Review: The Movband is a $30 fitness tracker that feels like a $30 fitness tracker
“Flourishing” is probably the best adjective to use to describe the marketplace for small electronic devices aimed at tracking every step you take. Companies like Fitbit, Striiv, Nike, and Jawbone all offer trackers, some of which can count not just the steps you take but the miles you walk, steps you climb, and...winks you sleep. Some clip on to a belt or bra or live in your pocket, while others are worn on the wrist, shoulder, or chest.
A lesser-known entrant into this increasingly competitive space is the Movband from Movable. The Movband is the cheapest of these wrist-worn accessories that I’ve seen; it costs just $30. In exchange for your $30, you’ll receive the tiny tracking device itself, the one-size-fits-most adjustable black wristband into which it nests, and a USB charging cable.
The tracking device is a rounded rectangular prism with an LCD screen; the display matches a traditional digital watch face but because of the display’s unusual elongated face, it can only fit a single character’s width. Thus, all data shown is presented vertically. For example, the default display—the current time—is presented in a vertical stack, with a one atop a two atop a four atop a letter “p” for 1:24 p.m. It’s … odd. You get used to the display over time, but it never seems entirely natural.
Two buttons sit on the right side of the tracker. The top one illuminates a very faint backlight for reading the Movband in the dark. The second cycles through the Movband’s other display options; you press it to switch among time, “moves,” and miles. Movable never really describes precisely what it means by moves, but it basically means that the Movband can count more than just steps: It logs other movements that involve your arm, too.
When you sync your Movband—more on that in a bit—the website shows you both your moves and steps for the day. But the device itself shows only your moves, which is a number I’m frankly less interested in. The total mileage number also isn’t as useful as I’d prefer for my purposes; unlike competitive products like the Jawbone Up and the Fitbit line, the Movband’s mileage number doesn’t automatically reset each day. Holding down both buttons for a few seconds resets the mileage number.
The tracker snaps into the band simply enough, though there’s no satisfying click or locking mechanism. On occasion, I had to stick the Movband in my pocket instead of leaving it on my wrist. (These were uncommon occasions: I was testing other fitness bands and didn’t want my arm covered, or I was working at my treadmill desk, where wrist-worn trackers can’t function properly.) A couple of times, the tracker popped free from the band in my pocket and then the tracker’s sharp exposed edges poked at me. The good news is, the tracker never popped out when I wore the band the normal way.
When you (intentionally) pop out the tracker to charge it and to sync your data, you’ll encounter a decidedly disappointing design decision: You can’t simply plug the Movband tracker directly into your USB port. Instead, you need to plug it into the small USB adapter plug that ships with the device—another proprietary cable to keep track of.
With the Movband app installed (it works with OS X and Windows), you plug in your tracker and your data gets synced to the Movband website, where you can log in to see it displayed. But where Movband’s competitors show their data graphically, with eye-pleasing graphs, related iOS apps, and the like, Movable simply presents your logged data in a straight text table. It’s a bit anticlimactic after you’ve logged lots of steps.
Additionally, since the syncing process involves pulling the tracker out of the watch and locating your sync cable, you’re unlikely to do it often. That means you’ll only find out about a day’s activity days or weeks after it happens, unless you’re constantly checking in with the screen. I prefer the real-time feedback that Bluetooth-enabled trackers like the Fitbit Zip can offer, since that device tells me when I’ve hit my step goal, even if the app isn’t running on my iPhone at the time.
I test many step trackers. Usually, different trackers end up within a thousand or so steps of each other at the end of the day, which I think is a reasonable spread. The Movband was consistently 2500 to 3500 steps off from the numbers provided by the Fitbit Zip and the Jawbone Up—and not consistently in one direction: Sometimes its numbers were noticeably higher, sometimes noticeably lower.
So I’m not impressed by the Movband’s display, the data it gathers, the way it presents that data, or its syncing. Still, I have a couple positive things to say about it. The built-in battery is extremely impressive: A three to four-hour charge scores you about three weeks of usage. And the band is customizable, too—you can pick up other color bands for just $5.
Movable is clearly focused on the group market. The company offers its group management tools—which let schools, businesses, and the like compete cooperatively with each other for steps—for an additional $50. It also sells “mileage rewards,” which are colorful loops you can stick on your Movband’s wrist strap to commemorate step milestones.
The best thing Movband has going for it is its price. But it’s tough to recommend the band to most folks. If you care about step count accuracy, the device’s display, how your accumulated data is presented, and even fashion, the Movband’s just not up to snuff. I’d recommend the pricier but far more advanced Fitbit Zip for the budget-conscious fitness tracker instead.