My first fitness tracker only lasted seven months before it broke, but it taught me a few important lessons during its short life:
- I don’t sleep as much as I think I do. Any guilt about "sleeping in" is misguided.
- Not owning a car really boosts your step count. I can’t help you move or drive to see my own grandmother, but I reached 130% of my step goal every day!
- A red rubber wristband really doesn’t go with everything. My tracker clashed spectacularly with my Belle Epoque engagement ring, so I wore it on my right wrist and hope no one noticed.
Suffice to say, I’m a fan of fitness trackers, but I’m not always a fan of their style. So when I saw the LEAF, I was intrigued.
The LEAF works like a tracker, but it looks like jewelry. Made by Bellabeat, this wood and metal gizmo tracks your steps and sleep. But since it’s designed especially for women, it also tracks your menstrual cycle and stress levels.
To be honest, I don’t think women need their own brand of lady-only fitness tracker— I’d rather see companies like Apple, Jawbone and Fitbit incorporate women’s needs into their existing apps and product designs—but I liked the idea of a tracker that didn’t look like a rubber watch or a plastic pebble. I had to investigate further.
The LEAF’s main appeal is its design. It’s made to be worn in different ways: as a pendant, bracelet, and clip. I like the theory, but I had a hard time in practice. The pendant worked; the bracelet didn’t. I thought the LEAF looked best worn as a clip, but it's not especially comfortable; the thin metal part goes on top of your clothes, while the the thick wooden part presses against your body. Plus, the tracker is pretty heavy. If you clip it to your pocket or neckline, it pulls the fabric down. The wood and metal are slippery, so it's easy to send it flying when you're taking off your clothes.
I managed to treat my tracker gently at night, but I dropped it on the bathroom floor every single day when I staggered in for my morning pee. That is, unless it had slipped off my pyjamas while I slept. I started to see why other clip-on trackers are made of rubber-coated plastic.
The LEAF really passes for jewelry, though. At work, no one realized that I was wearing a fitness tracker. At first, I liked this, but by day four, I realized that I hated wearing the same piece of jewelry every day. The LEAF is nice enough, but do I want a big bamboo leaf to be my signature piece? Yes, the sportier trackers are less attractive, but they also don't look like something you're wearing for purely aesthetic reasons. No one looks at a rubber light-up badge and assumes that's your style.
Compared to the tracker, the app seems a little rudimentary. It tracks only four things: steps, sleep, menstruation and "stress." At this point, it doesn’t work with any other fitness or food-tracking apps. After using the Jawbone app, which has a lot of features and options, I found the LEAF app’s simplicity a little frustrating. That said, it's a very new product, and I’m sure the app will improve over the next few months.
The menstrual tracker was OK, but I like the interface and options in the other menstrual apps better. The "stress measurement" feature was disappointing, it’s just a measurement of how many times you've done the app’s deep-breathing exercises. I hate to be a stickler, but that’s not measuring stress. I tried the breathing exercises a few times, but never really got the hang of them (the app measures your breath, but doesn’t tell you when you’re breathing wrong or how to correct it).
If you love how the LEAF looks and you don’t mind a really simple tracking system, then it might be a good option for you. Otherwise, you can get a more durable tracker with a more elaborate app for the same price or less.
I’m interested to see where Bellabeat goes. The LEAF isn’t perfect, but it’s an interesting idea, and definitely the most unusual fitness tracker on the market right now.
- Are you into fitness trackers?
- Would you wear the LEAF every day?
- What would your dream tracker look like?