On the lookout for a health band or smartwatch? What to bear in mind when selecting one proper now

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The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit India hard. For many of us, it has likely made us revisit how to manage our physical health. If you want to improve your overall health and get back into fitness mode, wearables can make it easier for you to get back on track, even indoors.

The good thing is that even budget fitness trackers now offer heart rate and blood oxygen or SpO2 tracking along the usual steps and exercise tracking. Here is a quick buying guide to help you understand what features a fitness wearable should have before you decide to buy it. We also recommend reading the reviews for an individual product before purchasing to make sure it will meet your needs.

How to choose the right smartwatch

Fitbit Versa smartwatch in the frame. (Express photo)

Design, build quality, display

When you are spending on a smartwatch, make sure it has a big display and good resolution. Some smartwatches are equipped with an AMOLED panel. This is better if you want a crisp, vibrant screen. A watch with a sapphire crystal display or at least Corning Gorilla Glass DX + offers another additional benefit as it protects the display from scratches or damage of any kind, even if the watch is hit by a hard object.

Another aspect of the design that needs to be considered is robustness. Look for a waterproof smartwatch so you don’t have to worry about it getting damaged during the rainy season. It should have a water resistance of 5 ATM so that it can withstand pressures of up to 50 meters. Some smartwatches have such features and can even be used for swimming. Note, however, that not all water-resistant watches are swim-proof.

However, do not take your smartwatch with you for diving in the sea or for water sports unless it is expressly approved by the manufacturer.

As you look at the design, keep in mind that a thinner watch is easier to wear all day. The smartwatch should have a robust build quality. It should also support interchangeable bracelets so that you can buy third-party bracelets to match your outfits or for other purposes.

While you can get quality bracelets with an expensive watch, it is still wise to keep this at bay when purchasing a watch. You have to check whether the belt is durable, high quality and comfortable on the skin.

Observe fitness functions

Heart rate monitoring is now available for most budget smartwatches.

Monitoring SpO2 (blood oxygen levels) is a must now, and any smartwatch you buy should ideally support it. Many watches have this feature, including those that are sold at a low price. The accuracy of the function depends on the product, but it can at least provide an indication of whether there are problems or signs of it.

Blood oxygen monitoring has become critical in today’s world due to COVID-19. Many rely on pulse oximeters to check their heart rate and blood oxygen levels, and smartwatches can help in this area too. Monitoring SpO2 is important as blood oxygen levels below 92 percent indicate that a person’s health may be deteriorating, especially if they have or have recovered from COVID-19.

How this feature works on smartwatches and fitness bands is that red and infrared sensors on the back of the device cast a light on your skin. The reflected light is used to estimate blood oxygen levels; More red light means higher values, more infrared light means poor values. The Apple Watch 6 supports this function as well as the Fitbit Versa, Iconic series and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 as well as watches from AmazFit, Noise, Huawei and GoQii. Realme Watch S and Redmi Watch S.

Real-time heart rate tracking and sleep patterns are also supported by most smartwatches, including the brands mentioned above. Users can see their daily sleep duration, depth / light analysis, regularity and interruptions over night. Some watches like Apple Watches support EKG sensors, but not everyone really needs them.

For outdoor workouts, a smartwatch should have built-in GPS so you can leave your phone behind and check the distance and route information on the watch. Features like stress and hydration tracking are also part of some watches, although these are more software tweaks.

The former will track your stress level. Some watches now offer breathing exercises to help users calm down, even if it only lasts a short minute. The hydration function helps those who need to improve their daily water consumption.

Look for wearables that offer a range of sport or exercise modes. The watch should be able to provide data on total time, calories burned, steps taken, heart rate zones, average cadence, pace, speed, heart rate, VO2 max (oxygen consumption during exercise), heart rate zones and energy consumption.

While you may not get running analysis on most smartwatches, this feature can provide data on asymmetry, ground contact time, flight time, regularity, and vertical oscillation (running efficiency). This is a good feature for runners and will be found on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3.

Women users should look for a smartwatch that also supports menstrual cycle or pregnancy tracking features if they aren’t already using an app on their phone to track this data.

Long battery life, connectivity, compatibility

A look at fitness smartwatches from Apple and Samsung. (Express picture)

The watches offered by Fitbit are mostly designed for a battery life of up to 7 days. You typically don’t get a week of battery life with feature-rich smartwatches. Features such as the always-on display (AoD), continuous heart rate monitoring, activity tracking, GPS, the high-resolution AMOLED panel and overnight sleep tracking drain the battery. The battery life of any wearable largely depends on your usage patterns. Try getting a smartwatch that offers at least two to three days of battery life.

Before completing a fitness wearable, make sure it is compatible with iOS and Android platforms. Before buying, try to see if you can also find reviews for the product online.

Connectivity is one of the most important things to consider. I checked some wearables that got disconnected after a few hours and then had to reconnect to get heart rate, steps, and other data. Plus, if you don’t want to take your phone with you for outdoor workouts, you can buy the LTE variant of a smartwatch. However, the LTE model will cost a lot more.

How to Choose the Right Budget Fitness Band?

Sensors, functions

A budget fitness band may not give you as detailed data as expensive smartwatches. It can at least provide some data that many people might find useful. Look for fitness bands with features like continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking, and SpO2 (blood oxygen tracking). These functions should be present in a fitness band.

Xiaomi’s Mi Band series offers users the best experience in terms of accuracy and fitness functions. Look for a wearable that has multiple sport modes, including outdoor running, treadmill, biking, hiking, swimming in the pool, elliptical, indoor biking, yoga, and more. These are the basic features that you are likely to find in most fitness bands. However, you should check out all of the sport modes before purchasing a wearable so that the activities you are doing are also available.

For women who buy fitness wearables, many support the ability to record the menstrual cycle as well as the ovulation phases. There are smart tapes that can also send reminders before each period.

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Waterproof design with all smart, long battery life

One should buy an AMOLED touchscreen fitness band. It should have a 2.5D glass and AF (anti-fingerprint) coating. It is expected that a fitness band has a water resistance of 5 ATM or at least a protection class of IP68 in order to guarantee a certain durability against water damage.

When buying an inexpensive smartband, make sure it has durable and removable straps. Other than that, app notifications and phone call / message notifications on a smart band can come in handy. Each brand adds some extra features to make it more convenient for users.

Xiaomi’s Mi Band 5 has a night mode that allows the screen to be dimmed to your liking. Some of the wearables support the lift-to-wake function, special breathing guidance, music control and much more. The connectivity and compatibility mentioned above also applies here. A fitness tracker should offer more than seven days of battery life.

Why are smartwatches better than fitness bands?

Smartwatches offer more screen space than a fitness band. The navigation experience on watches is much smoother and easier. Controlling music or replying to messages from a fitness band that has a very small screen is a little annoying. A smartwatch can also act as an analog watch.