Fitness wearables are useless for me, and that’s a bad sign for corporations who hope to make a real connection with people who exercise regularly.
I’m not just some schlub writer trying to break away from my job desk that doesn’t know a barbell from a dumbbell, after all.
I’m a former professional jock who played a season of American football overseas for a pro German fraternity. I was paid to play my sport, so by extension, I was paid to train. It was literally my business to know what my workouts were attaining, even without the strength coach-and-fours and personalized fitness program I had in college.
In the last few years, I’ve learnt my develop habits shift as I’ve entered my post-competition life. But I still consider myself to be an athlete to some degree. I made the weight room, Muay Thai mat, and jogging loop six days a week. Just about every workout lately has been tracked by one device or another, but I’m not sure exactly why. I don’t actually do anything with the data.
I love to exercise and I adoration tech, so I want to see the two disparate worlds join together in a meaningful way.
The contraptions can count my stairs, sure, and track my heart rate but “whats being” they tell me while I’m working out that I don’t already know? What feedback do they give me that I can think about for the next workout?
Nothing. Not yet, at the least. You’d require the services of a high-level tutor or personal trainer to set the data to employ, which goes against the whole purpose of using a device in the first place.
I’ve worn and reviewed a number of fitness trackers in my time as a tech reporter, so I’m not just disgruntled after a bad experience with one gadget or brand. They’re all equally meh in my experience, as each device promises new insights and tracking functionality but return little beyond new straps, thinner intends, and more step counting.
The middle ground
I admit there are exceptions to my gripes about the trackers. Simple wearables with pedometers are genuinely useful contraptions that have helped to prod people off the couch and out onto the walking road to reach their pace objective. Serious athletes with specific goals can use the more advanced niche devices to get an boundary during training and competition, like Mashable super intern Molly Sequin in her path to Ironwoman beauty.
But the wide appeal of these general fitness trackers is to give everyday exercisers in the middle of these two groups a set of tools to hack their workouts like never before, taking some aspects of “personal training” away from expensive private tutors and automating them.
I’ve received, nonetheless, that if I really want to use the data I accumulate, I’d need to keep exhaustive records. I’d have to go above and beyond to digitally monitor every single workout, logging all activities meticulously, maybe even creating spreadsheets to track patterns in my makes that could lead to future breakthroughs.
That’s way more run than most people expect when they buy one of the flashy bangles, and that’s why no one, including me, wants to actually use them. The closest I’ve come to a tracker that cut through the data was the Garmin vvosmart 3, but that came up short because it couldn’t accurately track weight training reps.
That’s a big part of why around 30 percent of people who buy them just stop wearing them, cutting the trackers out of their workouts completely.
I’m not the only one who thinks this, clearly, and the market is reacting. Jawbone, once considered Fitbit’s top competitor in the space, lately shuttered its business, while TomTom’s CEO also publicly mulled eliminating the company’s wearable division.
But I still hold out hope that these mainstream wearables will soon be more than simply step-counting bangles. I love to exercising and I love tech, so I want to see the two disparate worlds join together in a meaningful lane. They actually should go together so well one of the major focuses in sports teach is efficiency, and a well-designed wearable should be the perfect tool to designing a clutter-free workout.
I wear my Fitbit Alta HR around the clock, in cases where a use for the data it’s tracking becomes clearer with the new products or app updates in the future. I truly want to hacker my workout with some real-time, actionable, science-driven insights the tech simply isn’t quite there yet.
The overall wearables industry is in fine shape for the moment, with the Apple Watch and cheap trackers from Chinese corporation Xiaomi leading the way. The marketplace is even expected to grow in the future, with projections to double by 2021.
But even with that growth, the “Wristband” category of the market, which would encompass members of the general fitness trackers I have beef with it, is expected to take up a much smaller share than it holds today. If fitness trackers do have a space in this new wearable landscape, it will be because their manufacturers have found a behavior to actually build them useful to everyone even if they’ve never spent a single period teach as a pro athlete.