A few months ago, I decided I'd like to be skinnier. I didn't have one specific reason for this, but there were a few motivations: I was tired of squeezing to fit into subway seats and spending a bit too much money on plus-size clothing, and, frankly, I wanted a purpose in life. After binge-watching fitness Instagrammers and realizing I lacked the willpower to force myself into the gym, I determined that it was time to buy a smartwatch.
When I considered wearable devices, I thought of my fitness-savvy friends and family members, who used their expensive wrist screens to map routes, stream music, measure elevation, call friends, answer email, voice shop and chat with Siri on the go. Having so much functionality on my wrist sounded like fun, so I borrowed an Apple Watch Series 3 and a Fitbit Versa to test. They both improved my life — in every area except my fitness.
I spent hours on my computer, mixing and matching various combinations of bands and cases and comparing the ensembles to my workout wardrobe. I obsessively customized everything, downloading every app that could possibly be of use to me, setting custom quick replies, inputting various running routes into Maps and assembling test playlists on every supported streaming service, from Pandora to Deezer.
Meanwhile, even during workouts, I found myself paying more attention to my exercise device than I did to the exercise itself. With a miniature smartphone on my wrist, I, who am already naturally inclined toward laziness and procrastination, suddenly had a thousand excuses to pause or slow down my workouts. I'd have a sudden desire to respond to an email or reread a confusing text — and why not? I could do it right from my wrist, after all.
I wanted the Apple Watch or the Fitbit Versa to be the right wearable for me. Walking around the gym wearing such an advanced and fancy device made me feel hip and futuristic, like I was far ahead of the times (ha). But I didn't want a smartwatch in order to feel futuristic. I wanted a smartwatch so I could get in shape.
The wearable that helped me do that was the last one I expected. It's a purple, plastic band with a narrow, nondescript face and a single gold button on the side: the Fitbit Charge 2.
I use my Charge 2 for three things: tracking my heart rate, logging my steps and getting reminders to stand up from my desk. There are no apps for the Fitbit Charge 2: It cannot call, text or email, and it has no idea where I am in the world. (You can get text and message notifications on the Fitbit Charge 2, but I've turned them off.)
I've been using my Charge 2 for about three months. In the gym, I press the gold button (yes, a physical button) to cycle through screens that show my heart rate and the time. Another screen has a stopwatch function, but to be honest, I don't know how to use it. If I could change one thing, I'd make the watch waterproof; the number of times I've accidentally left it at home after taking it off to shower is embarrassing.
My Charge 2 doesn't feel like the future in a wristwatch. It feels like a straightforward, no-nonsense friend that holds my hand throughout my fitness journey. In the gym, it's my Fitbit and me.
When I'm sitting at my desk and my Fitbit vibrates, with a stick figure man calling out, "Take me for a walk!" pops up on the screen, I'm struck by what feels like a sort of loyalty. The device is doing its one job, and I should do mine in return. And there's nothing more affirming than the tiny, pixelated fireworks that shoot across the screen when I meet my daily step goal. That simple, daily affirmation was just what I needed to commit to a new lifestyle.
The Fitbit Charge 3 is supposedly on its way, and I was worried that the new device would be outfitted with fancy bells and whistles. But the leaks so far indicate that not much will change: The device may have a touch screen, water resistance to 50 meters and even an NFC chip, but that's it — and I think that's a good thing.
I'm glad that smart watches are getting smarter. But I'm also glad I looked past the fancy features to find the simple, affordable device that would help me make a major change in my life.
Credit: Tom's Guide
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Monica Chin is a writer at The Verge, covering computers. Previously, she was a staff writer for Tom's Guide, where she wrote about everything from artificial intelligence to social media and the internet of things to. She had a particular focus on smart home, reviewing multiple devices. In her downtime, you can usually find her at poetry slams, attempting to exercise, or yelling at people on Twitter.