After spending the last two weeks contemplating the difference between smartwatches/fitness trackers and more specialist devices, I've finally managed to spend some time with the Atlas Wristband — a rep counting, exercise-detecting piece of wearable tech that also provides feedback on form.
It's a bit of a step up in software from the previous devices I've looked at in this series - the Apple Watch, Fitbit Ionic and Garmin Vivosport, which have all, in their own way, fallen short of becoming my long-term gym partner.
Wareable verdict: Atlas Wristband review
The overriding theme, though, has been that the bigger wearable tech names just don't prioritise strength training programmes, especially when compared to their efforts in aerobic activities like running, cycling and swimming. Support in tracking is barebones, and the data left for you to delve into post-exercise, in turn, faces the same problem.
With the Atlas, things have been improved, finally giving me the feeling that there's hope in the area for those who want to track progress and improve. If the device sounds familiar, that's because it was an Indiegogo success back in 2014, raising $629,000. Last week I spoke to the company's CEO, Peter Li, about why it's been a neglected area in wearable tech, as well as the challenges within creating software for the likes of exercise detection.
It opened up my eyes to some of the issues, and made seeing what the Wristband is able to provide even more impressive. Once I updated the device to the fresh firmware (which has bumped up the number of exercises for its freestyle mode) and synced across the range of exercises of I was looking to track, I was ready to strap it on and hit the gym.
From there, all you need to do is tap to start exercising and the Wristband does the rest. The only input required is when the device happens to miscount your reps. Through my time with the Vivosport, I'm fairly used to correcting after a set, but what was slightly different here was the fact that it was almost always only 1-2 reps out, as opposed to often not picking up any reps at all, as I'd experienced with the Vivosport.
Exercise detection, too, was much more on point. Again, like the Garmin offering, it wasn't completely perfect, but there's a noticeable software jump on display here. Grading your form, for example, is something I haven't yet come across, but is a welcome addition.
Heading into the app, things aren't quite as smooth as they are with the device when in use. Initially, we had a couple of glitches with syncing before we were able to get a session across to the smartphone for review. And while it does feature a graphic highlighting which areas you were able to hit during your workout, and form grading is handy, analysis of this would really help take Atlas to the beyond.
I'm talking about, for example, explaining why your form was good or bad, and whether you need to consider resting a muscle group after some heavy use. Whether that comes in a potential future iteration remains to be seen, but it would form a natural next step for the company.
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As would a more refined design. It's something we noted last year when we first took the device for a spin, but this really isn't an attractive device to wear. That's not to say I don't appreciate the wider screen and the way it divides interaction into three portions, as opposed to making you swipe through menus, but it just isn't as discreet as a fitness tracker.
The initial signs are certainly positive, but, as with any device, issues can pop up after more extended use. Next week, I'll take a more extended deep dive into the data I've collected with the Atlas Wristband, as well as take a look back on the progress throughout my journey.
Conor's strength training diary
Week 1: Getting hench with wearable tech
Week 2: Strong but shallow with the Apple Watch
Week 3: I've grown weary of you, Apple Watch
Week 4: Taking the Fitbit Ionic for a spin
Week 5: The importance of posture
Week 6: Working out with Garmin's rep counting
Week 7: Building the perfect gym wearable
Week 8: Delving deep with Atlas CEO Peter Li
How we test