One of the key features of the Velmio app is its ability to automatically determine pregnancy health insights based on the data from devices you already own, like your phone and smartwatch. As app developers, we work very closely with wearable technologies, particularly within the context of women’s health, so we’ve put together this advice in case you’re looking to purchase a smartwatch or fitness tracker.

First, let’s start with some general remarks about the offerings currently on the market. At present there is no smartwatch that offers a dedicated pregnancy tracking feature. The lack of features specific to women’s health is a major drawback of these devices.

The popular smartwatch brands design their devices with a general audience in mind. This means that these devices usually do a great job on the hardware features like step counting, heart rate monitoring and exercise tracking. However, they are often lacking when it comes to advanced interpretation of this data, such as in the context of pregnancy health. This is why we're solving this problem at Velmio - wearable fitness trackers record many data points that are incredibly useful indicators of pregnancy health (think exercise, sleep, heart rate, etc) - so our app helps you interpret this data in the context of your pregnancy.

Therefore, when you are deciding on a device we strongly encourage you to think about what you want to get out of it. The more advanced capabilities will not come from the device itself but from integration with apps like Velmio, so if you’re after this type of experience you should consider devices that integrate well with a wide selection of quality apps.

Apple Watch

The Velmio iPhone app relies on the Apple Healthkit platform (which we explain in more detail here), so Apple’s own smartwatch certainly offers full compatibility. Independent reviews indicate that it delivers excellent accuracy for activity tracking and heart rate monitoring, and we have also found this to be the case.

The Apple Watch offers considerable functionality, not only as a fitness tracker but also to answer calls, check notifications, send messages, monitor safe hearing levels, set alarms and timers, and pay using Apple Pay, among many other things. In addition, a wide selection of Apple Watch apps are available to meet many needs and users can benefit from a large range of compatible iPhone apps available through the Apple App Store.

Apple is also very active in the health arena, recently releasing an electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality to detect heart conditions like atrial fibrillation (currently available in select markets). In combination with leading universities, Apple has also released a series of research studies into women’s health, physical activity and heart health, and hearing, so we can expect to see many more groundbreaking health technologies from Apple. If you already own an iPhone then the Apple Watch is a natural choice.

We strongly recommend Apple Watch for it’s great health tracking capabilities, but drawbacks include the price, no built-in sleep tracking and average battery life performance compared to other brands. We’ve actually fixed the sleep tracking issue by building our own sleep detection algorithm for Apple Watch, so you won’t need to worry about this with Velmio. 

Fitbit

Fitbit used to be almost synonymous with the fitness wearable industry, but the emergence of strong competitors has seen dwindling market share in recent years. So how does Fitbit stand today?

The Fitbit Versa is the company’s flagship smartwatch, offering a ton of features and functionality. Accurate activity and heart rate monitoring, long battery life and fitness apps make it a quality smartwatch, particularly for Android users. 

However, Fitbit has struggled to keep up with the competition and it doesn’t help that their developer tools are limited in comparison to Apple, their main competitor. This has seen Fitbit’s market share collapse in recent years despite their strong brand name, as users have opted for cheaper devices offering almost the same level of functionality, or devices with a strong app ecosystem like Apple Watch. However, things may change soon...

Fitbit was recently purchased by Google for $2.1 billion. This sale still hasn’t been officially finalized at the time of writing, so we don’t yet know many details about what this means for the future of Fitbit. However, given the strong competition between tech giants Apple and Google, we can probably assume that Google will use the acquisition as an opportunity to gain a larger footing in the health and wearable markets.

Xiaomi Mi Band

When we heard about the rising popularity of a cheap fitness tracker offering a ton of functionality at a fraction of the price of its competitors, we were very keen to give it a try! It didn’t fail to impress - the Xiaomi Mi Band is the best cheap wearable device on the market.

The Xiaomi Mi Band is certainly not as stylish as the more expensive alternatives, but the device offers amazing value for money. We tested all the core tracking functionalities like step counting, heart rate monitoring, and sleep and exercise tracking, and we were very impressed with the accuracy. A 20-day battery life is also a major plus! Furthermore, the device is integrated with HealthKit so if you’re after something cheap that you can use with the Velmio app during your pregnancy then this is 100% our recommendation. 

If you’re after something a bit more premium but don’t want to break the bank, the Xiaomi product range also includes their more stylish Amazfit smartwatches. 

Garmin

Garmin smartwatches have gained a reputation as the best sports watches on the market. The company’s roots as makers of GPS devices proved very useful when Garmin decided to transition to smartwatches, resulting in a range of specialist devices for cyclists, runners, triathletes, swimmers, golfers and hikers, among other sporting interests. 

Their products sit at a higher price point, but they deliver on specialized features for serious sports lovers. Garmin offers many fitness tracking products for a diverse range of needs, so if you have specific sporting interests then you should definitely check out their range.

The Garmin Vivoactive smartwatch range is a great option for more general fitness tracking, with a good balance of fitness tracking and smartwatch functionalities. Garmin devices are also compatible with Apple Health, so they’re a great choice for the Velmio iPhone app. 

Samsung

Finally, let’s take a look at Samsung smartwatches. Offerings like the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active or Samsung Galaxy Fit are affordable options packed with functionalities like GPS, heart rate monitoring and sleep tracking. The more expensive Samsung Galaxy Watch offering also provides good smartwatch and fitness tracking features. However, iPhone users report difficulties with syncing their data to Apple Health.

Samsung recently gained clearance from Korean health authorities for advanced blood oxygen and blood pressure tracking functionalities. This type of technology is going to have a massive impact for pregnancy health, with the potential for early detection of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia, which is characterized by high blood pressure. We are excited to build these functionalities into the Velmio app once this technology becomes available.

Concluding thoughts

In this article we’ve looked at Apple Watch, Fitbit, Xiaomi Mi Band, Garmin and Samsung smartwatches and fitness trackers. None of these brands offer dedicated pregnancy features and their women's health features are still rather primitive, so for now your best option is to choose a device that integrates well with high quality health apps. 

If you’re an iPhone user then make sure your device is compatible with Apple Health App (also referred to as HealthKit by developers). The Apple Watch is an obvious choice. Garmin smartwatches are another great alternative and they offer specialized devices for different sporting interests.

If you’re looking for a cheap fitness tracker to use during pregnancy, the Xiaomi Mi Band is our recommendation. This wearable offers pretty much all the same fitness tracking functionality as its competitors, but at a fraction of the price. Samsung is also another brand to watch, particularly with their recent announcement of blood oxygen and blood pressure tracking, which will prove especially useful for pregnant women.

The Fitbit Versa is another great smartwatch and we are curious to see what becomes of the company through its merger with Google. Unfortunately Fitbit devices are not compatible with Apple Health App so you will have to use an additional app to sync your data.