Who couldn’t use a few more hours (or even minutes) of extra sleep, or better sleep overall? We should all go to bed earlier, but sometimes that’s not realistic. Couple our poor bedtime habits with the fact many of us are glued to our screens (being bombarded with blue light that stimulates the brain and disrupts sleep) and we’re not doing ourselves any favours.
What’s up with sleep light, wake light?
There are ways to fight off these sleep disruptors; one of them is to change your light bulbs. Yes, by matching your body’s natural circadian rhythms to different colours of light, you can help you body stay properly in sync, and possibly even stay healthier.
From cleaning robots to room-freshening lamps, on CTV Morning Live this month, we looked at some cool new gadgets for the home.
iRobot Mopping Robot
I’ve been testing the iRobot Braava jet 240. This little lunchbox-sized device will sweep and mop your floors for you. It uses small pads with cleanser infused inside them and a jet of warm water to mop your floors and sop up spills. You just hit the button on the top of the device, and the robot will clean about 100+ square feet of space on one battery charge.
A full review of this little housekeeper is coming soon, meantime, check out the unboxing video to see what you get.
iRobot Roomba 880
The iRobot Roomba 880 vacuum is a large circular gadget, significantly larger than a dinner plate, and about three or 4 inches tall. You can schedule this vacuum to clean your home while you’re at work or away, and come home to a floor free of dust and pet hair; even under the furniture.
While Roomba’s weighty, he’s not heavy and he comes with a built-in handle so you can pick him up and carry him around. The Roomba can also be used at any moment (off the schedule) simply by pushing the ‘clean’ button in the center of the vacuum. The robot will back away from its base station and begin cleaning in a somewhat hard to follow but linear pattern. The robot learns its way around furniture and is smart enough to back away from stairs. The Roomba will clean an entire floor of your house and then return to his base station when the battery begins to run low. The Roomba 880 also has the ability to sweep up small spills by pressing the “spot” button.
I love colour changing lights. They can totally change the look of a room. MiPow Playbulb Sphere is a beautiful, affordable frosted glass globe lamp that rests on a small base when charging but it can be moved anywhere for a portable colorful glow. You can get 6-8 hours of light on a single charge.
The Playbulb Sphere (full review & write-up here) works beautifully on the small side tables, or even as a chic dining table centerpiece since it’s only about 15cm in diameter. PLUS — Click the link just above here to see how this lamp can transform a whole room with colour.
Philips Hue Go Lamp
The Philips Hue Go lamp connects with a nice long AC cord for power but it also works off the cord, as the rechargeable lamp is also fully portable and lasts up to six hours on a charge. For the newbies, you don’t even need the app to start playing with it; a small button on the bottom of the bowl allows you to cycle through a variety of light colours and effects while a small wedge keeps the lamp steady on its rounded bottom.
Getting the lamp set up on Wi-Fi was very easy. You just download the free app then “add new device”. Once you do that the app will search for devices on the network and it automatically finds the Go lamp. Once it pairs you’re in business. read more about the Go lamp in my review.
The above products are available at stores like Best Buy, London Drugs and Home Depot.
If you have any suggestions for gadgets I should learn about or check out for possible blogs or TV segments, I’d love to hear from you! Just use the “Contact” form here on the blog, or message me on Twitter or Instagram @ErinLYYC
Fitbit launched two new devices this spring; the watch-like Blaze and the chic and stylish Alta. Each device has the signature Fitbit capabilities, like step counting, activity monitoring, and sleep tracking but each has its own features too. What’s the difference between these new devices, is it worth it to upgrade to a newer, better Fitbit, and what can they do for you? Click hereto read my review of the Blaze, and for what the Alta’s all about read on.
All about Fitbit Alta
The Alta is the fashionista version of an activity tracker. Slim and bracelet-like, the Alta actually looks a lot like the original Fitbit Flex (and comes with all the basic activity tracker features you’d expect), but with some improvements:
more sleek bracelet/band options including more watch/jewelry style options
vertical display on the front of the band with built-in watch
smart alerts come directly to the bracelet
The Alta is meant for a person who wants to be fashionable and not be seen to wear an ‘ugly’ rubber athletic band all the time. The band does the physical tracking and it pairs with a free smartphone app where you can store and access stats from day to day and long-term.
This band charges using a special clip that attaches to the band, and can be plugged in to a USB port on a computer, or using an AC plug.
What can Fitbit Alta do?
Fitbit Alta is an activity, step and sleep tracker that will:
track activities like walks, running, biking
measure sleep length and quality
receive smart alerts (calendar, text messages, etc)
send you ‘fun’ reminders and motivational messages to remind you to move more.
The Alta has a great feature called Smart Track which knows when you’re doing activities like a walk, or a run, even aerobics. It will automatically register duration of the activity, calories burned, pace and fat burn. Previously (like with Flex) you’d need to add these activities manually, but it would still count just the steps.
What it doesn’t do:
measure heart rate
display full length text messages
give you fancy options for display
With the Alta, you need to rely more on the app than you would with, say the Blaze. That’s because the band’s display is narrow and limited, so for detailed stats and to make changes or adjustments, you need to log in to the app.
Limited Display options
To view the data that is available on the Alta, you tap the display; twice to access the built-in watch/clock, and once to advance through data which is limited to steps, kilometers traveled, calories burned and active minutes.
The display is black and white and also has very limited options for customization; you can change it from vertical to horizontal, add a black and white flower, or change “2:00” to “Two o’clock”, but that’s about it.
How does Fitbit Alta differ from Fitbit Blaze (and Flex)?
Let’s start by comparing Alta to the original Flex. (Read my review of the Flex here) The Flex tracker can be popped out of its rubber band, and the Alta tracker can too; both trackers are tiny units that can be slipped into a bra, sock or pocket if you don’t want to wear one on your wrist. While Fitbit doesn’t brag about this capability, due to the fact it’s likely not as accurate as wearing it properly, I found it’s a handy option for the four years I’ve been a Fitbit owner.
The Alta and Flex are nearly identical in width, but while Alta has the aforementioned limited-ability display, the Flex has no display whatsoever, so the Alta’s already an upgrade. Alta can also receive shortened message alerts, while again, original Flex has no such abilities.
Both Alta and Flex track all the same data, but where the Alta wins out over the Flex is on the style front. Alta can easily be snapped into a nicer metal, leather or custom coloured band. Really, you can make this band so pretty, and so jewelry-like, you won’t ever need to remove it for nights out or formal events.
When compared to the other new Fitbit offering, the Blaze, there are more striking differences. Blaze has a full colour screen, it can show longer alerts and reminders, and you can adjust some settings right on the tracker. While both Blaze and Alta have a built in watch, Blaze’s can be changed to a much different variety of faces.
Both Alta and Blaze have much more attractive band options (at extra cost) so they can be dressed up, or back down or for more vigorous use in the gym
Is it worth it to upgrade to Alta?
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I need/want to get alerts on my wrist?
Do I just want basic fitness tracking?
Do I care more about having a tracker that looks like jewelry?
Do I need/want a watch?
Do I want ‘wardrobe options’ for my tracker?
Can I live without monitoring my heart rate?
If you answered yes to three or more of those questions, you’ll probably be pretty happy with an upgrade to the Alta, from a device like the Flex.
Overall review of the Fitbit Alta
For me personally, I like the Alta as a small scale upgrade over the Flex, as I found myself becoming very reliant on the built-in watch, just for starters, and the alert function is also handy. I also really, really like the options for making it look more like jewelry and less like an activity band.
However when factoring in price, if I was ready to upgrade, I’d probably just go all the way and get the Blaze. (Fitbit Flex is $129 and the Alta is $169 plus significantly more for fancier bands. The Blaze sells for $249. Fancy bands are extra here too) If price is a major factor for you, in my opinion, I’d get the Flex over the Alta, since they’re very similar and the display isn’t so much more advanced as to make it as must-have for the price. However if alerts to your wrist are a priority, it’s Alta all the way.
If you’re looking to get your first Fitbit or fitness tracker, either the Flex or the Alta are great starting points; the Flex is the most inexpensive option but the Alta does more. If you want a tracker with a few more features, and you’ve got the budget, go for the Alta since it can be more beautifully customized. If you need a device with more options, check out my review of the Blaze to see if it’s right for you.
I’ve been a Fitbit owner ever since I bought my Flex. It’s been a staple for me, not so much because I’m a gym junkie, but because it sit at a desk for the vast majority of my day. I try to keep active and get in my 10,000 steps, and my Fitbit keeps track so that I can get in an extra walk, park at the back of the parking lot, or hit the gym when I get too sedentary.
I was excited to hear about the two new Fitbit models announced this year; the Alta and the Blaze, primarily because my Flex is starting to look a bit worse for wear, and because I feel like I’m ready for some new features. While I was instantly attracted to the Alta because of its slim profile and similarity to the Flex, I was a little less interested in the Blaze. It seemed big, bulky, dated-looking and boxy. Nonetheless I was willing to put it though its paces.
Getting started with Fitbit Blaze
To use the Blaze you’ll need the Fitbit App if you want to keep long-term stats. With the app downloaded, you pair the device to your phone. While it took me a few tries to get it to connect to the phone, it was soon connected and ready to go.
The Blaze has an interesting configuration; it’s essentially two parts; the band (which is interchangeable, more on that below), and the tracker unit, a flat, square device just over an inch square and slightly thicker than an average watch. The tracker pops out of the band to allow for changeover, and must be removed and placed inside a tiny box for charging.
At first I thought this band would be heavy and bulky, but after less than an hour, I had already forgotten it was on my wrist. Really, it doesn’t feel any heavier or bigger than my original Fitbit Flex, despite the obvious size differences.
I also like that the tracker unit itself can be popped out of the band, and tucked into a sports bra, sock, or pocket. This was one of my favorite features of the Fitbit Flex; it allowed me to hide the tracker if I didn’t want to be wearing something obviously athletic and rubbery on my wrist for a nice night out or a formal event. While the accuracy of the device may not be as exact if it’s worn elsewhere since it’s been made to be worn on the wrist, in my experience it wasn’t off enough to throw my day out of whack. And besides, the better looking these devices get, the less likely we are to want to hide them anyway, right?
What Fitbit measures
Before we go too much further you may be wondering what a Fitbit will keep track of for you.
Sleep: both duration and quality
Steps, including number of steps and distance, and active minutes in your day
Activity: record activities from running to cycling
Weight: the app will chart your weight either manually, or automatically when paired with the Aria scale.
Calories: when paired with apps like MyFitnessPal, you can share food info and match it up to activity levels.
Water Intake: again, a manual input item but can help you keep track of if you’re drinking enough water
Heart Rate: Fitbit devices with heart rate monitoring will keep track of your resting and active heart rates.
Customizing your Blaze
Customizable watch faces are an option for the Blaze, but you can’t switch them up form the watch itself, like other bands. Instead you’ll need to do this though the app in ‘Account’ menu. Not intuitive but at least the feature is there. It takes about 15 seconds from the time you select a new watch face for it to update on the watchband.
By default your Fitbit Blaze adjusts brightness based on the ambient lighting conditions. You can change the default in the settings.
You can set the Blaze to light up when you turn your wrist towards your face. I found this feature didn’t work as well as I had hoped. If I was taking a casual look, sometimes it didn’t recognize the gesture. If I was more deliberate about turning my wrist over and pointing it at my face, then it seem to work. But it took about a second before the display would light up. My experience with this feature was hit or miss.
Who’s the Blaze for?
Fitbit wants you to be clear; the Blaze is not for an elite athlete. The Blaze is for an average consumer who wants to do basic monitoring of fitness statistics, sleep, and activities while not looking like a track star. The Blaze is fashion and fun, with a fitness core. Fitbit suggests the more seriously minded athletes pick up its Surge device instead.
Basic operation Alerts
A great new added feature of the Blaze is its ability to deliver notifications and messages right to your wrist. While I very much enjoyed getting a subtle buzz on the wrist when a text message or calendar alert popped up, this feature does have limitations. While you can read incoming text messages, you cannot respond to them. (At least not using my iPhone.) similarly, you can accept incoming calls, but you must have your smart phone with you as well, or you won’t be able to talk. While this may seem very limiting, the price point of the Blaze is far less than Apple’s watch, so you’re getting what you pay for if messaging and conducting business from your wrist is something you’re after.
By pulling down across the watch face, you get a menu which will allow you to turn notifications on or off, as well as play music if it’s connected.
Swiping up gets you a list of recent notifications such as calls, text messages, calendar alerts and more. These alerts will stack up and stay in the watch until you clear them.
Swiping right to left across the band will give you a series of other menus:
“Today”: The today menu will show you your fitness stats; such as steps, heart rate, kilometres traveled, calories, and floors climbed. To return back to the menu list, you hit the back button on the watch band.
“Exercise”: this menu allows you to register different activities like workout, elliptical, treadmill, weights, bike, and run. You tap the exercise you are about to take part in and the Blaze will connect to your smart phone’s app to register the activity. Push play on the watch face to begin logging the activity, then stop it when you’re done. While technically Fitbit already knows when you’re doing some kind of exercise, having this connection to the app allows you to keep watch in real time on your statistics, such as distance or time. When enabled, the Blaze will also use GPS tracking to follow your route on a run or a bike ride for example.
“FitStar”: FitStar is a series of guided exercises that the band will walk you through. You can do a warm-up, or a seven minute workout. The watch band shows you a visual example of each short exercise, and a timer counts you down through it.
While three workouts are included in your Blaze’s software, if you want more options, you’ll need to buy them from Fitbit for a $46 annual fee.
“Timer”: This gives you access to a countdown or stopwatch function.
“Alarms”: Here you can turn silent alarms on or off. But adding or deleting them requires your phone and the app.
“Settings”: A very simplistic version of the settings menu, here you can turn the QuickView feature on or off, adjust brightness, turn heart rate monitoring on or off, as well as shut down the device.
As I’ve written about previously, I very much like Fitbit and choose it as my preferred activity band, because I find it extraordinarily accurate.
I’ve tried numerous bands and compared them both with each other, and done testing to see if the band accurately matches my steps, strides, and activities. Part of this accuracy lies in the ability to calibrate the Fitbit to your unique stride length, which is key for accurate tracking. (For more on how to adjust your stride length with Fitbit click here.)
No surprise then that the Blaze was just as accurate as my old standby Fitbit Flex.
Styling Options for Fitbit Blaze
With the Blaze, you have several options for wristbands. You can stick with a more traditional athletic wristband (“Classic”) which is made of rubber attached to the metal watch bezel, or there are also leather options in brown, grey or black. These bands will cost you about $140 and that’s on top of what you’re paying for the tracker. A gorgeous metal link watch band will set you back nearly $180. So while there are stylish options for making your band look less like a fitness accessory, and more fashion forward, they are not cheap.
Overall Review of Fitbit Blaze
One of the things I like most about my Fitbit Flex, is that it’s very subtle and still contains all the major tracking features I want. The Blaze is a whole different type of gadget for me, because it’s much larger, and more like a wristwatch then I’ve been used to wearing. But since this activity band also features heart rate monitoring as well as time display, it’s natural this device would look more like a watch them like a traditional activity tracker. It is bigger than I’m used to, but as I noted earlier despite its size and boxy shape, I quickly forgot I was wearing it, and didn’t feel that it got in my way or was overly noticeable.
I enjoyed the additional features, and definitely found myself checking in on my heart rate through the day. Having a built-in watch was a great feature, as is the notifications option. It was nice to get a subtle buzz on my wrist when I had a text message or alert.
In short, while I didn’t think I would be interested in this band as my go to activity device, I found myself liking it more and more the more I tried it. I could definitely see adopting the Blaze in my future.
Fans of original Fitbit Flex’s low profile, slim design and ease of use, rejoice! The best things about the Flex have been carried over and improved upon in a brand new band, the Alta.
Fitbit Alta is a new stainless steel tracker, with a satin finish and a sleek, modular design that includes a quick-release feature that allows you to swap in new bands.
You can now pick from classic fitness bands or chic-er versions, like luxe leather bracelets or a silver bangle. One of my favourite parts about the new bands? Tory Burch has once again partnered with Fitbit to design new styles specific to the Alta. I just love the Tory Burch jewelry-style accessories released last year for the Flex, and this only looks like there’s more options to love.
As for the new features that take the Alta up a notch from the Flex:
Reminders to Move to help you stay active and reduce stationary time
SmartTrack™automatic exercise recognition, weekly exercise goals and all-day activity and automatic sleep tracking
Call, text and calendar notifications right on your wrist when your phone is nearby through on-screen messages and a gentle vibrating alert
An easy-to-read, vibrant OLED tap display shows your activity stats and the time
Works with Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices and computers
Fitbit Alta is available today for $169.95 (CAD) for presalewith retail availability starting in March 2016, joining the recently announced award-winning Fitbit Blaze™ Smart Fitness Watch. Alta will be available for preorders at Best Buy, Indigo and London Drugs, and at a number of other retaillers later on.
I’m hoping to get my mitts on one to test and review. Watch this space for more when they’re released! Meantime, read my review on the Fitbit Flex, or the Misfit Shine, or the Basis Peak.