SPREE FITNESS HEADBAND REVIEW
The Spree headband from Spree Sports is a new take on fitness monitors: it's the only activity tracker with a headband form factor and is geared toward providing specific in-workout feedback to keep you in an optimal exercising zone. The device captures heart rate, body temperature, distance, speed, time, and calories burned.
Spree terms their innovation a "Performance Optimization Device" or POD. Rather than just being a fitness monitor, it's a fitness feedback loop: bring your smartphone on your run, while bicycling, or during another workout while wearing the Spree headband (or Spree baseball cap), and you'll be able to check whether you need to slow down or speed up to reach an optimal exercise zone. You'll also be able to view your heart rate, body temperature, distance, time, calories burned and speed. The data streams wirelessly via Bluetooth low energy from the band to your Bluetooth-enabled smartphone (iOS, Android, or Windows phone) during workouts.
Spree Sports touts its band's use of biometric data including body temperature as a state of the art method for bringing greater accuracy into calorie estimation. In addition to body temp and heart rate, the band takes user-inputed information, such as age, weight, height, and gender, to further hone the calorie estimation algorithm. Keep in mind, though, that the device is only worn while you're on a jog/run/workout, and not throughout the course of the day, so the estimated calories burned will only apply to your workout times.
So, what kinds of workouts can it track? From the Spree app, you can select from a set of six exercise options: run, walk, bike, gym (weight lifting), skiing, and other. Upon selecting an activity type, you can enter your target heart rate and goals, which yield a target speed, target distance, target duration, and target calories burned. Throughout the workout, you can view your current progress measured against these targets.
Viewable data includes:
Though this may seem like a lot of data to take in while you're running or on the bike, Spree has done a good job of distilling your goals down to one visual metric you can easily glance at while working out: a color-coded symbol. If you're under-performing, the symbol is blue (i.e. because you're cold or have a low heart rate). Too hot, or working out too intensely and the symbol turns red. If you're "in the optimal zone," the symbols is yellow.
Although all the data is visible in real time, it can also be saved after your workout and reviewed at a later time.
Casual exercisers may be hit with sticker shock after a glimpse at the health monitor's price tag: $299. It's a steep price to pay for a fitness tracking device that is only used some of the time. However, it may prove to be a useful tool for health-conscious athletes looking to optimize their workouts.
The Spree fitness tracker has a built-in rechargeable battery that can withstand 6 to 8 hours of active use (i.e. use while streaming data to your smartphone) -- hopefully more than long enough to carry users through even an intense daily workouts. Added bonuses: the pro version of the app will have a built-in music control so that you don't have to leave the app (and your stats) to get to your favorite workout tunes, and the app may even give you a heads up when you should rehydrate.
The Spree band has recently reached the hands -- err, foreheads -- of consumers. Since I don't currently have plans to try one out first-hand, I'd like to point you to a few high-quality first-hand reviews of the device:
Marshal Rosenthal, March 27, 2014 Review: http://www.gadgetreview.com/smartphones/spree-fitness-monitor-review
Nick Pang at Minimalist Running Shoes, April 21, 2014: http://minimalistrunningshoes.org/spree-sports-headband-review
LET'S BREAK IT DOWN
Features & Added Benefits
The Spree is a headband/baseball cap workout tracker that's meant to be worn only during your workouts. The Spree gathers real-time unique biometric data and provides resulting feedback so you can optimize your workouts for the best training zone possible.
Measures: heart rate, estimated calories burned, distance, speed, time, and body temperature.
Hardware & Wearing
The Spree is a small, rectangular unit houses the sensors, and is popped into a soft Spree headband (black or grey) or Spree baseball cap that you can slip on over your forehead. The device itself is water resistant, meaning you won't have to worry about how much you sweat or whether you get caught in a rain storm. Just don't take it swimming with you.
Battery Life & Charging
The Spree battery can withstand up to 8 hours of continuous active use (i.e. running with the headband on while streaming data to your smartphone). The battery will last longer if you just take the band running and sync the data manually later rather than streaming the data in realtime.
Your data syncs to your mobile device via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for on-screen data that's always accurate.
The Spree tracker app is compatible with any iOS, Android, and Window phone that is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) enabled. For iOS devices, this includes iPhone 4S and up, iPod Touch 5th Gen and up, iPad 3rd Gen and up.