When buying a smartwatch, it’s important to consider how active you are — and how active you want to be. At the low end would be someone who rarely if ever works out; at the other end are consumers like this week’s guest on Too Embarrassed to Ask, fitness wearables expert Ray Maker.
Maker is better known by his online pseudonym D.C. Rainmaker (an old Blogspot username that stuck). He reviews practically every fitness gadget on the market on his website, using his body “as a test vehicle.” And he’s a serious athlete: Once, Maker got hit by a car mid-triathlon and finished the race with a broken femur.
“I actually ran one of my fastest 10ks ever, but I couldn’t walk the next day,” he said.
For people who are looking for a serious fitness device, Maker recommended two of the latest watches from Garmin: The Fenix 5 or the Forerunner 935.
“The maturity level is so high now and they’re not starting from scratch every time,” Maker said. “They’re actually building upon their past products. A lot of products will do a whole reset every time. Like, the iPhone, when you go from version to version, you’re not going backwards in time, while that’s true for a lot of [wearables]: You go backwards for a few months and then you go forward.”
For less active consumers, Maker said there’s little difference between Fitbit and Garmin. And for all activity levels, he acknowledged that Garmin’s software is a “mixed bag.”
“Fitbit’s in a little easier spot, because they’re not trying to cater to two vastly different audiences,” he said. “Garmin is trying to cater to someone who’s not even going to run at all, just going to walk and wear this activity tracker, at the same time as someone who is an Olympic athlete and a gold medalist who is trying to get very granular data.”
“But I think even with that in mind, Garmin can do a heck of a lot better job on the dashboard page of the app, to see that basic data,” he added.
Maker said the Apple Watch is “the best smartwatch period,” but not the best for fitness. And across the board, he said the companies making wearable fitness devices could be doing way more with the vast amounts of data their hardware is collecting.
“Right now, you may get your summary at the end of the day: ‘Good job! you did more steps!’ or it tries to add some pseudo-big data twist on it like, ‘This is more than most people of this gender,’” he said. “It’s like, ‘Okay, great, but what does that actually tell me?’ I want a watch to tell me, at 4:00 as I’m getting ready to go home, ‘Hey, this day was pretty calm, let’s up your run from this to this.’”
Have questions about fitness tech that we didn’t get to in this episode? Tweet them to @Recode with the hashtag #TooEmbarrassed, or email them to TooEmbarrassed@recode.net.
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