NapBot

Gain insight into your full sleep history in beautifully designed overviews. NapBot uses machine learning to automatically track your sleep. NapBot presents detailed sleep phases analysis by calculating deep and light phases… More here.

This app can work independent of the iPhone and first indications are that it is decent if a little buggy.

Three half marathon Apple Watch Series 5 battery tests

All in all, I was extremely satisfied with battery life performance from the Apple Watch Series 5, especially with the always-on display activated. As always, your mileage may vary — and for the better if you finish the race faster! More here.

I don’t recognise these results at all. When my wife ran a marathon last year the following happened (full article is here)-

She had disabled the always on screen beforehand and only enabled the features she needed, but still it died less than half way through the marathon. If she had run a new world record of under 2:15:25 the Apple Watch would still have only just survived by 15 minutes.

This meant that we had no idea where she was and could not make sure that she was OK. She had lost her music and so had to run in silence and the Apple Watch did not record her completing the marathon- she only wanted to complete one marathon in her life, but the Apple records will not show it. Finally, we then had to wait for some time in the hope that she could complete the marathon and the worry was immense for all of the family waiting.

Love the Apple Watch, sold the Apple Watch, stopped all tracking

My recent couple of months with the Apple Watch taught me a lot about what it can do, what I want and how I should be approaching my life. Yes, that sounds awfully over the top, but bear with me and it may actually make sense.

Over the past few years I have spent a lot of time improving my diet, my weight and my overall fitness and the results have been impressive, if I say so myself. 100lbs in weight lost and shirt sizes dropped from XXXL to L with my waist dropping from 40” to 32”. This was not easy when I started at 47 years old because everything gets harder physically when you are older, but I did it and am happy with where I am at. My wife also lost 35lbs in weight and went from doing no exercise, besides being a very busy midwife, to running a marathon recently following a ‘lot’ of training.

This was all done by not having bad food in the house and by using Fitbit to track exercise and calories consumed, and a Fitbit Aria to weigh ourselves every single day. For me personally the numbers helped a great deal and inspired me to keep going with a specific target weight in mind. The question then became ‘when to stop?’

This was difficult because when you get in the habit of tracking your movements each day, the amount of exercise, the amount you eat and your weight it feels as though you have failed when you miss a day or take a few hours off. The paranoia of slipping back to old habits is strong, almost overwhelming, and the fitness tracker becomes the hub of all of that data and the tool you use to ensure the paranoia can be held back continually.

The problem then comes with keeping up the same regime when you hit your target weight, and you do have to keep up a regime forever to stick to a specific weight. People diet and then they stop, and then wonder why their weight goes back up? It’s easy really; calories + activity = weight and that never changes. Some people can eat a lot and stay light and people like me have to eat little to stay within range despite being over 6’ in height and big built. What should happen, however, is that once you know what you need to do you should be able to stick to that forever more and stay within a certain range. The habits have been built and you should not need a tracker to continually remind you.

I haven’t actually been able to do this until the past couple of weeks and I am quickly getting over the sense that I need to continually track my movements and everything else. It all came to a head when I started using the Apple Watch a couple of months ago, yet again, and realised that the tracking had got out of hand. I continued to try to hit a daily step count, to do specific exercises and to count every single thing I ate. Enough already!

Some things have happened recently which have made me reflect on what is important in my life and it hasn’t been the best new year so far, and then I realised that spending so much time tracking these aspects of my life just took time away from helping those who need my time. The insular farce of checking so many numbers that reflect what I have done in a day makes no sense at all when you really think about it. What exactly happens? You see that you did, for example, 12,000 steps yesterday. What exactly can you do with that information if you are not trying to lose weight? I slept 6.5 hours last night. What can I do with that? Nothing at all. The same applies to literally everything else I do and as an adult I should instinctively know what to eat, when to go to bed and if I am being a lazy git over extended periods. If I take a couple of moments now and again to just remember what I should do, I will stay within the acceptable weight range, I will remain fit and I will get the sleep my body needs. Is it really worth tracking everything forever when the benefits are potentially minimal over very long periods?

Now I realise that I am sounding like I have done what I need to do and now it’s all rubbish, but that is not how I feel. I believe that fitness trackers and the Apple Watch are game changing and they offer huge benefits to anyone who wants to get fitter and improve their health, but the question of whether that tracking should last forever is what made me say no. Specific health issues aside, nobody needs to track everything they do every day because it will just get in the way of living a life and take away time from what really matters, and that is why I ultimately sold my Apple Watch and went back to a traditional timepiece.

I have owned many Apple Watches and the past two months is, believe it or not, the longest time I have spent wearing one. It is a superb watch from a theoretical point of view; accuracy is second to none, the number of complications you can display at one time is ahead of any normal watch and little touches like the ease of strap changing enable me to understand why I see them everywhere, literally everywhere. Add the fitness and heart tracking capabilities and you have a well priced product that will only become more popular and which will likely decimate the quartz watch industry in a bigger way than quartz decimated the mechanical watch industry in the 1970’s.

The Apple Watch is in many ways the best watch on the market today and no other smartwatch comes close, and many quartz watches cannot compete either unless you are deliberately avoiding a smartwatch. The problem with the Apple Watch, at least in my eyes, is that it is soulless.

It is soulless in the way a computer or a smartphone is. They are all screens with pixels and colours that we use to gain information from and they are all temporary in nature. To many of you this must sound like me saying that a tumble dryer is soulless in comparison to a mangle or a new flat screen TV is soulless in comparison to an antique radio, but for those of us who view a watch as something special there is a difference.

Can you name one tool with a practical use that could be 50 years old and yet still perform its function perfectly every day without any intervention at all? A tool with history, provenance and which only goes up in value (both emotionally and financially) the longer you wear it? A tool that becomes so familiar that it would feel like a loss to not have it attached to you. Only a watch ticks those boxes.

And as my time with the Apple Watch grew ever more useful and ever more familiar I knew I had to take it off and force myself to forget about it. I was missing a real watch and verging on the point of feeling as though the Apple Watch was wearing me instead of the other way around. The notifications to move, the little pop ups attempting to motivate me and the insurance that I would never miss any message became too much. Sure I could control them to a point, but the ‘always attached’ feeling grew and grew. You could argue that the Apple Watch is almost too good at what it does and I eventually realised that it was a step too far in terms of where I want to go with technology.

By coincidence I have been reading a book called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Simple ways to Keep the Little Things from Overtaking Your Life and despite its sometimes American ‘you can improve yourself’ nonsense speak there is a lot of very useful information held within it. It looks at focussing on what is important and ignoring the little things that can annoy or that are not important, and within that falls the majority of the information an Apple Watch offers up countless times a day. It has also opened my eyes to how I interact to people and made me realise that I can be a bit of a dick at times, most of the time actually.

Another coincidence was visiting a vintage watch shop with my son and seeing an Omega Calibre 1012 from 1974 for sale, a watch I had been thinking about for some time, but which is not easy to get at a reasonable price. I held back from the purchase because I was wearing the Apple Watch, but it remained in my head for some reason. A few weeks later after some prolonged negotiation with the owner of the store I bought it for £70 less than a new series 5 Apple Watch would cost.

Comparing the two is pointless because most people would see no comparison at all. The Apple Watch is more accurate, it offers multiple complications, it is more customisable (straps etc), it could save my life one day (!) and it does genuinely look quite smart.

None of that matters in any way to me because the aim here is to do less and to be more. As it happens the Omega bears some similarity to the Apple Watch in terms of form, but it has much more style and pleasing little details that make it what it is. When I check the time on the Omega I spend a second longer than I need to because it is such a joy to look at and to wear. The way the bracelet attaches and tapers is an example of near perfect watch design when considering the bracelet uniformity to the watch itself. The fact I never need to do anything because it winds itself is a practical advantage and merely changing the date every other month is hardly a big hassle.

It offers much less than the Apple Watch, but it is so much more and crucially it helps me to step away from continually checking what I am doing for no good reason. In 2020 when technology is used to help us do so much the humble mechanical watch remains a useful tool that does something of great importance- it tells the time. Nothing more, nothing less and in some cases it does so in a way that just makes us feel good and which offers others a sense of what the person is. A sense of style and personality in a world where everyone is wearing the exact same Apple Watch.

I wish the Apple Watch didn’t exist

I know some of you will argue the iPad, and that’s a really close second for me. But it’s more of an escalation when it comes to ultra-personal computing, not a revelation. Same for the iPhone 4 or 4s. Others will argue Alexa or Tesla, but those are still limited and problematic in as many ways as they’re miraculous. Still others, maybe AirPods, but I think those really have their most important decade ahead of them.

The Apple Watch was not only born smack dab in the middle of this decade, but constantly iterated and improved over the last five years with better performance, connectivity, edge-to-edgier display, and now… an always-on display. All of which are important. But more importantly. Most importantly. It does something no other piece of personal computing technology has done before, specifically, purposefully — it saves lives… More here.

I am struggling to let the Apple Watch go. As you know I love traditional watches, but it actually worries me how useful Apple’s offering is.

Final Garmin Venu thoughts

I have to say that after a week of use the Garmin Venu has proved itself to me and to the point that I would rate it above the Apple Watch, any Apple Watch to date.

Ignoring the cellular Apple Watch, the Venu offers the following advantages-

It is cheaper by 25%.

The battery life is 3-4 days with ease and this is with always on time and date displayed.

The screen seems to offer more at one time, especially in messages etc, even though it is circular.

The fitness tracking and presentation through the app is more customisable and more understandable.

You can use any 20mm watch strap which should save more money.

I tend to trust the tracking more than on the Apple Watch and things like Body Battery and Stress are genuinely useful.

There are tons of watch faces available for free of which some are, however, rip offs of other watch brands.

It can’t all be better though and the following is where the Apple Watch wins-

The apps on Apple Watch are better, but I never really installed any in past.

The Apple Watch looks better on the wrist whereas the Venu looks like a generic fitness watch with a flat screen.

You can respond to messages on the Apple Watch and also take calls.

I would argue that the better Apple Watch features tend to be the ‘smartwatch’ features and that the Venu is a more practical offering that really does do what it focuses on very well indeed. It has been a genuine surprise so far.

The Garmin Venu

The Garmin Venu arrived yesterday and after some tinkering I came to some quick conclusions-

Finally, Garmin is using a decent quality screen that rivals the Apple Watch and it includes a cut down always-on display.

You can expect 2-3 days of battery life using the always-on display feature.

The fitness tracking is superb and extremely versatile.

It is quite big which is not deal, but arguably roughly the same real estate as the 44mm Apple Watch, but with a round form.

I was then going to write up a quick review, but I found this article which is so good I decided not to bother. Just have a read of it if you are considering the Venu. It’s the first smartwatch I have used that feels compatible to the Apple Watch.

Reviewing the Vivoactive 4 as if it were an Apple device

For the past few days I have been playing with the Garmin Vivoactive 4 and have come to some early conclusions that I realised were based on the brand rather than the product itself. I wrote recently about how the Apple Watch is way ahead of the competition, and I stand by that, but I suspect that there are subconscious emotions swirling around that I don’t always notice.

The plain fact is that the Garmin is £200 cheaper than the Apple Watch series 5, it offers 4-5 days of battery per charge, the fitness tracking is arguably more accurate and complete, and the fitness side of the app is much more detailed and more precise than using three rings to offer a general guide to how active you are.

The bells and whistles that Apple offers do work for the majority of people and everything from the easily readable screen to the selection of third party apps make for excellent marketing material that draws the user in. On top of this there are many options to make it feel individual and of course the huge number of straps available takes this individuality even further. I should also mention that it is in fact a very good watch which devices like the Garmin feel just a step away from.

It feels more like a fitness tracker that just happens to tell the time whereas the Apple Watch is a watch that just happens to do many other things. It is easy not to notice this, but it is absolutely crucial in understanding why the Apple Watch is dominating this area. People still want watches.

So, the battery life of the Vivoactive is much much better than the series 5 Apple Watch which is easy to rave about, but interestingly Garmin is releasing the Venu with a full colour screen and a quick look at the specifications shows the following- Smartwatch mode: Up to 5 days. GPS mode with music: Up to 6 hours. This is big compared to the Apple Watch and shows that it can be done which alone would make me consider it over an Apple Watch. With sleep tracking and the ability to wear it 24 hours a day, this are practical points that cannot be ignored.

The problem with reviewing the Garmin like an Apple device is that it is not an Apple device in any way. It is more of a practical proposition that does what you need it to very well indeed, but it does not offer emotional feedback or a sense that it is special in any way. The likes of Garmin and Fitbit need to work on that to compete with Apple.

Fitbit users fear privacy invasion after $2.1bn Google acquisition

Google’s recent acquisition of Fitbit for $2.1bn has left many users worried the tech giant may soon have access to their most intimate health information – from the number of steps they take each day to their breathing patterns, sleep quality or menstrual cycles.

Fitbit, founded in San Francisco in 2007, tracks the health data of 28 million users. In a blogpost following the acquisition on Friday, Fitbit claimed user data would not be sold or used for Google advertising. “Consumer trust is paramount to Fitbit. Strong privacy and security guidelines have been part of Fitbit’s DNA since day one, and this will not change,” the company said in a statement… More here.

I expected people to question Google and privacy, but not many are questioning Fitbit. For me personally, the company has proven itself to care little for their customers and so I am wary of what will follow.

Google buying Fitbit for $2.1 billion

I don’t know anyone who’s bought a Fitbit device recently. I know runners and cyclists with Garmin watches, but I don’t know anyone still wearing a Fitbit… More here.

Interesting observation from John, but I do still see people wearing Fitbits. The thing is that they tend to be ones they have owned and worn for a long time and I see almost no one wearing the newer models.

My latter experience with Fitbit is that there are some features that simply do not work and that the company completely ignores the complaints. To me, Fitbit has lost its way and the company is lucky to be sold for this amount and especially because the Apple Watch kills the devices in terms of accuracy and quality while Garmin wins in the pro-fitness market.

The vívosmart® 4 kind of grabbed me

I saw the Garmin vívosmart® 4 in a store over the weekend and was surprised at just how small and slim it is. Even more surprising is the feature list which is impressive to say the least. With almost every box ticked and a design that both my wife and I loved this is the first tracker that feels small enough to wear on the other wrist and to still to everything that you need. Could be worth a look.

Slim, smart activity tracker1 blends fashionable design with stylish metal accents and a bright, easy-to-read display
Includes advanced sleep monitoring with REM sleep and can gauge blood oxygen saturation levels during the night with the wrist-based Pulse Ox2 sensor
Fitness and health monitoring tools include wrist-based heart rate,3 all-day stress tracking, relaxation breathing timer, VO2 max, Body Battery™ energy monitor and more
Dedicated activity timers for walks, runs, strength training, yoga, pool swims and others; connects to your compatible smartphone’s GPS for accurate tracking during outdoor walks and runs
Get vibration alerts for all notifications, including calls, text messages and more (text replies available for Android™ device users)
Battery life keeps up with you; lasts up to 7 days (excluding Pulse Ox sleep tracking) and is safe for swimming and showering, too