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Review: Samsung fitness products offer the basics

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 11, 2014 at 3:10 pm •  Published: June 11, 2014

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) — Samsung's latest gadgets try to tap into people's passions for tracking fitness activities.

The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo wristwatches, Gear Fit wristband and Galaxy S5 smartphone all come with heart rate monitors and software for tracking exercise and the number of steps you walk in a given day.

In April, I ran the Big Sur International Marathon in California sporting the Gear Fit, along with a Garmin GPS watch and activity trackers from Jawbone and Withings. I used the S5 and Gear 2 on other runs and as part of day-to-day living. I wanted to see how useful and accurate these devices are and how easy they are to use.

The S5 phone sells in the U.S. for about $200 with a two-year service contract, or about $650 without one. The Gear 2 costs about $300, while Gear Fit and Gear 2 Neo cost about $200 each. The wrist devices must be paired with certain Samsung phones or tablets made in the past few years, though you can leave the device at home and sync the data after your workout.

Samsung is trying to become the hub for all your health information, similar to what Apple is eyeing with its upcoming HealthKit tools for iPhones and iPads. The technology is rudimentary now, but apps might one day use all this data to warn you of problems before you notice symptoms.

— Tracking heart rate.

The Jawbone Up doesn't track heart rate, while Withings' new Pulse O2 needs to be removed from the wristband for readings — impractical during exercise. Optional heart rate monitors with GPS watches typically require wearing a separate sensor.

With Samsung's products, that's all built in and easily accessible.

But I sometimes have to try several times to get a good reading, especially with the wrist devices on my sweaty arm.

Readings are usually within several beats of the pulse I measure manually — good enough to gauge your heart rate, but no replacement for medical devices such as an EKG. Now and then, I get readings that are way off.

Samsung has free phone apps to log past readings. The wrist devices continually track your heart rate during exercise, but you see only the average and maximum rates on the app.

— Tracking exercise.

Dedicated activity trackers such as Jawbone's and Withings' automatically detect when you're exercising. By contrast, you must tell the Samsung device when you're starting or finishing. The exception is with the pedometer, which counts daily steps.

Some people will prefer having everything automated, but I like Samsung's approach, as it offers more precision than guessing based on motion sensors. It's similar to how GPS watches work. However, GPS watches also let you take splits — snapshots every mile in a race or every lap on a track. Samsung has just start and stop — not even pause.

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