Health Tech Update

Health. Technology. Innovation.

Long term review of the Withings Internet-connected smart scale

After using the Withings Internet connect scale for the past two years, I’ve found it to be a useful companion in my daily battle to maintain my weight.  There’s something about hopping on the scale and having it measure my weight and body fat %, and then calculate my BMI…all while I stand there looking down at my toes!

Automatically updated weight loss graph from Withings Scale

Automatically updated weight loss graph from Withings Scale

And the fact that it “automagically” uploads this to my online weight chart makes it even better.  Seeing where you’ve been seems to give me an extra boost to try to maintain my current weight.  Unlike the “out of sight, out of mind” way many of us treat our weight, I like seeing it laid out in a colorful graph.  If I’m starting to trend back up in weight, it makes me get a little more vigilant in controlling my portions at meal time.  It also gives me a bit more drive to stick to my morning run, even when I’m not in the mood.

You can read the full Withings wifi scale review here.

FitBit Ultra Smart Pedometer Long Term Review

FitBit Ultra

FitBit Ultra

Are you trying to exercise more and lose some weight.  Do you ever wonder just how much you walk on a given day?  A smart pedometer might be just what the doctor ordered!

I’ve been wearing a FitBit since it first came out in the fall of 2009.  Now I’m using their latest FitBit Ultra.  After trying multiple personal activity tracking tools (both dedicated devices like the FitBit) and applications running on smart phones, I can say that the FitBit is one of the best out there.  I’ve ended up giving these to friends as gifts because it’s such an addictively good product.


Here’s what makes the FitBit work for me:

          • Small size (once you clip it on you’ll probably forget that you’re wearing it)
          • 2 week battery life between charges (and only takes an hour or so to recharge)
          • Sleek design (I don’t mind wearing it to work, going out, etc.)
          • Built in display shows useful data
          • Wireless upload of my data
          • Free online tools (and iPhone app) let me track all my data.  Here’s a sample of what you can see online:

            FitBit Stats

            FitBit Stats (Click image to zoom)

          • You can invite your friends to compete with you for who takes the most steps.  I’ve got friends in multiple time zones (and on multiple continents!) all comparing daily and weekly step counts.  It’s one more little nudge to keep me moving!
          • Automatic restart every day at midnight (old pedometers had to be reset each day; if you forgot to reset it then you’d end up with the wrong count for the day which is discouraging)
          • You can wear it while sleeping (using the included wrist band) and it will tell you how well you’re sleeping.  It will track what time you got into bed (e.g. 10:14 PM) and what time you actually fell asleep (e.g. 10:15 PM when I’m really tired, or 11:21 PM when I stay up watching Leno).
          • It works!  When I wear the FitBit, I’m more aware of my activity level and I tend to take more steps.  I’m currently averaging about 12,000 steps a day, which I know is more than I’d be taking if I wasn’t wearing the FitBit
          • Reasonably priced ($99)

The FitBit has become such an integral part of keeping me activity level up that I wear it from the moment I wake up to when I go to bed (I use the sleep tracking feature only occasionally.)  When I wear it, I’m more active.  It’s that simple.

There isn’t much about the FitBit that I’d change.  A couple of nice enhancements would include:

          • Locking feature (sometimes I accidentally place it in sleep mode)
          • Locator beacon for times that I misplace the device

I’ll be reviewing the Nike+ FuelBand soon, but for now the FitBit Ultra is my favorite.

You can order the FitBit Ultra directly from FitBit via this link.

Extend your workout analytics with iPhone 4S extended battery

Do you use your iPhone to track your workouts?  I regularly use Nike+ for my running, and MapMyFitness for my cycling.  It works great, but for longer runs and rides, the constant GPS use by these applications can really drain my battery.  That’s where the Mophie Juice Pack comes in.  This clever device is both a case and a battery.  Once you attach the Juice Pack to your iPhone, you get about double the normal battery life.  And you can still access all the usual iPhone controls, and even charge and sync the iPhone without removing the case.

Mophie Juice Pack extends the battery life of your iPhone

Mophie Juice Pack extends the battery life of your iPhone

With the added thickness of the battery, I had trouble attaching my iPhone to my handle bar mount that I use on my bike.  I’ll be trying out a new mount soon that accommodates a bigger phone.  For now, the phone is in my riding jersey pocket when I use the Mophie.

So if you’re a data junkie who likes to track all the details of your workout, check out the Mophie!  The Juice Pack Plus retails for $99, and you get get it directly from Mophie.

NOTE ABOUT BUYING A MOPHIE ON AMAZON: I bought my first Mophie from Amazon for $68. I thought it was a great deal until I realized that it was a knock off product and not made by Mophie!  For instance, the buttons on the case were just glued on and not actually working.  After reading the comments on Amazon it appears that I’m not the only one this has happened to.  To be safe, I’d just get it directly from Mophie (or one of the cell phone stores like AT&T or Verizon).

Review of Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Headset

Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Wireless Headphones

Plantronics BackBeat 903+ Wireless Headphones

Over the past month we’ve been testing out the Plantronics BackBeat 903+ headset.  After getting tired of untangling the cords from traditional wired headphones, using these wireless headphones from Plantronics was a welcome change.  In general, the headphones worked well for exercise (and for tuning out  noisy office sounds).  Here’s full run down.  Let’s start with the good:

  • Long battery life (about 6 to 7 hours)
  • Good sound quality (not as good as some of the in-ear noise isolating headphones, but still good enough).  There’s also a bass-boost option that adds a bit more punch to your music.
  • Light weight.  Easy to use for running.
  • Integration with voice dialing and Siri (on the iPhone 4s).  You can press the left button for two seconds to activate Siri.
  • Can be used to make and receive phone calls
  • Built in microphone automatically activates when you pause the music so you can hear the person talking to you
  • Low price (currently about $49 on Amazon)

Here are the things that could be better:

  • The volume/track buttons are a little difficult to operate while running/riding (they are down low on the ear piece and close together)
  • Wind noise when riding a bike (it’s probably not a good idea to be completely isolated with your headphones when out on the road anyway)
  • Only one set of ear inserts (it would be nice to have some different sizes to experiment with)
  • The ear loops interfere a bit with helmet straps when riding a bike