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HindustanTimes Sat,25 Oct 2014
Bands on the run (Part 2)
Rajiv Makhni, Hindustan Times
July 13, 2013
First Published: 14:43 IST(13/7/2013)
Last Updated: 16:53 IST(13/7/2013)

Your wrist is now the most expensive real estate in the world. Just strapping on a watch that tells time is a great waste as that little part of your body will now be used to tell you more about your body on a minute-to-minute basis than any visit to a doctor. Now and into the future, your wrist band will tell you how well you breathe when you run, how much faster your heart beats when you’re stressed, the level your muscles heat up to when you work out at the gym, the length of your stride when you run (plus how your foot lands on impact), the hydration level in your body and how much water you should drink right then, and whether the person sitting next to you is actually in love with you or is just lying.

Okay, I made up the last one – but all the others are very much on the road map of fitness and activity trackers. The battle to own your wrist is only just beginning – and the three current super contenders are the Basis Band, The Fitbit Flex and the Withings Pulse.

Flex it out: Keep Fitbit Flex paired with your phone 24 hours a day
The Flexinator
The Fitbit Flex is a split-personality device. It’s a small, completely sealed wedge, the size of your little fingernail with a few LED dots. You charge it up and insert it into a silicone strap and then go about your day. No display, no numbers – all it has are those LED dots that light up when you tap it. First impressions are terrible, as not being able to see how many steps, calories or distance you’ve covered, throw you off. But the Flex works its charms on you slowly as this is a very intelligently thought out device.

Tapping twice makes the LED dots come alive and the number of dots that light up tell you where you are in terms of your target for the day (which can be set to be steps, calories or distance). Tapping it rapidly tells it to start monitoring your sleep, it has a silent alarm function that wakes you up without disturbing anyone else in the room, but it’s the app that it works with that truly elevates this to a whole new level. It connects on low power Bluetooth 4.0 and thus you can keep it paired with your phone 24 hours a day and watch it update your activity stats almost in real time.

The app also has an excellent dashboard that gives you an overall picture and fantastic detailed analysis when you dig deeper. The primary issues are that the app isn’t available in India (and for ‘legal’ reasons, I will only share that ‘how to’ on a Twitter DM with you) and that Bluetooth 4.0 currently works only on a handful of smartphones.

The Pulsinator

Tap for health: The heartbeat sensor in the Withings gives you BPM
Withings was the first to come out with a weighing machine that could wirelessly send your body statistics to your computer or an app and gives you a daily analysis of how your fat was winning or losing its battle to take over your body. The Withings Pulse is a natural extension to that. This is also a small wedge but one that can’t be used as band and must be clipped onto your body. It comes with a siliconish clip into which you insert the pulse, plus a soft band that you use to strap it to your wrist to monitor sleep.

A button on top cycles through the various screens and within each screen you can swipe (it’s touch enabled) to analyse up to two weeks of previous data. At the back is a heartbeat sensor which will give you your BPM when you press your finger onto it. The Pulse, besides the normal activity stats will also give you humbling and mighty embarrassing figures on how many stairs you climbed. A good-looking, sophisticated and feature- laden device marred by the fact that it’s a clip on.

Owning your wrist
So, which of these three should claim ownership of your wrist? The Basis Band is the king of features and real-time statistics and has also made the clunky look disappear with a sleek new carbon steel strap – but do remember that it can’t give you real time heart beat in the middle of strenuous workout plus it’s twice the price of the other two. The Fitbit Flex is light, small, unobtrusive, very
intelligently thought out – but eventually its dependence on the forever-connected app can sometimes be a deal-breaker.

The Withings Pulse seems to be the hybrid between the two with a fantastic set of features – but the clip on makes it impractical in the long run as you have to remember to wear it every single day, plus the BPM needs you to clip it off, push your finger at the back and wait for it to read your pulse. Not something you’ll do after the initial euphoria has worn off.

One Love?

The winner: Just strap on the Basis Band and forget all about it

For me the Basis Band is the easy winner here. It may have some small shortcomings but what it offers as a ‘strap it and forget about it’ experience and how it monitors multiple things with no further intervention required from your side, after that makes it a no-brainer. Having said that – I’m off to New York in the evening today (big news and big story from there in next week’s column) and if you see me at the airport – you’ll see that my wrist is still strapped to the hilt with multiple trackers.

After all, I’m not giving up my most prime real estate to just one, yet. My promiscuity with fitness trackers will continue for a while before I commit to the final love of my life.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3


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