Hard-core athletes aren't the only ones who want to monitor their physical activity. A whole class of wearable tech has emerged aimed at those who are looking to get in shape, or even just lose a few pounds. The BodyMedia Fit Link is one such device; this $199 armband tracks your daily routine, from exercise to eating, and helps you set goals toward a healthier lifestyle.
At 2.4 x 2.2 x 0.5 inches, the BodyMedia Fit Link is similar in size to the MOTOACTV, but has a softer, more curved shape, better fitting the contours of your arm. The main section of the plastic device is white, with a blue button on the front used to pair it with a smartphone. It pops into a plastic silver ring, which itself is attached to an adjustable elastic armband. Weighing 1.6 ounces, you barely notice it on your arm.
When removed from the armband holder, you'll see the miniUSB port in the middle section of the device, which is used to sync the BodyMedia Fit Link with a computer and to recharge it.
In addition to a 3-axis accelerometer, the device also tracks your activity via two metal contacts that measure your skin temperature, galvanic skin reponse (how much you're sweating), and how fast heat is dissipating from your body. Cleverly, it can detect when it's on your body, and emits a little tone when it starts recording data from your body.
Before you can use the BodyMedia Fit armband at all, you must first sign up for one of two subscriptions. The first costs $6.95 per month (the first three months are free), and gives you access to how much moderate and vigorous activity time, food logging, sleep and personal bests.
The second plan is the Jillian Michaels 360 Weight Loss Navigator, which is $4 per week, and includes all of the basic plan, plus custom cardio and fitness planning, meal planning and challenges from Michaels' community. For that much money, though, she'd better come and give us a personal session herself. Regardless, either plan seems rather expensive, considering other devices, such as the MOTOACTV and Nike+ Sportwatch, which offer similar tracking (albeit, without the nutrition info) don't require subscriptions.
Once signed up, you then log onto the BodyMedia Fit website (pictured), and enter your vital information (height, weight, age, etc.), and then set fitness goals. For example, you can aim to lose a certain amount of weight, maintain your weight or simply get active. The site will then present you with a number of plans (such as losing 1 pound per week), and then show you how much excercising you need to do to reach that goal.
The BodyMedia Fit Dashboard shows a daily summary of your physical activity--calories burned, consumed, physical activity, the number of steps you've taken and sleep--and shows how close you've come to the targets for those categories (pictured). It's colorful and well laid out. We especially like the drop-down tabs for each category that provides additional information. For example, the Calories Burned tab shows a timeline of when you burned the most calories.
Using the Calories Consumed tab, you enter what you've eaten each day. For each food type, there's an exhaustive list. Search for "pizza," and you'll get a list of just about every type of pizza and topping combination, as well as those from chains such as Pizza Hut and store-bought brands such as Totino's. It's almost too much information to sift through.
The Link can also sync via Bluetooth with an Android or iOS app (pictured). Like the armband, you must have a BodyMedia Fit subscription in order to use the app. The app mimics much of what you can do on the website, but also includes a Workouts tab. Here, you can specify what sort of goal you want to reach for a specific workout, be it a predetermined amount of time, steps or calories. You can also select Quick Start, which is simply an open-ended workout.
We used the BodyMedia Fit for the better part of two weeks. During that time, it felt comfortable on our arm for the majority of the time. It also collected our information fairly accurately, be it moderate or vigorous activity. The one exception was sleep time. It only was able to record us sleeping for one night, and then only for 5 and a half hours.
There were other minor annoyances, too. While you can also play your iTunes playlists through the app, when we used the earbuds' in-line controls to skip a track, the app would jump out of the playlist, and go to the first track in our library. Also, we had to keep re-entering the PIN in the Bluetooth settings panel, then going back to the app to sync the armband with the app, a problem we never had with the Nike FuelBand.
Although it was tedious to enter, we liked how the site parsed our nutrition info, letting us know how much of protein, carbs, fat and vitamins we were ingesting daily.
The BodyMedia Fit's endurance is that of an ultramarathoner. After nearly two weeks, we still had about 40 percent battery life left.
The Bluetooth-enabled BodyMedia Fit Link armband costs $199, but a non-Bluetooth version (Armband Advantage) costs $99. A third version, the CORE Armband, is about a third smaller, and costs $149.
While most fitness gadgets focus just on the workout itself, the BodyMedia Fit Link takes a more holistic approach, factoring not just what goes out, but what goes in to your body, too. We also really like its body-hugging design and extra-long battery life. However, we wish that it didn't require a subscription to use, and our other annoyances, while minor on their own, add up over time.