The charge 5 actually looks good

Meet our most advanced fitness & health tracker with tools like an on-wrist ECG app for heart health,** EDA Scan app for stress management and more. Get a 6-month membership of Fitbit Premium™*** and optimize your routine with Daily Readiness Score… More here.

It may be the ‘Apple inspired’ strap or the new shape, but something about this design grabs me. I like the idea of the readiness score as well.

HUAWEI GT 2 Pro review (part 1)

This is a very quick first part of my GT 2 Pro review. I simply want to cover the very first impressions a buyer can expect to experience when they open the box. And my first impressions were much more positive than I expected.

I still struggle to understand how £179 can get a watch (any type of watch) with sapphire glass, a titanium case, a good quality leather strap, an excellent buckle and a ceramic case back. This is practically unheard of in the traditional watch industry, but it does make me question how Huawei can do it when the likes of Seiko, Tissot cannot at anywhere near this price point. Take a look higher at Tudor, Oris and even Omega, and you will not see all of these materials together without laying out some serious money.

Even more surprising is the way the case has been made, the quality of the buttons, the design considerations and the consistency throughout. It really does not feel like a smartwatch on the wrist, apart from the lack of weight.

In the box you get a USB C charging cable which attaches to a circular wireless charger, a couple of booklets and that’s your lot. It is minimal and if you pay an extra £20 you get a black rubber strap as well which can be changed using the quick release mechanism. I should add that the quick release used here is the best quality I have seen to date on any watch. The surprises continue.

My very first impressions are extremely positive and I am somewhat bewildered by what you get for the price. I mean, this is Huawei after all. A company we are taught to be wary of, but the hardware is ultra impressive and arguably above the Apple Watch. In part 2 I will cover the display, performance and battery.

Google dismantles Health unit, here we go again.

From consumer-facing products like sleep tracking tech with its Nest Hub smart home devices and Fitbit wearables to clinical initiatives like its Care Studio EHR search tool and its health AI work, Google has intensified its focus on health tech and expanded its reach into the healthcare market.

But those projects will now be split across Google’s myriad teams and divisions as the tech giant pivots away from a unified health strategy and reassigns its 570 employees across the company, according to a leaked memo obtained by Insider… More here.

The marketing words are carefully constructed to avoid the notion that this is yet another Google product about to be dismantled, but words often say less than the reality behind them.

This is exactly why when it comes to fitness I tend to trust Apple and Garmin above all of the others, no matter how impressive alternative products from other brands are.

Both companies have the money, the branding and the expertise to pull off top level fitness tracking, but more importantly they will be there for the long haul. Health and fitness are extremely important to Apple and even more so to Garmin, and this is why I find it hard to look elsewhere.

Sometimes you just need consistency and longevity to back up the quality, and without all three aspects you may as well have none of them.

Smartwatch Wars Part Three: It’s like moving from an iPhone to an iPod

I had some time with the Garmin Fenix 5, not the 5 Pro or the newer 6 models, and I came to a somewhat negative conclusion within hours.

The positives first; I love the design, the weight and the size. It feels like a substantial watch, it looks rugged and there is a sense that this is a ‘real’ watch and not a small computer, even though it is obviously a small computer.

The battery life is very impressive, approximately one week, and it feels as if is designed to work in the real world and to not overdo the computery stuff.

And that dear readers is where the positives end.

We are talking about a watch that was released in January 2017 so it is hardly new technology. At that point in time the newest Apple Watch was the series 2, basically a slightly faster series 1, so you could call this relatively archaic.

The thing is that the Fenix 5 is very similar to the Fenix 6 in many ways besides a better screen (still not a good screen at all), improved sensors and performance etc. In all of that time since 2017 we have had one new series of Fenix watch released.

Remarkably, however, a Fenix 5 in decent condition will still command approximately £250 whereas the series 2 Apple Watch will get you £75. The Fenix never cost 3 times more than the Apple Watch.

It is slow at times to respond to button presses and the sheer lack of functionality outside of time telling and fitness tracking is telling. The battery life would still destroy any new Apple Watch no matter how much it has been used and the fitness metrics will remain steady, but it is very much a fitness watch and little else.

To be fair to Garmin it does not claim to be anything else and you can grab a 5 Pro (£350-400) or a 6 Pro which can download tracks from some streaming services, but that is about your lot aside from a few simple apps and a variety of watch faces (some of which are questionable in terms of legality; Omega and Rolex logos etc).

In terms of calling this series of articles ‘Wars’ the Fenix loses out to the Apple Watch, as all other smartwatches seem to, purely on the basis of flexibility and how it works practically. I much prefer the Fenix as a watch and the size is preferable to the Apple Watch, as is the battery performance, but for almost everything else it has lost the battle this time. It really does feel like moving from an iPhone (Apple Watch) to an iPod (Fenix).

The Fenix 7 is expected to be released imminently and 4G would be by far the most useful addition, but alas I suspect that we may see more of the same for at least the next release. Feels like the smartwatch wars are already over.

The HUAWEI Band 6 is surprisingly good

The large, high screen-to-body ratio display not only looks good, it also gives you more of the data you want. Bigger photos, more exercise stats, and constant heart rate monitoring can be shown in stunning detail. And have more freedom to view it all, thanks to the intuitive 4-way touchscreen controls… More here.

I got some time with this yesterday and was very impressed with the form of this smartwatch. It is close to being a fitness band, but the software works superbly on the small screen and the number of features, and battery performance, feels way above what you should get for the price. In the store it was currently on sale for just below £45. Amazing value.

Smartwatch Wars Part One: Garmin Instinct Solar vs Apple Watch series 6

The Garmin Instinct Solar is everything the Apple Watch series 6 is not and vice versa. I can think of no two products so different that technically do the same core thing, but the gap between the two is gigantic.

Some quick specs-

As you can see they really do differ in terms of their physical forms, their designs and technical specs including screen technology, storage and battery performance.

One is designed for sports alone and to be as tough as you could possibly need it to be and the other is designed to do as much as possible and to be as near to a smartphone on your wrist as you can get (if you ignore the full Android smartwatches already on the market- they are reaching too far at the moment so please ignore them).

After a week with the Garmin I find myself very much in two minds as to its value. For the price you are getting a tough watch that includes many sensors, access to an ecosystem for all of your fitness metrics and huge battery life. You are also getting a look that many men in particular like to carry off, but if you are not fit it can look a bit ‘wannabe’.

For £85 more you get the Apple Watch series 6 with as many sensors, almost every app you could need, music, podcasts, messaging (and message replies), a full colour screen, cellular (for £509) and sh*t battery performance. On the face of it one appears to be much better value than the other, but we are all different and for many people there is a reason to opt for functionality over features.

The Garmin will survive anything and you can kind of forget about it. If it gets some sun there is the potential to rarely need to charge it, although I am far from convinced of that even if we are talking more than a week between charges, and you can just wear it and not have to concern yourself with doing anything apart from pressing a button to start a workout. It feels like its own thing and there is a sense that it is a genuine watch with fitness capabilities rather than a smartwatch.

It almost feels to me as if the Garmin has been pulled back from being more complex and flexible. The Garmin fēnix is a more complex offering which will bring the ability to listen to music and podcasts with it, provided you download them to the device before you leave home, but even that does not offer anywhere near the number of functions the Apple Watch can. And even if you go all the way up to the Garmin MARQ collection which cost up to £2,249 you still do not get close to the Apple Watch in terms of connectivity etc. You can use apps and pay for things, but it is as if Garmin is scared of pushing the needle too far towards consumer smartwatches and away from pure fitness for athletes.

Garmin makes a huge range of specialised devices for all sorts of sportspeople such as golf, driving, aviators, boat captains, adventurers, runners etc etc and there must be a big market for each. Yes, many of these sports are niche, but sometimes it may be better business to dominate a niche than to be a smaller player in a mass market.

So, if we consider that fitness is the focus for the Garmin Instinct and that being an all purpose smartwatch with fitness capabilities is the focus for the Apple Watch we would logically expect to see different results when tracking workouts.

If I take some of the main stats from a quick treadmill workout with the Apple Watch on my left wrist I note the following-

59kcal expended | 18’27” / Mile pace | Average heart rate 105BPM | Distance 0.38 Mile

If I take some of the main stats from the Garmin which was on my right wrist I note the following-

63kcal expended | 16’58” / Mile pace | Average heart rate 104BPM | Distance 0.43 Mile

I chose this kind of workout because when GPS is used for outdoor workouts my wife (Garmin Venu) and I (Apple Watch) end up with exactly the same distances so I was more concerned with the actual monitoring of my activity on a physical level.

As you can see the heart rates are near identical and the calories expended are also very close so that just leaves the distance as somewhat different.

The problem is, however, that they are very close in the important metrics and I have seen this multiple times between the two. This is a problem for Garmin. If I take you back a few paragraphs where I wrote ‘fitness is the focus for the Garmin Instinct and that being an all purpose smartwatch with fitness capabilities is the focus for the Apple Watch’ you can start to see the problem. The reality is that the Apple Watch tracks workouts and fitness in a near identical way to the Garmin which leaves the latter scrambling for a unique selling point.

It leaves me with the sense that Garmin is either unwilling or unable to go further with their smartwatches. They make a variety of consumer trackers and watches, none with 4G, and all follow the same software path and work with the same iOS and Android apps. It does not matter which one you buy, you will be using similar software and merely losing elements with a watch like the Instinct.

The Instinct offers a monochrome screen which is very small (partly due to the solar panel surrounding it) and which is only able to display a certain amount of information. This, in a way, is appealing because it adds to feeling of robustness and dare I say it, G-Shockery. The familiarity of the interface hides much of the data the watch collects which may be a problem for some, but the fact is that you can jump to the app and see everything you need. However, this off-device data display is not as impressive as what you can see at any time on the Apple Watch.

The fēnix gets around this somewhat, but you are still left with a product that feels held back and almost as if it came from a different time. It is apparent that the Apple Watch feels MUCH more modern than any Garmin sports watch (not the consumer models such as the Venu 2), but there is still huge appeal for athletes, adventurers and those who need excellent battery life above all else. There is also an image that these big rugged sports watches portray and many prefer this to the bandwagon, and almost feminine to some, look of the Apple Watch.

Conclusion

I am naturally drawn to the Garmin Instinct because of the battery life, the design and the simplistic nature of the interface. I also feel very confident about the fitness tracking and the science behind how it works.

The problem is that the Apple Watch exists and feels as if it was created 10 years after the Garmin Instinct. The fact that the fitness tracking is easily comparable to the Garmin means that the Apple Watch series 6 wins part one of the Smartphone Wars.

Our understanding of “long COVID”

For this preliminary entry to the long COVID discourse, researchers in the JAMA study isolated 875 subjects from the health monitor-wearing database (all of whom wear Fitbits), and compared those who had tested positive with COVID to those who had reported “a fever, cough, body aches or other symptoms of a respiratory illness” due to another infection. While everyone slept more and walked less after they got sick, individuals with COVID clearly had a more drastic change. It took an average of 79 days for their resting heart rates to return to normal, compared to just four days for those who didn’t have COVID… More here.

This will be interesting to fully understand as we start to learn more. The image above is my VO2 from Apple Health and it shows what happened when I caught Covid at the start of January.

I definitely do not have long Covid, but 6 months later I am still well below where I was and I suspect the majority who caught it have this problem.

Apple doesn’t always know what we want

Apple is famous for not using focus groups of following the trend for what users want and this has paid dividends. The ability to impress consumers can only come from offering something people either believed was not possible or that they never even knew they needed.

Compare this to Garmin who takes a lot of time to check what athletes, divers and other fitness enthusiasts want through forums and other sources. The company specifically looks for trends and to build ‘wanted’ features into future products. It may not be exciting and it may not grab the headlines, but time and time again Garmin users say things like ‘so glad they added that feature’ and ‘this makes the device perfect!’

This came to light for us recently because my wife, Jo, has been doing 10K runs for some time now and the Apple Watch tracks everything perfectly. It’s excellent, but it is very much a tracker and there are few features included that can actually help her improve.

Some apps offer training plans and other functions, but few seem to get to the heart of the matter and succeed in her experience. And then the Garmin Forerunner 55 appeared at the comparatively low price of £179.

Comparing it to the Apple Watch would be daft because they are completely different products, but the realisation for Jo that she only uses the Apple Watch for tracking her runs made her mind up to try something new.

The video above really did make up her mind because it makes clear that the Forerunner 55 can actually change you for the better. It works out what you have done and uses that data to gradually help you to improve which in the case of the lady in the video worked very well.

The Forerunner 55 is designed to help you to improved in a directly focussed way and this makes the Apple Watch look a little more like a general purpose smartwatch that does most things for most people.

It has worked brilliantly for Apple, you see the Apple Watch everywhere, but if you see a group of marathon runners together or any group of people who take fitness seriously all you will see is Garmin, literally 9 out of 10 people wearing Garmin.

The only point I am making here is that many people believe that Apple is best at everything, but if you are serious about a hobby or your fitness you should probably look elsewhere. Just like my Kindle Oasis is a much better eReader than the iPad (for me), some of the Garmin watches destroy the Apple Watch for true fitness improvement.

What your resting heart rate says about you

The advent of fitness trackers, pulse oximeters and home blood pressure machines means you can easily monitor your heart rate while doing everything from training for a marathon to sleeping at night. However, it is the resting rate during the day that I want to concentrate on because it can be a surprisingly simple indicator of underlying health issues and a predictor of problems too….

Some causes of a high resting pulse
● Stress, anxiety, excitement or anger

● Caffeine, alcohol and smoking/vaping

● Some over-the-counter and prescription medicines, eg decongestants and asthma inhalers

● Dehydration

● High temperature and infection

● Anaemia (low blood count)

● An overactive thyroid gland

● Underlying heart problems

More here.

I found this article interesting because it brought back to me the thought that just maybe our bodies make us do things that help us even if they do not make sense.

For example I vape, I drink far too much strong coffee and I use asthma inhalers. Of course I cannot help the inhalers, but my resting heart rate is between 48 and 51 and I am not a small person. What would my rate be without the above listed stimulants that are supposed to increase normal heart rates?

AmazFit Neo review

The AmazFit Neo costs £29.99 (using a £10 Amazon discount) and comes with a surprising set of specifications for the price-

Up to 37 days of battery life (37!)
Always on display
All day heart rate monitoring
Sleep tracking
Backlight
50m water resistance
Notifications
Step counts and automatic exercise tracking

It appears to be too good to be true doesn’t it, but the reality of using it suggests that it stands up to many more expensive trackers.

At a mere 32 grams in weight you do not realise that you are wearing it and the fit is surprisingly comfortable. There is a sense of retro Casio / Timex running through the design and as a useable fitness tracker / smart watch it really does work.

It’s deceptive in reality because y0u are spending very little money on the product, it does exactly what it aims to do and in a way that never interrupts you, to the point that basic exercise tracking becomes a ‘thing’ that just happens in the background.

Accuracy is not a huge strong point here and you should not expect precision, but in my experience that is a problem for many brands including big names like Fitbit. If you look for trends you can get the fitness benefits you require because I have never used a fitness tracker that changes accuracy levels over time. I have noticed that if a tracker is 10% out it will always be 10% out and if your trends increase so you will be improving.

Health monitoring is a different matter and the heart rate monitor, for example, showed 59 bpm for me while the Apple Watch showed 53 bpm. This is quite a difference, but I would suggest that it is acceptable for a watch at this price.

Finally, the Zepp app that you use as a companion is actually quite impressive. It does not try to do too much and it presents all of the information you need in a logical and clear way.

If you need a backup watch, a basic fitness tracker or you like retro styling this could be a decent purchase. It remains a product that belies its price more than almost any other I have tried.