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Which is the Best Fitness Smartwatch?

The big question I often get from Clients and in general from people online is... "Which Fitness Tracker or Fitness Smartwatch should I get?" This is really a loaded question. It's kind of like randomly asking me what vehicle is best for you when next to no information about you has been told to me. Even if I did know what your vehicle needs are, there are so many options out there to choose from. Which company, what type of vehicle, what price range... This is the same when trying to figure out the best Fitness Smart Watches to consider.

Do you want a fitness watch more for fitness or for it's smart features, may be a little bit of both? How much money do you want to spend? How integrated with other software do you want it to be? Do you want a stylish Fitness Watch or perhaps a Sporty one? Are you going to be doing basic activities or complex and diverse activities? Do you want the utmost in accuracy when it comes to heart rate, steps and GPS tracking? Do you see what I mean here?

It gets even more complicated because it seem that every watch figures things out a little bit differently then the other ones. Some count more steps and distance than others, some will give you more calories for an activity then a different fitness Smartwatch or Tracker. Some allow for external heart rate monitors which is more accurate and some will only allow you to use the built in optical heart rate monitor. And at the end of the day which one is telling you the truth? Maybe all of them are but in their own way...

I have jumped from one Fitness Tracking device to another in my quest to find the best solution for me and just when I think I have found it, someone comes out with a device that draws me in and I have to try it out. Sometimes it works out for me and sometimes I find myself taking a step back but I kind of enjoy all of this fitness tech in the end.

So which is the Best Fitness Smartwatch? Hell if I know, you're probably going to have to try a few out until you find the one best suited to you. If you have no idea where to start, take a look at some of the Garmin and Fitbit products, they have a combination of really solid software and hardware offerings for a variety of needs.

Good luck in your quest and enjoy the journey...


Switching from Apple to Google

What do I mean by Switching from Apple to Google? Both companies provide hardware, operating systems, applications and services. For the most part I have changed over everything to Google with only a few exceptions.

I don’t recommending this for everyone as I still strongly feel that Apple is a great solution for many people. I still use a Mac desktop computer for my heavy lifting and my family all still has iPhones which was something I needed to consider when I switched over to Google.


Why Did I do it?

It all started with the Chromebook, I purchased a Chromebook to replace my MacBook Pro since I already had an iMac desktop computer as my main workhorse and I figured a Chromebook would do everything I needed when I wanted to be portable. As it turned out my Chromebook exceeded my expectations and now my entire family uses them as their main portable computers.

Just recently I purchased my first Google Home and fell in love with the concept. I love the way I can access my smart home devices and automate my life. I even went out and bought a bunch more of the Google Home systems so I could access Google Home in more areas of my house and office. My kids are getting their own units for Christmas along with a family music plan…

The one thing I realized was that Google Home works best if you’re using Google services, like their calendar and contacts. If you want to access this info on your Google Home, then you need to make sure your calendar and contact info is in the Google cloud. At first I achieved this from my Apple iPhone using third party apps that synced my Apple Calendar and Contacts with Google Calendar and Contacts. At this point I started to wonder why I was using Apple hardware if I was becoming so Google oriented?

The last straw that lead me to decide to switch from Apple to Google was when I bought a Samsung Gear Sport Smart Fitness Watch and tried to use it paired with my Apple iPhone only to find out it was crippled in so many ways when paired with an iPhone rather than an Android Phone. I could only really do basic stuff and when it came to adding more Applications to the Samsung Gear Sport Smart Fitness Watch, none of the fitness Apps I really wanted where available. And the thing was I really loved the Samsung Gear Sport Smart Fitness Watch since it had a great design, was superior to my older first gen Apple watch in many ways and its optical heart rate monitor was the first one that actually worked for me. That was it. I decided to switch from Apple to Google!

What did I get?

Well you know I got the Samsung Gear Sport Smart Fitness Watch and so that replaced my Apple Watch. For my iPhone replacement I did some research and ended up getting the Samsung Galaxy S8 plus Android Phone, I was also considering the Google Pixel 2 but really liked the design of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the screen on the Galaxy S8 is simply amazing!

Things to Consider when Switching from Google to Apple.

Calendars and Contacts we kind of covered already but you will need to get your Apple Calendars and Contacts over to Google Calendars and Contacts. There are a few ways to do this, there was even software on my new phone to help with transferring my iPhone data over to my Android phone. I could have even brought over my photos and movies this way but I chose to use Google Photos instead.

I recommend Google Photos to everyone no matter if you use an Apple or Android phone, why wouldn't you. Google Photos is free, space is unlimited and the quality is very good, (1080p video and 16MP Photos). Just download the App on your device and Google Photos starts uploading your photos and movies to the cloud where you can view them and share them on any device. That was a no brainer and not having to buy extra Apple iCloud storage and constantly getting “Your iCloud is Full” warnings is a bonus. My entire family now has Google Photos on their iPhones.

Was I going to lose Find my Phone Locations Services?

Nope, there is an App for that :) I use an App on my Samsung Galaxy S8 called xFi Locator which allows me to tap into Apple location sharing services. All I need to do is log my Apple credentials in and since I use this setup with my Apple family location services, I then have access to my entire families phone locations. I can also use this same App to locate my Android devices so I have it on my Chromebook and my Samsung Galaxy S8 to find either one if I need to.

What about Facetime?

My family doesn’t use facetime a lot, we see enough of each other most days but it is nice when I travel so I wanted a solution for this. I went with Google Duo as it seemed like the logical choice and again you can download Google Duo to the iPhone and it sets up super quickly by simply entering in your phone number as your username.

Online Storage and Documents.

I was already using Google Drive and Dropbox as my online storage choices so there was really no change there as these options work on pretty much every device. Same with my documents like Word and Excel. I was primarily using Google Docs for this so no change was required here either.

Apple Mail on Non-Apple Devices.

Apple has their 2-Factor Authentication which does make setting up your Apple mail on an Android device a little more complicated than on an iPhone but it can be done by creating a device specific password. You may have to do this online using your Apple ID through Apples Apple ID Webpage.

Other Miscellaneous Apps.

When it comes to most Apps, you can generally find all the same popular Apps for Android as you would find on your iOS iPhone and for the most part they look and work about the same but be prepared for a little bit of weirdness since some features may work differently on each platform.

Getting use to the Android Interface.

I have been using an Apple iPhone since the very first version came out so I’m not going to lie, there was some getting use to the new interface and is one System OS better than the other? Not really, Apple offers a bit more simplicity with pretty much the same user experience from phone to phone. Android Phones are more customizable which means one phone can look and navigate completely different than another Android phone. Companies also like to throw their own custom interfaces on their devices to perhaps differentiate themselves. At the end of the day I can get around on my Samsung Galaxy S8 just as easily and quickly as I did on my Apple iPhone.

Do I regret Switching from Apple to Google?

When I first made the jump I was a little bit worried. I knew I had some work ahead of me doing some research to figure to some workarounds between the devices. I’m happy to say I am very pleased with my decision at the end of the day. Not only am I more educated about the different phone options out there but I feel that at least for me at this point in my life Switching from Apple to Google was the right decision. I feel I have more options available to me now when it comes to hardware choices for Phones and Fitness Tech devices. Apple does like to keep their hardware and software a bit more closed in which can be limiting at times.

Google is more open when it comes to cross compatibility, offering most of their Apps and Applications to be run on pretty much any device. Yes some Google based hardware will not work so well with Apple devices but this is more of an Apple control issue meaning Apple does not always play well with others. To sum it up I would say Apple acts more like the introvert, whereas Google is more of the extrovert. I kinda feel like hanging out with the more outgoing and fun kids and so far I am not missing my iPhone at all.



What I use to Track my Daily Activity and Workouts Apple Watch

This video is perhaps not so much a review but more of an overview of what I use in terms of Tech Fitness Gadgetry to track my activity and workouts day to day. Over the years I have had the opportunity to use a number of fitness tech devises from companies like Apple, Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, Jabra, iHealth, Mio, Skulpt and Atlas. At the end of the day you need to find a device that fits not only into what and how you do your fitness but also it needs to fit into your lifestyle and hopefully make that even a little better in some ways.

For a little over the past year I have been using a combination of hardware and software that are independent from each other but work fairly well together thanks to the flexibility of Apple's Heath Kit and Under Armours suite of Apps that offer connectivity with a host of other companies.

You really need to watch my YouTube video as I explain in detail how I use several independent hardware devices with some very flexible software to bring it all together and fit my fitness and lifestyle needs. Here is a list of what I am using with a short description of what each device and software program offers for me:

Apple Watch (Version 1):
My Apple Watch is great in terms of how it is kind of a personal assistant to what's going on with my iPhone. On top of that my Apple Watch tracks my steps and daily heart rate while acting as a go-between and heads up real time display for several of the fitness Apps I use on my iPhone.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus:
We all know what an iPhone can do, on the fitness side I primarily use Under Armour Apps for my fitness needs as I feel they offer me more detailed information and sharing capabilities than Apple's own fitness related Apps. I use the Under Armour Record App to track my daily activity and I also start and stop any workouts I do using the UA Record App. Since MyFitnessPal is also an Under Armour product both Apps share their information to each other so I can offset any food intake calories with exercise output activity which helps me stay on track when either maintaining weight, cutting weight or bulking.

Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor (Chest Strap):
Most wrist based Optical Heart Rate Monitors at least for me do not work properly, they always end up missing my elevated heart rate activity so I miss this important information that is vital for tracking true calories burned during a workout. For this reason I can not depend on my Apple Watch's built in optical heart rate monitor to track my heart rate during a workout. My solution to this problems is to strap on my Polar H7 Heart Rate Monitor when I plan to do nay exercise where my heart rate will be elevated, this way I get very actuate heart rate readings and true calories burned during a workout. I have the option of pairing my Polar H7 to either my Apple Watch or directly to my iPhone, generally I pair the Polar H7 to my Apple iPhone since it is the most dependable.

Again make sure to watch my YouTube video below for a much more descriptive explanation on how I utilize all these products for fitness and day to day life.


Lunatik Epik Polycarbonate Apple Watch Case and Strap Review

This is not going to be a super in depth review, after all the Lunatik Epik Polycarbonate Apple Watch Case and Strap is a pretty basic product after all and at the end of the day if it does a good job of protecting my Apple Watch, Looks and fits good and holds up over time then what more can you ask for? That said, the Lunatik Epik Polycarbonate Apple Watch Case and Strap gets a clean check mark in all categories so I guess this review is pretty much done ;)

So really quickly, let's go over some of the stuff I like about the Lunatik Epik Polycarbonate Apple Watch Case and Strap... 

  • I like the way the Lunatik Epik looks and how it gives my Apple Watch a more utilitarian rugged look.
  • I like the quality of the Polycarbonate material used, they are holding up well and seem to be somewhat scratch and ding resistant.
  • I like that the Polycarbonate material is light weight so my Apple Watch does not feel intrusive or heavy on my wrist.
  • All of the mechanical aspects of my Apple Watch work perfectly including the digital crown, side button and speaker clarity.
  • The Lunatik Epik strap is easy to put on and is made of a comfortable material. 

A couple of things I am not fond of with the Lunatik Epik Polycarbonate Apple Watch Case and Strap.

  • The strap hold down does sometimes come lose which does not allow the watch to come off but will free the end of the strap to flail around which can get annoying, it is simple to place the end of the strap back in its clip so not a big deal.
  • Getting your Apple Watch in and out of the Lunatik Epik is a bit of a chore so if you plan on changing back to your Apple Watch straps at any point you will have to go through this process each time. For me this is not an issue since I keep my Apple Watch in the Lunatik Epik Apple Watch Case all the time.
  • Lastly, I was not impressed with Lunatik's support, I initially reached out to them to let them know that I was planning on doing a review and sent emails to several of their key contact emails and did not get a single response back from Lunatik. I was not asking for any freebies or implying that I expected compensation, just a simple courtesy email. 

For anyone who is using their Apple Watch during high levels of activity and would like to have additional protection for their Apple Watch while still looking fashionable, I would have to say the Lunatik Epik line of Apple Watch Cases is a great option. Lunatik also sells the Epik in an Aluminum version and also a fully waterproof version called the H2O.


Can the Apple Watch Cut it as a Usable Fitness Tracker?

In this Apple Watch review video I am not going to focus very much on the amazing Smart Watch abilities of the Apple Watch. There are tons of reviews and videos that go over all the super cool stuff the Apple Watch can do. In this review however, I will be taking a look at the Apple Watch from the perspective of a full on Activity Tracker and if it can actually stack up to the likes of the big name players in this super competitive fitness tracking technology market.

On one hand you have companies like Garmin, Fitbit, Polar, to name a few, that have really established Fitness watches that track just about any fitness dynamic you can think of, but they are not always the best option when it comes to their Smart Watch abilities and features.

And then there’s the Apple Watch, which for iPhone users is hands down the most full featured and best Smart Watch you can get to go along with your iOS Phone.

Here’s the problem, I want both of these products in one device, I want the ultimate Smart Watch combined with no compromise fitness tracking. And up until recently, neither a dedicated fitness tracker or the Apple Watch could deliver in both of these departments.

I have been on the fence about getting an Apple Watch but there have been some real deal breakers for me that where holding me back:

First off the Optical Heart Rate Monitor on the Apple Watch is simply not accurate and can not keep up with my elevated heart rate when it comes to weight training and since most of what I do is body building style workouts, then I would be short changing myself in terms of how much output or energy the Apple Watch takes into account for a weight training activity I am performing.

Second: The Apple Watch proprietary Fitness Tracking software is really limited and what I found disappointing about the built in Apple Activity App, and even the Apple Health App, is the lack of ability to share my workout details with others or even myself for that matter. I’m fairly sure this activity data is going to some Apple cloud server somewhere, yet there is no online area for me to see it on my computer using a web browser. Not even in Apple’s iCloud service?

Third: Do I want a $600 watch on my wrist while I workout? That’s a lot of investment right out in the open just waiting to get scratched up and smashed up.

Forth: One day of battery life, are you kidding me. Most fitness trackers get at least 3-4 days and some can even go weeks at a time… The Apple Watch may have a lot of power under the hood, but it sure could do with some more cardio…

Fifth: There is no GPS in the Apple Watch, OK this one is not super important to me, since I don’t really run, but I do like to go for walks and the occasional bike ride so being able to see my journey on a map and have all my distance and speed info is cool I have to admit.

Sixth: Not water proof! The Apple Watch has a rating of IPX7 (Splashes, Rain or Snow, Showering, Incidental exposure to water of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes).Is the really going to be good enough?

What I like about the Apple Watch (Stuff that has been drawing me to it):

As with pretty much all Apple products, the Apple Watch is no exception when it comes to style, Apple really knows how to make a product that appeals to the masses. It has a great look and feel to it and is totally customizable so you can find just the right combination of band to go with your choice of Apple Watch Face.

Build Quality:
Again, Apple sets a whole new standard when it comes to build quality, just watch some of their videos where they show you the processes involved in the creation of an Apple Watch, starting with design elements, the high standard of materials used in their products, and the way in which each product is painstakingly machined and meticulously assembled.

As a long time Apple user, I am well ingrained into the Apple Ecosystem, so it only makes sense for someone like me to choose an Apple Smart Watch, since I have an Apple Computer, an iPhone, Apple TV’s and many other Apple devices around my house. And yes the Apple Watch works amazing with my Apple iPhone, this part is not a big surprise.

Not Just a Gadget on my Wrist:
OK, so the Apple Watch looks cool and in a way is an extension of my iPhone but more like in a streamed down version that is always accessible… But is it simply just a cool mini iPhone on your wrist that kind of does what you iPhone can already do, but in a slower less useful way? I’m going to have to say no, sure there are lots of things I would rather do on my iPhone, but hey, my iPhone is right there in my pocket if I need it. The Apple Watch Really is all about keeping you up to date on what’s going on with your iPhone without you having to obnoxiously pull it out all the time and keep shoving your face in it. You get to decide what is iPhone worthy rather then some vibration going on in your pants. When it does come time for me to get to my email or other tasks I need to follow up on, many of them have already been dismissed and deleted by my Apple Watch leaving me more time to focus on what’s really important.

Let’s get back to those Apple Watch Deal Breakers and address them one by one!

The Apple Watch Optical Heart Rate not being accurate for activities like weight training:

The simple solution, pair your Apple Watch to a stand alone chest strap based Heart Rate monitor. This way you get all day heart rate tracking from the built in Apple optical sensor, and super accurate heart rate monitoring from the chest strap based heart rate monitor while performing high intensity workout activities. I have mine paired to a Polar H7 and it works perfect.

Apple’s built in Activity and Apple Health Software not full featured enough:

I am sure there are lots of people that find the built in Apple Watch activity software to be just fine, however I am not one of them since I like to see lots of details and I like to be able to share and access my info in multiple locations, not just on the Apple Watch or iPhone.

No problem, just don’t use the built in Apple Watch Activity App for tracking your workouts. I use a combination of Apps all from Under Armour. I have been using MyFitnessPal for a long time now to track my food nutrition and what’s nice about MyFitnessPal, is that it works with tons of other partner Apps so you can sync data from a myriad of other fitness devices and Apps and everyone stays updated with one other. This allows information like your smart scales daily weight readings to be updated to all the Apps and devices you are synced with in MyFitnessPal. And of course your fitness tracker of choice will update MyFitnessPal with your daily steps and activity which again in tern can share that info with all other paired devices and Apps.

Not only does MyFitnessPal have an Apple Watch App, but Under Armour also has some more Health and Fitness Apps that are made for the Apple Watch. One other App I use from Under Armour is called MapMyRun, which is great for tracking not only running but also walking and biking and while doing so collects GPS location from my iPhone. What about weight training? That’s where Record comes in (yet again from Under Armour). Record picks up where MapMyRun leaves off, Record is design to track pretty much any type of activity including Weight Lifting, Martial Arts, Yoga, all kinds of Sports and many many more activities. I guess you could use it to track your walking, running and biking but since Record and MapMyRun both use the same accounts and data base, it really doesn’t matter which one you record your workout with. Both Record and MapMyRun let you look at the data a little bit differently once it is recorded. And you guessed it, MyFitnessPal being an Under Armour App can see all the activity data from both Record and MapMyRun.

And by the way, all of this data is viewable in Apple Health if you want it to be, so you can also see your Record and MapMyRun workouts in the Apple Activity App and in the Apple Health App.

In terms of usable and shareable data. I am very pleased with the results I get from using Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal in conjunction with Record and MapMyRun.

My Apple Watch is way too nice and costly to workout in :(

Now I would refrain from buying the Gold Apple Watch and using it as your daily workout tracking device. Perhaps take a look at the base Sport model since it is less expensive and the most light weight version. Which by the way even the largest 42mm version for me is not too bulky or heavy. The price of the Apple Watch has dropped a bit since it first came out, I was able to buy mine for around $400 Canadian. You could even look at getting a used Apple Watch to get the price down a bit, keep in mind the Apple Watch is so much more than an activity tracker, so yes it will be be more costly than most basic Activity Trackers. So how do you keep the Apple Watch from getting all banged up? Just like your iPhone, there are tons of cases you can dress your Apple Watch up with. I have one from Speck that slips on and off super easy so I can have it on for my workouts and take it off for when I want that more dressed up look. So far my Apple Watch is holding up well and looks just like it did when I first got it :)

Will my Apple watch run out of juice before I do?

I was expecting to have to charge my Apple Watch part way though the day, but I am pleasantly surprised that I can do a full 24 hours and then some no problem even with all the notifications, tactic feedback vibration, fitness tracking and playing around I am doing with my Apple Watch. I work from a desk so I simply place my Apple Watch mid day on it’s charger for about an hour and so far I have had no need to charge my Apple Watch at any other time. You could also charge your Apple Watch each night if you are not interested in heart Rate Feedback while you are sleeping.

How can the Apple Watch be a serious Fitness Tracker without GPS?

For me this was not a big deal even from the beginning since most of my workout activity is in the gym, where GPS is not required. From the get go Apple designed the Apple Watch to work hand in hand with your iPhone so they figured having a lot of redundancies would be a waste of your money, also real-estate and energy consumption for the Apple Watch. So in the case of GPS, Apple decided to use the GPS in your iPhone as the source for any App you are using on your Apple Watch. No big deal right? I guess so unless you can’t take your iPhone with you. For me this is not a problem since even when I go for walks, runs, or do some biking, I generally always bring my iPhone with me. Worst case scenario if I forget my iPhone and only have my Apple Watch, well I can still track my walking, running, or biking activities, I just won’t get GPS data. The Apple watch will use my steps to track basic distance, and my heart rate to track more detailed energy output.

Shouldn’t all Fitness Trackers be Water Proof?

The problem with the classification of “water proof” or “water resistant” is it is not always black and white, it can be a little grey. There are all kinds of ratings within each classification and some companies like to air on the side of caution as in with the Apple Watch. Apple gives a somewhat conservative IPX7 water resistance rating but there are all kinds of videos of people swimming with their Apple Watches and even people doing water pressure testing of the Apple Watch using pressure levels way beyond the IPX7 1 meter for 30 minutes classification. You will have to decide if you want to risk swimming with your Apple Watch, but I do know if you accidentally take a swim with it, or use it in the shower you will generally be totally fine. Personally I take mine off when I shower to keep the microphone and speaker clear of water so they will work better when I need them to.

One last concern I had not mentioned so far is if the Apple Watch fitness tracking is accurate when compared to other fitness trackers. I compared the Apple watch side by side with my Garmin VivoActive which I have been using as my daily driver for the past year and overall the Apple Watch is comparable. In terms of workout activity calories, the Apple Watch does seem to credit me a bit more calories but on the other hand my daily step activity is a bit lower for the Apple watch when compared with my Garmin VivoActive, so it all kind of evens out at the end of the day. Which one is more accurate is hard to say but I am getting similar readings using a dedicated Fitness Tracker versus my Apple Watch running fitness tracking software.

OK, so that about raps up some of my personal hands on usage with the Apple Watch and does it stack up as  serious and usable Fitness Tracker. After using my Apple Watch Sport for several weeks I am happy to say I am very pleased not only with the Apple Watch as a Smart Watch, and all the cool integration I have with it in terms of accessing the information and other Apps on my iPhone. I am also a little surprised at how good of a fitness tracker the Apple Watch can be, when using some third Party Apps like Under Armour’s Record, MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal. I’m even going to ditch my Garmin VivoActive and start using my Apple Watch as my daily driver for tracking all my day to day activity, of course with a little help from Under Armour!

So in the end, when it comes to an Apple targeted Smart Watch user looking for a very usable Fitness Tracking Solution, you really can have your cake and eat it too with the Apple Watch!