New Device with a new purpose

So I am still in the middle of a re occurrence. NeuroSarcoidosis, Transverse Myelitis, whatever it is it knocked me on my butt literally. I have slowly progressed from using a walker and wheelchair to a walker and a Frankenstein like unassisted walk. I am in Physical Therapy and learning a great deal and making progress.

Sometime right before this hit, I had a problem with my Microsoft Band and gotten return approval for a replacement. A great deal of time has passed and Microsoft has discontinued the Band, which I think is very sad. I loved that device. Granted when I went from WindowsPhone to an iPhone a great deal of the joy was killed. Those reasons were mostly the “smart” part of the device, the activity tracking and the associated web service were still exceptional and I will miss them.

So as I mentioned I am in Physical Therapy and I started to feel better, at least at times. I want to monitor this, gauge my progress, push myself. Like my Lumia devices I found you could do this with an iPhone but making sure I always had it in my pocket was less then optimal. Even with the FitBit app you can create a device that uses the iPhone sensors. Don’t get me wrong this still served the purpose but I was looking for more.

Microsoft Band is not an option and I am no marathon runner, heck I have not been able to run a 5k run since the first onset over ten years ago so I don’t need a high end device. I did some shopping and I found myself back at Fitbit. Yes I have to admit that I looked at the Apple Watch but I am nor ready to throw down that kind of money and not being a hater but the feedback I have encountered indicates to me that it needs improvement and I am certain it will improve over time. I received a Fitbit Blaze and it is a nice device but I still prefer an actual wristwatch and I have several, I was looking more for a device I could wear as a watch but primarily a band I could wear on the other wrist. I used a FitBit flex before and until the Microsoft Band I was happy with the device to include the app and web service, and the social network to help me keep moving.

fitbit-charge-2-unboxed

So I have been wearing a FitBit Charge 2 for a few days now. This version is a nice combination of convenient form factor and functionality. It has only been a few days but I have to say the device is a great value. It will take a few more weeks before I post anything of detail about this device but so far I am a happy customer.

NOTE: I mentioned the social factor component of the FitBit service. Peer pressure, contests, etc are a handy component, that extra push when feeling lazy. Issue is it only works with other FitBit users. Interested in competing with friends or just the general community you might want to check out Inkin.

 

Band 2

So Microsoft announced a bunch of new devices, Surface 4 Surface Book yada yada yada. The one that caught my attention was the Microsoft Band 2.
20151211_001044170_iOS
I have blogged about my experience with the original version and the new features made it a natural upgrade, well aside from the price.

The original Band served me well and became my watch, so many watches collecting dust on my dresser now, as well as my activity tracker. I liked the device because it was my watch, a good activity tracker and then add the ability to interact with text messages and get the calendar notifications. Most of the day I have my phone in my pocket as I listen to podcasts, with the Band it could stay there and I was still able to interact with notifications.

Eager for the new model, well I added and removed it from the cart a few times because of the price but eventually pressed the buy, a pre-order. Watching the order status and hoping for an update… it shipped, then it sat then it went back to where it shipped from, in the meantime colleagues of mine received theirs. Uggggh.

Calling Microsoft and FedEx just furthered the confusion. I thought about cancelling the order and just going to the local BestBuy and picking one up but held off.

Finally in my hands or should I say on my wrist. The device is certainly an upgrade in terms of looks and feel. I do have to say the sizing of these things is not an exact science. I probably needed to go to a Microsoft store and done a real fitting but that just isn’t convenient for most. I went with the Large because I was using that size with the original model. Large does fit for me but barely, so I will wonder how accurate the heart rate monitoring is as I use it.

The look of the device is great, a little geeky and a little stylish. As with the original you can place it in a mode where it is always displaying the time, hmmmm a watch acting like a watch. The clasp is functional and looks good, there is an upgrade there. After a few months there are no blemishes or sratches, another upgrade. On the original it would get white marks on the rubber of the face, easily fixable with a Sharpie but something you couldn’t ignore. The Band 2’s more flexible strap and curved structure do make for a nice fit.

When I received the device I was still a WindowsPhone user. Nice and seamless connection and operation.

The interaction with the device did not change which was nice because it was already well thought out. Some differences where additions not changes, such as how you acknowledge calendar notifications.

A new update has come out and I have to get into that but sadly I have not gotten on my bike or hit the Bowflex in a few days so that will be a later post. The new Band tracks stairs climbed. A small thing but this was a frustration I had going back to Fitbit when they removed it from the Flex.

So for all of the talk of Windows Phone not having apps… for a few reasons I moved from WindowsPhone to an iPhone. Wow do I miss two Band specific apps. fanband for starters (no Powershell logo on my Band is very saddening), there is a windows app alternative but then your Band has to be paired via Bluetooth to that computer so I have gone without so far. Then there is  “Clear My Band” which is a very simple utility but something I used several times a day. The Microsoft Health app on iPhone is nice and effective but the daily use going from a WindowsPhone to a iPhone is just missing something.

Another cool upgrade is the mode. So before you picked workout, run or bicycle tile to start a training session. I have to say I ignore the analysis the Band does for my Bowflex workouts. I understand why but still frustrating after a gruelling workout to be told it was a Light or Maintaining workout. Now when you select the dumbell tile you start a workout, there are options. I need to test that not to mention get back to working out 🙂

20151213_145754655_iOS

Yeah not a big fan of the iPhone camera but this image shows the Band interaction to select a workout type.

Back to apps, I really miss Gym Builder and have not found an iPhone app that compares. That leads me to another post and something I have to look into but… one reason I stuck with the band is the software and service. The Microsoft health dashboard is great. I wish it had the social feature that fitbit has, hey seeing your friends stats can be a great motivator. One of the new features of the Band and the service is building workouts. In the past you could select from some pre-defined workouts but I am an old dog stuck in old habits. I have tried to build a workout and use it. I am still learning but it is pretty cool but I am not sure I want to interact with my band that way so we will see but that the feature is there and could replace some apps (which sadly with an iPhone you have to buy without trying) is enticing.

 

Fitness Tracker – my new MS Band

Real horrible timing but the day before I went on the shelf (hanging in the ER for several days) I received a Microsoft Band. Admittedly this wasn’t an easy decision. I really liked my Fitbit Flex and when that died I started using my Lumia 1520. I loved the Fitbit flex, especially since the tracker could be removed which was very handy when performing activities like bicycle activity. Being able to shower with the device on was also handy in my opinion.

Then the new trackers starting coming out. I didn’t like that you couldn’t shower with them on, and the non-removable tracker. While the technology, or the complexity of the newer devices, justified it, these were devices for a simple purposes. I held off on getting a new device.

As I have mentioned on here, after being struck with Transverse Myelitis running really wasn’t an option so I rely on my bicycle (one day I would like to add a racing bike to my mountain bike). With a recent update to the Microsoft Band, bicycle training was a focus. That pretty much did it. To be fair, watching someone interact with their text messages via their band helped. The other feature that swayed my decision was the, at least advertised, tracking of other workouts such as weight lifting.

I received the device. Now this is funny, much like people negated the Lumia 1520 because it was too big and bulky, similar things were said about the Band. Like I said it was funny because I found it petty then and it’s just as petty with this device. The display is great, it can actually be worn as a watch instead of a watch on one wrist and a tracker on the other.

Interaction with the phone and customization is great. The dashboard offers some good information but I wish it had the social piece that Fitbit provided for that extra level of encouragement.

Hopefully I will be able to put this to its real test soon as I start working out.

Activity monitoring devices

I wrote a quick post about my Lumia 1520 and it’s ability to track activity, much like a Fitbit. I have been really enjoying the Nokia Motion Monitor beta eventhough it was local to the phone unlike synching up to a cloud service like fitbit.
Well yesterday I received an email from Nokia Beta Labs to inform me the beta has ended. Before I get into what I am looking forward to I have to complain a little. I have been using WindowsPhone 8.1 since the developer preview release and really liking it. There is one piece that is missing and that is the Cyan firmware upgrade. Why does that matter? Well in order get the value of Nokia Motion Monitor into the Bing Health Fitness the phone needs that firmware in order to enable the sensor data to be recorded. The data is still recording to the phone so not a major issue just odd timing.
Okay, the goodness is the tracking data will be posted to the Bing Health and Fitness app. This is an app I already like, despite it’s workout tracker is a little too limited. The beauty is there will be no sync, no need for a USB dongle or Bluetooth Low Energy. This SensorCore technology should also open it up to other apps (looking at you GymBuilder Pro).
Since adding friends to my fitbit profile I have found it to be a much more useful device or should I say service. The peer pressure to get up off your butt is huge. The dislike I had for the fitbit had been mostly because I am a windowsphone user and the sync process was less than optimal. However they recently updated the software and it now synchronizes as a background task. I found that out by accident… Recently moved into a new residence so lots of steps. I received a notification on my fit that I had taken the lead within my Fitbit friends… wait how is that possible since my laptop was packed away and I certainly not gone in and performed the steps to sync the data. Ahhhh the other laptop in the house, with the fitbit dongle attached was online. To have this same thing with a device that I seem to always have nearby conjures up thoughts of discarding my fitbit as just another device.
That thought is flawed in my experience. As I mentioned above I recently moved so I hit my goals and more for a few days. Now yes I have the 1520 which is a large phone, but even if I had my 920, there were times when I wouldn’t want to risk phone when lifting boxes and furniture. I have mentioned something similar in the previous post about continuing to use my 920 for things like working out or mowing the lawn. Conclusion, these types of service are a useful tool for monitoring your activity (recent health issues it is something I am very focused on again) and the peer pressure factor is huge. Neither solution is perfect (I have mentioned fitbit seems to fail for activities like strength training and bicycle cardio work) but I can see combining them for the near future but if my Fitbit dies I will go with a phone only solution.

Devices Advancing, even small steps

So this one probably ties in with my health stuff as well as my recent technology upgrade.

When researching the 1520 there was a news article about an app that would track your steps. I didn’t see the need at the time. How does this apply to anything? When Sarcoidosis hit this time it really wiped me out. Between the discomfort, energy drain and working conditions I really had to make a conscious effort to focus on not stopping.

I got a FitBit flex, and while it works there are some flaws in the whole concept.  Aside from the fact that the company couldn’t keep enough replacement bands in stock (hmmmm wonder why, maybe because they ripped too easy) and the fact that shortly after releasing the Flex they came out with a new one with all of the things they left out of the original, such as counting stairs and showing the time. Some of the limitations are simply the mechanics of doing it, there is only so much detail you can gather. Granted the arm swing is the most logical, so a device hanging on your wrist makes sense. The issues I found are:

  • You have to be careful of how tight the band is otherwise it doesn’t move and therefore records nothing.
  • It doesn’t record activity like weight lifting very well. Bike riding, as long as you put your hand on your thigh as you peddle it works well but not very practical.
  • Carrying something, where you arm is not swinging, while walking doesn’t record anything.
  • Pushing a shopping cart in the grocery store triggers it to record sleep mode for some reason.

None of this is for detail tracking so those are just the limitations and just the general tracking and visual reminder is handy.

So now I can get a similar function with my phone. Considering all of the sensors a phone has that certainly makes sense. I know there are other apps but most of them seem centered around running, and running is still something that is really not possible for me. I can see the same impracticalities appearing but one less device seems to make sense. So I installed the app from Nokia Beta Labs and gave it a few days to see what it would do. Without expecting it to be perfect, I have to say it is a well designed app, although it does not have the back end data/web services of something like Fitbit, and simply works.

Live tile shows current data, app is well laid out to give a nice representation of the activity, and the system adds what appear to be some timely notes (too soon to tell).

Live Tile for Nokia Motion MonitorNokia Motion Monitor AppNokia Motion Monitor App - app interjected notes

It has only been a few days so it will be interesting to monitor this app as well as compare the data against the data my Fitbit collects.