People expect smartwatches and fitness trackers to cost a lot less than an Apple or Samsung lifestyle watch because they “only” track your health and fitness data. They are tools, not accessories. But believe it or not, squeezing tons of health sensors and GPS into a band that weighs an ounce or two, lasts a week or more per charge, and extrapolates your fitness level and health from data is not a cheap deal.
These days you can get a cheap fitness tracker with heart rate and blood oxygen monitoring for $50, and while better models produce more accurate data, most people won’t notice the difference. . So fitness brands above the bargain level have two options: sell high-end watches that target athletes and the wealthy, or sell hardware at cost or below cost and subsidize consumer-friendly pricing with subscriptions.
Fitness brands like Fitbit, Amazon Halo, Whoop, and Oura fall into the latter category. They sell reasonably affordable devices – or give them away, in Whoop’s case – by locking vital features behind a monthly subscription. And while I’m in no way criticizing this business model or the people who buy it, I always lean towards brands that don’t hold your data hostage.
Take Fitbit Premium. No matter which Fitbit device you buy, you’ll get 3-12 months free access to guided fitness and diet programs, various workouts, personalized “insights” into your health current, a wellness report with trends in your health over the past 30 days, and Snore Detection for sleep tracking.
Anyone who cares about getting or staying healthy can really benefit from the benefits of Fitbit Premium. But after your trial ends, you pay $10/month or $80/year for the privilege, which increases the actual cost of the tracker over time. And without Premium, you get a streamlined experience where a lot of your data is locked behind that paywall.
Each brand evaluates the value of its data differently. Buying Amazon Halo View gets you a free year of Halo fitness membership, which then costs $4/month after that year. The Oura Ring charges $6/month after a 6-month trial. And Whoop actually gives you Whoop 4.0 free, but charges $30/month or $288/year for its metrics.
The thing is, these subscriptions are less about data collection and more about repackaging data. For example, Fitbit Premium costs the same no matter which Fitbit you buy; the Fitbit Charge 5 has ECG, EDA and temperature sensors to give more accurate results, but cheaper models like the Inspire 2 still give you health tips with available information. The cost of membership is related to the completeness of the data provided, not its accuracy.
No matter which fitness smartwatch you buy, you’re paying for an app to affirm your health (or your need to be healthier), remind you to move, and provide individualized workouts. It collects your data in a way that is easy to analyze and use. You can easily say that it is worth paying, since you are investing in yourself.
But other smartwatch brands offer many of these “premium” benefits for free! You pay more for hardware but save money in the long run.
Brands like Garmin specialize more in fitness data than health data, but that doesn’t make them any less comprehensive or useful. Garmin watches will give you information on your resting heart rate, VO2 Max, lactate threshold, training load, recovery and “Body Battery” levels based on sleep, workouts and stress – among many other measures. And other premium fitness brands like Coros and Polar offer similar data, also without charging a subscription.
Beyond the data, these brands also offer free workouts and training plans from brand partner trainers. Especially if you do outdoor sports like running or cycling to stay healthy, these fitness brands have the tools you need for your marathon training or couch-to-5K prep without paying for it. that.
After reviewing great watches like the Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Coros Pace 2, I’ve grown accustomed to getting comprehensive fitness data and training plans from real people rather than a faceless algorithm.
It is fair to counter that most of these watches are quite expensive ranging from $200 to $500; it’s a lot to pay up front. But a $100 Fitbit really costs $260 after 2 years (+ the trial period) or $420 after four years – more if you pay monthly. You don’t save as much as you might think, and more expensive smartwatches also tend to be better than a budget option.
Maybe you’re more interested in health data than fitness, or don’t like the bulky look of Garmin watches. In this case, keep in mind that Samsung or Apple watches also offer a ton of health data via Samsung/Apple Health. And they don’t charge you for data either.
The Galaxy Watch 4 can track your heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, BMI, ECG, and BIA simultaneously. You’ll get a minute-by-minute snapshot of your current health status on Samsung Health or Google Fit…without needing the money to check it.
As for the Apple Watch Series 7, its activity rings are a popular and simple way to encourage you to reach your fitness goals every day, with HRM, ECG and blood oxygen monitoring sensors to keep a eye on you. while you can pay $10/month or $80/year for Apple Fitness+, i.e. rotational home workouts and other optional features; you can always export all your health data to your favorite fitness app for free.
Samsung and Apple don’t store your fitness data as usefully, but they will sync with other third-party fitness apps and running apps that can interpret your data very well. You may need to subscribe to these applications; but if you cancel your subscriptions, it will not compromise your experience with the look. You can continue to wear it.
Whether you want a lifestyle or fitness watch, you don’t have to agree to pay for a fitness subscription. They have their time and place, especially in the age of working from home. If you can’t go to the gym, you need DIY software to stay healthy. But in my mind, you should be paying for software and software alone. If you pay for data from Equipment you bought and paid, then you get a raw offer.
We’ve heard plenty of rumors about Google’s next Pixel Watch, which will have Fitbit integration to go with Wear OS 3 software. On the one hand, I’m excited about a lifestyle watch that has all the health data and physical form you would need. On the other hand, if you need a Fitbit Premium subscription to get the most out of a Google Watch, that’s a downside that gives its rivals a leg up.