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An early look at the Pivotal Living Band, a second-gen $12 health tracker

We spent some time with the subscription-based Pivotal Living Band and spoke to the CEO about what's coming next.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The $12 fitness tracker is getting a sequel.

Seattle-based startup Pivotal Living plans to officially announce its new activity tracker next Monday, but CNET got an early sneak peek of the new Pivotal Living Band and spoke with the company's co-founder and CEO David Donovick.

The new band will be offered with the same subscription model the company used for its first activity tracker, the Pivotal Living Tracker 1 . For a $12 buy-in, users get a full-year of access to the the company's Android and iOS app. (Like nearly all fitness trackers, you monitor and interact with the Pivotal on your smartphone.) Once the subscription ends, it can be renewed for another 12 months of access, which will also get you a new band.

Hands-on with the Pivotal Living Band

The tracker looks and feels nearly identical to last year's model. It's lightweight, but also a bit on the stiff side, especially compared to the Jawbone Up2 , which can make it a little uncomfortable to wear. As for features, it can measure steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned from activities, active minutes and sleep. While there is a display to easily view progress and vibration for a silent alarm, it doesn't include more advanced features, such as an optical heart-rate sensor.

The Pivotal Living Band on top of last year's Pivotal Tracker 1. Sarah Tew/CNET

Battery life will last between 5 to 7 days, which is similar to what the $100 Jawbone Up2 and $130 Fitbit Charge get. Unfortunately, the band is still only splash-proof -- not fully water-proof, or even water-resistant enough to be worn while swimming or in the shower.

The design of the band saw minor improvements. The two prongs that are used to connect the band are now bigger and should be more secure. The company also added a stopwatch and the ability to see the time while in sleep mode. Note that when the Band is released, it will ship with a blue OLED display, rather than the white one pictured above. The company was initially testing the white font to see if it improved visibility outdoors, but it ended up not making much of a difference.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The most important feature isn't one you will see on the surface, but it's built directly into the device. The new band supports over-the-air updates. This allows the company to roll out new features and bug fixes to the actual band, rather than simply updating the mobile app.

Speaking of the app, it too will be updated to include smart coaching notifications, motivational tips, syncing reminders, and an inactivity alert, which will vibrate to remind you to get up and move. Donovick said that the goal of the smarting coaching notifications is to "cause you to pause" and actually think about improving your habits.

A promise of improved support

The biggest hurdle Pivotal Living must overcome is its reputation. The original Tracker 1 generated a lot of buzz. An activity tracker that came out to a dollar a month (about 3.3 cents a day) sounded too good to be true. I was impressed with the Tracker 1 and rated it positively in my review . But soon after launch, the company began to run into problems. The influx of new users crippled the company's servers. According to Donovick, the company was experiencing about 10,000 new user signups each week and the servers simply couldn't handle the large amount of traffic.

Users complained of syncing problems, data loss and random reboots. There was also a manufacturing problem with the first batch of devices that caused some of them to reset when they came in contact with static electricity. The Pivotal Living team vowed to fix these problems, offering refunds and exchanges for broken bands, and granting a free year of membership to early adopters.

The Pivotal Living app displays all your activity progress. It will soon be updated to add smart coaching tips and feedback. Sarah Tew/CNET

Donovick said that a majority of the software and server problems that plagued the Tracker 1 have been ironed out. The company now has a group of 3,000 volunteer Android and iOS beta testers that help test new software releases to ensure compatibility and performance. Pivotal Living also offers a one year warranty with the band that protects it from mechanical and hardware defects.

When I asked what was next for Pivotal Living, Donovick said he intends to release a new product every six months. He even hinted at expanding beyond activity trackers and offering other affordable and connected technology that helps individuals live a healthier life.

As for the new Pivotal Living Band, if it syncs properly and the software performs as Donovick has promised, it could be an appealing purchase for a seasoned wearer or those looking to buy their first activity tracker. Plus, it's hard to beat that $12 annual price tag.

We are currently testing the second-generation Pivotal Living Band and will publish our full review in the coming weeks.