Made popular by such devices as the Nike+ Fuelband, Jawbone Up and Fitbit, wearable fitness tech is a rapidly expanding category. The latest entrant is the Larklife, a $149 bracelet that tracks your activity and sleep, and makes suggestions to help improve your overall health.
Click to EnlargeThe Larklife comes with two bands -- one for daytime and one for nighttime. The daytime band is a pleasing blue, and comes in three sizes: small, medium and large. (By comparison, the Nike+ Fuelband comes with extension pieces, and the Jawbone Up is available in three sizes.) Larklife's nighttime band is made of cloth with a Velcro strap.
The heart of the Larklife is a small plastic section that has a row of white LEDs running along the top, a button on the right side, and small blue LEDs on the other side for battery and Bluetooth. On one end is a microUSB port, and the other has a small magnet. During the day, you plug this section into the day band, and, at night, it gets plugged into the nighttime band.
Click to EnlargeThe bottom of the daytime band is relatively thin, so it doesn't interfere with your wrist while typing as much as the Nike+ Fuelband or the Jawbone Up. However, if the Larklife rotates on your wrist, you'll encounter the same issue.
Inside the nighttime band is a small piece of plastic that kept coming out whenever we detached the Larklife's center section. We're not sold on the day/night band switch, either. If the idea of the Larklife is to seamlessly integrate into your life, having to switch from one band to another is just one more thing you have to think about.
Click to EnlargeAs with some other fitness gadgets, the Larklife bracelet connects to an iOS app via Bluetooth. The app's interface is minimalist to the extreme. For the most part, the background is all white, with a big blue circle in the middle, showing the time. As events occur (such as a meal, sleep, etc.), they show up as small circular icons in the middle of the screen.
Click to EnlargeIn the upper left is a plus sign in a smaller blue circle. Press it, and the screen shifts to show four small icons: Meal, Workout, Boost and Sleep. Selecting one of these places its icon on the home screen. Here, if you press on the icon, it expands to show the time it was placed, as well as a small arrow.
Click to EnlargePress the arrow, and the screen will change to show details about that event, which you can edit. Within the Meal tab, for example, you can select Protein, Grains, Vegetables, Fruit and Water. However, the app doesn't get more specific than that; it doesn't even include Dairy as a category. So, you can't differentiate between, say, a double bacon cheeseburger or salmon with rice pilaf.
Also, you can only enter events as they occur, which is disruptive. So, you can't record a meal at the end, and change the time to reflect when you started eating.
The band has a built-in acelerometer, so it can track how active you've been. Little gold stars appear in your timeline if you meet certain benchmarks, such as taking 1,000 steps.
Click to EnlargeAccording to the company, the bracelet uses actigraphy algorithms developed by sleep researchers to determine your sleep quality and when you're sleeping, falling asleep, awake and tossing and turning.
You can set an alarm on your iPhone, which causes the bracelet to buzz gently to wake you. While this is a nice feature, we had trouble adjusting to wearing a bracelet to bed every night.
Larklife says that the battery in its band will last for about two days, and in our use, we found that to be fairly accurate. Unfortunately, that's about half the time as the Nike + Fuelband and the Fitbit, and well below that of the BodyMedia Fit Link, which lasted more than two weeks.
Click to EnlargeThe appcessory market for health and fitness gadgets has quickly become crowded. Unfortunately, the Larklife doesn't do nearly enough to distinguish itself. Compared with the $149 Nike+ Fuelband and the $99 Fitbit Ultra, it's more cumbersome, doesn't track as much data and doesn't last as long on a charge as its competitors.