Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tiger Hu Fitness Band - Low Cost, Few Features and a Winner

I stumbled on the Tiger Hu Fitness Tracker Smartband on Amazon, and despite the fact that I have multiple smart watches, I couldn't resist picking one up.

My Zen Watch 3 may bring the functionality, but it's battery life leaves a lot to be desired. I could carry the clunky charger around with me, but that seems downright excessive. The Martian Notifier wins in the battery department, but I didn't find it quite functional enough to pull me away from the Zen Watch. And besides, it too requires a proprietary charger, which I'd rather not bring along.

All these battery annoyances are especially pronounced when I travel.

What I noticed first in the Tiger Hu is that it appeared to solve the battery problem altogether. This, combined with the low price of $29.99 made it a buy I couldn't pass up.

I've now had the Tiger Hu for about two weeks and here are my thoughts on it.

What It Does Well

The device is downright primitive when compared to my Zen Watch, so naturally the battery life is great. But more than that, it totally nails the charging solution. It trounces the Pebble, two Garmins and devices mentioned above, all of which require fidgety device-specific chargers. To charge the Tiger Hu, you peel off one section of the band to expose a surface that plugs in any USB charger. It's brilliant. Here this functionality is in action:

This makes traveling with the Tiger Hu a no brainer.

Given that the device is only $30, I have to say that the fit and finish is surprisingly good. It's far less clunky than my Zen Watch with a noticeable weight difference. Of course, comparing the Tiger Hu and the Zen Watch is silly; it's like comparing a pocket calculator with a laptop. But, if all you need to do is arithmetic, that pocket calculator is nothing to scoff at.

The accelerometer on the device is unexpectedly accurate. On the two occasions I used it to track a jump rope sessions, it perfectly matched the number I counted in my head. On a 4 mile run, the device was off by 400 steps when compared to my phone, which I think is acceptable. The watch also has a heart rate monitor, though I'm not convinced it's especially accurate. When compared to Shira's Garmin, it was typically 10bpm or more off.

The notifications that the watch offers, including calls, SMS, and Skype work well enough. As does the find-your-phone feature. So while the device doesn't do a whole lot, it does mean that I can keep my phone tucked into my bag and not miss a call or text message. Unfortunately, I'll have more to say about notifications below.

Finally, the watch does work well as a time piece. It syncs up with my phone and means that I've got the time and date on my wrist. That may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but long after my Zen Watch has died due to lack of battery life, the Tiger Hu keeps ticking.

What It Doesn't Do Well

The software that comes with the app is OK, though I'm sure it can't compare to a FitBit or Garmin in terms of features. I want to use the watch for basic time keeping and notifications, so I wasn't disappointed by this. But if you wanted to actually use this as a fitness tool, I wouldn't be surprised if you were disappointed. (On the other hand, if you have a teen who's dying to have a fitness band like all her friends, this may solve the problem quite nicely at a steep discount.)

The biggest disappointment is the way the device handles notifications. The app author decided to hard code the list of apps that can generate notifications, and nothing Tasker related made the list. If I could have enabled AutoNotification to send messages to the watch, then the device would have been quite hackable out of the box. As a quick work around, if I do want to get data from my phone to the watch, I can use Tasker to create and send me an SMS.

In general, the watch isn't obviously hackable. Though, I'm not ready to give up on this yet, as I have a couple of low level approaches I still intend to experiment with.

In Conclusion

For $30, I'm now the proud owner of a long lasting, easily chargeable, notification capable watch. Sure, it's mostly just a glorified watch and pedometer, but in many cases, that's just what I need. If that's what you're looking for, you can't go wrong with the Tiger Hu.

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