Posts with «wearables» label

The best GPS running watches you can buy

Because I'm the editor of Engadget by day and a volunteer coach in my free time, I often get asked which GPS watch to buy. (People also ask what I'm wearing and the answer is: All of them. I am testing all of them.) For my part, the best running watches are quick to lock in a GPS signal, offer accurate distance and pace tracking, last a long time on a charge, are comfortable to wear and easy to use.

Advanced stats like VO2 Max, or maximum oxygen intake during workouts with increasing intensity, are also nice to have, along with training assessments to keep your workload in check and make sure you're getting in effective aerobic and anaerobic workouts. It's also a plus when a watch supports other sports, like cycling and swimming, which all of these do to varying extents. As for features like smartphone notifications and NFC payments, they’re not necessary for most people, especially considering they drive up the asking price.

Without further ado, I bring you capsule reviews of four running watches, each of which I ultimately recommend, none of which is perfect. And keep in mind, when it comes time to make a decision of your own, there are no wrong answers here: I like Apple and Garmin enough, for instance, that I switch back and forth between them in my own training.

The best running watch that’s also a smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 7

Engadget

What you get: A jack-of-all-trades GPS watch that also happens to be our favorite smartwatch.

Pros: Stylish design; a great all-around smartwatch you'll want to use even when you're not exercising; automatic workout detection; heart-rate and blood oxygen monitoring; support for lots of third-party health platforms; auto-pause feels faster than on Garmin watches; zippy performance and fast re-charging; optional LTE is nice to have.

Cons: For iPhone users only; shorter battery life than the competition might concern endurance athletes; fewer performance metrics and settings than what you'd find on a purpose-built sports watch.

Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $399

Don't think of the Apple Watch as a running watch. Think of it as a smartwatch that happens to have a running mode. Almost seven years after the original Watch made its debut, Apple has successfully transformed its wearable from an overpriced curiosity to an actually useful companion device for the masses. But being a gadget for the masses means that when it comes to running, the Apple Watch has never been as feature rich as competing devices built specifically for that purpose.

Before I get to that, a few words on why I like it. The Apple Watch is the only one of these watches I’d want to wear every day. (And I do: After reviewing Apple Watches for years, I finally purchased one in fall 2021.) The Series 7 is stylish, or at least as stylish as a wrist-worn computer can be, and certainly more so than any running watch I've encountered. The aluminum, water-resistant body and neutral Sport band go with most outfits and will continue to look fresh after all your sweaty workouts and jaunts through the rain. And the always-on display is easy to read in direct sunlight.

The battery life is 18 hours, according to Apple. Indeed, I never have a problem making it through the day. I’m often able to put the watch back on after a night of forgetting to charge it and still have some juice left. If you do forget, even a few minutes of charging in the morning can go a long way – Apple claims you can go from zero to 80 percent in 45 minutes, and that the Series 7 charges up to 33 percent faster than the Series 6.

That said, it’s worth noting that other running watches claim longer usage time — between 30 and 40 hours in some cases. When it comes to workouts specifically, Apple rates the battery life with GPS at up to seven hours. Given that, I would trust the Series 7 to last through a short run or even a half marathon, but I'm not sure how it would fare in one of my slow, five-hour-plus marathons.

The built-in Activity app is simple and addictive: I feel motivated to fill in my "move" (active calorie), exercise and stand rings each day. I enjoy earning award badges, even though they mean nothing. I'm grateful that the Apple Health app can pull in workouts from Garmin and every other brand featured here, and then count that toward my daily exercise and stand goals (but not my move goal, curiously).

My one complaint is that the sensors don’t always track standing time accurately. I have failed to receive credit when standing for long periods in front of a stove, but occasionally I’ve been rewarded for doing absolutely nothing.

As for running specifically, you're getting the basics and not much else. You can see your distance, calorie burn, heart rate, average pace and also rolling pace, which is your pace over the past mile at any given moment. You can also set pace alerts — a warning that you're going faster than you meant to, for example. Like earlier Apple Watches, you can also stream music or podcasts, if you have the cellular-enabled LTE model.

Because the watch has a GPS sensor, you can leave your phone at home while running. Of course, no two brands of running watches will offer exactly the same distance readout on a run. That said, though Apple never explicitly claimed the Series 7 offers improved accurate distance tracking, the readouts here do feel more accurate than the Series 6, which itself felt more on-point than earlier models. It’s possible that Apple is making ongoing improvements under the hood that have added up to more accurate tracking performance.

For indoor runners, the Apple watch integrates with some treadmills and other exercise equipment, thanks to a two-way pairing process that essentially trades notes between the device and gym gear, formulating a more accurate estimate of your distance and effort using that shared data. In my experience starting with the Series 6, the watch usually agrees with the treadmill on how far I ran, which is not always the case with other wearables.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

I also particularly appreciate that the Apple Watch automatically detects workouts after a certain period of time. I use this feature daily as I walk to and from the subway and around my neighborhood. After 10 minutes, the familiar vibrating tick, with a message asking if I want to record an outdoor walk. The answer is always yes, and the watch thankfully includes the previous 10 minutes in which I forgot to initiate a workout.

Regardless of the workout type, all of your stats are listed on a series of pages, which you swipe through from left to right. In my early days using the watch, it was tempting to use the Digital Crown as a stopwatch button, similar to how I use other running watches. This urge has mostly subsided as I've gotten more comfortable with the user interface.

Like many of its competitors, the Series 7 has an auto-pause option, which I often use in start-and-stop workouts. I also found in side-by-side comparisons (one watch on each wrist), that auto-pause on the Apple Watch reacts faster than on Garmin models.

Conveniently, the Apple Watch can export workouts to MyFitnessPal so you get credit for your calorie burn there. Of note, the watch has all of the health features that the Series 5 did, including a built-in ECG test for cardiac arrhythmias, along with fall detection, a blood oxygen test, emergency calls and menstrual tracking. New in the Series 7 is overnight respiratory tracking. Like previous models, there’s also a built-in compass and international emergency calling.

Unfortunately, the stats themselves are fairly limited, without much room for customization. There's no mode for interval workouts, either by time or distance. There's also not much of an attempt to quantify your level of fitness, your progress or the strenuousness of your workouts or training load. None of this should be a dealbreaker for more casual runners.

For more detailed tracking, your best bet is to experiment with third-party running apps for the iPhone, like Strava, RunKeeper, MapMyRun, Nike Run Club and others. It's through trial and error that I finally found an app with Watch support and timed intervals. But at the end of the day, it's easier to wear a purpose-built running watch when I'm running outdoors, sync my data to Apple Health, get my exercise and standing-time credit, and then put the Apple Watch back on the first chance I get. But if you can only afford one smartwatch for training and life, there's a strong case for choosing this one.

The best watch for triathletes: Garmin Forerunner 745

Garmin

What you get: Myriad training and recovery features for serious runners and cyclists.

Pros: Accurate distance tracking; long battery life; advanced fitness and training feedback; stores up to 500 songs; works with Garmin Pay.

Cons: Garmin’s auto-pause feature feels slower than Apple’s; more advanced features can sometimes mean the on-device UI is tricky to navigate; features like Garmin Pay drive up the price but may feel superfluous.

Buy Forerunner 745 at Garmin - $500

If the Apple Watch is for people who want a smartwatch that also has some workout features, the $500 Garmin Forerunner 745 is for athletes in training who want a purpose-built device to help prepare for races. The various sensors inside can track your heart rate, VO2 Max and blood oxygen (with the option to track all-day and in-sleep, as opposed to just spot checking). On the software side, you get daily workout suggestions, a rating that summarizes your performance condition, animated on screen workouts, a cycling power rating, a sleep score and menstruation tracking. You can also create round-trip courses as well as find popular routes though Garmin’s Trendline populating routing feature.

Like other Garmin watches, even the entry-level ones, you also get feedback on your training load and training status (unproductive, maintaining, productive, peaking, overreaching, detraining and recovery), a “Body Battery” energy rating, recommended recovery time, plus Garmin Coach and a race time predictor. And you can analyze “running dynamics” if you also have a compatible accessory.

The slight downside to having all of these features is that the settings menu can be trickier to navigate than on a simpler device like the entry-level Forerunner 45. Fortunately, at least, a homescreen update released back in fall 2020 makes it so that you can see more data points on the 1.2-inch screen with less scrolling required.

Speaking of the screen, the watch, available in four colors, is easy to read in direct sunlight, and weighs a not-too-heavy 47g. That light weight, combined with the soft silicone band, makes it comfortable to wear for long stretches. Garmin rates the battery life at up to seven days, or up to 16 hours with GPS in use. (That figure drops to six hours when you combine GPS tracking with music playback.) In my testing, I was still at 88 percent after three hours of GPS usage. Most of my weekday runs are around 35 minutes and that, it turns out, only puts a roughly two- or three-percent dent in the battery capacity.

In practice, the watch also seemed quicker than my older Forerunner 645 Music to latch onto a GPS signal, even in notoriously difficult spots with trees and cover from tall buildings. As always, distance tracking is accurate, especially if you start out with a locked-in signal, which you always should. Like I said earlier, though, I did find in a side-by-side test, Garmin’s auto-pause feature seems sluggish compared to Apple’s.

Aside from some advanced running and cycling features, what makes the 745 one of the more expensive models in Garmin’s line are its smartwatch features. That includes Garmin Pay, the company’s contactless payments system, and the ability to store up to 500 music tracks on the device. You can also mirror your smartphone notifications and use calendar and weather widgets. Just know you can enjoy that even on Garmin’s entry-level model (more on that below).

I can see there being two schools of thought here: if someone plans to wear this watch for many hours a week working out, it may as well get as close as possible to a less sporty smartwatch. Then there’s my thinking: You’re probably better off stepping down to a model that’s nearly as capable on the fitness front, but that doesn’t pretend as hard to be a proper smartwatch.

For those people, there’s another mid-range model in Garmin’s Forerunner line that’s cheaper and serves many of the same people who will be looking at the 745. The $300 245 offers many of the same training features. It also mostly matches the 745 on pool swimming, but you do appear to lose a bunch of cycling features, so you might want to pore over this comparison chart before buying if you’re a multisport athlete.

What you give is Garmin Pay; the option of all-day blood oxygen tracking; the sleep score; a gyroscope and barometric altimeter; floors climbed; heat and altitude acclimation; yoga and pilates workouts; training load focus; the Trendline feature; round-trip course creation, Garmin and Strava live segments; and lactate threshold tracking (and for this you would need an additional accessory amway).

At the opposite end of the spectrum (for people who actually wish the 745 could do more), there’s the $650 Forerunner 945 LTE which, true to its name, adds built-in LTE connectivity. This model also holds 1,000 songs, up from 500 on the 745, and adds niceties like preloaded maps and a host of golfing features, iif golf is also your jam.

The best running watch for most people: Garmin Forerunner 45S

Garmin

What you get: An affordable watch that offers everything you need to start tracking your runs, along with some basic smartwatch features to boot.

Pros: Accurate distance tracking, long battery life, heart rate monitoring and interval training at a reasonable price; lightweight design; offered in a variety of colors; smartphone notifications feel limited, but could be better than nothing.

Cons: Garmin’s auto-pause feature feels slower than Apple’s.

Buy Garmin Forerunner 45S at Amazon - $150

I purposefully tested the $500 Garmin Forerunner 745 first, so that I could start off with an understanding of the brand’s more advanced tech. Testing the $150 Forerunner 45S, then, was an exercise in subtraction: If I pared down the feature set, would I miss the bells and whistles? And would other runners?

It turns out, mostly not. As an entry-level watch, the 45S offers everything beginners (and even some intermediate) runners could want, including distance tracking, basic fitness tracking (steps, calories), heart rate monitoring and a blood oxygen test. Also, as much as the 45S is aimed at new runners, you’ll also find modes for indoor and outdoor cycling, elliptical machines, stair climbers and yoga.

Coming from the 745, I was especially pleased to see that many of Garmin’s best training and recovery features carry down even to the base-level model. That includes training status, training load, training effect, Garmin Coach, Body Battery, stress tracking, a race time predictor and running dynamics analysis (again, an additional accessory is required). Like other Garmin watches, you can enable incident detection, with the caveat that you'll need your smartphone nearby for it to work.

It even functions as a perfunctory smartwatch, with smartphone notifications, music playback controls, calendar and weather widgets, and a duo of “find my phone” and “find my watch” features. Although I’ve criticized Garmin’s smartwatch features in the past for feeling like half-baked add-ons, I was still pleasantly surprised to find them on what’s marketed as a running watch for novices.

As for the hardware, the watch feels lightweight, at 32 grams for the 39mm model (36g for the 42mm). It’s available in five colors, slightly more than Garmin’s more serious models. The 1.04-inch screen was easy to glance at mid-workout, even in direct sunlight. The battery, which is rated for seven days (or 13 hours in GPS mode) does not need to be charged every day. In fact, if it really is beginners using this, their short runs should barely put a dent in the overall capacity. As with the Forerunner 745, my complaint is never with the battery life, just the fact that you have to use a proprietary charging cable.

And, while this watch wasn’t made for competitive swimmers, you can use it in the pool without breaking it. The 5 ATM water resistance rating means it can survive the equivalent of 50 meters of water pressure, which surely includes showering and shallow-water activities.

For what it’s worth, Garmin sells a similar model, the Forerunner 55, which for $50 more adds respiration rate tracking, menstrual tracking, an updated recovery time advisor and pacing strategies.

The best watch under $100: Amazfit Bip S

Dana Wollman/Engadget

What you get: An inexpensive sports watch from an upstart brand with more features than you’d expect at such a low price.

Pros: Lightweight design; long battery life; accurate GPS tracking; built-in heart rate monitor; water resistant; basic smartwatch features.

Cons: Crude user interface; limited support for third-party apps; can’t customize how workout stats are displayed on the screen; pausing workouts feels labored (which is a shame because you’ll be doing it often).

Buy Amazfit Bip S at Amazon - $70

I kept my expectations low when I began testing the Bip S. This $70 watch comes from Amazfit, a lesser known brand here in the US that seems to specialize in lower-priced gadgets. Although I didn’t know much about Amazfit or its parent company Huami, I was intrigued by the specs it offered at this price, most notably a built-in heart monitor — not something you typically see in a device this cheap.

As you might expect, a device this inexpensive has some trade-offs, and I’ll get to those in a minute. But there’s actually a lot to like. The watch itself is lightweight and water resistant, with a low-power color display that’s easy to read in direct sunlight. That low-power design also means the battery lasts a long time — up to 40 hours on a charge. Perhaps most importantly, it excels in the area that matters most: as a sports watch. In my testing the built-in GPS allowed for accurate distance and pace tracking. If you’re not a runner, or you just prefer a multi-sport life, the watch features nine other modes covering most common activities, including walking, yoga, cycling, pool and open-water swimming and free weights.

And did I mention the heart rate monitor? These readings are also seemingly accurate.

What you lose by settling for a watch this cheap is mainly the sort of polished user experience you’d get with a device from a tier-one company like Apple or even Garmin (not that Garmin’s app has ever been my favorite either). In my review, I noticed various goofs, including odd grammar and punctuation choices and a confusingly laid-out app.

I was also bummed to learn you could barely export your data to any third-party apps, other than Strava and Apple Health. You also can’t customize the way data is displayed on-screen during a workout, while your goals don't auto-adjust the way they might on other platforms. Fortunately, at least, these are all issues that can be addressed after the fact via software updates — hopefully sooner rather than later.

The best smartwatches, fitness trackers and wearables to gift

What better way to show someone you love them than getting them a gadget that they can wear on their person all day? Okay, maybe there are plenty of better ways, but a wearable can not only convey how much you care, but it can also help the user take better care of themselves.

Our list of the best wearables includes not only obvious things like smartwatches and fitness trackers, but also a touch-sensitive backpack that will let the hiker on your list keep their hands free while trekking through the mountains. Though the typical price here of about $200 to $300 might be steep for some, it might be a good range for those looking for something that a few friends can all chip in on. But we’ve also included budget-friendlier options if you prefer.

Apple Watch SE

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

A smartwatch is a great gift for anyone that’s trying to stay on top of their busy schedules, keep tabs on their health or remain connected without having to look at their phone every 30 seconds. The Apple Watch SE is a solid choice for any first timer — it has all of the core features of the more-premium Series 7, but costs significantly less. Your loved one will be able to use it to track their workouts and sleep while getting their iPhone alerts and messages on their wrist. The watch will also detect if they’ve fallen and alert the user’s emergency contacts, not to mention warn the wearer of any heart rate irregularities. Of course, no smartwatch is meant to replace a consultation with a doctor, so think of it more as a way to get some data than as a tool for diagnosis.

If you believe your friend could benefit from a bigger screen, longer battery life, ECG readings and an always-on display, the $400 Series 7 is a better choice. But you’ll have to decide if those main differences are worth the premium.

Buy Apple Watch SE at Amazon - $279Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $399

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Apple

The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch around. Unfortunately it won’t work with Android phones. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for those over in Google-land, and the best of them is the Galaxy Watch 4. It runs the new Wear OS co-engineered by Samsung and Google, marrying an intuitive side-scrolling interface and great health-tracking with a plentiful third-party app library. That means your friend can reply to your texts from their wrist, get updates on their cab rides or takeout orders, track their calorie intake or log workouts through their favorite apps. Those who are into their physical and muscular composition will also appreciate the Watch 4’s body fat-scanning tool.

If the person you’re shopping for prefers a more classic-looking timepiece and doesn’t mind a chunkier device, they might enjoy the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic. It features a spinning bezel that lets the user whiz through widgets quickly and easily, and the etchings on the frame lend a traditional look to the smartwatch.

Buy Galaxy Watch 4 at Samsung - $250Buy Galaxy Watch 4 Classic at Samsung - $350

Fitbit Charge 5

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Those looking for something with a lower profile will prefer a Fitbit band. Despite its relatively small size, the Fitbit Charge 5 packs a ton of hardware including a heart rate monitor, onboard GPS and an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor. Altogether, it can help your loved one track their pulse, fitness and even stress levels. Fitbit also has one of the more insightful sleep-logging tools around, using cardio readings to determine if they’ve entered deep, REM or light sleep zones.

The company also made its touchscreen full-color on the Charge 5, which is a vast improvement over the last model’s greyscale version. This does diminish battery life, but the Charge 5 still manages to last up to seven days (though, that drops to two with the display set to Always On).

Buy Charge 5 at Amazon - $180

Fossil Gen 6

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

For the Android smartwatch user who wants a little more fashion cred on their wrist, the Fossil Gen 6 is a worthy option. These are the company’s first to run the new Wear OS, but with some custom watch faces and tweaks for health-tracking. They have bright, crisp 1.28-inch AMOLED screens and offer continuous heart-rate monitoring, as well as a blood oxygen sensor.

Battery life has always been a big shortcoming of smartwatches, and Fossil is attempting to make up for that by offering fast charging on the Gen 6. It promises you can get up to 80 percent in 30 minutes, so your giftee doesn’t have to spend too long waiting around for their watch to power back up. And since this is a Fossil wearable, there are plenty of attractive strap and case options that will suit your loved one’s tastes.

Buy Gen 6 smartwatch at Fossil - $299

Amazon Echo Frames

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Not all wearables are watches: there’s been a recent surge in speaker-glasses hybrid devices. The Amazon Echo Frames are the most comfortable, though. Like the Bose Frames and Razer’s Anzu, they offer open-ear style speakers built into the arms of the eyewear so that the wearer can hear what’s playing on their computer or phone without blocking out the rest of the world. Amazon’s version also offers easy access to Alexa, so the user can get hands-free help with setting timers or turning on their smart lights.

The Echo Frames can be fitted with prescription lenses and come in an inoffensive style that should fit most faces (there’s only one size available). Those who don’t need glasses can also opt for blue-light filtering lenses or shades instead. If you know someone who wants to listen to music or their favorite YouTube livestream at work, while still being able to hear when their boss calls them into the office, the Echo Frames are a good option.

Buy Echo Frames at Amazon - $250

Withings Steel HR

Withings

Some diehard watch aficionados don’t like the idea of a black mirror staring up at them when smartwatch batteries die, but still want a timepiece that can track basic health metrics. For these folks, the Withings Steel HR is an attractive, well-rounded product. It has a traditional analog watch face with a tiny round black-and-white screen that shows step counts and small status indicators. A sub-dial displays progress towards the wearer’s daily move goal, and runners can link the watch to their phone’s GPS to map their routes.

The device’s onboard heart rate and blood oxygen sensors help the user gauge their cardio performance, and swimmers or divers will appreciate the water resistance of up to 50 meters. Best of all, since this doesn’t have a large, battery-draining screen, it can last up to 25 days on a charge.

Buy Steel HR at Withings - $180

Garmin Forerunner 55

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Garmin

The hardcore runner or marathoner in your life will most likely have heard of Garmin. The company is known for its GPS and heart rate monitors, and athletes swear by their running watches. The Forerunner 55 is a great device for those looking for something that excels at sports-tracking with long-lasting battery. It’ll last up to two weeks, while monitoring the user’s respiration, heart rate, step count and more. The wearer can also get basic notifications, music playback controls and apps on the watch.

But it’s Garmin’s robust sports features that will win your giftee over. These include comprehensive run coaching with cadence alerts, pace suggestions, estimated finish time and recovery guides. The Forerunner 55 also tracks stress and menstrual cycles and offers emergency contact tools when the wearer feels unsafe.

Buy Forerunner 55 at Amazon - $199

Samsonite x Google Konnect-i backpack

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Samsonite

Who knew a backpack could be smart? The Samsonite Konnect-i bag features touch-sensitive fibers woven into its strap to enable Google’s Jacquard technology. This lets the wearer tap and swipe on the surface to do things like answer phone calls, play or pause music and more by connecting to their phone. For those who need to pay attention to their commute instead of fumbling around with a phone when they’re on the go, the Konnect-i backpack can keep their hands free and eyes alert. If you have the money to spare and want to give your friend a serious style upgrade, Google also teamed up with Saint Lauren on a $1,150 branded version.

Buy Konnect-i backpack at Samsonite - $199

The best fitness trackers you can buy

The fitness tracker isn’t dead, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the people keeping these little devices alive. Smartwatches have all but taken over the mainstream wearable space, but the humble fitness tracker remains an option for those who want a gadget to do one thing right all the time. Despite the headwinds, there are still a bunch of fitness bands out there to choose from. Engadget has tested many of them and picked out the best for most people.

What do fitness trackers do best?

The answer seems simple: Fitness trackers are best at monitoring exercise, be it a 10-minute walk around the block or that half marathon you’ve been diligently training for. Obviously, smartwatches can do that too, but there are some areas where fitness bands have the upper hand: focus, design, battery life and price.

When I say “focus,” I’m alluding to the fact that fitness trackers are made to track activity well; anything else is extra. They often don’t have the bells and whistles that smartwatches do, which could distract from their activity-tracking abilities. They also tend to have fewer sensors and internal components, which keeps them smaller and lighter. Fitness trackers are also a better option for those who just want a less conspicuous device on their wrists all day.

Battery life tends to be better on fitness trackers, too. While most smartwatches last one to two days on a single charge, fitness bands will last five days to one week — and that’s with all-day and all-night use.

When it comes to price, there’s no competition. Most worthwhile smartwatches start at $175 to $200, but you can get a solid fitness tracker starting at $70. Yes, more expensive bands exist (and we recommend a few here), but you’ll find more options under $150 in the fitness tracker space than in the smartwatch space.

When to get a smartwatch instead

If you need a bit more from your wearable, you’ll likely want a smartwatch instead. There are things like on-watch apps, alerts and even more robust fitness features that smartwatches have and fitness trackers don’t. You can use one to control smart home appliances, set timers and reminders, check weather reports and more. Some smartwatches let you choose which apps you want to receive alerts from, and the options go beyond just call and text notifications.

But the extra fitness features are arguably the most important thing to think about when deciding between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. The latter devices tend to be larger, giving them more space for things like GPS, barometers, onboard music storage and more. While you can find built-in GPS on select fitness trackers, it’s not common.

Engadget picks

Best overall: Fitbit Charge 5

Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Fitbit's Charge 5 has everything most people would want in a fitness tracker. First and foremost, it's not a smartwatch. That means it has a slightly lower profile on the wrist and lasts days on a single charge while tracking activity and sleep. It also has a full-color AMOLED display — a big improvement from the smaller, grayscale screen on last year's Charge 4. That display, along with a thinner design, make Charge 5 feel more premium than its predecessor.

But it also costs $180 — $30 more than the Charge 4 — and that's due in part to the design upgrades but also some additional features. The Charge 5 has EDA sensors for stress tracking and it will eventually support ECG measurements and Daily Readiness Scores (the latter is for only for Premium subscribers). Those are on top of existing features that were carried over from the Charge 4 — most notably, Fitbit Pay support and built-in GPS. The former lets you pay for coffee or groceries with a swipe of your wrist, while the latter helps map outdoor runs, bike rides and other activities. Built-in GPS remains the star of the show here — it's fast and accurate, making the Charge 5 the best option if you want a do-it-all wearable that’s focused on fitness.

Buy Charge 5 at Amazon - $180

Alternative: Garmin Vivosmart 4

Engadget

A more subtle-looking alternative is the $100 Garmin Vivosmart 4. It’s thinner than the Charge 5 and fits in a bit better with bracelets and other jewelry you might wear regularly. But its attractive design is only part of its appeal — Garmin knows how to track fitness, and the Vivosmart 4 is proof that you don’t need to drop hundreds on one of the company’s fitness watches to get a capable device.

Like the Charge 5, the Vivosmart 4 tracks all-day activity and sleep and has a pulse ox sensor for blood oxygen saturation measurements. It has only connected GPS capabilities, and it has universal music controls that can control the playback of most anything. The band is also waterproof and can track basic swim workouts, plus it also has a battery life of up to seven days. While it’s similar to the Charge 5 in that the Vivosmart 4 works with both Android and iOS devices, it’s a bit more flexible as it syncs with Apple Health (the Charge 5 and other Fitbit devices do not).

Buy Vivosmart 4 at Amazon - $130

Best budget: Fitbit Inspire 2

Fitbit / Tile

If you only have $100 to spare, the Fitbit Inspire 2 is the best option. It strips out all the luxury features from the Charge 5 and keeps only the essentials. You won’t get built-in GPS, Fitbit Pay or Spotify control but you do get excellent activity tracking, automatic workout detection, smartphone alerts and plenty more. As the updated version of the Inspire HR, the Inspire 2 includes a heart rate monitor, which the device uses to keep track of all-day heart rate, active zone minutes, sleep stages and more.

The Inspire HR is thinner than the Charge 5 but it also has interchangeable bands, so you can switch up its style whenever you feel like it. Its design is also swimproof, and it should last up to 10 days on a single charge. Fitbit also recently added Tile-tracking to the Inspire 2, allowing you to find your misplaced band using the Bluetooth locator feature and the Tile mobile app. All of these features make it the best value fitness tracker you can get.

Buy Inspire 2 at Fitbit - $100

Alternative: Samsung Galaxy Fit 2

Samsung

The $60 Samsung Galaxy Fit 2 band is almost like a more affordable Garmin Vivosmart 4. The two trackers share the same skeletal design but the Galaxy Fit looks a bit more utilitarian — you can swap out its bands, though — something you can’t do on Garmin’s device.

We haven’t given the Fit 2 the full review treatment, but Engadget’s Cherlynn Low was impressed with the original Galaxy Fit: the Tizen-based interface is colorful and easy to use, and plenty of people will appreciate its durable, no-nonsense design. It tracks a bunch of workouts as well and even has auto-exercise recognition. That’s on top of its daily activity tracking and sleep monitor, all of which uses the built-in heart rate monitor to collect pulse data throughout the day.

The kicker for the Galaxy Fit 2 is battery life — the tiny tracker can last for up to 15 days on a single charge, and you can even extend it to 21 days if you change some settings. That’s much longer than most competing bands, so even if Samsung isn’t as comprehensive as Garmin or Fitbit is when it comes to fitness data collection and analysis, the Galaxy Fit 2 is a good option for those who want a basic tracker that they can safely forget to charge each night.

Buy Galaxy Fit 2 at Amazon - $60

Most fashionable: Withings Move

Engadget

All of the previously mentioned fitness trackers are attractive in their own way (bonus points to those that have interchangeable bands), but they share a similar look. There aren’t many alternative designs for these devices anymore. The $70 Withings Move watch is an exception, and one of the most traditionally fashionable fitness trackers you can get. It’s an analog watch with a couple of health monitoring features including step, calorie, distance and sleep tracking, connected GPS, auto-recognition for more than 30 workouts and a water-resistant design. But we really love it for its button-cell battery, which can last up to 18 months before needing a replacement.

Buy Withings Move at Amazon - $70

Check your run time on a stretchable electroluminescent stopwatch ‘tattoo’

A stretchable light-emitting device becomes an epidermal stopwatch.
Image: Adapted from ACS Materials Letters 2019

Imagine if your watch wasn’t mounted on your wrist, but was instead integrated into a sort of temporary tattoo on the back of your hand? Such an idea is now one step closer to reality, thanks to new research into alternating-current electroluminescent (ACEL) display technology.

While normally such displays require well over 100VAC to produce sufficient brightness, scientists have worked to get this number down into the 10-35V range, allowing them to be used in much closer proximity to human skin. 

To demonstrate this technology, the team constructed a 4-digit 7-segment display that can be applied to one’s hand, using an Arduino Mega and driver circuitry to turn it into a digital timepiece.

More information can be found in the researchers’ paper published in ACS Materials Letters.

3 Reasons You Should Register For Maker Faire Shenzhen Now

This year, Maker Faire Shenzhen 2019 will be focusing on the theme “To the Heart of Community, To the Cluster of Industry”. With a full chain events for technological innovations, you can look forward to the Maker Summit Forum, Maker Booths (includes highlights and performances), as well as Innovation workshops. […]

Read more on MAKE

The post 3 Reasons You Should Register For Maker Faire Shenzhen Now appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Experience the world like a cat with this whisker-style sensory extension

Imagine if you had whiskers. Obviously, this would make you something of an oddity in today’s society. On the other hand, you’d be able to sense nearby objects via the transmission of force through these hair structures.

In order to explore this concept, Chris Hill has created a whisker assembly for sensory augmentation, substituting flex sensors for the stiff hairs that we as humans don’t possess. The sensors—four are used here—vary resistance when bent, furnishing information about their status to the Arduino Uno that controls the wearable device. Forehead-mounted vibratory motors are pulsed via PWM outputs in response, allowing the user to feel what’s going on in the surrounding environment.

If this looks familiar, Hill is quick to credit Nicholas Gonyea’s Whisker Sensory Extension Wearable as the basis for this project. He hopes his take on things improves the original, making it lighter, more cost-effective, and easier to construct. 

The purpose of this project was to focus on the creation of novel, computationally-enriched “sensory extensions” that allow for augmented-sensing of the natural world. My major effort with this project was devoted to the fabrication and implementation of sensory augmentations that will extend a sense through sensors and respond with a tactile output for the user. The intent is to enable anyone to fabricate their own sensory extensions, and thusly map intrinsically human/animal senses onto hardware. Effectively extending our senses in new and exciting ways that will lead to a better understanding of how our brain is able to adapt to new external senses.

GymSoles ensure correct form and posture during your workout

While you can get a very good workout on your own, it’s ideal if you have someone else watching over your form. This, of course, isn’t always practical, so researchers at the University of Auckland’s Augmented Human Lab have prototyped a wearable system called GymSoles to help. 

GymSoles consist of a pressure-sensitive insole that is used to determine a foot’s center of pressure, and thus infer whether or not the participant is keeping the weights in the proper position relative to his or her body—perfect for exercises like squats and deadlifts. 

Feedback is provided visually as well as through tactile feedback via eight vibrating motors, allowing participants to modify technique without having to focus on a screen. A computer is used to control the device using an Arduino Uno with motor drivers and an I2C multiplexer.

The correct execution of exercises, such as squats and dead-lifts, is essential to prevent various bodily injuries. Existing solutions either rely on expensive motion tracking or multiple Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) systems require an extensive set-up and individual calibration. This paper introduces a proof of concept, GymSoles, an insole prototype that provides feedback on the Centre of Pressure (CoP) at the feet to assist users with maintaining the correct body posture, while performing squats and dead-lifts. GymSoles was evaluated with 13 users in three conditions: 1) no feedback, 2) vibrotactile feedback, and 3) visual feedback. It has shown that solely providing feedback on the current CoP, results in a significantly improved body posture.

Go all cyberpunk with this laser-spiked jacket!

Your leather jacket might look cool, but one thing it’s missing—unless you’re maker “abetusk” or perhaps a Japanese musician—is lasers! 

After seeing Yoshii Kazuya’s laser-spiked outfit, ‘tusk decided to create an excellent version of the getup by embedding 128 laser diodes embedded in his own jacket. These lasers are powered by an Arduino Nano, along with a pair of I2C PWM output boards, allowing them to be switched in sets of four. 

The lasers can be controlled either by joystick, via a microphone in order to react to sound, or in a looping ‘twinkle’ pattern. 

More information on the project is available in this write-up as well as on GitHub, which includes Arduino code and other files needed to build your own.

After seeing Wei Chieh Shi’s laser jacket design, I wanted to create my own. These instructions show how to modify a jacket to add laser diodes and control them electronically to produce different laser light patterns. The laser diodes give the jacket an appearance of being “spiky”, like having metal spikes but with red laser light. The effect is especially striking in environments with fog or smoke as the laser light path shows a trail from where it originates.

The concept and execution is relatively simple but care has to be taken to make sure that the electronics, wiring and other aspects of the jacket don’t fail when in use. Much of the subtlety and complexity of the project is providing proper wire routing and making sure that strain relief for the electronics and connections is provided so that it’s resilient under normal wear.

Assuming the basic parts are available (soldering iron, multimeter, wire strippers, laser cutter, etc.) I would estimate that this project is about $300 in raw materials and about 20 hours worth of labor.

Depending on the battery used, the jacket can operate for about an hour or two continuously. Spare batteries can be carried around and used to replace the depleted batteries if need be.

Dragon Ball Z head-mounted Scouter computer replica

Those familiar with the Dragon Ball Z franchise will recognize the head-mounted Scouter computer often seen adorning character faces. As part of his Goku costume, Marcin Poblocki made an impressive replica, featuring a see-through lens that shows the “strength” of the person he’s looking at, based on a distance measurement taken using a VL53L0X sensor. 

An Arduino Nano provides processing power for the headset, and light from a small OLED display is reflected on the lens for AR-style viewing.

It’s not exactly perfect copy but it’s actually working device. Inspired by Google virtual glasses I made virtual distance sensor.

I used Arduino Nano, OLED screen and laser distance sensor. Laser sensor takes readings (not calibrated yet) and displays number on OLED screen. Perspex mirror reflects the image (45 degrees) to the the lens (used from cheap Google Cardboard virtual glasses) and then it’s projected on clear Perspex screen.

So you will still see everything but in the clear Perspex you will also see distance to the object you looking at. On OLED screen I typed ‘Power’ instead distance because that’s what this device suppose to measure in DBZ.

Print files as well as code and the circuit diagram needed to hook this head-mounted device up are available on Thingiverse. For those that don’t have a DBZ costume in their immediate future, the concept could be expanded to a wide variety of other sci-fi and real world applications.

Single-handed smartwatch text entry with WrisText

Smartwatches can keep us informed of incoming information at a glance, but responding still takes the use of another hand, potentially occupied by other tasks. Researchers at Dartmouth College are trying to change that with their new WrisText system.

The device divides the outside of a Ticwatch 2 into six sections of letters, selected by the movement of one’s wrist. As letters are chosen, possible words are displayed on the screen, which are then selected automatically, or by rubbing and tapping gestures between one’s finger and thumb. 

The prototype employs an Arduino DUE to pass information to a computer, along with proximity and piezo sensors to detect hand and finger movements. 

We present WrisText – a one-handed text entry technique for smartwatches using the joystick-like motion of the wrist. A user enters text by whirling the wrist of the watch hand, towards six directions which each represent a key in a circular keyboard, and where the letters are distributed in an alphabetical order. The design of WrisText was an iterative process, where we first conducted a study to investigate optimal key size, and found that keys needed to be 55o or wider to achieve over 90% striking accuracy. We then computed an optimal keyboard layout, considering a joint optimization problem of striking accuracy, striking comfort, word disambiguation. We evaluated the performance of WrisText through a five-day study with 10 participants in two text entry scenarios: hand-up and hand- down. On average, participants achieved a text entry speed of 9.9 WPM across all sessions, and were able to type as fast as 15.2 WPM by the end of the last day.

More information can be found in the project’s research paper, or you can see it demonstrated in the video below.