Smartwatches who want fitness trackers who want smartwatches who want fitness trackers. There’s been much talk about which category will win out and which will wither. From the latest predictions, it looks like more of us (50m) will buy smartwatches in 2016 than a Fitbit or a Jawbone (34m).
But don’t write off fitness bands just yet. Many are in the enviable position of both giving us a clear reason to buy one in the first place (helping us to move more, tracking runs, monitoring sleep) but also the opportunity to add more features to save time or just allow us to leave our phone in our pockets.
Moov is getting in with MasterCard for wearable payments, the Garmin Vivosmart HR does decent notifications, Misfit wants the Shine 2 and Flash Link to control your smart home and one day, act as your ID.
One area trackers are struggling with is what to do about alerts. To do wearable notifications properly, you need either a very good haptic system or well, a display. The fear is that displays on bands mean short battery lives, a lot of finger prodding and dorky gadget looks.
With this week’s launch of the Fitbit Alta, which we guess could be described as a hybrid, we decided to take a look at how fitness trackers are playing smartwatch and which ones are succeeding.
If you think we are really wrong on this, let us know in the comments below.
WEAR – Microsoft Band 2
But when our editor-in-chief Paul Lamkin tested the latest second Microsoft device, he loved the fact that it shows all smartphone notifications as well as activity stats on its curved AMOLED display (though these are lumped together in one tile). The Band 2 does give calls, texts, email, Facebook and Twitter their own icons so overall, it’s a reliable and easy to check set up.
NEARLY THERE – Fitbit Alta
This one irked us. Why does Fitbit hate WhatsApp so? The Fitbit Alta, its new style focused fitness tracker has a nice, new OLED display that looks – and bear in mind we haven’t seen it up close yet – bigger and generally more helpful than say, the Charge’s screen. It also does call, text and calendar alerts. Too bad the only person who sends me text messages these days is my grandmother. We get that Fitbit say it wants to keep things simple and minimise alerts but what we have on the Alta and Blaze ignores how we actually communicate in 2016.
The Alta could actually be a really great, easy to use, motivating piece of fitness tracking smart jewellery that also nudges us with alerts to glance at. It’s a nice form factor, with great customisation options, a Tory Burch collaboration on the way and the same basic, but popular, features from Fitbit’s existing range. Just add the option for a few more messaging apps, pretty please.
SQUARE – Jawbone
The UP2 is our current best all-round fitness tracker but Jawbone hasn’t made much progress in making its very wearable devices into anything more. Aside from a limited wearable payments partnership with American Express and the UP4 in the US, its line of fitness trackers are just that, fitness trackers.
As we said, you don’t *have* to add an ugly, bug screen to a device to handle smartwatch features like alerts or controls. For instance, Misfit is doing well to integrate taps and button pushes into its line of tech discs but Jawbone’s UP Move, for instance, is designed to be hidden away, clipped to belts and bras.
Up next for Jawbone is a renewed focus on sleep and calorie counting but it might do well to expand its attentions elsewhere.