Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Body Media - "GoWear Fit" Product Review

"Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted." ~ Albert Einstein

- BodyMedia "GoWear Fit" (Armband, Display & Activity Manager).

- $249.99 (Armband & Display) + 12 month subscription at $6.95/month

I've been using the BodyMedia "GoWear Fit" Armband, Display & Activity Manager on a daily basis now since Jan. 1st, 2010 and since over 2 months have passed, I figured it was time for a product review. Please note that I purchased my GoWear Fit back in November of 2009 during a sale so the price might be different now.

FYI: BodyMedia also manufactures a nearly identical device sold under the name BodyBugg by both 24hr Fitness & Apex Fitness ... which is the one most people might be familiar with because of it's use on The Biggest Loser.

What is it? - A device that calculates & records on a daily basis your calorie burn, physical activity, steps taken, sleep duration & efficiency. The recorded information is obtained via online through Bodymedia's "Activity Manager" (subscription based), and/or minute to minute with their optional display (like a watch).
How Does it Work? -
The BodyMedia® FIT Armband has multiple sensors. Those innovative sensors take 5 different “views” of your life:

Motion - The Armband contains an accelerometer, a device that measures motion. (Your car air bag has an accelerometer in it that lets it know when you've been in an accident.) We use it to measure HOW you move from multiple axis and perspectives, allowing us to better understand your activity.
Steps - We count your steps, using the accelerometer to measure the distinct patterns created by walking and/or running.

Galvanic Skin Response - When you sweat, your skin becomes more electrically conductive. This measurement help us see how active you are.

Skin Temperature - There's an electronic thermometer inside your armband that helps us know how hot you are.

Heat Flux - When you move, your muscles produce heat. We measure the heat that's flowing from your body into the environment.

~ BodyMedia

Purchasing - Their site was easy enough to navigate... but a glitch on their site prevented anyone outside Canada from completing their purchase online. Unfortunately it took me multiple attempts and some swearing before I gave up and called them. I ended up placing the order over the phone with a friendly customer service rep that acknowledged the website issue & apologized for the inconvenience. Rating: 3/5

Shipping - The cost of shipping was extra (which was expected), but it should of been a bit cheaper. The product arrived on time and was packaged very well. Rating: 4.5/5

Getting Started - Setup was a snap. The instructions were clear and concise. Rating: 5/5

Armband - To me this is one of the more important components.... especially when it comes to comfort. Let's face it, even if this device could lose the weight for me, I still wouldn't wear it if it was bulky, uncomfortable and gave me a skin rash.... well, maybe I would.... but I'd complain an awful lot.

Removing & inserting the device into the armband strap is simple and it stays put. The strap itself is adjustable by Velcro and after the first day I found the sweet spot between keeping it tight enough to stay put & lose enough to be comfortable. After a few days I barely noticed the armband at all. I found that periodically throughout the day I move it slightly up/down/left/right to allow the skin area underneath the device to breathe a bit more.

It's light (1.6 oz), very slim (13mm thick) and virtually unnoticeable under my clothing. During the last 2 months only one person realized I was wearing it, and the only reason they figured it out was because they smacked my arm and felt it.

My only concern with the armband is durability.... Oddly enough my armband strap broke the day after I started writing this review. The part of the strap that you pull on is made out of some form of plastic, and glued underneath it is the rough side of the Velcro. Well I was watching T.V and my armband felt like it was sliding down my arm and I realized that the Velcro had pulled free from the plastic part, but it was still attached by sticky strings of glue like putty. I realize that my description isn't very good, but it's kinda hard to describe. I've temporarily fixed the band with a piece of two sided tape (to reattach the Velcro) & a strip of electrical tape that wraps around the strap (which doesn't feel nice on my skin). I plan to email customer service the minute I've posted this to find out what they will do to remedy the situation.

I would hazard a guess that the problem I had is probably a rare occurrence.

FYI: I personally know several other people using this device and one of them informed me that the strap doesn't accommodate large arms very well and is uncomfortable. My arms are 16" at there widest and I still have some room to loosen the strap (but not that much). I could see how this would be a problem if my arms were bigger.

In terms of using the device, you can remove it from the strap and connect it via a USB cable (supplied) or have it connect wirelessly. Unfortunately I've never had mine successfully connect wirelessly, but that's never really bothered me because it's so easy to pop it out and connect with the cable. I actually prefer connecting this way because it's also how the device recharges and I find that leaving it connect for 15 mins each day while I upload the data and enter in my meals is almost enough to keep it fully charged. I'm not sure if it's something I'm not doing correctly or if it's something to do with the device itself. In BodyMedia's defense, I haven't contacted them yet to inquire about this problem, which I once again plan to do when I post this review.

Other notes: 3hrs for full charge. Battery life 5-7 days & its memory stores up to 14 days of data before it has to be uploaded. Rating: 7/10*

* Until I've heard back from BodyMedia I've subtracted 3pts for the strap being broken & 2pts for the device not connecting properly via wirelessly. I'll update the review & rating if these issues are resolved.

* Update: Mar.11th, 2010 - I sent a message yesterday and received a reply today stating that they were sending me a replacement armband for myself & a larger one for my friend.

Activity Manager - This is the online software that the armband uploads the data to. It also allows you to view the data, set targets & goals, log your meals & snacks, and run daily/weekly/monthly reports based on the data collected. I've included 3 screenshots to give you an idea of what the activity manager looks like. The first picture is the main "Summary" screen. The second picture is the same "Summary" screen with 2 of the categories expanded, showing the data in more detail. The third picture is the "Nutrition" screen, which shows what I had for breakfast.

The various functions under the "Settings" tab such as your preferences, targets & goals are straight forward and if you can't figure something out there's quick links at the bottom of the screen.

The "Summary" section is really easy to navigate/understand and all the information you need to access is right there in front of you.

The "Nutrition" section is relatively easy to navigate/understand, but it requires a bit more patience than the "Summary" section to get used to. Their food database contains 30,000 different items, but if you can't find what your looking for you can manually enter in your own items. The first few weeks will slow going in regards to entering in the individual items that you eat, but it does become far less tedious after that. Typically I can enter in all my meals & snacks for the day in about 5 mins providing I didn't eat something new for the first time.

I used to use SparkPeople to log my food (which is a great site with an awesome meal logging tool), but when I purchased my armband I decided to switch over (back in Nov. 2010). I ended up giving up on the Activity Manager after a week because it wasn't anywhere near as user friendly as SparkPeople..... but in December BodyMedia introduced an updated Activity Manager (the one in use today) that was much more user friendly than the previous version, so I switched over again. I still believe that SparkPeople has the superior Meal Logger, but the main reason I've kept using the Activity Manager is because it's able to incorporate my logged meals into my reports. Hopefully through user support the next version will be even better.

I do however have a HUGE BEEF with the Activity Manager..... It's painfully slow. I'm not sure what the problem is: heavy user traffic, inadequate server capacity, software/hardware glitches....... who knows. The point is I should be able to log onto the system, view my data, download my reports, enter my meals for the day and log off....... without delays. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't happen 100% of the time, but it does happen frequently. Here's a list of problems I've encountered:
  1. Painfully slow data retrieval or saving data
  2. Errors saving a meal.
  3. Errors saving a created item or recipe (which sucks b/c you have to re-enter it).
  4. Stuck in limbo while their system is thinking..... which usually leads to #5.
  5. Problems refreshing the screen/data, or it takes a long time.
Through my correspondence with them, it appears that they're aware of the problems and are working towards correcting them.... but it's been awhile now and I'm not holding my breath.

I will admit that as frustrating as the above problems have been, I've always managed to complete my task (through patience, or a second attempt later that day)..... and like I stated it doesn't happen 100% of the time. Rating: 5/10*

* I deducted 3pts for the speed/error issues. I deducted 1pt for not being as user friendly as SparkPeople, and another 1pt for lacking some additional features. If BodyMedia addresses these issues I'll update the rating.

- The display doesn't store any information. It simply allows you to view the data that your armband is collecting (calories burned, steps & minutes of activity). It also has a light for nighttime viewing. You can wear the display on a watchband (included) or clip it onto a belt or pocket...... personally I carry mine around in my pocket. The display updates the information every minute (might be longer).

As I mentioned before the display is optional, which is to say it costs extra and isn't needed.... but I actually find it useful. Before I purchased this product I did a few google searches for reviews by other people and many of them recommended not buying the display because it wasn't needed & also because it's not the nicest looking accessory you've ever seen.... both of which are true.

So why did I purchase one?
  1. If I decide at some point in the future to stop paying the monthly subscription to BodyMedia's site, I can still use the display to keep track of my data. It displays both the current & previous days data, which means I would be stuck with a useless armband. I wouldn't have access to the nice looking reports or the Meal Log, but at least be able to write down the data (notebook, excel etc.).
  2. If I happen to be out of the house or on vacation, I'm able to view my progress with the push of a button, and without having access to a computer or the internet. This came in real handy during my trip to Ottawa last month. It allowed me to see when I was off track and reminded me to get my butt in gear to hit my goals.
  3. I find myself checking the display often, which once again keeps me on track and aware of my progress (or lack of it). There's been many times where I'm watching T.V at night and I've checked my display & thought "oh crap, I'm 2000 steps below target" and jumped on the elliptical for 15 mins.
Overall the display does what it's supposed to do, and other than it looking really geeky (not in a good way) I can't complain about it. Rating: 8/10

Customer Service - My only contact with customer service has been via email, so my rating/review is based solely on that. I've sent about 7 emails now and the responses been courteous and for the most part prompt. When you submit an email it creates a case number which you're able to access to see updates/responses on the issue/question. One of my emails questioned the problems I was having with the Activity Manager & the various errors/delays, but it wasn't addressed and has since been closed. I logged on now and updated my request for a response. I suspect I'll have one soon enough. Rating: 3.5/5

RATING TOTAL - 36/50 or 72%

The good: It lives up to it's promise and is a valuable piece of equipment that I would happily purchase again.

The bad: The product is in its infancy and has its fair share of problems including: inaccuracy, software glitches, slow servers. I really wish the device monitored your heart rate!!!!

The bottom line: I can honestly say that this product is one of the big contributing factors to helping me stay on track with my fitness and nutrition goals. There isn't another product on the market that can do what this product can do...... PERIOD. Its the future and its available today.

Here's a few other reviews that I managed to find:

If you have any questions..... don't hesitate to ask.

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Blogger BryGuy said...

There's someone out there that asked for a review of this product and for the life of me I can't remember who that person is.

I spent 30mins searching for the comment I left, stating that I'd let ya know when I was finished... but I came up empty handed.

Sorry. Hopefully you end up finding this post.

3:39 p.m.  

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