Time to make up for December's bad habits by doing better in 2012. Here are the best tech tools to help you shape up and keep healthy. Who knows? You might actually keep your new year's resolution this time around. Sure, Basis can tell you time, but if you want to know your blood flow, motion, temperature, heart rate, sweat level and blood oxygen level, it'll tell you those too. With a plethora of sensors, the monitoring watch keeps an eye on your vitals, giving you an overview of health, sleep and exercise habits. Basis is an honoree for the upcoming CES Best of Innovations Design and Engineering Awards in the health and wellness category. Available for pre-order for $199. This article is part of a series about getting fit in the new year. Check out the entire Man up! feature here.
MotoActv Heart-rate Monitor
The MotoActv wants to be your personal trainer. This tiny device tells when you reach or leave your target pace, heart rate or PowerZone based on your programmed profile and goals. And to keep you going, it creates a performance playlist, pulling songs that you burned the most calories to. It also takes on a few personal assistant duties, including fetching your incoming calls and displaying on-screen text messages. Begins at $249.99.
Withings WiFi scale
For better or worse, scales don't lie. In fact, the Withings WiFi scale tells you the cold hard truth: weight, body fat percentage, and BMI. Each time you step on, it registers these stats and sends them over your home wireless network to a private Web interface. The dashboard keeps tabs on your progress with static and interactive charts. You can share this information with your doctors, personal trainers, friends and family. If you feel so inclined, you can even tweet your progress to the entire world. Available from ThinkGeek for $164.99.
BitGym Fitness Games
The average American household has 1.15 cardio machines according to the San Francisco-based health startup BitGym. But overwhelmingly, they're left to collect dust. Get ready to use the treadmill again because BitGym's iOS games are designed to keep you going. One of them, Trail Runner, shows inspiring landscapes as you're on an exercise machine, speeding up or slowing down based on your real-life workout performance. Game prices vary, but lite versions are available for free.
If you prefer to run outdoors, Runtastic is an app that tracks your location, distance, time, pace and calorie consumption. It has charts that show your speed, altitude, pulse and training history. The pro version includes voice feedback, live tracking, cheering, pulse-reading, geotagging, workouts, competitions, and an integrated music player. Its iOS and Android apps have the most functionality, but Runtastic is also available on BlackBerry, Windows, and bada phones. Prices vary by device.
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JayBird Freedom Earphones
The JayBird Freedom was designed for the gym rat. It uses Bluetooth connectivity, so there aren't long cords to trip over. The sound is big -- great motivation when your power track comes on. Plus, it's got enough variety of ear cushions, tips, and hooks to make sure you find the right fit; one that stays on when you're on the go.
Fitness Technologies Underwater MP3 Player
Music can motivate runners to go longer distances, why not apply the same principle to swimmers? Generally electronics and water don't mix very well, but Fitness Technologies' UWaterK7 was built for just that. The compact waterproof MP3 player debuted in the fall and will be making an appearance at CES in January. Also expected to make an appearance: the company's line of HD waterproof action cameras and waterproof stereo Bluetooth headsets. Available for $100.
Alice Truong for Discovery Channel
Mophie Outdoor Battery Extender and Maps
Grab your iPhone. You're going for a hike. Not only does the mophie juice pack plus outdoor give you extended battery life (about 2,000 mAh, or eight hours of talk time on 3G), a corresponding app gives you access to 5 million square miles of high-resolution maps covering the continental U.S. and Hawaii. Once you download them, you no longer have to worry about losing reception. Plus the app records your progress, speed, distance, elevation, and geo-tagged photos. Available for $119.95.
Drift HD Video Camera
A good workout doesn't always mean hitting the gym. Head somewhere beautiful and find a fun activity, like biking or snowboarding. Action cams such as the Drift HD can be a good motivator to go outside. They capture amazing moments in 1080p HD video, which, upon watching, will make you want to go right back outside again. The small, light camera can be mounted to helmets or strapped on wrists and can also be controlled remotely. A night mode also means you can record in dusty or dark conditions. Feeling motivated to get your workout on? Visit our Man up! feature, chock full of info that will get your heart pumping.
I can finally cross “make a phone call from a watch” off my living-in-the-future bucket list, thanks to Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear watch. Yet most of my time with this $299 watch has felt less like a trek to a shiny tomorrow and more like yet another sojourn in the buggy present.
This companion to the new Galaxy Note 3 phone (and, later, Samsung’s other recent Android phones) has a worthy goal. We have too many things interrupting ourselves, and breaking out a phone to address them — much less one as hefty as the large-screen “phablets” of Samsung and others — is often overkill. Why not use a smaller screen, easily accessible on one’s wrist, to stay on top of those alerts and updates?
(See also the use case for Google Glass.)
The Gear, however, at best amounts to a prototype of that capable, connected watch.
You can’t always tell time with it. Left idle, the Gear’s 1.6-in. color touchscreen dims automatically after 10 seconds. Rolling my arm towards me or raising it usually caused it to light up as designed, but other times nothing happened. You can press the power button on those occasions, but that was a poor option while biking or driving.
An e-ink screen like what’s on the Pebble smart watch could stay on all the time. A grayscale display would be awful for taking photos with the 1.9-megapixel camera embedded in the Gear’s wristband, but does a watch need a low-resolution camera in the first place?
It’s too thick. Getting the Gear under half an inch thick must have involved some serious engineering, but it’s still an ingot of a watch to cuff to one’s wrist. The Gear felt cramped inside the cuffs of button-down dress shirts. And it appears even thicker than it is, thanks to a design that has it wider around the face than against your wrist.
This is the kind of problem that technology can usually solve — look at how thin Samsung’s phones have gotten – but a related issue may get in the way of that.
It needs charging as often as most phones. A few days with a Gear loaned by Samsung PR showed that the Gear can easily beat the quasi-official estimate of 24 hours of battery life. But when a day of frequent use of the watch left it with under a third of a charge, it would be a mistake not to charge it every night just in case. Unfortunately, you can’t just plug it into any micro-USB cable; you have to rest it in a special cradle instead.
The Gear should already be pretty efficient, thanks its use of a lower-power version of Bluetooth wireless to connect to its host phone. It may need nothing more complicated than a bigger battery, perhaps a flexible one incorporated into the band?
Not enough of the phone’s smarts surface on the watch. The Note 3′s Samsung-written versions of the standard Android calling, messaging and calendar apps paired effectively with the Gear. I could place a call with voice dialing or by selecting a name off the contacts list shown on the Gear’s screen — its microphone is sensitive enough to free from you having to hold the watch right to your face during a call, Dick Tracy-style — and read and reply to texts with voice input.
But third-party apps like Gmail, Twitter, Facebook or Google Now evidently haven’t been rewritten to push more than the most generic notices to the Gear’s screen, all saying that you need to grab the phone and check the app there. But if you have to clutch your phone reflexively to keep up with things, you’re stuck in the same situation that might call for a smart watch.
Credits: FABRIZIO BENSCH/Reuters/Corbis