Thursday, April 24, 2014

Smartphones versus fitness wearables?

I have a running watch that's waterproof and can track up to 40 different intervals, but it doesn't have GPS. I've periodically thought about getting a Garmin, but inevitably, I ask myself, why? If I run on a treadmill, I know exactly how far and how long I went, and if I run on a track, I don't need GPS. On all other road runs, I carry my smartphone and use RunKeeper.

So I guess it's not surprising at all to read about the impending demise of Nike's Fuelband and the troubles ahead for other fitness wearables. I mean, I'm not exactly in the vanguard of tech gadget adoption, but I am one of those semi-obsessed runners who has about as much running clothing as non-running clothing. To the extent I'm somewhat representative of a swath of fairly dedicated runners, the fact that I'm not rushing to get any of these devices is not a good sign.

To be sure, I'm not saying that the smartphone/RunKeeper combination is a perfect substitute for a GPS watch or a fitness tracker. I have RunKeeper set up to give the most frequent audio cues about time/distance/average pace, which is every 1/4 mile and every 5 minutes. In a 5K race, that means I get 12 updates from the mileage and (at my pace) four more from the time. That's not bad, but if I want to check my average pace at some other point, I'd have to get pass my screen lock, which isn't trivial when you're running at near maxVO2. I could see how a watch or fitness tracker would offer some incremental advantage there.

But enough to be worth buying one . . . when that money could be used toward more race entry fees, or tech shirts, or shoes?

1 comment:

  1. The smartphone/RunKeeper combo is about 10 times the functionality of a fitness tracker (and comparable to a GPS watch).

    Fitness trackers are being poured into the market because they are so simple, but they are so simple they are not useful for people who have performance goals. They are for sedentary people, or people who don't care for exercise much, and who can use some help with accountability so they move around more.

    Fun fact: I tested the FuelBand, and because of the way it operates, it counted a rowing session as a super-low-intensity activity.