Withings makes a pretty complete line of health tracking devices: Blood pressure cuffs, Wi-Fi connected sales, sleep monitors, and a very nice-looking health tracker watch, among others. They have been plagued with software and reliability issues in my experience, so the backing of Nokia can hardly hurt them.
Jim Dalrymple from The Loop, an excellent Apple blog site, recently made a couple of posts about his experience with the Apple Watch as a fitness device. Unlike most of us, Dalrymple had early access to the device, and has been using it for 10 months.
Health monitoring, diet, and fitness are very personal, so his experiences may or may not apply to you, but it’s clear that the health features of the Watch are very promising.
I’ve had mine now for about 10 days, and I am finding it much more useful than the Nike Fuelband and software. For one thing, it doesn’t look like some sort of house arrest bracelet. Plus the heart rate monitoring makes a huge difference in my awareness about how much ‘exercise’ I’m getting from my walks. The ‘stand up once an hour’ reminder is also very helpful. The gamification of this device is deeper in a lot of ways than that on the FuelBand, though the FuelBand achievements are more fun.
Well, it doesn’t smell like burning feathers.
A lot has been written about how the Apple Store has set up their try-on appointments. They have a nice case showing all the models with non-working samples. They have very nice stations with a watch you can touch, and an iPad showing explanations of the different programs and modes, it was possible to figure out about 90% of how the watch works in a few minutes. Your actual try-on appointment is done at a special table, where they have drawers full of actual watches (though they are not free-range, they are running a demo loop) next to one of the stations you can use to interact. A sales person pulls out the models you are interested in and puts them on you, adjusting the bands if necessary.
Though some have complained that the UI breaks in some strange ways from iOS 8, the UI wasn’t particularly alien, and for anyone who has owned a few digital watches, it’s comparatively easy to set and configure compared to some.
As a watch, it’s not as heavy or clunky looking as some digital watches I’ve owned. The difference in size and weight between the 38mm and 42mm is fairly subtle in person. The fit and finish of the watch are excellent, and the elastomer band on the Sport Watch is very comfortable. The Stainless Steel watch is a bit heavier, but again very comparable to other watches, and has a look and feel of great precision. The link bracelet is very impressive, the Apple salesman was able to size the bracelet to my wrist in seconds due to the removable links. I think it’s unlikely you’d be disappointed with the watch as a piece of jewelry.
The software looks pretty good, it runs pretty quickly, though I suspect your mileage will vary outside of wifi. Maps can take a few seconds to load, but you know, you’re waiting for them to come down from space and all. The display looks great, and there are so many watch face variations to choose from. The fitness monitoring functions are attractive and look like they will add to my already exhausting bag of personal monitoring tricks.
The only thing this very choreographed sales presentation didn’t communicate to me was how the watch works for one particular function, which is wearing it on your wrist and seeing what time it is. Nobody at the Apple store has an actual working watch yet, though that should change when they are released next week. I’m hoping I can replace my Nike FuelBand with this device, so this is no small matter for me. So, I’ll wait a bit longer and research whether there will be a Nike app for the watch as well.
Since the watch now has shipping dates into June or July, there’s no hurry to act. Also, the sales force at the Apple Store are fairly new at this, the experience was quite good, but the sales folks don’t have as much information as they could, they really couldn’t answer some of my more specific questions about the fitness features (for example, does the Watch have an M8 chip, so it can count stairs climbed? I live in a ti-level, and would like to get that information before my next iPhone upgrade…), and none of them have actually used the real watch themselves. Might as well wait until they actually ship and someone can actually show you the real watch in action.
The demo watches, though, had smooth animations, the Digital Crown response is instantaneous and smooth, and most of the apps or Glances on the watch launched instantly, with the exception of Maps. The final released Watch OS software is supposed to have improved performance, so I’m not concerned about that. I’m more concerned about whether I will get the opportunity to see how the watch works when you want to check the time.
This is my biggest concern, the timepiece use case. Right now, it takes up to 3 button presses of the Nike FuelBand to see the time, depending on the mode it was in last, and that can take a few seconds of attention. I often grab my phone from my pocket instead to check the time rather than go through that. So, if the ‘raise your wrist to check the time, and it just turns on’ function really works as advertised, I’m probably in. The other functionality of the watch is mostly an add-on for me.
Seeing and holding the models in person, I have to say that the Apple Watch Sport is much less of a compromise than the cost would suggest. It looks great, the build quality is just as good as the other models, and the lower price takes the edge off of any ‘version 1.0’ jitters you might have.
So, the likelihood that I’ll end up getting one is fairly high, but I can wait another week for the real watch to come out before ordering. Anyway you slice it, it’s more of a ‘want’ than a ‘need’ purchase.
My replacement Nike FuelBand arrived a week or two ago; it’s the Nike Fuelband SE. The packaging and the device look exactly like the first model of Fuelband, so I was a bit confused at first, but once you plug the device in, it’s a big difference.
For one thing, the display animations are much faster, requiring less time to check your progress or see what time it is. The most important change in the user experience, though, is the data sync. In the first version of the fuel band you had to press and hold the button (you know, that button that always broke for me on four different fuel bands) in order to sync. It would then link via Bluetooth to your phone and update the app with your progress. It did this very slickly and seamlessly in early versions in the app, but later versions were kind of wonky with this feature.
With the new model of the FuelBand, they do it the way it should have been done in the first place. Launching the *app* will just automatically sync up with the band and get the progress. Much more intuitive, and it seems to work much more reliably as well. It should also put a lot less stress on the button — I’m hoping the new model has a more reliable button mechanism to begin with, but I also will use it less as a result of this change, which is good thinking on their part. The FuelBand works best as a ‘put on and forget’ device.
Nike must be feeling the competition from other fitness trackers, or perhaps the upcoming Apple Watch — the Fuelband SE now is $99 for the stock models, and there are a couple of glitzier-looking colors that run $149.
My Nike Fuelband died yet again (which is definitely the subject of a future story), and this time they didn’t have replacements immediately in stock, so I’ve been band-less while Nike was inspecting my returned device and issuing a voucher. The good news is that my replacement is going to be the Fuelband SE model, which has more functionality, and presumably a better switch; I cannot complain about Nike’s Customer Service in the least.
The not-so-good news is that Nike Move, an M7-enabled iOS app, makes for a very poor substitute. For one thing, while it collects NikeFuel, their secret-sauce proprietary substitute for steps, calories, etc., it does not seem to integrate with the Nikeplus.com website. As a result, I can’t sync Fuel points I earned while my device was AWOL. The Nike Move app is integrated with Game Center, rather than Nike’s own gamified site. It’s also not integrated with HealthKit, even though NikeFuel is unique among the measurements captured in Apple’s Health app, the only proprietary measurement there.
Nike has some fabulous real estate in the HealthKit ecosystem, and none of their apps seem to take advantage of it yet. The Fuelband app is still not integrated with Health, though it is superbly integrated with the NikePlus site.
The other thing about Nike Move is that it is very poor at actually using the M7 co-processor. The app seems to need to be running to capture data, and even then it has days where it just forgets to get any. Runkeeper’s Breeze app, Lose It!, and Withings HealthMate app, are all capable of going back as far as the max 7 days of M7 data and calculating the steps. They don’t resolve the M7 events to exactly the same numbers, but they don’t miss any, either.
It seems like Nike is waiting for its next move in the tentative months before the Apple Watch comes out. Perhaps their developers are knee deep in WatchKit, but the shortcomings in Nike Move are a big missed opportunity to keep their mindshare in health monitoring alive.