Category Archives: fitness

Replacing the Strap on a Fitbit ChargeHR



Heart rate monitoring is a standard feature for wrist-worn devices today, but this first came to Fitbit’s product line with the ChargeHR in 2016. I’ve had mine for over two years now, and time hasn’t been kind to it. The strap’s bubbled up and the plastic’s degraded and cracked. The electronics still work fine but the ChargeHR was designed as an integrated unit and there isn’t an easy way of replacing the strap….at least not officially. Fortunately, third parties offer replacements for not very much money. I purchased a metal one with a Milanese bracelet for GB£10 via a seller on Amazon and I’m really pleased with the outcome. Here’s how to replace the strap on a Fitbit ChargeHR. Warning – this procedure is carried at your own risk.

Having learned from my experience, my first suggestion would be cut away the strap about an inch above and below the central electronics. It’s much easier to do the repair without the broken strap flapping around. Get the replacement kit out – there should be the case+strap, a tiny screwdriver, replacement screws and a spudger.

Next, turn the ChargeHR so that the display is downwards and you are looking at the back with the charge port and the pulse sensor. Look for four small screws in the corners of the unit. Use the supplier screwdriver to carefully undo all four screws and remove them from the ChargeHR. Put the screws to one side but you’re probably not going to be using them again.

The electronics unit is held in the case by a couple of plastic clips on each side. Use the spudger to push down the left and right sides between the unit and the case. It’s quite fiddly just to get the spudger in the slot.

At this point the electronics unit will come free and can be taken out of the old case. Left behind is a small NFC-style sticker which needs to be peeled off and stuck inside the new case. You’ll need fingernails to do this, but once you’ve unpeeled, it simply stick it into the new case in the same position and orientation. Here you can see the sticker in the new case. Try and line it up just below the screen.

Once the stickers in place, give the inside of the new case a quick clean, getting dust and smudges off the inside of the display window. Now just push the ChargeHR electronics into the case. It should clip-in positively.

Finally, put the screws back in and use the screwdriver to tighten them up. Use the new screws that came with the replacement kit.

And that’s it. Press the side button and toggle through the display elements, checking that everything still works. I replaced mine about two weeks ago now and I’ve had no issues. Syncing still works fine, though the vibrating alarms are a bit more rattly. I suspect that’s more to do with the metal case than anything else.

If you want to see more, then I’ve a complementary video on YouTube.

 

 


Oaxis Combines Fitness Tracker with Analogue Watch



That spot on your wrist is in high demand at the moment. From Apple Watches to smart watches, retro digital and vintage automatics, they all want in on that skin real estate. Personally, I still like a watch with hands to tell me that I’m late but I do like step counting and heart rate monitoring too. Consequently, I tend to swap what’s on my wrist depending on activity: it’s not ideal but works for me…mostly.

There might be an improved solution to my problem with a new watch launching on Kickstarter by epaper experts Oaxis. iPhone owners might know the company for their InkCase which provides a second epaper screen on the back of the phone. In this instance, Oaxis are crowd-funding Timepiece, a minimalist analogue watch with an embedded fitness tracker than displays data in a small OLED display in the dial.

The watch uses a Swiss quartz movement from Ronda and the fitness tracker records heart rate, steps, sleep and call / text notifications. As you’d expect, there’s a complementary app to get the data off the watch with Bluetooth. The info only mentions an iOS app, so you might want to confirm there’s going to be an Android app too.

There’s a range of combinations of case, strap and size, with both 38 mm and 41 mm cases. The black dial with red hands looks particularly good but the white dial looks classy too. I’m not sure if its just the lighting but sometimes the white dial has black hands and sometimes they’re silver. Case is a little over 12 mm thick.

And unlike certain other smartwatches, Timepiece will last a month on a single charge – charging is done via a small dock. One of the other cool features is that the time can be set via a Bluetooth connected smartwatch.

The watch is waterproof to 30 m, which means that it’s ok for a bit of light swimming.

If you like the look of this, head over to the Kickstarter campaign. Early birds can get in for US$123, GB£95 or €110.

Delivery is expected in March 2019 and as with all things crowd-funding, don’t pay what you can’t afford to loose.

 


Fibion Brings Science To Activity Tracking (Part 2)



In the first interview, I chatted with one of Fibion‘s partners, Olli Tikkanen, about their approach to activity tracking and how the Fibion team can produce accurate data on movement and lifestyle from the Fibion tracker. This time, I’m speaking with Jonathan Bloomfield, MD of Support2Perform, Human Performance Specialists, here in Northern Ireland, who use Fibion trackers to carryout assessments on clients.

The team at Support2Perfom use the Fibion tracker and the analysis tools to do a deep dive into the wearer’s daily behaviour. The tracker is typically worn for about a week before the data is uploaded and analysed. The results are displayed in different graphics to show the person’s activity in a meaningful way. How much of my day is sitting around?

 

 

This data forms the baseline for change and having made lifestyle changes, the Fibion analysis can be redone to check that they’ve had the desired effect.


Fibion Brings Science to Activity Tracking (Part 1)



Fitbits and other activity trackers are popular: I see them on the waists and wrists of colleagues everyday and I have one myself. Good as they are at encouraging activity, they tend to be a fairly broad brush with an emphasis on hitting targets, typically 10,000 steps. While some trackers attempt show the breadth of activity across the day, they’re not very good at the detail. When was I sitting? When was I standing? How often did I stand up?

The team at Fibion can help answer these questions with their professional sitting and activity analysis, which aims to move away from the gamification of fitness to a scientific assessment for improving health. By combining the Fibion device with algorithms based on scientific research, the Fibion analysis gives accurate results for a week-long measurement, showing how much time is spent sitting versus standing and active.

The device itself might be considered overly plain, but that’s by design. If you don’t see your steps, there’s no incentive to do more, and so the Fibion is more likely to record a representative lifestyle. It’s all about the science.

In the first of two conversations, I interview Fibion partner Olli Tikkanen on their approach and the dimunitive tracker. In part 2, I’ll talk to a professional who uses Fibion to assess activity in the workplace.


Smart Running with FeetMe Sport at CES



Step counters and activity trackers are ten-a-penny, but what if the tracker could show you how you run, not just how far you run? It’s now a reality with smart insoles from FeetMe. Todd finds out more from CTO Andrey Mostovov and sprinter Taylor Pegram.

FeetMe’s athletic smart insoles, FeetMe Sport, constantly takes measurements from over thirty pressure sensors, before processing the information in their FeetMe coaching app to show exactly how your feet hit the ground. Imagine being a top athlete and being able to see your stride and steps. The app gives suggestions for improvement and weaknesses are highlighted for attention in the next training session. Unsurprisingly, the FeetMe Sport uses Bluetooth to pass the information on to a nearby smartphone or tablet, giving feedback in the field.

There’s a professional version for healthcare aimed at people who have gait or foot problems, or need post-operative assessment, allowing clinicians to review the data from the insoles.

The FeetMe Sport insoles are on pre-order for US$150.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2018 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgeek30
$.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgeek99 @ GoDaddy.com
$2.49 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1h
$2.49 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1w
Become a GNC Insider: Support this podcast

Thumbs Up for Fitbit



Fitbit LogoAll too often we hear stories of poor customer service so I want to give some props to Fitbit who replaced my Flex with no fuss or special blogger treatment. Here’s how it went down….

Faulty Fitbit FlexI’ve had a Fitbit Flex for nearly two years and it’s one of my favourites as it’s waterproof and I wear it while swimming. A couple of months ago the middle LED stopped working and last week another one seemed to stop. All other functions worked fine, so the Flex was still counting steps and syncing to my Fitbit app. In reality the fault was largely cosmetic.

Still, I decided to contact Fitbit’s customer services via email. I paraphrase each message.

2016-11-03-16-22-56Me: I’m having trouble with the LEDs on my Flex dying one by one. See photo.
Fitbit: Ok. I see that. Could you try resetting the Flex followed by a full charge.
Me: I’ve done that and yes, one of the LEDs is now working but the middle one still isn’t. See new photo.
Fitbit: Ok, I see that it’s still not working. When and where did you get the Flex?
Me: I got it in November 2014 and here are the details.
Fitbit: No problem, that’s fine. We’re going to send a replacement. What’s your address?
Me: Thanks. Here’s my address.
Fitbit: The replacement Flex is on its way.
Me: Thanks again.

And sure enough, the replacement Fitbit Flex arrived in the post yesterday. All the LEDs work fine.

Reviewing the email exchange, it really couldn’t have been sorted it out in anything less. A big thumbs up to Fitbit for sorting it out easily and painlessly.


Fitbit ChargeHR Review



On review here is Fitbit’s ChargeHR activity tracker, one of its most popular models which provides heart rate monitoring in addition to steps taken, calories burnt and eyes shut. Designed for “active fitness”, it’s aimed at those people who take control of their fitness level rather than simply walking 10,000 steps. That’s me then. On a good day. Let’s take a look.

You can watch the unboxing and setup video above, though what you don’t see is that I completely destroyed the box getting the tracker and accessories out because you’re supposed to open the bottom not the top. Doh! Fitbit, you need “Open other end” printed on the top. Inside the box is the Fitbit ChargeHR, a Bluetooth dongle, a charging cable and small instruction booklet that directs you to the Fitbit site for more information. The dongle is only required for syncing to a PC.

Fitbit Charge HR box

 

The ChargeHR is available in six colours; black, blue, teal, plum, tangerine and pink. As you’ll see from the pictures, I had the teal one, which was fine when I was exercising but I did feel a little self-conscious wearing it with a suit at work. Unlike the Alta and Flex range, Fitbit Charge HR stepsthere’s no switching round of bands, so buy a colour you’re comfortable with. The ChargeHR band comes in three sizes, small, large and extra large, though the XL size can only be bought through fitbit.com. Small is 13.7 cm–15.7 cm, large is 15.7 cm–19.3 cm and extra-large is19.3 cm–22.1 cm. Fitbit provide a handy sizing chart here. The ChargeHR has a proper watch-style buckle for the band, rather than the push through style of the Flex.

Getting started is easy. Charge the ChargeHR with the supplied cable, install the app on a smartphone or tablet, register if you aren’t already with Fitbit, follow the pairing instructions and job done. Now all you have to do is some exercise!

The ChargeHR is a extremely easy to use as there’s only one button which is situated on the left side of the unit. Pressing the button cycles through time, steps, heart rate, distance, calories, stories climbed and next alarm. For each statistics, there’s a little graphic followed by the number – footprints for steps, a heart for pulse and so on.

The main differentiator of the ChargeHR is the heart rate tracking. I don’t know much about the science but it appears to use a couple of greenish LEDs on the back of device to measure the pulse. The ChargeHR measures the pulse every second under normal circumstances, but when it detects exercise, it ups the data rate for real-time information so you can keep your pulse in the zone.

The charging port is visible on the back in the picture. Charging typically takes less than hour for a couple of days wear.

Fitbit Charge HR sensors

Clever as the ChargeHR is, it’s only once you start looking at the data generated that you really start to get benefit from the tracker. The Fitbit app can provide graphs and charts for most metrics. Here are a few showing steps, resting heart rate and sleep. I didn’t wear the ChargeHR every night, hence why there’s some missing data. Activity can be reviewed, giving heart rate zones – peak, cardio, fat burning – exercise duration and max heart rate. There’s lots of useful info.

Fitbit Steps Fitbit HR Fitbit Sleep

If you’re using a PC rather than a smartphone or tablet, Fitbit provide a web-based portal that provides similar information and analysis. For the really serious fitness fans, $50 per annum gets Premium privileges and extra analysis (which I didn’t investigate).

The ChargeHR does vibrating alarms too which is very handy if you need to get up without your bedside alarm waking your significant other. The alarm is set via the app and then sync’d to the tracker. I like this, though it’s not exclusive to the ChargeHR.

As expected in this day and age, there’s a social element too. You can add friends who also have Fitbits (of whatever variety) and see a leaderboard of steps taken each week. You can also earn badges for steps taken per day and lifetime achievements – I’ve a Nile badge for 6,649 lifetime kilometres.

I’ve had the ChargeHR for a couple of weeks now and I’ve been wearing it as much as I can. Sometimes I have to wear my Fitbit Zip on my belt when a teal bracelet wouldn’t be appropriate. Fortunately the Fitbit app (at least on Android) allows cross-syncing, so if you do 1,000 steps on one device and 1,000 on another, both will show 2,000 after a sync (or two). I like that feature as it lets me wear the Fitbit that suits my day.

Overall, I feel Fitbit have slightly stolen my thunder here, as the ChargeHR is being phased out and replaced by the Charge 2, but this could be an opportunity to get an excellent tracker for less money. Although officially priced at a penny under GB£120, it’s widely available for £89.99, even in shops such as PC World. The Charge 2 is currently £129.99, so there’s an effective saving of £40.

Thanks to Fitbit for supplying the ChargeHR for review.