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tech
4 October 2016

Which wearable to wear

Whether you’re simply looking to get a little more active or you’re a sports fanatic who wants to track your every move, you can bet someone’s making the wearable just right for you.

October is health and fitness month, so we're taking a look at how tech can help you attain your fitness goals. The new generations of wearables can do so much more than track your heart rate - they can track your progress, motivate you and give you bragging rights on the track or in the gym.

Apple Watch Series 2

The first generation Apple Watch included fitness-tracking features, but its main focus was on ensuring you spent less time glancing at your phone. With the second generation of Apple Watch – called the Apple Watch Series 2 – fitness has come far more sharply into focus. For starters, the Series 2 is waterproof, meaning not only can it handle being drenched in perspiration, but you can actually use it to track your swims, too.

Apple’s incorporated some ingenious technology to make sure the speaker stays dry (it expels water once you’re done swimming lengths) and there’s a bigger battery, along with built-in GPS. The Watch should still make it to bedtime before needing a charge, even if you’ve run a half marathon before lunch. There’s also a special edition version for runners that comes with the Nike+ Running app preinstalled and a special perforated strap so that anyone who sees it will know you’re a serious pavement pounder.

Price TBC

Samsung Gear S3 Frontier

Every generation of Samsung’s smartwatch range gets a little smarter and a little better, and the Gear S3 Frontier is no exception. It’s outsmarted its predecessor both in terms of features and looks. The digital display is always on, displaying the time and other key metrics of your choosing. This makes it look more like a traditional, high-end watch than a smartwatch.

It’s also compatible with any 22mm watch strap, so you don’t have to stick to Samsung straps when you want to shake up its look. In addition to GPS, there’s a SIM slot for LTE connectivity, making this one of the most phone-independent smartwatches out there. It's water-resistant, but isn't recommended for swimming training, and is able to record elevation. 

Price TBC

Fitbit Charge 2

Smartwatches might be able to do more than pure fitness trackers, but it comes at a price. They tend to be much larger, and they tend to only last a day or so on a charge. Fitness bands like Fitbit’s Charge 2, meanwhile, can last five days or more on a single charge and are lightweight and compact enough to wear all day and all night. Why would you want to wear one to bed? Because if you do it’ll track your sleep and give you a pretty chart in the morning to show you not only how long you slept for, but how good it was. More importantly, if you sleep with it on the Charge 2 will be able to give you a more accurate measurement of your resting heart rate, thanks to its optical heart-rate monitor that tracks your pulse whenever you’re wearing the device. Why does this matter? Because resting heart rate is one of the fundamental metrics of general fitness. The lower it is, the fitter you are.

The Charge 2 also counts your steps, number of flights of stairs climbed, distance travelled and calories burned and, if you can’t do without some smartwatch-like features, it’ll display incoming call information on its built-in display.

Around R3,000

Jabra Sports Pulse

Want to keep your wrists free but still want heart-rate tracking? Jabra’s Sports Pulse earphones have you covered. They monitor your pulse through your ear canal, while also letting you listen to music from just about any Bluetooth-enabled device at the same time. They weigh a mere 16g and last around five hours on a single charge. Built to withstand even the sweatiest workouts, what makes the Sports Pulse earphones really shine (apart from their compact dimensions and high-quality audio) is the accompanying Jabra Sports Life app.

In addition to offering you real-time audio feedback during workouts – including information on your chosen goals, preferred heart-rate zone or the like – it includes dozens of workouts, from gym circuits to body weight routines, that you can perform just about anywhere. And, with a recent software update, the Sports Pulse can now measure VO2 max, which along with resting heart rate is one of the best measures of fitness and speaks to your levels of endurance.

Around R3,000

Moov Now

Instead of tracking your steps, sleep or other basic metrics, the Moov Now takes the approach that only when you’re really breaking a sweat are you doing activities worth paying attention to. The benefit of this approach is that it’ll last around six months before you’ll need to change the single watch battery that powers it and there’s no display or selection of buttons to mess around with. The whole pebble-like device is a button.

Open the Moov app, select your activity (from running, cycling, swimming and gym workouts to boxing) and the Now will track it. Add a pair of headphones to the mix and keep your phone in range and it turns into a coaching device, too. It’ll tell you your cadence, range of movement and how hard your footfalls are when running, or help you shave those precious 30 seconds off your 5km time.

While there’s no option for coaching when you’re in the pool, the Moov Now can distinguish between different strokes and is one of the cheapest ways to monitor your aquatic progress.

Around R1,200

Garmin Fenix 3 HR

Want a wearable that can track sports you didn’t even know were sports? The Garmin Fenix 3 takes the smartwatch features of Apple and Samsung’s best devices, adds optical heart-rate monitoring, GPS and an enormous battery to produce the most comprehensive sports watch on the market today.

From standup paddle-boarding and country skiing to triathlon and gym workouts, if it gets your heart rate racing you can almost certainly track it with the Fenix 3 HR. Even with a heavy workout routine the Fenix 3 HR can last up to a week on a single charge, so it’ll survive ultramarathons or Iron Man-like events with GPS tracking on a single charge, and still track your agonized steps back to the car at the end.

It’s a bit big to sleep with, but will do everything a basic fitness tracker does if you want it to. For data fans the Fenix 3 HR is tough to top as it lets you drill down in incredible detail into any activity you undertake with it. The accompanying app helps ensure you’re hitting your fitness targets and lets you heavily customise the device with various downloadable watch faces and other content.

If you’re a golfer, you can even download information about courses you regularly play and get pin to green measurements and everything in between. If you think the Fenix 3 HR is too much for you, you may be right. But if you’re serious about sports tracking there’s no better device to get.

Around R10,500