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Trackers - recommendations

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I don't have a tracker that I like, I've tried a couple but gave up. However, that was a while ago, and I have not kept up with the newest trends. So, if you wear a tracker, could you describe it and/or recommend one?

For example Amazon is apparently coming out with a tracker, but it's a non-starter (for me), as it doesn't have a screen, doesn't even tell the time, and requires a monthly subscription (monthly subscriptions are generally a deal-breaker for me), and claims nonsensical garbage features like telling your mood by constantly listening to your voice - FEH! No thank you.

Apple Watch is interesting, but I don't like the tight connection to the iPhone (even though I have an iPhone). 

I gave up on trackers a while ago, because (1) not trusting the accuracy (2) fiddly and not simple in operation (3) uncomfortable. 

Do you have something that you find useful and would recommend?

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I have been wearing trackers since the first Basis came out.  I've had a few Samsung watches, an Apple Watch, Fitbit Versa and now a Garmin Venu.  I feel naked if I don't have one 🙂

Seriously, I like data and within its limitations, wrist-based trackers have helped me fine-tune some aspects of my life.  As I've mentioned before, the resting heart rate increases a day or sometimes even two before one gets sick.  These trackers take the measurements for RHR generally throughout the night and average it, so it's likely a significantly more accurate reflection than taking it manually once a day.  I have reduced my drinking to mostly one glass of wine when I go out, as two+ not only disrupt my sleep, but also increase my RHR for a day or two, which tells me that my body is not thrilled.

I also like to see my heart rate variations (and improvement over time) while running, as well as keep track of all my hikes, walks, and runs.  It works beautifully with Cronometer, as Cronometer takes the data from the tracker and adjusts the daily calorie goal accordingly.

In my experience, the Garmin Venu provides the best balance for my purposes.  Its heart rate sensor is much more reliable and accurate than Fitbit's or Samsung's, as is the GPS sensor.  The Fitbit would often just drop HR altogether when I push harder and get to about 150bpm or higher.  Apple is reliable. Samsung is closer to Fitbit.

The connected GPS on the Fitbit was a joke. Both Garmin and Apple are reasonably accurate.

Garmin gives me a baseline SpO2 from which I can see variations. I am not sure how accurate it is, as it seems a bit low to me. I have set it to continuously track SpO2 while I sleep. Garmin also counts how many breaths you take per minute.

Garmin's sleep tracking is not as good as Fitbit's at detecting when I go to sleep and when I wake up.  On the other hand, it seems to be more in line with what REM should be.  On sleep, I'd give Fitbit the nod, although Garmin seems to improve continuously -- Fitbit was as bad at sleep detection until about 9 months ago, so I hope Garmin improves the algorithms too.  Garmin just bought FirstBeat and if they roll some of FirstBeat's available data crunching into their existing models, it would be a boon.

Apple is great, with good accuracy and the best UI, but their battery life is not even enough for decent sleep tracking, while Garmin lasts for three or four days with my GPS and SpO2 use.  I just started using a third-party HR Variability app on the Garmin, which seems to provide some interesting info -- I'll reserve judgment on its accuracy until I test it better, this being an optical sensor and all.

Overall, I'd avoid Fitbit, unless you need it for just casual use and don't care for accuracy under load (the Charger 4, which has updated Sensors got bad reviews for accuracy, and so I wouldn't trust the new Sense).

Garmin, or something like Polar, are good choices.  Apple will unveil its new watch soon, this time with sleep (basic), which suggests improved battery life. For hardcore runners or sports types, some of the more specialized, pricier models might be a better fit, as well as some of the smaller niche brands.

These are all my own opinions, based on my experience and needs, of course.  YMMV.

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Thanks a bunch Ron, for the fantastic review! I’d consider an Apple Watch, but I want at least a 48 hour battery life, so I’d guess that means “never”, unless there’s a massive breakthrough in battery tech.

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