Personal technology for health and fitness.
I have tried the vast majority of current activity tracking gadgets and have eventually abandoned most of them. That’s not to say they didn’t perform their duty. The problem was that they didn’t match my outfit.
Sounds silly, but when it comes to a wearable, looks matter more than you might think.
Even while the category explodes — recent estimates put growth up some 170 percent from 2014, with more than 70 million devices expected to ship this year — there is a 30 percent return rate and a 50 percent abandonment rate overall. “Because they’re ugly,” is one of the top reasons people give up on them.
We tested some of the latest and most popular trackers to compare how they work and the various features they offer. Here’s what we found.
So here is something I never thought I would say: There is a new workout wearable that’s too pretty to wear to the gym — but too smart not to.
It’s called the Misfit Swarovski Shine. I’ve been wearing it off and on with a stunning reversible pave encrusted pendant since it first launched in January. I get tons of compliments when people think “it’s just a necklace,” but jaws drop when I double tap the faceted face and tiny white lights glow through the crystal top to show how much progress I’ve made toward my daily steps goal or quickly flash the time. It’s like Tiffany & Co meets the Jetsons.
Before this dolled-up version, Misfit’s aluminum Shine tracker ($100) was already a hit in the basic activity tracking market for being small, simple, and moderately priced. The Shine is a tiny disk, about the size of four quarters stacked on top of each other, but its size belies its movement tracking power. It records and relays all your daily steps, calories and distance statistics to its companion app on your smartphone. The Misfit app also keeps track of your sleep, nudges you to move when you’ve been sitting around too long, and includes integration with the Lose It! app’s food journal, among others, to keep your caloric intake in check.
The Swarovski Shine is the same kind of reliable tracking device, crowned with a clear crystal that cloaks Misfit’s motion and sleep monitoring sensors hard at work inside. Also tucked snugly inside this tiny tracker is a battery that lasts six months at a time, so there’s no charging required. Simply swap out the dime-sized watch battery once the device starts to peter out and you are good for another half year. The entire device pops into matching crystal laden bracelets, several elegant pendants, or more modest wristbands that help tone down the whole bling thing for more gritty outings or for when you wear it to bed to track your sleep.
Misfit sells the tracker in three different starter sets that range in price from $169 to $249 and include the device, a white sport band, and an accessory, such as a jewel-encrusted Slakewrap bracelet or the eye-catching Vio pendant. There are nine additional Swarovski branded necklaces and bracelets from $49 to $149 that you can pop the crystal core tracker in as well, or wear on their own as bright baubles.
The Swarovski Shine is the first activity tracker that I’ve worn with a ball gown. Swap out the glamorous get-up, slap it into a plastic band, and it’s just at home wrapped around my sweaty wrist while out for a run. It’s pretty, but not ostentatious, and I am able to pair it with whatever I happen to be wearing for the day, be it yoga pants, office attire, or black tie.
Going beyond just how it looks, the Shine solves a few other issues with fitness trackers — most notably, that many are uncomfortable in subtle little ways that add up over time. TheJawbone Up24 ($100), one of my past favorites in this category overall, gets in the way when I type, and I have to take it off if I’m working on a laptop. The Fitbit One ($100), which clips to the top of my pants, is prone to falling in the toilet.
That’s not to say my glamorous Shine device isn’t without its drawbacks.
Unlike its metal predecessor, the crystal Shine is not yet waterproof (though the company tells me they’re working on that). When I’m wearing it in the barely-there plastic band, it’s so small and light that twice now I’ve forgotten to take it off when I jumped in the shower.
While it’s certainly a high-tech step up from a pedometer, it is not the right device for more serious athletic insight or training. It is not as sophisticated as a Fitbit Charge HR ($150) or the Garmin Vivofit 2 ($100), both of which have heart rate monitoring, built-in GPS and a glowing watch face to make you less dependent on getting all the info from your phone.
Other wearable devices have also been working on their fashion sense. Fitbit partnered with the designer Tory Burch on a line of gold and silver metal hinged bracelets ($195) and pendants ($175). Withings has also turned a fitness tracker into an elegant unisex sapphire-glass watch with the Activité ($450). I love it as a gorgeous watch, but I don’t want to wear a watch to bed.
I’ve also tried several other pieces of “smart” jewelry over the past few years such as the Ringly cocktail ring ($195 to $260), which lights up or vibrates when you are getting a phone call or message. As much as I drool over the gorgeous cocktail ring, it’s more pretty than practical.
Same goes for Cuff, with its line of bracelets, necklaces and key chains ($49 to $149) to hide away a tiny gadget that also connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone. For now, Cuff’s primary function is to act as a high tech panic button. If somebody gives you the creeps, one tap on your wrist sends a friend or family member a distress signal and a map of your location.
While fashion may sound like a misplaced priority when it comes to fitness and health, I think wearable makers are right to focus on it. In my experience, the Swarovski Shine is the most hassle-free tracker I’ve ever worn, and the fact that it’s also fashionable is what keeps me wearing it every day.
For more fitness, food and wellness news, “like” our Facebook page.