Secretly, you want a fitness tracker. You’d love to get back in shape, and all those handy sleep quality features have left you genuinely curious.
The problem? You’re just not quite that geeky. Sure, you’re proud of your smartphone and can work your way around an Excel spreadsheet, but there’s something about a Fitbit wristband that goes one step too far. You like gadgets, but you’re not obsessed enough to parade around Starbucks with a bright yellow Jawbone Up.
We know the feeling, which is why we’ve picked seven recent or upcoming fitness trackers that go out of their way to be understated, invisible, or just plain different. It’s all the nifty tech, but none of the geeky stigma.We’ll break down our early thoughts, including what seems promising and what kinks still need to be worked out.
1. Glagla Digitsole 2
The Digitsole is part fitness tracker, part foot heater, allowing users to track steps and crank up the temperature. The product’s biggest benefit, however, is simply disappearing within the comfy confines of an ordinary shoe. The whole setup can be controlled with the corresponding smartphone app, where you can check progress and adjust settings on the fly.
The company says the battery will last between seven hours and a couple of days, but with a conveniently hidden USB port, charging shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.So far, we’re more impressed with the concept than the user experience—the app is a bit bland at this stage. But if Glagla can polish the mobile interface, count us in.
2. Withings Activité Pop
Withings has avoided the wrist-based tracker in the past, opting for clips and pads instead. Enter the Activité and Activité Pop, two wrist-based fitness devices that hide in plain sight. Their secret: they double as a sleek Swiss watch.
The non-Pop version looks as fancy as a low-end Rolex ($390), but even the cheaper, sportier Pop ($150) should fool your less geeky friends. We haven’t had a chance to use the tracker outside of the showroom, but it’s hands-down the classiest wristband in the industry.
3. Sony Smart B-Trainer
While the Withings Activite Pop wants to look so good you’ll wear it all the time, Sony’s Smart B-Trainer—essentially, fitness-based headphones—is designed exclusively for cardio workouts. It’s something you can slip off as quickly as you slip on. The headphone-tracker hybrid will measure your heart rate, then recommend you speed up or slow down based on your level of effort.
In an industry full of trackers trying to be all things to all users, we like Sony’s focus on a particular use-case. We were less enthusiastic about the marketing video, however, which makes the Siri-esque guiding voice sound more like an impatient babysitter than a helpful personal trainer (“Your pace is too fast! Your heart rate is too high!”).
4. Fitlinxx AmpStrip
Fitlinxx hopes to bypass fancy gadgetry altogether with the AmpStrip, a fitness-tracking patch that sits just above your abdomen. While Fitlinxx is new to the consumer product space, they have longtime expertise in wellness programs and corporate fitness services—experience that will come in handy for organizing activities, incentivizing workouts, and setting personal fitness goals.
Their biggest hurdle, then, will be overcoming stigmas associated with a patch. More commonly used as a nicotine supplement used to quit smoking, the patch can often seem like a significant lifestyle choice, despite its low visibility. We love the sleep and posture features in particular, but we’re still not sure about wearing a sticky patch 24 hours a day.
5. Misfit Wearables Swarovski Shine
Like the Activité Pop, the Misfit Wearables Swarovski Shine is a fitness tracker in disguise. The device comes out of a partnership between Misfit—the longtime, design-conscious fitness tracker brand—and Swarovski, the affordable luxury fashion company. The crystal-adorned bracelet can track steps, measure swims, and assess sleep quality, all before gracing your wrist for a company cocktail party or evening on the town.
Throw in a tastefully designed mobile app and you’ve got a full fashion-fitness solution. Unlike a watch, however, it’s hard to see a crystal-based bracelet working with every outfit for every occasion—a dream scenario both Misfit and Swarovski would love to see fulfilled. The promo video’s swim-workout-becomes-date-night looks great, but what about a leisurely afternoon, or a Monday at the office? It’s a tough balance to strike.
6. Force Impact FITGuard
With concussions a popular item in the news and parents worried about sports safety, the FITGuard hopes to become the standard device for preventing brain injury on the playing field. Using user-inputed statistics about the athlete’s gender, height, and weight, the FITGuard determines the severity of on-field collisions, flashing red when an impact reaches dangerous levels.
While we love the motivation, we have a few remaining questions about the device’s precision. How can the FITGuard be sure a player might truly be in trouble? We worry about inaccuracies on either side of the spectrum, from a false-positive (i.e. mouthguard flashes red but player is fine) to a false-negative (mouthguard indicates a safe impact but player needs to be taken out). Regardless, it’s a product that seems headed in the right direction. Time will tell if it’s ready for primetime.
7. NeuroMetrix Quell
It’s got a whiff of informercial snake oil to it, but the Quell still has us curious. NeuroMetrix claims that the device “stimulates the sensory nerves in your upper calf” which “blocks pain signals throughout your body.” With the corresponding smartphone app, you can also measure nightly “calmness”: a proxy for the quality of your sleep.
We can’t vouch for the product’s effectiveness, but we do like how Quell is trying to solve a separate problem: chronic pain. Many fitness customers may want to hit the treadmill or chisel out a six-pack, but similar technology can work in other places too, and here, Quell is on the case.