Turning a new Leaf

Anyone who knows me knows that I love great technology. In fact, the only thing I love more than great tech is great tech designed by women. Which is why anyone who knows me has had to listen to me rave, obsess, and evangelize about my newest piece of wearable technology, a magical little device made by the wonderful women of BellaBeat, known as a Leaf. I should point out here that over the past year I have tested and compared the features and benefits several wearable devices including the ever popular FitBit, Jawbone's Up Band, as well as a Garmin Vivofit. I've also been discussing and checking out just about every other piece of wearable tech out there vicariously through my friends and family who are happy users of Nike Fuelbands, Apple Watches, Microsoft Bands, various Samsung wearable devices, and even the latest and ever popular Withings Activité watch. Needless to say there are a lot of different devices out there, and all offer unique and interesting ways for users to interact with their daily data. It's an exciting time for wearable tech, and I can't wait to see how the market and technology unfolds in the years to come.

With all of my trials and testing, the Leaf popped up on my radar probably due to my previous fit tech purchases and some smartly placed SEO advertising. I'm not one for ads, but the BellaBeat site definitely intrigued me and their product explanation and marketing was solid enough that I ended up immediately buying two of their devices. A little impulsive, for sure, but also a very intentional purchase. Why? Because the Leaf offered features I was yet to see in a smart device, and they were features that really mattered to me.

To date, the Leaf is the only wearable activity tracker I've come across that is being designed by women for the benefit of other women. While I have come across some other devices that are definitely designing with a similar mindset (Like this awesome company called Cuff that designs amazing notification and safety bracelets. These  are next on my list to test, but they don't offer activity features yet.), there are elements about the leaf that I simply have not seen anywhere else. Here's what they are:

Distinct, functional, and beautiful design

Simply put, I love the way my Leaf looks. I got one for myself in a beautiful rose gold/dark wood, and it is an awesome addition to my accessory collection. I wear my Leaf everyday but I also do different things everyday, so of course I want to wear my device differently to accommodate my lifestyle. The BellaBeat designers thought of that, and as such I have the choice to wear my leaf as a bracelet, a necklace, or simply by clipping it to my waistband. At night I merely clip it to my shirt so that the device can track my sleeping patterns. I love the fact that the device has versatility, and that it actually looks appealing. Unlike a bulky band that came in blah colors, my leaf looks nice whether I'm meeting with clients or working out, and it's a great conversation piece, as people often ask me about my beautiful necklace/bracelet. Ultimately I am a fanatic for great design, and the attention to this aspect of the device has made it something that I enjoy wearing daily, which wasn't something I could say about any of the other wearable tech I've tried. Additionally, the Leaf runs on a watch battery which means I don't have to charge it, a benefit I love because some days I can barely remember to charge my phone much less an additional device.

Simple and elegant app design

Because I work in software, the presentation of the application or dashboard that goes along with a wearable device really matters to me. Ultimately, if you want someone to engage with an app several times a day it needs to have a great user interface. To me this means a great looking design scheme that is simple and straightforward to use. I was able to set up my Leaf and learn its corresponding app in under five minutes, which is something I haven't found to be true with the other devices I've tried. The app is elegant and straight forward, and it takes me less than a minute each morning and evening to sync up and type in my data. In the morning I sync the device to bring in my sleep data from the night before and set my leaf placement (bracelet, necklace, or clipped to waistband) for the day, and in the evenings I sync my motion activity for the day and key in any data about additional workout activity I want to input and information about my cycle. Ultimately the app does everything it promises to do in a simple and elegant way that delights me as a customer. As a software geek, this kind of user experience is absolutely critical to me using a piece of wearable technology on an ongoing and regular basis.

img_2125.png

Features with a female focus

The device's feature set is by far the element that sold me most on the Leaf. Obviously there are physical design attributes that make the Leaf more marketable to women, but there is a reason I didn't just keep my Fitbit and put a pink band on it. The folks at BellaBeat designed the actual features of their wearable technology for a woman specifically, including my favorite features which include the ability to track my cycles and fertility, and the ability to track and monitor meditative breathwork (that's what the lotus flower symbol feature is in the app screenshot above). That's right, the Leaf is a device that is partially designed for women to help track and reduce stress. The device does this by offering up a lovely set of guided breathwork meditations in the corresponding app that syncs to the rise and fall of your belly as you perform each exercise. I cannot say enough nice things about this particular feature. I love it and attempt to use it a minimum of ten minutes per day to help me cope with stress and unwind in the evenings. I keep track of my overall wellbeing by using the app to set goals for both my daily activity levels and distressing via breathework. I can also set the app to give me helpful notifications via my phone or by sending vibrations through the device itself to remind me to move around or do any other important tasks (like say take a pill or an alarm set to wake me up). The last feature that I love about my Leaf is the types of activities they allow you to chose from when you manually select something to add for your daily movement. While all the other fitness tracking apps I have tested offer primarily generic workout based activities to select from, with my Leaf I have options to add activities such "SoulCycle", "TRX", "dog walking", "breastfeeding", "gardening", "horseback riding", and even “playing with kids”. I love that these options are part of the diverse array of activities that the device encourages users to participate in for a healthy, well-rounded life.

img_2152.png

Outstanding product support and customer service

If you’ve ever heard me speak about software and technology, you know that one of my main mantras is: Great technology doesn’t matter if it isn’t supported by great people. What I mean by that is that even with all the advances we have made in technology, things still glitch, and ultimately great customer support in those moments goes a long way when it comes to the products I choose to endorse and work with. When I originally put in my order to BellaBeat, the second device I had ordered for a Christmas gift didn’t ship out with the the other one I had ordered. I wrote a quick note to their team, and they immediately wrote back apologizing for a mix up during the holiday rush, and shipped it out right away and included an extra bracelet for the device for free. After testing out my Leaf, I noticed that barre class, which is one of my new favorite activities (more on that soon) wasn’t in their activity options. I wrote them a quick note asking if they might consider adding it in the future. Guess what? They just pushed out a software update and it included the addition of barre class to the activity portion of the app. Ultimately I have found their product support and customer service just as delightful as the device itself, and it has definitely had an impact on how I feel about their products as a whole.

------

At the end of the day, I know there are a lot of devices on the market, and everyone is going to end up having their favorites for some reason or another. However, I feel that BellaBeat is doing some truly inspired things in the wearable space by designing a one of a kind product by women and for women. It is this type of focused design and development perspective that helps drive great product innovation, and ultimately creates new technology that makes a real difference in the every day lives of people like me. I know that the Leaf has had a positive impact on my personal wellbeing, especially when it comes to managing stress and setting realistic and meaningful goals for my sleep and activity levels. I’ll probably continue to proselytize about the benefits of the device for many months to come, but that’s only because I’m certain there are many other women who could benefit from it as well.