I remember the day I decided I needed a smartphone. I was diving head-first into freelance work, and access to my e-mail was the only way I could avoid missing a job. It was a Blackberry Storm, and I thought I was the most tech-savvy person on the planet the day I finally figured out how to check my voicemail on that damn thing. That was back in 2008, only one year after the first iPhone was released. (You remember the one, right? It was said to have gotten so hot during extended use that it actually burned a couple people’s faces.)

I switched to an Android platform in 2009 for a short period of time, mainly because I was over  Blackberry’s game of “will it crash” roulette, and the iPhone was still currently only available in the United States through one cell provider. But in 2011, when Apple finally told AT&T they’d like to start seeing other people and made an iPhone compatible with the Verizon Wireless network, I threw that Motorola Droid in the e-waste bin to set sail upon the iCloud. I’ve been blissfully floating and syncing ever since.

Why am I telling you my history of smartphones? Well, because I’m a geek, and the existence of mobile computing in my life has been pivotal in both professional and personal aspects. Few of you will care about how many times my smartphone has saved my professional life, but you might find it a tad more interesting to hear about how Bluetooth sync, mobile apps, and a water-resistant wristband might just save my personal life.

Or, we could talk about you. Oh, forget it. Let’s talk about toys.

 

There are dozens of wristbands, sensors and watches on the market right now all promising to help consumers pay attention to their health and track fitness goals. I’ve been in the market for one for myself for a few months now, but given the USD $100-$175 price range, I wanted to make sure I got the one that best suited my realistic needs. Realistic, meaning that it’s great that you can track your marathon training with the NikePlus Sportswatch, but I’m never going to do that because I’m not a marathon runner. However, I might buy the watch and become a marathon runner if Tom Hiddleston asked me to train with him via the NikePlus Training app.

Check out that product placement right there. Well played, Nike. 

But since Tom isn’t returning my calls, and I think having matching watches would hurt my case if he ever accused me of stalking – I’ve narrowed it down to three OTHER options.

Fitbit Flex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have quite a few friends with Fitbits, and they sing the highest of praises. During the day, the Fitbit Flex tracks your distance, steps taken, AND calories burned, and at night, if worn, it tracks your sleep patterns to see how long you sleep, and how much rest you’re actually getting. The wristband syncs via Bluetooth with your computer or mobile app (compatible with PC, Mac, iOS and select Android) so you can look at a detailed, up-to-date feed of your progress.  It also syncs with other apps like RunKeeper.  Bonus Features? You can set an alarm so the wristband will vibrate to wake you up in the AM, and there are “achievements” that can be unlocked by meeting your goals.

Also, If wristbands just aren’t your thing, Fitbit also has a clip on tracker, Zip, that you can attach to an article of clothing. So there you go. Options.

Note: The Fitbit Flex is a replacement for the older model, the Fitbit Force, which was recalled a few weeks ago for a small number of “skin irritation issues” due to the Nickel plating in the band.

NikePlus FuelBand SE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two NikePlus fitness bands available currently. The Fuelband SE (pictured above) and the Sportswatch (pictured on Tom Hiddleston, further above.) Now, we’ve ruled out the Sportswatch for legal purposes, but the Fuelband SE is still fair game – so let’s talk specs. The Fuelband does all the same daytime tracking behaviors as the Fitbit Flex – calories burned, steps taken, and “fuel” points – general activity during the course of your daily routine. You set a goal of “Fuel Points” and a series of tri-colored LED lights across the top of the band tracks your progress throughout the day. It also can track your sleep patterns using the “Sessions” feature via the NikePlus Fuelband app (iOS only.) Like the Fitbit, the Fuelband has a social aspect, including achievements, and the ability to add “friends” to your app and start up friendly competitions that will probably always end badly. Bonus Features? It displays the time on the wristband – for those of you who are looking to forgo a watch or cell phone during workouts. The NikePlus Sportswatch is  powered by TomTom (the company, not the Hiddleston) – so your workouts will be tracked via GPS for accurate distance/elevation measurements. You can also use the GPS features of your iOS device to track your runs with the Fuelband in the Sessions feature.

Jawbone Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my humble opinion, this is the sleekest design out of the lot. The Jawbone Up was one of the front-runners in the health monitoring bracelet game, and has kept up with the advancements to stay in line with the competition. They describe themselves as an “integrated system” for lifestyle. The Up tracks your daily activity, logs workouts, monitors sleep, and buzzes at you if you sit at your desk for too long. Without a digital display on the actual band, all the information will be logged through the Up app (compatible with iOS and select Android devices.) Bonus Features? The app can sync with other health apps like MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun – so you can get the GPS tracking features of the NikePlus Sportswatch via your phone’s GPS system. Double-Rainbow Bonus? There’s a thing called “Mood Tracker” that you can use to log your moods during periods of activity or non-movement to track how your lifestyle makes you feel. I don’t think that would be much use to me, as I always seem to fall somewhere between moderately disgruntled and post-lunch sleepy.

 

The focus of utilizing technological advancements to encourage healthy lifestyles is an amazing use of innovative energy. No matter which band you go for, they all provide one common feature: awareness. My first few days wearing the wristband made me realize exactly how much time I spend NOT moving. Combining that with my competitive, goal-driven nature has led me to lunchtime walks, taking the long way home from work, or even secret jumping jacks in my office with the door closed. All in the name of keeping my bracelet from thinking I’m lazy.

Sure, I’ve seen people start to talk to their wristbands, saying things like “I know, I KNOW,” or “Ugh that’s so many more steps!” but I think this will go the way of the hands-free headsets. Remember when those were first coming out and you thought everyone talking to themselves on the street was crazy because you couldn’t see their in-ear bluetooth device? It’ll be just like that.

Only with spontaneous running man dance breaks.