5 reasons why smartwatches are better than fitness trackers

I find it interesting that in a world of wearables, smart watches have still not annihilated the Fitbits and Runtastic Orbits of this world. A smartwatch can do so much more and is quite a bit more convenient to wear than a fitness tracking device / wearable, don’t you think?

These are the points that really make a difference for me and why I choose not to wear any other health tracking gadget than my smartwatch:

1. A smartwatch has a screen

This might be a pretty obvious point, but a smartwatch has a far larger screen than any of the wearables out there on the market today. The Fitbit or Runtastic Orbit do offer a small LED time indicator or have a few blinky lights, but they cannot display more information than just a few numbers.

2. Motivational animated notifications work better than “vague” scores

The screen enables push messages and notifications on how you are doing and how much you still need to do today to reach your goals. This is a big plus for those who do need that extra bit of a push to make it through the day and meet their goals.

Through Google Fit / the Moto Health Tracker you could in the future receive motivational updates and shout outs from your friends to motivate you to do a little bit more if you would like them to. You don’t need to check a website for that, but you receive the notifications directly on your watch.

3. It is more personal and less intrusive

You might not want to show that you are trying to get fit and simply want to track your health stats on a regular basis? Then a smartwatch is the perfect tool for just that. It simply blends in with your other accessories and cloths that you wear. Nobody needs to know that this is one of the features that matter to you most.

4. It simply looks better

I personally find the smart bands / sleep trackers and other gadgets to look somewhat cheap. There is no real functionality to them and running around with a bit of plasticky bright colors wristband is just not my style. I love the sleek and luxurious Moto 360 design and I would not trade it for a green/blue/yellow piece of plastic.

5. You don’t need to hook it up to a PC/Mac to see results

Instant results and checks + feedback help you in your every day life. You do not need to think about wearing them, or checking the results on a PC or Mac because you simply see all the stats on your smartwatch. That is a lot more convenient than having to hook it up to another screen.

Summary: Why a smartwatch beats any health tracking wearable

There you go, those are a few “rock solid” arguments I find on why smartwatches are the better choice. Of course there are also a few downsides to smartwatches, such as the fact that most of them are not as water proof as you would want them to be when you swim a lot for example. And smartwatches are a little bit bigger than just any regular wrist band.

Yet I find that it fits to my personal lifestyle a lot better. The health stats are nice to know and I look at them from time to time. If I would be dependent on having to check them regularly, then it would even be a bigger plus to wear a smartwatch instead of a fitness tracker.

What do you think? Are fitness trackers better or more suitable to your needs?

How the Freeletics App should be better integrated with the Moto 360

I try to be as sporty as can be and although I tend to get lazy after a few weeks or months and lose interest again, I do try to stay generally fit. I love to go for a run from time to time to clear my mind, stare into the distance and show my eyes that there is more to life than just a 13″ retina screen.

To get inspired I started using one of my my now favorite apps called Freeletics. Freeletics is more than just an app, but a full-fledge community of sports and health conscious cracks and athletes who enjoy pushing their bodies to the limit. The Freeletics app is very easy to use, you pick out a workout you want to do, hit start and you get going. The rest of course is up to you.

freeletics profile picture

What is Freeletics?

Freeletics is a sports community of athletes that focusses on quality of work outs, combining strength and endurance in “short” high intensity training sessions.

Freeletics contains three types of training: Workouts, Exercises and Runs.

  1. Workouts are a given set of exercises which have to be completed in the exact same order and number as stated. Workouts can appear in different types and volumes which allows for specific training of cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance and strength.
  2. Exercises are a given number of repetitions for a single movement. They exist from the low to the high repetition range to train strength, speed and stamina.
  3. Runs are a given distance and contain sprinting over medium to long distances. Runs are ideal for training of cardiovascular endurance but also to complement a strength training program.

Freeletics be part of the movement

Of these 3 types of trainings, that can be combined within a single session as the athlete would like, the most obvious one to use your smartwatch with is the running part. Using the gps in your phone to track your distance, as well as the integrated “steps-counter” in the Moto 360, this is the most straight-forward form of integrating your smartphone into your workout. However as the Moto 360 does not have an integrated gps module inside the watch, you would always need to take your phone with you to track where you currently are.

New Sports and Health features with Android Wear 5.1.1.?

This might change with the new Android Wear version 5.1.1, that will be brought to your Moto 360 soon and supports a WIFI connection between your watch and the phone, so that you can leave your phone at home. It remains to be seen if this would mean that the Moto360 would still track your steps and distance accurately if you leave your phone at home, but that is something that it currently already does.

Update 19th of June 2015, the new android wear version 5.1.1 is out and has brought Wi-Fi connectivity to the Motorola 360. I am currently testing what this actually does and how we can use it differently with fanatics and all the exercises that we want to do. At first glance, the new software version of android for smart watches has brought quite a few improvements but the freeletics app is still not entirely supported.

This means that we will have to wait a bit longer until the freeletics team release a full fledged Smart watch integrated solution that will work on any smart watch. As I’ve understood it so far the first thing that they will be working on is an Apple watch version of the app. This does not mean that an android app is not around the corner, but the focus is more on the Apple watch at this time. Nevertheless I think that there should be a few functionalities that Freeletics and Motorola should incorporate the new software versions of both the smart watch and the app.

How could Freeletics and my Moto 360 work together?

What would be absolutely grand is if I could use the health monitoring features that the Moto 360 has, to track the progress in my workouts. My favourite smartwatch has a heartbeat monitor and could in theory keep track of my pulse whilst doing my exercises – or my recovery times after a tough workout. That way I could actually see how I have improved my general health and fitness over time.

The Moto 360  could track my heart rate during exercises and measure my recovery times

One feature of Freeletics is the Freeletics coach. A coach helps you put a suitable training plan together for you and tells you what you should be doing to get fit. If the coach would have the information on how I am recovering from various exercises, he could help me structure my trainings even better. The Freeletics coach could for example tell you whether I should be focussing more on cardio exercises or strength – and it would see which exact sessions push my heart rate to its limits.

become a free athlete freeletics

The goal with Freeletics is not just to do a number of sets, but they have added a competitive time element to it. The “faster” you do the workouts the “better” – well at least it looks cool to some of your friends maybe. Although I never really focus on getting my workout done as quickly as possible, but more on doing it right, it would be very convenient if I could simply tap my wrist to go to the next exercise instead of having to pick up my phone every time between sets. Alternatively, I could also just “say/tell” my Moto 360 to skip to the next exercise with a special code word that triggers that action (just like using the “Okay Google” command).

It would be very convenient if I could simply tap my wrist to go to the next exercise

Early morning Freeletics workout aftermath
Early morning Freeletics workout aftermath

Integrated health check: something the Apple Watch can do already, is regularly check and read when I am exercising. It reads the pulse of whoever wears the Apple watch and when the heartrate goes up it understands that I did something. The activity heartrate measurement works best when doing cardio workouts though. Since I definitely get my pulse up nicely when doing Freeletics, it could easily measure and see that I started working out.

The Moto 360 on the other hand, only registers the heartbeat of the user when it is explicitly instructed to do so, or when the user is in “action” – meaning moving from A to B. When I am doing my general workouts though, I hardly ever leave the spot I had started on. This is something that a Freeletics integration could take advantage of, and next to measuring my health statistics when I am doing sports, also track it during the days to see what my general fitness is like. Understanding the users “pulse” and general fitness is key to giving him or her the best advice on how he/she should do sports and how they can improve their health.

Active counter, when I am doing a certain exercise, such as push ups, sit-ups, pull-ups or burpees, my hand-movement is very distinct. I could image that it would not be very difficult to (depending on the workout that I am currently doing) count the number of repetitions that I have done so far – in real time. That way it would be virtually impossible to cheat the system. One more added benefit would be that the watch could jump to the next exercise within the workout whenever I am done with the current one.

With an automatic counter it would be virtually impossible to cheat the Freeletics app

Let’s say that I am doing sets of 50 burbees, followed by 30 push-ups, and 50 sit-ups; after the first 50 burpees my watch could vibrate slightly – indicating a new exercise – show me what I have to do and start the countdown from the top again (namely with the 30 push-ups). That way I would finally not have to get up to reach out for my phone and switch over to the next exercise and save me a few precious seconds that I desperately need to beat my personal best time.

Freeletics: Unleash the potential of wearables

The bottom line is: “I do not like the fact that I have to change my watch 3x a day and I want to use 1 universal stylish gadget to do all that.” I think that smartwatches and fitness apps are destined to work more closely together and there is absolutely no reason they should not. This is one part of the wearables business that should rapidly be improved. The technology is already there, and I think that there are loads of ideas out there that simply need to be put into practise.

Unleash the true potential of wearables!

The last few years a clear focus has been on cardio vascular activities, such as running, swimming and biking and improving gps connection on “smartwatches” such as the SUUNTO Ambit (which is a fantastic sports watch).  Hardcore sportsmen and fitness cracks will surely not get rid of their Garmin sports watch and Suunto watches any time soon, but for regular casual consumers who do sports once or twice a week, there is not really much incentive to buy a separate watch for another 300-400 $/€. The B2C sports world has been evolving quickly in the last few years, and it is time to bring the world of wearables to the next level.

PS: If you live in Zürich (Switzerland) feel free to join me for a workout or two whenever you want. Just use the contact form to get in touch.

freeletics training outside leg lever
Freeletics training outside leg levers