Wearables – SOMA road tests Apple, Garmin and FitBit

Are you a tech fan and love your wearables?  Are you not sure where to start?

There is a lot out there so we’ve had a bit of a look around so that you don’t have to.  Here is what our founders have discovered.


Cost from:  Series 3 $400-$600, Series 4 $600-$2,300

Rating out of 10: 7

Loved: Connectivity with certain bank accounts, apps, and connection with iphone

Needs work: Reliability of heart rate monitor, battery life

The SOMA founders are watch lovers, so they were a little sceptical of the Apple watch at first, and were shocked to hear that smart watches are taking a notable market share from the traditional timepieces.  After a test drive, the founders learned to enjoy their apple watch.  The functionality was initially a little complex, which took some time to get the hang of, and for men with large hands, pin pointing parts of the screen with precision can be tough.

The Apple watch allows easy access to SMS and email alerts, which is great to get information quickly when you’re in the middle of another task.  As messages are more visible to others, receiving a million messages an hour in a group chat is not ideal.

The one-day battery life is also not ideal.  We found that you have to make a real effort to double check that the charger is plugged in properly.  We had a few accidental no-charge experiences.

It was interesting to get movement data loaded into the linked iPhone, and the timer and other apps have been handy. You can use and control your Spotify from the watch, and listen via Bluetooth speakers (which drains your battery).  You can get a sim card for the watch so you don’t need your phone nearby to use the watch for calls. Theoretically you could go running with your watch alone, and leave your bulky phone at home (which we did not try).

We were left with a reserved confidence in the heart rate monitor and noticed anomalies in the data.  It may be OK for general information but potentially not for a runner who wants to measure with accuracy.

Overall, it is still pricey, the heart rate monitor lacks precision, but it is a handy watch for a range of things well beyond fitness.  It also looks good, with options for different face and band colours, and a secondary generic market offering more band options.


Cost from: $500 for the vivoactive music and $1,150-$1,700 for the fenix and

Rating out of 10: 7

Loved:  The accuracy and features for outdoor runners

Needs work: The price.

The runner amongst the SOMA family tested the Garmin.  She eventually loved the accuracy, but found it took a few weeks of runs to fine tune the distance and speed settings.

The Garmin app allows you to download data about your runs, and monitor your progress over time. Being a GPS watch, it maps your location and shows you where you ran fastest and slowest, so you can measure and monitor your progress.

The data is detailed, and can include cadence and other real-time statistics about your runs, which is important if you’re trying to achieve a certain running style, or practice your technique.

If you’re happy to part with the $1,150 – $1,700, the fenix model offers some really interesting statistics about how you respond to lower levels of oxygen on a higher altitude run.

Both of these Garmins now have Garmin Pay and music storage, so they are slowly closing the gap between the features offered by the Apple watch and Garmins.  They are still some way off, and the pros would potentially only outweigh the cons for runners.  They also look very much like a sports watch, so may not be ideal for professional the woman at work.

Overall, the price tag for a good-looking Garmin is high, but more than worth it for an outdoor runner.  A non-runner would probably enjoy an Apple watch more.


Cost from: Around $270 but the Adidas version is $450

Rating out of 10: 6

Loved: The price and simplicity

Needs work: The sophistication beyond a sports watch, the aesthetics

The Fitbit Fitness Watch was reasonable priced, and provides reasonable functionality as a sports watch.  It does the things you would expect a sports watch to do, with some extras, but not too many.  It stores and plays songs, integrates with your smart phone via an app, and the battery lasts for days

It is certainly a great entry-level gadget for those who want to tools without the cost.

It has a GPS type of feature (through your phone’s GPS), so you can achieve route tracking with a FitBit, which will probably meet the needs of most general fitness buffs who do not need sophisticated running data such as cadence and oxygen usage.  The heart rate monitor is still potentially not as accurate as the Garmin.

Overall, this is a good all rounder that has proven itself over the years, and is sensibly priced for those who don’t need the bells and whistles.

Do you have any wearables or fit-tech that you love?

Share with us in the comments below.