Sometimes I run across a gadget that is truly a value. "Value," as in a big bang for the buck. Well worth it. A bargain.
Today's get-together is about such a gadget: The Vivitar Bluetooth Activity Tracker. Those used to be called "smart watches," but today's versions do so much they deserve a more-encompassing name.
Indeed this Vivitar model: Keeps track of steps, calories and distance walked; alerts the wearer to incoming calls and text messages; records sleep quality; sets sleep and activity goals; sets up to five alarms for daily or weekly schedules.
This is Model VIVIMP1016N, and I include that because there are several versions of this activity tracker. The activity tracker itself measures about 1.5-inches high and half-inch wide. The display for information is smaller – about the size of a thumbnail.
It's not easy to find. Some of them were at the local Big Lots store a few weeks ago. They've been listed as available at Walmart and on Amazon. If the exact model isn't available, those places may have similar ones available – but perhaps not at the same price or with the same features.
The tracker slips into a silicone wristband and needs to be removed for charging. For that, it uses a USB wall charger (not included), or can be plugged into a USB port on a laptop computer. It holds a charge for "up to" five days. In my experience, three to four is more common.
A free app connects the activity tracker to an Android or Apple cellphone. The app provides set up, control and display of the tracker's contents.
Now for the bargain part – the price. It sells anywhere from $10 to $15.
I hasten to add that this is an entry-level smart watch, and while it has several attractive features, it doesn't always pull them off as well as does a tracker costing 10 times – or far more – that it does.
Having said that, it's a great way to find out what you might want an activity tracker to do, what size it should be, and what features are important.
This model, for instance, doesn't measure heart rate. While it will vibrate if you receive an instant message on your cellphone, it only displays a small "cartoon speech bubble" to show one was received.
It will also vibrate to show an email has arrived. But the display area is so small, you might be able to read the sender's name and the first word or two of the email. That's not very helpful.
Since it's in constant contact with the cellphone it's paired with through Bluetooth, it will vibrate when that connection is broken. That happens when there is a 20- to 30-foot gap between the wearer and the cellphone. It's an alert that likely will happen before leaving the store or the house, thus reuniting the two.
The tracker also has a "find the phone" feature. Touch the button on the tracker and the phone will sound – even if it's in the silence mode.
It counts steps, keeps distance walked and shows calories burned. The accuracy of that count is another issue. I have a highly accurate pedometer that's dedicated just to doing those tasks. Instead of on the wrist, it resides on a belt clip or in a pants pocket.
The activity tracker, after a day's wear, had recorded about 60% of the steps registered by the pedometer. And, therefore, the distance traveled and calories burned were off by a similar percentage.
The Vivitar Bluetooth Activity Tracker has its shortcomings: A small display. It must be removed from the band to charge. A charger isn't included. Reading email is next to impossible. Step counting is hit and miss.
On the flip side, it's an excellent entry-level smart watch that allows a user to decide what features are important in such a watch. If it's not to your liking, there wasn't a big expenditure to find that out.
To use an old and overworked phrase: It is what it is. It's a smart watch selling for under $15. A small price to pay to perhaps get a little smarter about smartwatches.
Lonnie Brown can be reached at LedgerDatabase@aol.com.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Gadget Daddy: Wondering about smartwatches? Here's a cheap starter