Casio G-Shock’s G-Squad GBD-H1000 (Rs 39,995) has five sensors: optical heart rate, thermo, magnetic, blood pressure and acceleration, along with solar, USB charging, Bluetooth connectivity and GPS

Smartwatch: A timepiece, health monitor and fitness coach rolled into one

This small wearable device checks your blood pressure, heart rate and sleep quality, apart from monitoring your workouts

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

It might astound you to know that all it takes is just 30 seconds to download an ECG report that is acceptable in hospitals and clinics in India. That’s the kind of experience 45-year-old Mumbaikar Aayush Vats had while checking his health parameters on an Apple smartwatch he recently bought. With the ongoing festive sale at e-commerce portals, he managed a handsome discount to acquire a Series 3 originally priced at Rs 20,900, for just Rs 16,900.

Corona times have led to a spurt in health devices and smartwatches have found a new audience. Says Ali Rizvi, Director, Garmin India: “Earlier smartwatches were a must-have for sports buffs and fitness freaks. Anyone doing some serious cycling, swimming or running, would typically pick up one. But today, many health-conscious people are joining the fray as a smartwatch is the best way to track your immune system.” He says people would earlier jokingly shrug off measuring heart rate with ‘don’t tell me my heart rate it would increase my heart rate.’ But due to Covid-19, many have understood the importance of managing their health and want to stay on top of it.”

Do smartwatches help avoid emergencies?

There have been numerous cases in which they have, says Alok Shankar, Country General Manager, Fitbit India. “One such case happened in Australia. Fitbit saved a woman’s life by helping her detect a serious condition that could have caused heart failure. Wearable technology is now capable of understanding our key body metrics, and provides data that you may only get once or twice a year at the doctor’s.”

During the past few months, digital health platforms have noticed a significant interest in smart wearables among customers. Says Tushar Vashisht, CEO & Co-founder, HealthifyMe: “We have over 100,000 unique users who have synced their smartwatches to track their workouts on HealthifyMe. The main advantage of owning smart wearables is that they help keep users motivated and push them to keep track of their activity levels and do more than that they would otherwise.”

Vitals on wrist

A smartwatch typically monitors your heart rate (it must ideally be 60-100 beats per minute), respiratory rate (12-20 per minute), SPO2 levels which is the blood oxygen saturation level, (should be at least 95 per cent) and stress score (26-50 is low stress, 51-75 is medium and 76-100 is a high stress state). It also suggests breathing exercise to help reduce your heart rate if it’s high. Besides, it has a sleep monitoring system with light, deep, and rem sleep stages. Based on your heart rate, time asleep, restlessness and breathing, the sleep score helps you better understand your snooze quality each night. One can use 24/7 heart rate tracking to get a fix on calorie burn, optimise effort during workouts, see your resting heart rate trends and cardio fitness level. Says FitBit’s Shankar: “Platforms like ours are tapping into the growing national focus on personal wellness, enabling people to be more active, exercise more, sleep better and manage weight. Users are more likely to reach goals if they’re encouraged to have fun, smile, and feel empowered along the way.”

Most of these watches have a facility for getting notifications for calls, texts, calendar events and apps like gmail and facebook, apart from sending quick voice-based replies. With newer versions being launched by the day, one can use built-in Amazon Alexa to get news, info and weather on the go, set bedtime reminders and alarms, even store and play 300-plus songs. And oh yes, you can also control spotify from your wrist.

Key brands

Leading brands in smartwatches include the Apple series, Garmin, Samsung, FitBit, Casio’s G Shock, and Oppo. With the surge in demand, there have been new launches in this segment. Casio just launched G-Shock’s G-Squad GBD-H1000 for Rs 39,995. Says a Casio spokesperson: “The new tough watch comes as great news for G-Shock lovers and fitness fanatics because of its high-end features, suitable for intense workouts, long-distance runs and fitness trainings.” Its five-sensor functions include an optical sensor that measures heart rate by detecting the blood flow under the skin, a triple sensor that measures altitude/barometric pressure, compass bearing, and temperature, and an acceleration sensor for step counting and tracking distance travelled.

Fitbit recently launched its most advanced health smartwatch Fitbit Sense for Rs 34,999, with new features such as stress monitoring, ECG mapping. Says Shankar: “It is our first device with an ECG app to assess your heart rhythm for signs of atrial fibrillation (AFib), a condition that affects more than 33.5 million people globally.”

E-commerce portals are going all out to woo their customers with deals worth a steal. A Samsung Galaxy Watch originally for 34,990, for instance, can be had for Rs 29,990.

Companies are witnessing surge in sales. Samsung India has seen a huge adoption in smartwatches in India, with Q3 of calendar 2020 being its best quarter yet. Says Mohandeep Singh, Senior Vice President, Mobile Business, Samsung India: “To make it more attractive for our consumers, we have also run a series of affordability programmes and bundle offers. Our users are typically in the 20-35-year age group with ownership of premium phones.”

Fitness freaks continue to be the strongest market for smartwatch makers. Most of the premium variants have a personal training coach. Garmin Venu comes with a Garmin Coach to help you train for your next 5K, 10K or half-marathon.

Apple iWatch has its loyal patrons as iPhone users. Says 35-year-old Mahesh Pandey, “This is a watch one must have if you own an Apple iPhone Series 7 and above. The BPM (blood pressure monitor) and Breathe feature is the best thing I have ever seen. It’s all real time. I love the Breathe feature–if you are stressed or angry, just follow the one-minute quick process. You will realise that you are no longer feeling angry or irate. The display and battery life are mind-blowing. Must have for apple product owners.”

Shopping smart

How does one know the real from the fake? Right now, the market abounds in smartwatches starting at Rs 999 that also claim to give the oxygen readings and blood pressure. But what a user must look for is accuracy. Says Ali Rizvi, Director Garmin India: “It’s useless if it isn’t accurate. I remember when the pedometer was launched, the quality of the sensor was not good and even if anyone drove a car from home to office, it would show 10,000 steps but over time, with advanced technology the sensors started evaluating steps count and floor climb. There is no point in having a device that gives wrong feedback and is misleading.” He says Garmin’s global fault ratio is 0.02 per cent, something that they manage because everything from software, hardware, sensors is made in-house and not outsourced.

Data storage and software are other key variables that consumers must look for. All data needs to be stored somewhere and if suddenly you want to check heart rate history for the past two years, you should be able to retrieve it. Premium watch makers give an option of pairing your watch with their app, as in the case of Garmin. Its Garmin Connect uploads the data on the cloud and you can see trends of heart rate etc.

The third is flexibility and features. smartwatches should be capable of suiting any lifestyle. Says Samsung’s Mohandeep Singh: ‘A true smartwatch, as opposed to a tracker, is more versatile in much the same way as smartphones are, versus feature phones. It is expected to work around and empower a variety of lifestyles. Our watches bring the most advanced health ecosystem to the wrist. Besides 39 built-in trackers (and up to 90 on Samsung Health platform) on the watch, our ecosystem offers a home fitness solution (with a coach on video) that takes a goal-based approach to fitness from the comfort of the living room. At the other end of the spectrum is a wellness conscious user who is more concerned with staying well in the current scenario. For him, there is the SpO2 sensor (on the Galaxy Watch3 only), stress monitoring, sleep tracking with insights, diet monitoring extending all the way up to a tie-up with Calm to providing a library of meditation, mindfulness, deep focus and relaxation programmes. Not just native apps, there are third-party app options also available on the Watch store, which also houses a massive catalogue of 80,000 watch faces.”

Design is also important. Most watches are crafted from premium material and sport a design that is built to last in colours such as rose gold, charcoal grey, navy blue, black.

Smartwatch versus smartphone

Are smartphones competing with smartwatches? Wearable technology makers and smart watch manufacturers concede that they have internally debated a lot about it. Says Rizvi of Garmin: “We find relief in the fact that a clock is not being replaced even though there is a timer in the smartphone. Moreover, while running, it is neither convenient nor safe to put a smartphone on the skin because of the radiation effect. You can track it when you wear a dedicated watch.”

Research suggests that users of smartwatches expect to be connected effortlessly without phones. Samsung’s consumer insights reveal that users want to be completely connected at all times, yet be able to enjoy true phone-free moments.

Table: What a smartwatch will cost you

Brand Price
Garmin Rs 7,000-3,00,000 with the Vivo series range 15,000-45,000 being the bestseller, Garmin Venu 37,899

The most affordable Fitbit Inspire costs Rs 6,999 (it is currently available at Rs 5,999 at Reliance Digital) and advanced healthwatch Fitbit Sense is for Rs 34,999

Apple Watch Series

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS, 38mm) with silver aluminium Case and white sport band: Rs 20,900; Apple Watch Series 5 (GPS + Cellular, 44mm): Rs 52,900; Apple Series 6 (Titanium Case with Sport Loop): Rs 79,900

Samsung Samsung Galaxy Watch3 Series: Rs 29,000-plus; Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 Series: Rs 23,990-plus
OPPO Watch 46MM Rs 24,990
Casio G Shock Rs 39,995
BELLTEQ DZ-09 Es 42,999

Credit: Market Research

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6 thoughts on “Smartwatch: A timepiece, health monitor and fitness coach rolled into one

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