About half a year back, LG unveiled the Lifeband Touch Activity Tracker to much fanfare. Touted as the future of fitness, it got people sitting up with its promise of advanced activity tracking and ease of access to your music and phones. I finally got a unit off Ebay and used it with a LG Nexus 5. Here’s what I have to say.
Look and Fit
Bangle like. There’s an OLED screen on the front that is touch screen enabled and houses the main toggle button that controls all function of the band. The Lifeband Touch is built rigid except for one end where it’s slightly malleable. It is also heavier than most trackers on the market.
Unfortunately, due to the rigid fit and the lack of options to fine tune the size, the band bounced around my wrist during a run. (I wear a M sized) It’s not a good feeling and the heavier than normal weight of a fitness band on my arm made my run somewhat unpleasant. There’s no S size by the way.
The near flush toggle button glows purple, red and green depending whether the Lifeband Touch is syncing, yet to meet activity goal or met activity goal for the day. The display is sharp and crisp when viewed indoors or in the night but I strained to see the display under bright sunlight.
The Lifeband Touch uses a tri-accelerometer and an algorithm called Kalman filter to track steps and distance. According to LG, the Lifeband Touch performed accurately for a wrist type product in clinical trials. The presence of an altimeter supposedly offers extra information on slope and flat ground changes, thus contributing to a more accurate calorie estimation.
The main capabilities of the Lifeband are an activity tracker and an extension of your smartphone. As an activity tracker, the Lifeband has got the necessary covered. If you work out with your smart phone or heart rate monitor or even the LG earphones, the functions increase.
Phone calls and messages will cause the Lifeband Touch to vibrate and the caller or text sender name to appear on the OLED display. That’s all there is, you can’t read the messages. The FAQ claims that covering the OLED display will reject a phone call. Tried that and all it did was stop the Lifeband Touch vibration and notification while the phone continued ringing.
The Lifeband Touch does not have GPS capability on its own, it taps on your smart phone for that. So you can see a nice route charted on the LG Fitness app after a long run. Likewise, compatible heart rate monitor straps connects to the LG phone app instead of the Lifeband Touch. So if you’re the sort that works out without lugging your smartphone around, the Lifeband Touch is merely a wrist worn accelerometer and altimeter. Period.
If you’re expecting to see heart rate displayed on the Lifeband Touch like I did, you’re out of luck. The heart rate will only show if you also own the LG Heart Rate Monitor Earphones. Compatible heart rate transmitters (Polar and Zephyr) will be connected to the smart phone and the data incorporated into your workout but heart rate will not show on the Lifeband Touch. It’s a shame.
When paired with a compatible heart rate strap, the LG Fitness app will display the heart rate and how long you’ve been working out at each zone ONLY if you’ve initiated workout tracking. The colourful heart rate monitor display is only viewable on the smart phone so if you’re running with the phone worn on your arms or tucked inside a running belt, out of luck again.
I’ve had a few motivating messages. First the Lifeband Touch vibrates and I’ll see messages like “Move! Move!” or “Stretch” after I wake up. Hardly motivating if you ask me. The band itself is not comfortable to wear for sleep. Not surprising since there’s no sleep tracking.
As a music controller, the band allows you to control the music being played on your smart phones if you’re working out or running. So there’s no need to fumble to skip track or increase volume. Nifty but not a deal breaker.
The band is safe to wear to shower and the sweaty runs. Anything more that resembles a dip in the pool is a no no.
While trying to see the distance on the Lifeband Touch during a run, I found myself accidentally activating other functions like music or even skip tracks one time too many. The abundance of functions crumbles in the face of practical usage.
Presentation of data
LG falters in trying to provide tracked stats in an aesthetically pleasing, easy to understand and easily accessible manner. Despite adding an entire chunk of FAQ explaining heart rate zones to heart rate transmitter connections, I found the user interface cumbersome and laborious to use.
Reviews on Google play app store stated that there’s a need to re-install the app if the phone is switched off and on again. I found that to be true. The app can no longer be opened and the only way is to uninstall it and re-install again. As of press, this was exactly what happened. Nexus 5 stock Android was used for the review.
When I forgot my password and had difficulty changing it, an email to LG received no reply. Furthermore, the LG contact email on the Google play store does now work. Really? If you ask me, that’s not a good sign.
The LG Fitness app provides a lot of information on incorporating heart rate in your training. VO2 max was explained, how maximum heart rate, calories, steps were tracked and calculated. There was even instructions on how to do the Rockport test!
Workouts other than runs and walks can also be added manually by the user. The list is lengthy and comprehensive ranging from runs and walks to billiards, badminton and even horse riding.
Battery life varies depending on what you’re doing. It can vary from 2-3 days days to about 5 depending on the usage level and if Bluetooth is constantly on. If you’re getting a lot of calls and messages with multiple alarms, charging is required every few days.
You can add up to 5 vibration alarms throughout the day and there’s also gesture controls like covering the OLED screen to reject calls (didn’t work for me) and also the capability to turn on the OLED screen automatically if you turn the Lifeband Touch and look at it like a watch.
LG Lifeband Touch In a Nutshell
- Vibration alarms and alerts
- Motivational messages
- Displays notification from smart phone
- Music control from Lifeband Touch
- Short battery lifespan
- Gestures not fully working
- Poor fit
- Mobile app is not user friendly, has poor support, and requires installation at times
- Only displays heart rate readings from LG heart rate earphones and not compatible heart rate chest straps.
- Limited compatibility with other apps
I’m not sure if the Lifeband Touch justifies a legitimate claim on the limited amount of wrist estate. The fit was poor and the app, though informative, was difficult to make sense of and use. Perhaps software updates can improve certain shortcomings but the fit is definitely not going to change. It does have some nifty features but it’s not something I can’t live without.
At a hefty price of $149.99, I expected a lot more from the company that made the Nexus 5.
The Lifeband works on select Android and iOS devices and is only available in M and L size.