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Apple Watch

How to Choose a Heart Rate Monitor

Monitoring your heart rate during a workout can provide you with a plethora of data relating to your performance and overall level of fitness, which can be tremendously valuable to people interested in tracking their progress in developing cardiovascular fitness over time. However, not every heart rate monitor is the same, and different models offer different levels of performance. Additionally, each brand of heart rate monitor offers a unique set of features, and while many products connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone, not every heart rate monitor is compatible with every fitness app. As such, this article will examine some of the top-selling heart rate monitors on the market to help you decide which is right for your individual needs.

In general, heart rate monitors come in two forms; either they strap to your chest, or your wrist. Chest strap heart monitors boast superior accuracy, particularly when one’s heart rate is especially high during an intense workout, whereas heart rate monitors used on the wrist generally offer smartwatch features as well, including sleep tracking, notifications from your phone, and automatic detection of exercise.

If you want the most accurate, highest-quality heart rate data during workouts, the Polar H7 Transmitter and Strap is likely your best choice. This device provides data with a level of accuracy similar to an ECG, which is widely considered the gold standard in heart rate measuring technology. The device takes advantage of low energy Bluetooth to transmit data to your smartphone while preserving battery life, and works with the Polar Beat app which lets you check your heart rate in real time. Additionally, the Polar H7 costs around sixty dollars, which is cheaper than most other wrist-based solutions, though the device of course does not offer smartwatch-like features of any sort. However, if your only concern is collecting highly accurate data about your heart rate while exercising, the Polar H7 is likely your best bet. Another option is the Scosche Rhythm24, which attaches to one’s forearm, which may be a more comfortable configuration for some.

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Most smartwatches that are sold today include fitness tracking features, including a wrist-based heart rate monitor. These products use small LEDS positioned on the underside of the watch to measure minor variations in skin color, which correspond with one’s heart rate. Though this technology is fairly accurate for measuring one’s heart rate while at rest, they tend to produce less desirable results as one’s heart rate becomes elevated. Additionally, not every wrist-based heart rate monitor measures with the same degree of accuracy, as recent research shows that results can vary dramatically between products. However, as they are generally integrated with smartwatch features, for most people, particularly those who take a more casual approach to their fitness, the trade-off can be worth it.

The most accurate wrist monitor tested in the previously-mentioned study is the Apple Watch, which was found to vary from the chest-based solution by just 1.5 beats per minute, a degree of accuracy which should be fine for most people. While not primarily a fitness-focused device, the Apple Watch offers an impressive array of health features, even including the ability to conduct an ECG and check for potentially serious heart conditions. While the Apple Watch is perhaps the most elegant and sophisticated smartwatch on the market, the product has some major drawbacks. For one, it’s only compatible with iPhones, so if you have an Android smartphone, you’re out of luck. Additionally, the Apple Watch is one of the most expensive smartwatches on the market, as the newest model starts at a base price of $399.

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Luckily for Android users, plenty of alternatives to the Apple Watch exist, many of which can be purchased for a dramatically-lower price. The Samsung Galaxy Watch Active 2, for instance, costs $100 less, and offers a very similar set of features, including the ability to conduct an ECG and can even measure users’ blood pressure. In terms of its ability to measure heart rate, the Galaxy Watch Active 2 includes an upgraded heart rate monitor compared to its predecessor, and should provide most people with reasonably accurate results. 

Of course, these are but a few of all available heart rate monitoring solutions. As such, when you’re deciding on which device to buy, you should take your individual needs and preferences into consideration and do some independent research. Heart rate monitors can be great tools for monitoring your fitness over time, and as an added bonus many include other useful health features as well.

Fitbit

Google in Talks to Buy Fitbit

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is currently in talks to purchase the fitness-oriented smartwatch manufacturer Fitbit, according to Reuters. In response to the news, Fitbit’s stock rose by 18% before the stock was halted. If the purchase goes through, the implications for both companies as well as for the smartwatch industry generally could be significant.

While Fitbit enjoyed tremendous popularity with the release of its original fitness trackers, which introduced the concept of tracking one’s health with a smartphone-connected wearable device to many consumers, the company has since been overshadowed by the release of competing products, not the least of which is the Apple Watch. Apple’s take on the smartwatch concept includes essentially all of the fitness-related features Fitbit’s products offer, including heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking, while adding unique features and integrating deeply with the company’s iOS platform. Google, on the other hand, has found little success with its Android Wear operating system, and the Android-compatible smartwatch market in general suffers from an overabundance of mutually-incompatible software choices, including Samsung’s Tizen and Fitbit’s proprietary operating system.

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The acquisition of Fitbit, then, could potentially lead to an abandonment of the Wear OS platform, which has failed to meaningfully take off with both manufacturers and third-party software developers, and the integration of Fitbit’s software more deeply into the Android operating system, among other outcomes. Though Google has recently made strides in its hardware offerings, the company has never manufactured a smartwatch. Currently, Fitbit products are compatible with both iOS and Android devices, providing near-identical functionality on both; it remains to be seen whether a Google-owned Fitbit would continue to produce devices that work with Apple’s line of smartphones. In the past, Google has shown more of a willingness to work with its competitor’s platform than Apple has; Google has made many of its applications available on Apple’s App Store, while the inverse is not true. As such, there’s a good case to be made that a Google-owned Fitbit would continue to make fitness trackers that work with iPhones, though they may begin to include Android-only features stemming from a close relationship between the manufacturer and their potential parent company.

In a bid to maintain its relevancy amidst increasing competition from larger manufacturers, Fitbit acquired Pebble, one of the very first smartwatch manufacturers which began life on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter, in 2016. This coincided with the discontinuation of all Pebble smartwatches as the original team was absorbed into the larger company, much to the disappointment of fans of the first significant smartwatch. Today’s news suggests that Google is poised to make a similar move. While the Fitbit brand still has sway over consumers, the company’s notoriety is fading, and Google is focused on unifying its hardware offerings under the Pixel brand umbrella following the announcement of its Pixel 4 smartphone, the new Pixelbook, and the upcoming Pixel Buds. Google has also recently discussed its focus on “ambient computing,” or a way of interacting with computers that blends seamlessly into the user’s ordinary life. As such, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Google shutter the development of Fitbit-branded devices, instead announcing a “Pixel Watch” or something similar, which would combine the health-tracking capabilities now standard on smartwatches with new Android-specific features.

As of now, of course, it’s unclear what these features could entail, but Google’s unmatched investment in developing artificial intelligence combined with their focus on ambient computing could offer clues. For several years, Google has developed and refined its Google Assistant, which is featured on Android phones as well as the Google Home line of smart speakers; it stands to reason that the virtual assistant would make the leap to any potential Google smartwatch. Additionally, Google has debuted radar-based gesture recognition technology on the Pixel 4, which allows users to control their phone by moving their hands over the screen; a similar system, if executed effectively, would seem right at home on a Google smartwatch. As Google has a history of making surprising and innovative technological developments, particularly in the areas of neural networks and machine learning, the company has a lot of potential to make waves with its take on the smartwatch.

iPhone 3

Apple Unveils New iPhone During Yearly Press Event

Today, Apple made a number of announcements at its yearly press event, including a new gaming service called Apple Arcade, the launch date and price of its Apple tv+ streaming service, upgrades to its iPad and Apple watch devices, as well as the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The event began with the announcement of Apple’s new Arcade service, a subscription-based service for the App Store, which allows users to download unlimited games of a variety of genres for a monthly fee. The service launches with a number of games from partners such as Konami and Capcom, including an updated version of the classic game Frogger called Frogger in Toy Town, a side-scrolling action-adventure game about navigating underwater caves called Into the Depths, and Sayonara Wild Hearts, a rhythm-based racing game described as a “playable music video.” The service launches on September 19th in over 150 countries, and will cost $4.99 per month for a family subscription, including a 1-month free trial.

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Next, Apple discussed Apple tv+, a streaming video service meant to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime video. The service will feature exclusive television programs such as For All Mankind, Dickinson, and the Morning Show, and a drama film starring Jason Mamoa about a distant future in which human beings have lost the ability of vision, called “See.” Apple tv+ will launch on November 1st, and like Apple Arcade, will cost $4.99 per month, and any purchase of a new iMac, Apple TV, or iPhone will include a year of the service for free.

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Apple transitioned into focusing on their hardware releases, starting with the new 7th generation iPad. This upgrade includes a larger and higher-resolution 10.2” display and an upgraded chipset. Additionally, the new iPad is compatible with an optional case accessory that includes a full-sized keyboard, introducing much of the functionality of a laptop. The new iPad also supports software improvements, including improvements to multitasking, a floating keyboard, and compatibility with accessories like SD cards and thumbdrives. The Apple Pencil also sees added functionality, such as a streamlined ability to annotate screenshots. Apple touted accomplishments in more environmentally-friendly manufacturing, and announced the base model iPad would cost $329.

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Next, Apple discussed the Apple watch. The company shared a video featuring stories of the Apple Watch’s lifesaving EKG capabilities, which alerts users to health emergencies and can automatically call emergency services in the event of a fall. Additionally, the company discussed the ways in which collecting data about users’ health contributes to research in fields such as cardiovascular fitness, hearing damage, and women’s health. Apple watch users can opt-in to share their health data with these research programs if they’d like to help improve the field of medical science.

The company then introduced the next generation of the Apple Watch, the series 5. The new version of the product features an always-on display, leveraging advancements in power-saving technology to maintain an 18-hour battery life. Additionally, the new watch includes a built-in compass and improvements to its safety features, such as international emergency calling. The new watch cases are made of 100% recycled aluminum, and other options for materials include stainless steel, ceramic, and titanium, and a variety of watch straps. The company again touted its environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes, and announced the base series 5 model will cost $399, whereas the price of the series 3 watch was dropped to $199.

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Then, Apple discussed the newest addition to its flagship line of products, the iPhone. The newest iPhone, the iPhone 11, features an improved camera and comes in a variety of colors. Apple claims that the all-glass construction is the strongest glass in the industry. The phone’s two-camera design features a main lens and an ultra-wide lens, and leverages software improvements for enhanced image processing, including more accurate depth-of-field simulation and better pictures in low-light environments. Additionally, users can take advantage of 4K video capabilities at 60 frames per second, image stabilization, and high dynamic range. The phone also includes an improved front-facing camera, with a wider depth of field and higher resolution.

Afterwards, the company discussed the improvements to its processor, called the A13 chip, which it claims is the fastest CPU ever in a smartphone. The company also showcased its new GPU, offering console-quality graphics, with an adventure game developed by a third-party called Pascal’s Wager. Apple also announced improvements to the new iPhone’s battery life and touted the device’s durability and water-resistance. The iPhone 11 will be offered at a base price of $699, following a trend of reduced prices for their products throughout the presentation.

The company also announced the iPhone 11 Pro, which it described as a product for power users and professionals. The device is constructed from durable stainless steel, and features an additional third camera on the rear. The iPhone 11 Pro comes in two sizes, and features a high-resolution OLED panel, which it calls the Super Retina XDR display. The phone’s chipset is called the A13 Bionic, is capable of 1 trillion operations per second, and features hardware specifically designed for machine learning and power efficiency.

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The iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max features a battery life 4 and 5 hours longer than the previous model devices, respectively. The device’s third camera, with a telephoto lens. enables what Apple calls professional-grade photography by introducing 4x optical zoom, and showcased photographs taken by professional photographers on the iPhone 11 Pro. The new phone includes a technology which Apple calls Deep Fusion, which combines nine pictures taken in quick succession using a neural engine to produce a higher-quality result. Additionally, Apple showcased video taken by a professional cinematographer with the device to emphasize its 4k, 60 frames per second video recording capability, and showcased the wide selection of photography and videography apps available for the device.

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The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max will cost $999 and $1099, respectively, and will be available starting on September 20th. Apple concluded by discussing changes to its Apple retail locations, including a greater number of customization options for the Apple watch, the Apple Trade In option for device upgrades, and a redesign of the company’s 5th avenue location in New York City. 

Overall, the presentation represented a renewed effort by the company to present more affordable devices while responding to some of the criticisms of the previous generation of products. Throughout the event, Apple emphasized their commitment to environmentally-friendly business practices, and focused mainly on improvements to camera quality, battery life, and durability. While all of Apple’s announcements today represent a clear improvement of their device line up, the program offered few surprises, and no major launches of new product categories, with no mention whatsoever of the company’s desktop and laptop offerings. However, consumers are likely to respond positively to the products announced today, as the improved performance and reduced price of the overall lineup will be hard for competitors to beat.