- Gorgeous, well made
- Breathing and period tracking
- Six month battery life
- Syncing is a pain
- A bit heavy when clipped
- App needs more work
Behold, the smart leaf. Well, almost. The Bellabeat LEAF is the latest piece of lifestyle tracking smart jewellery claiming to offer a fuller picture of your life and how to improve it.
Starting at a very reasonable $119 and available on iOS and Android, it certainly stands out in a crowd of plastic fitness bands. Not only is Bellabeat interested in your steps, active time, calories and sleep, but it also wants to help you track your period and fertility throughout the month and introduce you to meditation and breathing exercises too.
Rather than trying to be everything to every user, Bellabeat has built the LEAF for women who want to know more about their health and lifestyle. With this focus, can the chic wearable from this Slovenian/Croatian startup make a meaningful dent in Fitbit sales?
Bellabeat LEAF: Design
This is a beautifully made wearable, which is definitely a rarity. The default Silver LEAF is made from white ash wood and stainless steel, with more premium editions using African Blackwood, oak and rose gold plating. It's a clever design too, which incorporates the clip into the aesthetic.
But it's still a big ol' leaf accessory (48 x 30 x 13mm to be exact). Clipping it to a shirt, dress or waistband (so only the steel cut out leaf is visible) is very Elven chic but at 18g, it can weigh some materials down, such as cotton. So we'd recommend being choosy about what you wear it with. It works well as a bracelet too – though I really struggled with the clasp mechanism on the wraparound leather accessory. Again, as a pendant with the stainless steel necklace, it makes a statement but it's a little on the big and heavy side.
It's worth noting that the leather band and necklace come bundled in the box and are included in the price which is a nice move. The LEAF is splash proof but not water resistant; so certainly more of a lifestyle, not sporty, design.
Bellabeat LEAF: Tracking
As I mentioned, Bellabeat is trying to offer women a more holistic lifestyle aid but in terms of what the device actually tracks day to day, this still boils down to activity and sleep.
In terms of activity, the LEAF tracks active time, steps, distance and calories, showing your daily total so far as well as your seven day average. There's also a timeline which displays your sleep in purple and activity in orange and a Fitbit style Today screen.
When we compared it to the Fitbit Alta, the LEAF was within 100 or so steps of the popular tracker and on a par for distance, suggesting it's largely accurate when worn clipped onto a t-shirt and as a pendant as I mainly wore it. Bellabeat suggests it should be worn on a clip on the top half of your body for the best accuracy.
I did find the daily calories burned estimates to be slightly too generous, even when worn as a clip – and that's a dangerous metric to overestimate.
Automatic sleep tracking a) kicked in every night and b) was very accurate. One night it did put me as sleeping when I was reading in bed but in the morning when you sync, the app asks if it's got it right and you can manually correct any mistakes like this. One day though I didn't sync first thing, and it took me a while to find a way to correct a previous night's sleep later on if that was slightly out. (Hit the edit pencil on the sleep card underneath the graph.)
The app shows duration of sleep and percentage of deep sleep (both today and seven day average) as well as a chart with light and dark purple to supposedly chart your sleep – as ever, this seemed to chart my light, morning snoozes as indeed 'light' but it's tricky to determine the accuracy. I do like the option to 'add a nap', though.
Bellabeat LEAF: App
I've discussed how to use the LEAF as a regular tracker and though there aren't the historical graphs to dig into, Bellabeat gives you a good idea of how your day compares to the whole week.
The app includes little fact bubbles on activity and sleep but these need more work compared to say, Jawbone's Smart Coach. They were repetitive and didn't seem to be tailored to my habits.
On the calendar graphics on the main screen of the app, you get coloured bars to show you have synced activity or sleep, but they are essentially showing your progress at syncing, not your lifestyle goals.
Overall, this isn't as motivational an app as some. All Bellabeat really has is a 'you hit your goal' message for time active, steps or sleep (changed in Settings) and the helpful, and very customisable, inactivity alerts for sedentary office workers. If that's enough for you and the design has won you over, you'll do just fine with the LEAF.
Bellabeat LEAF: Periods and Meditation
The additions on top of activity tracking might intrigue you – the first is period tracking. This appears as droplet icons on the scrolling calendar at the top of the app. It's pretty similar to other period tracking apps as you hit 'start period' and then get an indication of when it will finish, your past, present and predicted cycles, fertile days and ovulation. So it's nothing new, but it is helpful to have it right there with your activity and sleep data.
The second addition is meditation exercises and breathing tracking. The LEAF doesn't auto track your breathing to keep an eye on stress, but when worn on the waist it does track your breathing once you've started one of the exercises. There are audio cues to get you relaxed as well as a guest spot from an Olympic athlete, and these are tailored towards relaxation, building confidence and even helping with period cramps.
The LEAF picked up our breathing in and out and it was accurately displayed on the phone's screen. The coach tells you to keep your eyes closed but you'll probably peek too – it's no surprise that it picks up your body moving, but it's still impressive. You can choose from 2/3 minutes right up to 10 minutes and I left the introductory exercises feeling very calm indeed.
What I'd like to see is more integration between the meditation and the activity/sleep goals. It all feels rather separate and though I got a nice congrats message for completing an exercise, I don't know how stressed I was before or after it and how that fit into my overall day or week. There's also no food tracking or a way to bring this data in – though it does sync with Google Fit on Android.
A quick word on syncing the LEAF – it is a pain. You have to press the sync button in the app (top corner on iOS, bottom corner on Android) which takes a while to find and then double tap the LEAF. This involves taking it off, getting it close to your phone and tapping it a bunch of times until it works. My tip: tap it towards the top of the surface, not the middle. This sort of faff is fine for a one time pairing setup but not every day.
Bellabeat LEAF: Battery life
Okay, we have complained about the syncing but there's a reason Bellabeat wants you to manually sync the LEAF: it has an awesome six month battery life. There's no charging, just swap out the coin cell battery with the included tool when it conks out.
Now, in the week or so we've been using the device, the battery level in Settings hasn't nudged from the full battery icon. There doesn't seem to be a percentage indicator either – word on the web so far seems to be that you can expect more like two to three months but that's one for a long term test.
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