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Battle of the fitness bands

A fitness band is about its ecosystem, the app and software, as much as it is about the band. Tech brands are waging war - and your wrist is the battleground, says Rajiv Makhni. Which fitness tracker should you buy?

brunch Updated: Oct 19, 2014 11:22 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
Fitness bands,Rajiv Makhni,Fitness tracker

The Fitness and wearable band euphoria is getting stronger every day. Despite news about waning interest and the fact that a lot of people stop using one after six months, the number of people who are buying and strapping them on is on an upswing.

And surprisingly it’s here in India that a serious demand is being felt. I have a crude but very accurate system to gauge what category of products are experiencing a definitive uptick.

It’s the number of people who ask me "which one to buy" whenever I’m out in a public place. (To all those asking – yes, most of my life is spent answering questions from people I meet about which new device to buy. No, it’s not a sad life!).

So right after ‘aaj-kal kaunsa mobile aacha hai?’ and ‘TV kaunse brand ka kharidna chahiye?’, the next hot category being asked about is fitness bands. Previously the problem in answering this burning hot question was the unavailability of these bands in India.

Fitbit started it all off but never made it to Indian shores. The Nike Fuelband followed and is now all dead and buried, but never popped up here in its short life.
The Jawbone Up is available in pretty much every country in the world except here (there is poetic justice here as this is one device that has turned out to be quite a disaster). The Misfit Shine is still a ‘foreign trip par hi khareed sakte ho’ device and there is a plethora of others that haven’t been officially launched in India.

Move it, Move it: If Garmin Vivo senses no activity from you, the Move bar starts to add up. Your goal is to keep the

Move bar off the screen, by moving

There are quite a few no-name Chinese knock-offs but I always ask people to steer clear of them as a fitness band is about its ecosystem, the app and software, as much as it is about the band itself.

Thus there weren’t any real options for people who wanted to get onto the ‘quantified self’ bandwagon by walking into a store and buying one locally. That has changed with a vengeance as multiple companies have come muscling into our country. So which one should you buy and why?

Garmin Vivo Fit
Garmin is mainly known for its GPS devices and thus the first impression is that this would be a band that can do most things to track your fitness, plus also track your walk and run on a map.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t do that (for that you’ll have to invest into a Garmin Forerunner watch). But it has quite a few other tricks up its wrist strap. Speaking of which, the unit is separate from its plastic strap (a slightly cheap affair) and there are some extra colours available.

The Vivo can track steps, distance, calories, sleep and can calculate a few other things as well. This one has a ‘Move’ bar right on top. If it senses no activity from you, the Move bar in red starts to add up.

Running right: GOQii sends your data to a human coach, who analyses it and gives you real time feedback

our goal is to keep the Move bar off the screen, by, well, moving. And it works very well (you will find yourself doing some office jigs and dances to get rid of that red line).

The second big deal is its battery life which is about one full year as it uses button cells. The problems stem from the fact that the screen has no backlighting and that the synch to the connect app can be a little iffy. The Vivo is priced at around Rs.9,000 but you can pick it up cheaper online.

I’ve reviewed the GOQii before and thus won’t get into too much detail. This one can also track steps, distance, calories and sleep and its add on USPs are tracking active minutes per day (when you really were working out hard) and Karma points (earn points and give them away to a worthy cause).

But the game-changing shift is what this device does with all that activity data that it tracks. This data goes straight to a real human personal coach allocated to you who analyses it and gives you real time feedback, advise and directions.

The GOQii coaching system is very robust and professional and can truly motivate and keep you on track. The GOQii device is free and you only pay for the coaching system and there is a special deal on Amazon at Rs.3,999 for three months.

This is a new entry into the the fitness world and comes straight to India after its launch in the Middle East. Its a clip-on device with a six-month battery life, has no screen or visual data that you can track on it (it synchs with an app on your phone for you to see that).

The Mymo is very small and unobtrusive and can track all the metrics you need. It works with Tupelolife, a healthcare ecosystem built around the app. The Mymo is currently available for Rs.3,375 in India.

Right on track: Mymo comes with a six month battery life and no screen. It's very small and unobtrusive and tracks all the metrics you need

So which one then?
I’m going to take the Mymo out of the equation right now as it’s a very recent entry and needs time to get things right and develop the ecosystem well. That leaves the Vivo and the GOQii.

The choice is fairly simple. If you believe you are disciplined enough to stick to a fitness regime on your own and can track and analyse all the data being thrown at you – then the Vivo is a very good device.

But if you fall into the category where you fall off your fitness bandwagon regularly, have been struggling to go to the gym every morning, struggling with weight issues and are quite confused as to what to do with all that awesome data about your own body – then GOQii and its personal coach is a life-saver.

I hope that answers the question ke ‘India mein kaunsa fitness band aacha hai?’

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

From HT Brunch, October 19

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First Published: Oct 18, 2014 15:23 IST