Can you track runs with a fitness tracker? Wearable tech myths debunked

Don't believe everything you hear: Fitness tracker facts and smartwatch sense
Wearable tech myth busting
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The man on the street is dummy - at least when it comes to wearable technology. In fact, he and your mate down the pub should get together and have the world's least well-informed children on the subjects of fitness trackers, smartwatches and all the other connected self insights that we cover here on Wareable.

How many steps should you take each day? Is VR going to make you vom? Just which smartwatches are you supposed to buy?

Turn to us for the answers on these; not some low-knowledge loudmouth.

These are the biggest wearable tech myths in the world today and just why none of them are actually true.

Myth: Wearable tech is a fad

Truth: You're a fad.

There are bad wearables out there and you might even level it that smartwatches are not here to stay. It's possible. But wearable tech a fad? Please.

Wearables will change form. Some will become disposables, some will be invisibles, some will be fashion items and others will become implantables but the fact of the matter is that we want to know more and more about ourselves and we want our services to have a better understanding of us in return.

Wearables are the beginning; the ending is immeasurable.

Myth: Smartwatches need smartphones

Truth: Not all the time

Ok, so we're not going to tell you to buy a smartwatch unless you have a smartphone to go with it. There are a whole bunch of core functions - not least of all the set-up - for which a smartphone is integral. You will not need the two of them paired at all times to get the most out of your smartwatch though.

Both the Samsung Gear S and S2 watches actually have SIM cards of their own inside for all kinds of solo connectivity, and even the Apple Watch and others don't need you to go running with your phone in your pocket to track and record your exercise data.

Myth: VR Will make you sick

Truth: It can, but the best made content won't give you any nausea at all.

There's not one, nailed-down reason why VR can make people feel sick but most of the thinking is around a discord between your senses. A virtual roller-coaster experience might have your eyes spinning all over the place and yet, according to your vestibular system - the one that controls balance at your inner ear - you're absolutely stock still. Your brain fails to compute and you start feeling like you want to hurl.

A lot of the vomit-avoiding solutions of late have centred around ramping up screen resolution and frame rates to match the speeds and quality of what your visual cortex is used to processing in the real world. Largely speaking it's all working quite well. The bottom line here is that there are thousands of VR demos for Oculus and the like at the moment. Those with big companies behind them are very unlikely to cause nausea. It's the smaller developers with whom you might want the old puke bag at the ready.

Myth: 10,000 steps burns 400 calories

Truth: It's a reasonable guideline but it's impossible to say

The figure of 400 calories is meant to be for a person who's 45 years old and weighs 70kg but, even with body mass and age factored in, there are really still too many variables to accurately figure out how much fat you've burned, no matter what your fitness tracker is telling you.

How fast are you walking? What's your stride length? Are those steps up or down hill? Were they all proper steps or were some smaller movements?

The message here is, if you're trying to lose weight, don't get caught up in the counting of calories in this way. Reduce your food portions by one quarter, walk 10,000 steps in a day and slowly but surely you'll reap the benefits.

Myth: You can track runs with a fitness tracker

Truth: Depends on your tracker and definition of 'track'

Without GPS, your tracking device has absolutely no idea where you are and, if it has no idea where you are, then it has no idea where you've been either. So, that thing around your wrist doesn't know where you are, where you've been and therefore would have no way of judging how long it took you to get between those two points over which it has absolutely zero knowledge. Getting the picture? Yeah, well your GPS-less fitness tracker isn't.

Most trackers can tell you about the number of steps you've taken and maybe have insights about activities like yoga or swimming based on movements which the accelerometers and gyros inside can pick up. But the bottom line is this: no GPS, no run tracking. Try one of these instead.

Myth: Sleep tracker smart alarms will make you feel better

Truth: Maybe in the short term, but more sleep equals better rested

There are points in your sleep cycle from which it's nicer to wake; you're not so groggy and experience less 'sleep inertia' as the experts call it. Don't confuse that with meaning that it's better to continually clip you last 30 or 40 minutes of rest each morning. It's not.

You want to be grabbing as much kip as you can within reason. Smart alarms that can detect your phase of sleep are largely demonstrations of how clever the technology is rather than something that we actually need in our lives.

Myth: Smartglasses are dead

Truth: Google Glass is dead. Sort of. Smart glasses are not

Yes, the original, beta Google Glass Explorer program is over but Google, certainly officially speaking, has not pulled the plug on Glass. It's said that it's ready to move away from that phase of things and that the journey is not over.

Suffice to say, if it's not over, it's certainly having a bit of a rest in some quiet boozer in the country somewhere. Fortunately, it's propping up the bar with Nest CEO Tony Fadell, who's sobering it up and getting it ready to face the public again in the form of Google Glass 2 some time in the future. Don't hold your breath.

The fact of the matter is that AR glasses are a tricky beast to get right. They're hard technically, they're hard socially; they're still trying to get VR glasses right and that's almost half as easy. Take a look at companies like Vuzix and Recon as well as Microsoft HoloLens and whatever the hell it is that the mysterious Magic Leap is getting together. Smartglasses are alive and well - at least for the time being.

Myth: Heart-rate monitors on watches are not accurate enough

Truth: They're not perfect, but they accurate enough for most

Right now, a chest strap is a more dead-on measure of heart rate but that doesn't mean that running watches with HRMs built in aren't worth using. Unless you're an elite sportsperson or undertaking clinical trials, then consistency is of far greater use than accuracy in a wearable running device. So long as your watch is consistently off by the same 10% or so, then that's ok because, generally speaking, our training is about monitoring change rather than absolute values.

Of course, some HRMs are more consistent than others - and we'll tell you all about that in our sports watch reviews - but, more importantly, they're getting better all the time. Should you run with a HRM sports watch? Of course.

Myth: Wearable payments are not safe

Truth: Wearable payments can be safer than normal contactless payments

A payment by one of Barclays bPay wearables is no different to a normal contactless payment. The wearable is linked to a debit or credit card that you own and, each time you tap, the payment is taken off in much the same way. You're also covered by the same rights in that there's a limit per transaction, so it would be tricky for someone to clean you out before the system auto-declines them.

What's more the headline wearable payment system, Apple Pay, is arguably even safer than a normal plastic tap and go. Your Apple Watch or iPhone never actually passes over any of your account details to the merchant. Instead, it creates an encrypted token. Even if that were intercepted somewhere, it wouldn't tell the thief anything useful. Apple Pay also requires either a PIN or a fingerprint ID to work. Contactless card payments involve neither.

Myth: Smartwatches are only for geeks

Truth: There are some stylish smartwatches for both men and women

It's true to say that the first few waves of smartwatches looked more like a small computer on your arm than anything else but the wearable industry has quickly clued up to the fact that their products need to look good.

Enter the obvious delights of the his and hers Apple Watch collection, including the solid gold Edition. Look a little closer and you'll find stylish Swiss gems such as the Mondaine Helvetica No.1 Smart and the Breitling B55 Connected. Better still, there's some very tasty recent announcements with the Moto 360 2 and Pebble Time Round. Take a look at some more over here.

Myth: Most people abandon their fitness trackers after a few months

Truth: Most people do not

About half of Fitbit's registered users are still using their fitness tracking wearables. That's not bad given that many of them will have upgraded to bigger, better sports watches and that Fitbit has been selling its devices for over 5 years now.

The statistic that's probably the most useful is that about one-third of people give up on their Fitbits after 6 months. So, have you got more grit than most or are you in the bottom third?

Myth: Virtual Reality is a gimmick, like 3DTV

Truth: VR is here to stay. Believe.

Virtual worlds have been in consistent use for decade. They're useful and they work. Think MMORPGS, think Second Life, think chat rooms; think any computer-generated environment you've ever enjoyed.

Virtual Reality is simply about a more efficient, more immersive way to enjoy them. There are hundreds of applications from art to pornography, from education to entertainment. All the that's been holding it back has been getting the hardware just right and getting the content that already exists delivered in a palatable manner. 3DTV, on the other hand, is a way of upselling you on a perfectly good telly you bought 5 years ago. It's also a way to try to convince people to get back down to the cinema. Good talk.

Myth: Wearables will make you look at screens all day

Truth: Some wearables are designed to keep your eyes away from your phone

Yes, an item of wearable technology might mean another screen to contend with but the idea is that they act as devices to filter out the noise of your mobile.

It's a quick glance at your wrist to find out if you need to answer your phone; an eye to one arm to help you ignore the trivial Twitter traffic. With different colour LEDs and customisable vibrations to hand-pick in most, a wearable, used properly, can help you disconnect and digitally detox.

TAGGEDWearables

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