A smartphone can be as important a piece of fitness equipment as your trainers. Thanks to a plethora of apps it can count the miles you run, tell you what to eat, tell you how well you’ve slept and can even critique your performance in the bedroom. It really is the modern day Swiss Army knife.
Nigerians love their smartphones, so why not get the most out of them. Here are the top smartphones for fitness
Apple iPhone 5s
BEST FOR: APPS
Apple has kept pretty much the same form factor for the 5s as its predecessor so it’s a case of scratching beneath the surface to see where the present differs from the past. Its tantalising selling point may be the revolutionary fingerprint activated Touch ID, but the huge app library, new iOS7 operating system and state-of-the-art 64-bit A7 processor are where this phone shines.
Apple has made a more pronounced move into the world of fitness tech with the M7 co-processor. It takes a load off the A7’s back by working through sensor data ensuring that it can accurately and efficiently store the stats from your latest run without wasting power from the CPU. What’s most impressive is it can tell whether you are running, cycling or in a car and instantly adjusts your GPS settings accordingly. However, like the 64-bit memory, this feature isn’t specifically used by any fitness apps right now but expect them to start being released in 2014 as more people upgrade to the 5s and other phones start including the technology.
Like all Apple products though, the area where the 5s really outdoes the competition is the huge library of quality apps on the App Store. There are thousands of free and paid-for training programmes, diet planners, cycling routes, step counters, motivators and even apps that pitch you against other athletes in online leader boards. While they’re not all amazing, the big advantage of the App Store is that every app is designed specifically for Apple products (as opposed to Android apps that have to work across countless different devices) and have passed the stringent quality-testing that’s required to be added to the library.
Here’s a note of caution though. The iPhone has never been the cheapest smartphone on the block and the 5s has furthered that reputation. Months after launch, it’s still a tad on the expensive side for a SIM-free handset or on contract. Plus, the battery life, though an improvement on earlier models, will still melt away quicker than a snowman on Broad Street, making daily charges a necessity.
One last thing we haven’t mentioned is the super slow motion video – not that relevant to fitness, but nothing beats catching your mate slam face first in glorious 120 frames per second!
Nokia Lumia 1020
BEST FOR: PHOTOGRAPHY
Turning the Lumia on for the first time it’s immediately apparent it hasn’t got the pace to match the iPhone. It’s no slouch, just more Dwain Chambers than Usain Bolt.
What makes this smartphone stand out from the crowd is not it’s awkward size, but the incredible camera. Nokia have coupled their PureView technology, reducing images to a lower resolution yet achieving higher definition and light sensitivity, with a 41-megapixel camera, which results in stunning picture quality even in low-level light. The quality is so good that Ellie Goulding shot the entire video for her single ‘How Long Will I Love You’ with one.
There are plenty of well-rated free and paid-for apps ranging from MyFitnessPal to Blood Pressure Tracker to Gym PocketGuide and the Windows store is easy to navigate. However, the selection is severely lacking compared to the App Store or Android’s Google Play shop.
But how many fitness apps does one person really need? And besides, the high-quality camera is what you should buy the 1020 for. Nothing beats going for a run, spying something amazing and being able to casually take a picture that’s not far off a professional quality DLSR. Just please don’t be one of those guys who takes selfies in the gym.
Samsung Galaxy S5
BEST FOR: ALL ROUND
The Galaxy S5 is Samsung’s most powerful smartphone to date and has more features than anything that precedes it. Improvements have been made across the board to the screen, performance, camera and battery life but Samsung has also turned its attention to fitness, adding exercise-tracking abilities which could give the S5 an edge over competing smartphones.
It has all the features you would expect from a flagship smartphone, including a fantastic screen: the 130mm, 1080p resolution display uses LED technology to light up each pixel individually. In short it’s the best screen on any smartphone available today. It’s incredibly quick too. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor paired with 2GB of RAM makes it the fastest smartphone around — there’s nothing in the Google Play Store the S5 can’t run smoothly. Despite all that power, battery life is superb.
Other highlights include an excellent camera, thanks to a 16-megapixel ISOCELL sensor which takes fantastic photos in bright sunshine using its high dynamic range (HDR) mode, and a fingerprint sensor built into the home button lets you unlock the phone with a swipe.
It’s the new fitness focus, however, that makes the Galaxy stand out above its peers in our eyes. Samsung has added genuinely useful features, including ANT+ connectivity as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and Bluetooth Low Energy that enable it to connect heart rate monitors, cadence sensors and pedometers directly to the handset, rather than indirectly via a fitness tracker or runner’s watch. The entire handset is also IP67 dust and water-resistant, meaning it won’t give out on you if you get caught in the rain, although you won’t be able to take it swimming.
Like almost every phone the built-in accelerometer can count your steps from within your pocket, but the Galaxy S5 also has a heart rate sensor on the back of the handset for measuring your pulse. All these features feed data into Samsung’s S Health app, which records your daily step totals, exercise sessions, calories consumed and weight. The S Health app isn’t new, but until now its scope was limited to a small selection of official accessories. Starting with the S5, the company has pledged to open the app up to third-party developers, sharing data from the heart rate sensor and accelerometer so you wouldn’t need to add in details of a run manually or rely on a dedicated fitness tracker. RunKeeper, MapMyRun and Endomondo have all been named as on the list to get support, so there’s a good chance your favourites will be included in the coming months.
S Heath isn’t as detailed as many of the apps designed for dedicated fitness bands we’ve seen, with limited heart rate tracking and no in-depth performance charts to check on your performance. If you prefer to wear something on your wrist rather than keep a phone in your pocket, the Galaxy S5 also works flawlessly with Samsung’s recently-launched Gear 2 and Gear Fit wearables. They have HRMs and pedometers, and feed data directly into the S Health app.
S Health certainly isn’t the final word in terms of fitness, particularly if you’ve already invested in an exercise tracker with more detailed feedback, but it’s still a great addition for anyone just getting started on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
The S5 is, hands down, the best Samsung Galaxy smartphone to date. It might not have the same gorgeous all-metal design of HTC’s One (M8) or the Apple iPhone 5s, but it has the best performance, camera and screen of any handset available to buy right now. The fitness features alone make it a winner, even if they’re a little basic it means you’re always able to keep track of your progress, whether you remember to bring a pedometer/HRM or not.
HTC One M8
BEST FOR: LOOKS
HTC appears to have adopted a policy of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ with the M8, keeping a lot of the excellent structure from last year’s phone and improving on it in almost every area. The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s squeezes in a slot for a microSD card, eliminating any worries about storage space (it supports up to 128GB, which is plenty for piles of photos, music, apps and movies).
The phone is now made from 90% metal as opposed to 70% in the last model and you can certainly feel it when you pick it up, the weightiness screams quality, while the brushed-aluminium design makes it easy on the eye.
HTC hasn’t made a huge fuss about the One M8’s Fitbit integration, but as far as we’re concerned it’s a key selling point and we found it impressively intuitive. Fitbit is the first to have taken advantage of the M8’s Smart Sensor Hub technology, allowing it to add persistent activity tracking via its app on the M8. The unique thing about the Fitbit integration is that it doesn’t rely on the phone GPS tech to track you. Instead you simply turn the FitBit app on once and it tracks your movement using the M8’s built-in sensors.
The app provides you with the number of steps you’ve taken every day, the amount of calories burned, the distance you’ve travelled and, if you want to log them, your food and water intake too. You can set a goal for the number of steps you want to take every day when you first set up the application and, if you allow it to, it will even offer encouragement throughout the day as you work toward your goal. Charts of each of your chosen metrics are available for you to look at whenever you want, documenting how you’ve done in a day, week, month or year.
While it’s hardly an earth-shaking piece of fitness technology it’s a very useful feature that comes bundled with the phone, allowing you to assess how active you are on certain days and at certain times of the day. It’s more of an encouragement to be more active than a must-have for fitness fanatics, but it certainly has its uses and negates any need to buy a separate activity tracker.
Visit www.mensfitness.co.uk for more.