Fitbit ending support for PC music file transfers

faceless woman using devices for health monitoring
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

If you’re the owner of a Fitbit Versa, Versa 2, or Ionic, you’ll soon no longer be able to transfer music from your computer to your Fitbit device. In a support page spotted by 9to5Google, Fitbit says it’s discontinuing its Fitbit Connect app on October 13th, leaving you with only two ways to download music to your device: a paid subscription to either Pandora or Deezer… More here.

Has Fitbit ever supported the transferring of music to any of their devices in a way that made even trying to do it worthwhile? This is an area in which Apple is killing Fitbit, Garmin and the rest. Absolutely killing them.

Taking more than 8,000 steps has no added benefits (possibly)

Walking just 6,000 steps a day could reduce the risk of early death in people over 60, a study has found.

Taking more than 8,000 steps, however, has no added benefit in reducing this risk, according to researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The team analysed data from 15 studies which looked at the effect of daily steps on the mortality rate, from all causes of death, for nearly 50,000 people from four continents… More here.

This ideal step target changes all of the time and the rumour persists that the original 10,000 was only invented by fitness tracker companies for ease of understanding. I would suggest that doing as many as you can without hurting yourself would work best, but what do I know?

Garmin Epix (gen 2) and a bunch of phantom steps

I thought this problem had gone away with the older Fitbit devices, but it appear to not be the case.

My wife and I were driving back from Norfolk today and I noticed something strange happening. When we left I only had 550 steps according to the Epix, but then I noticed a big change, an extra 441 steps.

I kept an eye on things and the following happened-

In the space of 42 minutes the Epix added 154 steps and so I ended up doing almost 500 steps without moving during the 2.5 hour journey, and I wasn’t even driving.

It is hard to understand how an £800 fitness watch cannot fix this- the GPS alone shows that I am travelling at 70 miles per hour, I am obviously not running, and so I would expect software to be able to solve this.

This has been going on for some time (see this Reddit thread from a year ago) and so I suspect that Garmin cannot fix the problem easily.

It may not be a big deal for many people, but what it does do is knock confidence in an expensive system. It should not be happening and I should not have to turn off activity tracking on the Epix every time I drive because the product is not clever enough to work this out.

The Garmin epix (gen 2) is the fenix from the flames

The new Garmin epix is effectively a Garmin fenix 7, but with an AMOLED display. There are subtle differences between the two (flashlight, size and power options, price etc) and for most people it will be hard to decide which is the right model to purchase.

Those who really do need a Garmin fitness watch will, however, know what they need and their decision will be based on the sports they enjoy, the battery life they need and the amount they are willing to spend. The epix I am reviewing here is £799 which is a lot of money and only the sapphire titanium editions (£899) and Sapphire – Black Titanium with Chestnut Leather Band (£999) top it in the range. Please do not consider the £999 option as you are paying for a leather band which is not overly impressive and especially so at £100.

On the fenix 7 side you can pay between £599 and £1,049 from a huge range, but comparatively the epix is approx £150 to £200 more expensive. I am not going to go into all of the differences because I would be here for some time (you would get bored) and most of the changed features are not too important, but the display on the epix is, to me, the reason why the epix shines above the fenix.

Smartwatches and fitness watches are rarely devices that can be worn daily without the sense that they are not real watches. Garmin has tried to address this with the crazily expensive MARQ range, up to £2,249, and so has TAG, but neither offers the sense that the pricing is worth the relatively limited time they are useful for. £2,249 for a very well made watch that will last two decades is justifiable, a fitness watch that will last five years is not.

So, the pricing is high for the epix and then I think about the Apple Watch, and the fact that there is a premium for ‘stainless steel’, a type of metal that is standard for all watches from £50 upwards. The Apple Watch can easily reach £600 and up in stainless steel with 4G etc, but I am not prepared to say it is expensive because it is so amazingly useful and offers so much utility, especially 4G which you don’t get with Garmin.

I have been using the epix for three days and I must say that I have been impressed in almost every area. It has a premium feel, the battery life is superb (six days always on AMOLED display- hello Apple?) and the fitness tracking is so far ahead of most of the competition that it is almost painful.

The display, however, is to me everything that puts it streets ahead of the fenix line. All of a sudden I can view the metrics comfortably on the watch itself, I can take full advantage of the myriad of third party watch faces and I can genuinely enjoy all of the features it offers. I love the fenix line, but there was always a sense to me that the display was holding what was underneath back all of the time. It was a bit like viewing a work of art through a steamy window. It’s still great but a struggle to enjoy.

Think of the epix as the fenix with a better screen and that is about all you need to know. This does not mean that it is for everyone and the battery life is shorter than the fenix by a margin, but at six days it is still easily enough for me. The fixed strap pins are a pain, but I managed to remove mine thanks to the various watch tools I own, and now I can add any strap I like which helps with wearability. This is a big watch and should not be suitable for daily wear, but I have had no problems so far.

For now, this is staying on my wrist and I am already exercising a lot more. It is staying on my wrist for now. For now…

Unnecessary Smartwatch Alerts

Getting an alert about a heart rhythm, then, doesn’t help the typical Apple Watch user’s overall health, says study author Josh Pevnick, co-director in the division of informatics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “It can cause anxiety for people who it identifies, and if there’s no treatment, then you’re maybe not bringing much benefit,” he says… More here.

There is no way to tailor alerts in an exacting way and it is likely that for the majority they will not help them. Getting the balance right between scaring people and helping them is almost impossible.

I need to make the Garmin epix (Gen 2) too big for me

After one whole day with the Garmin epix (Gen 2) I am left with some very short initial impressions-

The display is superb and easily the best I have seen on any smartwatch.

The strap pins are effectively fixed in place which means that you have to use QuickFit bands to change the look or comfort level. The suspicion is that this is because this type of watch is often used for vigorous activities and that the pins are a potential area of weakness, but my suspicion is that this is a way to sell more QuickFit bands by Garmin.

It is incredibly easy to use and the customisation options included are immense. From choosing sleep times for each single day to selecting when buttons and touch input will be available, you can literally change every aspect of how the watch works.

It is a big watch and the sense of size is enhanced by the relatively small bezel compared to a fenix. The size of the screen is of course an advantage, but this is a hard watch to ignore despite it being very light. With so many fitness features onboard and brilliant tracking all round my goal now is to make the epix feel too big for me as I undertake a hard fitness schedule over the next 2 months. If I can make it unwearable it will have done its job and I will benefit greatly from the experience.

Build your own Peloton

Peloton currently sells two smart stationary bikes, including the original $1,495 Bike and the newer $2,495 Bike+. The main difference is that the Bike+ has a rotating screen and an Auto-Follow feature that saves you from having to adjust the resistance knob yourself. Peloton offers interest-free financing options that start at $45 per month over 39 months for the Bike or $59 per month over 43 months for the Bike+. Delivery and setup are $250 with the Bike and free with the Bike+… More here.

The Peloton solution is very expensive and the article above makes clear that you can get similar results for much less money if you are prepared to go through the setup.

The Epic Garmin Epix

I have some time with the new Garmin Epix, a fitness watch that finally brings a decent AMOLED screen to the Fenix-style range. It also has touch control now as well which makes it feel closer to the Apple Watch in terms of usability and I have to say that the first few hours have gone well. More soon…

Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6 review

You can buy the Smart Band 6 for £33.99 at this time on Amazon, but the price does vary somewhat. It can drop below £30 or nudge up a little, but wither way we are talking about a budget tracker here.

For that money you get the following (my summings up are in the brackets)-

1.56″ AMOLED track full screen (decent screen indoors and passable outdoors)
30 professional sports modes (unlikely these do much more than track heart rate etc)
130+ Full Screen Exclusive Watch Faces (most are terrible)
SpO₂ tracking (compares well with the Apple Watch and other trackers I have used)
24-Hour Heart Rate Monitoring (appears to be close to the likes of Apple and Fitbit)
Professional sleep monitoring (sleep monitoring would be more accurate)
14 Days Battery Life (this is a true assessment)
5 ATM water resistance (no experience so far of that)
Remote photo taking and music control (works very well)

That is a lot of features for the low price and in such a small and light (100 gram) package, but if you are thinking that the quality of most that you see above will be poor you would be wrong.

I have been using it for the past week and tried to push it as hard as I could, apart from a couple of days where I was sick, and overall it has proved to be a more than capable tracker.

It is supremely comfortable and strangely not noticeable when worn in bed unlike the Garmin Vivoactive 4 which despite being smaller can actually be annoying enough to wake me up. When you look at the Smart Band there is a sense that it is very high and far too wide to make sense on your dominating hand, but it does seem to just sit there and feel close to invisible. I would, however, say that if you have a wrist below 7″ in diameter you may struggle.

The strap is very soft and able to be sized easily, and the extra benefit of such a low-priced tracker is that the third party straps are also very cheap, for example 23 straps for £12.

So, it wears well and is comfortable which is the least you need from a pure fitness tracker. The initial experience, however, is mixed because the sign-in process is a real fiddle. While having some concerns about Xiaomi in terms of security and being careful what information to allow access to, I eventually managed to sign in and set up the Mi Fit app.

And the app has proven to be another surprise. It is very clean and offers the information you need without fuss and without too much coaching which can often be annoying in some competing offerings. You get a selection of faces that you can install, most of which appear to me made for 6 year-old children, and there are some genuinely useful offerings included. The fact that the new Band 6 uses the entire footprint of the display helps a lot and it ends up feeling like a fitness band that offers more visual information in a ‘smartwatch’ way than the likes of Fitbit.

I tested it with an Apple Watch on one wrist and the Band 6 on the others and the differences in steps were approximately 3% more each time which is quite impressive. Interestingly, against the Garmin Vivoactive it was 2% less so it appears to be somewhere in the middle, which I guess is where you want to be.

The SpO₂ tracking is impressive if quite slow to undertake and I would mark it as adequate. Adequate and impressive should not be in the same sentence, but consumer SpO₂ trackers are never more than adequate and the price helps to lift it up to impressive.

I have not gone deep and checked every stat and measurement, but I have used my experience with multiple Apple Watches and a huge number of trackers from Garmin, Fitbit and the rest, and I am left confused. I am confused because a lot of what I believed about trackers has been walked over by this product and in a big way.

Consumer fitness trackers are not designed to offer medical grade measurements or fitness tracking that can be assessed by serious athletes, but they can help you to get fitter and to lose weight over a longer period. And when I think about Fitbit (all Fitbit devices) and Garmin (just the fitness trackers) I genuinely believe the Band 6 to be superior in most of the important areas.

The Fitbit Charge 5 is £135 and I would argue that it is no way near as good as the Band 6 while being more than 4 times more expensive. That goes against the natural laws of consumerism and highlights that a name is not always the best indicator of quality and value. If you need a fitness tracker that does most of the basics in a consistent and genuinely useful way, I have no hesitation in recommending the Xiaomi Mi Smart Band 6. It is brilliant value for money and still would be at twice the price.

Avoiding the wrist bump.

Gentler Streak: lose the Apple Watch rings!

Gentler Streak is a personal fitness habit tracker offering a fresh, more compassionate approach. Making rest days part of a streak challenges the unrealistic mainstream mindset of always pushing harder — and it changes streaks as we know them… More here.

This looks very impressive indeed. The Apple ring system has never really grabbed me for long periods of time and if anything I find the whole system annoying. I shall pick up my Apple Watch again and try it for a few days to see how good this solution is.