Smart watches and fitness bands are the in-thing – not only as fashion accessories but as valuable devices for those who want to stay fit. However, they are not always reliable.
Our Consumer Council went the extra mile, so to speak, to compare the accuracy of fitness data provided by 20 of these devices available in Hong Kong, including the number of steps taken, distance covered, calories burned and heart rate.
The results of the study are a bit disappointing for me as I try to walk 10,000 steps a day. But as the consumer watchdog says, we should not rely on these instruments for precise measurements, but rather, we should consider the information they provide as a reference in keeping track of our daily activities.
The tests were done in coordination with the International Consumer Research and Testing on the 20 models, including 17 smart watches, with prices ranging from HK$479 to HK$6,090, and three tracking bands, priced between HK$219 and HK$1,298.
While focusing on the devices’ fitness data, the study also examined their other functions, ease of use, apps, battery performance, and versatility.
The Apple Watch Series 4 tops the list with an overall accuracy rating of 4.5, topping its rival Samsung Galaxy which only scored 4.
It also has the second highest unit price among the tested devices at HK$3,199 to HK$3,999, although it was found to have the shortest battery life of 29 hours.
When it comes to step count, Garmin’s Vivosmart, priced at $1,248, was found to have the most accurate measurement with 0.5 percent error, much better than Mykronoz’s Zeround (HK$1,199), which has a 46 percent error, Xiaomi’s Mi Band 3 (HK$219), which has a 33 percent error, and Sunnto’s 9, which is one of the most expensive at HK$6,090 but with an error of 29 percent.
However, while Vivosmart makes close-to-perfect step count, its measurement of distance covered has a 42 percent error.
Although they vary widely in unit price, the devices received a 3.5 rating, except for Mykronoz which got a lower score of 3.
Regarding their accuracy in measuring the calories burned in walking, running, cycling and daily movement, none of the models tested was found to deviate by less than 10 percent.
Three of the devices deviated by as much as 88 percent in the measurement of calories burned when cycling, only one model deviated by less than 10 percent for walking, while two deviated less than 10 percent for routine activities.
The test also measured the deviation in measuring estimated walking and running distance on specially selected winding routes and paths with no satellite signal for GPS.
One model was found to deviate almost 42 percent in running distance, and another deviated up to 60 percent in walking distance.
Only five models were found to deviate less than 10 percent in both walking and running estimates.
Of the 13 samples that could measure altitude, two models deviated over 35 percent, and only four did not exceed 5 percent.
Of those that could measure distance based on GPS, one sample registered a deviation of 55 percent.
The Consumer Council notes that GPS usually can measure distance more accurately in open spaces, but factors such as winding routes and location tracking frequency of the device can result in wide data discrepancies.
It reminds consumers that trendy devices with multiple smart features only provide estimations. If they need accurate fitness data for health assessment, they should consult healthcare professionals.
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