reign.jpgFor the past week, I’ve been rocking a new accessory on my left wrist—the Jaybird Reign Activity Tracker.

Introduced earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Reign goes above and beyond what other activity trackers offer by encouraging balance and prompting those who wear it to improve their habits. It tells you when you need more sleep, when you need to take it easy, and when you are your optimal self, and I recently got a chance to take one for a test drive. Here’s my take after wearing Reign 24/7 for one week.

Unboxing Reign

box2.jpgI’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little taken aback when I first unsealed and opened the slick black packaging of the Jaybird Reign. At first, all you see is the rubber wristband and tracker pod perfectly positioned on soft grey foam with “Reign” emblazoned in the centre. Sexy indeed. Then, I lifted the foam. Whoa. Similar to a box from IKEA filled with a million little pieces that miraculously become a piece of furniture after hours of fiddling with an Allen wrench, the Reign box contained a myriad of swappable wrist band sizes, two sports bands, a charging cradle, a USB charging cord, a chest band, an ankle strap, and a tiny cleaning tool. Unfortunately, IKEA boxes come with something the Reign box doesn’t – instructions. Instead, there’s a URL to visit to get you started.

Setting Up Reign

Call me old fashioned, but I’m a fan of paper instructions. That said, the series of videos on the Reign website were very well done and super easy to follow. The first of the series was “Unboxing,” which was followed by “Charging, Pairing and Synching.” To set yourself up to use the Reign, you first need to charge the tracker via a USB cable. To do so, you simple pop the tracker, or “pod” out of the wrist band and attach it to the cradle. Easy enough, but a little finicky. You need to line up the pins on the cradle with the ports on the pod (say that five times fast), which took me a couple of tries. In fact, in the “Charging, Pairing and Synching” video, Reign makes note of this by saying that if the cradle is connected to your computer via its USB and the LED lights on the pod don’t light up when you connect it to the cradle, then you should try again to get a “firm and fit connection.”

Charging the pod doesn’t take long – about two hours – and the status of the charge is indicated by the LED lights on the top of the pod. Once your LED display shows all red lights with one green light at one end, you are good to go. The charge itself is said to last five days, and I’d say that is pretty accurate as mine lasted to the early evening of day four.

Once your pod is charged and popped back into place on your wristband, you’re ready to synch it to the free Reign app. The app itself is pretty cool. To get started, you have to create a profile, which is based on your lifestyle; are you a couch potato, a fitness junkie, a triathlete? Whichever category you fit in to, Reign then uses that information to determine your target activity goal and “Go Zone” (more on that later).

reign4.jpegUsing Reign – Activities & Points

There are a number of aspects to Reign that really set it apart from the crowd. Like most other activity trackers, Reign keeps accurate track of your caloric expenditure, the number of steps you’ve walked, your distance travelled, as well time spent being active and inactive. Where it differs, however, is that you don’t need to manually enter any of your activities. Based on science and technology that I can’t even begin to understand, let alone explain, Reign recognizes the activity you are engaged in and automatically logs it in the app. The app then displays your daily activity via a timeline that can be a bit of an eye-opener. For example, I’m a tad busy these days, and know that I’ve been spending an obscene amount of time sitting in front of a computer. But seeing this as a visual representation was shocking – one day my timeline was entirely comprised of “Mainly inactive” and “General – walking,” which was really just going to the washroom and kitchen.

To me though, that is what makes Reign fun. Based on a number of factors, including the profile you create in the app and your previous days activity, Reign sets for you an activity points goal. On day one of testing, my points goal was 750. I exceeded that, so on day two, my goal was increased to 1000. I exceeded that, so on day three it was 1250. You get the idea. And because Reign is frequently synching with the app, you can see where you stand at any given time throughout the day, giving the device an almost “video-game” like quality. I found myself challenging the app (really, myself) every day. “Oh, you think I can’t hit 1000 points?? Just watch me!”

Using Reign – Sleep  

photo 4.PNGIn addition to tracking movement, Reign also tracks your sleep patterns provided you wear it when you hit the hay. Based on your previous night’s sleep, Reign will tell you how much sleep you need to be fully-rested the next day. However, I’m not sure this is based on science or math. On night one, Reign said I slept 8 hours and 10 minutes. So on day two it said I only needed 7 hours and 50 minutes sleep. On night two I slept 6 hours and 20 minutes. So on day three it said I needed 9 hours and 40 minutes. Call me crazy, but it seemed like all it was doing was adding or subtracting the previous nights overage or underage to add up to 8 hours, which is what I entered as being my ideal length of sleep. Regardless, this sleep pattern tracker is critical to the key differentiating feature of Reign – “Go Zone.”

Using Reign – Go Zone & Heart Rate

The “Go Zone” is the bread and butter of Reign, and it’s where you want to be. If Reign is telling you that you are in the Go Zone, it means you’re doing everything right, firing on all cylinders, and achieving a good balance. It takes a few days of wearing Reign before it can accurately determine what your zone is, but once it does, it takes into consideration your previous days activities and sleep patterns, along with your Heart Rate Variability measure (more on that shortly) to tell you when you should get moving, go hard, and – unique to Reign – when you should take a breather. To Reign, it’s all about balance, not just going full throttle day after day to the point of exhaustion.

To get your daily Go Zone measurement, you need to start each day by determining your heart rate variability (HRV), which is a measurement of the variation in pauses between your heart beats. Every morning, you are to wake up, tap the app and then press one finger to the top of your Reign pod while pressing the opposite (inside) side to your wrist for up to two minutes. More variations in your heart beat will give you a higher score, while a decrease may mean you need to rest, so based on your results, your daily activity goal will adjust.

I found the Go Zone feature to be by and far the biggest “pro” to the Reign, however, it was simultaneously one of the biggest “cons.” If you forget to measure your HRV in the morning, you’re hooped. No Go Zone for you today missy. And as someone who has a tendency to sleep in, I forgot to take my read 4 mornings in a row. I wish there was a notification to remind me to take the two minutes in the morning to get my read.

photo 3.PNGThe Reign Pros

The Reign has a number of pros, the most notable being the Go Zone feature. It’s almost like having Santa Claus attached to your wrist – it knows when you’ve been good and bad and adjusts your daily goals based on whether you need to perhaps step it up, or take it easy. Even if you were to take away every other feature, the Go Zone is enough for the Reign to be a contender in the activity tracker market.

Another obvious pro is that you don’t need to manually enter your activities. Reign knows if your sitting, walking, swimming, or sleeping, and logs the activity accordingly. And that brings me to another pro – the Rein is completely waterproof, so you can get as sweaty as you want, or burn calories swimming, and your Reign is perfectly safe. It’s also very comfortable to wear and is slightly less “utilitarian and sporty” than other activity trackers out there. That said, the clasp is a little difficult to secure with one hand. I eventually got the hang of it, but a little annoying nonetheless.

Another pro-worthy features are the fact that while the Reign synchs with your smartphone app via Bluetooth, you don’t need to have your phone with you at all times to get an accurate record of your daily activity. In fact, Reign can store up to 48 hours of data before dumping any to make room for more, so if you want to disconnect for the weekend, go for it. Just synch on Monday and you’re golden.

The Reign Not-So-Pros

While Go-Zone is ridiculously innovative, the Reign does have a few negative features that are worth mentioning. First, the app doesn’t show you your progress over time. In fact, if you wanted to go back to a previous day to see how you did, you’re out of luck. Reign simply gives you insight into “right now.” I think for someone like myself, who is trying to get back into shape after a two month hiatus (I hiked a mountain, I deserved a break), trends and progress over time are essential to staying on track.

Another miss on Reign’s part is that it lacks a calorie-logging system. It’s great to see how many calories you’ve burned in a given day, but that’s only half of the calorie-in-calorie-out equation. Right now, my Reign is telling me I’ve burned 977 calories so far today. But I just gorged on yummy Chinese food for lunch and it would be nice to be able to track it all through one platform. It also lacks a desktop app, which I think is a big oversight.

Lastly, the LEDs on the top of the pod are hard to read, if they display at all. In theory, these lights are supposed to show your progress throughout the day, but I had no luck getting them to display at all. These lights also double as a clock, and while I understood how to tell the time by watching the video on the Reign website, again, outside of them lighting up when I charged the pod, they stayed dark for me, so no time telling for this Reign wearer.

The Verdict

I think with a few small improvements or updates, the Jaybird Reign could take the cake as the best activity tracker on the market. In my opinion, to be a “10 out of 10” tracker, it just needs to incorporate a calorie logging system – or at the very minimum, the ability to synch to a third-party tool like My Fitness Pal – and the ability to look at trends and progress over time. The Go-Zone feature is absolutely fantastic, and if I can just remember to get my HRV in the morning, it is something I can see myself leaning on and looking to for motivation and support on a daily basis. The app may be a bit on the basic side, but gives you all the info you need, and makes meeting your daily activity goal a bit of game. As for the few finicky features such as the cradle and LED lights? To me, those are not deal breakers by any means.

After one week’s use, I’d give the Reign a solid, and exceptionally unscientific, 8.5 out of 10. Now if only they can make one that looks like a nice silver watch …