Lifesense Band 2 Review

The Lifesense Band 2 by Axtro Sports is a sleek device that aims to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. It incorporates a heart-rate sensor, sleep detection, pedometer (pace counter), and a run logger along with automatic tracking of calories burnt, all to help you achieve greater fitness. In this review I dive in and see whether it’s all it’s hyped up to be.

It’s $88 and can be bought from Lazada here. There’s a discount code now too; key in “LIFESEN10” to enjoy 10% discount for every purchase of Lifesense Band 2 from 1st Sept to 30th Sept 2017. So it’ll just be $80 (SGD) if you buy it now.

Anyway, on to the review. Every review has to come with its obligatory unboxing, and this is no different. Here is a picture of the box.

 

 

Looks pretty sleek right? It was easy to take out the Lifesense Band 2 from there and start wearing it. I liked the fact that it didn’t need a cable to charge. Instead, pulling out one side’s watch strap exposes a USB port that allows you to charge it. Critics might say that this could end up in you losing/misplacing the watch strap. As you can see, it’s totally disconnected. The green light is the heart rate sensor working.

 

 

However, such critics aren’t imaginative enough. I simply always take out my watch like this now. It’s easier and I can immediately charge it.

 

 

Now for the initial set-up process. I have to admit, it was horrible. I downloaded the Lifesense Health app, and pairing it with the watch was easy. That’s where my praise ends. The moment it paired, the app put down some details for me by default. What details? My weight was automatically 65kg, my height was 170cm (or something close, I don’t remember), and my birthday was set to some day in July or June. I was so confused, especially by my weight. How did it guess my weight? More importantly, how do I edit it? Alas, I had to delete the default weight reading, and there was no instruction on how to do so. I had to figure it out, and there was no visible button that one could click. Instead, you swipe on the entry to expose a button that would delete it. There are no prompts that teach you how to navigate the app either. It took me a good 10-20 minutes to figure this out. And I’m a tech reviewer, mind you. What about the busy professional who just wants to ensure she’s getting some cardio in so she doesn’t die an early death? Does she have the time or the patience to fiddle with the app and figure out how it works?

I wondered whether it was using heart rate and stride data to try to guess my weight and height. Turns out these are just default values. Which begs the question, why isn’t there an initial set-up process where you key in user details? This is really standard amongst fitness apps, so this is a major disappointment from Axtro Sports. It was just super, super confusing and I have almost nothing good to say about the set-up process.

Now, let’s talk about the various features, starting with the design. I actually like the design. It is sleek and very comfortable. It is light and I adapted to wearing it quickly. I do normally wear a watch though, but this was lighter and actually more comfortable. It looks pretty cool too, as you can see.

 

 

However, it’d be nice to have an always on display because it would be easier to check the time. Or, more importantly, check the amount of time you’ve been running or other such details. However, that would probably significantly affect battery life, which I will get to in a short while.

Another design flaw is that there is no way to tell the band’s battery life from the band itself. You have to use the phone app to check the remaining battery. This is a major oversight and makes it difficult to check something so fundamental and simple. It also adds to my feeling that the Lifesense Band 2 is very much an unfinished, beta product. This feeling, naturally, stemmed from the poorly developed app as I’ve explained earlier.

That said, I do like the way it charges, as I’ve mentioned before, so kudos to them. Also, it’s waterproof, and I’ve showered with it a couple times with no issues. Supposedly it can be used for swimming too, as in this picture.

 

 

However, the button to cycle through screens (it’s the square with rounded corners, just below the screen) on the device is capacitive, much like your phone’s touchscreen, and doesn’t work well when wet. So, good luck trying to control this device while swimming. Again, another oversight on Lifesense’s part, as they failed to consider their target audience. Anyway, do note that the USB male end on your device will end up a little wet, which is no problem, just that you should wipe it dry before plugging it into the charger.

Speaking of charging, the battery life is great. It lasts for long enough that I barely worry about it. 50% can last about 1-1.5 days, which is really good. I have no complaints about the battery life, especially since whenever I feel it needs more juice, I just plug it into a phone charger (note, don’t use a fast charger. Use something with low amperage) for 20-30 min. That said, it’s advertised to last 5 days with heart rate tracking on, and this is something that I can’t really vouch for. 3 days though, is definitely reasonable.

Now for the more sophisticated features it has.

Pedometer. I’ve always thought tracking one’s steps was foolish and unnecessary. After trying out the Lifesense Band 2, this view has not changed one bit. If you are so unfit that you need to keep track of how much you are walking, then you have serious issues with your lifestyle and should begin to put aside time each day specifically for some light cardio, instead of trying to work some walking into your normal schedule such as by walking to lunch instead of taking a cab. Those are futile measures that will barely help you be more healthy. Pedometers are more of a solution in search of a problem, than a legitimate solution to a problem people want solved. This sort of thing is endemic in the tech industry, but that’s an argument for another day.

More importantly, how’s the pedometer on this thing? Simply put, I don’t trust it. I tested it out by walking a few hundred paces and it would barely register an accurate number for the steps I took. Still, apparently I do take over 7000 steps a day, but I don’t trust this number at all as it’s not accurate from my tests.

Running Sensor

Basically, the Lifesense Band 2 senses when you have begun running, and begins its running mode accordingly. The sensor to track whether you have begun running is accurate, but then you can always manually start it so it’s not really necessary.

Heart-rate Sensor

I cannot test the veracity of Lifesense’s claims of accuracy as I don’t have another heart-rate sensor to test it against. However, other reviews online do seem to say that there are issues with accuracy, so I would proceed with caution if I were you.

Below, I wrote a note on the accuracy of fitness trackers in general.

Sleep Sensor

Supposedly, the Lifesense Band 2 will track your sleep and log all the details. I’m not sure how exactly it works, but it doesn’t detect when you are sleeping in the day (meaning when you take naps). It seems to work only when you sleep during typical sleeping hours (i.e. at night). It is, however, rather accurate in terms of the timing it detects you start and end sleep at. That said, it attempts to show you when you are in light and deep sleep, and again, like the heart rate sensor accuracy, I cannot tell you whether it is accurate. Do read my note below on fitness trackers in general.

It also tracks the distance travelled, when walking or running, and how many calories one burns too. Since the distance tracking utilises GPS, it’s rather accurate, but do expect it to have some margin of error. As for calorie tracking, it utilises the heart-rate sensor to estimate the calories you burn. So, don’t expect it to be very accurate. Again, I don’t have any specialised hardware to compare this to. However, even if the heart rate taken is entirely accurate, the estimated calories burnt will not be accurate. For example, if you normally exercise at 150 heartbeats per minute, and today you drink coffee and exercise at 180 heartbeats per minute, it does not necessarily mean that you are burning more calories. So, take this with a grain of salt; it is only an estimate.

Apart from all the fitness-related features, there are a few other features that aid you in your daily life. One of them is message or call notifications, which are pretty useful but also very standard in smartwatches. The lack of anything more than a simple button prevents you from doing anything useful with the notifications, but I don’t think that’s really a problem. Notifications on your wrist are only useful for notifying you, and replying from your wrist is a hassle. Believe me, I’ve tried. What does bug me though, is that it only allows for you to be notified of calls and messages. Yes, standard phone calls, and SMSes. Not Telegram or WhatsApp or FB Messenger or Viber, all of which replace both the standard call and messaging functions of a phone. This severely limits its utility.

There is one last notable feature which I must mention, which is alarms. I find these the best thing about the Lifesense Band 2. You can set an alarm which causes the band to vibrate to wake you up. This is really useful because you cannot fail to wake up when there’s a band vibrating your wrist, as opposed to a typical alarm which just rings. However, I find it difficult to trust that the alarm will ring. To set the alarm, you do it through the Lifesense Health app on your phone, which syncs the alarm details to the band. However, I have no way of checking directly on the band whether the alarm has successfully synced. Alarms are extremely important, and an unreliable alarm will lead to at best, lack of sleep (as you worry that it will not ring, so you wake up early or sleep lightly as opposed to deeply) or at worst, you losing your job (it can happen).

This being a fitness tracker, I feel it could have benefitted from the inclusion of just a few more features. Firstly, in line with the idea of tracking your run timings, why not include a stopwatch mode to track other exercises such as planks? Another is that they should support more than mere running. Because right now, even though supposedly you can swim with it, it’s not going to track it as swimming, but running. And your calorie burn estimates will likely be affected by the fact that you’re doing an exercise other than running. (That’s how some fitness trackers estimate calorie burn; by using typical calorie burn rates for specific exercises. But I don’t know, because they never revealed their methodology. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ ) Yet another thing they could have improved on is to give it the ability to track reps of an exercise, such as how many pushups you’re doing, or deadlifts (and at what weight). Lastly, as it already uses Bluetooth, would it be so hard to make it ever so slightly bigger and include a memory chip and the ability to store and listen to music on the go so that one doesn’t have to bring one’s phone along for, say, a run?

Lastly, a note on fitness trackers’ accuracy. Ultimately these are devices that claim to have medical benefits (helping you track exercise, calories burnt, light/deep sleep etc) or technologies (heart rate sensor, pedometer). Any fitness tracker you buy is by default not tested to be accurate from a medical perspective, unless they gain FDA approval or some other form of validation to basically assure the consumer that the product indeed works as advertised. I’d say, if you want to get a device which measures your heart rate, get something validated by an official organisation, or which has been extensively reviewed and tested by third parties. Make sure that what you’re getting actually works.

On the topic of features, however, I cannot recommend that you get this unless you really love to run and will do nothing but run. There are so many other exercises you could do, but this just doesn’t help with logging any of them. It really depends on your needs though, so consider it carefully and look around at the competition before you spend about 80 bucks on it.

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