In today’s day and age, we have fitness trackers by the dozen. We have watches like the Moto 360 and Apple Watch, that promise to count your steps, track your heartbeat and even predict your mood. We have wrist-work fitness bands like Jawbone’s Up range, Fitbits and Xiaomi’s MiBand. Even your cell phone probably has fitness tracking in it now, with Apple Health and Google Fit. In such a day and age, why would anyone want a dedicated workout tracker, one may ask. Haven’t those become obsolete, or something for your non-tech savvy uncle? We have been using the TICKR X from Wahoo Fitness for the past couple of months and will try to answer that question.
The Tickr X is a strap based solution, that goes around the chest. Some may find this old-school, given that most trackers nowadays are clipped on or worn around the wrist. However, being chest based has multiple advantages. Data captured is more accurate Heart Rate data than other solutions. Because of the multitude of sensors, you can measure so many more metrics, like Cadence while running (which traditionally was measured by wearing a footpad inside your shoes) and cycling (no need for clipping gadgets onto your bike). There are even more advanced metrics that can be tracked, like Vertical Oscillation & Ground Contact Time.
The best part to me though, is the fact that this is all offered through an API. This data can be used by over 50 apps already on the market through Wahoo’s Total Motion API. While the variety of apps right now is heavily skewed toward iOS, there are Android 3rd party applications just around the corner. One app of note is 7 Minute Workout. This gives you bite sized but efficient workout you can do anytime, anywhere. The app uses your Tickr X data to see how many reps you complete and how consistently.
What You Get
Packaging is utilitarian, with the box, a Quick Start Manual & Product Registration being the only accompaniments to Tickr X Module and its chest strap.
The Tickr X is quite light at 150 grams, and uses a standard CR-2032 battery, with a battery life of up-to a year. It can pair to your phone via BT Low Energy, or to traditional fitness devices via ANT+.
To set it up, you need to get the app (iOS and Android available) pair it with your device. You then enter some data about yourself, like height, weight and level of activity. You can then calibrate the device to your own style of running, so it has some reference on which to evaluate you by.
As a male, strapping the Tickr X on feels decidedly weird for the first time, but you don’t notice it after a while. PS: It actually goes under your t-shirt!
My exercise routine consists of a mix of cardio and weights at the gym, swimming and cycling. Other than the free trials on signing a gym membership, I haven’t had much formal personal training. My aim was to see how the Tickr X can help me improve my form over time, or at least show me where I am going wrong.
The device uses your phone’s GPS to try and map your route. Since we were running indoors, it did end up looking a bit rough. However, it told me my average lap time, my hear rate throughout the workout and how smooth I was running. Further, it showed me a target heart rate I should try maintaining for maximum benefit.
There are both Indoor and Outdoor Cycling modes available. While biking, you can double tap on the Tickr through your clothes to do a custom action, like controlling the music, or starting a new lap.
Tracking your workouts
One other useful feature is the ability to be independent from your smartphone. The Tickr X has a memory of its own, and you can track workouts while offline and sync them back later.
You also have a dashboard with all your workouts and their relevant details available. As long as you wear it whenever you work out, you can now accurately see when you are slacking off.
How has the Tickr X altered my exercise habits? Before the Tickr X, I was using the Moto 360 as a fitness tracker. Its heart rate sensor was as joke, and would just stop working with a bit of sweat. Further, step counting was hit and miss. The Tickr X gives me a more accurate and comfortable device to wear while working out.
That being said, there are some things I’m not crazy about in the Tickr X. The supplied strap is adequate, but it tends to start slipping over time, especially when doing activities like Jumping Jacks and Skipping. However, you can just switch out the band for something else of that size, as the buckles are a standard fit.
I wish there was also a provision for Sleep Tracking, since it definitely has the hardware to support that. Lastly, as someone who switches devices quite often, it is irritating to switch to a different phone for a month and have all my data last. A centralized account to store my data, and a login to easily bring it to my new device would be very welcome.
At the end of the day, the $99 Tickr X is a nifty little device. What excites me most is the Advanced Motion Analytics and the API. I can see so many uses of this going forward. Want to track your heart rate while watching a movie? Want to compare your cadence to that of Oscar Pistorius. Its potentially just an app away. Wahoo has been adding new features in the past few months, and it looks like they will be continuing on that road.
Should you get this instead of a Fitbit/Up/MiBand? If you want some more insights than simple step counts/heart rate, this is the device to go to. It costs less than wrist trackers that measure heart rate too. However, it may not be as comfortable to wear at all times, so if step count and sleep tracking is all you need, it may be wiser to invest in a sub-$50 wrist tracker.