Fitness bands and smart watches are all the rage right now – even Apple is expected to release the iWatch some time in the future. A new competitor is entering the market, but the science, technology and brand behind it are anything but new.

Salutron, founded in 1994, has been engineering and manufacturing heart rate monitoring solutions that you’ve probably interacted with many times – they own 70-80% of the market for the heart rate monitoring circuitry. If you’ve used gym equipment that allows you to see how fast your heart is beating, there’s a good chance Salutron was behind it. They also develop technology alongside NASA, which in itself proves their engineering-focused company culture.

LifeTrak, a brand of Salutron, builds sports watches and other accessories. We’ll be taking a look at their new Move C300, an app-connected fitness band with an on-device display.

The device

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The C300 is much larger and bulkier than the Jawbone Up or Fitbit Flex. It’s more the size and weight of a regular watch than one of the small bands that wrap around your wrist. However, that comes with a huge benefit – a display right on the device. The always-on display shows you the number of steps, calories, and miles travelled for the day as well as the time and date. In addition, the button at the top right of the device allows you to view graphs of your stats on an hourly or daily basis. You can also enter into workout mode, which tracks steps, calories, distance, and time for a set period.

Pressing the two buttons on the side of the device at the same time turns on a backlight for viewing in the dark.

In addition, holding down the main button at the bottom will start the heart rate monitor. Within just a couple of seconds, a live ECG pops up with your real-time heart rate – great for workouts or checking on your resting heart rate.

The main part of the watch is detachable from the wrist bands, which makes it really easy to swap out colors or replace the band. In addition, the band itself has many different holes so it will fit mosts wrists.

Battery Life

One feature that still amazes me is the battery life on this device. Rather than having to take it off and recharge every 5 or 7 days, expect the battery on this device to last for about 14 months. When I spoke to Salutron’s CTO, Dr. Jin Lee, he said that the band hasn’t been out long enough for them to see one of their device’s reach low battery. However, they simulated regular usage and found it to be about 14 months long.

After that, the coin battery inside the device will need to be replaced. They recommend going to a watch maker, as the device’s water-proof seal (more on that in a second) can be broken if not handled properly.

Dr. Lee said that the battery life is due to low-energy Bluetooth 4.0 for syncing, a low power LCD, and intelligent circuitry that turns off the accelerometer and other pieces when not in use.

Features

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Rather than being “splash-resistent”, this device is fully capable and water resistant down to 30 meters. That means you can shower without taking the band off or going swimming and worry about water entering the device.

Personally, I still take the band off when I shower since water gets stuck between the band and my arm and remains there until I take the band off and wipe it away. However, just knowing that the device won’t be affected by water is great in itself.

This device does not track your sleep, which is probably its biggest downfall. To be honest, whenever I used a different fitness band I would always forget to set the sleep tracking before hitting the hay, so I never was able to use that feature before. However, the company said they are working on a new band that will use an ambient light sensor and sleep algorithms to detect when a person has gone to sleep and track that information. It’ll be a little bit more expensive than the C300 and should be out in the near future.

App

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Salutron has just announced an exclusive partnership with app maker Azumio, developers of the Argus app. Once you pop open the application, you can set up your device then sync it by holding down the bottom right button on the device. Within a couple of seconds, the calories, distance, steps, and heart rate information is transferred to the app using Bluetooth 4.0.

The app also working with the Withings scale and the New Balance LifeTRNr+, so all of your information can be in one place. The app is really meant to be the “home” for all of your fitness data – water and food intake, exercises, heart rate, body weight, etc.

I found the app to be pleasant and a nice complement to the C300. The main screen is a timeline with hexagons for each data point, which makes it fun to scroll through information and tap on it for more information. You can also set to share certain information with Argus friends or post the information to Facebook, but the app doesn’t seem to be extremely popular, so critical mass hasn’t been reached.

You can also use the app to take pictures of your food, but I’m yet to care about that feature with any food/fitness app.

Day-to-day

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This is the first band that makes me feel naked when I’m not wearing it. I’m one to sit at my desk all day and only get up for food, so looking down to see the disappointing number of steps for the day does motivate me to get up and move. There is a bar across the top that shows your progress for the day’s steps/calories/distance goals, so trying to fill up the bar for the day is definitely something that I’ve found myself working toward.

When playing racquetball, I do turn on the workout mode to see distance traveled and calories burned. Salutron says they use very advanced algorithms to calculate distance traveled and I’ve found it to be almost accurate. It seems to be off by about 5-10%, but I’m not too concerned about getting spot-on precision for mileage.

The device definitely fits into my life and motivates me more than I would have expected. It has actually brought me to enjoy going out to take a run or drink more water just to see the graphs on the band or Argus app.

Wrap-up

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The Move C300 is the best fitness band I’ve used, through and through. For me, having the information always available on my wrist and on my phone is extremely powerful. Rather than having to guess at how many steps you’ve taken or syncing just to find out, just looking at your wrist to find out real-time then syncing later to see aggregate information just feels like the right solution.

The biggest con to the device are the lack of sleep tracking, although Argus hooks up with an app called “Sleep Time” to import sleep data (using your iPhone as a sensor). In addition, I managed to get some scuff marks on the display after just a couple of weeks, so the display is definitely not scratch-resistant.

Nonetheless, the price point really makes this purchase a no-brainer. The device is available on Amazon for just $59.99. If you have any questions about the device, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer.

(Thanks to JX for helping with the video!)