When you hear the words “Activity Tracker” the first thought which springs to mind is one of a pedometer. A device worn on your wrist or belt which simply counts your movements for the day. This information is then pushed through various algorithms to work out when you were walking, running or just sat on the sofa. The idea behind this type of tracker being that you have a goal to reach, which is usually 10,000 steps, and this in turn pushes you to get out of your seat to achieve that goal.
Now this is simplifying things slightly, and more modern trackers can now measure steps climbed, calories burned, distance travelled and also how well you have slept using this data.
Jaybird, a company already known for creating wireless headphones is now dipping its toe into the tracker pond with what’s its dubbing an Active Recovery Band. Initially this may seem like yet another glorified pedometer making its way into an already crowded market, but the Reign has a twist.
Yes, it follows you throughout the day and quietly stores your activity. It also sits on your wrist and synchronises its data with a companion app on your chosen device, but the similarities end here. Where the Reign differs from the competition is with the Go Zone. A virtual personal trainer of sorts who measures your body each morning and tells you whether you should push yourself further, or have a well-deserved day off from the gym.
It`s also one of the first devices to automatically recognise when you’re walking, running, cycling or playing sports in addition to swimming. Yes, the Reign is fully waterproof, another feature most of its competitors are lacking. To top it off all this is done with no need for you to log anything, or tell it when you’re about to exercise.
These are all bold claims, but does it actually work?
So with all this in mind have Jaybird breathed a breath of fresh air into the activity tracker market, or will the Reign simply drift by like a draft from an open window?
Read on to find out.
Just like other Jaybird products, the packaging the Reign comes in is well designed and is much the same as they use with their headphones. On opening the cover, which folds out to reveal its contents, you are greeted by the band itself displayed behind a plastic cover with all the other elements hidden away inside.
As well as the main silicone band you are also given a wealth of other straps too. These include two sports bands, a biking ankle strap and two more silicone bands of varying sizes. Because the main band isn`t adjustable Jaybird give you two more sizes to try to get your perfect fit. They also give you a cleaning brush to help unclog the magnetic clip which closes the main strap.
Unlike other devices the brains behind the Reign sits inside a dedicated pod which can be removed and placed into any of these bands or the ankle strap, making it much more flexible. It also makes it easier to charge too.
Before you start wearing the Reign you need to pair it with the companion app but before that you are advised to fully charge it. My initial charge took around three hours, which felt like an age as I was eager to try it out, but once it was done, pairing was easy.
On opening the app your walked through the setup process which involves holding the top and the bottom of the pod for a few seconds. Once done your then asked a number of lifestyle questions, height, weight, current activity level etc. and your good to go.
Time to get active!
The overall design of the Reign is modern and minimalistic and unlike any other activity tracker available. Its smooth strap and shiny metallic clasps make it feel more like a fashionable bracelet than something associated with fitness.
The main silicon band is soft, smooth and surprisingly comfortable to wear. It’s also very light; so much so there are times I forget I’m wearing it.
The band closes using two metal clips which interlock and are held in place with magnets. These do a good job of keeping it on your wrist and I’ve had no issues with it coming loose. The only problems I have had is with putting it on my wrist as the clips can be a little fiddly, plus if you have hairy arms, as I do, then you will inevitably trap and lose some of those hairs.
The pod itself is quite compact with a basic display on the top and a small metallic plate beneath which is used to measure your heart rate.
The display is made up of twelve green LED`s with red LED`s between them. This is simply used to show your daily progress plus it also tells the time in its own unique way. Four taps on the band will activate the display showing your progress, although this doesn`t always register and you could be tapping for a while before your shown anything. I`ve had more luck with it being activated by accident if I move my arm quickly.
After your progress you are then shown the time. Solid red lights indicate the hour and a flashing light shows the minutes, but this is limited to 5 minute intervals. So you basically have to count very quickly to work out what time it is, or you could just use a watch. In practice it does get easier over time, but I still found it a bit of a chore and something I rarely used, and I’ve since disabled this feature which you can do in the app.
I would have liked the display to be used in more imaginative ways. For example, when the green bar is full you would assume that you have hit your goal for the day, right? In practice there have been times where I sat and relaxed at this point and then discovered through the app I was actually at 96%. One solution would be for the display to fill with green lights, as it does, but then maybe do a little light show to celebrate your victory. This way you know for certain that you’ve accomplished your goal, plus it will add a bit of fun into the device.
At the heart of the Reign is the Go Zone, but what is it? Basically the Go Zone is the key motivator behind the band. Rather than using a simple step count to push you each day, Go Zone works out a personalised activity goal for you to reach.
Each morning you open the Reign app and are asked to generate your Go Score, although you don`t need to do it daily. Three days a week is recommended for best results. To generate your score, you hold your finger on the top of the pod, where the LED display is, and this activates the heart rate monitor. A countdown then starts on the app with you sitting still for a full two minutes until its completed. It’s during this time that the Reign measures your heart rate variability.
Unlike other trackers who use continuous flashing lights to gauge your heart rate, the Reign uses the metal panel under the pod as well as on the display to pick up the electrical signals of your heart. It then uses a built in ECG biosensor to turn this signal into your heart rate variability information.
It’s this information which tells the Reign whether your body is fatigued or fully recovered and ready for a workout.
Your then presented with a score out of 100. Anything below 33 means your fatigued whereas anything above that means you’re in the Go Zone! With this information the Reign can then generate your activity goal points for the day.
On first use the Reign will estimate your points based on the information you gave it as you initially set it up, but after a while it starts to learn your activity habits and you get better, more accurate readings. You can alter the points in the settings at any time if you find they are initially too high or low, but after a while I found that it does a good job of giving you enough points to push yourself.
The idea is that even if you feel tired your body might still be ready for a run or a trip to the gym and that’s what Go Zone does. It listens to your body rather than your mind so you can then make a call on what you do during the day.
What I like about the Go Zone is that it boils everything down and reduces it to a single score. With other trackers you are either counting steps, calories, stairs climbed, food intake, water consumption, food eaten, the list goes on and you can find a lot of your time is taken up logging all these separate aspects. For many people this is ideal as you get to see everything in one place but for me it’s a lot to handle.
I eat well, most of the time, and I drink plenty of water. I also exercise regularly so the Reign is great as I don`t need to do anything apart from generate my morning Go Score. It then does all the hard work of working out what activities I’m doing and how much I should do the next day.
I have actually noticed that if I have a particularly good session at the gym the Reign will know and the next morning, even though I think I feel fine, it recommends I take the day to recover. I then realise by the afternoon that I am actually quite tired, so a morning run probably wouldn’t have been the best idea.
The next day my score is back up to 43 and I’m recovered and fine to head out.
The Reign wouldn`t be anything without the companion app and Jaybird have done a really good job with the design of theirs. It’s smart, intuitive and gives you lots of information about your day and activates in a simplified dashboard.
At present the app is divided into three key areas. Activity, Sleep and Go Zone.
The Activity section is the one you will be looking at most of the time and at a quick glance you can see your activities plus how far away you are from your goal.
The main circular graph which dominates the screen fills up during the day and you can click on each section to get a quick summary of that activity. Click on walking for example and you then get to see how long you were walking for and also the calories you burned while doing so. Each segment is an overall summary however, so it compiles all the walking you have done during the day into one area; you won`t get separate chunks for each time you went out.
Below the main circle is a tiny green chart which fills up during the day, plotting how active you were. The problem with this is it is so small it would be nice to have the option to select it to view a larger version. Perhaps simply turning the device on its side would prompt a full screen graph?
One feature I do like about the main activity page is if you tap the middle of the circle the app will suggest activities for you to do to hit your milestone, be that a ten-minute walk or a five-minute run. It’s a simple thing but a really nice touch which, as it turns out, is also very useful.
If you want a more detailed look at what you did and when, you can click on the Activity Timeline at the bottom of the screen. Here you will see lots of basic information on calories burned, distance travelled, active time, inactive time plus a step counter too.
Below this you will see your timeline which you can scroll through at your leisure and highlight a particular area for even more information.
A swipe to the left of the main screen will bring you to the Go Zone area. This is where you perform your morning tests and your daily score is generated. Below this is also a Go Zone support area where you can find lots of information to help you get the most out of the Reign and the Go Zone in general.
Finally, a swipe to the right of the activity screen brings you to the sleep section where it shows you how much sleep you got the previous night, plus a recommended amount of sleep you will need tonight.
Again, below this you can tap to bring up more detail on your night’s sleep so you can see how restless you were and how well you slept in general. It’s here you can also edit your sleep details should you need to.
If your wanting to compare your workouts over time, then you can do this via the History section which is hidden away in the main menu. This is quite a comprehensive area where you can focus on a single activity, swimming for example, or all activities and see how well you have been doing over the space of a day, week, month or year.
The design of the app also leaves itself open to expansion. With the simple left or right sections Jaybird could easily add in more features, maybe even some to make it more fun? I say this because I think that’s what the app is missing at the moment, a sense of fun or even competition.
There are no social features to speak of so you can`t find and add friends. However, you can share your daily activity online via Twitter or Facebook where the app takes a screenshot and then uses the devices built in sharing options to compile a post for you, so that’s something.
There are no achievements to strive for, badges or even challenges either to help you scratch your competitive itch or even push you a little further, but that is coming this year apparently so I will update this review once those are implemented and tested.
What`s also planned is third party app support too, so you can take your data into Runkeeper, MyFitnessPal or Health kit for example. Again, something I would have liked implemented from the start.
I realise the app is all about automation and being able to manually input activities could lead to abuse, but I would still like to edit or add to what I have done. Swimming for example, I’d love to track how many lengths I did each time so I could compare swims. If I’m at the gym and on a piece of equipment the Reign doesn’t recognise, like the elliptical, I’d like to tag that period of time myself and get those points rather than it thinking its just general activity.
Like many other devices the Reign also tracks your sleep and uses this information to help generate your Go Score. Again it automatically knows when you’re visiting the land of nod and can use your night time movements to measure how well you have slept or if you`ve had a particularly restless night’s sleep.
For me this is one area of the Reign where I have had the most issues. It always does a great job of knowing when I have actually fallen asleep but there have been many times where its assumed I have woken up in the middle of the night and just stopped tracking anything. So from 2am for example it says I was awake, but not moving.
This may not seem like a huge issue but when you tie in the Go Zone it does become a problem. You see, you can only generate your score during the first thirty minutes after you`ve woken, so if it thinks you were awake from at 2am when you actually rose at 6am then you have missed your slot.
I suspect Jaybird are aware of these issues because sleep is the only area where you can edit or log the times manually, so a quick fix is to correct the time, which then opens up the Go Zone section for you to do your morning test.
Although this does work you can still end up with a chunk of time missing from your sleep pattern.
With a device like the Reign, which has no options to input data manually apart from sleep, you really need to be confident in its ability to recognise and track your activities correctly.
I`ve tested it during a lot of activities which included walking, running outdoors, running indoors, rowing and cycling and I have to say I was impressed with how well it noticed what I was doing. Yes, sometimes it was out by a minute but I guess you can`t expect it to know the exact second you began sprinting.
Even with swimming it knew what I was doing regardless of the strokes, although initially it did think I was swimming when I was actually driving. Luckily they have added the option into the app to disable swimming tracking, so I tend to only have this active at times when I actual go to the pool.
Where it did fall down was when I used the elliptical and it was classed as General activities. So I basically lost those points. What I did the next time I used this equipment was use the ankle strap instead and thankfully it registered as Sport, which was great, but the timings were off. I was on the machine for 15 minutes yet the Reign tagged it as 7. It would have been great if I could have edited the timings of this like you can with sleep.
So in some cases you need to think outside the box and experiment a little to get the most out of the Reign, but this was the only activity where I had issues.
The actual step counter aspect of the device is a funny area to discuss. Each company has their own specific algorithms to work out when you’re walking so I guess pitting one against another isn`t the most scientific of experiments.
Regardless I did spend a day wearing both the Jaybird Reign and the Fitbit Charge HR and the results were surprisingly different. At the end of the day the Fitbit had registered around 800 more steps than the Reign, but which is more accurate is up for debate.
I also counted some of the steps myself, all 500 of them, and where the Charge HR over counted by 49 the Reign actually only registered 342. Now the problem with the Reign is it doesn`t update the app in real time and there is a slight delay, so it could be there were a few more waiting to be deposited in the bank.
I think as far as steps go with these devices it’s all about using them as a rough guide and not expecting them to be exact.
I`ve been using the Reign for a month now, so long enough to get a real feel for how it works and fits into my lifestyle. I`ve tried to fit in as many activities as I could just to see how well it tracks them and for the most part its done a really good job of recognising what I was doing.
Go Zone was also a little hit and miss in the early days but I think this was down to the issues I had with sleep and also how I was generating my score. Now that its learned more about me it’s actually generating more realistic scores. Previously a Go Zone score of 42 would have generated an activity goal of close to 2000, which I quickly had to knock down to 1200. Now a score of 42 gives a more manageable 1276 points, so enough to push me.
What I love about the Reign is just how easy it is to use and how much of the hard work is done for you. Everything is automatically added to the app, be that walking, running, sports or swimming so you don`t have to, and for someone like me it’s so nice to be able to track swimming too rather than leave my device in a locker and manually add it in later.
Even cycling worked well with the ankle strap. It’s a simple case of popping out the pod, putting it in the strap and fastening it to your ankle, although you do get a few odd looks while at the gym but that just might be me.
Having used a Fitbit for pretty much a year prior to this I did think I would miss it. I do like the personality their devices have and the little buzz you get when you hit your goal was great. I was finding though that adding in the activities manually was becoming a chore, and even though they just updated the app to automatically recognise certain activities it didn`t work as smoothly or as precisely as the Reign.
Even the display on the Charge HR is something I don`t actually miss. Yes, the LED`s on the Reign are very basic but it doesn`t take long to open the app if you really want to see what you have done, and the four tap solution is kind of ok as a rough guide.
Again, having a continuous heart rate monitor was nice but I don`t think I actually used it to push myself if I’m honest. So all these extras, for me personally, were just extras.
There`s nothing worse than spending the day working out only to find out your favourite tracking device`s battery ran out hours ago. It’s also inconvenient if every other day your having to charge it too so it’s great that the Reign has a claimed battery life of over five days.
In my tests I can confirm this and I’ve even had a week’s use out of mine before I needed to charge it, and even then it wasn`t running on sparks so could probably last a little longer.
As with any device like this though the more you tap the display or synchronise it with the app the more it’s going to drain the battery. Expect this to rise though as the novelty wears off and you’re only checking the app once or twice a day, plus if you want even more life out of it you can always disable the clock function.
The Jaybird Reign has actually been out for over a year now but Jaybird held it back for twelve months to make improvements before rereleasing it again in December 2015. So with that in mind I would have assumed that all the features they spoke about implementing into the app last year, like social features, third party app support, adding friends, achievements etc. would be in now. So when they say these are coming this year I am a little sceptical, but hopeful.
All that aside, judging the Reign as it is now, I am impressed with its alternative take on the activity tracking trend. Its stylish and the Go Zone works as a virtual personal trainer with the automatic tracking being so good I can only assume witchcraft is involved.
Yes, this doesn`t have all the bells and whistles of other devices but what it focuses on it does well and in turn it does a good job of focusing you.
What I would say is that a device like the Jaybird Reign is better suited to those who are already active but want to do more, whereas other devices seem more focused on getting inactive people, active. So at this moment in time it may appeal more to those who already regularly run or go to the gym.
This could change however once they introduce more features into the app to make it more social and competitive, and it’s at this point it will also have a greater market appeal. So if you don`t like the sound of one now I urge you to take another look in six months’ time as it could be the device to beat.
So in summary, will I be taking off the Reign and strapping my Fitbit back on? I have to say no. I`m intrigued by what Jaybird have done and their plans for the Reign and this moment in time this particular tracker suits me far better than the Fitbit did.
Although Jaybird supplied the device for me to test, the opinions offered in this review are my own.