Smart Tech Buying Guide
Fitness trackers can help you lead a healthier life. They let you monitor your daily activities such as sleep, steps taken, and sometimes heart rate, and can help you live a more active lifestyle.
Picking between the different brands and models can be tricky, as while previous versions simply offered sleep and step tracking, newer versions include advanced features such as heart rate monitoring and smart notifications to give you a more detailed view of your health and activity.
Fitness trackers monitor your daily activity, such as number of steps taken and calories burned. You can set goals and receive notifications to help keep motivated and review information at the end of the day to check how successful you’ve been.
Heart rate tracking makes calorie tracking much more accurate. With an app on your phone making notes of your resting heart rate and patterns, you can make a more informed plan of how to get and stay healthy.
Sizing varies for each brand, but we make it clear online and instore which size you’re getting. All of the fitness trackers have a size guide on the side of their boxes or on their respective websites.
As well as being able to see how many calories you’re burning, most fitness trackers work with popular health apps such as Health Mate and MyFitnessPal, which allow you to log your food intake and monitor calories consumed.
Some allow you to track water intake and scan barcodes using your smartphone to log your meals, making it even easier to get an accurate representation of what you’re consuming each day.
All fitness apps log the length and type of fitness activity that you’ve undertaken, while some give you a score and award you weekly and lifetime achievements when your milestones are met.
Some fitness trackers automatically recognise when you’re working out, and which activities you’re doing, making it even easier to track your exercise.
Bands with built-in displays let you keep an eye on the time and your fitness goals without your phone. They show you information such as a clock, your heart rate, and instant activity information, while some allow you to receive notifications from your smartphone or control music – great for staying motivated at the gym or when out running.
Built-in displays vary from simply showing activity information to a smartwatch-style screen with full health monitoring and phone information.
If you prefer fitness trackers without a screen, there are options such as LED lights that provide activity information and band-style trackers that can simply be synced with an app.
The app is where you view the detailed information captured by your tracker, so is an important element in choosing the right band. If you have a preferred health app, you should check that your tracker supports that app, and that the tracker itself is compatible with your smartphone (although most will work with both Android and iOS devices).
Fitness bands are either rechargeable and will need to be recharged every few days, or are powered by watch batteries which can last months before needing to swapped.
Sports trackers offer more functionality than fitness trackers and are ideal if you’re seriously into sports or fitness.
They have more functionality which allows you to accurately track calories burnt, distance travelled, routes taken, and altitude changes for a much more detailed view of your progress and overall health than you’d get from a standard fitness tracker.
All sports trackers let you monitor running and cycling, while most offer swimming, mountain biking, cycling, skiing, snowboarding, roller skating and rowing. Even if the tracker doesn’t specifically cover your chosen sport or activity, chances are there’s an app available to make it work for you.
They have more functionality than fitness trackers and give you much more detailed information on your health and fitness progress.
All of the fitness and health trackers we sell are compatible with current Android and iOS phones, with an increasing amount being compatible with Windows. We always list smartphone compatibility on our product pages.
Many of the trackers feature dedicated apps, making it easy to track your progress. They can also be compatible with a range of popular running apps available for iOS and Android, so you can simply download the apps to your smartphone and start tracking your fitness.
Some of the apps can also be downloaded to your iPod, so you won’t need to take your phone out running or to the golf course.
Sports trackers and fitness bands range are either splashproof or fully waterproof.
Splashproof bands can safely be used in the rain and can be kept on while you shower, but should not be completely submerged in water.
Waterproof bands can be used in the rain, shower, and can be completely submerged in water - ideal for swimming or cross-country running.
Battery life differs between products and brands, and ranges between a couple of days of run time between charges, to several months from a replacement watch battery. Full battery information can be found on individual product pages.
Smartwatches give you information you need, when you need it. They send alerts from your phone, calendar, apps, and more, straight to your wrist, so you don’t need to stay glued to your phone throughout the day.
From simple call and messaging information to full phone functionality, there’s a smartwatch to keep you in touch with what matters at all times. There are also thousands of apps available for you to download so you can personalise your watch to suit your lifestyle.
Smartwatches are an extension of your phone, so are made to keep you aware of what’s going on at all times, while sports and fitness trackers are designed to predominately monitor health and fitness. While there are some that cross over, you should choose one that best reflects your needs. Most smartwatches offer some basic health and fitness tracking, but there are also lots of apps you can download for specific sports activities.
Smartwatches are designed be companions to your smartphone. Android wear will work with all phones running Android OS 4.3 onwards and you can also use these with iPhones running iOS 8.2 onwards. Apple Watch only works with an iPhone. Some devices, such as Pebble have their own operating system which is compatible with a wide range of devices. We list the compatibility of each smartwatch in the product description so you can check there to make sure you’re selecting the device that’s right for you.
Smartwatches with touchscreens work the way your smartphone does, so they’re easy to use and get the hang of.
Smartwatches with buttons tend to be more affordable than those with touchscreens, or you may prefer the look of a traditional watch with smart functionality, which isn’t always achievable with a touchscreen.
All smartwatches alert you to incoming calls, emails, and text messages with silent a buzz on your wrist, which can help you discreetly check whether it’s worth dealing with right away.
On some models, you can even respond to your messages and answer calls. You can also use some smartwatches as a navigation device to give you directions or for transport links and to control the music playing in your headphones.
Most allow you to set different notifications for specific alerts to let you know what’s happening without the need to even check your wrist.
Smartwatch battery life depends on the features supported and how often you use it. We list the average battery life on the online product pages to give you an idea of how often you’ll need to charge it.
A smart home makes your life easier through the latest technology. Smart home devices are controlled using apps on your smartphone, so you always have control when you need it.
From keeping your family safe to controlling the heating, lighting, and more, you can control everything in your home from almost anywhere in the world.
Smart lighting bulbs give you the flexibility to change the colour and brightness of the lighting in any room to suit your mood or situation.
Along with giving you complete control, smart lighting can even save you money. Instant smartphone control, motion sensors, and timers can all help to reduce energy consumption.
Some lighting systems also use switches and sensors to work with other smart home systems, such as Nest and Samsung SmartThings. For example, when your Nest Thermostat is in Away Mode, your lights can occasionally turn on and off in order to deter burglars.
Smart cameras give you an instant view of your home from your smartphone or tablet. They’re ideal for increasing home security, keeping an eye on sleeping babies, or making sure your family is home safely while you’re at work.
They work with other smart home devices too, so you can receive an alert and a live stream from the camera if a motion detector trips, a door is opening when everyone’s out, your baby cries, and more.
Wi-Fi Security Cameras
WiFi security cameras are the smart evolution of CCTV cameras. Along with recording the goings on around your property, you can receive notifications if loud noises or excessive movement is registered. This allows you to check and deal with any issues the second they happen.
Footage can be stored straight onto the Cloud, so even if the digital video recorder is damaged or stolen, your footage is still safe.
All-in-One Home Security Systems
All-in-one security systems combine motion sensors, cameras, and other security features in a single device.
They’re ideal for single rooms, small homes, and flats, as they offer complete coverage for high-traffic areas without the need for several devices.
Video Baby Monitors
Video baby monitors allow you to see and hear your baby, so you don’t need to get out of bed to check on them when they make a noise.
Some feature two-way communication, so if all they need is a little reassurance, you can comfort them without completely disturbing you and your baby’s rest.
Smart thermostats give you the power to switch the heating on and off at the tap of a smartphone screen, so you’re never heating an empty home - even if you’re late home from work or plans change.
They learn your preferences and will automatically adjust the temperature to suit you as the day goes on, or they can be programmed to come on when you’re on your way home from work. They learn how long it takes to heat your house, so you can always walk into a warm home.
Smart locks and sensors let you use your phone to lock and unlock your door, grant access to your home without being present, or check that your windows are closed even when you're away.
You can give the rest of the family and even guests permission to enter your home with their phones and receive an alert when they've arrived.
Integrated ecosystems, such as Samsung SmartThings, allow different brands of connected devices to work together in your home. For example, you can set your home to ‘away mode’ with the touch of a button which turns your thermostat down, the lights off, and locks the doors.
All smart home products have an app that's compatible with most smartphones, tablets or computers. However, you should check the compatibility of your devices before you buy.
Along with your smart home devices, you should check that your WiFi connection is up to the task, as a fully-connected smart home can have a lot of individual devices connected at once.
An AC-rated router will make the most of your internet connection and give you the speed your smart devices need. If you want to place a camera or wired device in another room from your router, a powerline kit will give you the connections you need without trailing wires around your home, while wireless connectivity blackspots can be fixed with a range extender.