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The Pivotal Tracker 1
Fitness trackers are obviously all the rage right now – but it’s a bit of an expensive device to just “take a chance” on. I mean, who wants to spend upwards of $100 on a device which you may or may not end up throwing in your desk drawer (you know – the one with three old heart rate monitors, batteries, staples, and a old box of altoids – which are still good as of the date of this post, by the way) in two or three months. Seriously, a fitness tracker like the Pivotal Tracker 1 seems like a great idea, and was fun to play around with for the testing period I gave it a go, but for this guy, it just doesn’t seem like it’s a long term bet. Fortunately, the folks over at Pivotal Living have created the Pivotal Tracker 1 (formerly known as the Pivotal Life Tracker) for all of those people who, like me, are just on the fence about fitness trackers. Why is Pivotal Tracker 1 the fitness tracker for all the rest of us? Because only a certain percent of the population runs out and drops top dollar on the “latest and greatest” in fitness technology. The Pivotal Tracker 1 is only $15.00 – with shipping. Yep, go ahead and read THAT one again. For just above the cost of a trendy six-pack (yes, I pay $10+ a six-pack, and like it thank you very much), you not only get the band, but access to their app FOR ONE YEAR. Let that sink in for a moment, ’cause I can assure you the Pivotal Tracker 1 is the only device coming close to that pricepoint… for now.
Let me preface my comments above by saying I’m not on the fence about tracking fitness and/or activity levels. Indeed, my entry into the triathlon scene a few years back (still going strong! woot!) only made me delve into my “fitness metrics” even deeper. It started with running marathons – I first wanted to know exact calorie expenditures, mainly to know how much extra beer I could drink after a long run. I’ve been tracking weight for nearly a decade now, and have been following diet plans (life-style changes for all you prissy fitness types) for that amount of time. But fitness trackers haven’t interested me for much the same reason that pedometers never interested me. They just aren’t all that accurate. I’d rather have a handful of devices (gps triathlon watch w/heart rate monitor, gps road/trail watch w/heart rate monitor, and heart rate strap that pairs to all of the polar equipment at my gym – then take your favorite app and add them all together) that do individual things accurately than one device which kind of does everything well. And guess what, I’m still in that camp. Until fitness trackers add respectable multi-sport capability, and sophisticated heart rate monitor technology (argue all you want boys and girls in the comments section, it still isn’t there without the chest strap), I’m just not on board.
However, for $12.00 (without shipping), I’ll try just about anything – including the Pivotal Tracker 1 (full disclosure, I didn’t purchase the device – but I would). And I’m glad I did give it a go, because the Pivotal Tracker 1 could benefit just about anybody. With a full feature set (which of course I’ll delve into a bit later) and a pretty sweet little app, how can you really afford NOT to own this little guy? I will return repeatedly to this point throughout the article, because I believe the most important feature is the low price point. Hopefully this crashes the market on these little devices, and they become much more affordable all around. Only time will tell. This is, however, a review of my use of the device – I do HAVE to delve into BOTH the positive and negative attributes of the product. I’m sorry to say that when considered without the meritorious effort of the low price point, the Pivotal Tracker 1 simply isn’t the best option out there. But hey, for $12.00 it’s great. Okay, I have that fully out of my system. Let’s get on with it.
Testing the Pivotal Tracker 1
I wish I could say that setting up the Pivotal Tracker 1 was a breeze right out of the box. To begin with, I only tested the IOS app for this device; as you’ll see, all of my photos are of the app on an Apple Iphone 5c (don’t hate, it’s a work phone – apple fan boys can just stop reading here). As of the the writing of this post, the android app was only recently released. Fear not, android users, it is out there now. Normally, IOS set ups are the easiest of the bunch. Apple kind of puts a lock down on the apps they approve, so usually it’s just click, click done. I expected as much when I pulled the Pivotal Tracker 1 out of the box (notably without instructions, more on that later), and hit the button to turn it on. I immediately downloaded a “Pivotal” company app, and attempted to set it up. News Flash – you must search for “Pivotal Living” not “Pivotal Tracking.” So I was already behind at this juncture. Pivotal Tracker 1 – 1, Zach – 0. After I realized this, I pulled up the Pivotal Living app, and gave it a go. I was still pretty excited at this point, so I was also pretty dismayed when it did nothing. I mean literally nothing. I entered in some personal info, hit sync… and then zero. It wouldn’t sync. For around 40 minutes, I watched some football and just kept hitting go. I almost didn’t notice when it finally DID sync. Which is good, because at this point I nearly sent it back as defective. Here’s where I ran into yet another stumbling block – none of my settings would actually save to the band. I spend another 20 or so minutes just trying to set an alarm. It was at this point that I had a flash of insight, and attempted to google “Pivotal Tracker 1 manual.” This also yielded zero to help me out. I combed the entire Pivotal Living website to no avail. So… Pivotal Tracker 1 – 2, Zach – 0. It was only after a few minutes that I finally figured out someone somewhere would probably have put together a youtube video on the product. Sure enough, the folks at Pivotal Living had put together their own how-to videos for the product. A few short videos later I had the product up and running. It’s important to note that there is no explanation for the initial sync issue, and I doubt I ever will have one. All I can say is that I do have half a brain, and have successfully synced my iPhone to A TON of devices, so I’m pretty sure it isn’t user error. Enough said. It should be noted here that Pivotal Living is a startup company, and these issues are common to startups. Needless to say that while a bit frustrating, I give them a pass on this one. If I had watched the videos first, I’d have been a pro. Hey Pivotal Living, clue me in next time, eh?
I was impressed at the full feature set for the price point contained in the app/band for the Pivotal Tracker 1 (once I got it up and running.) Here’s what the Pivotal Tracker 1 has to offer on the device itself: time, step count, distance traveled, calories burned, and percentage to goal. These are cycled through by clicking the button on the device. These are the only metrics which can be accessed through the band itself. All other data is available in the app, which in order to save battery life only syncs with the band when you tell it to. At least, that was my experience. The website (at this time) is unclear on whether or not an auto sync will become a feature in the future. In the App itself, a whole host of features present themselves in addition to the ones on the band… or so I thought. There are only a few more features in the app, it’s just that that ALL present in the app, whereas the band only presents a select few, which makes sense. I don’t need to see how many hours I slept last night every time I cycle through the band during the day to see my info. And cycling through your info during the day gets addictive, trust me. The main screen of the app for the Pivotal Tracker 1 shows six categories: calories, sleep, hydration, active time (exercise), steps, and weight. A simple swipe down of the app (and then a click of the button on the band to wake it up) syncs the data from the band to the app, and it gets uploaded fairly smoothly. Once learned, this is the easiest process in the world – but it isn’t intuitive. I learned this from watching their youtube videos. At the bottom of the app screen, you’ll see buttons that also take you to your network (I didn’t test this out, but their is a social component) and your profile. Your profile screen is actually fairly important to the function of the band on the Pivotal Tracker 1, and it’s also here that you can erase/reset the device. I should note, though, that to the date of this post I haven’t been successful at resetting the device. For some reason, it just doesn’t want to sync with the band when I select this option. This won’t be a big deal for most, but it was one of quite a few small glitches that you find whenever you test a product from startup company. But hey, it’s only $12.00 – who’s complaining about a few glitches?
The device is also equipped with a tactile vibration function, which is nice. This is how the alarm function of the device works – it vibrates at the desired time to wake you up. There is no audible component to this, and it’s advertised as a “natural” way to wake up. It did become nice as the testing period went on, but the first day I slept through the vibrate completely. Pivotal Tracker 1 – 3, Zach – 0. I had assumed (mistakenly) that the Pivotal Tracker 1 would just keep vibrating until you shut it off, but after testing it appears it just vibrates a handful of times and then stops. Throughout the testing period this would wake me up, but after a bit of a late night with the fellas, it failed completely again to awaken me from deep slumber. Pivotal Tracker 1 – 4, Zach – 0. So, I’d say that this isn’t so much of a fail as maybe an issue which could be corrected by Pivotal Living should enough feedback be received. Or perhaps I’m just a heavy sleeper.
Speaking of sleep, I found the sleep tracker to be one of the more interesting functions of the Pivotal Tracker 1. I don’t like wearing watches to bed, and as the “fit” of the band is a bit awkward for the smaller wrist-ed (see my photo below – I have just a bit smaller than average sized wrist, and the inflexible portion of the band sticks out to the side a bit), it was a tad weird to wear it to bed the first couple of nights. You have to manually turn on the sleep tracker on this device by double clicking the band. In practice, this wasn’t as bad as it sounds – just as I was about to fall asleep and was turning off the light, I’d just reach down and double click it. It shows a little moon on the screen to tell you it’s in sleep mode. Not only does it track the amount of time you slept, but the quality of your sleep as well – this is based on the amount of movement you make when sleeping. All in all, it’s a pretty cool feature, but I wish that the app itself explained the significance of the chart more – as you can see, there’s not much in the way of explanation on the in-app graph, and as such I was left to wonder what was what. This was not the only feature in the app which left me wondering, however – the activity portion and the hydration portion are also somewhat limited. I wore the Pivotal Tracker 1 through all of my workouts in seven days – three runs, three lifting sessions, and two bikes. Due to it’s lack of waterproofing (it’ll make it through washing your hands, but shouldn’t be submerged; I didn’t even wear mine in the shower), I didn’t wear it during my swim workouts. As for activities, it will only track when your steps accelerate. As such, I only got “credit” on the Pivotal Tracker 1 for my runs. There is no way to manually add activity as of the date of this post, so this was somewhat frustrating. I didn’t use the social component of the app (finding friends, etc), but if I was using that function, I’d want to have a way to track my non-running activities. At least let me manually enter them in the app or something. The Pivotal Tracker 1 doesn’t have any way to monitor an increased heart rate, so tracking my lifting sessions was completely outside the scope of the device.
The second very frustrating aspect of the device is that while step count is accurate, there is no way in the app or on the band to enter in stride length corresponding to a workout. What I mean is this: the device takes a height measurement, and then (presumably) this is used to calculate your stride distance. This only works 1.) when walking consistently the same stride length or 2.) running consistently the same stride length. There’s no way that a running stride is the same length as my walking stride, and furthermore it depends on the type of running I’m doing as well. If doing a sprint workout, I’ll cover a ton more ground than just grinding out long, slow miles. Pedometers will usually allow for some type of manual entry concerning stride length in order to get a close calibration of distance; as the photos below show, the Pivotal Tracker 1 was not even close during a three mile tread mill workout completed just the other day. Also, b/c the device doesn’t measure heart rate, my calorie count for this workout was way, way off. At first, it rattled me just a little bit that the Pivotal Tracker 1 didn’t come with a component which tracks food intake, or at least syncs up with an existing app in order to track calorie deficits throughout the week. Now, I ‘m actually fairly thankful that it doesn’t, as it would never provide an accurate snap shot of what could and could be eaten as a result of a workout. I guess that since it’s consistently lower than what you ACTUALLY burned during a workout, you may lose weight faster. It remains to be seen if Pivotal will add this component to the app. It will most likely be in the form that other calorie counting apps have taken, or it will integrate much the same as the hydration tracker does – a simple swipe to the left, and you enter the ounces of water just consumed. I quickly stopped doing this, though, as it just was unwieldy to track every ounce of water I drink.
Final Thoughts on the Pivotal Tracker 1
As I stated above, the Pivotal Tracker 1 is a great device… for the pricepoint. Those expecting an extremely sophisticated feature set should look elsewhere; it seems that the lesson here truly is that you get what you pay for – or is it? I would tend to say no, you get WAY WAY MORE than what you pay for. My hope is that the folks over at Pivotal Living will use the feedback generated by users and improve their device, thus increasing the value of their product ten fold. Right now, it really just is a few simple tweaks away from being a pretty solid little device. The social aspect of it is intriguing as well, and left me wanting to know other people using the device in order to compare myself – you know, see how I stacked up. I believe this will be key to Pivotal’s continued success. But for now, I leave you with this thought – what do you really have to lose? The device looks pretty cool, functions as a watch, and keeps track of your activities throughout the day. For those on the fence about fitness tracking, it’s simply the best way to find out whether or not you’ll truly stick with tracking fitness metrics. Head on over to the Pivotal Living website to check them out for yourself, or use the link on our page down below to just head over and buy one. Cheers.