Guide to Healthy Apps: Basis Peak, Microsoft Band, Misfit Flash & Runtastic
Over the last few years devices that began as simple step-counters strapped to a walker's or runner's ankle have grown up. Many have evolved into wrist-watch lookalikes whose sensors can also track the distance covered and calories burned, and can also monitor the wearer's heart rate, skin temperature and how much they are sweating. The ones featured here do all of these and more. There are also apps for these devices that link them to computers, smartphones, pads and other devices, and which turn them into mini-personal trainers. Ranging in price from just under $50 to a penny under $200, these four devices and the apps they come with are designed to help users meet their wellness goals.
Basis Peak: A Nudge From the Little Device on Your Wrist
Capabilities: The Basis Peak is a big step up from the original Basis B1. The company claims it is the “ultimate fitness and sleep tracker” on the market, and at a suggested retail price of $199.99, it should be. This does more than count steps or calculate calories burned for runners, walkers and bicyclists. It monitors the heart rate, skin temperature, and “Galvanic Skin Response” (put simply, how much somebody sweats). Basis Peak works when you are sleeping to measure REM and deep sleep patterns and provide those and other data to determine the quality of your night's sleep.
Extras & Apps: There are apps for selected models of the Android phone and for the iPhone 4S and above that keep track of the wearer's habits and offer “insights” into how to reach whatever goals the user has set. The device also has an app which offers a “nudge” to help remind the user to do a task they have set.
Microsoft Band: The Personal Trainer on Your Wrist
Capabilities: “Live healthier and be more productive” with the Microsoft Band. That, at least, is what this step-tracker, calorie-counter, heart-rate monitor and more is designed to do, according to its website. Like a personal trainer on your wrist, the company's ad campaign says, it provides access to “expert-designed workouts that are just right for your needs.” It comes with a GPS Run Mapping app that can be useful for saving favorite routes.
Extras & Apps: The Band's apps are meant as tools to help the wearer reach their fitness goals and the device works with multiple platforms, including Android, Windows Phone and iPhone. The Cortana digital assistant app, the calendar app and the e-mail preview program are meant to help with managing productivity. It's suggested list price is $199.99.
Runtastic Orbit: "Optimize Your Lifestyle" for Less
Capabilities: The Runtastic Orbit is more than just a wristband to help runners with their training. It is being marketed as an advanced “activity, fitness and sleep tracker” that people can wear around their wrists (or as a clip on) 'round the clock. It allows you to not only track daily activities, but also, as the company claims, to “optimize your lifestyle.” There are many devices that count how many steps someone takes in a day, but Runtastic Orbit goes beyond that. It can calculate the distance covered in those steps, track the sleep cycle, count the calories being burned from exercise and other daily activities.
Extras & Apps: The device is enhanced by apps that are available on Google play, Apple's App Store, Blackberry App World or from Windows Phone. There is even a free Runtastic Me app to integrate your Orbit in the "Runtastic Ecosystem.” The apps let the wearer know how close he or she has come that day to meeting – or exceeding – his or her goals. The device is waterproof, which means it can be worn in the pool or shower. Originally sold at $119.99, in January Runtastic put it on sale on its website for $99.99.
Misfit Flash: The Affordable Alternative
Capabilities: Misfit Flash is a sporty fitness and sleep monitor designed to snyc with a smartphone. As with similar devices, it monitors heart rate, counts steps, calculates calories burned and promises to measure not only the duration, but also the quality of sleep. It can be worn like a watch, carried like a key chain, clipped onto clothing or put in a pocket. It is versatile, comes in seven colors and is waterproof to a depth of 30 meters.
Extras & Apps: The coin cell battery of the Misfit Flash has an estimated life of six months, and the device never requires charging. Its apps are compatible with a variety of models of iPhone, iPad, iPod, Samsung Galaxy, Android and Bluetooth, and apps are coming to make it compatible with the Windows Phone. There are apps that connect to a leaderboard that allows the user to compete with friends, and apps that track improvement (or not) over time, note personal bests and set and manage goals. At only $49.99, the Misfit Flash is one of the most affordable devices of its type on the market.