Just arrived at the Popular Mechanics offices is this Oregon Scientific Ssmart Dynamo Activity Tracker. I’ll be trying it out along with the Fitbit Flex and Garmin’s Vivofit for the Tested section of our July 2014 issue.
What’s the big deal?
Until recently, sports watches have tended to be complicated and, to put it mildly, lacking in the style department. Admittedly, some of them are very good at what they do: GPS tracking or navigation, heart rate monitoring and speed and distance logging. For that reason I, for one, am an avowed fan of the Garmin sportswatch range. But the trouble with many of these devices is just that they are so geeky. They require the user to be adept at setting up workouts and to spend hours poring over software to analyse performance. They also, with some notable exceptions, tend to be used for sporting activity only, because of their short battery life. To make it worse, they’re so… obvious.
The new breed of activity tracker gets around many of these shortcomings. They are small enough to qualify as discreet – though they offer some funky coloured wristband options. These devices can be worn 24/7 and, because they are lifestyle trackers, not activity trackers, they are actually meant to be used that way. In the circumstances, battery life is reasonably good.
And the geek factor? Lifestyle trackers camouflage that in colourful smartphone and PC apps that promise a quick-fix analysis that’s both quick and easy to digest.
Can something so tiny actually do the job? And how do different models compare? Watch this space.