Is the best smart watch a fitness tracker?

I have owned an Apple Watch, a moto 360, an Asus Zenwatch and both the Pebble Time and Pebble Steel, and I didn’t really like any of them.

The main reason for my negativity was because they lacked personality and a practical use that made them feel worthy of my left wrist. I am a watch guy and really do enjoy wearing a nice watch, and no smart watch to date has felt like a nice watch. Add to this the blindingly obvious fact that the screens are too small to do anything with and I was left with the same feeling every single time- what exactly is the point?

I like the idea of tracking my activity and sleep, and also the notifications which ensure that no call or text is ever missed, but the smart watch feels like overkill because most of the above fail to do everything well. Activity tracking has been flaky to say the least and at times the notifications would simply stop working on the Android Wear devices. Add to this the need to do a crazy hand movement to even see the time on some of them and I was sold. Sold on the idea that a smart watch is not a good idea.

When I say not a good idea, a smart watch technically is, but I still haven’t found a third party app that is useful and most of the default ones are more convenient and easier to use on a phone, which most smart watches need to work anyway. The bits that do work can be covered by fitness trackers and in particular, fitness trackers that can handle phone notifications.

Enter the Garmin Vivosmart, a device that is not new, but which can be bought now for little money. It is nicely designed and suitable for men and women without ever looking gaudy or too big. It comes with a weeks worth of power from one charge and the ability to do a lot of different things. Step counting is an obvious component as is the ability to track sleep (in a fairly basic way), but it also handles all of the notifications coming in to my iPhone and it does so very effectively. You cannot manage the type of notifications coming in, but when you receive an email and realise that you can scroll down to read it, the use of minimal space is pure genius in the way it is implemented.

You can also see your progress throughout the day, receive alarms and do many other things with a tap here and a swipe there. It feels completely natural to use and is the perfect addition to a real watch which when worn together make a perfect combination of stylish timepiece and smart technology. The fact that the progress is viewable on the device itself means that you only need to open the app on your phone once a day so you can turn Bluetooth off for the majority of the time. Also, it synchronises much quicker than Jawbone trackers I have used and has not failed once so far.

The app is not great to be honest. It offers a lot of detail, but in a cluttered manner which makes it hard to understand the data with a quick glance. You also cannot track your food intake and in some ways it feels half-finished, but it does do the job that it is intended to do and works just about well enough for my needs.

Accuracy seems fairly good as well, but as with all fitness trackers your mileage may vary. For me, it is more accurate than the Fitbits I have tried, but less so than the Jawbones. Remember though that we are talking within 5% of true accuracy so you can still use the history to see if you are improving which I guess is the main goal of any fitness tracker.

For me, the Vivosmart handles the main benefits of a smart watch and provides much better battery life alongside more accurate and detailed activity and sleep tracking. It is inconspicuous, allows me to wear a real watch and is a hassle-free experience overall. Potentially, smart fitness trackers can easily outpace smart watches purely on the basis that nobody has found out what a smart watch needs to offer to be truly beneficial. With better battery life and lower costs as well, devices like the older Vivosmart and the new Fitbit Alta have the opportunity to lead the wearable race at this time, and to sell in much greater numbers.



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