So I went for a run. I got up early, found my Nikes and slipped on LG’s new Lifeband Touch and HeartRate earphones. I didn’t make it very far, and the devices told me I’m fat and lazy. I guess they work.
This is LG’s first go at fitness gadgets and these first-generation products are ready for the mainstream. With some caveats, both the Lifeband Touch and HeartRate Earphones are polished, refined and ready to shine — as long as their target market is understood.
To be clear, the Lifeband Touch is not a direct Jawbone Up or Fitbit Flex competitor. The $150 device is clearly targeted to the fitness-enthusiast. Likewise, the HeartRate Earphones are only worth their $180 price if the wearer intends to use the heart rate-monitoring function.
The Lifeband’s fitness mission comes to life when paired with the HeartRate earphones. The two come together and bless the wearer with fitness tracking features athletes only dreamed about five years ago.
The Lifeband isn’t a glorified pedometer. It’s a simplified fitness tracker. It allows the wearer to easily track their fitness routine. The Lifeband isn’t a fashion accessory like a FitBit or Jawbone and it’s not for the person looking to simply count their steps as a conversation topic. This device is for the person focused on fitness.
Calories burned are front and center with the Lifeband. And that’s great! Everything else is secondary. Steps, stairs, distance traveled are also tabulated, but they’re supporting evidence to the number of calories burned.
This slight but distinctive difference clearly demonstrates the primary market for the Lifeband.
The Lifeband is very comfortable to wear, though a touch heavier than others. It’s as wide as a FitBit Force and slips onto the wrist through its C-shaped wristband. It stays put and I never found myself adjusting it. The screen is a touch awkward as the horizontal touchscreen OLED display is mounted vertically so the text is displayed parallel with your wrist. In direct sunlight, the screen is completely washed-out and unreadable.
The band uses Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone. Music playback can be controlled through the band. And, surprisingly, the Lifeband works with iOS devices as well, notifying the wearer of text messages and phone calls.
The Lifeband has a single button and when pressed, cycles through the various functions. Charging is done through a microUSB adapter. Expect a couple of days of battery life from the Lifeband.
The HeartRate earphones are comfortable. They’re a tad larger than normal earbuds, but normal earbuds do not have heart rate sensors built-in, either. Thanks to a small dongle, they connect wirelessly to a smartphone and provide good quality audio playback. Bass will not pound your head though the mids and highs are just okay.
Think of the earphones as your coach. Through the app, the wearer can customize how much info is spoken. The default is to announce, every minute, the duration of the exercise, distance traveled, current heart rate. For me, the fat runner, the constant talking works as a sort of encouragement. But the amount of information and timing can be increased or decreased. It doesn’t have to talk to you at all.
The Smartphone App
The smartphone app is, well, disappointing. It lacks all the polish of its Jawbone, Nike and FitBit counterparts. The app is chock-full of features, but it lacks a coherent organizational scheme. Thankfully, while you’re running or biking, you don’t have to touch the app.
The app combines correlates all the data collected by the Lifeband and earphones. The distance traveled and heartrate information is displayed side-by-side providing more data than provided by Jawbone or FitBit. Only the Polar and Basis band provides this sort of information — but with LG’s solution, you also have earphones.
While ugly in design, the app does collate a lot of data. There are charts, graphs, and visual cues throughout to give the wearer a lot of information about their workout regiment.
Purchased together, the pair costs $320, which is a lot for a fitness tracker but this is more of a modular solution. The $150 Lifeband itself, while offering little to the casual mall walker, can be worn like any other activity tracker — it’s very comfortable. The $180 earphones are not worth their cost unless they’re going to be used exclusively for the heart rate tracking ability.
LG needs a new smartphone application. The current incarnation is a joke compared to its most direct competitors. The LG hardware is fantastic but the software component is the other half of the equation. Still, even with a sub-par app, the LG Lifeband Touch and HeartRate earphones are quality activity trackers worthy of your consideration especially if the popular activity trackers leave you wanting more fitness-focused features.