Category: Fitness Trackers (Page 1 of 2)

Apple Watch Series 2 is now a serious fitness device

Apple yesterday announced the latest update to the Apple Watch. They have decided to call it Apple Watch Series 2 for reasons that may or may not become clear in the future. It could be that in the future they have a new form factor for it and are waiting to release that and only then will it be called Apple Watch 2.

So what new features does it bring? Well no surprises if you’ve been following the rumours but the fact that the watch is now is fully waterproof and features GPS means this makes the Watch a compelling device for the sports enthusiast.

Waterproofing

Now waterproof to 50m the Series 2 Apple Watch should make a good swimming companion. I know there are some YouTube videos out there of people swimming with the Series 1 version but personally I’d never take that risk with something so expensive. 

Apple have now worked on sealing everything tight shut to water and during the keynotes they showed a video demonstrating the thrashing these watches took in the testing phase to make sure everything remained waterproof after prolonged use in water. It looks to me like it should hold up well in the pool. I love that they have redesigned the speaker so that after the workout is complete you rotate the crown on the side and the speakers vibrate to expel any remaining water!

There are now two new workouts Pool swim and Open water swimming. Below is a very brief but informative Youtube video on how these modes will work.

Swim demo

It remains unclear whether GPS tracking will work whilst doing an open water swim. I’ve reached out on social media to see if I can get an answer to this.

GPS Tracking

This was the big shock to me that as well as waterproofing the watch also has GPS tracking. This is superb. My idyllic vision of my runs with my music on my Apple Watch streaming to my Bluetooth headphones and not having to care if the watch gets soaked in the rain is perfect. Whilst some might bemoan a lack of LTE I think in someways this is a good thing whilst out running. The whole point is to escape, to get away from the noise of life and feel free. That is not going to happen whilst bombarded with messages nagging for attention. Now I’ll no doubt be happy when LTE eventually comes but I hope Apple finds a way to easily turn off notifications automatically whilst working out or having a priority mode perhaps.

Early reports say the battery can last upto 5 hours with GPS on. Now for serious athletes, say out on very long bike rides, this isn’t going to be enough but for the vast majority it will be just fine. I do see me popping it back on the dock whilst I shower however for a top up and this is no different to what I do now with my Tom Tom watch. There is nothing worse than finding your watch is dead just as you want to nip out for a run.

The addition of these two features means that for lots of us we can ditch dedicated fitness trackers. I know I plan on doing so once I’ve confirmed it all works as advertised. 

Performance 

The watch now features a S2 system in a package chip with a dual core processor that promises 50% better performance, a new GPU that delivers twice the graphics performance. With WatchOS3 this should be a very slick device to use.

Display

Nothing earth shattering but a boost in brightness upto twice as much as before makes the Watch much easier to read in bright daylight Apple say.

So what’s not to love really? Perhaps sapphire glass on all models would have been good as the Ion-X Glass is iffy for me. My wife fell off her bike onto a stone path her watch face is badly scratched. Still fully functional though.

I’ll be picking one up for sure and trying desperately to pre-order so watch ( pun intended ) this space for more content and hopefully some more video soon.

Atlas Wristband is finally the device gym users need.

Atlas Green Jpeg

Price: £200 including international shipping

Atlas website

If fitness trackers and sports bands are anything to go by all you’d think people do is walk, run and swim. Those who like to stay fit by doing high intensity training or pressing weights have to usually select an option like “freestyle” which might detect some general movement and change in heart rate but never really detect the level of exertion the user was undergoing or what movements they were making. The Atlas Wristband aims to change all that.

Hardware

It pairs two ARM M4 processors with a 3 axis accelerometer and 3 axis gyroscope and an optical heart rate monitor. The creators of the device use the data from these sensors and feed them into their Atlas Engine. This engine has been trained to recognise the unique 3D movements that occur in the arm and wrist as the person is exercising and match this to the 50 exercises ( for now ) stored in its database. There is Coach mode which you select a pre-set routine on your phone and transfer it to the device or Freestyle mode. In Freestyle mode you can choose up-to 15 different exercises from a list of 50 and transfer them to your device. You can then do them in any order you wish and the Atlas will detect what you’re doing and how many reps.

The device should be worn on the left wrist as this was the way the programmes were created. In time it’s hoped the option to wear on the right wrist will come and if you buy the band you’ll be given the option to send your data to Atlas Sweat Lab which will gather user data to further improve tracking and exercise recognition. It’s a great feature that should see the product improve over time.

atlas green with module out

The central module containing the sensors is detachable and must be removed from the band allow charging via micro USB.

Whilst the design is a little odd the style aspect isn’t as great a problem as most trackers or smartwatches as this isn’t designed to be worn all day. You can keep it on your wrist to tell the time but currently it won’t be tracking your movements, steps and heart rate throughout the day. The intention was always that it works for one hour workouts and it should last for 7 days if used like this. Turning it off in between will further conserve power.

Software

Most of the time whilst working out you’re interacting on the fly with your device. Maybe you’re skipping a set as you know you’ve maxed out or perhaps increasing the weight with each set. You will still need to use your phone to sync your activity to the Atlas app before and after a workout. The app interface looks nicely designed. It’s focused on the exercises you are doing, and the map of your body and muscles lets you see what you’re working out. Perhaps more importantly it lets you see what areas you are overlooking.  The app also contains videos of how to correctly perform all the exercises and following these correctly will help improve the accuracy of the tracking too.

The fantastic thing is that you can try out the software and get a feel for how the device will work using a separate app called Atlas Engine. It’s currently free in the Google Play Store and App Store and all you need is your phone and an armband to strap it securely to your left bicep.

The company is looking to add other common exercises like running too which will make it much more flexible as a general fitness device.

The future of this device is interesting as if it’s a success I would not be surprised to see this company snatched up by one of the tech giants. Incorporating this software and hardware into the Apple Watch or Wear devices would bring us one step closer to a genuinely useful universal health tracker.

 

TomTom Spark GPS + Music unboxing and first impressions video

Picture courtesy of TomTom

Picture courtesy of TomTom

I thought for a change I would chat about my new watch and discuss my first impressions and teething problems in a video.

I’ll be writing or videoing more about this watch as I get more time to use it and get a feel for how it performs during my training.

TomTom Spark Cardio + Music might just be the perfect fitness watch right now

Picture courtesy of TomTom

Picture courtesy of TomTom

I’ve long recommended the TomTom MultiSport GPS smartwatch as a great watch for triathletes or any one who does more than just running and wants to use it in any situation. Last year it received an upgrade by adding a heart rate sensor but this year it has been given a serious upgrade and a change of name with it now being called the TomTom Spark Cardio + Music. The last part gives you a hint at one of the cool new features but there are even more.

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