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Best smartwatch/fitness tracker for MS3/residency

Discussion in 'Tech: Medical Apps, iOS, Android, medical devices' started by Neurophage, Jun 26, 2016.

  1. Neurophage

    5+ Year Member

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    I'm looking for the best smartwatch or fitness tracker for MS3 and residency. I have tested a few different options and am interested to hear what others are using. This is what I want the device to do, in order of importance:

    1. Wake me up silently so my bed partner doesn't grow to hate me during surgery and other early-starting rotations.
    2. Send alerts from apps of my choosing so I can be aware without getting caught with a phone out during rounds or with patients.
    3. Be waterproof so it doesn't become yet another fomite.
    4. Estimate my activity level to help keep me from getting medschool-induced diabetes.
    5. Track heart rate so I can quantify my nervousness while presenting at rounds or getting yelled at for performing unnecessary DREs.

    So far I've tested:
    Garmin Vivosmart HR
    Price: $130
    Pros:
    1. Comfortable, light.
    2. Not an eyesore.
    3. Easy setup, app intuitive and easy to use.
    4. Good battery life compared to other devices I tested. Wore it 4 days without charging.
    5. Waterproof, can shower with it.
    Cons:
    1. Vibrating alarm too gentle and stops after a minute. Slept through it on 5th day of use (I am a light sleeper).
    2. Can only set one alarm, choosing between Weekdays or Every Day.
    3. Few customization options.
    4. Heart rate monitor inaccurate. At times falsely reported my resting HR as <50 or >100.

    Samsung Gear Fit2
    Price: $180
    Pros:
    1. Nice looking, bright AMOLED display.
    2. Attractive interface with different watchfaces.
    3. Comfortable, light.
    4. Heart rate monitor seemed more accurate and had a better GUI for workouts than Vivosmart HR.
    5. Built in GPS.
    Cons:
    (Some of these may not apply when paired with a Galaxy phone/tablet. I have an HTC One M8.)
    1. Not truly compatible with non-Samsung phones/tablets.
    2. Alarm feature completely nonfunctional.
    3. Setup complex and frustrating.
    4. Samsung tech support shockingly bad. They weren't able to figure out whether the device is supposed to have an alarm or pair with non-Samsung phones, much less help me troubleshoot.
    5. Poor battery life, needed to charge in less than two days.
    6. Water resistant but not waterproof, have to remove to shower.
    7. Proprietary charger is bulky compared to Garmin or Pebble.
    8. Built in GPS drains battery rapidly when in use.

    Pebble Time
    I am currently testing this and will update later.
    Price: $100
    Pros:
    1. Lots of apps, tons of options for customization.
    2. Relatively inexpensive.
    3. Not uncomfortable.
    4. E-ink type screen easy to read in bright sunlight.
    5. Easy setup.
    6. "Water resistant to 30 meters," can wear in shower.
    Cons:
    1. Blocky look with gameboy-looking screen.
    2. No touch screen, operate using physical buttons.
    3. No heart rate monitor.

    Considered but haven't tested:
    Apple Watch - High price, poor battery life, iOS only.
    Android Wear - Can't justify the pricetag for the ones that might fit my needs.
    Basis Peak - Limited alarms and notifications, expensive for its age.
    Microsoft Band 2 - Limited alarms, known durability issues with non-replaceable wrist strap, awkward landscape interface.
    Fitbit devices - Couldn't find one with all the features I needed. Some were uncomfortable and couldn't imagine myself wearing them to sleep.
    Jawbone UP2/3/4 - No screen, limited alarms.

    Overall my impression is this is an immature technology with no great options. The Pebble may be the best compromise for med students/physicians, who can take our own pulse but can't risk oversleeping. What are your thoughts?
     
    revisedediton likes this.
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  3. Stroganoff

    Stroganoff Never give up.
    Rocket Scientist 15+ Year Member

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    Random responses... By the way, I bought a Fitbit Charge HR in December 2015 and have worn it every day since. I bought it for about $145 from Costco. Amazon had a similar price. I have an HTC One M7 phone.
    • (Just curious): How are you testing these? Buying then returning after a few days?
    • I wear a normal real watch on my left wrist and a fitness tracker on my right wrist (dominant). To avoid it looking funny, I made sure the fitness tracker was a small one and didn't have a huge display. Limited in scope. Do you plan to wear this as primary watch or secondary to your regular watch?
    • I agree that this is immature technology. Only a handful of generations have been released to market over the past 5 (?) years, so it helps to lower expectations and simply buy something "good enough" that can hopefully last a few years before replacing with something better.
    • I personally wouldn't wear any fitness tracker or smartwatch in the shower.
    • You rated heart rate monitor as lowest priority on your wish list. How important is it to track your heart rate 24/7? I admit the graphs are cool, and more calculations can be done based on 24/7 data. I have my Fitbit Charge HR set to have continuous heart rate monitoring (it turns off when it's off your wrist and when charging, otherwise it's on) and it's "roughly" pretty accurate, but I haven't really double checked with manually taking my HR and comparing. There's a class action lawsuit against Fitbit's HR technology as being inaccurate, but it's not horrible in my experience. The battery lasts about 3 full days before it needs a charge. I turned off "all day sync" and "continuous sync" so that saves a lot of battery.
    • The best heart rate sensors are still worn around the chest, but obviously this limits you to exercising. Unless you're nuts and like the feeling.
    • Your #2 was on alerting. What kind of alerts do you want? The non-smartwatch fitness devices usually alert to Caller ID and text message, but nothing else. You'll need an Apple watchOS or Android Wear smartwatch for robust alerting from other apps.

    There's lots of trade-offs. The bigger devices can hold bigger batteries. However the color screens can severely eat up battery life, so you lose benefits that way. 24/7 HR monitoring is useful but only if you can trust it to be moderately accurate. GPS is nice but adds to cost and eats up battery. I see GPS as useful only if you don't want to wear your phone while exercising.

    My Fitbit Charge HR doesn't have GPS, but the smartphone app is pretty good, so when I'm out exercising, you simply start a new exercise in the app, and it uses your phone's GPS. Creates nice maps per exercise with your route highlighted in red. Very similar to Runkeeper. I've since stopped using Runkeeper and use only the Fitbit app.

    Garmins looks interesting, and I'm a general Garmin fan but haven't explored all their watches.
     
    #2 Stroganoff, Jun 26, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2016
    Neurophage likes this.
  4. Neurophage

    5+ Year Member

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    Hey, thanks for the post.

    Yep. Fully intending to keep whichever one does what I need.

    I've thought about wearing two, and right now smartwatch+fitness tracker would be the best way to get all the features one could want. Ideally I'd rather have one set-and-forget device.

    Definitely agree! That's one reason I've leaned away from more expensive devices (the other being med school poverty).

    It does require suspension of disbelief, but the Vivosmart HR and Pebble Time have both done fine in the shower. It's nice to be able to completely forget it's there, and to clean it every day after the hospital.

    This is a good thought and probably the best option for anyone really serious about HR tracking. From what I've read, no optical wrist sensor is particularly great. Also, the next generation of Pebble watches will have HR sensors, and a third party addon is coming out in September for the Pebble Time.

    Actually the Vivosmart HR and Pebble Time both push alerts from any app. The Gear Fit2 does too, but has reliability issues. This level of configurability is becoming more standard but hasn't caught on with Fitbit for some reason.

    Agree. I don't think GPS is a critical feature.

    How are the wrist strap comfort and vibrating alarm? Can you set multiple alarms? Possible to set it by the day, e.g. Monday-Saturday instead of just Weekdays/Weekends/All? Does it eventually give up on waking you or keep vibrating til you stop it?
     
  5. Stroganoff

    Stroganoff Never give up.
    Rocket Scientist 15+ Year Member

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    Wrist strap is comfortable, soft resin. Similar to a Timex or Casio sports watch. Vibrating alarm is gentle/average.
    Yes to both questions.

    Screenshot of multiple alarms:

    [​IMG]

    Screenshot of new alarm screen:

    [​IMG]
    Unfortunately, the alarm does give up. It does a vibrating pattern (bzzz bzzzz bzzzz BZZZZZZZZZ bzzz bzzz bzzz) x 3 times and then stops. Total duration is less than 15 seconds. I've never used the alarm regularly personally, but I speculate it would be very easy to sleep through it. The few times I did use it, it did wake me up. YMMV.

    The app is pretty fancy, but it is not without its bugs and flaws. It requires an Internet connection for syncing (no local storage or buffering), so if you're traveling away from a data connection, it can only store ~5 days of metrics. There is a clunky delay when going from screen to screen, at least on an old phone (mine's 3 years old). A few bugs that I should report on their forums. Plus I've noticed that some of the connections are HTTPS, but when sync'ing I notice a handful of HTTP sessions, meaning the data is plaintext and not encrypted, which really irks me. I may politely raise hell for them to go 100% HTTPS and care about our biometric data.
     
    #4 Stroganoff, Jul 1, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
  6. Neurophage

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    Thanks for the reply - screenshots were very helpful. It seems one could set multiple alarms as a failsafe against sleeping through the alarm. I think the Charge HR would be a good option for anyone who doesn't care about notifications.

    You also raise a good point about security. This would be a huge concern if one were to ever consider pushing messages from TigerText or another HIPAA compliant app to a wearable.
     
  7. nlax30

    nlax30 Fellow
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    I also have a Fitbit Charge HR that I've worn pretty consistently over the past ~7 months or so.

    I have all Apple/Mac products so I briefly considered an apple watch, but it was costly and I was hesitant to go with the first generation of it.

    Then looked at more focused fitness bands and settled on the Fitbit Charge HR after a lot of online reviews (though haven't physically tried on many others) and the Charge HR seemed to have some of the consistently better reviews for an all-around fitness band.

    Obviously notifications are limited to phone calls (Caller ID shows up on the band) and just the 'internal' alerts from the fitbit itself (calorie/step goal, etc..).

    For me the heart rate function has been pretty accurate. I regularly run with it and when at the gym on a treadmill it's HR matches the treadmill handle sensors within a few BPM. I'm sure the accuracy can vary depending on how you wear it and the person's anatomy/skin, etc.., though I have found it pretty good.

    The other thing to consider is if you're going to be using it for a lot of fitness functions do you already use a particular fitness/running app? If you already do then you may want to see which fitness bands that app supports. Fitbit's app is overall pretty good (has builtin in food logging, exercise tracking, run-tracking with GPS if used with the phone). You can import/export a lot of data to other services like Strava though if you use another running tracking app you may not get all the functionality such as HR tracking and would still need to use Fitbit's app then sync it with the other service.

    Ultimately I think the first step is to decide if you want primarily a smartwatch for notifications/apps or primarily a fitness band that can also do some basic watch/alarm/notification features.

    I pretty much wear this all the time and only wear my traditional dress watch when dressing up for clinic or going out to a nice event.
     
  8. nlax30

    nlax30 Fellow
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  9. scorpions

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    Garmin Vivoactive 3 is a good one. Records walking, steps count, heart rate flawlessly. Garmin Vivosmart HR is a good one also but the design is pretty basic.But also works good. I also use bluetooth low energy beacon to track my devices/fleet. They work great.
     

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