to help you track down the best option based on your lifestyle, we’ve collected some of the leading brands and models of the industry.
Suunto Traverse – $469
AKA The Micro-Adventurist
Suunto has aimed at a broader demographic than ever before with a multipurpose watch for the recreational outdoorsman. If you’re the type to ditch the deodorant on the weekends and get your toes dirty, this one’s for you. The Traverse gives the outdoor hobbyist confidence with easy-to-use, high-tech features to help you navigate the wilderness, while also accommodating everyday use. From the mountain tops to the gym to the streets, the Finnies mastered versatility with this one.
Key Features: GPS, compass, barometer, thermometer, altimeter, Bluetooth capabilities, flashlight mode, sunset/sunrise times, storm alert, calorie counter, step counter, 5 different ‘sports modes’
Nailed it: Both impressively light and tough, the mineral crystal lens and stainless steel bezel make this watch a sturdy piece of technology that’ll stay tough through your adventures. It has yet to be tested through a bear attack, however, its survivability is likely higher than yours.
Not So Much: The step counter doesn’t sync or store data, meaning that if you want to track this information you’ll need to write it down on your own before the stepper resets at midnight. The step counter also uses the accelerometer so when in navigation mode, steps cannot be counted as the compass will need to use this device.
Garmin Fenix3 HR – $599
AKA The Action Man
Take the Fenix3, slap a 24/7 heart rate sensor on it and you get the Fenix3 HR. For those who can’t settle for just running, the Garmin Fenix3 HR is the smart watch for the do-it-all type with tracking for hiking, rowing, paddle board, swimming, golf, climbing, cross country skiing, trail running, cycling, triathlon, and even some indoor gym activities. Sorry, but it won’t track chess boxing. (That’s a real thing, Google it.) All activities can be automatically synced with the user-friendly Garmin Connect mobile app and provide detailed information about activities. Your friends might not be able to keep up but Garmin can.
Key Features: altimeter, barometer, compass, optical heart rate monitor, smartphone notifications, sleep tracking, music control
Nailed it: The Fenix3 HR crunches data gathered from your workout to estimate your VO2 max, using these metrics to help recommend recovery rates and even estimate ideal finish times when it comes to a foot race.
Not So Much: Although it’s a master of sport, testers agree that this isn’t a great everyday wear due to it’s size and relative bulk.
Jawbone UP4 – $199
AKA The Daily Diva
The UP2 and UP3 weren’t a huge hit with consumers with about as much originality as a white girl at Starbucks, despite their bright colors and sleek design. Yup… basic. Yet the UP4 has come to light all on its own with all of the features included from the original models, but adding passive heart rate monitoring and automatic sleep detection while still maintaining its pleasant appeal. This isn’t a piece for the major fitness enthusiast or serious athlete, but it still offers workout tracking for activities including walking, running, weight lifting, cross training, Zumba, Pilates, hiking and more which can be synced to a mobile app.
Key Features: bluetooth capabilities, accelerometer, bioimpedance heart rate monitor, step counter, calorie counter
Nailed it: Svelte, chic, and yet still casual, the UP4 pairs well with both your daily outfit and gym wear. Not overly fancy, yet doesn’t reek of nerd either.
Not So Much: The hook-and-eye closure can be challenging to secure with one hand, but has made improvements since the original models.
Polar V800 – $449
AKA The Sports Pro
This full function watch tops Polar’s product tree and rivals the best of multi sport wearable devices and advertises itself for the serious triathlete enthusiast and pro athlete. A large display and textured buttons make the V800 easy to use while in action while remaining slim enough for everyday wear. A quick overview of workout stats show up on the screen after each session and regular use of the Running Index feature will help coach you through faster workouts using less effort. The Polar Coach free online tool will also help you create a training program based on the data collected from your workouts to maximize training and recovery. That coach you’re possibly overpaying to program for you? Polar just replaced him.
Key Features: GPS tracking, customizable sports profiles, waterproof to 30m, bluetooth compatible, barometer, accelerometer, calorie counter, smart phone updates, sleep tracking
Nailed it: The V800 Training Load and Recovery Status features will help adjust the intensity, duration and even timing of your workouts by measuring overall load of intensity and monitoring recovery status to avoid over, or even under, training.
Not So Much: Although it comes with its own chest strap, the lack of a built-in optical heart rate monitor on the V800 is a step behind some of its rivals.
TomTom Spark Cardio – $199
AKA The Cardio Bunny
First impressions aren’t much with the TomTom and its hardly fashionable, but what it lacks in luster it makes up for in feature and performance for the serious runner. The TomTom covers all the running basics with distance, speed and time and has a built-in heart rate monitor. It is compatible with virtually every other running app including Strava, Runkeeper, and NikePlus and making it especially enticing is that it has built in storage to listen to MP3’s while you run via wireless headphones. You can also select target heart rate or pace zones, as well as intervals, and you’ll be alerted when you fall out of those targets. You even have the ability to race against your own previous runs which is perfect since you lost all the friends you once had who didn’t want to run with you anymore.
Features: Step counter, optical heart rate monitor, calorie counter, GPS, MP3 storage, waterproof to 40m, accelerometer, internal compass, Bluetooth capabilities
Nailed it: Big buttons and a large display make for easy management while running, even with sweaty hands. Also, great for fat fingers. Run faster.
Not So Much: When you finish your run, the stats won’t automatically come up on the screen. You’ll need to click around a bit to find it.
[Originally written for and published by Innovation and Tech Today, Spring 2016 edition, in collaboration with Billy Brown. Some contents may be modified or updated from the original article.]