A decade after smartwatches were introduced as the next must-have gadget for smartphone users, the device has finally hit ubiquity. Sure, fitness trackers still remain as a niche product catering to those who or aspire to lead active lifestyles, but finding someone who wears one now isn't as difficult as it was 10 years ago.
According to information technology analyst International Data Corporation (IDC), 46 million smartwatches were shipped last year, almost a 40-percent increase from the previous year's 33 million. And that number is expected to hit 100 million by 2022.
The device's rising popularity may be attributed to a myriad of reasons: a wider range of selection, increasing affordability or people just simply becoming more conscious of the lifestyles they lead that they are willing to spend for a device that can hopefully help them live longer or be healthier.
Are Fitness Trackers Effective?
Still, some doubt the effectivity of fitness trackers, an understandable apprehension especially when there are studies showing that these devices' accuracy can vary widely based on the physical activity they track. A study conducted in the University of Leeds in the UK found that these smartwatches' reading on energy expenditure of users can go both ways: it may underestimate the energy spent thus lead the user to eat more, or it may overestimate the calories burned and risk leading the user to exhaustion.
The consolation is that the study revealed that smartwatches which can read the heart rate or body heat of users, which is a function made possible by the advanced sensors equipped in the devices, tend to deliver better movement reading.
"Overall, consumers do need to recognize that the technology isn't perfect and that trackers are providing estimates; it's not a magic number that reflects the exact number of calories burned," Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison told Reuters in a report.
With this, we came up with a list of some of the best fitness trackers in the market (that can also read heart rate and body heat of users) which you may use to help you lead a healthier lifestyle.
1 | Garmin Vivosmart 4
This slim and lightweight fitness tracker may be the best device for the uninitiated. One can hardly feel the device on the wrist at 16.5-grams, and yet, it tracks a number of health measurements: stress levels, REM sleep, heart rate, and VO2 max.
The VO2 max is the level of oxygen that a person processes, usually tracked per minute. In essence, a person with better fitness level than most has a higher VO2 max. This particular measurement is what powers the device's BodyMonitor, a Garmin-copyrighted tracker that notifies the user what his or her body needs, whether it's a 30-minute walk to keep energy levels high all-day or an eight-hour sleep for much-needed rest. It's a basic, no-fuss fitness tracker for those who have no intention to do any strenuous exercise but want to be fit enough to live until 80 and beyond.
2 | Fitbit Versa
When the Fitbit Versa came out last year, many found it to be a worthy rival of the iWatch. And it's easy to see why. Unlike the Apple Watch that may only be connected to the iPhone, data collected by the Fitbit Versa can be accessed through both Android and iOS phones. And with a price tag of around $200 (or P10,000), it's definitely the more democratic device.
In contrast to previous chunky-looking Fitbit models, the Versa looks natural on the wrist that you won't hesitate to use it outside the gym. It helps that the selection of straps available range from silicone to leather.
As for the features, Fitbit Versa can rival the iWatch's exhaustive list of downloadable apps, with its own arsenal of 500. It has 15 workout modes, which includes running, yoga and even swimming. The watch can be submerged up to 50 meters deep underwater.
Android users may also sync their phone to the smartwatch to get access to messages and calls. But one of its best features is its ability to let users sync personal music to the actual smartwatch, so you can run to your favorite songs without lugging around a smartphone.
3 | iWatch 4
Unlike the iPhones that have been criticized to have less and fewer innovations as a new version crops up, the iWatch continues to surprise and delight in every iteration. The iWatch 4, in particular, made headlines for its EKG (electrocardiogram) reading capability, allowing the user to detect early if he or she is experiencing irregular heart rhythms. This data can eventually be lifted and presented to a doctor. True, millennials may not have much use for this yet, but it's a notable piece of technology that could prove beneficial when the worst happens.
Take that out from the equation and the iWatch works as well as its predecessor. The newest feature that most fitness buffs will probably enjoy is its capability to detect workouts automatically. Previous models required the user to start and end workouts through the apps installed on the watch. With this one, it can automatically start, end and provide an option if one wants to log the data detected.
4 | Samsung Galaxy Watch
No, the Galaxy Watch isn't something the South Korean tech giant came up with just so it can have something to compete against Apple's iWatch. Take out the competition from the equation and the Galaxy Watch can hold its own.
The sleek and stylish design is already enough to turn heads, as it looks nothing like other wearables in this list. At first glance, one can easily mistake it for any other watch, a compliment, for the chockful of features it offers.
Unlike the alienating iWatch, Galaxy Watch can be synced to both iOS and Android devices. Even before Apple came up with the auto workout detection function, the Galaxy Watch had it months before. It can detect 39 workouts, including indoor ones like crunches and planks. If it senses the user has not had a workout the entire day, it will give a short "workout" recommendation, say five squats for example, just so your activity level goes up.
5 | Garmin Fenix 5X Plus
The ultimate smartwatch of all smartwatches, the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus is a worthy companion for the outdoorsy guy. Its built-in capabilities fit the demands of someone who regularly participates in triathlons, or goes out on hikes during weekends. This means that it can track the most comprehensive health measurements from heart rates to lactate thresholds.
If you find yourself racing or hiking outside of your literal comfort zone, the smartwatch is equipped with a mapping tool, a feature that will come in handy in case you're lost or just plain nitpicky of the trails you tread. On top of its GPS function, it has ABC (altimeter, barometer, and compass) sensor capabilities, tools that can help you detect weather conditions and ascent levels when hiking. And what is a workout without music? Spotify users can easily sync their account to the device and the Fenix5x Plus can get access to one's playlists, even offline.
On top of the comprehensive fitness tracking capabilities, the watch can also take phone calls or reply to text messages, if connected to an Android or IOS device. And all these can be done with its excellent battery life. Turn off its GPS function and the device can last for up to 12 days without charging.
Of course, all these come with a price. Some may be put off with its P42,000+ price tag, but if you're training for a major race soon, then it may be worth the investment.
This story originally appeared on Esquiremag.ph.
Minor edits have been made by the SPIN.ph editors.