LG Lifeband Touch review: LG's fitness band falls short of the finish line

LG's heart-rate software, both on the Lifeband and on the Fitness app, has targeted heart-rate zones intended to show your workout intensity and where you should be at, in case you're overexerting. You can adjust these maximum heart-rate zones and your desired workout intensity in the LG Fitness app settings, but it's not always clear how that affects what you're doing. And, as LG notes in its instructions, none of this is actually approved as a medical means of aiding one's health. Technically it's all for recreational use. So, if you're seriously unhealthy or worried about your heart, don't lean on the Lifeband Touch.

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Only a semi-smartwatch

The Lifeband Touch bills itself as a device that has smartwatch-like functions, but curb your enthusiasm. Unlike the Samsung Gear Fit, which has a nearly Pebble-level set of notifications from various apps, the Lifeband only knows about incoming phone calls and texts. The band buzzes when you get a call, and then you can silence an incoming call by placing a hand over the screen.

I couldn't easily read texts, though; when I sent myself sample SMS messages, all I saw was my caller ID and the time sent. The messages disappeared once I tapped them. I couldn't get them back. And the Lifeband submenus don't let you browse previous messages.

Like the Jawbone Up and Samsung Gear Fit, the Lifeband Touch vibrates to let you know if you've achieved fitness goals, or you can set it to occasionally buzz after long periods of sitting. "Move! Move!" the Lifeband said on its blue OLED display. I'd get the buzz, but I couldn't always tell if it was telling to me to move or if I'd achieved 50 percent of my goal. Or if a message suddenly came through.

You can also set silent alarms, which I found helpful when waking up in the morning, so I didn't bother my kids.

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iOS and Android support, but limited

The good news is that the Lifeband Touch works with iPhones and Android phones. The bad news is that the supported phone list is shorter than you might expect: iPhone 4S and later or iPod Touch fifth-gen running iOS 6 or 7, and only the LG G2, Google Nexus 5, LG G Flex, Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note 2, Note 3, and running Android Jelly Bean 4.3 or later. I couldn't officially download the LG Fitness app on the Galaxy S5 from Google Play.

There are further limitations for iOS users: the Lifeband can only receive incoming call notifications, not texts. And those calls don't have caller ID; all you'll see when your wrist starts buzzing is a phone handset icon. Compatible Android phones can also silence calls from the Lifeband.

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Charging and battery life

You need an included dongle to magnetically snap on the back of the Lifeband Touch: it snaps in nicely, and uses a Micro-USB cable to charge up in a few hours.

But the battery life of the Lifeband Touch isn't so hot: up to five days if unpaired, and only two days when paired. I only managed to squeeze a little over two and a half days at a stretch before I needed my typical recharge. I'm not sure why the battery life is this bad: the higher-tech Samsung Gear Fit fared better, the Pebble watch lasts anywhere from three to six days, and most fitness bands last at least a week.

Incidentally, the separate LG HeartRate Earphones don't have such wonderful battery life, either; only four hours of use while measuring heart rate on a full charge.

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The required LG Fitness app does a fair job of tracking personal goals, steps taken over the course of a day or longer spans of time, and mapping and tracking personal workouts using GPS. Heart-rate data can be gathered using optional heart-rate monitors: LG's own HeartRate Earphones, or some third-party alternatives from Polar, Zephyr, and Wahoo. It's nice, at least, that LG offers options.

Similarly, the LG app connects with popular third-party fitness apps MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper, and MapMyFitness, and can be set up to share data with Facebook or Twitter.

The app works when pairing a Lifeband Touch, or just a heart-rate monitor, or neither, or both. Having those extra options makes living in the LG app a lot more appealing. It's a far better app than Samsung's S Health, but it's not as intuitive as those from Withings or Jawbone Up. It's more detailed and comprehensive than you'd expect, however; not a bad first stab at an app. It's just that, with so many other alternatives out there, LG's doesn't rise up to feel like the best of the bunch.

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Maybe we'll be wearing sensors all over our bodies in the future. But that'll never happen if each one needs to be discretely charged, and if they all have the relatively short battery life that LG's new fitness accessories do. And while LG has entered the fitness band market with some interesting ideas, including functional heart-rate earbuds, the total package of the Lifeband Touch feels neither here nor there: not as good as dedicated fitness bands, and not as smart as smartwatches or "smarter" fitness trackers like the Gear Fit.

I don't feel compelled to keep wearing it. And that pretty much says it all.