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Fitness wristbands are officially commodity hardware, lowlighting a bad week for wearables

Jon Phillips | July 29, 2014
Xiaomi announces a US$13 activity tracker. iTime becomes the new iWatch. Healbe releases dubious lab data. It was a meh-to-lousy 7-day stretch for wearable tech.

When Xiaomi announced its US$13 Mi Band on Tuesday, it only underscored the point that activity-tracking wristbands have become commodity hardware, joining cheapo thumb drives and USB cables in the no-name parts bin of consumer electronics. 

Now, granted, that $13 price tag is just what the Xiaomi Mi Band will sell for in China. There's no word yet on U.S. pricing. Still, if I'm the CEO of a big-name activity-tracking wristband company (think Jawbone or Fitbit), I can't be happy that Xiaomi is devaluing my product category with a disposal trinket.

Sure, it's great to bring tech to the masses at an affordable price. But how much finesse, polish and accuracy can we really expect from a $13 wristband? At some point, we lose confidence in health and wellness products if barriers to entry are too low. Would you buy a $13 car baby seat? Yeah, exactly.

xiaomi mi band
XIAOMI. The Xiaomi Mi Band costs just $13 in China.

Razer Nabu to include WeChat messaging

On Thursday, news emerged that Razer will be adding WeChat messaging functions to its Nabu activity-tracker, which should launch in the U.S. by the end of the year for under $100. Razer, like other premium players in the wearables space, would seem to believe that the path to activity-tracker success lies in adding new, novel features. I guess we'll learn more about what consumer truly want--rock-bottom pricing or value-adds--as the shaky fitness wristband market continues to fight for consumer traction.

razer nabu
The Razer Nabu will include WeChat functions.

Healbe releases its first GoBe calorie-tracking data

A week ago today, Healbe finally shared lab data on its controversial GoBe calorie-tracking wristband. According to Healbe's study, the wristband can automatically (magically? impossibly?) determine the calories locked inside the food we eat with a margin of error of just 13.5 percent. 

Healbe's claims defy everything we know about science, and how the human body works, and what modern wearable sensors are capable of. The lab data was shared in a 470-word blog post that's extremely thin on details, and doesn't include any type of validating, third-party peer review. Healbe's claims are distressing enough, but they also underscore the fact that most companies selling sensor-driven fit-tech wearables stop short of sharing peer-reviewed data. Healbe's product is just causing a stir because its claims are so outrageous.

healbe gobe
IMAGE: CAITLIN MCGARRY. Oh, Healbe, we don't know what to believe anymore.

Apple's iTime patent causes a nerd event

Surprise! Apple's new smartwatch will be called iTime! 


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