Australia bought 1.2 million smartwatches and fitness bands in the first half of 2019 – 20% more than the same time last year.
The market has polarised into fitness bands like those from Fitbit and Garmin to sophisticated 4G ‘Dick Tracy’ smartwatches from Apple, Samsung and recently Huawei.
According to Telsyte research, Apple takes the smartwatch lead at 48% of sales, but it only works with Apple iPhone.
Samsung is rapidly gaining ground with more models and options. It has Android and iOS support, although some iOS features are limited.
Less than half fitness band users would buy one again – although we don’t know if they would buy a smartwatch instead. Almost all smartwatch users are now wedded to them as part of their daily routine — vale good old-fashioned Swiss watches.
What should fitness bands or a smartwatches do?
Fitness band functions are a subset of a smartwatch although it may be ruggedised for swimming or extreme conditions. You are unlikely to do a ‘Tough Mudder’ run with your shiny new Apple watch that costs from $649 to $2,229. But its Watch series 5 leads with fall detection and international emergency SMS/location so maybe!
Samsung has its Galaxy Watch (review here) from $499 Wi-Fi to $699 LTE and while rugged and IP rated still is not for the adventurer.
But its Samsung Health app now ranks with the best fitness/sleep/exercise tracking apps and that works across all its range from its fitness bands to top smartwatches.
The new Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2 from $549 Wi-Fi to $799 LTE launches on 8 October (details here). It could is a crossover fitness and a smartwatch with a surfeit of the latter’s features in an elegant IP68, waterproof to 5ATM (50 metres) and MIL-STD-810G rugged case. It is for athletes and fashion-conscious – match your screen with your outfit, measure stress – it is a motivator.
Channel 7 Sunrise GadgetGuy Val Quinn’s advice is best, “No matter how fully-featured, the information these devices provide is not medical standard and is no substitute for a doctor’s check-up. You must understand that some very intimate personal details are going ‘somewhere’ and you need to trust the company that these are kept private.”
Val is also concerned that you buy the right fitness or smartwatch for you, “Some need weekly or daily charging (or more depending on use), some have great daylight readable screens (most don’t) and then you need to ensure that the health/fitness app does what you need it to. Finally, a great app store with lots of watch faces and apps (for smartwatches) is mandatory.”
GadgetGuy’s take smartwatches are growing, and fitness bands declining, but both have a place.
GadgetGuy has compiled a checklist of what a smartwatch (and a fitness band) needs to do (basic information from Fitbit).
But the bottom line is that you may go crazy trying to get all these features. Work out what is important and go from there.
HEALTH FEATURES common to both types
|Steps & Activity|
|Sleep Tracking and Silent Alarm/s|
|Sleep Stages (Light, Deep, REM or more)|
|Actionable Sleep Score|
|Female Health Tracking|
|Guided Breathing Sessions|
EXERCISE FEATURES (much of these are via the app)
|SmartTrack Auto Exercise Recognition|
|Reminders to Move|
|Multiple Exercise Modes, e.g. swim, cycle, etc|
|24/7 Heart Rate Tracking via Heart rate monitor|
|Cardio Fitness Level (ECG – none do this in Australia at present)|
|On-Screen Workouts – videos and steps|
Pace & Distance with Built-In GPS (best as no phone is
OR Pace & Distance with Phone GPS
|Link to other brand apps for workouts and more analysis|
|Link to cadence devices to measure bicycling, rowing etc|
Goal setting including exercise community challenges|
Sensors including |
Pedometer (step counter and often part of the accelerometer)
3-axis (3D) accelerometer (aids exercise identification)
Gyroscope (3D aids orientation and fall detection)
Ambient light sensor (for auto screen brightness)
GPS (aids in pace and distance as well as overlay course on maps)
Vo2 -millilitres of oxygen per minute, per kilogram of body weight (mL/kg/min)
SMART FEATURES – smartwatches but also some crossover bands
Android or iOS control app|
Apple uses watchOS, Samsung Tizen OS, and many use Android Wear OS – guaranteed excellent app support
The rest use proprietary operating systems for their own ecosystems
|Smart Assistant (OK Google, Siri or Alexa built-in)|
|Text, calendar & smartphone app alerts|
|SMS and quick replies or voice replies|
Apps and app store for weather and other functionality|
The app ecosystem may be the most important feature
Music Experience via BT, LTE streaming or one device
BT headphone pairing
|eSIM for 4G LTE number sharing with you mobile|
|YouTube or similar video content viewing capability|
|Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter|
|Pay (NFC options for Google, Samsung and Apple pay)|
|GPS and on-watch maps|
|Other GPS uses such as golf course layouts|
DESIGN & STYLE
|Different sizes to suit small and large wrists, e.g. comfort, fit and style|
|Accessories like quick fit watch bands|
|Designer Accessories (bling)|
Touch screen (or not)
Crown or buttons
AMOLED (best) or LCD (lower cost) or e-paper
Customisable Clock Faces
Always-On Display Mode OR
Gesture initiated display
Readability under direct sunlight or dim light
Plastic, ceramic, aluminium, stainless steel, Titanium
Glass, Gorilla Glass or mineral glass
|IP rating, MIL-STD, Ruggedised|
|Bluetooth, Wi-fi or LTE data|
Battery life, charger type, wireless, or plug it in. |
Wireless charge or proprietary charging docks than can be difficult to use