2021 is a year that started unlike any other in recent history. Following our solitary New Year’s Eves spent at home, locked away for safety, we didn’t get to toast our hopes and dreams for the coming year in the company of our friends and family. With some perseverance, perhaps we did still put the quest of self-improvement into action come the new year, despite how wracked and depleted our mental strength may have been. Personally, I stumbled into what is now a four-month-old commitment to improving my mental and physical health this year. I didn’t really think about what I would do, what my goals may have been, or even what the first step should resemble. But the springboard to where I am right now as spring has arrived – earlier bedtimes, working out several times a week, being hyper-aware of what and when I eat, incorporating yoga and meditation into my week and the resulting loss of almost 30 pounds started as an accidental new year resolution.
With these good habits in place, I realized that I needed to not just expand on the decreasing numbers I was seeing on my old scale, I needed some data to show me what was working and what wasn’t. Data was a missing piece and only technology could help provide it.
As the Dad Rock abode is almost entirely Apple-fueled, I looked to an Apple Watch to track vitals but checking out specs and especially prices immediately excluded it. I know people love them but I wasn’t about to spend $400 for a base model much less $600 for an all-the-bells-and-whistles version. Other smartwatches I looked at were either not smart enough for my needs or close enough in price to just push me back towards Apple. As well, I wanted a smart scale that would talk to the apps I was using and write the data accordingly for tracking purposes. Like a lot of people in my situation – new to a fitness habit, my strength against collapse is as sturdy as a house of cards on a hayride. As with my shoulder injury, that was all it took to go from daily workouts and a careful diet to eating a quarter of my weight in Christmas cookies. History has taught me that I’m generally more than ready to shrug off something that’s hard, no matter how good it is for me. THAT is something I’m working on as well. Luckily, my commitment feels pretty strong and that’s due to seeing these promising numbers daily and weekly. These last sentences are my wordy way of saying that easy is best. I want the boring things, like data collection and recording, but I want them to happen in the background and automatically. I don’t want to have to pop from app to app entering my weight daily, punching in when I fell asleep and when I woke up. I want to expend as close to zero effort into these mundanities so I can focus on the work and er, the focus on my work and commitment.
Thanks to what looks like a huge push on social media, the solution presented itself. FitTrack had just what I was looking for at a very affordable price. At a glance, what I needed could be found in their Atria 2.0 Smartwatch and their Dara Smart Scale, which records and track 17 different health measurements including:
Body Fat Percentage (BFP)
Body Water Percentage
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Body Fat Mass
Weight Without Fat
Muscle Mass Percentage
Standard Weight (a basic stat of ideal weight based on height)
Weight Control (the difference between actual and standard weight)
I reached out to them and explained how I thought we were a perfect pair. Happily, they agreed and supplied me with their Health Pack (which includes the above as well as their Tempo Infrared Thermometer) to use and review. I will spare everyone an unboxing video. The packaging is very nice, take my word for it.
REVIEWING THE ATRIA 2.0 SMARTWATCH
I’ll start with info on the item that I imagine you’ve seen in the ads, the Atria 2.0 Watch. I’ll preface by saying that I’ve owned a few cheap smartwatches. They did some trick before dying a premature death, but what I found they lacked was solid communication with my iPhone. This was the first thing that I intended to discover about the Atria and the place of most of my concern. The app ecosystem I use probably isn’t that different from what other people use. I have a sleep tracker that, if I want plays some mellow ambient sleep jams or a relaxation exercise or a meditation, then upon being snoozy enough, it (shudder) listens to me when I sleep and records audio of my noises, admittedly, it’s usually a bit of snoring, something that I see disturbs the depth of my sleep. Sadly, I haven’t yet heard anything paranormal. I can see a journal that charts my disturbances and I love that the Atria’s heart rate tracking maps onto it. Not a huge surprise, but to fuel motivation, I learned that days that I walk close to ten thousand steps result in the highest quality of sleep. This taught me to adjust my workouts to weekdays and save my legs for long walks on the weekends for better recovery. I use the aforementioned diet and psychology app to record the food I eat (yes, I track every meal). I use a fasting timer app, which helps me plan different (or no) fast durations. I use a popular workout app but unfortunately, the Atria doesn’t communicate heart rate to it, which would in turn automatically record calories burned and heart rate (among other data) to Apple Health. This is Atria 2.0 wishlist item number one. I give them a pass as I try to imagine the minefield of how one app works with another device and I would imagine Apple doesn’t make it easy as they want everyone wearing one of their watches. As well, a common thing I have found with this watch is that a workaround isn’t hard to figure. In this case, this is merely manually recording my workouts in Apple Health, where the data populates my other apps.
The watch is lightweight and has long battery life. I found that if I place it in its charger while I’m taking a shower, that’s enough time to keep it near full, instead of waiting until it gets close to expended and waiting for a full charge. The watch faces aren’t winning any awards for design and style and I only found two of them to be useful or visually pleasing. Hopefully, FitTrack puts a bit of energy into this although, like the watch itself and how it differs from the Apple Watch, they put their efforts into the function of the Atria as a fitness tracker/data collection tool and not something that’s going to control your home automation system or play games. I actually like that separation. I don’t want screens and menus bogging down my use of it. That being said, I would love a deeper ability to customize the watch. For instance, I only get calendar notifications from a single Google Calendar when I don’t want any calendar notifications on the watch and if I did, I would want them from Apple Calendar but I can’t find a way to do anything apart from turn this feature off. It will push notifications from your phone so you can see who is calling or messaging you via a variety of apps. Much like the Apple Watch, there is a handy ‘4 circles’ tool that shows the wearer activity in calories burned, standing time in hours, steps and workouts in minutes. This is an example of what I’d love some control over. For better or worse, I don’t much care about the number of hours I spend standing and it doesn’t seem terribly accurate when I do look at that metric. I would like to know what the algorithm is checking for my standing stats. As well, the 4 circles from the Atria aren’t communicated to the FitTrack apps (more on those later), so the wearer can’t monitor their progress in any other way. I think as a motivation tool, the visual ease of the circles is great, but having to look at only the watch to check your status seems like a lost opportunity. From the main screen, a swipe up offers quick access to screen brightness, do not disturb and a flashlight.
It gets a bit confusing where to find the ability to change certain settings – whether it’s in an app or on the watch. Most settings are changed in the app, where the watch only sets basic functions like watch face choice, 24 or 12-hour clock and time and date setting. To me, what counts most is how it tracks my calorie burn when I’m working out. I currently work out either by HIIT on my bike or fast walks with the occasional yoga flow. I do like that the watch workout section offers HIIT but you can only set a single work and rest duration each, where the workout timer app I use allows me to build a workout that changes durations and includes a warmup and a cooldown. One feature I love is that during a workout, it shows what state my heart rate is in so I can maintain a cardio or fat burn zone. I also like that in certain modes, I can set a time or a calorie burn goal. Some of the workout settings are geared to record specific data, for instance, the jump rope and sit-up settings will count your reps. The others tend to just record time, real-time heart rate and calories burned. While there aren’t workout routines built into the watch or the apps, the watch does have some pretty effective guided breathing exercises that I have enjoyed. There are handy timer and stopwatch functions if you use those. The Atria 2.0 will also measure your blood oxygen saturation levels, something that seems an important stat in these COVID times. In my daily health and workout lifestyle, I have no idea how to use this effectively.
To wrap up the Atria 2.0 Smartwatch, standing alone, it does all that it should but lacks a customization and communication ability that is missed. Build-wise, it’s pretty sturdy. I have been wearing it almost continuously for a month, I’ve knocked it around, submerged it in water and it still looks brand new. One note is that for a most accurate measurement, it likes to be tight to your wrist. I wear it snug when working out and a notch looser when I’m just walking around. There aren’t options for watch chassis or band colours like some of its competitors, but again, my judgements are mostly based on how it works as a fitness tracker.
REVIEWING THE FITTRACK HEALTH AND PRO APPS
FitTrack offers a pair of apps that connect to their devices, Pro and Health. After an exchange with their product manager, I’ve been told that Pro differs from Health due to its Fitbit integration and Facebook share function. Neither of those matter to my use, but one difference between the apps I noted was how it was much easier to visually map the historical progress of the 17 health measurements that the scale records on the Pro app. Seeing my BMR as a number tells me little, but seeing my BMR increase at least lets me know that my efforts are working, beyond weight loss. I don’t want to lose weight, I want to lose fat and gain muscle. Having a method that tells me a history of my body fat mass and my muscle mass percentage is how I can make sure that I’m achieving my fitness goals. Combining the info the Dara records into the apps with my food intake also helps inform me of what foods are dehydrating and which ones may help with weight gain or loss. Because it’s the one that’s recommended, I will focus on the FitTrack Health app. One of the few criticisms of the app is that it tries hard to be a little bit of everything instead of really finding the strengths it offers users and just honing them. There are four basic sections of the app, the main section, the dashboard, the blog and the user section. The main section is what is displayed when the app is launched and where the app syncs to the Atria and the Dara to record stats. This is what I use each morning when I wake up to record my heart rate for my sleep app. As well, this is where my daily Dara check-in records my 17 health metrics, of which Apple Health records four of the main ones. The top of this section is dedicated to the Dara data, with heart rate, activity (showing calories burned, steps taken and distance travelled), sleep and temperature. Below are guided programs, your wellness report (which is a compilation of all your stats by week, month and year) and a GPS tracker which doesn’t really seem to work. I tried using it to track walks several times and even when the app didn’t crash, it didn’t seem to record the distance or take any other data from the Atria into account. Apart from changing user settings with the last section, it feels like you could only use the main section to get what you need. While its strength is in its health data collection via the Atria smartwatch, it offers guided programs for weight loss, clean eating, an intro to healthy habits, improving heart health and sleep. The courses are 1 to 2 weeks and lean on the blog information that is also offered but doesn’t seem to be regularly updated. The dashboard is the next section and it doesn’t offer anything that can’t be found in the main section. Next is the blog which as stated before offers extra info to read health and wellness, fitness and diet articles. I read through a few and found them fine reads but again, without continuing additions, I found myself ignoring this tab after a couple of weeks. Lastly is the user section where the app and profile settings are found. Most functions here are set and forget the first time. Most importantly, it’s where you enter your goals of intention (for me, it was to lose weight), weight, activity, sleep and heart health. The last three points don’t seem to do much towards your day-to-day use, but if you want to set up daily goals, here’s the place. Very importantly, this is the best and in some cases, the only place you can get info on the app and devices in its FAQ section. It’s also where you may have to go to delete and reset the Atria and Dara if you have connectivity issues, as I did once. Any connection issue is easily dealt with by deleting and adding back in the troubled device. For me, it was when the Atria stopped syncing. Yet again, you can also find your goals and current stats here, at the top of this section. Part of the confusion I found was in this redundancy and trying to see if there were differences between where these metrics appear in a particular section. To the best of my discovery, it makes no difference. The main screen is the one I pay the most attention to. Another source of confusion, as mentioned before was between using the Pro and the Health apps. While it seems that there’s no reason to use the Pro app if you’re using the Atria, one issue I noticed what that some of my 17 metrics outside of weight were not recorded by Apple Health unless I stepped on the scale for analysis by the Pro app. So, my morning weigh-in is something I do on both the Health and Pro apps. The only slight frustration is that the Dara scale doesn’t seem to easily connect to one and then the other immediately unless I turn Bluetooth off and then back on. It’s an issue so minor it barely deserves mention but I put it out there to clarify for any users who may have this issue.
REVIEWING THE DARA SMART SCALE
Try as I may, and my long-windedness generally causes it, I don’t have a lot to say about the smart scale. Without a connection to the app, it will show your weight and that’s it. It doesn’t store any info onboard. It will only connect to the apps and not to the Atria smartwatch but I can’t really see a huge benefit to this even if it were possible. The Dara and the Atria are solely input devices while the apps drive all the interactivity. The scale is aesthetically pleasing and it was smaller than I expected. Size-wise, you could pack it in a suitcase, if you wanted to travel with it. It is powered by batteries and has none installed internally. After six weeks of use, I haven’t had any issues with it, either from a power or connection standpoint. Initially, it had challenges pairing with the Pro app but otherwise, it’s super simple as a smart device. It can connect to a number of devices and keep different users straight.
LAST THOUGHTS ON THE FITTRACK DARA AND ATRIA 2.0
As stated in the beginning, most smartwatches whether fair or not meet immediate comparisons to the Apple Watch. There’s little doubt that it has so far cornered the market as a smartphone extension. While there is a spill of some of these features into the Atria, its main competition is more likely one of myriad Fitbits. Never having used or tested Fitbit products, I can only gauge prices and features, which looks like a split tie with the Atria being almost $100 cheaper than the comparable Fitbit that is a bit more feature-rich. The Atria 2.0 is a fitness tracking smartwatch first and foremost. It’s less frilly than the others but for data measurement needs factored with its price, it beats them. After 6 weeks of testing, I’m convinced it gives me all that I need for fitness tracking. Coupled with the Dara smart scale, they’ve paired to become a vital method of measuring not just the calories I burn and fat I lose but the entire journey as I work from flabbiness to fitness. Getting everything working together within my setup wasn’t entirely plug and play as it all did require experimentation and persistence.
There’s no doubt that there is room for improvements with future iterations of the Atria watch and the FitTrack apps especially if their intention is to pull users away from the Apple Watch or Fitbit. While it’s terribly hard to compete with these two companies in this space, I think about my own needs – wanting to track fitness first with much less interest in wearing a smartphone – when I think about who the FitTrack Health Pack is geared towards. As a hit-the-ground-running kit for fitness trackers getting started, I would recommend these products. The caveat is that you understand what you’re getting, a watch designed first and foremost to help you get the best out of your fitness.