A Review and Comparison: Microsoft Band, FitBit Charge HR and Apple Watch

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I know there are many people out there who are wondering if they should get a fitness tracker or not. My answer is: yes!! However, finding the correct one can be a challenge. I've had a bit of a trial and error with some and I thought I would share my thoughts on three devices that I have personally tried for over a week.


Microsoft Band

I'm going to start off with the Microsoft Band because it was the first kind of fitness tracker/smart watch I ever owned. It tracked heart rate 24/7 and during workouts, calories burned during workouts and throughout the day, sleep, and steps. It also allowed you to receive text messages, phone calls and pay for Starbucks (bonus: they give you a $5 Starbucks gift card). You can use the Microsoft Band on any phone, however you can only reply to text messages or talk to the Band if you have a Windows Phone. Obviously, this watch is more of a smart watch. Here are the things I found I liked and disliked:

Design

The design of the band is decent. It's not the most aesthetically pleasing device. It looks similar to a FitBit, but it is a lost less comfortable. I enjoyed the snap on feature to close the band onto your wrist; this made it fast and easy to get on and off.

The screen is rectangular and somewhat small. You can wear it on the inside of your wrist or the outside, but I preferred it on the inside. The user interface is easy to navigate and you can customize the screen with different colors and pictures to fit your preference.

The watch itself is uncomfortable. I found it to hurt my wrist after wearing it for a long time and it would always leave an indent where the heart rate monitor was. The small wristband fit my wrist okay, but would always slide up and down, which was annoying especially when trying to receive my heart rate.

Fitness Tracker

The fitness tracker part of the Microsoft Band offers almost everything you could ever want. The only thing it does not track is stairs climbed. However, personally, I didn't find that to be a big deal. Below I am going to go into more details on different sections of the Band's fitness tracker.

  • Heart Rate: Heart rate accuracy is a huge deal, especially if you workout. Having an accurate heart rate will tell you if you need to slow down or work harder. I found the Band's heart rate monitor for outdoor walks and runs to be fairly accurate. It was about 5 beats off of my actual heart rate (I used two fingers on my neck to find my pulse). When I did resistance workouts the heart rate wasn't as accurate while I was doing exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, mountain climbers - basically anything while I was on the ground. The same thing happened while lifting weights. My heart rate would either not show up on the Band or it would be very low. My biggest complaint with the Band, was when I would use it on a treadmill when I would do cardio indoors. It seemed to have interfered with the treadmill's heart rate because every time I would go on the treadmill my heart rate would read 75 BPM (in reality it was around 120). When I would put my hands on the treadmill's heart rate reader the treadmill would say my heart rate was around 120 BPM and then the Band would pick up what the treadmill said, but only when I had my hands on the treadmill.
  • Sleep: I found the sleep tracker to be fairly accurate as well. Although, it would say I woke up 5x when I swear I don't remember waking up 5x at all. I'm assuming that accounts for a lot of movement as well. Other than that, I have no complaints with the sleep tracker - I found it very interesting!
  • Calories Burned: Calories burned goes along with the heart rate that is recorded with the Band. For the most part I would say it was accurate. When I did indoor treadmill workouts, that's when the calories burned tended to be inaccurate due to the inaccurate heart rate.
  • Steps: The band always seemed to pretty accurate with steps taken. It doesn't track it in real time it seems like, meaning if you watch the band and walk at the same time your steps don't go up as you walk. A family member of mine (who also has the band) noticed the band counts two steps each time he stepped with his right foot. So, I can only assume it counts the right foot twice; once for the right foot and once for the left, but I don't think this affects the band negatively.
  • Distance: Distance walked/ran was always very accurate. The band has a built in GPS and once you use the GPS once while walking or running outdoors it has a very accurate measurement of your distance. This is probably one of the best features of the watch!

Phone Features

One of the things I really loved about this watch was that you could receive calls and text messages right on your wrist, similar to the Apple Watch. However, you could only answer or reply to a text if you had a Windows Phone. However, it was still nice to not have my phone on me all the time and to dismiss phone calls/text messages as needed.

Other Thoughts

Unlike the Fitbit, the Microsoft Band does not have any type of social activity, which may or may not matter to some. Also, the Microsoft Band does sync with other apps; it will sync with My Fitness Pal and will automatically put in your exercise for you. The battery life is decent, it lasted me about 1 1/2 days, maybe 2 days before I had to charge it up again. However, good thing is that it doesn't take long at all for it to charge!

Conclusion

Overall, the Microsoft Band is great. I really enjoyed it for outdoor cardio sessions and the sleep tracker was very ensightful. However, the fact that the HR was so inaccurate during indoor cardio and resistance training really bothered me. I ended up selling this on eBay.

I give this watch a 3 out of 5 sneakers.

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FitBit Charge HR

The FitBit Charge HR was an awesome little gadget. I was so excited to get it and I couldn't wait to have friendly challenges with all of my "FitBit friends"! I tried it on and everything worked great... for a few days. Here are my thoughts:

Design

The FitBit Charge HR is very comfortable. I was actually surprised by how comfortable it felt on my wrist; sometimes I would forget it was even there. However, the buckle took some getting used to. I have read some people who have experienced a rash from wearing this watch, but I never experienced that. The Charge HR has a very small screen in which you press the side button to switch screens of steps taken, distance, heart rate, stairs climbed, etc. The only problem I had with this was when it was searching for my HR the screen would time out and go blank. Then, each time I went to look at my HR it would still be searching. So, either a faster HR search or a longer time limit for the screen was needed for me.

Fitness Tracker

Alright, so the FitBit Charge HR does everything the Microsoft Band did and a bit more. It tracked heart rate, stairs climbed, distance, steps taken and sleep. I'm only going to talk about the heart rate and sleep functions as everything else is pretty standard.

  • Heart Rate: Huge disappointment for me. This, in my experience, was worse than the Microsoft Band. It did okay with outdoor cardio such as walking and running, but even that was pretty inaccurate for me, off by about 30 BPM sometimes! I would go outside for some LISS, check my heart rate and it would say 75 BPM. I checked my heart rate on my neck and I was at 124 BPM. I checked the FitBit Charge HR about 15 minutes later and it would then be at 120 BPM. It was not only frustrating, but I was stressing about whether it was accurately catching my heart rate -- something I shouldn't really have to worry about. The Charge HR didn't accurately show heart rate during resistance or weight training either, but at this point I'm thinking all heart rate monitors without a chest strap will be inaccurate when it comes to resistance training.
  • Sleep: I really liked this feature. The best part to me was that it tracks your sleep automatically, meaning you don't have to press any buttons before you go to sleep! It's more detailed than the Microsoft Band in that it tells you how many times you woke up and how many times you were restless. This was probably my favorite feature of the Charge HR and I found it to be very accurate.


Other Thoughts

One of the best parts of the Charge HR, and any FitBit for that matter, is that you can have challenges with others to see who can get the most steps in a day, week or weekend. It's a great way to stay motivated! I found myself staying up late walking around my house just to try to win a challenge! The charge lasts pretty long. I was able to get up to four days without charging. The charger is only a USB and doesn't come with a wall adapter and it takes a little time for it to charge up.

Conclusion

Overall, the Charge HR was okay. It was more annoying to me than anything when it came to the heart rate, which was the main reason I bought it. I loved having it because so many other people have FitBits, I felt like I was in the loop. However, I had to break it off with this little guy as he just wasn't doin' it for me anymore. I ended up also selling this on eBay.

I give this watch a 2.5 out of 5 sneakers.

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Apple Watch

The Apple Watch was a HUGE breakthrough. Many people were freaking out about the Apple Watch, including myself. I was so excited when I pre-ordered it. The watch even came earlier than expected, BOOM! The Apple Watch is definitely more than a fitness tracker, it's a full on smart watch. There are many things I love about this watch and a few I haven't found a use for yet. (By the way: the Apple Watch can only be used with those who have an iPhone) Here are my thoughts:

Design

The design of the Apple Watch is of course fantastic. It looks great, is very comfortable and the way the band clasps together is so simple and pretty chic in my opinion. One of the cool features is that you can switch out the bands if you want. You can use the sport band, which is what I had, in all different colors including white, green, black, blue and pink. There are also fancier bands, more expensive of course, but if you have an occasion that you need a fancier band, you can easily switch it out. The interface is pretty cool, but definitely needs getting used to. There is a a digital crown, which is used to scroll down instead of using your finger so your screen is always visible. The side button is used to see your friends who also have an Apple Watch. I will go more into what you can do with your Apple Watch friends later. Overall, the design is really nice. I personally found it easy to tap on apps. My only complaint is that it does take awhile for some of the apps to load as it uses the iPhone for its data.

Fitness Tracker

The Apple Watch pretty much has everything the FitBit and the Microsoft Band has. I'll just go into the main fitness functions of this watch.

  • Heart Rate: Yes, the Apple Watch does track HR continuously while you workout and if you want to know it just while you are sitting or out and about you can do that as well. I found the HR to be very accurate, more accurate than the FitBit Charge HR by far. I compared the FitBit Charge HR and the Apple Watch at the same time during an outdoor walk. The Apple Watch was consistant at around 120 BPM and the Charge HR went from 75 BPM to around 120 BPM a few minutes later and then back down to 75 BPM. As I've found out with any HR tracker without a chest strap, the Apple Watch did a poor job of tracking my HR during resistance or weight training, making it kind of useless to me for BBG workouts.
  • Workout App: The Apple Watch has apps and the workout app is where you decide what kind of workout you want to do (Outdoor walk, run, cycle, Indoor walk, run, cycle, Elliptical, Rower, Stair Stepper and Other are the options) and then you can set a goal. Your goal can either be amount of calories you want burned, how long you'd like to workout for or you can choose no goal aka an open goal. I love how they have so many options and I've found it to be accurate with each type of exercise (except for resistance as I've said above). I love setting goals and it taps you when you are halfway through your goal.
  • Activity App: The Apple Watch has another app called the activity app. This app shows you three rings. The red one is for movement and tells you how many calories you've burned throughout the day including calories burned during your workout. You can set your movement goal easily through the app on your iPhone. The green one is for how many minutes you have exercised for. The standard goal for this is 30 minutes a day. The blue one is for how many hours you've stood for throughout the day. The standard goal for this is 12 hours (this just means you have stood up for at least 1 minute for each hour). If you have been sitting for too long the watch gently taps you to remind you to stand up.

Phone Features

Like the Microsoft Band, you can receive phone calls, text messages, voice mails, e-mails, etc. You can talk through the watch to answer phone calls (this feature is SO cool and I feel like someone from the future haha!) You can reply to text messages with one of the canned responses or use Siri to respond. All of this makes it so easy to glance at and not always be attached to your phone. I am a huge fan of all of these features.

Other Apps

The Apple Watch is capable of having many apps. Instagram, Twitter, Camera (you can use your watch to take a picture from your phone so you can take group shots more easily), iTunes (you can put up to 1 GB of music on the Apple Watch, if you don't have songs on your watch it can play songs from your phone with a tap of a button), Starbucks, Tinder (for those of you lookin' for that special someone), Photos, Passport (you can use your Apple Pay with your Apple Watch), Weather, Maps and so much more. All of these apps make it pretty convenient, but most of these apps take awhile to load as it uses the data from your iPhone. The speed needs to be faster in my opinion.

Other Thoughts

The battery life only lasts a day and you have to charge it every night. I personally don't find this a problem, although a couple of times I forgot I was wearing it and wore it to bed (by the way: this watch does not track sleep). The taps that notify you as to whether you have a new notification are gentle yet big enough to where you can feel it; it just feels like someone tapping on you. There are many different faces and customizations you can do with the face of the watch, which I really enjoyed. I also found the Apple Watch to be pretty smooth, sometimes I'd find it to be a bit jerky/slow, but that wasn't very often.

Conclusion

The Apple Watch truly is great. However, for BBG workouts it isn't very useful in my opinion. The features are great, the design is fantastic and outdoor/indoor workouts work great with this watch. Overall, I think this is one of the best smart watches on the market, but as a true HR tracker (which is what I need the most for resistance workouts) it falls short.

I give this watch a 4 out of 5 sneakers.
 

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So, there you have it! My thoughts and opinions on the Microsoft Band, FitBit Charge HR and Apple Watch. Of course, these are just my opinions and what I have experienced. If you really want to try one of these and there was something I said that I didn't like, try it out for yourself! As far as I know and in my opinion, I believe the polar watch is best for resistance workouts as it has a chest strap making it more accurate. I hope you found this helpful and if you have tried any of these watches, let me know what you thought!

Which one is your favorite? Do you have a different fitness tracker that you love?

Posted on June 7, 2015 and filed under Reviews.