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Runtastic Orbit: The activity tracker that only a Runtastic fanatic could love

Jon Phillips | Aug. 1, 2014
The $120 Runtastic Orbit activity tracker won't wow you with beautiful industrial design. And besides its curious ambient light sensor, it doesn't innovate much beneath its squishy, rubber exterior. But the Orbit can display the data from Runtastic Pro, a smartphone app with more than 85 million downloads to its name.

Runtastic Me needs more granular control

On one level, I appreciate the stripped-down simplicity of Runtastic Me. A single dashboard reveals numerical data on your daily steps, active minutes, calories burned, distance traveled, and last night's sleep. But when you drill down one level further to a graphical timeline view, the app's U.I. gets confusing.

Take the Steps timeline. A bar chart shows you how many steps were concentrated in each hour of the day, but what does that steeply rising dotted blue line above the bars signify? It's a view of your cumlative steps for the day — drag your finger across the screen to see your numbers climb. The problem is, this feature requires a really long finger press before it kicks into action, and it took me several days to discover it even exists.

But my biggest gripe concerns the Sleep display. Just like with most activity trackers, you press a button on the Orbit to activate sleep mode when you get in bed, and then press the button again when you wake. This is an acceptable hassle, but the Runtastic Me app reports your sleep time as the full period between those two button presses, leading to misleading sleep reports.

Let's say you press the button at 10 pm, fall asleep at 11 pm, wake for 15 minutes at 2 am, and then get back to sleep until 6 am. The app will report you got eight hours sleep. Yay! You scored a 100 percent sleep efficiency score last night! This despite the fact you only slept for six hours and 45 minutes, and your timeline graph shows glaring red bars representing periods of wakefulness.

What's worse, you can't do a long press on the sleep timeline to pinpoint the exact time you fell asleep. The Orbit is clearly collecting this data, but the app doesn't expose it in a helpful manner. I'd also prefer the option to use a 12-hour clock — because what time of day is 21:23?

Below the Sleep graph is a curious, unmarked timeline. Throughout the day, this dark blue line rises up and turns yellow. It's never explained inside the app, but this timeline shows how much sunlight you receive each day, reporting the data collected by the Orbit's ambient light sensor. It's a neat — if incredibly vague — trick. Runtastic says it plans on extending the utility of the light sensor, perhaps using it to trigger sunscreen reminders. There's also a temperature sensor in the Orbit, but it's currently not being used for anything.

The bottom line

The Runtastic Orbit is not a handsome wearable, and is too big to share a single wrist with a full-fledged watch, be it smart of analog. It's waterproof, so you can wear it swimming, and that's a bonus that Jawbone and Fitbit can't claim. Battery life is rated at seven days, which is on the high end in this product category, but like with most other activity trackers, you'll need a proprietary USB charging adapter to keep the Orbit juiced.


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