Employee Wellness

The Ultimate Guide to Wearables: 8 Things to Consider When Making a Decision


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The best wearable for you depends on who you are.

That sounds obvious, but there’s no absolutely objective rating system for choosing a wearable. Which activities do you engage in most often? What are your health challenges? What are your fashion requirements—mostly office or casual wear?

And then there’s the fun factor. Do you enjoy a steady stream of stats, charts, and colors or just a practical tool that’s a means to an end?

Three Key Factors in the Wearable Search

First, what are wearables?  These electronic devices come in all shapes, sizes, and functionality. There’s something for everyone from the extreme fitness enthusiast to the just-following-doctor’s-orders heart patient.

Here’s the breakdown of what falls under the “wearables” umbrella:

  • Smart watches – compact mini smartphones on your wrist with capabilities to keep you in touch with smartphone notifications about calls, email, texts, and even social media.
  • Fitness trackers – step trackers with heart rate monitors (some) that are worn on the wrist or belt.
  • Sport watches – usually equipped with GPS and sport-specific fitness information or coaching for the sports and fitness enthusiast.
  • VR headgear – like Google glass and Oculus Rift, these allow the wearer to experience virtual reality displays.
  • Smart clothing – has electronic enhanced functionality though not at the fitness tracker level yet.
  • Smart jewelry – taking the smartphone to jewelry instead of watches.
  • Implantables – internal devices like insulin pumps, pacemakers, and contraceptive devices.

Second, the wearable specialties help you choose your most important features and functions. Aside from life-saving devices in the implantable category and VR headgear for games and awesome experiences, wearables primarily promote health, fitness, and wellness.

From the basic heart rate monitor to the feature-packed smartwatch, each wearable has its primary useful features. You may be looking for a super everything fitness tool, a general fitness tracker, a get-in-shape coach, a heart rate monitor, or a wellness tool.

But even within these specialties, you may want to find the features that best assist you in achieving your goals, given your tech savvy, style, or budget. Whereas some like all the bells and whistles, others seek simplicity. A clip-on feature may be important for the stroller dad runner, while triathletes want the multisport features, such as waterproofing, interval training, and GPS. And then there’s screen quality and battery life, which are important to most people.

A baseline functional tracker works if your doctor wants you to track your biometrics closely (blood pressure, heart rate) and you’re not a fitness buff. But that triathlete who also tracks biometrics (and Vo2 max) to optimize training performance looks for lightweight, high-functionality under varied conditions, screen readability, and accuracy.

Then again, maybe you just like to keep your smartphone from distracting you during the day, so you keep the bare smartphone functions on your wrist, like emails, texts, and phone calls, while still tracking your heart rate and steps.

Third, the most important features you must have because you’re you apply across the board with any wearable. So, if your eyesight is a factor, the screen size and resolution is paramount. If you’re not tech savvy, simplicity is everything. You’re buying a tool, not adding aggravation to your life.

Then there’s the practical matter of workplace culture or other occasion wear. You might have to get something appropriate to suits and formal wear, so style matters or at least wristwear with swappable bands is important. Comfort, of course, always matters.

8 Things to Consider When Making a Choice

1. Battery life: run anywhere from 3 days to a year without charging.

2. Style: ranges from downright clunky and ugly to elegant jewelry, choice of bands.

3. Versatility: manual and automatic input options, syncing with Apple and Android OS, integration with earlier and other versions of the model.

4. Display: LCD (better in sunlight), OLED and AMOLED (Better contrast and more flexible), monochrome, size, resolution, scratch resistance.

5. Price: ranges from about $12.00 to $1649.00 (Tag Heuer)

6. Water: waterproof or water resistant or neither.

7. Functionality: consistency, easy to navigate, non-glitchy.

8. Comfort: weight, fit, materials.

Notable features: improving app software, GPS, vibration option, always on heart rate monitor, heart rate sensor, smartphone alerts, wifi, ambient light sensor to adjust brightness automatically, alarm, phone-free music, pre-programmed workouts, automatic activity recording, real-time workout stats, pace, distance, heart rate variability (continuous, resting, Vo2 max, stress scores), breathing training, rep counting, and built-in body composition sensors.

Fitbit-wearablesA Few Wearable Suggestions

Though so many wearables will do the job, here are a few well-liked wearables.

1. Fitbit Alta HR+($129.95) and Fitbit Charge 2 ($149.95) populate a number of best tracker lists. HR+ has all-day fitness and heart rate tracking as well as a thin, sleek design. It’s a stylish all-around fitness tracker with a 7-day battery life, which is pretty good for all of the powerhouse improving app software. And Charge 2 is a strong gym workout partner with all of the features of the HR+ plus an OLED multi-line display but minus the GPS and water resistance.

2. Moov Now ($59.95) is a super cool, fairly inexpensive, round device you clip into a leg strap for intense sports training. It has advanced coaching with increasing difficulty levels to boost running, swimming, and cycling performance. Additional features include seven-minute programs to get your heart rate pumping, which also tracks steps and sleep.

3. Apple Watch 2 ($349.00) makes every best list. This wearable smart phone combines fitness, competition, and smartphone features (email, limited texting, steps, sleep, heart rate, alarms) all in one package. The updated version of the old Apple Watch now features a faster, brighter, waterproof super watch with GPS and more sports enhancing capabilities.

4. Samsung Gear S3 ($349.99) has all the goodies of the Apple, except the watch looks much more like a casual sports watch and it operates in both Apple and Android systems, although some features are not available to Apple.

5. Huawei Watch ($199.00) costs fewer dollars and is a smartwatch with style, comfort, and class. It showcases a high resolution, round, sapphire crystal display, but the battery doesn’t last long, and it’s exclusively Android operational.

6. Tom Tom Multi Sport Cardio with Cadence Sensor and Altimeter ($159.99) is something more than a fitness tracker and less than a smartwatch. It has an extra large display screen with full-screen graphics, which allows you to see your stats on the run. It’s also easy to navigate with a simple click of a button to advance through your screen displays. It’s mostly for running, however.

7. YOO RX Bluetooth Smart Fitness Band ($69.99) is elegantly simple and easy-to-use device, and comes with the a new Soft Touch Display. But don’t let its intuitive navigation fool you. This sleek little band is loaded with all the features you would expect in a world class activity tracker.

Whatever you’re looking for, you’re bound to find the right wearable for you wherever you are in your fitness and wellness journey. You might start with a simple heart rate monitor, like the Xiaomi Mi Band S1, and get a taste for the wearable world.

From there, you can work your way up the wearable multi-feature chain. Happy hunting!