Most fitness app subscriptions aren’t worth the cost

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People expect fitness smartwatches and trackers to cost a lot less than an Apple or Samsung Lifestyle watch because they “only” track your health and fitness data. They are tools, not accessories. But believe it or not, cramming tons of health sensors and GPS into a band that weighs an ounce or two, lasts a week or more per charge, and extrapolates your fitness level and health from the data isn’t a cheap proposition.

You can get a cheap fitness tracker with heart rate and blood oxygen for $50 these days, and even if better models provide more accurate data, most people won’t tell the difference. So above-the-bargain fitness brands have two options: sell premium watches aimed at athletes and the wealthy, or sell hardware at or below cost and subsidize consumer-friendly pricing with subscriptions.

Fitness brands like Fitbit, Amazon Halo, Whoop, and Oura fall into the latter category. They sell relatively affordable devices — or, in Whoop’s case, give them away — by locking key features behind a monthly subscription fee. And while I’m in no way critical of this business model or the people who buy it, I always lean towards brands that don’t hold your data hostage.

Fitbit Sense

The Fitbit Sense scans for health and stress data (Image credit: Joe Maring/Android Central)

Get Fitbit Premium. Regardless of which Fitbit device you buy, you get 3-12 months free access to guided fitness and diet programs, different workouts, personalized “insights” into your current health, a wellness report with your health trends over the last 30 days , and snoring detection for sleep tracking.

Anyone committed to getting or staying healthy can really reap the benefits of Fitbit Premium. But once your trial ends, you pay $10/month or $80/year for the privilege, which drives up the true cost of the tracker over time. and without Premium gives you a stripped-down experience with much of your data locked behind this paywall.

Every brand evaluates the value of their data differently. When you purchase Amazon Halo View, you get a free year of Halo Fitness membership, which then costs $4/month after that year. The Oura Ring costs $6/month after a 6-month trial. And Whoop actually gives you a free Whoop 4.0 but charges a whopping $30/month or $288/year for its metrics.

The fact of the matter is, these subscriptions are less about data collection and more about data repackaging. For example, Fitbit Premium costs the same no matter which Fitbit you buy. The Fitbit Charge 5 has ECG, EDA and temperature sensors to provide more accurate results, but cheaper models like the Inspire 2 still give you health advice with the information available. The cost of membership correlates with the completeness of the data provided, not with its accuracy.

A fitness calendar on the Coros Pace 2

A fitness calendar on the Coros Pace 2 (Image credit: Source: Michael Hicks / Android Central)

Whichever fitness smartwatch you buy, you’re paying for an app that validates your health (or need to get healthier), reminds you to exercise, and offers some customized workouts. It collects your data in a way that is easy to analyze and manage. You can easily argue that since you’re investing in yourself, it’s worth paying for.

But other smartwatch brands also offer many of these “premium” benefits for free! You pay more for the hardware but save money in the long run.

Brands like Garmin specialize more in fitness data than health data, but that doesn’t make them any less thorough or helpful. Garmin watches give you information about your resting heart rate, VO2 Max, lactate threshold, training load, recovery, and your “body battery” level based on sleep, training, and stress—among many, many other metrics. And other premium fitness brands like Coros and Polar offer similar data, even without charging a subscription.

Training data from Garmin Connect

(Image credit: Android Central)

Beyond the data, these brands also offer free workouts and training plans from trainers who work with the brand. Especially if you use outdoor sports like running or cycling to get healthy, these fitness brands have the tools you need for your marathon training or preparing for the 5K from the couch without paying for it.

After testing great watches like the Garmin Venu 2 Plus and Coros Pace 2, I’ve gotten used to getting in-depth fitness data and training plans from real people instead of a faceless algorithm.

It’s fair to counter that most of these watches are quite expensive, ranging from $200 to $500. It’s a lot to pay in advance. But a $100 Fitbit really costs $260 after 2 years (+ trial) or $420 after four years — more if you pay monthly. They don’t save as much as you think, and more expensive smartwatches tend to do the same better as a budget option.

Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 hands-on

(Image credit: Android Central)

Maybe you’re more interested in health data than fitness, or maybe you don’t like the clunky look of Garmin watches. In this case, think of Samsung or Apple watches Even offer a lot of health data via Samsung/Apple Health. And they don’t charge you for the data either.

The Galaxy Watch 4 can track your heart rate, blood pressure, sleep patterns, BMI, ECG and BIA readings all at once. On Samsung Health or Google Fit you have an up-to-the-minute overview of your current health status… without requiring any money.

The Apple Watch Series 7 activity rings are a popular and uncomplicated way to encourage you to reach your fitness goals every day, with HRM, ECG and blood oxygen monitoring sensors to keep an eye on you. While you can pay $10/month or $80/year for Apple Fitness+, which is for at-home rotating workouts and other optional features; You can still export all your health data to your favorite fitness app for free.

Samsung and Apple aren’t quite as helpful in curating your fitness data, but they sync with it other Third-party fitness apps and running apps that are damn good at interpreting your data. You may need to subscribe to these apps; But canceling your subscriptions will not affect your experience with the Clock. You can keep wearing it.

Garmin Venu 2 Plus vs. Fitbit Sense

The Garmin Venu 2 Plus Vs. Fitbit Sense (Image credit: Michael Hicks/Android Central)

Whether you want a lifestyle or fitness watch, you don’t have to pay for a fitness subscription. They have their time and their place, especially when working from home. When you can’t go to the gym, you need a DIY software to stay healthy. But in my opinion you should only pay for software and software. When you pay for data originating from hardware You bought and paid then you get a bad deal.

We’ve heard plenty of rumors about Google’s upcoming Pixel Watch, which is said to have Fitbit integration for Wear OS 3 software. On the one hand, I’m looking forward to a lifestyle watch that packs all the health and fitness data you’d ever need. On the other hand, if you need a Fitbit Premium subscription to get the most out of a Google watch, that’s a disadvantage that gives its competitors an edge.

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