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Commentary on The Capital Markets- Category [Technology]

God I hate this crap spewed on the TeeVee.

Let's dispense with it right now -- there's a ****ing craze going on with "wearable" tech, such as the "Fitbit" and similar.  Apple is of course allegedly introducing a "smart watch", there are those that link to Android, and similar.

I've used a stand-alone product now for about four years in pursuit of my running and cycling.  I doubt I will ever be interested in one of these so-called "smart" devices, and I expect all of them to be huge fails in the marketplace.

The issue is format, comfort and data display.  The needs of someone who wants a watch on their wrist for everyday use are drastically different from those who want a "workout partner."  Among other things the sort of stylistic bands and such that are found on "everyday" watches are either uncomfortable or will actually cut you during vigorous exercise.  Simply put "style" is grossly inappropriate for workout use; you need rounded corners on your timepiece along with a soft band that securely anchors the device on your wrist and neither cuts into it or allows the device to move, as if it slides around it will chafe and, eventually, bloody you.

Second, data display.  I want four items of data "in my face" whenever I glance at my watch while working out.  I want the data immediately and without having to press buttons or wait.  For running that's the current lap pace, the last lap pace, the total distance consumed and (if I have the strap on) my current heart rate. That's it, but there's a problem here because I need all four and many of these so-called "universal" timepieces can only display two or three.  Three is not four and I need all four pieces of data when working out to know where I am and how I'm doing in meeting my goals.  When running I further want laps automatically tallied off on a per-mile basis; I rarely (except when racing, of course) have them marked on my route so I can press a button to manually do so.  You'd be shocked at how many so-called "GPS running watches" cannot give you one mile lap splits automatically!

When cycling I want current speed, distance covered and, again, heart rate.  If I had a cadence or power sensor (I have neither) I would want those.  Again that's four.  And again, most of these devices show three -- or less.  A display that "cycles through" is worse than useless; if I have to do more than glance at my timepiece while running it upsets my cadence and while cycling it's downright dangerous and can lead to a crash, just like fidding with your phone to read a text can when driving.

I don't do Tri stuff, so swimming doesn't matter to me, but if you are into Triathlons then some sort of accurate swim recording is a problem, because GPS signals don't work underwater -- and guess where your arm is a good part of the time when swimming?  There are a few specialized devices that claim to have solved this problem; I don't do this particular sport so I can't comment on that with any sort of actual knowledge.

All of the above causes a problem because having the data I want displayed clashes with a "nice, neat, trim" appearance.  I have recently switched to a Garmin 310XT from the 305; the two are more similar than different.  But nobody's going to mistake the 310 or 305 for a fashion piece; they're functional devices that do a job, but you sure as hell won't wear one with your business suit or dress!

Then there's another problem -- data security.  I'm more than a bit uncomfortable with having my timepiece integrate with anything outside of my direct control.  It's bad enough to have my phone on and pinging all the time but this sort of data is quite valuable, and who's to say it will remain yours -- and yours alone?  I don't know that there's an answer to that general issue, incidentally, but you ought to think about it quite carefully before you concede that these sort of devices are a good idea for you.  At least with my running and cycling watch I can keep all the data it collects locally if I so choose.  Not so much with some of the newer ones, and definitely not with the so-called "integrated" smart watches.

And finally, there's price.  The 310XT is now available at a rational cost.  Many of the higher-end watches in the "fitness" arena are just plain outright ridiculous when the financial side of things is considered.  I find it fascinating that marketing folks believe people will pay upwards of $400 for a workout watch that has a non-replaceable battery with a limited cycle life -- typically 300 or so cycles just as with a cellphone, since they all use the same lithium battery technology.  I note that I have cut open my 305 once already to replace the battery -- Garmin wanted $80 to swap it, which is outrageous considering that the battery itself is a whole $5 piece.  If you work out daily and charge the watch every couple of days you're talking about getting one or two years of life out of it before you bin the thing.  We as consumers need to stop tolerating that sort of crap; there's no reason not to put the battery behind a screwed-down, O-ring sealed door so it can be replaced in the field at a rational cost.

I know people will argue that nobody cares about privacy any more, and perhaps they're right.  But you can't get around the other problem -- functional issues related to size and style and which clash in a serious way with an attempt to use these devices for any sort of intended purpose when it comes to working out, along with their price.

Yet that's a huge part of how they're being marketed -- as some sort of device that will help you across your daily activities, including your daily workout routine.

I'm not buying what they're selling.

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