Pivotal Tracker 1 review: An activity tracker that costs less than dinner
Pivotal Living is taking a unique approach to the wearable market and is offering its activity tracker as part of a $12 yearly subscription plan.
What can you buy with $12 in your pocket? In New York City, that's about a cup of a soup and a small salad at lunch, or two beers during happy hour. Well that's all about to change thanks to a small startup out of Seattle. What if I told you that you could buy an activity tracker for that price? You may think I'm crazy or perhaps talking about a plastic toy, but the Pivotal Tracker 1 is a full-fledged activity tracker.
Pivotal Living is taking a unique approach to the crowded wearable market and is offering it's activity tracker as part of a yearly subscription plan. The Pivotal Tracker 1 can be had for $12, which will get you a band and access to the company's Android and iOS app. If you like what you see, pay another $12 the following year for another band (you can also keep your current one) and another year of access to the mobile app.
Editors' note, January 13, 2015:Since its launch, Pivotal users -- including CNET staff -- have experienced syncing problems due to the high volume of new users. Pivotal has acknowledged the issues and is working to resolve them. To compensate for these problems, the company is extending membership for 12 months for free to all members that are registered on or before January 15.
The Tracker 1 doesn't look like a cheap tracker and it doesn't feel like one either, but it's not the most comfortable band to wear. This is because the sides of the OLED screen aren't very flexible. It's not nearly as bad as the ultra-stiff Microsoft Band , but you definitely feel the Tracker 1 on your wrist more than you would a Jawbone Up24 or Fitbit Charge .
The screen is used to display the time of day (including a battery and alarm indicator) and all of your daily activities: steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, and goal completion percentage. You can scroll through these data groups with a tap of the Tracker 1's button. There is sleep tracking, however it isn't automatic. Instead you must quickly double tap the button to activate it.
On the back of the device there four pins that are used to charge the device. The Tracker 1 uses a proprietary charging dock, which means if you lose you are out of luck. Battery life is rated at 5 to 7 days, but those estimates appear to sell the device short. I got a little over 7 days on my first charge. It likely could have reached day eight if I wasn't worried it would die in the middle of the night.
The Tracker 1 is similar to so many of the other trackers on the market. Two small prongs are pushed into the the rubber band to keep it on your wrist. There is a small loop at one end of the band, but it won't do much if the prongs were to become dislodged. I find myself constantly checking my wrist to make sure the band is still there. It hasn't even unclipped yet, but I would feel better if there was a secondary security slider, such as the one featured in the Garmin Vivosmart .
One of the biggest drawbacks is that the device isn't waterproof. It will hold up if you are washing your hands or doing the dishes, but it can't be worn in the shower or the pool. The battery takes only 60 minutes to go from zero to 100 percent, so won't be off your wrist for long. I would usually charge it in the morning during my shower and as I got ready for work.
I do have concerns about the build quality. I noticed after only a few days of use, small white scratches began to appear on the screen. I don't remember bumping into anything and while they aren't very noticeable (I could barely get the camera to focus on them), I am left wondering what the screen will look like after a few months. It's a good thing there is that option to upgrade to a new device every year.
While it doesn't include GPS or a heart-rate monitor, the Tracker 1 has the basic features you would expect from an activity tracker. It can track your steps, distance, active time, weight and sleep. It even has features, such as hydration tracking, that some of the more expensive bands don't include. The band will also track the amount of calories you burn from your steps, rather than the overall number that most trackers show.
The average person walks about 2,000 steps per mile. Step counts were on target with the Tracker 1, however distance accuracy was no where near where it should be. To test this, I walked on a treadmill for a mile and compared the mileage from the treadmill to the mileage recorded on the tracker. I usually perform this test three times to ensure accuracy, but I was skeptical of the first three results and performed two additional tests. For things to remain consistent, I used the same exact treadmill each time and walked at the same exact speed (3.5 mph, to be exact, about a 17-minute pace). You can view the results below:
Pivotal Tracker 1 Tracking Data
As you can see above, the Tracker 1 was consistent, but it was consistently inaccurate when it came to distance tracking. No other band I tested in the past few months was off by this amount. It would appear that something is off in the algorithm Pivotal uses. I've informed the company about the accuracy issues and they are looking into it.
On a lighter note, the band was more accurate when it came to sleep tracking. The results it recorded were comparable to the S+ by ResMed, an accurate sleep tracker.
Android and iOS support
Jawbone creates one of the most appealing apps for its Up activity trackers. Rarely have I been impressed with the apps of the products I test, but the Pivotal Living app is a huge exception. It offers an attractive design, while still being able to deliver a sufficient amount of information.
The main interface consists of six large colorful circles with summaries of your recent activities: sleep, calorie burn, weight, steps, active time and hydration. Tapping on one of these fields will bring you to a submenu with more detailed information, along with goal completion status and comparisons and averages from the past week.
For example, the sleep submenu contains a graph that shows my quality of sleep from the past night, including how many time I woke up and the amount of deep sleep I achieved. This is followed by a second chart comparing my sleep cycles from the past week, along with my weekly average, my average from the previous week, my longest sleep and how my average compared to that of my friends.
Similar to other trackers available, the Tracker 1 includes a silent alarm feature. This can be set up from the app to recur every day or only on specific days of the week. Once it's set, you will be woken up with a gentle vibration that won't disturb your partner. Unfortunately, only one alarm can be set a time, which made me a little anxious that I wouldn't feel it and oversleep.
Below the large circles there is a field that shows your remaining battery life and the time and date of your last sync. If you keep scrolling down the dashboard you will come to the Hydration and Weight sections. We were told that we must manually enter our hydration level and current weight into the Pivotal Living app, however it wasn't initially clear how to do this.
I clicked everywhere I could and explored every submenu. I still couldn't figure it out. You will notice a three vertical dot icon on the left-hand side of both the Hydration and Weight section. It turns out that you must drag your finger from left to right to add the amount of ounces you drank and your current weight. In hindsight it's convenient and simple, but was initially impossible to figure out.
To conserve battery life, the band doesn't automatically sync to your smartphone. To initiate a sync, you must press the button on the tracker and pull down on the app screen. For the Android version, there is a sync button you must press in the app.
At the bottom of the dashboard there is an option to view your network and profile. Pivotal is positioning its app as a social destination. Each user has a profile page where they can add their picture, name, gender, birthday, height, and location. If you are feeling bashful, there are privacy settings to keep your profile out of sight.
The profile page is also where you can set goals for your sleep, hydration, activity, steps, weight and calories burned. In addition to being able to set daily goals, an interesting feature is having the ability to set day-specific goals, something I haven't seen before. This is great since I usually want to sleep more on the weekend than I do during the week.
The second part of the social aspect is found in the network page. Owners can create teams with friends and other users to help each other walk that extra mile. Teams can set group goals and even send messages to each other through a private message board.
Pivotal wants to be your health everything. They want you to use their tracker and their app, which is why the Pivotal Living app doesn't integrate with third-party options. You can't sync with Apple's Health app, RunKeeper or MyFitnessPal, and that's a shame because the Pivotal Living app doesn't yet include food tracking.
What's the catch?
Almost everyone I spoke to about the tracker have had the same reaction: what's the catch? The total cost is $15 when you add in shipping. That $15 gets you one year of access to the mobile app. If you enjoy your time with the band and app, you can pay $12 after one year to gain another year of access to the mobile app. Pivotal will even include another band with your renewed subscription (I assume you have to pay another $3 for shipping), although you can continue using your existing one.
There are no hidden charges and no plans to increase the price. Even if the company releases a new tracker, you will be allowed to upgrade at the end of your yearly cycle for no extra charge, that's according to CEO David Donovick.
But what happens if you decide not to renew your subscription? You can continue using the Tracker 1, although some features won't be available. The silent alarm, move alerts, activity goals, sleep data and past information about your activities will be no longer be accessible. In short, it's everything found in the mobile app. You can still view data about steps, distance and calories burned right on the device itself.
The Pivotal Tracker 1 can track your steps, distance, calories burned and sleep. It has features, such as the silent alarm and move alerts, that bigger name competitors have and even some (hydration tracking) they don't have.
The tracker isn't waterproof, the distance tracking isn't very accurate and there are some build-quality issues. The value of the device, however, greatly outweighs the flaws it has. The truth of the matter is that a lot of people wear a fitness tracker for a few months and then it ends up on their dresser or in a desk drawer. Pivotal Living gives those users who are on the fence about buying an activity tracker a functioning device for the less than the price of dinner.