Bluetooth App-Linked Pedometers and Activity Monitors

Wirelessly Tracking Your Walks with Apps

The world of activity tracking was revolutionized once you could link a fitness monitor to a phone app via Bluetooth. You can see a wealth of data about your exercise, activity, inactivity, sleep, and more right in the app. Here are some of the players who brought about this revolution and whose devices and apps perform well.

1
Fitbit

Fitbit Charge HR Workout Tracking
Fitbit Charge HR Workout Tracking. Fitbit

Fitbit has a whole family of Bluetooth-enabled fitness trackers, from ones that clip to your waistband to fitness bands and smartwatches. They all tie into the same app that you can use to track your diet and exercise, including logging activities they don't track. It's a great system for those who are interested in weight loss as well as exercise.

  • Device Display: This varies among the different models. Most display you data, except for the Flex and Flex 2, which have only indicator lights.
  • App: iOS and Android apps are available. Fitbit can share data with other popular apps such as MyFitnessPal, Endomondo, and MapMyRun.
  • Computer Requirement: You can purely connect with the app and your mobile device, or with a Mac or PC via a USB receiver.
  • Bluetooth: Uses Bluetooth 4.0/Bluetooth Smart and transmits wirelessly to a desktop computer as well as the phone app. It syncs in the background.
  • App Display: The Fitbit app displays most of the data you could ever want, with more or less depending on the model. You can log other exercise activities besides what is on your Fitbit tracker. You can use the food diary to log your food calories.
  • Social: You can add Fitbit friends from the app or the website, and on the app you see only weekly total steps for each. The app can search for friends in your contacts. You can send them cheers, taunts, and messages and compete in challenges.
  • Power: The Zip runs on a long-lasting replaceable battery for up to six months. The other models must be recharged every few days, always with a custom USB cord.
  • Overall Mobility: Good. Fitbits retain minute-by-minute data for seven days and summary daily data for up to 23-30 days of data without downloading. The app can be used offline.
  • Cost: No ongoing subscription cost unless you elect premium coaching.

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2
Misfit

Misfit Speedo Shine
Misfit Speedo Shine. Misfit

Misfit began with the Misfit Shine tracker, a very attractive wearable activity monitor and can be worn on a clasp, sports wristband, leather watchband or necklace. It's waterproof and detects walking, running, cycling and swimming workouts as well as all-day activity. They ahve expanded with the Misfit Flash, Ray, Shine 2, and the Phase smartwatch.

  • Device Display: Until you tap it, you see only the brushed aluminum surface. Tap it and it shows a clock face of 12 LED lights, indicating progress towards your daily goal and then the time of day.
  • App: An iOS app is available for iPhone 4s and 5, iPod Touch 5, and iPad 3. An Android app is available.
  • Computer Requirement: None. It is app-only.
  • Bluetooth: Uses Bluetooth 4.0/Bluetooth Smart and syncs in the background.
  • App Display: Set a daily activity goal and see your progress, steps, distance and all-day calories. It automatically records workouts including walking, running, swimming, cycling. You can wear it at night and track sleep time and deep sleep.
  • Power: The Shine uses a replaceable coin battery that should last for four months.
  • Overall Mobility: Excellent. The Shine retains up to 30 days of data without syncing.
  • Review: Misfit Wearables Shine

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3
Withings

Withings Pulse O2
Withings Pulse O2. Courtesy of Amazon.com

Withings first produced the Pulse, a completely mobile-centric device. You don't need a computer at all to enjoy its full features with an iOS or Android app. You can wear it as a wristband or wear it as a waistband or pocket pedometer. They have expanded their line with the Withings Go and with the Withings Activité watches.

  • App: Available for iOS 5 and higher. Android 2.3.3 and higher. The mobile device must have internet connectivity.
  • Computer Requirement: None needed. You have to upload data through the app. However, you can see your data on your Withings dashboard online as well as on the app and sensor display.
  • Bluetooth: The Pulse uses Bluetooth to transmit data to the app every six hours, or on demand by pressing the button on the sensor.
  • App Display: Physical activity with your progress towards 10,000 steps per day. Each day includes a detailed graph of activity intensity every 30 minutes, total active minutes, distance and elevation gained. Heart rate: see your last 20 heart rate readings, plus weekly and monthly averages. Sleep quality: progress towards a goal of eight hours per night. Daily details include a graph of light sleep vs. deep sleep vs. awake times. It also gives total time in bed, number of awakenings, time in light sleep and time in deep sleep. You can log your weights or integrate with the Withings Wifi Scale.
  • Social: You can share your newsfeed postings on Facebook or Twitter and share your dashboard with trusted friends.
  • Power: Recharge the Pulse every two weeks by plugging into a computer USB port or using a USB power adapter.
  • Overall Mobility: Excellent. You have great access to your daily totals for the past 10 days on the sensor itself. The app gives you all of the details. The 14-day battery life is very good.
  • Review: Withings Pulse

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4
Striiv

Striiv Play Wireless Smart Pedometer
Striiv Play Wireless Smart Pedometer. Wendy Bumgardner © 2012

Striiv began with the Play, which turns walking into a game and uses your steps to play a virtual MyLand game. They have expanded with the Striiv Fusion Lite, Fusion, and Bio, all of which are worn as bands.

  • Device Display: Steps, Distance, Exercise Calories, Exercise Minutes, Stairs Climbed, Time of Day.
  • App: iPhone, iTouch or iPad (iOS 5.0 or later). Can share data with MyFitnessPal.
  • Computer Requirement: None! All you need is the app.
  • Bluetooth: Uses Bluetooth 4.0 and transmits whenever the app is open.
  • App Display: Steps, Stairs, Distance, Exercise Calories, Exercise Minutes. Weekly and monthly bar graphs of your totals. Use the app to engage in challenges to such as two more minutes of activity, 200 more steps, etc. Use your energy point rewards to play the MyLand game in the app, building a virtual island paradise. View your daily trophy case of milestones achieved and challenges won (can only view current day's trophies).
  • Social: Add friends via Facebook, email or text message. They only need the free app, the Play pedometer is optional. You earn more energy points by beating their averages and bests.
  • Power: Recharge every two to four days via a USB cord, either to a computer or a power plug.
  • Overall Mobility: Excellent. You don't need a computer at all, just the Play and the app. In fact, you don't even need the Play, the app can use your device's GPS to count steps. But you will need electricity to recharge the batteries in both the Play and your device.
  • Review: Striiv Play

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