There has been a huge increase in interest in health, activity tracking and exercise monitors. How much do you really need to pay? I tried one of the cheapest and found it better expected.
If you are looking for a cheap fitness tracker with heart rate monitor, there are dozens, possibly hundreds of bands and watches to choose from and the amount of choice is overwhelming. When faced with so much choice, it can be hard to choose and there is the fear of making a mistake and buying the wrong one.
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There is also the choice of style to consider and there are bands and watches. Do you want something that looks like a plastic band or a smartwatch? Bands have small screens and limited features beyond activity tracking, but a watch style fitness tracker looks smarter and at a glance may fool people into thinking you have an expensive Apple Watch.
I bought one of the cheapest devices on the market, the ANCwear Fitness Tracker with Heart Rate Sleep Monitor and Blood Pressure, Activity Tracker for Women Men Kids Compatible with iPhone Android Phones. That is a bit of a mouthful, so I’ll just call it the ANCwear watch.
I bought it partly because I was curious as to whether a device so cheap could be any good. The specifications certainly make it sound interesting. I could sell it on eBay if I didn’t like it, but it has turned out to be quite good and certainly better than expected considering the price.
ANCwear watch functions
This is a watch style fitness tracker that is similar in size and shape to an Apple Watch and the home screen shows the time as a large digital display. There are no physical buttons on the device, but there is a touch-sensitive place on the screen dead center at the bottom. This on-screen button responds to a short touch (a tap) and a long touch (press and hold).
A short touch is used to switch between screens or functions and a press and hold performs and action. On the home screen the time display switches between 12 hour and 24 hour displays if you press and hold. The day and date is also displayed on the home screen.
The screen is always off, but a tap on the button (the touch-sensitive spot on the screen) lights it up. It can also be configured to automatically turn on when you raise your hand. I found it didn’t light up the screen, but most of the time it did and you can flick your wrist to see the time.
A lead with a USB plug on one end and a magnetic connector for the watch on the other is provided. It can be plugged into any computer or a phone charger with a USB socket. The battery life depends on how you use the watch, but it could be as much as two weeks – I haven’t had to charge it a second time yet.
Track steps, exercise and activity
The ANCwear watch tracks steps and you can see how many you have taken today on the home screen next to the time. It is easy to see how active you have been and whether you need to do some more exercise today.
The watch also tracks how long you sit for and it can remind you with a notification and vibration if you sit for too long and should stand up and stretch your legs. The default is an hour, but the time can be customized. It is just a gentle reminder that you need to exercise.
Tap the button on the home screen and the next screen shows more information, such as the number of calories burnt by exercise and the distance walked. It does not have GPS (this is a budget tracker) and so it is an estimate. It is quite a good guess though.
Keep tapping the button at the bottom of the screen to access Sports. Long pressing opens this and provides access to steps (walking or running), skipping and situps. It is basically a timer with an estimation of the number of calories burnt.
The watch is IP67 rated (see IP ratings at Wikipedia) which means it is dustproof and, to a certain degree, waterproof. This means that rain, sweat, a shower and washing your hands are fine. It will probably survive being dropped into water if you get it out quickly. It is not intended for long periods underwater, such as swimming for an hour.
Monitor your heart with your watch
The ANCwear watch has a nice heart monitor screen and a long press on the button at the bottom of the screen activates it. This means you can raise your wrist, tap, then long press to get a heart rate reading, so it is possible while walking, jogging or on an exercise bike. It also shows your hydration level and blood pressure too.
This is not a medical device and there is no way a doctor would rely on its figures. However, the readings are good enough for most folk and it gives similar readings to other trackers I tried on my phone and at the gym.
The watch does not constantly monitor your heart and you must manually take a reading, such as when relaxing, when you feel stressed, in the middle of exercise like a walk, run or gym session, and so on.
ANCwear FitPro phone app
The watch, exercise tracking and heart rate monitor work without a phone, but the FitPro app is required to store your history and to configure some functions in the device. The phone and watch connect using Bluetooth and I used it with an iPhone, but it works with an Android phone too.
As is often the case these days, there are several security hoops to jump through to get it to work – turn on Bluetooth, give the app permission to access Bluetooth, pair the phone and watch, enable access to Apple Health app and other things.
Once set up, open the app and after a few seconds it automatically syncs with the watch and grabs the latest steps, heart rate, calories burnt and so on. It is similar to other activity tracking apps on the phone and it shows steps, distance, calories, heart rate, goals achieved and so on. It is simple, but adequate.
There are no configuration options on the watch and everything is set up using the phone app. It is essential, but you don’t need to keep your phone on you all the time and there is no need to take your phone with you when you exercise. Just open the app when you get back to sync the data.
How smart is this watch?
The short answer is not very. It is primarily a budget activity tracker and the smartwatch functions are very limited, but it does have some. For example, it can show information from your phone, such as the phone caller, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Whatsapp and a few other notifications.
It vibrates when there is a notification and it displays brief details on the screen. There is a messages screen that stores recent notifications, so you open it and see what you missed. The text size is tiny, so you need good eyesight or reading glasses.
Alarms can be set in the phone app and they light up the watch screen with a notification and it vibrates. There is no sound and it will not wake you from sleep. In fact, it is barely sufficient for you to notice when you are awake. There is just a slight tingle on your wrist and an alarm clock icon on the watch screen.
Open the app, select the camera function and you can take photos using the watch. It acts like a remote trigger, taking a snapshot with the phone camera.
Is a budget watch and activity tracker worth it?
This is no Apple Watch. It is not even close and it does not even have some of the functions of more expensive exercise trackers. It is a very simple device with just a few basic functions, but I was surprised at how much it could do.
It does most of what I need, such as tracking steps, timing exercise, showing calories burnt, measuring heart rate, hydration and blood pressure. It also shows the time and has alarms and limited phone notifications. The one thing I have not yet got working is sleep tracking, but it might just need configuring.
Smartwatch features are very limited and you cannot install apps, insert a SIMM, make or receive phone calls, use GPS, or even change watch faces. If these features are not important and you mostly want an activity tracker, the ANCwear watch is fine. Go and check it out at Amazon UK or Amazon US.
If you need more functions, I looked at the IWOWNFIT P1 smartwatch and activity tracker on my other website. It costs a lot more, but you get more features.