March 13th, 2013

Girl Gets Geeky: Wearable Technology is Cool, but Not Stylish Enough

The idea of tracking how much I move and sleep, keeping up with my heart rate and blood pressure, and being able to share that info if I choose, is appealing to my inner geek.  Though I don’t know what I will do with the data, I like collecting it, reviewing it and comparing it day-over-day.

Last year at SXSW, I purchased my first Nike FuelBand. I was excited about this technology because I was already a Nike+ user, so I would be building on that account and activity. Then, several weeks ago I was reading about the Jawbone UP and liked what it had to offer for tracking sleep patterns, too. So I bought one of those to try out.  And then, an iPhone app called Moves started getting some attention for tracking your steps while running in the background of your phone. So I turned that on, too. This means that I have had three devices tracking my movements for the last several weeks. I wondered how they would compare to each other.

Both the wristband products are rubber. The Nike FuelBand comes in three colors (Black, White Ice and Black Ice) and the Jawbone UP comes in eight colors (Onyx, Mint Green, Light Grey, Blue, Navy Blue, Red, Orange, and Hunter Green). Both of the bands that I purchased are black.

My technology laden wrists.
My technology laden wrists.

The Nike FuelBand works “through a sports-tested accelerometer” to track daily activity including running, walking, basketball, dancing and dozens of everyday activities. It tracks each step taken and calorie burned.

The Jawbone UP “uses a precision motion sensor and powerful algorithms to passively track and quantify your steps, distance, calories, active time, and idle time. It calculates calories burned based on your age, gender, height and weight, along with activity intensity and duration. UP uses Actigraphy to track your sleep, monitoring your micro movements to determine whether you are awake, in light sleep, or in deep sleep. [The] band uses cutting-edge MotionX technology to track activity, giving it superior accuracy.”

Moves uses the iPhone’s built in sensor and location information to recognize activities, routes and places. The data is uploaded to their servers, which do most of the complex processing to produce daily stats and storyline. The app is always on, running in the background.

All the devices/apps have different features and sharing abilities. I am not doing a full review of all the functionalities here.

The perfect time to compare the three was during my days at SXSW over the last week: I was walking around a lot and always had my phone with me. Because the common denominator across all three technologies is number of steps, that is the number that I tracked for comparison. Here are the results:

Friday

  • Jawbone UP: 7,969 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 6,376 steps
  • Moves: 5,974 steps

 Saturday

  • Jawbone UP: 5,658 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 4,416 steps
  • Moves: 3,986 steps

Sunday

  • Jawbone UP: 3,813 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 3,409 steps
  • Moves: 3,203 steps

Monday

  • Jawbone UP: 5,915 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 4,837 steps
  • Moves: 4,705 steps

Tuesday

  • Jawbone UP: 4,833 steps
  • Nike FuelBand: 4,011 steps
  • Moves: 4,086 steps

Other than the fact that I am not moving the recommended 10,000 steps per day, or even close to that, it is interesting that there is a pretty significant difference between the step counts  of each device. I wanted to like Moves best because it is on my phone and doesn’t hinder my style. But in reality, I don’t have my phone in my pocket every minute of the day and that likely explains it being on the low end of the step numbers each day.  As for the difference between the Jawbone UP and the Nike FuelBand, I take the FuelBand off each night to sleep and I keep the UP on since it tracks sleep. This could explain some of the difference in the numbers.

Behind Moves, I wanted to like the FuelBand best because it completes/complements my existing Nike+ profile. But in the end, I like the UP the best because it is (1) a little less obvious than the FuelBand on my wrist and (2) I think the sleep data is the most fascinating.

Regardless of performance, I hate wearing both devices. I much prefer to have more fashionable items around my wrists:

How I prefer my wrists be dressed.
How I prefer my wrists be dressed.

And these rubber bands just aren’t pretty enough for the girl in me. I want someone to design a band that can blend in as part of my jewelry or be wrapped with a customizable cuff or is thinner in some way. Until then, my wearing of the bands might be hit or miss going forward.

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