Study says: Don’t buy a fitness tracker, just use your phone

Pretty much every fitness tracker on the market does the same thing: Using an accelerometer, it tracks how many steps you’ve taken, and from that accelerometer data, usually can extrapolate distance traveled as well as calories burned. Of course, your smartphone has an accelerometer, so why do you need a Fitbit, or a Jawbone Up 24, or a Misfit Shine? According to a new research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, you don’t — smartphones can track steps just as well as a dedicated fitness tracker.

The study looked at 10 different trackers — four smartphone apps and six fitness trackers, including the Moves app (now owned by Facebook) for iOS and Android, multiple Fitbit models and the Nike Fuelband. The researchers — some of whom are still medical students — strapped several trackers to the subjects, who then walked on a treadmill for 500 steps, and then 1,500 steps, twice. Ultimately, the 14 participants in the study ran 56 trials (four treadmill runs each) meaning that there were 560 gadget step-reading data points.

The study found that phones, either running the Moves app, Fitbit app, or the Health Mate app, were as accurate as the dedicated step tracking hardware, and most of the trackers were within 10 percent of each other — except for the now almost-discontinued Nike Fuelband, which recorded steps that were over 20 percent lower than the observed steps and other devices.

One interesting tidbit from the study: In eight of the 560 device trials, the gadget wasn’t properly configured to record steps, which lines up with my personal experience that your step tracker will not be working around one percent of the time. There’s also a chance that the study’s findings could be affected by configuration settings — for instance, Fitbit’s option to tell it that you’re wearing it on your dominant wrist.

This study’s not going to be the be-all and end-all for step tracking accuracy. In fact, this study observing 10 women and four men recruited at a college isn’t all that different from certain anecdotal evidence, like this informal experiment conducted last year by science journalist Rachel Feltman. In my experience, most wearable tracker manufacturers know there’s a roughly 10 percent difference between various step readings, which is more than accurate enough for early adopters and techies. But this study underscores the fact that as wearable devices and step trackers infiltrate the healthcare system, more academic research will be required.

Jawbone is now selling smart home hubs and other connected goods

Jawbone launched Jawbone Marketplace on Wednesday, a site that lets users purchase devices and services that take advantage of Jawbone’s fitness tracking and data syncing capabilities.

Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman said at Gigaom’s Structure Connect conference last year that he’d like to see Jawbone Up become a platform that other companies can built on top of. Jawbone Marketplace is an obvious step in that direction.

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Jawbone Marketplace will be primarily available through the web. Right now, it looks like a store selling a selection of popular connected products, including SmartThings Kit and Whistle, a dog tracker. It also includes virtual personal training apps from companies like Kiqplan, Fitocracy, and MapMyFitness.

Although you’ll be able to browse the Jawbone Marketplace through Jawbone’s in-app “App Gallery,” you’ll be sent to Jawbone’s website to complete the purchase. The products and services on Jawbone Marketplace are not cheap — Kiqplan’s “Slim and Trim” weight loss assistant is the least expensive at $19.99. Prices go all the way up to $199 for the SmartThings Kit.

Notably, none of these services require an Up device, but according to Jawbone, “the experience is made better if you have one.” Jawbone Marketplace products can work with the free step-tracking Up app. The Jawbone Marketplace includes information on how Up integration benefits these various services and devices, all of which are available on their own.

jawbone marketplace

For instance, Orange Chef, a smart food scale and app, can sync its food logs into the Up app. Whistle, a dog tracker that gained Jawbone integration last year, can connect to the Jawbone app so users can see their dog’s activity next to their own.

Some hardware that integrates with Jawbone are notably absent from Jawbone Marketplace. For instance, Nest works with Jawbone Up24 to set your home’s temperature while you sleep, but you can’t purchase a Nest from Jawbone Marketplace.

The full list of Jawbone Marketplace partners is below:

  • Automatic Accessory
  • LoseIt! Scale
  • Orange Chef Prep Pad
  • SmartThings Kit for Jawbone
  • Whistle Activity Monitor
  • Kiqplan
  • Fitocracy
  • FitStar
  • MapMyFitness MVP Membership
  • Sleepio

Lumoid will rent you five pieces of wearable tech for a week

Even if you do your research online, it can be hard to figure out which fitness tracker is right for your needs. Information like whether a Fitbit can track sleep is a Google search away, but knowing whether you like the way the band feels on your wrist is more subjective.

A new service from Lumoid called Wearables Box will let users get more hands-on time with fitness trackers in their own homes. Starting on Monday, Lumoid will rent you up to five new-in-box fitness trackers of your choice for a week, with a return label included. If you end up falling in love with one of them, you can keep it and pay Lumoid full retail price. If you don’t, the entire process will cost you $20.

Lumoid will help users decide which trackers they’d like to try by organizing the 25 available trackers by features such as sleep tracking and connectivity.

“I’m a runner, for example,” Lumoid founder Aarthi Ramamurthy said. “My use case is completely different from someone else who is trying to track sleep or someone who wants to count calories or lose weight.”

One issue is whether a given fitness tracker will work with your various phones, tablets and PCs. Although Lumoid isn’t renting Android Wear smartwatches at the moment, you can try out a Samsung Gear Fit, for instance, which only works with Samsung phones and tablets. Lumoid writes blurbs highlighting potential pitfalls using data garnered from user feedback, including information on device compatibility. A nifty side effect is that Lumoid gets a front row seat to collect data on which trackers are doing well and why.

wearables-lumoid-screenshot

“Users are saying ‘I can’t type with the Jawbone UP because it’s so bulky,'” Ramamurthy said. “So far, the it’s Fitbit Charge that has done really well for us in the beta.”

In many ways, Lumoid is simply selling fitness trackers online. That’s how the company plans to make money shipping wearable gadgets all over the country. Lumoid makes a similar margin to retailers like Best Buy and Amazon when a user decides to keep a device and pays for it.

The $20 rental charge is automatically deducted from your credit card when you ship your trackers back. If you try to keep all the trackers Lumoid shipped you, it can charge your card for the full retail value.

Lumoid, a San Francisco-based startup, first started renting gadgets  — specifically, cameras — in 2014. In November, the company launched Lumoid Locals in San Francisco, a marketplace that lets users rent camera equipment directly to other users.

Here’s the full list of fitness trackers Lumoid rents out:

  • JAWBONE UP24 Wristband
  • Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor
  • Withings Pulse O2
  • Striiv Fusion Activity and Sleep Tracker
  • Garmin Vivosmart
  • Garmin Vivofit
  • Fitbit Flex
  • Fitbit Charge
  • Fitbit One
  • Nike+ Fuelband SE
  • Withings Pulse Wireless Activity Tracker
  • JAWBONE Up Move Activity Tracker
  • Misfit Shine
  • Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale
  • Withings WS-50 Smart Body Analyzer
  • Pebble Smartwatch
  • Samsung Gear Fit
  • Nike+ Ipod Sensor
  • LifeTrak Move C300
  • Gymwatch Sensor
  • Basis Peak

 

Jawbone’s nicest fitness tracker won’t be in homes for Christmas

It’s time to find an alternative Christmas present if you had your heart set on the UP3, the latest and greatest fitness tracker from Jawbone. The startup had implied holiday availability when it announced the $179.99 wristband tracker in November, but now it’s now slated for an early 2015 release, according to Wareable and Bloomberg. Although Jawbone still has its moneymaking Jambox speakers– as well as the new entry-level UP Move — on shelves this month, missing the holiday season is never a good sign for a consumer product.

Jawbone UP3

Jawbone UP3